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This Is How.

This is how to break up with the juvenile, codeine addict who fancies himself Goth because he paints his fingernails black and wears black eyeliner.

This is how to pretend to be miserable, because you’re supposed to be miserable after a break-up. This is how to blog about it.

This is how to live life; a series of Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday-Friday-Saturday-Sundays that never get old, never change. This is how to be a yuppie. This is how to dress like a yuppie, in chiffon blouses and pencil-skirts and kitty heels. This is how to spend like a yuppie; on expensive cab rides, handbags purchased from Dubai, ice cream at Coldstone and movies with friends. This is how to wrap your box braids in a bun. This is how to arch an eyebrow.

This is how to smile at a man you like; coy and charming. This is how to smile at a man you don’t like; looking him straight in the eye. This is how to smile at a woman so she feels flattered. This is how to smile at a woman so she feels small.

This is how to wear lipstick; first coat, blot, second coat. This is how to dance in heels. This is how to dance in a club so no one mistakes you for the whore that your Deeper Life stepmother swears you’re becoming. This is how to avoid your father’s calls.

This is how to tweet; sarcastic tweet, narcissistic tweet, LOL someone else’s, RT another’s, (deep) philosophical tweet, insult-the-government tweet, slightly risqué tweet, God tweet, rinse and repeat.

This is how to chase the lonely. This is how to enjoy a book and a coffee on a Saturday morning when the power is out, and there’s no fuel in your generator. This is how to sign up on Instagram.

This is how to block stalkers on Facebook. This is how to update your profile on LinkedIn. This is how to choose a laptop; comparing specs online, Googling the specs to be sure what they mean. This is how to avoid that creep from Finance. This is how to let your boss know you’re not interested, without losing your job.

This is how to brood.

This is how to act on a date with a man you like. This is how to act on a date with a man you don’t like. This is how to spend Friday night indoors watching re-runs of Friends. This is how to save up rent money, then swallow pride to ask your father to make up the balance. This is how to apologize for your rude words to your stepmother.

This is how to turn down an offer to be someone’s mistress and not be the whore your stepmother fears you are becoming. This is how to be genuinely happy that your best friend is getting married. This is how to turn a blind eye to her mother’s insistence in rubbing it in your face. This is how to pretend to like her husband-to-be even though you really think he’s a jerk.

This is how to act at a job interview; to use your best voice, to smile a lot, to impress them into thinking you’re smarter than you are. This is how to quit your old job when you get a new one; politely.

This is how to reply a DM from the funniest fellow you follow on Twitter. This is how to ask a man out on a date. This is how not to lose your nerve when he refuses at first. This is how to insist, and flatter him into saying Yes.

This is how to dress for a date, that is somehow a blind date. This is how to smile at a good-looking man. This is how to hold the smile when he doesn’t reply your Hello, when he writes instead on the notepad he holds, I can hear but I cannot speak, I’m sorry.

Hello.

Hello.

It’s great to meet you in person.

Same here. You look better than your avatar.

My avatar is Mr. Bean.

My point exactly.

This is how to have a great time with a man who does not speak. This is how to sleep with a smile on your face.

p.s. Please visit this page to Introduce Yourself 🙂

Flight.

K: I’ll pick you from the airport.
Me: No, thanks.

10 hours later, I wonder how I’ll find my way from the airport. What if “Something” happens? What if my flight gets delayed and I take a taxi to my destination late at night and I get robbed or Something because I’m this petite, light-skinned woman (read: easy mark)? It’s impossible that I could be strong, you see. No one thinks you can be, not when you’re fair and petite and female.

I should have taken K’s offer.

Why do women like to be chased?

Airport. The boarding announcement comes on and we all shuffle to the tarmac. All of us will be dead in 100 years. And it should evoke some sort of camaraderie, shouldn’t it? But it doesn’t. We are ignoring one another. It’s strange, considering that we could be deathday mates.

image

What if?

What if our plane, this plane that Arik has christened “Michael” were to fall out of the sky? We would die together. Approach the pearly gates together. Our families would mourn together, share the camaraderie we deny ourselves now. And for that reason, shouldn’t we smile at each other now? Hold hands, maybe? Chant Kumbaya, maybe?

“THAT IS A $5000 BAG!”
I glance at the man screaming at the porters. It is a Salvatore Ferragamo bag and its jacket has been torn. He is apoplectic. I want to laugh or at least, smile.
That’s a $5000 bag, he repeats as if incredulous. He cannot believe the disrespect they have shown it. The porter apologizes and tries to beat the dust off. I am distracted.

The lady ahead of me in the queue to enter Michael is the type of woman 15-year-old me hoped I’d grow up to be. She is fair, too. She wears a pink dress and a belt made of stringed pearls. Her weave is real human hair, I think. Dark, curly, shoulder-length. She wears heels. Elegant. I wish I could be elegant.  But I’m also content with who I am. The one who wears flats almost all the time because I want to be that person with silent footsteps.

I am afraid of flying. As I enter “Michael”, I wonder if today is the day I die. It would be ironic if I did considering my last blog post. Would readers who misunderstood it hold me up as an example of what happens to people who don’t criticise the government at every turn? Are you that superstitious?

I think I should blog my thoughts but all my notebooks are in my checked-in luggage. I have a pen but no paper in my handbag. I panic.

*Suggestion to Arik: if it’s not too much trouble, could you leave a blank A4 sheet in each seat pocket?*

The hostess looks aggressive. I’m afraid to ask her for paper.

I’m in a middle seat. My seat mates are a Nigerian woman in a business suit and the obligatory human hair extensions, and an Indian in jeans and trainers. I guess she’s a banker. I guess he’s in IT. I disturb her getting to my seat. I disturb her again to retrieve my phone from the laptop bag in the overhead locker. It is on and I’m afraid it may ring mid-flight and everyone will give me the evil eye. They won’t know it’s my bag, will they? I’m not sure.

I find an old bank teller in my phone’s pouch. I begin to write on it.

I run out of space.

I flip through the complimentary magazine to see if there’s a blank page I can tear out.  I’m slightly relieved there isn’t.  I mean, what would my seatmates think about me tearing the magazine?

The plane takes off and I don’t hear the briefing. Almost immediately, we fly into clouds and the banker starts to chant “Jesus” under her breath. Over and over, like a mantra. I want to tell her he probably heard her the first time. She doesn’t sound so cool anymore. Was it just ten minutes ago she was chatting to someone on her phone in a fake British accent?

The kids in the seats behind me are laughing as the plane mimics a roller coaster ride.

My colleagues and I, we had a discussion once on how it might feel to die in a plane crash. They said, if the plane free fell to Earth, everyone on board would be dead before they hit the ground. The shock, see? The shock would kill.
I thought it would be nicer that way. To fall and just have your brain fudge up, the way it feels the last ten seconds before you fall asleep. Aww, I’m falling.

Darkness.

We make it through the clouds.

The hostesses serve muffins, water and juice. I test if I can write on the serviette.

The banker whips out a Kindle Paperwhite. I feel the first sense of kinship with her. She reads for a bit and then gets out her make-up kit. I lose the sense of kinship.

