When I was leaving UNESCO, I bought books that I knew I would not find anywhere else. Bouba and Zaza collection series created as part of UN Decade of Education and Sustainable Development (2005-2014) were among the books I bought. One particular edition that my children and I love to read explores why we need to protect our planet and what children themselves can do. From simply respecting nature, to turning off lights when not in use or turning of taps properly so water does not drip down, Bouba and Zaza notes that every little bit counts.

When children have daily opportunities to care for the planet, they learn nurturing behaviors that in turn can help them as they interact with their peers and people in general. Environmental issues are crucial topics to discuss and the time to have conversations with children is now. Learning about the environment teaches how children can and should save the planet. Learning about the environment fosters a sense of wonder and deep understanding of how the environment works. Learning about the environment enables children to take action to improve it.

In our household every little bit counts. We walk barefoot in the grass or sand so they feel the environment directly on the soles of their feet. We explore the environment everything we visit the Saint Louis Forest Park, one of the largest parks in the US. Forest Park is a beauty and I appreciate how hard the park works to enhance the beauty and wonder of nature to children (more on our exploration of the park in future posts). My daughter is also in charge of our household recycling bin. She takes her role seriously as she should. She also expresses herself creatively on what we all can do to heal the planet. Bouba and Zaza did their part to encourage other kids to keep the planet clean. My kids and I are doing our part to protect the planet.

I almost didn’t write today’s post. Honestly, today’s workload was intense. Not only did I teach my grantwriting course to doctoral students, I had to sit with my six year old son for his reading, physical education, religion and developmental skills. By the end of the day, we were both tired. But still, I write. I write because I am on a journey to becoming the writer I know that I am born to become. This journey has been filed with obstacles, professional and personal ones, but still I write. I write to showcase my interior life. Work is hard. Being a working mother is very hard. But motherhood, with all is ups and downs is a gift that I am totally grateful to have, despite all the ups and downs. So I write, even though I am tired. I write even though I just finished homeschooling and some work-related meeting.

Homeschooling was tough today as my six year old cried and cried because he was tired. I write because we somehow continued work after he told his teacher the reason for his tears. He was crying because he missed his dad who was at work. I write because he did his coloring, 2 pictures on religion focused on the fifth commandment. I thought he didn’t stay within the lines. I reminded him to stay within the lines. He tried his best. His teacher mentioned his coloring has improved. So I write because small victories with homeschooling, like improved coloring of a six year old brightened my day. I also write because he also finished his reading assignments on his journey practice workbox, despite so many prompts to complete it.

Today’s religion assignment.

I write to share also that I made dinner in between the breaks we had during homeschooling, in between breastfeeding and two crying boys who wanted all my attention. I made jollof rice with baked salmon and chicken for dinner tonite. I write because although it’s only 3:50 pm, I really taught a 2 hour class this morning to doctoral students and somehow managed to cook dinner, calm a crying baby, console 2 crying boys all while completing homeschooling materials for today. I write, because even now, even though I am tired and sitting on my bed, with my 2 month old nestled on my lap and breastfeeding, my laptop is still open. I write some thoughts, my thoughts, written down as I wait for the next appointment with my student. I write because I enjoy speaking with students, especially those new to the field of public health like today’s student, who wants to end up in the field of public health disaster preparedness. What better field to end up in given the ongoing pandemic and the failure to prepare or contain it despite being one of the richest country on earth. I write because she made me smile, public health students and their genuine love for the public’s health are remarkable. Today was tough. But I write because my story, every thorn, every rosy smiles deserves to be told. Life as a working mother is hard. But I write so you get a glimpse of my life. For all working mothers, in the middle of this pandemic, keep writing your stories.

The reason I write.

Every day, after the Wolf Blitzer show on CNN, he lists the names of Americans who have died as a result of the ongoing pandemic. Yesterday, he shared the story of an African American woman, Patricia Ashley, age 53, a wife for 25 years, mother of three children and a grandmother to 15 grandchildren. She was also a pre-school teacher at a private school who caught Covid-19 after returning back to work. Today she is dead. One in 1,000 African Americans have died from the pandemic. If nothing changes from now until the end of 2020, the number will increase to 1 in 500. I am an African America woman. Something has to change!

Patricia Ashely, aged 53 and died of Covid-19.

The debate last night was a disgrace. We have over 206,000 dead Americans, over 7 million have become infected and there is no solution in sight. For the past 6 months, we have watched as our lives essentially shut down. Our schools, our churches, where we eat, where our children play, everything is closed. The debates were supposed to reassure us that someone has a plan to change or turn things around. We have all waited for the current leadership to do something. Nothing has changed. We watched as our lives went into flux in March hopeful that by the start of the new school year, normalcy may return. Nothing has changed. We have heard testing may have increased, tracing maybe underway and those who test positive may be isolating themselves. Nothing has changed. We have been told to wear masks, social distance, wash your hands and keep your personal hygiene in order. Nothing has changed. We have now watched as business opened, schools opened, places of worship opened. Yet the pandemic remains and nothing has changed.

