The month of May is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Today we crowned her head with roses, covered her body with blue scarf and adorned her fingers with a white and pink rosary. It’s subtle things like this that make my heart swell with love and pride for our church family in the Ville. We are truly a unique bunch but completely devoted to our Catholic faith. Sunday after Sunday, the same people attend and we know everyone if not by name but surely by sight. One of our church members prior to church today said they don’t know how I do with all my children. He noted they could tell they all have a strong personality judging from what they choose to wear to church each Sunday. It’s as if he was in my home every Sunday morning with a front row seat to the daily struggles of dressing little children with different personalities. My son Chiwetel for example, only wants to wear traditional outfits from Nigeria. I remember buying the perfect suit for him just this Easter which he balked at and wore his traditional clothes. The color was peach-like so I let that slide. The next Sunday he wore the ones with brown pants and we have been roating with different traditional outfits Sunday after Sunday. My other son is obsessed with suits and ties. He wore a blazer with a matching tie to church last Sunday and you guessed it, he fought to wear the same thing this Sunday. My daughter is the only one that is easy going when it comes to clothes. I know I digressed but it’s details like this, from another church member’s lens that personifies why I love coming to church every Sunday. It’s a small group of people, a small family, but Sunday after Sunday, we all feel connected on this journey through life. And as I look through the picture from our May crowning of the Virgin Mary, I can’t help but be thankful for the opportunity to call this my church family. Keep crowning the Virgin Mary, the mother of all families

I am drawn to duality. The prolific Igbo author Chinua Achebe once described its importance in this way ‘where something stands something else will stand beside it. Nothing is absolute.’ Seeking a second point of view is essential for life. The intricate and deep structures that inform us are rarely examined when you take a first look. But when you examine anything closely, when you give it a second glance, a second read, a second look, it’s true meaning will be illuminated. It for this reasons I am forever drawn to nature. Every plant we encounter is full of dualities. They produce multiple meanings when you take a closer look, a closer smell, a closer feel. There are no permanent answers with any plant too. No permanent questions. No permanent solutions as everything is subject to change quite literally, season after season. It’s for this reason that I ask that you keep fragrant plantain lilies in mind. They are prime examples.

Fragrant Plantain Lilies

Not only are they a thing of beauty, but their apple green leaves with creamy white edges personifies the world duality for me. On one hand these plants are just that, plants like many you will see now during the Spring season. These fragrant plantain lilies are scattered all over the front of my house now. The prior owners of our home took gardening to another level. I remain grateful as I am clueless when it comes to plants. But this fragrant plantain lily is one to watch. I was hooked from the name personally as I absolutely adore edible plantains. To know this word as lilies and in my garden makes me smile. In terms of make up, it is also an ornamental plant whose plants deliver fragrance when they bloom sometime in July or August. Apparently come July, these plants will begin to display huge white trumpets that are essentially lilies with a sweet fragrance. Their Japanese name is ‘Yu-Lei’ which means white fairy. For now, even looking at the plants brings a smile to my face. But it’s duality as both plants and flowers is what I choose to keep as it bears many semblance to my dual roles as a mother and a professor.

Fragrant plantain lilies.

On one hand my days are full of diapers and tears. These days erupting tooth and growing pains of transitions from infants are the norm. That and the gift of watching my son transition from crawling to walking. This duality makes me smile as he keeps making great strides everyday with perfecting the art of walking as with this video below.

We are walking!

By day and night I am also a researcher, one passionate about research that lasts. It’s why I remain drawn to writing grants as it helps me address one fundamental reason why research never lasts and it’s the lack for funds. But what if we have funds and then draft our research in ways that ensure that they remain. Another duality, subtle but there when you begin with the end in mind even for research grants or interventions you carry out. I adore this new focus on duality. One that I am grateful to plants like fragrant plantain lilies for teaching me this Spring season. Keep them in mind as well babies crawling and walking and mothers working as researchers.

Blue skies on a clear day. Trees, confident ones too, standing tall next to the sun. All glorious, all majestic, is the sun, blazing, on a glorious day where the blues skies are clear. I imagine these words whenever I see this picture painted by my daughter. It was from her girls scout meeting this past weekend with her troop. The last time our family met in person with her troop was over a year ago and today seeing this painting personifies the hope for me. Hope for a future free from a pandemic like the assurance that there will always be days where the skies are blue. I also imagine there will come a day where mask wearing isn’t the norm and social distancing is no longer in vogue. The CDC began to usher in such a day this week with their latest mandate that folks who are fully vaccinated can meet without masks with other folks that are equally vaccinated. It’s the kind of relief we have all been waiting for, hoping for, like blues skies on a clear day.

