Book Review: Choosing the Hero by K. Riva Levinson


Choosing the Hero by  Riva Levinson

Choosing the Hero

Although I humbly think this beautiful and profound memoir by Riva is slightly overdue, I commend her dedication, despite her hectic schedule, to finish it and share it with the world.

Indeed, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the other main protagonist in this memoir, in her soulful Foreword, encourages us all to read Choosing the Hero: “It tells my story from the special perspective of a woman who knows me well and was with me at every stage of the journey – a woman to whom I will always be grateful.” I know of no other more befitting endorsement of such a work. The President actually mentioned in that same foreword that Riva even believed in her much more than some of her closer entourage at one point – in short, Riva never gave up on her although she tried and failed twice before making it to the Liberian Presidency in 2005, amidst all odds and breaking the ‘tremendous taboo’ that no woman could be President in Africa.

So how did these two brilliant, brave, strong headed, strong willed, dynamic, dedicated, determined, and above all, disciplined women from worlds apart, cross paths? Riva was from the US, with her multidimensional background, upbringing, and career, while Ellen was from far off poor, shady, gloomy and poverty cum conflict stricken tiny Liberia in Africa. I have come to conclude that their personalities had a ‘spiritual magnetism’ and caused them to chose each other.

Riva is largely convinced she chooses Ellen Johnson Sirleaf because she saw in her a Hero. In her own words, thought out way back in 1996 when she first met Ellen Johnson in her office at the UN: “… a new thought that is just beginning to take root and grow: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will make history. She will change the world. I don’t know how she will do it, or what it will entail. But I know that I want to help her. I want to come along on that journey. I want to work for Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.” I think that is where the choosing started. Eventually when she had the opportunity to be interviewed by Ellen Johnson, she was determined that that not even her five months old pregnancy was going to stand in her way. Riva reflects rightly at that point that she’s facing yet again the primary tension to her job: “needing to work for the clients who pay, while being drawn to the clients who inspire.” She knew Mrs Sirleaf had limited resources and relied on her personal savings with dignity and integrity, but that was what made her Hero more appealing.

And so it came to be that Riva didn’t only help her Hero, by working and supporting Ellen Johnson Sirleaf all the way through defeats, exiles, and eventual victory ten years later, but she actually got into some serious politicking and lobbying on Capitol Hill, most of it pro bono. Riva narrates this challenging but soulful journey, the different rejections and humiliations she faced in working with and for her Hero, recalling a time when she was told outright: “it’s a traditional society, a woman can never be president.”

One will read with hints of irony how the warlord Taylor, who had several times threatened grandmother Ellen’s life, ended up himself depending on her executive decision as president if he should be tried by the Special Court for the Sierra Leone. Another amusing fact in her memoir is the ‘play press’; both regional and international, who in the beginning were definitely not having anything to do with covering Ellen and her campaign. Once she was declared the victor over “King Leah” their proclaimed ‘winner’, they were in Monrovia overnight pleading for a spot with Madam President.

Riva’s memoir is captivating and hard to put down. Brilliantly narrated with some hints of her soulful family dynamics, her impressive and resourceful Oma, all the way through to Bagdad, Libya, and Somalia, where some of her most dangerous assignments were undertaken.

I commend Riva above all for making her memoir a fluent, easy, and interesting read. I equally appreciate that her opening scene is in Norway, where her Hero and two other dynamic and exemplary women laureates of that year’s Nobel Peace Price are honoured with their awards.

Indeed, Riva made the right choice in choosing her Hero. She is now a part and parcel of one of those ‘traditional African families’, and so gets her VIP pass to the ground breaking inauguration of President Sirleaf in 2006 and much more. Riva has also witnessed tremendous personal and professional developments and she now thinks her Hero is also her new Oma.

In light of all the above, I can only honestly and modestly conclude my review by adding my own tiny call to that of our very first African Female President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, that this book should be read by all and sundry – you will not regret it.

About the Author:

Riva Levinson
UNITED STATES – MAY 13: Riva Levinson, president and CEO of KRL International, is interviewed by CQ Roll Call in her Washington office, May 13, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

K. Riva Levinson is the founder, President and CEO of KRL International LLC. Over the past 25 years, Ms. Levinson has earned a reputation as sought-after strategist managing international policy issues.

A front-page profile in The Hill, a prominent Washington newspaper, said  Riva Levinson “…has been in trickier spots and taken up more daunting causes than all but a few other lobbyists in town.” A recent Financial Times article described Ms. Levinson’s reputation in advocacy as “formidable.”