I am married to an essential worker and I remember the months of March and April when he isolated himself, took of his clothes in the garage before he came into the house, didn’t hug his children until he took his shower, walked around with a mask and slept in the basement. The summer months became bearable and he stopped isolating himself. We brought in a baby to the world and became hopeful that something will change. On Sunday for the first time in a long time, after he returned from work, after he took his clothes off and showered and before hugging his kids, he wore a mask. I froze. He felt sick. Headaches, pain, fever. I felt sick. He went to work the next day and asked for a test. It took nearly 4 hours to get tested at the hospital where he works. He did not come home that night. His results were not ready. He slept in his hospital office. So we waited and waited. Waiting for the results lead to more anxiety. What if he tests positive? What if he has exposed the virus to his family, his new 2 month old infant? Waiting for the results made us all sick. Almost 30 hours later, the results came back negative. He returned to work. Thirty-six hours later, he came home and showered.

My husband still working despite being sick.

Like many essential workers with families, our number 1 issue this election is the pandemic. We have been homeschooling our children since March. We have done our best to wear masks all the time, wash our hands and practice social distance. Our kids want to go to the closed planetarium and to the park. I want them to return to school. Something has to change. That’s all. That’s all I am asking for. Something fundamentally has to change and that is all I am voting for. The very serious function of governments is to provide calm and peace and assurance, not anxiety or chaos. The debate last night was chaotic. But like many families of essential workers, I will keep seeking for change until the pandemic ends. That’s our only issue this election. Change!

Do schools kill creativity? This question was the topic of a presentation by Sir Ken Robinson, an international advisor in education at a Ted Event in 2006. It has gotten over 19million views and counting. Homeschooling has showed me first hand how school killed my creativity. I used to love drawing and writing stories and being creative like my children. I even had a collection of short stories that I used to read to my daughter when she was a little. They were all written by me, with some illustrated even. Like my short story on how Tortise really won the race. But since I choose the academic route, since I worked hard to achieve all I could academically, my creative confidence died.

How Tortoise won the race?

I am the product of an academic system that did not necessarily foster any inquiry-based type of learning or learning that fosters divergent thinking. So do schools kill creativity? Yes. It is time though for creativity to be treated just as fundamentally as Math or Science or Literature. Without creativity Tom and David Kelley in the book ‘Creative Confidence,’ suggested we lose our ability to come up new ideas and the courage to try them on. Without creativity, we may never nurture or strengthen the innate gifts that lies within all of us. Without creativity, we may never develop breakthrough ideas that inspires and improves people’s lives. Without creativity, the fear of failure may linger limiting opportunities for growth, learning, discovery, innovation. Without creativity, we may never change the world.

Creativity matters. One of the side effects of this pandemic and homeschooling is that I am finally working on unleashing my creativity. I courageously started this blog to write everyday, anything I want, my way, no filters, no review. Just writing. For the first time, I can call myself a writer. That’s it. Not a global health researcher or even a grant writer, just a writer. This is what the pandemic and being home has done for me. Discovering your creative potential is the best gift any human can give to themselves. It is how we make a dent in the universe, how we think differently to create things that have benefits or values. I see my place in the world now more clearly. I am a writer with audacious goals. Writing everyday is allowing me to embrace new skills, allowing to reflect, observe and parent my kids in ways that also nurture and unleash their creative potential. I hope you continue to join me as I work to embrace my creative confidence.

There is a shirt my little boy wears all the time. It simply reads ‘radiate kindness.’ That’s all. The 2 words on the shirt are more than information. Radiate kindness should be a way of life. The way people live, the stories they tell, even how we rise or fall, speak up or remain silent, should embody kindness.

There is a strong tendency to demand it from certain folks and not others. We expect those lesser than us to radiate kindness but not us. We get infuriated, demand kindness, forgetting it a force that radiates from our being. But the point is to be kind. Live it, pass it on. It will come back to you.

Every time my son wears the shirt, I become alert. I can’t be a parent if my being isn’t filled with kindness. Every time my children cry for the most mundane thing, I have to be kind. Like yesterday when my son cried because the Planetarium was closed thanks to the pandemic. Crying is an understatement. He knew the Planetarium was closed. We had passed by it numerous times and each time he asked about it, I reminded him that it was closed due to the pandemic. Yesterday was the climax. He was outraged. He screamed, he shouted. He cried, he grieved and no words could console him. Kindness was all I had. So I let it radiate from me to him. I allowed him to cry as we are all tired of the pandemic. I would cry too if I was a child as it has robbed them of their childhood this year. We all have the power to be kind. There are no winners or losers when we absorb it and pass it on. It is the right thing to do. Keep radiating kindness.

