I almost missed writing today. It has been a crazy month trying to wrap up two major projects. As they slowly come to an end, I realize that all that matters isn’t that I skip writing but that I hold myself accountable. I began this journey to chronicle life as a mother in academia. It is one hectic journey. From time management issues to time set aside for family, all of that can get in the way of whatever goals you set for yourself with your academic journey. I choose to write about my experiences because both are meaningful and critically important to me. There will always be day like this that get in the way of writing here. But still I intend to hold myself accountable for what I do as a mother in academia isn’t reflected anywhere. This one is truly a reminder to me to keep telling my story even on days when time isn’t on my side. Tell the story so the world knows that to be a mother, a professor and a grant writer is a field worthy of celebration. Hopefully this is just the beginning.
In the spirit of resting, I had this grand idea to go by the lake yesterday. I have heard so much about Creve Coeur Lake and so the goal was to finally check it out. Summer plans for this year will include nature walks and trips to the lake at least in my plan, since it’s only 15minutes from our home. It was also close to 80 degrees by the time we set out around 11am. I anticipate this would be a long hot one given that it’s only May. The lake itself was beautiful. Simple with a long stretch of trail for walking, running or biking. Everyone seemed to be doing the same thing I wanted which is to simply be closer to nature. One of my sons on the other hand, had other things in mind. I keep forgetting about his love for repetitive behaviors whenever he comes across certain things he has done before. Today’s request, a boat ride on the lake.
Early this year, I wrote a post about wanting to go on a train at the Saint Louis Zoo, just for us to end up on a boat ride next the Zoo because of a massive meltdown at the Zoo (the trains were not working that day). Little did I know that despite all his tears and pleas for the train, he actually loved the boat ride and well associated it with lakes, all lakes now. At the Creve Coeur lake, there were 2 white sailboats on the lake and a father with his 2 sons and a daughter kayaking. There were no boat house or places to rent a boat. And so the repetition began. Rather than simply enjoying the walk by the lake, or playing with the water as his siblings were, my son pleaded for a boat ride.
His insistence on going on a boat began the moment we crossed the street and started our walk until the end. I spent the nearly 40 minutes walk we took, assuring him that we will go on a boat ride, just not at this lake but by the boat house at Forest Park which was about 22 minutes from the lake. It was almost like I was talking to a brick as nothing I said to assure him seemed to work. He also seemed to a least walk along the trail so that helped a lot. Plus being close to nature I have come to learn does wonders for his being. Though his insistence for a boat ride occurred throughout the walk, he walked nonetheless, repeating the same thing, as he walked. When the walk was over, I motioned it was time for lunch. Then we go on a boat, he said, almost immediately. I said sure. We got lunch. He barely ate his, just focused on the boat. He even knew the road to the boat house. I never really think that he is paying attention, but with each passing day, I see and know first hand that he is. When we got to the boathouse, the place was crowded. An impromptu band was playing next to the restaurant. I drove up a bit to see if there were any boats sitting on the dock. There were some. So we packed our car and headed to rent a boat. The moment we got on it, my son looked like he was in heaven. Rest also became his portion. I also seemed to know how to drive the boat this time such that we all took the time to enjoy the many wonderful gifts of nature.
Like a white egret which flew across our path along the lake. Or the quiet streams of water flowing through the lake. Yesterday was as gentle and beautiful as I never would have imagine. And a boat ride, thanks to my son’s love for sameness, helped usher in rest. Sometimes society, myself included may feel like we have all the answers and know what is best for us. I am learning everyday with accepting my sons love for sameness, that connecting certain things together like a lake and a boat ride is just as powerfully as merely walking on a lake. We started the day walking next to a lake. I thought that was plenty. But we ended the day literally on the lake. It was the serenity I didn’t even know I needed until my son vocalized it over and over again. I listened and my soul at the end of the day, felt at ease. Keep boat rides on lakes in mind even if vocalized by a 7 year old on the spectrum. They do wonders for the soul. Ooh and now he thinks Saturday’s are for boat rides. Wish me luck this summer.
