A Little Less Tears…This Dad’s Day363243422_6517e6bd8114724135090_7ce0b760d6

Of all the days celebrated or marked in the year, Father’s Day used to be the hardest day for me. Hard because I struggled with trying to keep painful memories at bay.

Fighting to not make it a day of indictment on a dad that it took so long for me to forgive.

Fighting to deal with the things I remember in the light of God’s requirement for me to love and forgive.

Fighting memories that bombard my head as I try to find happy moments of childhood experiences with my dad.

I look for memories of a dad who danced with me, or held me in his arms, played with me, hugged me or said I love you. And I come up empty-handed every time. But I do recall travels to some pretty cool places we had to live because his job required it. I even recall the make, model and license plate numbers of his cars. I recall patterns of bed sheets and blankets from when I was 8 years old. I recall the layouts of most of the houses we lived in and so on.

But yesterday I noticed a less painful state of my heart. While there was a lingering pain of missing what I did not have, I am thankful for friends, pastors and mentors that God has placed in my life to tangibly communicate Gods love to me.

People who hug and look out for me and share a tiny part of their hearts with me and make sure I hear as many I love yous as my heart can take.

This year, rather than focus on what I didn’t have, I focused on the possibilities of what I could still have. What I could still give my kids when they come because I now know what the love of a dad should look like. Because all around me today, are living examples of what fatherhood looks like. And like a thirsty sponge, I am soaking it all up.

So while I work out Daddy issues, and wait for a miraculous recipe for forgetting, I strive to not let it define me or color my perspective on life.

Yesterday I cried a little less than I did last year. And for that, I AM THANKFUL!

photo credit: N00/363243422″>Dad and daughter via photopin (license) photo credit: N06/14724135090″>Bonds so strong via photopin (license) Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elaine Otuije and brownielaine.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



I tend to over-think things a lot sometimes. I analyze and look at the whys and the wherefores. I turn a thought, idea or puzzle over and over in my mind to look at it from all sides. I like to figure things out. I don’t like a boggled mind. I do it with things that need mulling over and things that don’t. Much to the irritation of my friends.

The danger in this is that I fill in the blank with rubbish sometimes just so it makes sense to my analytical mind. I am a problem solver. A fixer. Sometimes though, I make calls based on my feelings. In those times I have had to back track and re-examine those calls and positions and make amendments because my good old feelings failed me. So to counteract that, I recently figured out that my feelings are not a good parameter to make a call on anything. Even if it’s an obvious legitimate seems-to-be-right position.

Could it be that my feelings are wrong because they are based on emotions that are heavily influenced by external stimuli? Those stimuli can be very deceiving. Reminds me of the times I thought a boy liked or didn’t like me. And the stupid things I did and said based on those thoughts. I also think of some of the evil I have harbored in my heart towards someone that I would not dare speak out loud. Oh Hey! What about the times I thought I was all that and a bag of chips and salsa just because I did or said something right?

Our feelings, good or bad, do not and should not define who we are.  They are the most inconsistent and unreliable thermometer. Negative thoughts enter our minds based on so many things on the outside. It’s what we do when that onslaught hits us that sets us apart. To remember that if what I feel isn’t who I am then I don’t need to act on it because it’s not my reality.

So I have given myself permission to step away from my feelings and question its validity. To stop and ask myself why I am angry, jealous, irritated, sad, depressed, unloved, unappreciated, blah blah blah.

Feeling those things does not give me permission to act on or let them run my life. I can walk away from that and chose a different reality. I can stop and think about what I am feeling and why I am feeling it.

I can make a conscious decision to redirect my thoughts and make another part of me the dominant superior decision-maker over my emotions. Where I become aware that a lot of the information outside is distorted. Distorted because they sometimes originate from other people’s opinions and agenda: good or bad; that isn’t true.

So like my pastor said last weekend, who gives a flip what other people think of me. If those stimuli are distorted, how then do I give them so much power to run my life and change the way I choose to live or react? This does not answer all the questions that could come up on this issue but I’ll say it’s a good start to the beginning of a conversation about how we can stop some of the stupid things we do because something or someone triggered our emotions to lead us down a hairy and nasty path.

What do you think?  How much stock do you give to your feelings? How many times have those feelings led you astray or maybe even led you down the right path?

