Tina Turner in a recent interview for Instyle Magazine (here) shared that ‘ambition is having a dream and dedicating yourself to making that dream come true, no matter how many obstacles stand in your way.’ In her latest book entitled ‘Tina Turner: That’s my life,’ she shared how she has always been ambitious because she believed she would accomplish all her wildest dreams. And she did. Ms. Tina accomplished everything she could every imagine or hope for.

Peter Lindbergh, 1980

In fact, here is a woman who start working when she was young and continues to work even at the age of 80. Here is a woman who describes her work as breathing to her, a necessary oxygen that keeps her going, for when you love your work, it fills you with energy and strength. Here is a woman who treasures the relationship she has with her audience because they gave her love when she had none. Here is a woman who wore beautifully designed costumes, one for example with wings that made her feel should could fly and soar when she was on her own for the first time (after leaving her husband Ike) and she did. Here is a woman whose red lips and legs were always glamorous, always powerful, always ready for anything.

Harry Langdon, 1980

Her career has been epic, everything she did, transformational, even as she reflects on her most cherished moments for the book, all I can think of is here is the woman who simply lived her best life despite all obstacles. Like Tina, I will keep living my best life being ambitious with what I love to do especially with my wildest dreams, loving work which is like oxygen to me also, treasuring the relationships I am build along the way, flying and soaring no matter the obstacles and with a red lipstick, my favorite color as well. I intend to keep simply being the best me.

Harry Langdon, 1980

We learnt about the letter ‘I,’ my son and I this past week. It was the perfect letter for a son who adores ice-cream. He also got the perfect math assignment to count with his favorite thing, ice cream cones. Homeschooling has been grueling the past few weeks and we finally did our first set of parent teacher conference this past Thursday and Friday. As I reflected with each teacher, as I listened to their assessment about this experience with learning, as I looked back on my children’s achievements this past quarter, as I even argued with one about a letter grade in art (I had to bring out the researcher in me for this one) I can’t help but smile. Their resilience, their courage, their determination, their perseverance, and even their ease with making learning work in the middle of an ongoing pandemic has been mesmerizing.

Homeschooling for all its difficulties and it is extremely difficult to homeschool 3 children while also nursing a baby and maintaining your own work-still, all of it is worth it. I have learnt so much from my children this past few months and I have slowed down a lot. Homeschooling forced me to focus on what really matters. Of course I love my job, but I love my family more. Of course, I want to make an impact in the world, implementing sustainable solutions that will improve people’s health in limited resources settings, but my family makes this passion truly worth it. Because if I can succeed with homeschooling, if I can make sense of the rugged difficulties at times like with homeschooling a child who has 1-5minutes attention span on Zoom, or the rugged ease at other times like with learning the letter ‘I’ with a three year old who adores ice-cream, then I can continue to refine my ideas about the rugged complexities associated with implementing sustainable health solutions. It’s all rugged in a way, homeschooling, global health and yes I love the word ‘rugged.’ But the ease of it all when it makes sense is sublime and truly worth fighting for.

Our letter ‘I’ assignment

As maternity leave slowly comes to an end, in the middle of a pandemic that shows no sign of abating, I will keep the rugged ease of learning with my children that homeschooling has taught me this year. It’s my mood for now, this ‘rugged ease’ with life and homeschooling three young children. I hope to continue to reflect on why as our experience with learning continues.

Two days ago, I read a Hollywood News Reporter story (here) on Shonda Rhimes. Here was a woman who produced some 70 hours of annual television in 256 territories; making tens of millions of dollars for herself and more than $2 billion for Disney, but yet in constant battle with her network ABC, over content, over budget for her series Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder.

In 2017, after 15 years with ABC, she left for a first-of-its-kind, nine-figure overall deal at Netflix. However in February 2018, according to the report, before Rhimes had even found a first project to sink her teeth into, Ryan Murphy, another television shown runner inked a deal, reportedly worth as much as $300 million, or double Rhimes’ then-reported sum, and the media narrative shifted. ‘It was no longer, simply, “Shonda Rhimes, trailblazer,” but rather about the now booming eight- and nine-figure market for producers, with at least a few reporters wondering, publicly, why the Black female showrunner appeared to be making so much less than the white male one.’

After reading this section, I saw myself in Shonda. I saw multiple black women who work extensively but rarely claim their space however they define it. Our spaces are never ours to own. Our spaces are never ours to even brag about. Even Rhimes described feeling obsessed watching Murphy not only claim, but own his space. But when she was awarded for Luminary award at an Elle’s Women in Hollywood event, she came to the conclusion ‘that men brag and women hide, even when they don’t deserve to brag, men brag. When men do deserve to brag, they’re good at it.’ But because of the award, because she was being celebrated for inspiring other women for the first time ever, and on behalf of women everywhere, Shonda bragged and rightfully so. Not only is she a black executive producer in Hollywood, she let it be known that she was ‘the highest paid show runner on television.’ She claimed her space even though it felt uncomfortable. She claimed her space not only for herself but for every other women she inspires everyday.