I don’t look stellar. My afro is pulled up in a weird updo, my face is oily and I have a pimple on my chin. I am not wearing any make-up. I wish my hair was neater and I could reach my lip balm. I’ve lost weight, my blue chinos are loose. My blouse keeps coming untucked. I touch the gold heart pendant at my throat.

We are descending into Lagos.

When I Say I Love You

So I listened to this interesting video today

And the rabbi essentially makes the point that many times, when we say we love someone (or something), we actually mean that we love what that person (or thing) does for us. E.g. I love fried chicken. So I kill a chicken and fry it. Does that sound like love of chicken or love of the taste of fried chicken? He extends the analogy to “falling in love”. When a woman falls in love, does she love the man or she loves how he makes her feel? It sounds cold, doesn’t it? I love this man because we make (or people say we make) a cute couple, and we share mutual interests, and have compatible life philosophies, and it makes financial sense to me to split living expenses and child-rearing costs? Bonus points for the fact that I enjoy his company and the gratification that comes with being married in a society that places value on these things. Fish love.

And I’m wondering if fish-love is such a bad thing. Maybe we start from fish love and learn to grow into proper, selfless love. The love of the person totally for their own sake, without thinking of the associated benefits. You watch the video and let me know. Lol. What do you think?

What’s In A Name? Living Two Lives.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Romeo & Juliet.

Someone called me “Jennifer” today. It’s been a long time since I answered to that name. It’s been a long time since I introduced myself as “Jennifer”. 14 years to be exact. It’s typical to have a first name and a middle name. In my family, we took our Esan names first, and then our baptismal names. Odd, when you think that our parents did the exact opposite. Their baptismal names first, and then their native names. My husband’s family did the same thing. Baptismal names first, and then native names. It’s a thing of curiosity how we choose which takes priority.

For the first 9 years of my life, I used both names interchangeably. Osemhen. Jennifer. At home I was mostly Osemhen, except for a few aunts who preferred to call me Jennifer. In primary school, it was a 70/30 split. The teachers called me Jennifer. Some of my classmates called me Osemhen, especially the ones who were close enough to me to hear my siblings use my Esan name.

And then I got into secondary schoool and the split sharpened. I was definitely Jennifer, and only Jennifer in school. At home, I was definitely Ose. It manifested in a sort of split personality. Jennifer was the petite, light-skinned waif with eyes too big for her face. I was one of the youngest in my class so I was in a sense, the baby, the last child, petted by senior students and even some of my classmates. I can still hear them trilling “Jenniiii-fer.” And then at home, I was Osemhen. A stolid Esan name, none of that faerie-like stuff. The first-born daughter, with all the responsibilities that brings. Had to be strong. Had to be firm. Had to be my parents’ right hand, my mother’s confidant.

She chose the name “Jennifer” even though it wasn’t a saint’s name, as stipulated by the Catholic Church. I think they were not so strict then. She chose it because it was pretty and wafer-like on the tongue despite the many consonants. Jennifer means “white enchantress” or “fair one”, a very Caucasian name, so Caucasian it was the most popular name for newborn American girls from 1970 to 1984. And as I grew older, and my skin tanned deeper, I felt like it didn’t fit me.

And so in 2003, when I graduated from secondary school, I chose to stick only with Osemhen. I wanted to shed the identity I had. Enough of the effervescence. Give me stolidity. There were a few slips. Once in a while, I would introduce myself as Jennifer but by 2004 when I got into university, I was fully “Osemhen”. It also kinda helped that I didn’t stay in contact with too many of the people who knew me in secondary school. I moulted. I think it worked.

There’s also the thing about embracing  my African identity and uniqueness. I knew a lot of Jennifers. I didn’t know any Osemhens. I knew a lot of African Jennifers. I’ve never heard of a white person who answered to an Esan name. And I must admit that my name gives me an opportunity to discuss my heritage with foreigners I meet, an opportunity that I don’t think I’d have if they called me “Jennifer”.

I think I set a precedent at home. My youngest sister, Itasoha, never used her English name “Benedicta”. My other sister dropped “Winnifred” for “Uwa”, a diminutive of her Esan name. My brother tried to totally erase his Esan name and baptismal name from his identity, choosing to introduce himself as “Richard”, his confirmation name. What’s in a name, we (and Romeo Montague) ask? An identity. A personality. A prophesy? It’s why we have naming ceremonies. And somehow, on some level, we recognize this.

Sometimes, the old life crops up. I meet people who knew “Jennifer”, who call me Jennifer, who I respond to as Jennifer. The name “Osemhen” is awkward on their tongues and they wonder why I ever changed. And then there are people who witness this exchange and have only known me as Osemhen. They snicker, “Gosh, you don’t even look or act like a Jennifer”.

So what’s in a name? What do you think?

p.s. I gave an interview on my boring, everyday life on kacheetee.com. She runs a very active lifestyle blog and it was an absolute honour to be asked to write in. I also loved interviewing with ForCreativeGirls.com and discussing motherhood & creativity. And have you been to Blazers & Baby , recently? Do check it out.

That Time I Went On A “Blind Date”

Early 2011, one of my aunts (not so much aunt, as friend of an aunt but everyone is an aunt) called me to find out how I was doing and what my romantic prospects looked like. At the time, said prospects were zero. I was 22, right smack in the middle of youth service and obsessing with what my future would be. I was neck-deep in applications for Masters programs, scholarships, writing residencies. I had a crush or two and the feeling might’ve been mutual but I was more concerned with becoming an independent adult. To Auntie, however, I simply remarked, “No.”

She’d found someone for me, she said. A relative of her husband. Let’s call him Julius because I can’t remember his name. He was “eligible”, meaning he had a job and she thought we’d be a good fit. She suggested I attend a wedding the following weekend so she could introduce us.

“I can’t come, I have other plans with my Dad.”

Okay, she said. Why didn’t I come over to her house the Friday after that and spend the night. She could arrange some alone time with the relative so we could get to know each other.

I remember wondering if she thought my case so hopeless. I asked her to give the fellow my number. He could call me and then we’d set up a date like normal young people. This whole business of sleeping over and having alone time in her sitting room with a stranger didn’t seem kosher and I wasn’t sure my father would approve.

“Ah, you don’t have to tell him. And besides, Julius isn’t interested in all this small boy/small girl love you people do these days. He’s looking for marriage.”

I pointed out that I was only 22.

“Ehen? When did I get married?”

She was quite insistent on introducing us and so I agreed to meet her later in the week in Lagos Island where she would take me to his office.

On the appointed day, I carried myself from Surulere to Apongbon. We met, my aunt and I, at an eatery and then navigated the serpentine tracks through the market. As we walked, she gave me relationship advice.

“You must be respectful…you can’t trust these small boys these days…it’s important to marry early…I wish someone would set my daughter up like this…if she wasn’t related to Julius…you can do the traditional marriage this August before your Masters and then do the white wedding when you return…he has a good job, he’ll be a good provider…”

Julius worked in a bank. We were  directed to his “office”, a cordoned off cubicle in the far corner of the banking hall. He smiled when he saw us.

How do I describe him? The only word that comes to mind is “old”. Not grey-haired old. No, not that. That might’ve been at least, interesting. He’d have had the distinguished, silver-haired, bespectacled thing going on and if I was one for those kind of fantasies, there might’ve been a chance. But no. This was a middle-aged man. Portly. With the greasy look of a heavy sweater and the shaving bumps of a Bic razor user. He had kind eyes, though. And when Auntie introduced him as “Mr. Julius”, he laughed and said, “No. Just Julius.”