Portraits of Motherhood [3]

Hi Again!

I believe this is the final installment of my friend Timi’s Motherhood series on her blog livelytwist.
It’s been so much fun reading all the stories. What I find even more fun is the way technology has compressed and bridged the gap of geographical inhibitions. For example Timi, Afi (one of the contributors from series 1) and I went to High School together but we haven’t set eyes on each other in yonks! Brina, (another contributor form series 3) and I attended church together here in Fresno CA and I love her. Joxy, contributor on #3 whom I know but have never met but I got acquainted with her when I heard about the magic she creates with Shea butter and desperately wished she would ship to California.

I can see where Timi and Afi got connected but what a lovely coincidence to see Brina guest blogging on Timi’s page and Joxy too. I’m rambling now but what I want to say is I love this! A LOT!




Caramel Kids

My husband John is white and I am black. Our first daughter was conceived after a lot of body heat measurements, lovemaking, and consultant fees. As a newborn, she looked nothing like me but everything like John—dark blue eyes under straight black hair, set in pale skin dusted with freckles. Twenty-two months later, her sister was born.

My beautiful girls have always seen and described themselves as caramel. They say caramel is the mixture of white and black. I also see them as caramel. However, I refuse to raise them as caramel. I am raising them as strong black African women to give them a sense of belonging.

When my seven-year old (who had played all day), wanted to play with her friends some more instead of studying, I said no despite her tears. Her friends in question are white, middle-class, and privately educated. She is mixed race, middle-class, and in a state school. In May, my daughter…

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Portraits of Motherhood [2]

Hi Everyone! Here is the part two of my friend Timis’s Mother’s Day series. Enjoy!


Motherhood 2

An Undulating Journey 

I had no burning desire to be a mother. It was one more thing to tick off my life’s to-do list.

Medical School – check.
Become a doctor – check.
Get married – check.
Have children – check.

But my journey was to be an undulating one.

It was two years into my marriage before I realized ‘have children’ wasn’t just going to happen. There was a problem. The day I sat across a colleague, as a patient, and was told our hopes of having children naturally would never materialize, I died a little.

I understood the diagnosis and the limitations of medical science from a doctor’s stance. I would need to go through series of infertility treatments. Nevertheless, our faith in God held us steady.

As the years turned like the pages of a book, my longing to have a child became stronger. Each day seemed like a year, every…

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Portraits of Motherhood [1]

Timi and I attended boarding school together but I’m still trying to figure out how she got these amazing writing chops. I love the perspectives she brings to Motherhood with these guest blogs. Check them out and check out her blog and while you are there show her some love. She’s pretty cool don’t you think?


motherhood 1

Bye Bye Guilt

Working forty hours a week means I’m the mom who can’t always be there. Quite often, I miss school events and after-school activities. Sometimes I have to sacrifice evenings and weekends with my family.

I felt so guilty but I shouldn’t have because during the summer months with long, light evenings, I made an effort to get home early. However, my reward upon returning home was lots of kisses. Then off my kids went to play with other children on the street, coming back only to eat when darkness fell.

That they didn’t ‘have time’ for me was my wake-up call to make time for myself.

I went to Paris with a friend who was leaving Europe for India, her home. I did miss the little darlings, but upon my return home, I realised they had survived without me, and I without them.

My children make choices to be…

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Between My Espresso, Pam and Julie

Julie's postcard

Sitting alone at a cafe this morning sipping my caramel espresso, I had two very strange encounters with two lovely ladies.

I say strange because they were unexpected but very intentional meetings. I didn’t expect to be talking/crying to a stranger. But they knew they were supposed to talk to me.

I’m usually wary of people who approach you and the first words out of their mouth is “God told me to tell you”

But this was different. You see Pam attends the same church as I do. So we sat for a bit and talked about stuff that got me thinking.

But Julie, I had never met.

Julie had spent her morning at the cafe making this very beautiful post card with a bible quote on it.

She walks up to me and awkwardly apologizes for what she’s about to do. She said she made this thing and didn’t know what she was supposed to do with it. And then God told her to give it to me.

I could tell by the look she gave me that she was really apprehensive about using those words since she didn’t know me, she was clueless to how I would respond.

Needless to say she touched my heart and I teared up.

