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My 10 work commandments

December 5, 2016


As a person solidly on my way to corporate middle management, I feel like I have learned a few career lessons the hard way that I’d love to share with you all. Through lots of trial and error, I’ve developed a bit of an ethos for how I approach my work. I’m still learning every day, but I’d love to share the lessons I’ve already internalized in the hope that they’ll help you take a bit of a leap on your own career journey.

Here are the 10 career commandments that I live by:

  1. Be Kind – this is so incredibly important to me. I don’t want to sacrifice my humanity for the sake of money and, if you think about it, people who view the workplace as a big competition where they have to undercut others in pursuit of titles and dollars have decided that the humanity element isn’t very important to them. That life isn’t for me. I’d rather sacrifice promotions and money to hold onto my belief that people deserve to be treated with kindness and humanity. I approach all of my work with a kindness-first perspective and I hope the people I work with notice. If not, at least I know that my ideals are still in tact.
  2. Don’t be Scared of Tough Conversations – if you grew up in a household where conflict is a dirty word, this one isn’t easy, but it’s so worth it. I’ve learned to be unafraid to have tough conversations with people I work with, whether it’s a request to rework a proposal, or to directly address someone who has given tough feedback about me to my manager. You have to be willing to address things head on or they are just going to fester. A bonus for this one is if you generally treat people with kindness, these tough conversations are a bit easier.
  3. Do your Shit – have the reputation as someone who does the things they say they’ll do. It’s so obvious, but just doing this one thing will make you better than most of the people you’ll work with by default. I think people have good intentions, but they often overpromise and underdeliver. Try to do the opposite.
  4. Admit when you mess up…right away – We’ve all had that moment where we realize we missed a big deadline or forgot to call someone we promised to. It happens. Acknowledge it right away to the person counting on you. Do not try to cover it up, do not hope they won’t notice. Just be frank and let them know you made a mistake. We’re all human and it happens and it will be okay as long as you take responsibility.
  5. Take Feedback with a Grain of Salt – man, people love to give feedback, especially in the corporate workplace. You have informal feedback, formal feedback, annual performance assessments. They’re all designed to tell you what you’re doing wrong and what you need to work on to do better. My problem with this sometimes is that it is so focused on the negative. You can spend all your time correcting the things that are hard for you, or you can lean into the things that light you up and do those really well. I choose the latter, so when feedback comes in for me about a personality trait that is just part of me and hard for me to change, I try to disregard it. Otherwise, I’ll fixate on changing something that’s almost impossible and will feel bad about myself. The caveat here is that sometimes we’re blind to things that we can easily improve or that are really irritating to others. If you get feedback about something like that, do your best to correct it and then move forward. Don’t let the feedback debilitate you.
  6. Say What you Want – a few months ago, I got really upset that someone got promoted ahead of me. Yes, it’s petty, but it happens. I realized, though, that I had not actually let my manager, director and HR rep know that I was keenly interested in a promotion and working toward that. The moment I asked, it happened soon after. It’s the old saying, closed mouths don’t get fed. Say what you want, whether it’s a person reporting to you, a new assignment, a promotion. Be willing to put in the work, but people can’t read your mind. You have to be a bit of a squeaky wheel sometimes and make sure that people are on the same page as your hopes and dreams.
  7. Do What Interests you as much as Possible – this is so obvious, but do everything in your power to be the best at the things you’re most interested in. I’ll give you an example for the field I’m in – brand management. It involves both consumer marketing and general business management. I don’t really love the business management side, so I don’t take on projects related to that side of the business if I can avoid it. My goal is to be totally competent, but not awesome at it. Why? Because I want to spend as much of my time on the side of the business that I love. I do the extra work and really pay attention to the details of the consumer side of the  business so that I am known for my skills in consumer marketing. It leads to cooler projects and new assignments related to my interests and helps me avoid an assignment where I feel dead inside because I do not enjoy the subject matter.
  8. Speak up when you’re Overwhelmed – it can be scary to raise your hand and say you have too much on your plate. There’s always that fear lurking that they’ll realize that you aren’t cut out for the job or that you’re not dependable, but it just doesn’t happen like that. If you don’t speak up when you’re overwhelmed, you’ll end up with high blood pressure (been there) or scary, stress-filled dreams (been there, too) or you’ll make a major mistake because you can’t keep up with everything (yep, been there, too). For every business, we make puts and calls all the time about what’s most important to get done. Sometimes you have to sit down with your manager and recalibrate what’s possible  and important for you to achieve.
  9. Keep Records – it’s tough to pause amidst the busy to keep records, but I never regret it.  I try to write myself a note about projects I finish, or great feedback I receive or a committee I join in real time. It helps when it comes time to write my PA and I’m sitting in front of the computer like a dummy with absolutely no recollection of what happened over the past twelve months.
  10. Find your System – there are so, so many ways to work, all kinds of organizing systems and tips and tricks out there. Whether you’re digitally integrated with Outlook or prefer an analog system for to dos, find and commit to your system. If you haven’t found your system yet, sign up for every class you can and read every self-help book on personal organization until you find something that works for you. Then, do it. All the time. It will give you such a calm mind. It might seem like more work to write things down, but it’s worth it. Eventually, it will feel like second nature and you won’t be able to imagine your life without it.