Hanging in my Blogging Boots, Letting Go with Love and Gratitude


Thank you
Gratitude all the way

All-time posts, views, and visitors … other stats (This is the first time I go to the stats section and probably the last)

  • POSTS: 573
  • PAGES: 12
  • VIEWS: 21,230
  • VISITORS: 10,529
  • BEST VIEWS EVER: 334 AUGUST 4, 2014 (Two day after my dearest Gabriel passed away – that pain still sometimes freezes my marrow)
  • COMMENTS: 5575
  • FOLLOWERS: 343

Dear World, what a tough decision, what a difficult parting. Oh my, I really am crying, yet tears of love and gratitude…

There above figures is the sum stats of my blogging journey, a journey which began on a fateful day in November 2013. I never had a clue on what I was going to do, nor how I was going to sustain doing that, but I dived in head on because at that time in my life, I needed this outlet so badly to release and breathe in – suck in – learn in – lean in – love in – and oh my meet so many wonderful people like Pammy,  Dyane, Kitt, Serena, blahpolar, Junie, oh my too many to list here.

Here is my first post, it took me that whole night to figure out how to create the blog, and then write cum publish a post. I don’t know if that post or its links are still intack, but I remember that period very well. Yes, one where I was trying so hard to keep afloat in that Belgium with its nasty weather and some weird work environment I found myself in.

It’s been a long, long, long journey both on and off line. Gosh, I don’t know what to write. I have thought it over and over, and it’s taken me 16 days from my last post on structural adjustment, to realise I truly can’t commit to blogging with the same zeal, love, passion, inshort my 3 Ds of Determination – Discipline – Dedication wouldn’t work here any more. I don’t want to do it otherwise. I follow Oprah’s advice and learn when to let go. From realising I needed to Let things be, to realising a structural adjustment was imperative, I now realize I just have to hang in my blogging boots.

Thank you very much
Thank you very much

It’s thank you, thank you and thank you. Thank you all who in whatever way made my blogging bout and pleasant one. I didn’t get to the 3 year mark, but I near made. I am glad at how much content I produced, how much feedback, views, like or even ‘hate’ I received, and oh my all I read which sent me roaming and roving. Now, for the Woman and Mother I am becoming, I need to focus elsewhere. Even me times are suspended to a very large extent – glad I had a blast while it lasted…

The blog stays online, I actually have to now one moment at a time, read my own post and reflect on those periods. I’ll also be following a few blogs, reading, liking and commenting. It’s a new era, it’s still plain me, but it’s time to step out of bloggerville, and step up the stakes for my boys and I. I still regret some stuffs I never got to post thanks to procastination, but hmm even on one’s dying bed there’s regret right? and yet what options then? So I bravely and gracefully – sure gratefully, quit…

thank you

Structural Adjustment = Mid term break for Me and I…


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Sometimes,  we really don’t see it coming… But oh Boy, when it shows up, you better get going or be left behind…  And if getting going necessitates or even ‘imposes’ an adjustment,  one I call ‘structural adjustment’, you’re better off not resisting ( a mild resistance is 👌).

Dear 🌍,  with the above, I start this brief post of mine. I think the last one dates to a week or so, and I just realised that I need an official break from blog&Co and a few others…

When I was setting up and planning, wishing, praying and all to have my boys with me, I didn’t anticipate the manner in which that will take place. Who says everyone loves serenity and tranquillity?

Uh huh, well I got them and we are a rovin’: striving to get to thriving… Some huge and mild both physical and emotional ‘structural adjustment’ for us all indeed. Seriously, we have even had a few cordial team meetings to view, review and approve out strategy…

This calls and deserves a break from blogging and other passions… Even reading and sports have taken mild hits…

And so my e-family, because I just didn’t want to up and get silent like that, I thought to let you who cares know, just Like I appreciate when some of you who can, let me know too what’s ‘brewing’…

Happy easter Break to all the students in here; and to us parents, grannies and uncles, just keep trying ur best oh… Hope this below makes a good chuckle…

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The fattest and juicest bone just eaten by the patient Dog…


patient dog

What will a dog want to do with meat anyway? I used to say that the patient dog is probably a loser because while he waits, his other friends eat all the meat. You know, growing up in a culture which relishes meat, I almost forgot that dogs don’t like meat, the bones are yummier and even help sooth and sharpen their teeth…

If need be therefore, I am a Patient Dog… I am getting ready to eat the fattest and juicest bone. Thanks to some twists and turns, what I had been patiently looking forward to, that is: Having my kids permanently with me – is becoming reality as of yesterday.

You probably can imagine our joy… They are actually at my home since Friday and I got the writ to pick up their stuffs yesterday…

Thank you all so much who have encouraged, supported and loved me and us on…

Wise words on patience

I just found this wonderful quote from Joyce Meyer, one of those power voices I listen to sometimes.While waiting indeed, I found a home and started decorating it more with love than otherwise. I brought my boys to feel their future home, and they couldn’t wait to move in. We just didn’t know when… oh my, could it be any sooner or better?

