Today I ran my very first 6mile race. I reached a plateau with running 10miles a week last week. In fact rather than achieving my health and weight loss goals with running, I was moving in the opposite direction. Apparently this is a common running phenomenon known as train gain. Just when you start ramping your running mileage, you start to gain weight. I love running but setbacks like this can be discouraging. After coming to terms with the fact that running wasn’t working health or weight-loss wise as I had imagined, I gave up running my goal of 10miles a week last week. I only did 4 miles. There was no motivation to run. I didn’t even feel any commitment to my goals.

But this morning, I got up determined to rethink my strategy. For starters it meant that I had to be honest with myself. The reason why I wasn’t achieving my weight loss and health goals despite reaching my running mileage week after week was because I increased eating unhealthy things. Like Andy’s frozen yogurt in the stolen brownie and peacans flavor or red velvet cake from Whole Foods. Honestly any cake from Whole Foods has as soft spot in my heart. Then they are the endless supply of dark chocolate and salted caramel filling or plantain chips, lots and lots of salty plantain chips. My junk food eating habit has increased tremendously since I started to run.

So today I made a new goal. I made a commitment to myself to run 12 miles a week. I also ended my love affair with Whole Foods and their deserts. It had been a wonderful summer. I am recommitting myself to drinking at least half a gallon of water every day and trips to Andy’s frozen yogurts have now ended. I intend to keep running because I actually love it. And for deep change to occur, I am equally committed to living a healthy lifestyle so as to ultimately surpass all your goals.

The other day my husband shared a message he got from the child of one of his patients. It simply read, ‘thank you for saving my dad’s life. You are a hero.’ My husband is a hero to me every single day. The stories he shares, especially the near death ones with some of his patients are simply inspirational. He never toots his own horn. In fact if he reads this post, he may tell me to delete it as he ‘HATES’ accolades. But I wanted to take the time to write briefly about him because he deserves all the praises for what he does every single day. He will never ask for the spotlight. That’s not his nature. He is selfless with the care of his patients and I am in awe always of his dedication to them.

Take for example this past Wednesday he got home around 8pm (he left the house around 7am), took his night shower, ate his dinner and got paged that a patient was arriving at the hospital. After a couple of minutes he logged on to his laptop see what was happening I guess with a brain imaging and then he muttered, I have to go in. It was close to 9:30pm. I loathe every time he has to go in, especially at night because at night he is just a black man driving his car, not a doctor or anything. He left, I prayed Psalm 91 over his life then slept off.

When I work up around 2am to breastfeed baby, he was home sleeping and I was elated. Another peaceful night or so I thought. The next morning he was up around 6:30am getting ready to go back to work and he casually shared he was pulled over on his way home by a police officer and given a ticket for speeding. I said were you speeding, he said yes as he was tired after performing the surgery on his patient and he wanted to get home to sleep. But the kicker for me was that the police officer called another police officer as back up and so there were now two police cars behind his car. He said he placed his hand on the dashboard the entire time and complied with all their instructions. The first police car that pulled him over was driven by a white police officer. The second police car that later joined him was driven by a black police officer. The white police officer stayed behind in his car after speaking to him to run his plate and proceed to write the ticket. But the black police officer who drove the second police car approached his car afterwards and spent sometime talking to him. He was in awe that he was talking to a black surgeon as he shared he is not used to seeing any. He even thanked my husband for what he does to save the lives of his patients and my husband thanked him for what he does on the streets as well. Their exchange was pleasant, stunning and full of humanity because they saw themselves in each other.

When people say black lives matter, it’s because of stories like what my husband shared. What if and it’s a big what if, this night did not end peacefully? What if the second police car was driven by a black police officer? What if I didn’t pray Psalm 91 every night he goes out? It doesn’t matter whether you are a doctor, whether you save lives, whether you do it in the morning or in the middle of the night, none of that matters if you are black. Black Lives Matter, police reform, is forever urgent and it’s something neither I nor you can ignore especially now given this election. It is time for engaged directed action on this issue, not idle wishful speculation. So vote. Vote for black lives. Vote for black lives that save lives. Vote until everyone realizes how black lives matter. Vote until everyone is wakened and alert to all the black lives that matter. Black lives are not gifts to humanity, the exchange between my husband and the black police officer proves this. Black lives are a necessity for humanity. Vote for black lives, it matters and quite frankly saves lives.