I am a long distance runner. I figured this out this past month. For the last 30 days, I have some how managed to achieve a goal of a 10mile run each week. Some weeks I did close to 12miles, but for the most part I completed my goal each week to a big surprise to myself still. I never knew I could run 1-2miles let alone 4miles.

A successful 4+mile race.

When I started running back in graduate school it was for 1mile or less. Since life took a hold of me, I stopped running altogether. Though I may run occasionally with my husband, it was never with a goal in mind. We just ran. He on the other hand is a short distance runner. He loves to sprint really fast, and stop. I used to be able to keep up with his style of running until I couldn’t do so anymore. I would get tired so easily. At times I just give up and start walking while he sprints away.

That was until I picked up running again this past month, my style. I set a small goal at first, at least one mile. Then slowly, it became another mile, then another and now I can comfortably run at least 4miles a day. I was in awe with myself. Then my hubby, Zobam joined me one day and started to sprint away fast. I tried to keep up and I couldn’t run. One mile was tiring, 2 miles painful and I practically gave up by the third. That was when I realized we both had 2 very distinct running styles. He likes to sprint fast in short distances and stop, while I am more comfortable with long distances.

Understanding my running style also made me realize the lesson with today’s post. Keep sprinting race through life your way. That’s it. We all have our own races to run and something it may require that we complete short tasks, other times, longer task. The key is to do what works best for you and those who support your race your style, in my case my Zobam. To compromise, on some days we run short distances. I still get easily tired with short distances. On other days, we run long distance and I am in heaven. Keep sprinting your own race with those that matter, for life is to short.

A successful 4+mile race.

There is a song I often play while running. As if on cue, it played today during my 4mile run. The lyrics to this song speaks volumes to me. It’s Beyoncé’s ‘Bigger’ from the Lion King Soundtrack. She starts by singing these words ‘if you feel insignificant, you better think again, better wake up, because you are part of something bigger.’ Let these words sink in for a moment.

Another successful 4+mile run today.

This is the gift of Beyoncé. I know many celebrate her for artistry, but her ability to bring writers together to pen lyrics like ‘Bigger’ is divine. Read it for yourself again; ‘if you feel insignificant, you better think again, better wake up, because you are part of something bigger.’ She goes on to describe how you are the living word, not a speck in the universe. She reminds you of how you are part of something way bigger and why you need to step in your essence because you are excellent. Rise up because you are part of something way bigger.

How often are you reminded of your essence or that you are excellent? How often are you told that the truth in your soul, which may scare you, is just a reminder that you are part of something way bigger? Let that sink in again because you are. If you don’t believe these words, that’s fine. Even Beyoncé acknowledges that she is writing the lyrics as a reminder to herself, that she too is part of something way bigger. Imagine that.

Whenever I listen to the lyrics, I am reminded that she is absolutely right and not because she is Beyoncé but because God in a way is using these words to remind me that I too am part of something way bigger. His words are enough. If he is for you, then he is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all you could ever think or ask of. No matter how hard it gets, he is able to help you bloom into your powers so that truth in your soul is realized. I needed to write this to myself today as a reminder because there are days when I too feel insignificant, when I too feel asleep, and frustrated, wondering whether I am fulfilling all my essence with the right support system around me. No need minimizing my essence. No need waiting or seeking permission to step into my excellence. But yet I do.

Even though I feel and believe these words, situations have a way of belittling you, making you feel insignificant. We are all humans after all. Yet all I have to do is rise up and let God do exceedingly and abundantly above all I could ever ask of think. This is how being part of something way bigger is realized. Look up, don’t look down. Look up to the one that would make it all happen. He knows the truth in your soul. Keep rising, you are part of something way bigger.

My look after another successful 4+mile run.

Whoever still questions how a black woman remains undervalued should remember Breonna Taylor. Whoever wonders how a black woman feels unseen should remember Breonna Taylor. Whoever seeks to know why a black woman still remains unprotected even 2020, should remember Breonna Taylor. Black women have been under enormous duress for far to long. Enormous. We remain undervalued, unseen, unprotected even while sleeping in our own house, on our beds. But yesterday was a tipping point. Today I am interested in how we survive. Today I want to let all my fellow Black women know where ever you are, that you matter. Because of Breonna Taylor, I value you. Because of Breonna Taylor, I see you. Because of Breonna Taylor, I will do my part to protect you.