Coincidentally, claim your space is the title to a paper I co-wrote with colleagues years ago. In it we shared an African proverb to illustrate why leadership and claiming your space matters. The proverb simply states: He who is leading and has no one following is only taking a walk. Leaders we argue, all have to do the necessary work to build up the visions of those around them and not just their own. I try my best to embody this style of enlightened leadership with the students I mentor.

But the African quote on the section we wrote on claiming your space, which simply states: ‘Until the lions produce their own historians, the story of the hunt would glorify only the hunter’– is my favorite proverbs of all times. Shonda Rhimes, is the lion of our times, claiming her rightful space as the highest paid show runner on television. Her story, her resilience, her ability to inspire is the reason why we should all do our part to keep claiming our space and brag about it too.

On an occasional basis, my first son cries. For no reason at times. Just cries. He wants to stop. He asks you to please help him stop. But still he cries. He also laughs. For no reason, just to himself, he laughs. Then another son cannot seem to remember his sight words. I know he is 3 but it’s frustrating to be here again. To struggle once again with another child’s delay even though it’s as trivial as sight words. The significance of the past makes me alert to every struggle. Then there is the baby, another son whom we have to watch. He is only 3 months old, but I want to know early what we are in for with him. Does his eyes follow a toy when you present it across his face? Is he able to sit up on his own or with aid? I am well aware that this is too early also. But if you know what we went through with son number 1, then you will know why we are alert with son number 2 and 3. This struggle, every significant aspect of it is important. It’s the reason why I choose to look on the bright side.

I enrolled son number 1 in a daycare right after he turned 2. He was kicked out 2 days later. I cried alone in my car with him that afternoon. How could my own son be kicked out of school at 2? That day, I vowed he would be more than he could ever hope or dream of. That day, I vowed he would excel in all this academic work. That day, I knew I had to protect him from the world, line his being with love for his unique ways, empathize and adapt to his struggles, insulate him when he stumbled, and elevate and praise all his distinct ideas with relating to the world. That day, I also slowed down and did research. This time not for work but for my family, for my son. I read all the evidence-based literature I could find on ways to encourage play, interaction, eye contact, even what to eat whether on a gluten or casein free diet. I took him to the park the next day. Just the two of us. I watched as he swung back and forth on a blue swing. I smiled as he went through a tunnel. The shirt he was wearing said look on the bright side. I did. I have been looking on the bright side ever since. He is one of the best things that ever happened to me, alongside my daughter, my other sons, and my husband. He is the glue to our unique family.

Like the hummingbirds who build and line their nests with silk, my nest is built, lined and surrounded with love, fierce love, and passion, deep passion, with bonding, intense bonding and protection, supernal protection for and from my family. My children and my husband are my secure base through life as a working mother. They protect me from the struggles of academic life, line my being with love for my unique ways called research, empathize and adapt to my struggles and failures, insulate me when I stumble, and elevate and praise all my distinct crazy ideas with implementing sustainable innovations in resource limited settings. Nothing fazes me at work because of them. Nothing surprises or overwhelms me because of them. In fact, I am a great multi-tasker, a better thinker, a better researcher because of them. I am innovative with life and work because of them.

Yesterday at my son’s appointment with Dr Anu, his integrative developmental pediatrician, he was interactive. Something he rarely does. She was amused. He told her he wants to be an astronaut. Named all the planets and noted that he specifically wants to go to the moon. We chuckled. I looked on the bright side. He was kicked out of school at 2 years. He wants to go to the moon at 6 years. The bright side is better to me, sublime in a way, with a future way brighter, way bigger than he could ever hope for or imagine. On an occasional basis he still cries and he still laughs, but this time, even his tears and laughs are brilliant, a sign of his beautiful struggle through life, a sign of my beautiful struggle as a working mother. Like the hummingbirds, my family is my silk and because of them I’ll keep looking always, at the bright side.

I keep returning to the book The Trouble with Nigeria by Chinua Achebe. It was written in 1983 and described then as a must read for all Nigerians who care about their country, who feel they can no longer stand idly by and wring their hands in anguish while Nigeria is destroyed by bad leadership, corruption and inequality.’ The year again was 1983. This trouble eloquently described by Achebe remains our trouble in 2020.