Blue skies on a clear day by Lotanna Ezepue.

Amidst the pain and toils of such a pandemic that spared no one, hoping for a day when the skies are blue, and the sun blazing, with trees standing confident and tall, is like my hope for a pandemic free life. One that I’m praying will come to fruition but just in the US but in India and Brazil and every where where the virus continues to tighten its grip. Such a day is possible. One can only hope it would arrive soon with every one doing their part to ensure that everyone they know is vaccinated. We all need to be vaccinated as it’s for the public’s good. I imagine that a day too will come when the vaccines are not just for those in high income countries but for people anywhere for one one is free unless we are all free. Where the skies are truly blue and trees truly confident may seem impossible even for a pandemic. But we can only dream and for today, I pray this too comes to pass. Keep blue skies and confident trees in mind for a post-pandemic phase where all of us are vaccinated and the pain and suffering and deaths end.

There is something about motherhood that keeps me in awe every single time. It’s that journey between being pregnant and welcoming new life. My people call it a journey and they are quick to remind you to say nothing until you go on the journey and return safe and sound. I take this journey very seriously. Which is why you would hardly see pregnancy photos of myself plastered anywhere. Not everyone makes it through the journey. I get it and I value that too. So to go on the journey and come to the other side safe and sound, is the most awe inspiring moment ever.

Our latest

Today, another great woman I know went on that journey and brought forth this little bundle of joy. There are no words. Seeing the picture above evoked memories of my experience. I remember the first nights vividly, of wondering how I would take care of the baby. They are so tiny in the beginning and so fragile that the idea of becoming my responsibility can be so daunting. But still, we persevere. To be a woman, to be a mother is no small feat. I am reminded about this everytime I hear another story of another successful journey of another woman. Those who never make the journey too, keep me alert. I know that fear all too. Every pregnant woman comes across it too and not make it makes me just as equally speechless. There is power in womanhood, in motherhood and it’s a gift I will always cherish. So when my family grew larger today, when we literally welcomed new life today, when we told another powerful woman I know that we thank God for the journey mercies, it dawned on me once more that there is power in being and becoming a mother. Something I will always celebrate and cherish for the privilege this aspect of my life entails. So in honor of our latest arrival, keep knowing the sterling power of mothers. We are awe inspiring every single time we bring new life to this earth. We are awe inspiring just as we are. It is by no means a easy task but you are still there and for that, I celebrate you mothers for all you do.

Keep winning. I got a great text message tonite. It basically said, congrats on winning the …raffle. I was speechless. We won? How? When? At first I thought this was a joke. We are almost through April, so anything maybe possible with making a fool out of me. But then I remembered that my kids school had a fundraiser yesterday. One of the most spectacular fundraisers I have ever seen. And it was virtual. The amount of money they raised during a pandemic is nothing short of phenomenal. I went to the school’s website to watch the event from yesterday. I scrolled all the way to the last 2 minutes and watched as the fundraiser chair put their hands in a pile full of 1100 raffle tickets. You guessed it. Out of 1100 tickets, a ticket with my name won. I am still speechless. I have watched the video numerous times and each time my ticket was picked and we were declared the winner. We had a blast today, with family and friends and winning this raffle ticket, well just simply made this day phenomenal. Keep winning. This picture, taken after church today, personifies the joy in my heart for today.

The sign of winning!

Yesterday my bright daughter was upset. Division was the cause. We are now in the phase of elementary school where failure with math is inevitable. For her, it has begun and it all thanks to long form division. Everything seems hard she said. She kept trying, and trying and still got everything wrong. She doesn’t like to fail and is doing her best but division is so hard. No one in class understood too until the teacher showed what they were all doing wrong. What made her so upset was how easy it actually was when her teacher explained it all. But why didn’t she see it? Why did she fail when she tried it herself? I listened intently as I understood well what was happening here.

I ask why is failing so bad? Her response-I don’t like to fail. I asked again, why don’t you like to fail? Because I keep trying my best but still I fail. So I asked again, why did you keep trying and still failed? Because it was making me so upset, she said. I still asked, why does failure make you so upset? Because there is nothing to learn from failure? Why can’t you learn from failure? I said? Because, wait, you can learn from failure? Breakthrough, I smiled, I replied of course you can. So what are we going to do now that we can learn from failure? I will try not to be too upset? Why will you not be upset even if you fail? Because I know I tried my best. Why will you keep trying even if you fail? Because I can learn from failing. Why is failing now good? Because it teaches me something about myself. I was curious and asked what did it teach? She said, never to give up even if you fail. Mission accomplished.

