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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

There is a song I often play while running. As if on cue, it played today during my 4mile run. The lyrics to this song speaks volumes to me. It’s Beyoncé’s ‘Bigger’ from the Lion King Soundtrack. She starts by singing these words ‘if you feel insignificant, you better think again, better wake up, because you are part of something bigger.’ Let these words sink in for a moment.

Another successful 4+mile run today.

This is the gift of Beyoncé. I know many celebrate her for artistry, but her ability to bring writers together to pen lyrics like ‘Bigger’ is divine. Read it for yourself again; ‘if you feel insignificant, you better think again, better wake up, because you are part of something bigger.’ She goes on to describe how you are the living word, not a speck in the universe. She reminds you of how you are part of something way bigger and why you need to step in your essence because you are excellent. Rise up because you are part of something way bigger.

How often are you reminded of your essence or that you are excellent? How often are you told that the truth in your soul, which may scare you, is just a reminder that you are part of something way bigger? Let that sink in again because you are. If you don’t believe these words, that’s fine. Even Beyoncé acknowledges that she is writing the lyrics as a reminder to herself, that she too is part of something way bigger. Imagine that.

Whenever I listen to the lyrics, I am reminded that she is absolutely right and not because she is Beyoncé but because God in a way is using these words to remind me that I too am part of something way bigger. His words are enough. If he is for you, then he is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all you could ever think or ask of. No matter how hard it gets, he is able to help you bloom into your powers so that truth in your soul is realized. I needed to write this to myself today as a reminder because there are days when I too feel insignificant, when I too feel asleep, and frustrated, wondering whether I am fulfilling all my essence with the right support system around me. No need minimizing my essence. No need waiting or seeking permission to step into my excellence. But yet I do.

Even though I feel and believe these words, situations have a way of belittling you, making you feel insignificant. We are all humans after all. Yet all I have to do is rise up and let God do exceedingly and abundantly above all I could ever ask of think. This is how being part of something way bigger is realized. Look up, don’t look down. Look up to the one that would make it all happen. He knows the truth in your soul. Keep rising, you are part of something way bigger.

My look after another successful 4+mile run.