Please, know that it is possible… that what you work hard for, pray hard for, strive hard for, even wish hard for, can really be delivered to you on a gold platter… sometimes that platter is still so hot and having ground around it, coming straight from the fire – indispensable for making gold right? Receive it with both hands whenever it comes, it may even burn and dirty you a little, but it’ll cool down and you’ll wash the dirt away… and who will be having the fattest and juicest bone after all?…

Nice Sunday to all… The season of Lent has very often brought me so much pain, healing and beautiful things…

Happy International Women’s Day: Doing me some advocacy


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Charming host Amy Banda and I

Dear 🌍 , today is the International Women’s day. In my country Cameroon, the traditional thing has been for a special fabric to be designed, bought and stitched. Thereafter, the women go for a match past and then round up the day with merry making.

I don’t do that, and actually planned to stay at home today, you know work and rest free of the brouhaha of the day’s folies.

Yet, when my dearest Amy Banda invited me to both her TV 📺 and Radio 📻 shows, I said see you there. Never tired of advocating for any cause dear to me.

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Amy lent me one of her spare fabrics to throw up my shoulder and not appear to be anti-women’s day fabric.

Amy loves her shows, here she regals the four women on the set today.

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All four dynamic ladies on the show today

Thereafter, we met again at the radio station for Amy’s program on this year’s theme in details.

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From TV, over to the Radio, in company of an upcoming Cameroon musician

All is well that ends well. I had a difficult day yesterday and barely slept 4 hours. Will go home and sleep some more and yes , read all I can.

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image one of those parties in preparation🙂

Happy times to us all

Warming up to pay it forward


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Dear 🌍,  that’s me 45 or so mins ago. I am warming up to pay it forward… This means it’s a positive payment right? And difficult one nonetheless as you’ll see. That’s why I need constant warm ups henceforth. I’ll commit to a daily 30 mins workouts for the next 3 months and then I’ll see how that goes…

Why warm up daily? I mean am a 3/week adept already, and although one hap or mishap can sometimes tamper with that routine, am trying my best… And sure, anyone who has tried, will agree me about the therapeutic sensations and effects derived from these workouts. I mean, Obama was quoted as saying: ” Give me my workout time, and my work time will be just wonderful”. As for Michelle O, gosh that skin of hers drives me with motivation…  Can you imagine the holistic wellbeing of these two?

And now, in addition to holistic wellbeing,  I find myself in a pay forward situation already. What’s to pay forward you may wonder? The help and support I got to be on this awesome path to a Big, Better and Brighter Merry Marie… It wasn’t easy, it still isn’t. But I sure am in and on it with all my 3 Ds…

I acknowledge seeing a psychotherapist and working with an awesome life coach, I even admit taking pain killers, sleep pills and vitamins. Yet, it was the constant, selfless and unconditional love and support of my SSH, that worked the biggest magic. Uh huh I did lot of work and homework myself, but I just couldn’t on my own – messed up as I then was…

It’s been 5 years and more since I started out, one inconsequential step at a time. Today however, even the weight loss is evidence enough. Some still don’t believe I once 🕒 115kgs…

Whenever I thanked my SSH, he’ll say ‘just pay it forward’: that’s the best recognition. Did I know that will be happening barely 7 months after my relocation home? And the situation is slightly complicated because my new client is behind bars and thought by some to be despicable… Yet they at slightly over my age, acknowledge that it’s high time and they are ready, cause they are sick and tired of being sick and tired of their life as is…

Dear Lord, I pray the serenity prayer with all my heart. I, like Solomon, pray for Wisdom and Grace… I need thee every hour, I know I have my e-family, my SSH and my guardian angel to cheer me on…

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Have a wonderful Sunday everybody and keep up in all you strive…

My Sister….


sister love

Dear World, I just got up to this wonderful brief but poignant tribute from my Bombo Serana Marie all the way in Texas. Yesterday was another of those mixed days for me, and I thought I could do with some empathy. When I read my Bombo’s recent posting, I knew she needed some too. I decided to call her and just hear her voice. We didn’t talk much, instead laughed much, and just reminded each other we were strong, had each other’s back, and will sure get past the current wave too… Thank you Bombo for writting this, I love you and hopefully will visit you in Texas some day:

My Sister, we call each other Bombo (both having the same name), in far away Cameroon, Africa read my post this morning and knew I needed some cheering up. She surprised me with a lovely phone call…

Source: My Sister….

