This is my year of no. I’m loving it already. I have been asked to add another trip to my already packed work schedule in the middle of raising four young children who are school-aged. The answer is no.

I was also asked to do a favor for some in need where the need was more like a bandaid and not the solution they need. I said no.

I was asked, do I want more on my plate, more work, more demands, more on a plate that is literally overflowing. The answer my friend was no.

I have never said this much no and it’s just the beginning of the year. It feels like the thing I never knew I had in my power to do. Uncharted territories comes to mind, like riding a horse alone through fields littered with never ending demands.

Art from Nike Art gallery.

Because truly deep down, I am a people pleaser. I want everyone around me to be happy and content and see me as a good guy willing to do what it would take so everyone is happy with me. This year, to literally hell with that.

If you are not happy with me, the doors are wide open. I am coming with a force and a legion that is unstoppable.

If all I have being doing the last couple of years was gathering storm, we have reached our peak. Watch me explode now that I know how to say no.

‘What you see is what you are and what you will become.’ Ben Okri said it best in his book ‘Astonishing the Gods.’ These days, what I am seeing is beyond me. They are truly wonderful things. Things that make one’s heart full. My heart is indeed full. I tried to dwell on it over the weekend. I’m still trying. Words fail me but know that I am grateful. January is cervical cancer awareness month and I get to launch a project that is near and dear to my heart in Nigeria tomorrow. I saw the project immediately cervical cancer came knocking at my door. In fact, I wrote the first version and submitted it before I knew how deep it would bury itself in our home. It buried itself and we are finally making sense of the journey ahead. Which is why I am all for those prepared to go on the journey. This isn’t a favor. Lord knows anyone around me isn’t doing me a favor. Know you came into my life. In situations where it is the reverse, know that my addition to your life is always for good. So whatever you see is me, is what we shall become. I will continue the journey with or without you. I know who started it and I know he will lead me all the way. Keep what you see!

Image from Nike Art Gallery

To a girl or a boy alone, know that you have a people, with their own histories, their own stories, their own mysteries, their own adversaries, their own victories, their own jewelries, their own galleries, their own sceneries, their own groceries, their own factories, their own sanctuaries, their own vocabularies, their own stationeries, their own missionaries, their own legionaries and their own visionaries. Even when you feel alone, know that you can always begin again with your own history.

I saw first hand, the power of never forgetting your history during our stay in Nigeria. It was at my husband’s mother’s home and I was mesmerized by the histories that remained within the home. For example, we came across a wooden stool, probably over 100 years and in close to pristine condition. The stool had a language of its own, with a history of its own still waiting to be told by generations that follow. I asked as much questions I could ask about it, took pictures to preserve our meeting together and that’s when it dawned on me, that I am never alone. Not when I have a history of my own, with stories and mysteries of my own. I wanted to know who made the stool and why. Who used it and for what occasion. I also had questions about the carvings, it’s four legs, the striking lines at the bottom, and the markings across the top. Here was a stool, in it’s own room, it’s own house, it’s own language that still conveys a message of it own, all while built with hands long gone. Even though all that is left is this image, the mere presence of the stool, is a reminder that our existence, our history matters. Keep it all.

I dreamed things would be different.

Children would laugh and I would sit back and sigh.

There is no place like home.

Not in form, for some.

So thank God for all the roosters, turkey, cows goats and monkeys we saw along the way.

Also thank you to all the trees that swayed around, ushering gentle kisses along the way.

They allowed me to keep dreaming and my children to keep laughing, keep being limitless too.

We will be back, only though I know with whom and where we belong.

There is no place like home.

Not in form, for some.

I am a mom to a child on the spectrum. Our trip to Nigeria over the holiday break made me choose to tell our stories more in 2023. Why? I saw ugliness and disdain for autism in Nigeria. Also not from strangers, but from those I call family. I have asked myself questions upon questions. Wondered out loud whether I thought things would be different all became we came home. We came home after all and so yes, I expected acceptance, love, understanding, patience, even joy. There is no place like home after all.