Teaching how to fail as well as learning from failure is a tall ask for little children. But my grantwriting hat helped me here. I fail all the time I told her. She said really. I said yes. Sometimes the papers I write are rejected and even all the hardwork I put on my grants too. But still I learn from every failure. It’s a teacher too. And like you, it teaches me never to give up. Division has helped me understand the significance of teaching children why failure it’s important. It’s a major keep I intend to continue to work on with my daughter. One that I hope you keep too.

I forgot to write. There was so much to do that writing wasn’t one of them. I wanted to still keep something down the moment I remembered hence my little post for now, meant for yesterday. It’s a reminder to myself that forgetting is a natural rhythm of life. It happens and will always happen. Sometimes it’s the minds way of making you think of other things that matter, other people that deserve your time and attention, four of them in my case that occupy every second of my time. Plus a genius mind that captures my soul whenever around. I forgot to write not because I didn’t have so many ideas in mind but because none of them was as significant as just being still and knowing what truly matters, my family. I forgot to write. But I didn’t forget what matters. That’s the keep for me. To keep remembering who this is for in the end, even when nothing is written down. Though I may forget to put things down, but those that matter, my family, my soul’s content, my hiding place, remain my ultimate goal, my ultimate strength, the reason for keeping everything, even moments of forgetfulness.

My daughter once told me a story. Of her and her friends and their plans to save the world from goblins, or little monsters with green skins and two horns on their head. One friend was a wizard ninja, the other a pixie fairy and my daughter a purple fizzle, also known as bubble girl with a magic bubble wand and a skateboard. Together, they were unstoppable and will do whatever they could to protect the universe. She shared the picture below to illustrate this vividly.

My daughter’s story

In listening to my daughter recount this story, I became transfixed and transported into the realm of possibilities with stories. For my daughter and her imagination, there are no limits. Even a ninja with a staff can be a wizard. A pixie can be a fairy and fly around with her human friends. A bubble girl can not only possess a magic bubble wand that erupts magical bubbles, but she can also use her skateboard and run around a rainbow colored universe with her friends. Together they work to protect the universe from goblins and their their evil plans. Her story was not only engaging, but illuminating. My daughter took me on a journey to stories endless possibilities, one where openness is the destination for abilities that are limitless. Not only did she construct a narrative to describe how anyone can become anything, her narrative is also an illustration of an important lesson that she learned about own herself, something in fact expressed in the story itself. That she too can be anything she wanted to be. An endless possibility.

Describing her story.

Stories like what my daughter shared, illustrate how they powerfully give meaning to one’s life. But authoring your own story for yourself, recounting ever act and action, every event and expression, is the greatest gift. One that takes you on a journey towards knowing and telling, reflecting and learning. Listening and learning about each character in my daughter’s story, how they feel and what they do, opened her eyes to their see their abilities, all full of endless possibilities. The reflection, inherent in the stories we tell, is the learning about ourselves that I gleaned from my daughter and her story. As her eyes opened to their possibilities, so to did her mind open to become aware of the power of her thoughts, her feelings, her actions, all infused in her story.

That to me is the power of stories, the power of authoring your thoughts and feeling as only you know how to do best. The power to resist and overcome all forms of oppression, the power of your voice with its gifts for suppression, repression, everything wanting to cause depression. With stories, the possibilities are endless. Stories are a function of our society, an opportunity to make and remake, to form and reform, to define and redefine, how we all become one. Powerful and liberating, stories help you author aspects of you that only you know best. Stories even those as unthinkable as a wizard ninja helps you claim authority over you. The world will try to define you. The world will speak ill of you to and use words meant to destroy rather than build you. But it’s in your story that you lay claim over how the world should see you. Not from the mouth of others, but from you, your acts, your actions, one after another. Such an authority over yourself is inspiring, divine, a sterling gift to oneself.