Keep surviving for Breonna Taylor

Robbing Breonna Taylor of her life was one drastic thing, but letting her murderers go scot-free is pure contempt for black women’s lives. Hence my interest in how we survive. There are no easy answers. Justice was once again denied, my mouth is full of anger, my heart pain. But we must survive. No use wondering whether the law will ever be on our side, it won’t. No need screaming for people to say her name, the won’t. Yet for Breonna we must survive.

We will not forget yesterday’s failure to arrest the cops that murdered Breonna. We are lifting her family in prayers that they may find the strength to continue to bear this loss despite the injustice, despite an arrest for a life cut too short. And for Breonna Taylor, we shall survive. For her legacy, we will be valued. In her name, we will be visible and for generations now and yet to come, we will do our part to protect black women everywhere. Breonna Taylor even in death you won and because of you, I will keep surviving.

Keep surviving for Breonna Taylor

For poetry yesterday as part of homeschooling, we read the poetry of Margaret Esse Danner, especially her poem “This African Worm.’ Every week my daughter picks out a poem she likes and we spend sometime reading the poem, studying the poet, while trying to make sense of the lessons learnt from the poem. Margaret Esse Danner was a prolific poet, born in Kentucky but grew up in Chicago. She was the first African American assistant editor at Poetry magazine. Her poetry often engages African artwork and culture.

Margaret Esse Danner

Her ‘This African Worm’ resonates with ongoing struggles in our society today often faced by people everywhere. No matter where you are, the struggles are the same. Whether it’s a fight for justice or equality, whether it’s a fight to end hunger or poverty, no matter whether in Africa or North America, we all experience the same strife. Even to my daughter Lotanna, if you are a worm for now, that’s not good. We keep our heads low, as we make sense of the burden we are experiencing. We crawl and wait as Ms. Danner’s poem suggested. Until a time comes when things change, when things start to shift. Though we may crawl today, though our heads maybe low today, but there is hope in the wait. There is hope even as we take little steps or crawl like worms while making sense of our journey. That in the end, is the essence of life. That one day, one day, things will truly get better for people everywhere.

Margaret Esse Danner’s ‘This is an African Worm.’

This hope was evident in a comment shared by Margaret Esse Danner in an essay we found about her online at the University of Chicago library for a book entitled Black Poets in America in 1975-she wrote, “As for my poetry: I believe that my dharma is to prove that the Force of Good takes precedence over the force for evil in mankind. To the extent that my poetry adheres to this purpose it will endure.”

Your poetry endures today Ms. Danner and a new generation, my daughter’s generation in particular, will use your words for good. Until then, I’ll keep waiting.

Lotanna reading ‘This is an African Worm’ by Margaret Esse Danner.

On Saturday, we took our kids for a walk along Forest Park. We walked along the path leading to the planetarium until we got to a very tall stainless steel sculpture looking up to the sky. I stood for a moment, wondering what it would feel like to always look up to sky, the way the sculpture did. What lessons would I learn and how would I pass it on to my children? In the course of trying to take a picture of the sculpture, I tilted my head and looked up to the sky. The sculpture itself has a way of making you gaze up to the heavens. So when I did, all I saw was blue, the perfect shade of blue sky. Saturday was a clear day and all that was visible on this perfect day, were brilliant skies full of grace, every angle full of hope, every angle, still the perfect blue, and so full of love.

“Looking Up” Sculpture by Tom Friedman

Skies have a way of making you fall in love with life. Skies have a way of making you see a life truly worth living.

The ‘Looking Up” Sculpture at Forest Park

Maybe it’s the embrace. When you gaze up to the sky, it’s like the sky gazes back down and gives you a great big hug. You then begin to converse with clarity in a language understood only by the sky. Gazing up to the sky was peace, the perfect peace that only the heavens can offer. Gazing up to the sky was like music to the soul, the perfect song that only the skies could sing. Gazing up to the skies was freedom, the perfect freedom, strong enough to set every captive free. Gazing up to the skies is perfect, eyes meet eyes, gently inviting you to come in, and rest, the perfect rest. Gazing up, swallows you, the perfect food, shared in communion, in union with a sky slowly swallowing an imperfect you.

The “Looking Up’ Sculpture at Forest Park by Tom Friedman.

Once you tilt your head and stay there for a moment, that moment becomes eternity. Like the sculpture, we are destined to look up to the sky, if only for a moment. You will feel loved, protected, profoundly seen by a sky, the perfect shade of blue. The perfect embrace, the perfect rest, the perfect song, all in perfect union with a sky gazing so lovingly at an imperfect you. Once you look up, you will become dangerously free to roam this earth with your truth in perfect harmony with a sky so profoundly perfect. So keep looking up.

My daughter by the Looking Up Sculpture.