Image via google.

fashion, Style, Uncategorized

Backpack for my birthday

November 23, 2016


I celebrate my birthday in a couple of weeks. 31. Thankfully, this birthday doesn’t have any angst with it for me. Turning 30 really threw me for a loop. I went full hog on my freak-out, with a lot of soul searching and sleeplessness. It wasn’t that I was sad to be getting older, it was that the years were ticking by too quickly and I didn’t feel like I was on the right path. It was a good time for reflection, but it wasn’t fun.

I made some changes in my life with how I spend my time and I determined to pursue what matters to me. After doing so, I feel much better. I feel more confident in who I am. I have a clear picture of what I’m working toward and I just feel an immense amount of gratitude for everything and everyone in my life.

Even though it’s more of a quiet birthday for me, turning 31 still calls for a ‘treat yourself‘ moment, right? I believe so! I have been pondering what I’d like to purchase as a gift to myself this year and I think I’ve settled on a backpack. I don’t think I’ve thought so seriously about a backpack since eighth grade, but I’m all in with this trend. Schlepping around a laptop and all my other junk everyday is getting old. I know it’s doing a number on my back. I borrowed Keith’s backpack while we were in Cabo and I fell in love with the free feeling I had while walking around. My shoulder didn’t hurt and I felt so balanced.

Thankfully, backpacks are having a moment right now. It’s easy to find a chic option out there that doesn’t make me feel like I’m revisiting my first day of eighth grade. My love for Everlane is well-documented on this site (though I still wish they’d be more inclusive with their sizing), so I’ve settled on either the Modern Commuter Backpack or the Dipped Mini Backpack. Both in black.

Which would you choose? Are you down with the backpack trend or would you never be caught dead in one?

Image via everlane

intuitive eating, Uncategorized

On Intuitive Eating

November 8, 2016

Processed with VSCO with c9 preset

I’ve mentioned on this site a few times that I practice intuitive eating. I thought I’d share a very personal post about what this means to me and why I decided to learn to eat this way.

A bit of background:

I started seeing a therapist for help with learning how to eat intuitively in August or September of last year. At the time, I was so fed up with the cycle of dieting that I knew I needed to find another way. I would do some new restrictive diet (Weight Watchers, South Beach, Atkins, 4 Hour Body, you name it) for a few weeks, lose some weight, feel good about myself, start craving ‘bad’ foods, blow the diet miserably, eat like crazy for a few weeks, feel bad about myself and start another diet again, promising myself that this time would be different. I did this over and over and over again.

Finally, I hit a wall.

I distinctly remember feeling like I needed to go on another diet again, but I just felt so defeated and tired and weak that I just couldn’t face doing the cycle again. Even I could see the futility. It was time to find a better way to live because constantly berating myself for not having the willpower to stick with the diet du jour was too exhausting.

I had heard and read about intuitive eating before, but I knew I needed help to make it happen. Beyond the dieting, there were real emotional issues lurking below the surface for me related to self-image and childhood trauma that I needed to address. The food and the emotions felt so inexorably fused together that I didn’t have the knowledge to untangle them myself.

