A Review – Part 1: Books

I’ve been thinking about this series for a long time. I’ve spoken about starting it several times, i’ve thought about publishing different versions, but it just didn’t feel authentic or right. Plus, nowadays everyone has a blog, and I recognize mine is just one of the many, but what makes it worth it are the awesome messages of support from readers I’ve never met but who seem to get why I started this blog in the first place.

So here it goes, an attempt to end the hiatus for real this time.

A Review of What’s Been Happenin’: Books

When I moved to Carrboro. I was scared out of my absolute-freaking mind. The support and encouragement from my mentors, family, and friends, was the security blanket I clung to for what felt like weeks. The bubble of comfort and “safety” I had in Asheville? Was popped without my permission (Or so it felt) and I was in a totally new place, without a clue of how to feel about my least favorite thing in the world – change.

But i’ll get into that later…. this post is going to recap for you all my academic experience for the past year. Which can arguably be summed up in a loud audible sigh.

First, a round of applause for my professors who challenged the mess out of me at UNC Asheville.

Second, a round of applause for my bosses/coworkers who taught me everything I know about professionalism and developed me as a leader, and employee.

Third, for my parents who taught me to be stubborn and raised me with a work ethic that makes me want to roll my eyes at my own self sometimes, but I digress.

What has Graduate School taught you so far?

one year

This is a question I get asked a lot. It’s hard to sum up the amount of notes taken or lectures and classes that I sat through because the learning process changed so much for me in grad school. And to be honest that I don’t think you realize how much you learn in that first year until you’re at work and spit out vocabulary words from your organizational theory course or cite case from public administration law as if it is the most natural thing of life. However, since the post is titled books, here is a quick list that I think sums up the year.

Stop ignoring your local governments like they are antiquated and don’t do anything. They do everything.

I came into my MPA program, not wanting to really go into local government, but rather understand it’s role in whatever career related to housing that I would end up choosing, and what I got instead of guidance on the housing piece was a whole lot of knowledge and understanding about how crucial local government is to everyday life.

And the sad thing is? We ignore them. We ignore it and take for granted what local government’s contribute to everyday life. We don’t understand what public servants really do. We rush to look at the state level (oh NC….ohhhhhh NC….) and the federal level like that’s where it ALL happens when that’s where A LOT happens but not ALL things happen.

From housing, to roads being paved, to public transportation. Safety, making the community look nice, programs for the young, old, and in between. Things are really really happening at the local level, and despite my resistance at first, meeting what’s felt like hundreds of county and town managers (really just dozens) across NC, has really put the role of local government into perspective. So I challenge you, look up your town or city’s official website/twitter, look at what they’re doing. Even if you don’t get involved. You’d really be surprised as to how much is going on.

I can’t run away from math anymore.

Ya’ll. I took budgeting this past semester. Had a phenomenal professor who was patient in every single way you could be patient, and I learned so much about math I didn’t understand before. And maybe it was just the practicality of the course and how I realized I had to actually understand the math she was describing and educating us about, but truth is, I just can’t run from it anymore. It’s been a good streak though. #RIPmathavoidance2012-2016

There are more and more acronyms being created everyday and ya’ll might as well start tracking them.

I’ve been hearing acronyms for things I didn’t realize had acronyms from day one of graduate school. Eventually most if not all were explained to me, but my goodness it was so daunting for the first few weeks. My most salient example however is from my first day of work this summer. I learned a total of 11 acronyms on my first day. ELEVEN. Come on housing world…. do better….

Procrastination is the devil.

All I have to say about this is that my worst nights (and some of the funniest) came from times I procrastinated and I never want to do it again, and am fully aware that come October (that’s my goal) that’ll probably not be realistic but hey… i’m trying.

A lot more goes into your environment than you realize.

This is kind of like the “stop ignoring your local government” lesson, but the planning version. This past year I decided to apply for the City & Regional Planning program, was accepted and will be officially joining in the fall as a dual degree student. However, I had the opportunity to take a workshop in the Spring, and it blew my mind on a weekly basis. Despite it being housing focused, it consistently explored the intersectionality between other policy areas and over time, I realized how interconnected the players that construct the towns and places we live and enjoy on a daily basis truly are.

Sleep. Please do it.

I can’t really talk about getting sleep because I started writing a part of this at 1:30 in the morning  BUT, the first year of graduate school has really taught me to value sleep. Partially because it would happen anyways, and partially because I didn’t like how my body was reacting without it. Sleep matters. Do you best to get it. #tipofthecentury


Of course there is more….

struggle story

So 6 items is not an accurate depiction of ALL that I learned, but these six I’ve listed above really capture the year in a nutshell.

My hope is that over time i’ll be able to change and grow from all of it, but for now I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

So, that’s why i’ve broken up this series into four sections: Books, Pugs, Stresses, and Joys.

We’ve covered books! So be on the lookout for Part 2: on Pugs coming soon.


As always, Much love!



Re-learning the dream – My journey to a graduate school decision

There is a bit of madness that is a part of planning. No matter what you do, you can’t avoid it. For other type A folks like myself, your inner instinct is telling you to rebel against this notion, but you know I am telling the truth.

