I love Toni Morrison. One of my greatest regrets for my life is that we never met. We never had a face to face chat about her brilliant, most sterling mind. We die, that may be the meaning of life, she once eloquently said, but we do language, that may be the measure of our lives, is probably the most poignant thing I have read. It is also my life’s quote. No one personifies this quote better than Ms. Morrison and boy did she do language during her life on earth.

For the past year since her death, I have been devouring any and everything Ms. Morrison has every written. Not her fictional literature that many of us love, whether it’s Beloved or Sula or the first book of hers I ever read, The Bluest eyes. No, her fiction was sterling, awe inspiring and downright brilliant. No, I haven’t been reading her fictional books. I have instead been reading everything non- fictional that this brilliant woman ever wrote. She wrote so many and my go to bible now, her last, ‘The source of self-regard’ is quite simply divine.

But the latest in my possession, a very short acceptance speech she delivered in 1996, on the acceptance of the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, is by far one of the most brilliant essays I have ever read. This particular essay is a masterclass on brevity as well as the passion, pleasures, difficulties and necessities of the reading/writing life. It is the inspiration for this blog.

Toni Morrison’s The Dancing Mind.

In the essay, Ms Morrison speaks about peace, not just peace as a result of war, but the peace that comes with engaging with other’s mind when reading/writing. She described this as the dancing of the mind and asked all of us to become vigilant about preserving this peace from the peril it faces.

The real life work of creating and producing and distributing knowledge…the ability for the entitled as well as the dispossessed to experience one’s own mind dancing with another, in essence the real life work of the book world is a serious feat that warrants vigilance.’

When writing and writers manage to touch another’s mind through reading, the intimate, sustained surrender that is felt, without fear or interference, this dance of an open mind, fosters a particular kind of peace that requires vigilance. Securing that peace, the peace of a dancing mind, is our work. ‘There isn’t anybody else’ said Ms Morrison and I totally agree. She may be gone, but her words, are my source of inspiration. I hope to use this blog to help you experience your own mind dancing with my own. Securing this peace, the peace of the dancing mind, is now my life’s work. Rest In Peace Ms. Morrison. The dance continues…

There is something so amazing about flying handmade paper kites. Maybe it’s the colors used to make them standout or the lines cut neatly in diamond shape. Even the strings attached to the kites have lasting significance for strength of the kites, the strength to withstand even the most gentle breeze, strength to just simply fly in a finite direction no matter where the wind blows. The end product of a flying kite, a handmade paper kite is always sterling, always satisfying, especially when flown by the children who made them.

Last Sunday my kids and I went to park to fly their handmade kites. My daughter got the idea to make kites on Saturday and proceeded to make one big kite for herself and her brothers. At first they were all happy to have their one big kite and ran around the house with it all Saturday. Then Sunday came and she had the brilliant idea about going to the park to fly their kite. The happiness the boys all had for their one big kite evaporated. Now they wanted their own kites and not one big kite. I told them not to worry that when I go to the store I would actually buy simple kites at Walmart that they could all fly.

But the boys had their own ideas. How about we make our kite? I looked puzzled. It’s Sunday morning and the last thing on my mind these days, especially on Sunday is more work with the kids. I simply said sure, that means no park today. But the boys had a will and they determined to persevere. They went back to the basement location of homeschool and proceeded to make their own kites. I honestly laid in bed. About 30 minutes later, they ran upstairs with their handmade kites. All three of them had kites made with paper and they were now all excited for the park. I looked at them in awe.

To be a child is an amazing gift. They see the world in ways we adults have long lost on the journey to becoming adults. Nothing is truly impossible for them. The end product of flying kites, especially flying handmade paper kite at the park on Sunday with all the things that could have gone wrong with paper made kites, was indeed sterling and extremely satisfying.

I hate Zoom, especially for children. I hate that it’s the new way to teach. I hate that this pandemic has forced all of us to incorporate it into our daily routine. I hate Zoom especially for my children’s learning. It’s sounds contentious, I know, and hostile, I know, and defensive, I know and old-fashioned. I know that. But I am the parent that prefers learning the old-fashioned way. Not from tablets or online, but from books and outdoor exploration, like with butterflies perched quietly on a grass or books that make the mind dance.

I am not suggesting that Zoom does not have its benefit but I hate how it’s forcing my children to sit still and learn via a screen rather than from one on one interaction with their peers and teachers. Teaching my children is not something I take likely, it is the essence of their life and the tools I must use to do so must make sense to them. Zoom doesn’t. I can’t say no to tablets and somehow allow Zoom. No to TV or all sorts of distractions online, but then transport them to a Zoom utopia. Rational tools for homeschooling with our children during a pandemic are a necessity these days and it’s only September. Parents like myself eager to construct meaningful learning in the face of our country chaotic response to the pandemic must be nurtured, protected. And it’s our right to hate Zoom.