I love a great friendship especially one that endures through time. Yesterday on 2 separate text messages, I connected with 2 sets of friends that I have known for very long time. They say friendship is like fine wine. It never goes old. My friends are truly the most delicious wine.

The first text was with a friend that I grew up with in Nigeria. She also happens to be a brilliant Nollywood actress now. We had not spoken to each other in months. When we connected yesterday it was as if the last time we spoke to each other was previous day. She still remains down to earth despite being a celebrity. We caught up on everything, from the ongoing pandemic to the ongoing police brutality protests in Nigeria. We made plans to schedule her to speak to a group in the US that I know would be interested in learning more about the ongoing campaign to end SARS in Nigeria. I am hoping we can use her platform to get more young Nigerians in the US to key in to the ongoing protests in Nigeria because it affects all of us.

The other was a group chat with 3 friends I met in college over 19 years ago. One of friend is a famous news journalist now and it’s always a joy to connect to the friend we knew before the accolades. Again, it was as if the last time we talked to each other was the previous day. We caught up with each other’s life, laughed a lot and even managed to pray all in a manner of minutes. One of us chimed that she stepped away for a minute just to see 64 new texts by the time she returned. That’s how my friendships are. Pure delight. They are with people who are just straight up loving and kind and genuine about each other’s progress. I cherish these connections.

But the icing on the cake for me yesterday was reading my daughters journaling on friendship. Her teacher asked what are some of the ways that you could be a good friend. She responded (and I paraphrase) that she would; 1) cheer her friends up when they are sad; 2) make them laugh; 3) read (to them); 4) give what I have; and 5) share with others. That in the end is the essence of good friendships. That we are there for each other especially in tough times. We learn from each. We laugh together. We read or pray together. We also give and share ourselves and our precious time no matter how small. That my little girl gets it at this age is lovely to me. It made my day. I intend to keep being a good friend to all my friends.

In his bestselling book “The fire next time,” James Baldwin shared a statement that perfectly describes the ongoing strife with SARS, (the Special Anti-Robbery Squad) in Nigeria today. He noted (and I paraphrase) behind what we think of as menace, lies what we do not wish to face…that fact is that life is tragic. For the Nigerian youth today with SARS, life is indeed tragic.

The past couple of days have been filled with protests from one corner to another with Nigerian youth of all ages and caliber demanding for an end to SARS. Some youth have been injured in the process, some are missing and unaccounted for, while some have been killed. But what has also been very inspiring, very remarkable to see is how within few days, young Nigerians themselves, without a leader, without even coordination to some extent, have managed to coordinate a movement with logistics and rapid response, all to eloquently convey, why the ineptitude of SARS should end.

But just when there seemed to be hope for the Nigerian youth despite all the impediments they face, I listened as a former SARS Commander and Chief Superintendent of Police, Vandefan Tersugh James shared that he knows how difficult it is for someone ages 20-30 to own a car worth N7million naira in Nigeria. He noted that if they could not ascertain the source of the youth’s wealth, their background or family background, they would not only search the youth’s property without a warrant, but they could possibly detain the youth.

Herein lies why life as a youth in Nigeria is tragic. This thinking, this type of thinking for Africa’s most populous country’s youth population is a key reason why SARS must and should end. That’s all! Otherwise life for Nigeria’s youth will not only remain tragic, but useless. END SARS NOW!

This was the take home message from a Zoom home-going celebration I attended yesterday. Papa Ajibade as we all fondly called him was well-loved. He was a funny man, always the life of the party, generous to a fault and a gem to his six children. End of year parties at his house were a delight growing up and some of my best childhood memories of happiness, laughter, love and dancing occurred at his home. So when we heard he passed away, our hearts sank.

Obviously the ongoing pandemic meant we won’t get to grieve in person with his family so they came up with the idea of celebrating his life via Zoom. I attended. I listened as family members and friends shared one funny story or another, like the time he signed his daughter up for the army without her consent. She was at her apartment, her junior year of college when army officers came knocking at her door, stating that her father had signed her up for the army. Suffice to say, he meant well, but the Army was not for his daughter. We all laughed as she shared this funny story.