But rather, I was met with an attitude that might as well be described as hatred. We of course had a bumpy ride when we landed. We were stuck in a hotel room, exposed to the loud sensations of Lagos and yes, my child longed for the sanctuary of our home in the US from the moment we got to Lagos. It didn’t help that our first week there meant that I was working so I wasn’t even present to help calm his anxieties. And they were a lot. Justifiably so. We live in a home that is literally surrounded by trees because I know first hand what green space can do for children on the spectrum. I literally took a semester long class focused on this during my time at UIUC. We were lucky to see some trees in Lagos but the noise and constant chaos meant that the first couple of days were full of dread for the place we were to call home for a month. When work ended and we finally moved to our new place the following week, things began to settle in place. He had his music. We had more space and life seemed to move at an easy pace. We also removed ourselves from things that triggered his anxiety and that helped a lot.

But the time we got to the village. Even in the midst of all the flies that would often trigger a loud response from my son, he finally was at peace. I watched him everyday waiting for one loud scream or loud tears or even anything. But I got nothing. He was at peace. I would secretly watch from afar how he interacted with folks. They were minimal, but still something. He didn’t scream, didn’t cry, didn’t even yearn to return home. Rather he played with his siblings and cousins, ran around with all the animals he saw around him, named them too like Ellie the Cow and Sam the Turkey. I was struck by his sense of joy for a place many dare not travel too due to the uncertainties in Nigeria. Indeed, when you are home, there is no place like it.

I was born and raised in Nigeria but this was my third trip to a village so I too was taken aback by the serenity we felt for this space. Then it occurred to me. People will never understand your ways. Home is home and something your spirit know has no bounds. Even when people judge you and count you off even when things go wary, when you are home, your spirit knows. So keep living beyond their limits for you. Keep being limitless too. If we only stayed in Lagos, our trip would have indeed been miserable, but the village changed all of that for us. The Igboness side of me, felt that it was because we were truly home and there is no place like it. It was as if my son’s spirit knew that he was walking on the land his people once walked, once lived in too. His spirit, or chi felt at peace at home. Mine too. I saw beauty beyond words for a space that welcomed me, welcomed my children, and allowed us to see joy, feel joy and know joy, even if only from animals that roam around or tall trees that sway around or the perfect peace that resonates when you are surrounded by those with whom you truly belong to.

I look forward to giving this back to him some more. The memories from this trip and our time at the village was priceless for us and especially my son. It restored my faith with being a mom with a child on the spectrum and living in Nigeria. We will be back. Only now, we truly know with whom and where we belong.

The plans for this year was light. I planned to walk through flames, to risk the fires that burn, even in the cold, just so I get to the forest of light within. That was the new year plan. In one week, I have been informed by the year that this one will be a rollercoaster. Sit tight and hang on. If last year tried to consume you, this year is coming, bright and burning. And it’s only the 8th day. I opened my door this morning. Let the cold air seep in. I was reminded in that instant to breathe in. Cool air. Breathe in. Even as things burn. Breathe out. As smoke rises. Keep breathing. The year will come for you. Try to burn you too. Cold air will seep in. You will feel like you are sinking. Floors will give away. Yet, breathe in. Push them all back. Close the door. Breathe out. You have noticed the air. Noticed the smoke, and the sinking floors. But still, turn around and smile. They will not understand this air you breathe in.

The most sublime lessons are those learned and relearned. The post above was first written on the 8th of January, 2022. Now, a year later, the message feels like it was written today. I am keeping this year as a reminder to myself to keep breathing again and again. 2022 was indeed a rollercoaster. I still don’t expect folks to understand the air I breathe in 2023. Still, I intend to keep breathing.

Happy New Year.

Something about this moment,

This New Year again,

Feels like a renewal

A rebirth

A time for reimagination

Restoration

Release

Rest

Remeberance

Revival

Resolve

Revelations

And Revaluations.

Only, this time, I’m in a village,

And the pleasing sounds of rare birds and cocks crowing, goats bleating alongside more bird sounds chorusing through tall palm trees, keeps me ready for the boundless possibilities of this New Year.

I am at the gate of new realities for another new year, inhaling too, the fragrance of a well-deserved rest, and a lingering happy silence, but this time, I am still.

Will this gentle breeze I feel this moment, will these sounds endlessly start my day, will the earth remain as red as it is or the palm trees rustle with the breeze? Soon, I will leave these place but may all the things I feel for it, all the rest and release I received from this place, be with me as a New Year begins again.