It’s vital therefore to know the consequences of the Zoomification of learning. The erasure of face to face learning, whether in math or social studies, recess altered or denied for fear of succumbing to a virus, canceled soccer games, unstaged children’s play, the peeling away of normalcy even for children, the thought of this pandemic never ending is frustrating. I hate Zoom, but I hate the pandemic even more.

There is a childlike innocence I wish as an adult I still possess. It’s in the way they see the world. It’s how the feel the world with clarity and ease. It’s in the simple ideas they have, not abstract, just simple, like abc. It is freedom, this childlike lens, just as free as flying birds in the sky. It is a freedom that I wish I still had.

Yesterday my daughter gave me a copy of the storybook she wrote. She started writing it on Friday and showed me a copy of it then, although not completed. I asked why was she writing a book, she said, because I write all the time. She felt if her mother was writing, so could she. I smiled and walked away. Her freedom with writing was divine.

What she didn’t know was that lately her mother has been struggling to write freely. I have always said to myself that if I didn’t go the route of academia, I would write as freely as I could, with words beautifully put together in a deeply satisfying and profound way. Granted, I have written plenty abstract like publications necessary for my academic journey, but I miss the other style of writing not confined to the pressures of academia. The style free from abstract thoughts, abstract objectives, abstract methods, with abstract results and conclusion. The style, clean and clear with concrete ideas and images that evoke emotions. The style, simple and profound, like proverbs that nourish the soul. The style full of vivid stories like in Antoine de Exupery’s Little Prince or Chinua Achebe’s Chike and the River. The style my daughter had freely.

This style of writing is something I have longed to do for awhile now. It’s the fundamental reason for this blog. I have started the journey to that style of writing in the past but stopped numerous times. So when my daughter shared her completed story yesterday, I was in awe and amazed of what she was able to do in 24 hours. My daughter produced a short and completed story in the style of writing free from abstract thoughts. There was indeed freedom to her writing. A freedom she knew she had. A freedom that allowed her to start and complete her story the way she wanted to. A freedom that she claimed, she owned, all to tell a story with clarity and ease. I have lost that freedom. But we should all keep writing like a child.

The reason why I started and stopped that style of writing is because the freedom to do seems so distant. It’s the reason why I still can’t call myself an author despite all the ideas in my head. My impediment, abstract thinking, abstract writing, with all its demands gets in the way all the time. My hope, the freedom I saw with my daughter’s writing was satisfying and sterling. She was not afraid of being judged or perfect. She was not focused on society’s standard of what writing should entail. She wrote freely. She knew her story. She claimed and owned her story and wrote it as clear as she could. Even naming me her publisher. I am inspired by my daughter’s writing. It’s the freedom that I need these days. It’s the freedom that will set me free on this journey to become an author.

I started to run again. It was favorite thing to do during graduate school. Life since graduating got in the way so I stopped running. Sure I run occasionally, but not as consistently as I did during graduate school. Since homeschooling started this fall, I wanted something that I could do consistently so that I keep up with the demands of teaching 3 kids at home. Running was the only thing that made sense again. I set a target to run 10 miles at least 3 times a week. I have consistently met the target except this week.

This week, my second child started his own Zoom lessons. Imagine keeping a 6 year old 1st grader focused on Zoom and doing school work at the same time. My 8year old is a pro now and is enjoying every moment of it. My three year old loves his worksheets and reading time with no Zoom. But my 6 year old who was fine at first with just doing the worksheets, became tired of learning all together when Zoom began. I was tired too. Adding Zoom this week was erratic not just for him but for me also. And it almost stopped me from running mid-week to achieve my goals. I came up with every excuse I could come up with to justify why I shouldn’t run and it all made sense. I was tired and I needed a break. I was tired of waking up earlier than normal to start the Zoom process for him. The weather seems to be changing and Fall is in the air and I am tired. All of the excuses are okay these days. Yet I knew that running was for me.

Running has allowed me to stay focused. Running, especially running consistently with a goal in mind, has allowed to see homeschooling from a different lens. Running allowed me to choose joy this school year. Even when I get tired with the first mile of every run, I keep running. Even when the skies are gray and pelters of rain are felt on my skin, I keep running. Even when my mind is preoccupied with thoughts of my never ending to-do lists, I keep running. Even when my knees start to hurt by the third mile all the way to the end and I feel like giving up, I keep running. I keep running so that I accomplish my own goals. I keep running so that I stay sane through homeschooling. I keep running because it’s my favorite thing to do once again. I keep running for the flow of it. I keep running because I choose joy. I keep running for me.