Applying to grad school felt like a big race. Race to what? I have no idea, but a race nonetheless. It felt like I was running three lives actually, one in the present, one for the future, and one just because I’m human and well life is a race (excuse me, I mean a marathon) let’s be real. Having to balance school – which I did not take my loved ones advice when it came to taking it easy- balance planning for the future and having 10 different plans, while trying to balance the avalanche of emotions that would come in waves about leaving a place that has become my home and the fountain of a huge portion of my own personal growth.

Application process

I set out with the intent to apply to 8 schools and 4 fellowships.

What actually happened was three fellowships, and 3 schools.

I was contacted for two interviews, for a fellowship, and one for a graduate program.

Went to both, loved both, and then had to go back to doing one of the things I’m honestly pretty bad at doing – WAITING.

LAWD when I say that on God’s perfect plan for Stephanie year 2015 agenda, “teach her how to wait and if she does’t learn keep making her wait some more” had to be in the top three because I feel like I’ve spent 85% of my Aug 2014- April 2015 waiting.

Finally word came back, and 1 fellowship and 3 schools. 1 – come to another interview, and 3 yes.

Then I had to WAIT some more.

It came down to this week, 1 fellowship, 2 schools.

Re-Learning my dream

On top of learning how to wait. I’ve learned how to really think and process through what I claim to be my dream. I’ve sorted through it a hundred thousand bajillion times. I’ve had all sorts of plans in my head for each possible way it could work out, but what I didn’t notice before was that I chose to assign the backdrop of my dream to be New York City, when at the core my dream didn’t need a city to become a reality.

My decision for my next steps boiled down to two schools. Once I heard from the fellowship (another no sadly) there was no way I could put of the decision any further.

And so there was a point in time where I felt frantic. I prayed. I stressed. I dreamed. I googled. I didn’t everything, I made a dozen pro and con lists, and all of it pointed me the same thought “follow what feels right”.

Claiming this decision as my own.

I’ve tried so hard to not include my loved ones in this decision. And as bad as that sounds, there is a very particular reason why I did that. It’s because, my loved ones are already at my core. I will take them no matter where I go. I tried to keep their words out of my mind because I knew that if I let them all the way in, that they would control my decision completely, rather than the realistic portion.

The question then was, should I stay in NC and not be in debt, or should I follow my lifelong dreams of going to NYC and be in a good deal of debt, good enough to make a growing public servant get pretty nervous about the actual possibilities of paying them off.

So the school I chose, I chose not because my family wanted me to. Not because my boyfriend wanted me to. Not because of the money (completely). But because throughout this race of a process, and all the craziness, there was one school that made me feel the best. There was one school that allowed me the opportunity to vouch for myself, to think about my decision, but most importantly, cooperated with me as I relearned my dream.

You see dreams are constructed. We rest in the little tiny details, without stopping to remind ourselves what the main goal is. So I began to think, is my goal to be in New York City, or is it to further develop as a leader? Is my goal to be around bustling buildings and live the city life again, or is it to use my leadership skills and experience to help make a difference in the word. And finally, did I want to be in New York city… or have I been saying it for so long that I was afraid to let go and consider anything or anywhere else?

I chose to let go.

Momentarily of course – I’m stubborn I know- but I chose to let go and pursue the real goal. The real reason I want to go to graduate school in the first place.

And so I’m very excited, for a number of things.

1) I get to stay in my beloved yet in need of some fixing state of North Carolina

2) I feel great about the school that I decided on going to.

3) This program felt right from the moment I stepped onto the campus.

4) I get to join the ranks of one of the world’s largest networks – the UNC Chapel Hill Family.



And so forgive me that I kept some of you -who don’t live near me -in the dark. This process had me all in my feelings for weeks at a time. I truly grappled with this for a very long time, and didn’t feel prepared or like it was necessary to chart each step out to you as it happened…

I won’t ever stop dreaming. NYC will never lose it’s spot as my dream city. I know i’ll fulfill that urge to live there one day, but for now…



Screenshot 2015-04-17 13.04.13

I am over the moon excited, slightly terrified, and hella (totally appropriate word) determined about my next step; beginning this August 2015, I will pursue a Masters of Public Administration in the School of Government at UNC Chapel Hill.

Much love,


Identity Project: Part 4: The Styles & Journey back to Curls

It’s been a while! Forgive me. This series however is sadly almost over. This post is more so to show all the styles I tried when I had my braids. That’s right. HAD. The braids are out. I’ll show you all this journey and then my last post of this journey will sum up what i’ve learned, and what I hope to explore a bit further.


Photo on 5-26-14 at 11.34 PM

This was what I wore my hair like for the first few days after getting my hair braided. It was simple, and didn’t require big hair bows or hair bands.


Photo on 6-4-14 at 6.10 PM

This was a style I found on twitter….I was trying to make it work, i don’t really know how it came out.


Photo on 6-4-14 at 6.15 PM #2

This was probably one of my favorite styles to try. Although getting my hair up in a ponytail would take FOREVER. It was fun to accomplish it in the end.