I have been away. I desperately need it. I had to cut everything off. I also had no choice. I was in a remote village and no amount of wifi would work. We had three from 3 different companies and my most spoken word this past week was no reception. I let time and the moment go on as expected. It was the restoration my soul needed that I really didn’t fully know I needed. It gave me more clarity, gave me peace, gave me perspective and now bring on 2023.

If I make changes or move in another direction, know that’s it’s this thing called grace. It’s my revelation for 2023. How I also choose to reevaluate my life too. I have nothing but grace, and with it, I have everything I need. This grace is my word and mood for the year. I pray it leads me and you all the way in 2023.

I saw a soft radiant sunset last evening. We were driving through an estate whose name when translated from Igbo to English means ‘blessings are great.’ Everything about out evening, from the setting sun, to our time at the estate, was full of grace, full of blessings. No wonder an Igbo man retires home the last few days of a year. The sun, the estate and all its hidden meanings are all I need as we begin to close out 2022.

I knew there would be stares. I expected it. I knew many would never get his ways or ask questions about his tears. I didn’t realize they would stare, or laugh or drive us away. I also didn’t realize we would be shunned or pitied too as if to live with him is a deadly disease. I didn’t realize it would also come from those I considered family, those meant to protect and shield us from the questioning stares of strangers. That I would feel regret for bringing is all I feel. Questions keep playing in my head. What did I think would happen? How did I not know people would stare or shun us? Did I expect everyone to know and understand autism? What happens next too?

At first, all I felt was anger. Hatred too. I hated how they looked at us or shunned us. Hated that they would never get to know the bright boy we all know because his tears was deafening. Hated that I would now have to shield him more from the world and their ways. Hated that they see us from a lens of pity.

Truth is I have zero tolerance for people and their pitying ways. I’m able to live and thrive with what they see as chaos. He makes me a better being, with life, work and everything. I would never trade him for anything. He is what God brought our way anyways.

To the older gentleman that took care of us at the airport, the one who saw past his ways, his fears, the noise, the weariness, thank you. I know our paths may never cross, but I’m writing this because you were the first to show us humanity’s best in Nigeria with living and traveling with an autistic son. Your kindness and tenderness to us is not lost on me. Even the little walk you took with him helped to restore my faith in people. To the rest, cross me off your contact list. I’m petty like that. I really have no use for you in my life. I don’t care if you are still family. I can act and will win an Oscar where you are. I really have no need and desire to ever see or hear from you. You can save your pity for your existence.

How I feel these days with being a parent of a child with autism in Nigeria!

Deep in me, there still persists, stories untold, histories unknown, depths unimaginable, towers unbuilt, words unuttered, and legions unheard of. All of them are coming with me to the new year and Nimo. Recognize or ignore us at your peril. For within us, there still remains, a journey untouchable. Watch us soar, unreachable.

It’s truly beginning to look like Christmas. Everywhere you go.

The heart of soccer never changes. There will always be winner and losers. Just as the sun rises and sets. Some will rise and shine. While others will fall deep into abyss of regret only time can heal. I watched todays World Cup finale with glee. For once, the heart seemed to change. No clear winner or looser until the end. We all watched with glee and awe wondering how it will end. And finally it did. Argentina and Messi go home with a cup but France and Mbappe were equally deserving, if not winners themselves. They gave their everything just as Argentina did and in the end, the heart of soccer never changed. There were indeed winners and losers. Only though, in the end, even the losers were winners in the eyes of so many. They truly were.

Palm trees line greyed walls. Some still baring their fronds. Some bare. There were gates with barbed wires. Black, grey and brown gates with a dash of green and white. Most of the walls too were grey. The skies too grey. It was as if walls and skies gathered together for a grey purpose. We used to dream of this estate. Dream of life among dolphins. Only though our dreams were better.

I drove into Dolphin Estate yesterday. I was running errands and one of my stops was the estate. At first I was excited about visiting it. It was built or fully formalized during my childhood years in Nigeria and I distinctively remembered wishing my parents had a home in the estate. When we drove in, both shock and awe greeted me. Shock, because my dreams of this place were so much better than reality. Awe because I was living my dreams of walking or driving through this estate. I also immediately felt troubled for the Nigerian condition. Nothing ever seems to last. That and repairs or maintenance seem to be like distant cousins. I walked through the estate of my dreams yesterday. Only that my dreams were much better. Now I’m left wondering what can dreams do, when reality seems grey.