In our Home: My friends and I


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Hello world, am travelling again today to the east of Cameroon. When am travelling, I can write and read on the go – oh, how I so love that luxury…

The above note from Alain the first of my 4 best friends, and president of our 4 person team, aptly introduces our haven…

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He is not the dedicated artist David is, but I still love that drawing. Indeed, both pictures above have been plastified and posted by the main door leading into the living room. No visitor can miss those …

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The above is from our Shepherd and King: David. Our uprising artist friend. The calm, patient and emotional friend we are all blessed to have. He is the mediator par excellence, the referee in football matches, and the cleanest freak after: me of course…

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For all my cleaning up and making our haven comfy and love full, I got the following from our Angel Gabriel…

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Our yummy yummy angel G, is the one who reminds me most of the jolly Ayo of my childhood. Never has a second to bear a grudge or cry for a min more… Yes he is just him, let’s life be more fun and falls than otherwise, and hmm he can negotiate for his age especially when it comes to money or business issues. He says he wants to be a business man in future. Their tribe people, the “Bamilekes”, are known as the Jews in Cameroon ( no offence to my Jewish friends, rather a praise for your business nature)

Gaby (6 yrs oh) asked me for a coin as I dropped them off at their dad’s on Sunday. I gave him 50 frs, good enough for a candy. He said it was better if I rounded it up to a 100 frs. I asked why, he said given the current market prices, there wasn’t much he could buy with 50 frs. I asked him what he had in mind, and of course he mentioned something which cost 100 frs.

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David will plead for crayons and colours and canson paper, and even recently started talking of paint brushes. Hmm, I wish he lived with my friend Pammy in Vermont… I would love for them to meet someday and talk painting, go to exhibitions and etc

And so it goes that in our home, my friends and I recognize the gifts we have especially that of having each other. I have a little upper hand being the sole bread and board provider for now, but I reproach with love and logic so as not to betray our special friendship. I taught them from babyhood to say “All for one and One for all”. I am so grateful for my musketeers and the team as such.

I once read Marala Scott’s memoir In Our Home”, and it was so traumatic I don’t think I will ever write a review… I also didn’t have the same kind of home growing up, like the one I am building today with my friends. And so I am ever conscious of the constant work needed to keep our home the safe haven and refuge we’ll always love to return to…

Wishing us all a happy midweek…

Reproach them with love: it’s proven better results


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This picture is so heady, I'll try reproaching it with love🙂

Hello all the way from exotic limbe once again…

I came down here for some work and I am once more very early even though it’s 8 am and work it is claimed starts at 7.30 am…

A small scenario occurred yesterday evening on my return home and after nicely resolving it, I thought about such a post…

The neighbour above myself has 4 boys, my sons’ age but for the last one who’s still learning to talk… Yummy J…

So I come home and find obviously J’s cereal pack in front of my veranda, as well as his used wipe. That’s not the first time anyway… I ask his brother who I see on their balcony if that’s their trash… He weighs me up and says he’s not sure… Ok, the last tenant above has no kids now and is hardly home just like myself…

So I reason it out with big brother M and he finally agrees it’s J’s. I plead with him to come pick it up, and he frowns. I let him see that J can’t come pick that up and that when he was that age, someone did same for him…

He comes, picks the stuffs up, and heads for the gate to throw them on the street… I once more reason with him that’s not healthy nor clean now, and ask him if he loves a filthy environment… He thinks twice and shrugs… I ask him if he recalls what they teach in school about hygiene, and he proudly gives me a lesson even on washing hands…

We make up and he goes up with the litter to put in their trash can

Had I scolded and threatened, am not sure of the results nor that things may have become more complicated right?

I recall a relative who had become such a difficult case and not even her mum could stand living with her… She was threatened being sent to a juvenile institute…

I dared take her in, and though it wasn’t easy from the start, I didn’t give up… I gradually showed her I loved and trusted the soul in her, and I gave her responsibilities at home including running the daily budget…

Today, she has a home of her own, with children. She calls me mama, and is very often thanking me over and again…

Above all, I always try to put myself in their shoes and think how I would have appreciated being reproached back then…

For these reasons, I opt to reproach with love and logic and not lashes…

And you?

Letting it Be


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There comes in time in life where the choices gets narrowed down…

Letting it be now or later…

No more beating myself up over what I’ll wear in five days…

Just letting it be till I get there…

No more fretting over who to call or expect a call from: just letting things be…

Indeed am neither weary of, nor scared to love: am just letting love be. It’ll get here when it does…

And that applies to life as is: I fairly think I have and am still trying my best and it seems it mustn’t always be to the last letter. And so in the meantime, while I live in all gratitude, I am letting life be…

One moment at a time, no more pressure to tick them all off as planned. Life has showed me some twists and turns, I am learning the hard and even mild way, to love Letting it Be…

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