I found a therapist who would help me with the emotional work and also teach me how to eat intuitively. It seems so counter intuitive that you need someone to teach you to eat, but after so many years of shame around food, I needed a reliable voice of reason to show me the way. I needed someone to tell me that I could trust my body to tell me what it wanted to eat. I needed someone to tell me that I wouldn’t gain a million pounds by giving up dieting and by allowing myself to eat anything I wanted. I needed someone to reassure me that I wouldn’t only want chips and ice cream for every single meal (including breakfast) for the rest of my life. I needed someone to promise me that if I undid the shame around food and trusted myself that I would be able to eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full and that I would be able to live a fuller life. I needed someone to help me safely return to my childhood emotional trauma to help me diffuse it and give away its power over me.

We’ve been working together for more than a year now and I just can’t tell you how much therapy has helped me. The best way I can describe it is that I knew I had the capability to be the person I wanted to be, but I didn’t have the tools to get there. Every day, I’m learning the tools and they’re helping me peel back the layers that led me to such destructive behaviors.

Man, it’s hard work. There have been so many times that I’ve wanted to quit or just go on one more diet again, but I just keep on keeping on. I have homework after every session. I read a lot and I write a lot. Most of all, I reflect. I observe what’s going on in my head without judgement and then I try to puzzle out the how and why I feel that way. Most of the time it has nothing to do with food and if I just allow myself to sit with the emotion, I come out so much stronger.

The inevitable question: have you gained weight learning to eat this way? Most people ask me this and then reassure me that they’d be as big as a house if they just let themselves eat whatever they wanted.

The truth? I haven’t weighed myself once since I started eating intuitively. Judging by the way my clothes fit, I may have gained a bit of weight while I was legalizing food, but not much at all. I’m still pretty much the same me on the outside, but I’m so, so much better on the inside. That’s what counts.

Image via designlovefest

beauty, fashion, Style, Uncategorized

My perfect lipstick for day

November 7, 2016

Why is it so hard to find a lipstick that just works for daytime? I feel like almost every woman I know is on a quest for that perfect shade. First and foremost, it has to feel great. It can’t cake or dry or be too glossy. It also has to be a hue that works for your coloring, that isn’t too out there for work, that fits your personal style and still feels present enough on your face to be recognizable. It’s no easy task.

I searched and searched for my perfect shade. I even wrote about it in my 30 in 30 list. I was a woman on a mission. I looked at Sephora, at the drugstore, online and at beauty counters in the mall. A few months ago, I was in Macy’s in San Francisco, sneaking in a shopping trip after some work meetings. I meandered over to the Chanel counter and asked for a shade recommendation. I knew I wanted something in the red family and I told her my list of needs.

She recommended Chanel Rouge Coco – 446 Etienne and I fell in love. I knew it ticked all of my boxes, so I forked over a sickeningly expensive $37 dollars for it right away. Nearly six months later, it’s still going strong after at least two applications per day. It feels as comfortable as chapstick, but looks so much better. I love the way it works with my skin color and I just feel like it’s worth every single penny. I shared it with my mom, who is the queen of the lipstick search, and she almost died at the price. I know it’s ridiculous, but sometimes you just have to treat yourself, right?

A photo of the lipstick in action:


Do you have a lipstick you love? Dish it out in the comments!

fashion, Uncategorized

My favorite winter fashion trends

February 16, 2016

It feels like fashion is really killing it this winter. I keep coming across a few trends that I just can’t get enough of. We’re having Spring-like weather here in California lately so I’m not sure if I’ll bite the bullet and buy any of these winter fashion trends this season, but if it’s still blisteringly cold where you are, you definitely should.

turtle neck and skinnies

First up is a throw-back from my adolescence in the late 90s – the turtleneck! I just love the look of a ribbed, fitted turtleneck (in black, of course!) and a nice skinny jean. Even though it’s a bit old school, it just feels so fresh and feminine to me. Jess (via heygorjess) does the damn thing perfectly.

cupcakes and cashmere cape jacket

Next is the oh-so-chic cape, demonstrated by Emily (via Cupcakes and Cashmere). I love how this updated cape feels more blazer and less blanket. I just want to buy a lovely navy number and walk into all of my work meetings like a caped-up boss.

tall boots

Last, we have a not work-appropriate thigh-high boot (via The Little Magpie), at least not where I work. I never though I’d be one to lust after a pair of thigh-highs, but I truly am smitten. They look edgy and a bit sexy and I want them bad. I’m just not sure where I’d actually wear them since most of a my non-work wear typically consists of a pair of comfortable jeans and shell toe Adidas these days. If I were more a ‘go out’ type of gal lately, I’m pretty sure I’d already be sporting my own thigh highs.