I was still dumbfounded. It sounds cliché but it’s true. I couldn’t believe this was who Auntie was setting me up with. For the second time, I wondered if my case seemed that pitiful, whether my future seemed so dim that this marriage was in a way, an act of mercy, I wondered what part of my life so far had given Auntie this vibe. I was unemployed but I had just finished school anyways.

“How old are you, Julius?”

They both laughed. “I’m 37,” he said.

“I’m 22. Don’t you think I’m too young for you?”

“Ah, no. Age is nothing but a number.”

“But why aren’t you married yet?”

“I haven’t found the right person.”

Auntie, bless her soul, seemed encouraged by this line of conversation. After a few minutes, she left us to continue with her shopping. She reminded me to call her when I got home. I sat in silence after her departure, sipping my Maltina. To be fair, he seemed shy and uncertain. I, however, could not muster the customary coyness of meeting a “potential suitor” for the first time.

“This won’t work, Julius. And I’m sorry if she got your hopes up. I had no idea you were so old.”

He talked for a bit about his hopes and dreams for a family but all I could see was my future as a baby-bearing  machine, serving his favorite dishes “respectfully” and staring out the window every morning as he drove to work. Not a bad life for some but definitely not the life for me.

“It won’t work, abi?” He asked.

“No.” I stood up. “But thanks for the malt. And I hope you find a wife soon.”

“Thank you. Can I get your number?”

I shook my head. I shook his hand. And I stepped out of that banking hall.

A few days later, Auntie calls me that she’s thinking of coming with her husband to discuss the potential nuptials with my Dad. Half of me was tempted to just let her do it, so she could face the blistering fury with which my father would greet the idea.  The sensible part of me dissuaded her. I could tell she felt sorry for me as I hung up. These girls of today. So ungrateful. So full of romantic dreams. Such easy prey for young boys of today...

Have you been set up on a blind date? How did that work out?

 

The Unglamorous Life of Working Parents

You make it seem all glamorous. 

It being “working motherhood”. I was chatting with one of my friends and we were discussing my prayer intentions. I admitted being overwhelmed by my life and asking for God’s help with work-life balance. And she said, “You make it seem all glamorous but I’m sure it has its iffy spots.”

“Iffy spots”? Understatement.

Parenting. Drool. Dirty, drooping diapers. Reading said diaper contents like they’re tea leaves, foretelling your child’s health. Why so orange? Right, he ate carrots last night. What’s that?? Is that an almond? Oh, Lord. Half-eaten bowls of oatmeal on the kitchen counter. Torn classics because the kid likes my books better than his. Nonsensical nursery rhymes I’d never heard before 2016. Daddy finger, daddy finger, where are you?  Toddlers that tumble off beds. A subscription to Baby Centre. Hospital emergency room at 6 am on Saturday morning because the child ran an overnight fever so severe he glowed bright red. Motherhood. Forgetting your laptop at home but arriving work with your milk pump bag. Because…priorities.

Work. My mentor says to do what I must now, so I can do what I want later. And it is hard. It is excel sheets and Powerpoint slides and endless meetings. It is open-cubicle offices and your neighbour eating fried fish in his cubicle. It’s passive-aggressiveness, it’s conflict, it’s competition, it’s conflicting feedback. It’s a workload that overwhelms you with its mind-numbingness. It’s struggling to find your passion in all of it, in fighting to remember the graduate trainee you were with your naiveté, and your confidence, and your unshakeable optimism.

Life. It is making decisions on restaurants to go to based on child-friendliness. Do they have high chairs? Do they have changing tables in the restroom? It is cajoling younger siblings and cousins to babysit the kid for one hour, two hours, a week, so you can attend that concert, see that movie, have that “adults-only” dinner with your mates. It is going through old vacation pictures and reminiscing. Exactly how/when am I ever going to go to Rome again and wander for 6 hours in the Vatican museum? Will I ever go on that girls’ only vacation with my university friends? Will our lives, so busy these days, ever synchronize again?

But would I do it again? Yes. Because I believe in Life teaching lessons and if it isn’t hard, then I am not learning. And I believe in myself and that I will eventually figure out everything that makes me restless and stressed. And recognizing that I (and others) have underestimated/misunderstood me many times before. This too shall pass.

But most importantly, I would do it again because of love. And it is a lot of sacrifices we have to make when we marry, and have families, so I would only advise this. Don’t make that commitment to someone you don’t love. Love is what makes it all worth it. Love is why you can be happy even when you’re thinking, “Gosh, I’m bungling this parenting thing. This kid has eaten rice three times  in a row.” Love is the “glamour”, the sheen on the whole thing, the laughter, the smiles.

But till love and little humans come your way with their demands on your time, enjoy your glamorous, gloriously uncomplicated life.

 

p.s. If you really connect with these struggles, a couple of us are over at blazersandbaby.com sharing ideas on how to keep sanity and balance in this whirlwind life we’ve chosen. Stop over, some time 🙂

Short Story Excerpt: Family Matters

When Renate checked, she saw that Preye had left a single message. Call Me.

It was like her sister to be cryptic and annoying. Whatever it is, why didn’t she just text the entire message? Her hand hesitated over the green call button beside Preye’s name. What was the matter now?

It was early evening still. As promised, Adeun had brought her to Freedom Park for the monthly Afropolitan Vibes. The band was still setting up and it wasn’t crowded, yet. Adeun had compared it to a concert gathering but it still seemed rather tame. They sat on a raised porch, facing an array of food bars and she’d ordered ofada rice; one of the few cravings she remembered from childhood. Adeun had tried to convince her the ofada wasn’t all that here. “I’ll take you somewhere else. They grind the pepper by hand.”

“I’ll take what I get. When did you say they built this park?”

“I guess 2010? I first came here in 2011 and…”

He was interrupted by a squeal, “Deun!” He turned, just in time to see a petite young woman with waist-length braids and a short Ankara shift dress launch herself at him. “Ah ahn! Long time no see!”

“Guvan! Of all places!”

“Yes! How are you?” She turned and gave Renate a curious look. “Hello?”

“Hi.” Renate did a little wave, bobbed her eyebrows. She was getting used to these things.

“Guvan, this is my…sister, Renate. Renate, Guvan. We were…friends in secondary school.”

Guvan laughed, throwing her head back.  “Friends. Right. Is Renate a Yoruba name? And I thought you were an only child? ”

It was Adeun’s turn to laugh. “I thought I was too.” He planted a kiss on her forehead. “It was great seeing you, Guvan. What’s your number? We should catch up.”

“We should, my love.” She slid off his lap and tapped her number into his phone. “Make sure you call me!”

“I will.”

Renate watched her sashay off, amused. “She’s very pretty.”

“She’s also very crazy. This is why I don’t come here often. Always running into people from the past. Forward ever!” He emptied his beer can.

“That’ll be all for this evening.” She glanced pointedly at the beer can. “That’s your third already.”

“Don’t even start.” The guitarist started to strum and he cocked his head in the direction of the stage. “Shall we get up close? They’ll start in a bit.”