All of us, whether as young as my 8 year old daughter or as old her grandmother, have stories to tell, have point of views and values to share that many would be willing to hear. How we author our lives through stories is the thing I never knew I had in me, the thing I never knew I would also see in others until this keeplist began a little over 9 months ago. Finding stories, keeping and nurturing them, has opened my eyes to their power and freedom. They also helped me see the endless possibilities in all my life’s abilities. So for today and always, keep stories, even from a child’s lens. Find your story too. Author it. It will help you think, act, feel, the best in you that you may not even know exists. It has helped me find my way, through a life where nothing weighs me down. I am a master of my journey because stories showed all I needed. My daughter’s story by the way is called ‘The Rainbow Universe Society.’ Like I said with stories, the possibilities are endless.

The four top stories on NPR this morning were on gun violence. Three of them were on police violence on minority lives, black lives, black men, a teen, Adam, who was only 13 and in 7th grade. Despite what they say, his last acts where his hands up in the air. Then in an instance he too became a name we add to the air. A familiar stance. We have been here before too and once again we say his name not for fame but because his life, like the lives of all God’s children mattered despite the trauma another mother, another family, another community encounters.

There is a virus that is spreading as fast as wildfire. The name is racism and the victims are minorities, black lives, black men, black boys in the hands of those sworn to protect them. It sickens me as a black mother. It keeps me hypervigilant even though my black boys are only babies. I see their smiles this morning, all three of them. I listen to their empty banter about food on the floor and whether it’s still safe to pick it up and eat. I watch as they play with each other, while eating and shudder for what tomorrow holds, whether their future would be whole. It’s the same helpless, restless thoughts that continues to consume and frighten every black mother I know raising black boys in America today. This virus has left all of us vulnerable, all of us helpless, all of us restless, all of us ready to become resilient, and all of us in desperate search of ways to usher healing from this vicarious racial trauma that inflicts its trauma in our lives in a continuous manner. Healing is the only thing that we want. Not because we can bring an end to exposures from racism or racial traumas but because we can and want to take ownership of the future we want for our children. One where they will be free to be and live as children, as boys, and men, with black lives that matter. Its an ambitious ask. I know. But we have to become bold for this transformative healing. It’s may also seem trivial our hope for healing but it’s the only thing that seems to matter so no mother feels a hole for their child who deserves to be whole. It’s my ask for today. Keep demanding for healing from this trauma for us by us.

How do we heal when lives are cut too soon?Remain calm when lives seem forever doomed? When do we start to usher healing, insist on its presence, demand its existence? Is it when we plead for our lives? Is it when we say we are afraid or when you remind us that we should be? Is it when we wear uniforms or drive cars with visible forms? Is it when we serve our countries or expect our countries to serve us? Will that ever happen? To hear the tears in his voice, the fears through the noise. To hear another mother plead for a son gone to soon is becoming insane in a country where guns are used too soon. So when will all this end so healing can begin.

I yearn for the days, we mend. Days our ways bend towards justice and our dignity towards freedom. Humanity demands that we stay hopeful for such a day when you and I do not have to be hyper vigilant as we gather once more for yet another vigil for a life gone to soon. When will healing arise in this place, in this space, for a people committed to ways that are more than just what is. I ask because I’m tired. Drained, emotionally, worn out. All this never ending pain, always seems to end in vain. If it’s not the needless deaths from a pandemic that we could have controlled, then it’s the endless deaths from a violent pandemic we fail to control. What about our children? How do we protect them from all this and at the same time remind them that they are our better days, our brighter future, even though we expect them to keep their guard up and remain vigilant.

I don’t have any answers but I want healing so deep that it can only be love. Love for you, love for me, love for humanity that sees a human in things, like when a child holds a toy, or some teens blast their music or like when our hands are held up or we cry and say that we can’t breathe. This love is the necessary air we all need from the weight of this continuous racial violence which continues to suffocate though we breathe. There is a Black ant crawling on my floor. It’s see the shadow from my hand and darts away as fast as it can to the nearest space for safety. I imagine lives like this ant. Nothing can protect you when hands are raised up high to destroy you. You who belong to a people, a place, a space, a community.

You are also worth fighting for, no matter what they say or do to diminish your worth. You are more than deserving of every breath that is in service of your humanity. You are a life force worth celebrating whether they see it or not and every encounter does not deserve to end in a count that should never be. No encounter should include another life gone too soon. No gaze of us, whether when we seem aimless, should end as if we are nameless. We are not. Is this healing possible? They may think we chant aimlessly. But even their aim is lessened when we chant even louder that Black Lives Matter. It’s a simple three letter word that reverberates this need for healing. Something that we demand for today, tomorrow and so long as we have breathe. Healing is the justice we seek to keep for a world that refuses to just see. This one is for Daunte. Give him justice.