What a week. And we missed posting yesterday. All I can say is there will be days like this when nothing will be done. On those days rest. What you maybe carrying maybe to heavy for you hence the need to rest. Put it down and take a break. It’s okay to do nothing. I did. Slept my afternoon and night away and woke up refreshed and ready to take on the world. Keep resting.
How seeds survive in the midst of prevailing obstacles is my keep for today. My son’s class read Eric Carle’s wonderful The Tiny Seed book. This simple story of a seeds journey towards becoming a flower is the life lesson I needed to hear as this school year comes to an end. It’s an emotional one for me as I will not wish the experience of schooling especially for children during a pandemic to any other generation. That means we the grownups have got to act so we don’t go through this again. But in the meantime, we are all seeds. That’s the moral of the story. And as seeds, our journey through life, our journey to becoming flowers, becoming beings full of possibilities, full of light will always be filled with obstacles. But when we get through these obstacles, when we blossom and become the flowers we were always destined to be, then life would be sterling. That’s what Eric Carle’s book that my junior kindergarten son read today did for me. Keep being tiny seeds. Your journey towards becoming a flower is destined to be divine even if you face great obstacles. Ooh he made this beautiful flower to showcase what he learnt today.
The school year is coming to an end. My son is thriving. Something that seemed so difficult to do back in the fall, seems so easy to him these days. Homeschooling a child on the spectrum was by far one of the difficult things I have ever done. Not because my son isn’t bright, but more so because home is home and not school. Merging the two, home and school was too much for his brain to handle. And so we had our share of meltdowns, so many that recollection won’t even do them justice. So why even keep this? Because I see the possibilities and potential everyday. I see his light even as the school year slowly comes to an end.
It’s like a switch is flickering, deciding still if to stay full lit, but definitely hovering towards light. That’s what schooling my son feels like these days. Pure night and day. Pure joy and bliss. To watch him do work all on his own, without prompting, without cajoling, without pleading, without even bribing him, none of which worked on our tough days, is bliss. That this day has finally arrived even as the school year comes to an end is like the quote I shared previously about things being impossible. With kids on the spectrum, it will always feel and seem impossible, until they in their own unique way, defy expectations. I was simply fine with whatever we got out of him. But to see him pushing himself, without my help is the light I needed to see at the end of this pandemic school year tunnel. For kids like my son, ‘there is always light,’ like Amanda Gorman would say, ‘if only we are brave enough to see it.’ I see it everyday, and it truly fills my heart with joy. Keep this light for boys, and children like my son. They will defy expectations if only we are brave enough to see it, brave enough to them light up this world. And to see them in their light, to see and feel their potential is the very thing I needed as we begin to wrap this very strange school year up. It’s amazing how he continues to light my world.
My office desk has an image of a step. It was used to illustrate how I would build creative confidence in young people. It was also for research with words and illustration used to highlight an ongoing intensive grant I am presently working on. I also forgot to put the paper away after making my drafts. This evening when I returned to my desk, I saw this image next to it by my daughter. In it she noted steps to being her best. First, she was voiceless and shy and stood at the sidelines rather than participating with the crowd. Next, she started to speak up a little. And though better, it wasn’t her best. But when she started to speak, when she became happy and stood tall to speak, her best became amazing. These steps to being the best by my 8 year old is worth keeping if not for anything but to remind you to stand tall, be happy and speak. And when you do, well, you will be amazing.
Audre Lorde once shared in her phenomenal book Sister Outsider ‘that the quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live and upon the chances which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realized.’ Grant writing for me is light. It is the space through which all my ideas are given permission to simply flourish whether they make sense or not, whether they get funded or not. It is through grant writing that I give names to ideas that are nameless and formless until they are about to be birthed and even felt. The distillation of process by which grant writing springs to birth new ideas, as the new ideas births new concepts, and the new concepts birth new knowledge is the key to understanding. I am in the business of light making because grant writing first called me. Keep being light.