There you have three of my favorite winter trends. Pretend you had a free pass for retail therapy – which one of these would you choose?

editor letter, Uncategorized

Editor’s Letter, #1

November 30, 2015

world image

For years now, the idea of blogging has been a wrought topic for me. I want, desperately, to write something of value and share my thoughts with others, but every time I gain some momentum with blogging, I get scared, lose steam or peter out in some way or another.

I recently read the book Big Magic, which I enthusiastically recommend to anyone with a creative impulse in their body. In it, Gilbert argues that the point of creating is simply to create. It’s about discovering the pure joy that comes with creation, it’s about saying yes to ideas that the universe brings to you, it’s about embracing your natural inclination as a human to contribute beautiful things to the planet. Put that way, it makes sense why I would feel this irrational attraction to the format of blogging. It’s the way the universe has given me to express myself at this point in time.

Thankfully, the point of creativity isn’t to make money. Gilbert argues that believing that the universe should give you creativity and that it should also provide you a handsome living for sharing your creativity is a flawed assumption. The money might follow the creativity, but it never leads it. Simply put, pursue your passion for creation and worry about the money later, if at all.

So, I’m officially reclaiming the space I’ve created in this blog as an opportunity for me to share my creativity with anyone interested in following along. It’s not about earning money or creating a name for myself. I simply want this space to be a reflection of all of the things I value and love in my own life. I want it to be a space chock-full of beauty, design, food, travel, and my personal stories all wrapped up in a well-written, authentic voice. I hope it is a fun, informative break from the everyday and I hope it inspires you to lead a full, creative life as well.

Thank you for reading along. Cheers to yet another go-round on the blog.


Image source: Design love fest

adventure, travel, Uncategorized

2016: the year of camping

November 30, 2015

camping intro

Ever since we decided to stay put here in Modesto instead of moving to Oakland next year, my mind has been simmering with ways for us to make the most of where we live. Residents of Modesto often joke that our town is ‘two hours from everywhere’ in California, so one of my only resolutions going into 2016 is to take advantage of our Central California location for some weekend adventuring.

Now, I’m not necessarily the type of person you’d peg as a camper at first blush. I like my creature comforts, but I’m invested in devising a system that brings the convenience of home (air mattress, hot plate, restrooms, pop up tents) to the beautiful, healing outdoors. I think I need to disconnect way more often than I do.

Here’s a list of all of the places I’m dreaming of visiting on our impending camping adventures. Some are just a couple of hours away while others are more of a hike that we could fold into a visit to see my family in Arizona.

big sur

Big Sur – I fell in love with Big Sur on a day-long drive down the Pacific Coastal Highway last year. The views are breathtaking and there is camping right in the Redwoods. Swoon.

lake tahoe

Lake Tahoe – I’ve been to Lake Tahoe numerous times and I just love, love, love it. The hotels are pretty expensive unless you stay at the casinos, so I’d like to experience camping right on the lake.


Pinecrest – A little bit closer to home, Pinecrest is an awesome spot nestled in the Sierra Mountains. I wrote about a day trip we took with the boys there a couple of years ago, but I’d like to stay the night one weekend and enjoy a few brewskies in the fresh mountain air.

stinson beach

Stinson Beach – I did a couple of photo shoots on Stinson beach at my previous job and I fell in love with this awesome little beach town. This amazing campsite seems almost impossible to get into, but I want to stay there so badly. Another plus: we could pick up the kids on our way through the bay area to get to Stinson and hit up Muir Woods for a hike one morning.

pismo beach

Pismo Beach – I’ve never been to Pismo, but I’ve heard only good things from friends. When people think of California, I think they picture Pismo Beach, so why not spend a weekend at the quintessential California beach town from the comfort of your tent?