She stood up, and felt her phone vibrate in her bag. She ignored, taking the hand Adeun offered.

“You didn’t bring your camera?” He asked.

“I had a teacher at school who said not every moment should be captured. Sometimes, just enjoy it. It’s a bit like Schrödinger’s experiment.”

“Huh?”

“Is it Schrödinger’s? I don’t remember. But it’s a theory in quantum mechanics that moments are altered if they’re witnessed? I think moments are altered by being captured and you know, brought into a future they weren’t part of.”

“Ehn?” But he was laughing, his yellow eyes twinkling and she punched him playfully. ” You are such a nerd.”

“Whatever.” She took her phone out of her bag as they arrived in the space in front of the big stage. Yup. Preye again.

I know you’re out with Adeun. Be careful. He’s not all he seems. 

She looked up to see him smiling at her but his eyes were harder. “Big sister Preye? She can relax. I don’t have beef with you. She’s the one being unreasonable.”

 

A Thing For Lent

It’s almost cliché, isn’t it? My first post this year is on the first day of Lent. I think it’s safe to say Lent is my favorite part of the Catholic calendar. Does that sound weird?

Lent is ash on my forehead. Lent is fasting and abstinence and purging my soul. Lent is haunting hymns. Lent is sorrow and pain and deprivation and all the things that are considered ugly about human existence. Lent is death. But Lent is also hope. It’s the reminder of everything this world is. Drought. Then rain. Aslan dying. And then resurrecting. Death. And Life after.

Lent is honesty with God. Look, Lord. It’s just me here. With my flaws and imperfections and I’m unworthy, Lord. Many times, I even forget to pray. 

Did I ever tell you how I sometimes envy Muslims their dedication to prayer? Seriously, good Muslims are #dedicationgoals.  I see them stop conversations abruptly so they can go pray. And I think with shame of all the times my phone buzzes that it’s time for my prayer, and I snooze it so I can finish watching YouTube. God. Help your child.

I’m learning that I can hear the Holy Spirit in others. In their words. In their conduct. In people I’d flippantly judge as sinners (because you know, they sin differently from me). God will speak through whomever and whatever He wishes. I just need to keep my eyes and ears open.

I have a couple of posts on Lent so I’ll just post the links here and you can check them out.

Things To Give Up For Lent: For Lent, we’re encouraged to give up bad habits and some licit pleasures. I list a few ideas in the post, for inspiration only. Interestingly, 40 days seems to be a long enough time to loosen the hold of certain addictions. Testimony time. I used to be crazy about Twitter and Instagram. Now, I’m a little less crazy.

A Lenten Reflection on Faith: I reflect on how my search for God (or God’s search for me, depends on your perspective) led me from the Catholic Faith to the Pentecostals and back. I once read something along the lines of “If you’ve never doubted your faith, you don’t understand it.” Small comfort.

Here’s wishing you a productive Lent. See you next week! 🙂

And if you’ve wondered, I’ve been busy working on a new project with some of my friends. Check out blazersandbaby.com, a website designed for working moms. It’s still pretty raw but you might like it 🙂

 

Story of a Bleeding Heart

Kosidinma, my friend’s son passed away last week. His mother, Ehimemen wrote this for him.

Words cannot express the pain I feel at your demise.

You entered my life and made me feel like finally I had a purpose. A purpose that was mine only. Suddenly I knew I owed someone, I knew I owed you a responsibility to raise you as God wants. You gave me sleepless nights but it was all worth it because the look and satisfaction you gave after each feeding was priceless.

 We had a connection which no one understood. Whenever I heard you cry, even when I knew you were having your bath, I jumped out of bed to watch just to make sure your crying was not for something that could have been avoided. 

When people came to congratulate me, I was proud of the child I had begotten and created; bright, tall, independent and a whole lot more. I looked forward to your growing up because I felt you were going to be the next Albert Einstein… (haha).

The smell of your hair was priceless, a fragrance your dad could not resist. Your skin, glowing like the sun shone on it each time it was revealed. Your facial expressions I still make in remembrance of you. Whenever you had a scratch or something, I would always call a doctor to make sure everything was okay and it was.

 The night I took you to the hospital, I hoped that night would be the same. When you had to be admitted and I watched the doctors do all they did, I realized that it was not as simple anymore. When you started recovering, I felt happy to take you home and couldn’t wait to breastfeed you.

The night you passed away, I felt something was wrong but couldn’t place it. I rushed to quickly have my bath so I could sit and sleep with you as always, only to be called from the bathroom that you had passed away. I carried my active son and you felt so cold and calm with no life. I could not stand the pain and differences between you alive and you gone. It was just too much for me to bear. Your bright skin became darker with each passing day. Your smell suddenly changed and I couldn’t recognize my son…. 

I prayed for God to bring you back to me and I still pray but this emptiness I feel when I sleep, waiting for my mums to come wake me up to feed you is forever there. I go to your room to smell the clothes you last wore before going to the hospital to remember. People say I should smile and move on and I am trying but they can never understand how I feel every day, knowing you won’t live it with me.

The smiles and cheer can be deceiving because that is what they want to see but my heart melts each time and prays for you to return to me….. I love you my dear Kosidinma Ehimen Alim and I can’t write everything I feel but in this small note, wherever you are, just know there is someone who loves and adores you so much and I am sorry for letting you go like this.

28.

I turned 28 two months ago. Usually, I’d write a blogpost to commemorate but I wasn’t in the right place mentally at the time. 

I am now. What does 28 mean to me? It’s a question I’ve struggled with but also a question that’s very easy. 28 is familiar, like an old sweater. Like I’ve spent all my life waiting to be 28. Like I was born to be 28. I’ve never felt this way about any other age. Does this make sense?

Physical identity meant a great deal to me when I was 28 years old. I had almost the same kind of relationship with my mirror that many of my contemporaries had with their analysts. Don DeLillo, Americana

28 is…

The age of  “unlearning”.  The age of courage. Of being able to unpack the baggage, the myths, the cliches, the “home training”. They were useful…once. When we were younger and life was easier with a playbook, a rulebook. But life’s so much complicated. And it’s so much work to be likable. And how do I know I’m doing it right, sef?

28 is checking my stereotypes and prejudices and privileges.  28 is the wonder I feel when I give the benefit of doubt and realize someone I thought a stock character is actually so much more interesting.

28 is understanding my parents again. Recognizing their flaws and my blamelessness. And forgiving them still. Forgiving them because they knew not what they did. Forgiving them because I might still make those mistakes with my own children. 28 is understanding that my parents believed everything they told me, even if all those “truths” now prove to be false. It was their truth. What’s mine?

28 is eyebrows that will never be on fleek and the impatience to sit still for a manicure.

28 is recognizing the imposter syndrome in others. 28 is subduing mine. 

28 is finding my happiness in myself and in things I have control over. 28 is realizing I can’t influence some circumstances or other people’s behavior but I can influence my response. Still. 28 is  saying to my darlings, “You make me happy”. Because “I choose to respond positively to your actions and be happy” isn’t quite as romantic. Plus, it’s a weird thing to say.

28 is worry. About the economy. About society. And 28 is hope. And optimism. And furiously making plans through the night, scribbling, typing, hoping. We can do this. We can fix it.

