All posts tagged: women higher education

How to Make #Lemonade out of Lemons

How to Make #Lemonade out of Lemons

JRF | May 20 2016 |  · · · 

If you ask Tamika what she’s been up to lately, she’ll nonchalantly tell you, “work, school, kids. That’s it.”

Oh, and she wakes up each morning at 5:30 a.m. and lays down around midnight- no big deal. 

When we asked her more about her day-to-day schedule, we learned that that’s it is far more than that.  Tamika is one of JRF’s current scholars, a full-time divorced mom of four, an accountant of 16 years, and a student. She already has her Associate’s Degree in Accounting and is now in pursuit of her Bachelor’s. 

While in the military, she learned to consistently make time for everything you plan to accomplish or the time will never come. Her casual explanation of how she makes lemonade out of life’s lemons with no excuses will make anyone question their time-management skills.

After four or five hours of sleep, Tamika starts making her daily dose of lemonade.  She begins by helping her 8-year old twins and 16-year old get to school and heads off to work. “Usually my own time comes around… 2 a.m.,” she laughs as she shares how she finds peace in these wee hours of the night.

During her lunch breaks, she dedicates 30 minutes to reading in order to be a better student, a better accountant, and a better role model for her family and friends. “Reading helps remove the noise of discouragement,” Tamika says. Right now she’s reading Priscilla Shirer’s Fervent.

Tamika first enrolled in college immediately after high school.  But, when she returned home for winter break, she came back with an extra package, her son.

Teenage motherhood presents its own set of challenges in the midst of transitioning into adulthood forcing Tamika and her oldest son to share a great deal of the growing pains together.

“He’s seen the eviction notices and he remembers living in the projects.”

During those times, Tamika focused on providing for her son so her educational aspirations took a backseat.  A few times, she would enroll in classes while working, find herself discouraged, and stop.

“The more I had to stop and start, it took too much of my energy.” 

Years later, she’s in a much better situation to keep going, but she admits she’s still figuring it out day by day, lemon by lemon.

These bittersweet memories keep Tamika going on a daily basis to continue to make the lemonade.  After a full day’s work, she comes home and cooks a family dinner for her children. While dinner is simmering, she and the twins work on their homework together.

Sometimes their dinner conversations are about money management. Tamika thinks back to how she watched her grandmother struggled to keep the lights on and paying bills in portions of payments from month-to-month by working extensive hours at low-paying jobs day in and day out, just to provide for her.
“For years, I found myself repeating the same behavior I had been exposed to growing up.” As a single parent of four children, those habits stop here.

Each pay period, Tamika sits down with her oldest son (22-years old) and together they map out what he should do with his job earnings. He is responsible for presenting an Excel spreadsheet budget to her to allocate money to responsibilities first, then savings, and then a little for fun. Tamika makes sure that all of her children understand the importance of strong work ethic and financial planning, no matter the job and no matter the level of pay.

“I have one thing my grandmother did not have and that’s an education. Money doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable topic of discussion when we have access to financial education.”

“I grew up on the back porch talking with old ladies while my friends were playing outside because of my grandmother’s fear of me getting pregnant or leaving home.” She respected her protective grandmother, but she saw the Army as a means to a better life for her and her son.

Those years in the military are now behind her, but the systematic grind mentality sticks with her daily. Now, she has a daughter that “watches [her] like a hawk,” just as she did to her grandmother.  “I keep my energy up for her.”

She knows she can’t always protect her children, but through higher education, she can prepare them for life and the real world.

“I refuse to let them see me cry. When I’m alone, that’s when I shed my tears…It’s difficult some days. I [sometimes] ask myself, ‘do I really want it?’ But, I refuse to let anything stop me. I put my goals off for so long that I have no choice but to keep going.”

She keeps going so that she is better equipped with the knowledge and resources to help minority owned-small businesses make sustainable accounting decisions.

In addition to her grandmother and godmother, Tamika’s best friend from her time in the military helps her maintain the mental balance to keep making the lemonade.

“He will not let me do the woe is me…in the military, you cannot do ‘woe is me’ because that means you’re leaving a soldier behind.”  Tamika certainly and selflessly embraces each day to make sure none of her little soldiers are left behind.

The way she lives out this mindset, in pursuit of higher education, is what makes her lemonade that much sweeter for her, her family and her community.  On days when the lemonade gets a bit tart, she leans on her mentors and supporters. She listens to her favorite Charlie Wilson album. She instills better habits into her children. She listens to a rebroadcast of her church’s sermon. Then, she starts each day renewed, eager to come closer to the finish line.

Tamika, the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund thanks you for allowing us to share some of your lemonade recipe today.


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