We had a major appointment scheduled for 1pm yesterday. We have been waiting for this day for awhile. Yesterday morning, after he had gone to work, I texted my hubby to remind him of the appointment. He texted back that 1pm would be impossible as he had a surgery then. But then if we moved it to 3pm, for sure he would make it. I remembered that school ends at 3pm so I sent an email to move the meeting to 3:30pm. All parties agreed. And so we waited for 3pm. Prior to the start of his surgery, my hubby texted that I should wish him luck as this was a tough case. I texted quickly that luck is always on his side given his name which when translated to English means Gods saves. In fact, he was living out his name, a pure manifestation of why the names we give our children matter for their journey through life. With a name like Chizoba, he literally is being God’s servant on earth. Nonetheless by 3pm I didn’t hear from him. I started to go to our appointment and texted that I hoped he was on his way. No response. I called and his nurse picked up the call. My heart sank. When they do, it often means everything is canceled. She said he was in the middle of the surgery still and this case was proving more difficult than it seems. I immediately thanked her and proceeded to let the folks we were meeting know that an alternative arrangement would be needed. Right as I was finalizing the call, my hubby called and said today was impossible. He would have to cancel the meeting as he is still in surgery. I said no problem that I was taking care of it. I did as best as I could and finally moved the meeting to next week. I let him know that it was moved and went on with the evening.
Like most families with doctors, I forgot to ask how they surgery went. Until this morning. I remembered as he was getting ready to go to work and he showed me this card he received from work. “It always seem impossible” the card read ‘until it’s done.’ Despite how difficult the case was, how deep the clot was in the brain of his patient, with a surgery lasting over 4 hours, today, this morning, she is talking and doing fine. I stood in awe. God truly saves when you are his. The card went on to state that ‘it was the one to make you shine. Never give up.’ That’s the keep for me today. Things will always seem impossible until it’s done. And when they are done, that thing which seemed so impossible may just be the one to make you soar. If you know the week I had this week putting a proposal of a lifetime, something that seemed so impossible, you will understand why my hubby story, this story resonates deeply with me. Keep knowing that it may always seem impossible until it’s done. And when it’s done, you will shine.
We may know what we do. Talking about it may also be easy. We definitely know how to do the things we do. Describing it would also be easy. But why? Understanding why we do the things we do is probably the most difficult thing to explain. Simon Sinek’s book ‘Start with Why’ is a treasure. It allowed me to uncover my Why just as the pandemic was ravaging the country. It’s the thing that keeps me going, my Why. It’s also the most important part of my journey through life. We are all called to be the light on this earth. To be the salt to where we can. If in doing so we help others uncover their worth then more light can seep into this world full of darkness. Being the light is a key part of my why. To know that everything I do, let’s God light shine a bit brighter is truly inspiring. The moment you wake up and realize this for yourself, is the day your story begins. Being light helps to fulfill my why. I hope it helps you to keep knowing your why.
I didn’t think I would cry. But seeing this day come to pass brought tears to my eyes. Finally, we honored the legacy of Dr. Jacob Plange-Rhule with the first ever prize for his contribution to the Global Research in Implementation and Translation Science Consortium. Jacob had this vision to train the next generation of scholars interested in health services research, hypertension research, especially at the community level. He was one of the pioneers of the community based salt reduction interventions for blood pressure control in Africa. He led the first studies in this field. He also led the task-shifting strategies for hypertension control in Ghana. To know him was to know a very gentle man, a very kind man, with a great personality, and a great love for all things Ghana. To think that we will never see his smile, never hear his voice, remains painful to him. But know that he will live on with this prize, fills my heart with great joy. Until we meet again, continue to Rest in the Bosom of the Lord.