I show only a glimpse of Julie’s kindness to me because it’s precious to me and I don’t feel like sharing it all right now. Sorry!

But in those two somewhat random encounters I felt the ‘universe’ (cue Oprah’s theme music) reach out to hug me 😉

And I’m reminded just how much God loves me.

Measure In Love


As 2013 gives way for 2014; I’m reminded of the movie/play RENT? What was the title of that song. Seasons Of Love?

Like many I’m tempted to take stock of my life this year. To measure my life according to successes & failures. To define those successes based on ‘things’ acquired or not.

Be aware that the definition of ‘things’ here is very loose. So it could range anywhere from A Shoe. An eyeliner. Perfume. A Car. A Job. A Home. A Man. Afang Soup. Kpomo. Travel. My Mom. Kids…..

You get my drift right?

Anywhoo I decided not to do that. Pretty much because I doubt that the acquisition of those things truly define success or could even come close to defining what an awesome year I’ve had.

I’m nowhere near where I want to be. I’m nowhere near where I thought I’d be. But I’m so freaking happy about where I am today.

Oh how I’ve grown. I’ve loved. I’ve cried… A lot.
I’ve also laughed. A lot more than I’ve cried.
I discovered that I’m a lot stronger than I ever imagined I was.

I’ve never really cared what people thought of me. (Well maybe a few people)
But Better than that, I’ve learned not to care what I thought of me. At least until I align my thoughts better with the one who knows me best.

My biggest discovery this year is that I’m loved. VERY MUCH!

That excites me so much! I have the very best people around me.

So yes! I’m changing tactics. I’m measuring the success of 2013 in love.

How much I’m loved and how much I loved.
With that in mind? 2013 was hecka successful.
I’m ecstatic about what 2014 holds for me!




If you had a chance to invite anyone; living or dead, to dinner at your house; who would you love to have at your table and why?

Someone asked that question at a party and I don’t recall the answer I gave…Probably something along the lines of Adam because I wanted to give him a slap for taking a decision that has caused mankind so much pain blah blah blah.

Anyway a few days ago I got to reading and thinking about Joseph and it occurred to me that there must have been a tremendous amount of detail left out in his story. I mean the guy went through hardship after hardship and still he took a stand for God and stayed strong and waited for the reward and he got it.

I get all that. I was wondering though what his perspective is or was during the waiting period.

What was going on in your head Joe?

 From the beginning when you started to have those epic dreams? What possessed you and gave you the chutzpah to put voice to thought? Where did all that bravado go to when Potiphar’s wife accused you of adultery? How loudly did you deny or defend yourself?

What thoughts were going through your mind when your brothers were trying to figure out what to do with you? Seriously, what did you think of every one of them?

Then back to Potiphar’s house. You were successful and prosperous though a slave. I want to know the details of your service.

Did the other slaves like or detest you? And the ‘freeborn’? Surely they had an opinion about your existence in the master’s house? Did you get along with everybody? Were you as cocky as you were with your brothers or did you temper things down per your personality?

Oh and yes you are described as ‘attractive and fine looking’ LOL how did you handle that? Well… asides the [1]harpy masters wife and her constant bugging to lay with her.

So you went to prison and became the boss man there too? You were in charge of everything and still you had to go interpret those guys’ dreams too!? Dude I just want to sit and talk to you because you are the master of the waiting game. I’m interested in knowing what was going on in your mind while you were waiting.

There isn’t any record of you complaining one time. Not counting when you asked the butler to remember you in paradise. And then as governor, when you got your family back did you really not feel even a tiny twinge of I-told-you-so? For real?

These are some of the things I want to ask you and I will….eventually.

Everyone talks about the patience of Job but me…? Nah! I want to pick your brain. I want tips and pointers from you because I kinda dig the way you handled yourself!

So again If you had a chance to invite anyone; living or dead, to dinner at your house; who would you love to have at your table and why?

[1] Harpy:  a foul malign creature in Greek mythology that is part woman and part bird

a :  a predatory person

b :  a shrewish woman




Do you ever wonder what impact; if any, you have had on the lives of people you come in contact with as you do life? Maybe it’s just me but I have to confess that I sometimes wonder if I matter.

I received an email recently that touched me to the core. Let me call my friend ‘N’ for the purposes of this post. I asked for permission to use her email and story here and I was glad she said yes.