But the sermon, particularly from Bishop Atuwanse was sterling. We all say life is too short, but really, according the Bishop, what’s really short is time. We don’t have enough time in the world to do all we want to and when the time is up, it’s up. Papa’s time maybe up but his legacy lives on. Bishop also shared how people for example, may crash weddings, but no one crashes funerals. Those that attend funerals attend because the dead in one shape or the other made an impact in their life. He reminded us all to spend whatever time we have, with those who will attend our funeral. That’s all.

I felt this sermon. I have wasted time with a lot of people. Time that should have been meant for silence rather than talking, time that should have focused on building rather than tearing down, time for joy rather than sorrow, time for love rather than hate. These days I plan to do what the Bishop says and I urge you all to do the same. I choose time. Spend time now with people that will attend your funeral. They are the only ones that really matter. You have done your best Papa. Rest In Peace.

These days I’m focused on measuring my value with the people that matter. Like with my tiny but mighty son who turned three months 2 days ago. His smile melts my heart everyday and it’s one of peaceful and sane things about the ongoing pandemic. He has also managed to force me to say sweet affirmations to him every time we take a bath. They seem cheesy but captures what he does to me succinctly as in the video below:

My son.

I am also mindful that as I celebrate his 3 months on this earth, another family member of mine is still struggling with the loss of her son whose 3 month anniversary is today. I spoke to her yesterday. She is a strong woman, a fighter and my hero. My heart breaks for her as I can’t imagine what it is like to be in her shoes. But I am comforted with the knowledge that this thing called life is truly a divine gift. Whether we spend 10 years or 3 months, every life is precious, every life is loved.

So I dedicate this post to you Kaysen. I love you. You are still the best thing that ever happened to our family. You are truly the epitome of tiny but mighty and because of you, love is powerfully felt and elegantly elevated with your lasting legacy. Because of you, love is impressive, takes us all to new heights where no evil can reach. Because of you, love is really beautiful, really intimate, really profound and unites us all to the power of you. Because of you, love is our guide through today, and tomorrow. Because of you, love will forever be on my lips and in my heart. You have taught us why love matters and the lesson will be passed on to others so that at the sound of your name, love is all everyone will remember. I love you. Sleep well.

Today marks the 30th day of my journey into writing. I didn’t think I would make it to this day. Writing is hard. Writing about the journey of a working mother homeschooling in the middle of a pandemic is very hard. There were days I didn’t feel like writing but I continued. There were days were the words just kept on coming and I allowed it. There were days full of love for life, days full of reflection on the journey, days inspired by homeschooling, days inspired by work, by my family, especially my children. Writing was hard, but still I write.

Keep rolling-our first post!

I write because we are all living through unprecedented times. Even the word ‘unprecedented’ was an inspiration at times. How many times are we all going to live through a pandemic and actually live through it? How many times are we going to shut down everything, schools, church, wear mask every time we go out, keep our distance, wash our hands all because of a virus? It has never been done in my lifetime before and we are living through it. The first months of the pandemic, the March and April months were a struggle. I was overwhelmed. School was a struggle and demanded a lot from my children. Work was a struggle and demanded my complete attention from students and my ongoing research. I personally struggled as I tried to make sense of it all. But in preparation for the fall, in preparation for another school year with homeschooling, like the journey from a caterpillar to a butterfly, all the struggles along the way had to change.

Our butterfly assignment.

I write to live out the change, on parenting and academic productivity in the middle of a global pandemic. I am still and will always be a global health researcher passionate about finding innovative solutions to health in low and middle income countries. But I am first a wife to an incredible essential health care worker who works on a daily basis to literally save lives. Like yesterday, when he worked to ensure that a 40year old man with stroke can be healed for his three little children. I stood in awe as he showed a text where his nurse thanked him for what he did, for giving the family their dad. Today he is their hero. He has always been a hero to us. To see him, to watch him do what he loves in the middle of a pandemic has been awe inspiring. March and April was especially difficult for us as everyday we didn’t know whether that would be the day he would expose us to the virus. Still he worked. He is my hero too and a hero every day to our children.