Yesterday award-winning author, Dr. Ibram Kendi lectured on ‘How to be an antiracist,’ at Saint Louis University as part of our college’s Social Justice Annual Lecture. In his book of the same title, Dr. Kendi talked about how antiracist must remain ‘fighters, tireless, durable,’ but fight in other to succeed.

There were so many questions I wanted to ask from the book but we only had one hour with Dr. Kendi so I’ll ask them here. What if we fight and still have knees on our neck? What if we fight and still get colon cancer like you did or breast cancer like your wife did all at a young age? How do you fight a system truly rotten to it’s core with tumors in some cases or no chance at life in others, not for George Floyd or Breonna Taylor and the list goes on and on? How do you dismantle the system of its racist policies with tools that are off the system, tools that are focused on self-interest? Audre Lourde said it best, ‘we cannot use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house.’ Can antiracists still hold conservative views in 2020? Dr. Amber Johnson’s eloquent question still rings bells in my hears and I am not sure what your actual response was (not your fault my kids were listening too with my 8year old daughter inspired to see a real-life ‘book writer’).

You shared a W.E.B Du Bois quote where he asked Black people ‘How does it feel to be a problem?’ To that you replied and in 2020, ‘How does it feel to be a solution?’ I am guessing this is what you mean by antiracists must fight. Antiracists are the solution and the only way solutions have a chance to survive is to fight.

Antiracists fight so that opportunities and outcomes are equal between groups. Antiracists fight so that policies, not people, are blamed for societal problems. Antiracists fight so that nearly everyone has enough. Antiracists fight for power to become mainstream and ideas common sense until success is achieved. Success, Dr. Kendi noted, will be based on what antiracists are ‘willing to do.’

We can survive metastatic racism just as you survived metastatic stage-4 colon cancer and your wife with stage-2 breast cancer. It will take a fight for us all to treat racism like we treat cancer. Listening to you last night, gave me the hope and believe in the possibilities of fighting to become the solution. Fighting to transform our society. Fighting to give humanity a chance to survive. It will take a fight for us all to survive and like you, I am ready to fight.

My son loves egg crayons. Not to color with them, but to roll them on the ground or down the stairs. It’s his favorite thing to do and my least favorite thing to watch. After each rolling session, I am right behind him picking each crayon up one by one to put them neatly back in their box. But just as soon as the box is neatly packed, my son would start the process all over again, rolling the crayons on the ground or down the stairs.

Today, I watched and listened as another crayon rolled on the ground and down the stairs and landed with a heavy thud, and continued to roll on. I saw the happiness on his face and how he just stared at the crayons mesmerized. For the first time, I saw with a childlike eye, why my son enjoyed rolling the egg crayons on on the ground. They never stop rolling! Even when things got in their way or they experienced a heavy thud, the crayons kept rolling on. It’s was as if the crayons were really meant to roll, not to color or be kept neatly in a box, just roll and roll and roll. I finally got it.

Life is not meant to be neat. Life is not meant to be colorful either. We are all going to experience challenging times, but the key to overcoming whatever problems we experience is to keep rolling. I learnt that today from my son and his rolling egg crayons. With life, no matter the circumstances, keep rolling.

Welcome to Juliet Iwelunmor’s Blog. I started this blog to tell my story as eloquently as only I can tell it. It is a story of passion and perseverance for all things related to parenting and productivity, my academic productive in particular in the middle of a global health pandemic. In essence it’s a story about my journey through life, through nurturing my family, through unleashing my creative potential through academic work, through mentoring and yes through research and grant-writing specifically. The ups and downs, success and failures, hopes and impediments are all part of my journey, a journey that I hope share with you all diligently. I promise to blog everyday, until language fails me.

The blog posts will be short but eloquent and will delve into my journey, my family and homeschooling (we are in the middle of a pandemic after all and there are so many lessons I have learnt from being still through these times), research for people and as lead by people and a section I describe as academic whispers or what Toni Morrison describes as understanding one’s role in academic spaces, when to stay silent, when to survive. I have no idea where this journey will take me. But I will do my best to confidently tell the story of a woman, me, and my passion and love for all things focused on learning from and with my kids, my family, young people and and implementing sustainable health solutions. Thank you for stopping by. 

“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language, that may be the measure of our lives.” — Toni Morrison