28 is strength and self-awareness. 28 is feeling like I’ve earned my seat at the table and the right to speak. 28 is choosing whether or not to exercise that right. 

I rather like 28. 😊 What’s your favorite age? 
P.s. if you haven’t read it already, I have a story up for voting. If you like it, just click the 👍🏽 button. The button doesn’t always work so you might have to try a few times. Thanks!

P.p.s. I’m doing NaNoWriMo, guys. It’s this thing where you commit to writing 1667 words of your novel every day in November. The goal is 50000 words at the end of the month. And yes, I’m utterly depressed about how far behind I am because I’m not writing all the words I should but yes, I love that I’m writing everyday and not being a wimp. Yay. *waves banner*

5 Ways You Can Make Your Home Safer Today

We hardly ever think about these things except to say, “It’s not my portion.” But events can blind side us on any given Tuesday and emergencies don’t discriminate between creeds or beliefs. The difference between an accident and a fatality is often the emergency response. Don’t even dull.

Powder extinguishers are colour-coded Blue.

Powder extinguishers are colour-coded Blue.

1. Buy a fire extinguisher/fire blanket. For N5000, you can get a decent fire blanket from your nearest fire station, hardware store (Game, for instance) or online. A fire blanket can be thrown over a small fire or wrapped around a burning person to starve the fire of air. You know those kitchen fires that start with a burning pot of oil? You need a fire blanket. Any old blanket won’t work; fire blankets are specially made with fire-retardant material so they won’t burn.

In this country where fire fighters are practically unicorns (non-existent), you also need a fire extinguisher for those bigger fires that you can’t throw a blanket over. There are different types of fire extinguishers but industry experts recommend dry powder extinguishers for homes. Dry powder will extinguish fires fueled by solids (paper, wood, plastic), flammable liquids (petrol, oil) and flammable gas (cooking gas). It can also be used on electric fires. Be warned, though. Dry powder extinguishers are very messy. Also note that gas fires are best extinguished by closing off the gas supply.

2. Move your gas cylinder outside. If a gas leak occurs, you don’t want your kitchen filled with flammable gas. Move your cylinder outside so that it can leak in peace. Enough said.

3. Place household chemicals in properly labeled bottles. When I was in NYSC camp, I stored my Jik bleach in a water bottle under my bed. My bunk-mate was eating lunch one afternoon, started to choke, reached for the nearest bottle of “water” and drank my bleach. My life flashed before my eyes. How was I going to explain myself to the soldiers if she died? Thankfully, she survived after a lot of gagging and coughing. Moral of the story? Don’t place chemicals in misleading containers. Don’t put kerosene in coke bottles. Don’t put otapiapia in Sprite bottles. You get the drift.

4. Emergency plan/numbers. When an emergency happens, what will you do? What will your family do? If there’s a fire, where is the agreed safe point to muster? If there’s an injury, and the main caregiver is unavailable, who else can be called? Are those numbers visible somewhere? Is the balcony a practical emergency exit? Is the entire family on the same page?

5. Store your petrol/diesel outdoors but away from your generator. It’s ridiculous how many people keep their fuel right beside their generators because of convenience. An accident waiting to happen, guys. Heat plus fuel equals an explosion. Let’s also consider the dangers of refueling a generator while it’s running because we don’t want to miss a minute of football/Tinsel action. Have you seen what fire does to human flesh?

What safety tips would you add?

p.s. I’m returning to my fiction roots (yay!). Lol. I wrote a short story for the Etisalat Flash Fiction prize. You can read it here, and if you like it, please vote and share with your friends. Thanks!

Blessed Are The Merciful: Shelter the Homeless

 When I count my blessings, having a roof over my head comes in the top 5. I never take it for granted because at a point in my childhood, we were almost homeless. Our landlord decided he wanted to demolish our home and build a block of flats instead. We got a quit notice. We started building a house someplace else but were unable to finish it before our eviction deadline. We moved into the new house literally in the middle of construction. That was an interesting experience. 🙂

malnourishment-idp-camp-in-bornoWe had a happy ending. Not everyone is this lucky. I’m thinking of the Internally Displaced Persons who have fled their homes and livelihoods in the North because of Boko Haram. I’m thinking of unemployed young people in Lagos who sleep under bridges, in buses, in doorways. I’m thinking of the beggars on our streets. I’m thinking of the ones we call “mad” who really are just homeless people rendered anti-social by the way we treat them.

“Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.” We are God’s tools in the world, and he wants to use us to bring succour to others. He gives us ample opportunity to show his love in the world, and we cannot ignore this. On a global level, there are the Syrian refugees seeking asylum and yes, they feel so remote, so far from our current reality but again, we cannot ignore them. And then there are all the people displaced by conflicts that aren’t covered on CNN, wars that we know nothing about, natural disasters and economic factors that we are ignorant of. It seems daunting, doesn’t it?

Because the problem is pervasive, we face the temptation to be like the rich man in the parable; we no longer see the Lazarus we practically have to step over.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb 13:2)

Still, like Mother Theresa used to say, Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest to you. If you can’t feed 100 people, then feed one. I dare paraphrase and say, “If we can’t shelter 100 people, we should shelter one.” Let’s start, shall we?

  1. Donate money, clothes, food, blankets, toiletries to a fund for IDPs/IDP camps. Donate locally, donate internationally.
  2. Welcome others to your home. Make your home environment pleasing.
  3. Find an orphanage, homeless shelter or old people’s home in your neighbourhood. Organize a service project with your friends. (p.s. if anyone knows any of the above in the Lagos Island-VI-Ikoyi-Lekki axis, please let me know! Thanks!)
  4. Help an unemployed person find a job. Offer to review their CV, write a reference, call in a favour, employ them if you can!
  5. Consider that if you earn a living now to put a roof over your family’s heads (or you contribute in some way), you’re already living this work of mercy in a practical way. Try to see it from a spiritual point of view, and thank God that He’s given you the means to do His work.
  6. Someone you know somewhere is struggling to pay rent or has been evicted. How can you help out?

What else would you add?

Blessed Are The Merciful: Clothing the Naked

“…I was naked and you clothed me.” Matthew 25: 35-36

I wonder what I should write about this. It seems easy enough, doesn’t it? “Clothe the naked”.  We should spring-clean our closets and give to the poor all the clothes we no longer want. The problem is that I hardly ever do this with a proper Christian attitude, with what some of my friends would call “rectitude of intention”. The clothes I give out are usually over-size or too tight or faded/worn or out of fashion. Cleaning out my closet is then less of a sacrifice, and more of a necessity. Yay. Free space in closet. Done good deed for the month. Gotten moral justification. Must shop.

I don’t know. I think I could do better. I think God would want me to do better.

Clothing serves two purposes. Protection from the elements and preservation of dignity. The last point is key because it also highlights something we often overlook: the origin of some of the clothes we wear.

Behind many major clothing labels are sweatshops, in 3rd world countries, crammed with women and children, working in the most inhumane conditions to stitch the denim you and I wear. Our money funds that industry that strips many families of their dignity, of any hope of a decent living income. Let’s think about it for a second.

And let’s think about the fact that if clothing the naked is a virtue, then stripping the clothed must be a sin. On first reflection, this denounces crimes especially of a sexual nature, crimes of abuse against the vulnerable, children included. But there’s a deeper layer to this. There’s the porn industry that makes money from stripping men, women and children naked, stripping them of the right to basic human dignity. And how have we participated in this?