Yosemite National Park – I mean, how could I mention camping in California without mentioning one of the most famous landmarks in the entire state? Camping, here we come

knights ferry

Knight’s Ferry – About an hour from home, I envision Knight’s Ferry being one of our go-to camping spots. Easy, peasy.

grand canyon

Grand Canyon – Yes, I love this famous landmark in my home state. Who wouldn’t want to camp next to this world wonder?

oak creek canyon

Oak Creek Canyon – Just a short drive from my hometown, Oak Creek Canyon is just breathtaking. I’d love to drink my morning coffee in this beauty.

Sedona – Last but most certainly not least, my favorite place in the entire world, my happy place, Sedona, Arizona. Since I can drive there in fifteen minutes from my mom’s house, I’ve never thought about camping there. But, seriously, why not? Did I mention it’s my happy place??

What do you think? Are you a camper? Or, would you rather just pay for a hotel and call it a day? I’ve always been more the hotel-type, but my insistence on paying for expensive hotels makes it a bit difficult for us to do quick weekend getaways.

Image sources: Intro, Big Sur, Lake Tahoe, Pinecrest (my own), Stinson Beach, Pismo Beach, Yosemite National Park, Knight’s Ferry, Grand Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona


Nfamatela Baake

August 14, 2014


I don’t remember how Mass came into my life, exactly. I know that we were in Jambanjelly, The Gambia, to build a library. Of course, I know that Mass’ family’s compound was directly across from our library work site. I remember when I met Mass’ big brother, Modou. I can clearly see and feel the moment when I met Modou, but that is to be expected. During that summer, I managed to fall completely in love with him.

But, Mass. I can’t remember when I met him. The only thing I can say is that I can’t fathom a time in my life before I loved him. He was the chat of the family. A child born as a big surprise to his mother. The indisputable baby of the family and, boy, did he know it. He had the biggest light inside of him. A perpetual ray of sunshine the entire village couldn’t help but adore. I fell hard for him. He was my trusty sidekick for the two years I lived in The Gambia. When his brother and I would return to the village on the weekends, he would be there waiting. From Friday to Sunday evening, Mass and I were inseparable. Buying tapalapa from the market with a heavy smear of mayo, beef bullion and boiled egg. Hanging out in the compound, washing clothes by hand. Sitting late into the night listening to Reggae music from an old car battery by candlelight. He’d sit on my lap, struggling not to fall asleep. Every so often, he would pinch himself to keep himself awake.

God, I loved him so much.

When his brother and I eventually separated, I gave up Mass. I let him go, thinking it would be easier if I cut ties completely with the family to properly escape my dangerous love for his big brother. I thought of Mass often. I was back in the U.S. by then, rebuilding my life in California. I pictured him growing into his grade school self. I sent all of my love to the family from afar, hoping that they were surviving okay. I missed him so much, but it helped to picture him growing up strong and happy even if I wouldn’t be able to witness it.

I held that fantasy so close for so long that it knocked me completely on my ass when I got a Facebook message late one night telling me that Mass had passed away. He was playing in a puddle during a thunderstorm with his friends in the village and drowned. Just like that, he was gone. I kept saying no, no, no over and over. He had no chance to grow up. No opportunity to fall in love or learn to read or go to college or drive a car. It’s so trite to say, but I balked at the unfairness of it all. I missed work. I eventually pulled myself together, but sometimes my grief would bowl me over when I least expected it. A song on the radio, a smell, a picture could bring a wave of sadness I would struggle under for days.

That was more than three years ago now. The pain isn’t as visceral any more. It’s more like a dull ache most of the time, but God do I miss him. Losing him made it hard for me to open my heart and love my new boyfriend Keith’s children. I couldn’t imagine feeling pain like that again. How is it possible to feel like you can’t breathe, like you want to punch something, like you want to scream and like you want to sleep forever, all at the same time?

Slowly, I’ve realized that loving Mass was one of the best, most beautiful things to happen to me. I am forever grateful that our lives connected when they did. I’m honored that I was able to love him from the deepest part of myself and that I was able to feel the pure joy that comes along with the unrestrained love of a child. He was a beautiful ray of sunshine and I’m so glad I was witness to his light.

I’ll always keep him in my heart and I’ll always miss him. Yesterday, I got a tattoo in his honor. My first tattoo, I had the words ‘nfamatela bakee’ etched into my right side ribcage. It’s Mandinka for ‘I miss you so much’.

Mass, I do miss you so much. Nfamatela bakee bakee.