Photo on 6-4-14 at 6.29 PM

This was also maybe one of my favorite styles just because it was the easiest. Braid to the side, half up half down. And it would keep the hair out of my face as well. (Pardon the frizz, this picture was taken towards the end of my braid journey.)

Photo on 6-4-14 at 6.32 PM #2


This I have no idea. Another attempt at the pinterest styles.


I began to undo my hair about two weeks ago. They were getting awfully frizzy and I just didn’t feel good in them anymore. And so that weekend when I surprised my mom by going home. I asked her to help me take them out, which as someone who didn’t really like my braids she was more than happy to do.


Photo on 6-6-14 at 9.20 PM


It took about 4ish-5ish hours or so.

Photo on 6-6-14 at 9.20 PM #2

A lot of patience….until finally….

Photo on 6-6-14 at 9.57 PM

A bag full of weave was all that was left…and my hair was looking like this once it was all out.

Photo on 6-6-14 at 9.56 PM

And the next morning after using the conditioner and shampoo I’d bought to help my hair start the repairing process.

What I found:

Taking the hair out is much harder than I thought it would be.

My hair can actually dread.

I missed my hair a lot.

My curls were a bit traumatized, and it is going to take some time to get them back up to speed.

My hair has never been so soft in my entire life.

My hair was thicker but shorter. How? I have no idea.

My hair is sensitive, and it’s important especially now that the braids are gone, that I actually invest in products that keep my hair healthy.

Bye-Bye Braids, WELCOME BACK Curls!!!

Photo on 6-7-14 at 12.23 PM #2

Identity Project: Part 1A : Preparing for the braids

Probably the hardest part of getting braids for me was deciding to actually get them. I had the support and encouragement of many of my friends, and they assured me it wouldn’t look weird (which I assumed in my head it would) and that they’d help me figure out how to manage them. And so after going back and forth about a million times, I finally agreed to do it.

You see, my hesitation came from the fact that this was a style unknown to me. I’d literally, just this past semester come to terms with my curly hair and how much I actually love the fact that it doesn’t listen to me. I just learned how to take care of my curly hair, and accept that it’s not a fro, but it’s pretty awesome, and if I take care of it, it will be awesome for a very long time. So now, to think of changing my entire head in this fashion was a challenge for me. When it came to my mind to turn it into a sociological experiment, then it became more acceptable in my mind. Why? Well I believe its because I didn’t want to confront the real reason I was hesitant.

I was scared.

Scared of something that I’ve actually always wanted to do, but have never had the courage or belief that I would ever get to do. I’d always admired my friends who would get box braids and wondered how they even worked, because believe me when I say I had no idea, I truly had no idea.

Scared that I couldn’t pull it off, the same way I didn’t pull off that awkward red hair I accidentally had in the 8th grade after dying my hair to get a lighter brown.

So what I did was, tell people. I told people I knew would hold me accountable for this big change I was going to go through, and that’s what held me to it. I’m a person of my word, and so if I said I was getting braids, then I had to get braids.

Let me tell you about my process.

Let’s start with my inspiration. When I finally decided that I was going to go through with this, I looked for inspiration. Where you ask? Pinterest of course.

These two beautiful women were my inspiration:

inspiration2 inspiration1


The picture on the left, was how thick I was thinking they would be. The one on the right, was how long I dreamed of them being. They aren’t that long, but they’re long enough. BELIEVE ME. Any longer, with my height (or lack thereof) I would have been tripping over my own hair, no good.

My friend Jayana Lott is the beloved, endless patience having person that did my hair for me. And I must have nagged the mess out of her about when we were going to the store, and insisting that I went. She was always nice about it, and finally we went to : Venus Beauty Supply on Patton Avenue in Asheville, NC.  A whole new world for me.

You see, I’ve never used weave before in my life. Never bought it, wouldn’t know the good kind from the bad kind on the shelf even if I guessed. The closest thing I’ve ever had to using weave was that one time when I was 7 and I had a clip in ponytail for no reason except all the other girls had them.



When we went inside, she immediately told me “now this is the braiding hair over here” and I nodded, trying to pretend that I knew that there would be more than one type of hair for different types of styles. The style I got was called Kanekalon hair by Vivica Fox.  Let me pause to say I didn’t know you could have your own weave line either.

We bought 6 packs of hair initially and it came to around 14 dollars. I also discovered that this store also has any type of hair ointment, gel, conditioner, lotion, mousse etcc that you would ever need. So I spent time gawking over that too.



Once we bought the materials she told me that she wanted to start at about 9 or 10 am the next morning (April 19th) and I said okay, completely underestimating how much time it would take. She told me it would take 8 hours or so, some people even said 16 hours. I didn’t know what to expect. I ‘m so happy that I got it done on campus, with someone that I trusted, because sitting in a salon with a stranger  for more than 90% of the day was something I was just not prepared to do.

The preparations were what had me the most excited. I was still nervous about what they would look like, and at this point I’d told my mother who still didn’t really understand what I was doing or why. The only thing left for me to do was actually sit down and get them done. Literally.

Part 1B: 11.5 hours of my life—Braiding Process coming later this week!