And clothing the naked goes beyond physical nakedness to include emotional vulnerability. When I see someone who’s emotionally naked, how do I react? When someone’s secrets or flaws or problems are suddenly made public against their will, do I join in the online gawking? The snide remarks? The social media shaming? Or do I “clothe” them by averting my gaze, by being kind in my thoughts, by praying for them to be resilient against the often merciless onslaught of social-media justice?

This post is a lot heavier than I want it to be, than I thought it would be. But I did pray for the words, and here they are. Do with them what you will.

How can we clothe the naked?

 

We Should All Be Mad

What are you mad about?

When I was younger, I was taught/told that all I had to do was get good marks, pass my exams and graduate with a good degree. I’d have a job, and with it financial security and independence. The lines would fall in all the right places. And they did. For some people. Some are lucky to have jobs when they graduate. But for the majority, there are no jobs. Not because they’re unqualified, not because they’re incompetent. No. Sheer (bad?) luck. A tragic game of musical chairs and I am mad, so mad that my family and friends are unemployed or underemployed and there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

What are you mad about?

My friend’s mother died earlier this year because she couldn’t get emergency dialysis done in the middle of the night. Another friend slumped while jogging. Government hospitals ask expectant mothers to come for delivery with candles, diesel, rechargeable flash lights. Women die in childbirth of the most routine causes. Babies die, children die of diseases and complications that shouldn’t kill anyone in the 21st century. Doctors can’t afford middle-class lifestyles. Surgeries are carried out with torches. And I am mad (and scared) that if my loved ones need emergency medical intervention, they probably will not get it.

What are you mad about?

I cook with “pure” water in my home; our bore hole water is so heavily treated, I dare not put it in my food. The Water Corporation is the sad punchline of a mirthless joke. My street association is considering levying us all to pave the street. The local government is a joke. At some point, we were considering hiring private security guards. Because the police is not our friend. As I type this, the cacophony of generators is giving me a headache. The rain probably knocked out a few power lines. Our street is flooded. No drains. And I’m mad, mad, mad that I’m forced to pay 24% of my income as tax for amenities I do not get.

What are you mad about?

I’m mad about the indiscipline we exhibit when we drive on our roads, queue at banks and gather in public. I’m mad about bad roads that kill people. I’m mad about traffic that shortens my life span. I’m mad about officers that harass me instead of helping me. I’m mad that children are leaving primary school who can’t read. I’m mad that some people get to live by a different set of rules. And not just the rich and powerful either. Have you noticed how danfo drivers get away with all sorts of traffic infractions but LASTMA will fine you for stopping your car on a zebra crossing?

What are you mad about? And what do you hope for? And is your hope strong enough that you want to do something about it? To write about it, to talk about it? To meet up with your friends and do something about it? Do you feel strongly enough to form your own political party? Or to join one of the others? Are you moved enough to volunteer for a good cause? Are you mad enough?

The Woman You Married

Look.

Look at her, the woman you married. Look at her dozing as she nurses your child, make-up still on her face, one shoe off. Look at her doing the last of the dishes in the evening, still in her work clothes. Look at her as she patiently spoons rice into your toddler’s mouth, barely flinching as the child spills yet another cupful of water on the floor. Look at her.

Look at her “adulting”. Trying to adult. Trying to be her mother, and her aunts, and her grandmothers. Trying to do it all, like she’s seen them do it all. Wear lace, walk in heels, attend weddings, go to the market, manage the domestic staff, do the last load of laundry. Can you tell we’re actually just little girls playing dress-up in our mothers’ lives?

Look at her, smiling gamely as the baby places hands sticky with drool on her face. Look at her teaching your daughter to lace her shoes. Look at her, sighing with disgust at the fact that her jeans no longer fit. Neither do her tee-shirts. Nor the sequined mini-dress you bought her two Valentines ago.

“I love my child more than I love her. And she knows it. And she knows that I know that she knows it.”

Look at her loving you despite it all. Look at her, the girl you wooed with gifts and dates and text messages after dark. And you promised her forever when you gave her that ring. How was she to know it was forever of…this? Of dirty dishes, and dirty diapers. Of Saturday football matches and box braids. Of rice and stew dinners. Of rainy Mondays. Of sharing the same bar of Imperial Leather soap. Of Toyota Camrys with strange warning lights on their dashboards. Of kiddy toys that light up in the dark by themselves at the oddest times, playing cheerful trumpets. Of the flotsam, jetsam, detritus of everyday living when you’re a young, bourgeois couple in this cold, cold world. Where is the glamour?

The absence of sadness is not happiness. I thought you knew that already.

Love her again, maybe? Love her, this time not with kisses and gifts and date nights at fancy restaurants. Love her in the simple things. Time to read a book. To write. To catch up with her friends. Quiet conversations about deep things. Hold her hand. Pray with her. Pray for her. Hold the baby for an hour, two hours. Love her in the things she loves. Her job. How did her day go? Her extended family. Love her with your patience. When she snaps. When dinner is straight out of the Old Testament: Burnt Offerings and Bloody Sacrifices. Make her laugh again. Remember? Like you used to before you made her your wife.

Blessed Are The Merciful: Difficult Conversations

Thank you, guys, for sticking around despite my inconsistent blogging. 🙂 How’ve you been? I’ve missed this.

Anyways, I’m so behind on my posting schedule for the Works of Mercy series. I was wondering how I’d even catch up but then I realized that a number of them have the same themes. 😀 (No, it’s not cheating.)
St. Paul is one of my favorite saints. His conversion story reminds me of God’s infinite mercy. How else could one man go from being a terrorist (think Isis-type of religious persecution of Christians) to being one of Christianity’s biggest proponents? Seriously.

But in all the drama of Paul’s life there’s a character who’s sometimes forgotten. Ananias of Damascus. The believer through whom Paul’s sight was restored. The one who gave him his first instruction and then baptized him.

This month, I’m focusing on the first 3 Spiritual Works of Mercy.

  • To counsel the doubtful
  • Teach the ignorant
  • Admonish sinners

All of us know dozens of “ignorant” people we would just love to “instruct” i.e. Tell how to see and do things our way. Lol. No, that’s not what this is about. Ignorant in this case doesn’t mean stupid or foolish. It means someone who doesn’t know. The way I don’t know how to speak French 😀. Teaching the Ignorant is about helping people understand and learn.

The thing about the Spiritual Works is that they are kind acts by which we help our neighbours/friends/family with their everyday spiritual and emotional needs.

Obviously, the most important thing to learn is the way to salvation. But being lay people, we run the risk of unwittingly propagating error, if we’re not careful.

www.eurekanaija.com

To help, we must first “have”. That seems obvious when we consider the physical works of mercy. To feed someone, we need to have food. And if we apply that to “counseling the doubtful”, for instance, it’s only logical that we have faith ourselves first.

 That’s why the most important first step is to get a spiritual director; someone who  you sufficiently trust to mentor you on matters of the faith. Your very own Ananias.

I find that I can deal with “teaching” and “counseling”. God has been patient with me; I’ve learned so much from my life experiences and conversations with others. And I’m always willing to share what I’ve learned when I think it’ll help.