Our hero!

I write for my children. For them, I vowed this school would be different. I focused on why I struggled in the Spring. Homeschooling was new to me. Bringing work literally home was too much. And my children wanted, no demanded that I pay attention to them. So for them I had to change. It meant work had to take a back seat. I prepared myself to not only excel as their mother but also as their teacher, their counselor, anything that would allow them to thrive.

Motherhood to four little children is already hard. The addition of homeschooling makes it even harder. But having the right mindset has made this year different. We still struggle everyday especially with my six year old but his story for another day. We still struggle to balance all the demands of homeschooling and a childhood gone array due to the pandemic. But we float like gravity, we are firmly anchored against everything and much more prepared not to fail. And this time, as I look back on my reflections, on the journey this past 30 days, even the struggle is beautiful. Happy 30day writing anniversary!

Our latest addition!

My dear friend Ritamae Hyde, a Belizean Poet, has a poem entitled ‘Mahogany Whispers.’ Its also the name of her book of poetry. It’s one of my favorite poems. It is short but apt with the idea that when Mahogany (and for me, here, the tree) speaks, its speaks not with a singular voice but with a plethora of voices on behalf of all voices. Last night during the Vice Presidential debate, Senator Kamala Harris was like a Mahogany tree.

She spoke from within on behalf of all women, all black women in particular, who know first hand what it is like to be interrupted every time we speak. The exchange was painful to watch, but I watched because I saw myself in the exchange, not once, not twice, but all the times she said the word ‘I’m speaking. Still, she was treated in a condescending tone, as if her thoughts, her experience, even her facts aren’t even worth being listened to. Every time she said ‘I’m speaking,’ she spoke with poise, dignity and grace. Every time she said ‘I’m speaking,’ she shared my deepest fears. Every time she said ‘I’m speaking,’ she spoke to my existence as a woman, a black woman who understands the weight of being silent, the weight of surviving, the weight of speaking no matter the circumstances. Every time she said ‘I’m speaking,’ she fought for me. Every time she said ‘I’m speaking,’ she spoke to me.

Racial and gender dynamics are real. I know first hand what it is like to be told my tone is angry or that I don’t have enough experience. I know first hand what it is like to be interrupted, mansplained to, spoken over or generally ignored for my thoughts or opinions. Like Senator Harris, I have had to tread that fine line between being silent and speaking up. Not because I didn’t have much to say but because silence in many cases is golden. Vice President Pence didn’t listen, didn’t even hear when she said the first ‘I’m speaking.’ Instead, he talked over Senator Harris throughout the debate, interrupted her to the point where she reminded him again and again that she was still speaking.

I watched in awe of her smile, in awe of her silence in some instances, in awe of her restraint in others, in awe of her general will to survive, in awe of her ability to remind the VP that she was still speaking, especially that ‘Okay’ she added in one instance as if to say ‘Damn it, I’m still speaking for the last time.’ That’s how I heard it in my head. That’s how many women heard it too. Still, the VP kept belittling her, kept undermining her, kept treating her like she did not deserve to be on the same stage as him. His behavior, his condescending behavior on full display for the world to see is the number one reason why many Black women choose to stay silent as they figure out how to survive in a system where we are never meant to survive, never meant to speak as noted eloquently by Audre Lorde. We speak so other women, especially the next generation, like my daughter can speak without fear, these 2 words ‘I’m speaking.

Lotanna reading the poem Mahogany Whispers for homeschool.

The potential to speak like a Mahogany tree, is our lesson for today, etched in our heart for tomorrow and beyond. Senator Harris’s spoke in defiance of those who tried to silence her. And like a Mahogany tree, not with a singular voice as she is fully aware that she is not a singular being. Senator Harris in sharing her history and experience as the second woman ever to be elected to the Senate and the first black woman ever to become a Vice Presidential candidate, spoke from a plethora of experiences, a plethora of voices on behalf of all women, all black women in particular. Keep speaking, no matter what, black woman, all women, speak, ‘I’m speaking,’ loudly with the poise, the dignity and the grace of a Mahogany tree.

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.