You see, about 4 years ago I used to work as a mentor for At-Risk Youth in California. This was basically a grant funded program that provided young adults who dropped out of high school for whatever reason; the opportunity to take the necessary steps to go back to school or acquire a skill that would guarantee a paycheck.

Now the steps ranged anywhere from giving them a chance to complete high school or get their GED to enroll in junior college and later attend a four-year college down the line.

Bottom line, the program was to offer educational and career support to help At-Risk youth successfully connect back to education.

I met ‘N’ when she walked into my office as one of the kids assigned to me. She had dropped out of high school for family reasons and just wanted to get enough to get a job and help her family.

Her English-speaking abilities were just enough for us to understand each other as Spanish was a more familiar mode of communication for her. In order to hasten her grasp of English I suggested we read a book together and gave her carte blanche to pick the book.

She chose the Twilight series. (Yes that was how I got hooked unto something I was determined not to take part in! lol)

Needless to say we both had a blast and yes she got better, faster.

Without going into the details of all of her business, I’m posting below an email I received from her recently that made my heart burst with joy and brought tears to my eyes at the same time.

She has come a long way from the shy, unsure and timid young woman that walked into my office about 4 years ago. I am so proud of her and I love her immensely!

Hello Elaine,

I know that it’s been a long time since we last talked but I’ll never forget about you and I am hoping you still remember me:) 

First, I will like to tell you that I am finally graduating from college on May 31st! yayyy and  I’ll be graduating with four Associates in Arts degrees.  It has been a long journey that started thanks to you and the center and I wanted to thank you for your support and encouragement when I first started my first semester. I remember how nervous I was but you always made me feel like it was going to be the easiest thing to do and it wasn’t that hard, until after the 3rd semester, but I enjoyed everything because I got the opportunity to grow academically and personally.

Also, all this college euphoria motivated me to apply to a university, can you believe it? I remember when I told you I wasn’t interesting in transferring and that I only wanted a degree to get a job as soon as possible. I still can’t believe I let my mentor persuade me to do it… anyways, so I applied and got accepted to San Francisco State University, Monterey Bay, and UC Riverside and I’ve decided to go to UCR and live on campus.  My plan is to major in Sociology with a minor in Spanish and I’ll be starting in September, so right now I am excited, euphoric, nervous, and happy to start this new chapter in my life after four years of having set foot at the center for the first time as an undecided high school drop-out.

Well, I wanted let you know because you are part of my accomplishment and I will always consider you my first mentor and friend that helped me to start succeeding in life.

I hope you are well and I’ll be looking forward to hearing from you Elaine.





‘Transition’ should be a four letter word. A bad word. Something that shouldn’t be mentioned much less experienced.

Umm… Yeah…good luck to me with all that right? And I do know all the arguments for it. How it prepares you, refines you blah blah blah. (insert eye rolling emoticon)

I am in the middle of a transition and some days I wake up with all kinds of emotions about it. Everything from I am OK with it to I’m happy with it to I absofreakinglutely hate it to what are you doing with me God!

Like a typical type ‘A’ personality person I have an idea how I want things to turn out; how I want to steer things around to work out the way I feel they should. I have an idea of where I should be and how to get there but I also know for sure that I should butt out of doing any of these things because I know God has a plan for me.

Thing is, I don’t want to go where He is leading. Blasphemy right?

At the back of my mind I know I will eventually tow the line and obey God and I might already be doing that because God’s plan is going to be waaaay better than anything I could come up with for me.

But today, today I want to rant. I want to vent. I want to scream because it hurts. Transition is painful. It isolates. It squeezes stuff out and soaks up things that are not comfortable. It feels like I have been in transition for ever. And just when I think it’s about to be over it appears to intensify. When will it end? When will it be over? When can I breathe again? If it never ends at least give me a coasting point where things level out to not perfect but not so hard either.

Then I go and watch Nick Vujicic on YouTube. You know, the guy born without arms and legs who got married and is making the most of his situation?  The guy whose hot wife just had a cute baby boy this past February? Yes that one.

Yeah! I watched his illustration on Oprah recently. And that SHUT ME UP!

So lets you and I take a minute to be real. Tell me,… what do you think about transitions? How strong is your faith when you are smack dab in the middle of it?