I struggle when I think of “admonishing”. Because I know myself. I look at myself in the mirror and Psalm 51:3 flashes before my eyes. I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me. I don’t think I’m in any way qualified to admonish people for sins, not when mine may be “worse”. Not when I consider that if I had those particular temptations, I might also succumb.

But we’re all struggling, right? And we encourage each other. In the end, I think I’d want to be corrected (lovingly 😀)  when I do the wrong thing.

 So here are a few ideas:

  1. Commit yourself to learning about the Christian faith and forming your conscience, and then share what you learn with others.
  2. Read good literature, listen to good music, watch good shows and encourage others to do the same.
  3. Take time to tutor someone who’s just beginning a task (think of your younger siblings, or colleagues. How many times have you lost your patience with someone who couldn’t seem to figure out how to do something?)
  4. Share your insights, knowledge and skills. (Popular thinking might have you hoarding information to stay “competitive”. Say No to this mindset. Help someone.)
  5. Be compassionate in calling people and institutions to be faithful to Gospel values. Edward Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Sometimes, simply saying something is all we can do.
  6. Intervene in situations where people are clearly doing harm to themselves or others.
  7. Respond to negative and prejudicial comments with positive statements.
  8. Put an end to gossip by walking away or ignoring it or refusing to respond.
  9. Set a good example for others.

What do you think? Do you have any ideas how else we could live this work of mercy?

The Art of Balance: Creativity and Your Day-Job

My friend, Ozoz, is a phenomenon.

She’s a geologist, a blogger, a recipe creator, a “traveller by plate”, a photographer and a cook. She’s also a mom. She’s  given a TedTalk, appeared on TV a few times, held a photography exhibition and recently collaborated on #TechmeetsArtng.

I, on the other hand, struggle with staying awake long enough to update my blog.

Forget work-life balance. I’m not even sure what that is.

I think about this often: how to balance my day-job with my creative life, my social obligations, my family life, my spiritual life …and a need to sleep. Sleep is winning, I must admit.

Someone commented once that she’s not sure how I do everything. The truth is, I don’t. Some days, I should be writing and I just want to bake chocolate chip cookies instead. So I bake the cookies and eat them as I mindlessly scroll through Pinterest and Twitter.

I console myself with this TedTalk by Nigel Marsh. I’ve listed it in my post on the  5 TedTalks Every Young Professional should watch. In this particular TedTalk, Nigel jokes about being able to balance his life only after he quit his job. Lol.

image

Importantly, he talks about achieving work-life balance long term, not day-to-day. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Sometimes, work is pretty hectic for a month or so, and there’s no way to “balance” things without looking like a jerk to your team mates. And then, there are periods when things are sort of chill, and so you can easily take time off to do other stuff.

Still, I admit I could make more effort. So when @theIbukun pointed out on Instagram that the Google Calendar app allowed you to schedule your micro-goals, I immediately downloaded it. (Clearly I depend a lot on technology to keep my life organized. Re: my post on my favorite apps.)

I’m trying to kick off my old habit of doing “pages” first thing in the morning. I have to wake up early enough to write 3 pages in my journal. Rant and ramble. I got into it because I read The Artist’s Way last year.  I can do it. Technically, I’m awake feeding my lad at 4:30 am. But then once I’m done, I just want to close my eyes and catch the last 30 minutes of sleep before my alarm goes off. I told you sleep was winning.

What do you think? Do you have your life all balanced out? How do you do it? Or are you struggling too?

P.s. If you’ve asked me a question in the last few months (via comments, emails, the Facebook page or the contact box) that I’m yet to respond to, please resend it and I’ll get to it asap. Thanks!

Food Hacks: For the Love of Moin-Moin

I wish I could say I was adapting to motherhood. But it’s not exactly true, is it? Motherhood doesn’t give room for “adaptation”. It seizes its share of your life, your time, your space. 

And I could go on and on about how it’s a good kind of “baby takeover” or conversely, how important I think it is to maintain one’s autonomy in the face of a baby’s subtle manipulation (lol!) but this is not that kind of post. 

No, it’s not. I want to talk about food instead. Specifically, I want to talk about moi-moi. 

  If Nigerians were into superfoods and all what not, moi-moi would be a superfood. It ticks all the right boxes. High-protein (especially when filled with fish), check. Bulky enough to be filling, check. Nutty umami-ness, check. I love moi-moi. I’m not so crazy about all the work required to make it.

These days, though, I’m making it once a week. Thanks to two hacks I discovered about roughly the same time.

The first is bean flour. No, not the commercial ones with their weird chemical taste. This bean flour is homemade. Simply soak beans, peel them, sun-dry for as long as necessary and then mill it. Voila! I like this hack because it saves time in the long run. When I’m ready to eat moi moi, I simply blend the flour with peppers and onions and in less than 5 minutes, I have moi-moi batter. 

  Another hack is to peel beans with a food processor but I’ve never quite gotten the hang of that.

Yet a third hack is to forget about peeling the beans and simply blend soaked beans with onions and peppers. I haven’t tried this either but I hear it doesn’t make a difference in taste.

I’m seriously considering milling dry, unpeeled beans. No, it’s not laziness. Lol. I mean, didn’t you hear that the skin of the beans holds the majority of the protein content?

Anyhow, guess what else I found? Silicone moi-moi moulds. That’s right. Someone came up with this nifty product so I don’t have to wrap my moi-moi in banana leaves. Because I don’t even have the strength right now.

   I like the fact that they have little lids. Basically, I transfer these babies from the pot to the fridge to the microwave oven to  my lunch bag. Silicone wrap 1, banana leaves 0. Convenient, check.

The manufacturers claim you can also bake muffins with the moulds but trapezium-shaped desserts aren’t my thing right now. I can see that happening in my future, though. I can also use them as food molds for when I want to get fancy with presentation.
If you’re going to use them for moi-moi, I’d recommend you lightly grease the insides first. My experience was that it made it easier to get the moi moi out.

And I can’t believe I just did a whole blog post on moi-moi. Lol. Okay, I’m going now. At least, I’ve done a post. 

P.s. Disclaimer: This is not an ad or a sponsored post. However, the manufacturers did send me a pack for review purposes. If you’d like to buy a pack, here’s their store.

P.p.s. If you’re wondering which recipe I use, I modified this one from dooneyskitchen.com. 

Nigerian Blogs I Love: Ihunda’s Musings

One of my blog resolutions is to share bloggers I love with my readers. I think it’s important for you to know there are so many good bloggers out there.

 I don’t remember exactly when I started following Afoma’s blog and Instagram feed. Right now, it feels like a long time ago. What delights me about her photographs? The colors, maybe. The charm she captures…the details. Her mindfulness (something I’ve been working on forever). We share a fondness for H&M blouses. And I must admit to a slight envy. Of her talent with the camera and the fact that she goes to school on a beautiful island.  And yes, she’s a student. A medical student. How cool is that? 

Describe your blog with five words.

Personal. Inspiring. Delightful. Happy place.

Why did you start your blog?

I was in dire need of self-expression. I was 16 and tired of talking to myself constantly (which I still do). I somehow caught the oversharing bug before I even knew it was a thing. If you look back at posts from three years before, you’ll notice there was a lot more rambling and sharing. It was so exciting for me. While I still enjoy it now, I definitely am more cautious as to what I share.