Like I noted in yesterday’s post, a country that kills its own youth, kills its own self. Nigeria is still in trouble. Nothing has changed. Bad leadership, corruption and inequality still prevails. We all still care about Nigeria and we all can no longer sit idly by and wring our hands in anguish this time in 2020 as Nigeria massacres it’s own youth. The time for action then was 1983 and it pains me to say that the time of action once again is 2020. When will all this end. When will we all join in the effort towards new social and political order for Africa’s most populous country.

The odd thing with the book is that Achebe dedicated it to his children and their age-mates in Nigeria whose future he noted warranted the argument. The inspiration and the vigor of the book come from them. In other words Achebe was writing for Nigeria’s future in 1983. If Achebe’s generation could not do it, if their labors were in vain, what then must we do so that my children’s generation will not quote me or Achebe in the future. The trouble with Nigeria remains. But given the need to end police brutality, to end bad leadership, to end inequality, to end corruption, it also needs to end now. Enough is enough. Hopeless as things maybe today, we are not beyond redemption noted Achebe in 1983. ‘Nigerians are what they are only because our leaders are not what they should be,’ said Achebe. The time for change is now. Keep focusing on the trouble with Nigeria. And this time, under brave and enlightened youth leaders, maybe we will get it right.

A country’s youth reveal its social condition. In Elliot Aronson’s briliant book entitled The Social Animal, he noted that how we make sense of our world makes a difference. And we attempt to make sense of our world hundreds of times a day. Even the most trivial or important decisions we make, are all dependent on how we construct and make sense of our social world. So for example, when a country fosters hope and inspires its youth, the country in turn is hopeful and inspires itself. When a country educates and employs its youth, the country educates and employs itself. When a country heals its youth, the country heals itself. And when a country allows its youth to innovate and thrive, the country innovates and thrives for itself. But what happens when a country attacks and kills its own youth, well then following my logic or how I choose to make sense of my world (however accurate or flawed this logic maybe-just bear with me), the country attacks and kills its own self. Such was the mayhem in Nigeria today. Today, Nigeria attacked and killed itself.

The government took it upon it’s hands to shot at unarmed protesters asking for an end to police brutality. Such moments open ones eyes to the fact that Nigeria is under siege and not open to ensuring that young people have a voice or fully participate in the country’s future. And what then is a country without it youth population, without a future. One of the reasons I mentor graduate doctoral students is because I know the significance of getting the next generation ready for research in the same way someone got me ready years ago. Nigeria is not ready to mentor its young. The actions of today, the unnecessary use of force on young people protesting for things to change, protesting to stir things up with police reform, illustrates this point vividly. We all anxiously wait for what remains to be done so that a New Nigeria, where the labors of our hero’s past are truly not in vain, arises. Until then, keep rising young Nigerians for yourselves. For when a country’s youth take it upon themselves to rise up, the country will be forced to rise up as well.

There is a bubble guppies dvd in my car that my children watch over and over again. We watched it yesterday during our trip to the park. In the episode (and I paraphrase), the guppies meet a substitute teacher, Mr. Grumpfish and they say ‘Good morning,’ to him to which he replied, what’s so good about the morning. Then the guppies go through a series of events that finally has Mr. Grumpfish being engaged and hopeful for the day. This episode has always stuck in my mind because of Mr. Grumpfish’s initial response about what’s so good about a morning. I say everything. Now more than ever, we all need to keep saying those words.

From Bubble Guppies.

To the French it’s Bonjour, or Spanish people Buenos Dias, or the Igbo’s Ututu Oma, or those who prefer English, Good Morning. There is something so powerful as simply saying these words to everyone one you meet in the morning. The simplicity and reasonableness of such a statement is profound. I grew up in a household where the first thing we all said to each other upon waking up was Good morning. We really listened when and how mornings weren’t good. Especially as related to bad dreams or sleepless nights. Every Good morning we uttered was an opportunity for rich conversations focused on our social and emotional health. Then we prayed it all away and went on to start the daily routines for the day, shower, breakfast etc.

I have been teaching my children this routine since I had the privilege of calling them mine. It seems like a trivial task. But in a world where civility is no longer the norm, where humanity hardly prevails, where we fail to listen to each other, a simply gesture, with those 2 words can go a long way. It’s one of the reasons I love running in the morning. Almost every runner you met, strangers at best, with mask or no mask, nods their heads, waves their hands, in a simple gesture that means for me good morning. Positive emotions at the start of the day may enhance satisfaction, engagement and maybe even foster wellbeing throughout the day. Positive emotions may influence creativity, triggering creative thoughts especially for those who start their day early in the morning with daily activities such as writing. Positive emotions may build positive expectancies such as hope which in turn leads to dedication or vigor for what ever plans you have for the day. Our country needs simple positive gestures like this. So as I start my day, good morning to anyone who reads this.

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.