  I know you’ve blogged about your typical day here, but what would your ideal day look like?

Right now, I’m smack in the middle of preparing for the USMLE (medical exam) Step 1, so my ideal day would be:

5:00- wake up. Read my devotional and bible. Pray.

5:30- Do a test block (44 questions), annotate answers into textbook.

8:30- Make/Eat breakfast

9:00- Study material for the day. I’m doing system based study (Sorry guys, this is getting really medical student ish) so I’ll usually do, for example renal system anatomy & physiology first.

12:00- Take a break to make lunch. Watch TV while I eat.

1:00- Do another question block.

4:00- Take a break to shower. I also do *ahem* pajama based studying. It’s very efficient.

4:30- Have tea and a chocolate bar.

5:00- Study pathology and pharmacology of same system.

9:00- Make dinner

10:00- Unwind with a good book or podcast. Text friends in other timezones.

11:00- Bed time!

Who would you love to connect with via your blog?

Women. I really love connecting with young girls and women who read my blog. Of course, I’ve made a number of male friends via my blog and I appreciate every single one of them, but it’s a bit different with the lady friends I’ve made and it’s honestly the most enjoyable part of my experience as a blogger.

  If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what do you hope to accomplish?

One of my goals this year (after my exams, hoho) is to be more open (as much as I can afford to be) about struggles and not just great times. I read so many bloggers who with their blog posts almost sort of hold your hand and say “you’re not alone”. I want to do that more.

I’m also trying to connect more with the med student community without alienating my other readers. I’ve become even more passionate about medicine and my medical career (and the struggles that abound) in the last year and I think about it as much as I do books (even more than fashion, since I’ve been studying in sleep wear) and I’m itching to talk about it somehow.

I love my current community of blog readers but I’d like to add a few more people; not just numbers, but actively participating members who’ll share the blog with people they think might like something. I hope to have regained consistency by the end of the year as well J

If you could only keep 5 possessions, what would they be?

Passport. My phone. Journal(s). Old photo albums. Clothes on my back? (this was so stressful)

Favorite childhood memory?

Ah. This one time, when I was about 7/8, we went to my dad’s office party. I think it was their anniversary or something. It was at the Port Harcourt amusement park (I’ve forgotten what it used to be called) and we went on nearly ALL of the rides, my brother and I. The thrill was unforgettable. Then it was late afternoon and they started to play music. I’ve always loved dancing, so you should have seen me! I did the go-all-the-way-down-and-come-back-up move. Everyone was cheering and some of the adults pretended to compete with me and then gave up (or maybe they really gave up? I’m a machine on the dance floor). It was one of those times when every single person around you is happy and there’s not a care in the world.

Please check out her blog: www.ihundasmusings.com and let me know what you think. Who are your favorite Nigerian bloggers? 

Things To Give Up This Lent: A List of Ideas

We interrupt our regular “Blessed Are The Merciful” series to bring you this Lenten edition. 😀

So Lent begins officially on Wednesday. That’s tomorrow. Traditionally, these 40 days before Easter are dedicated to fasting, alms giving and prayer. The model is Christ’s example; he spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting and praying. Most people remember the fasting; not everyone remembers giving alms and using the season to deepen our prayer life.

And when we say fasting, people automatically think of food. Then there are all the various modes of fasting as practiced by the various denominations. 6am to 6pm fasting, one-large-meal per day fasting, dry fasting (no liquids, no food), one normal-sized meal per day and liquids (Milo, Lucozade etc.) to supplement… I could go on.

  

For clarity, these are the rules for fasting in the Catholic Church:

  1. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are prescribed days of fasting and abstinence (from the flesh of all animals except fish) for Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59. The ill, pregnant and nursing mothers are exempt. The age of abstinence is 14 years till death.
  2. Every Friday in Lent is a day of abstinence.
  3. The prescribed fasts entail one full, meatless meal that day. Liquids are permitted but the faithful are encouraged to be guided by their consciences.  Two smaller, meatless and penitential meals are permitted according to one’s needs, but they should not together equal the one full meal. Eating solid foods between meals is not permitted.

Other churches might have a different code. Confirm with your pastor/deacon. 

But fasting and abstinence don’t have to be about food alone. Giving up licit pleasures and bad habits are another way to mortify ourselves this season. Some people prefer to discipline themselves and take up new, helpful habits. The choices are many, the benefits worthwhile. In the end, it is a time for renewing our baptismal vows, for reflecting on our conversion and our vocation as Christians and children of God. We are God’s children! We don’t often act like we know it, sometimes our lifestyles are indistinguishable from that of pagans. Lent is an opportunity to rectify this and let the life of Christ shine through. Let’s do it!

Just in case you’re stumped and haven’t figured out what to give up yet, here are a few ideas.

Things To Root Out

  • Drunkenness
  • Gossip
  • Porn
  • Whining/Complaining
  • Bragging/showing off
  • Negativity
  • Laziness
  • Arguing
  • Judging People
  • Comparing yourself to others
  • Anger
  • Impure TV shows, books, movies, music (Clean up your iTunes, your hard disk, your PC)
  • Cursing
  • Pride
  • Rudeness
  • Envy

Things to sacrifice

  • Favorite snacks / sodas
  • TV
  • Social media
  • Make up
  • Nail polish
  • Jewelry
  • Social events
  • Shopping
  • Secular music
  • The snooze button
  • Fast/junk food
  • Sugar
  • Your pillow
  • Your bed (sleep on the floor)
  • Hot showers/baths
  • Staying up late (give yourself a bedtime and stick to it)
  • Alcohol
  • Movies
  • Your favorite colour
  • Using your phone during meals or when with people
  • Give up all drinks except water

  

Pray some more daily

  • Don’t use your phone in the morning till you’ve read from a spiritual book (at least, 10 minutes reading)
  • Say prayers as a family.
  • Say morning prayers.
  • Say evening prayers.
  • Go to daily mass.
  • Meditate for 15 minutes.
  • Read a bible chapter.
  • Read the mass readings.
  • Pray the rosary or a decade, at least.
  • Finally join a bible study group.
  • Subscribe to some good Christian blogs.
  • Pray instead of playing music when you drive.
  • Pay attention in church.
  • Go to confession. Do it.
  • Ask your family and friends for their prayer needs and actually pray for them. Choose a different person to pray for each day.

  

Give alms

  • Give away all the money you save from making a Lenten practice. Gave up social media? Donate your data money.
  • Step up your tithing from 10% to 15%.
  • Choose a currency denomination and resolve to give away every note of it you get as change. E.g. Choose to give (and not spend) every N100 (and smaller note) you get.
  • Give a compliment to a different person every day.
  • Perform an act of kindness daily.
  • Call a relative you haven’t spoken to in ages.
  • Give time to a good cause.

Other ideas

  • Make your bed immediately you wake.
  • Wash your dishes immediately you use them.
  • Stop being a Whatsapp ninja, call someone.
  • Stop being a phone call ninja, visit someone.

We’re advised to pick one or two of these practices and be intentional about them. The idea isn’t the act itself, it’s the sacrifice required to perform the act. So don’t pick “sacrificing social media” if you’re going to be in a remote village without Internet, anyways. 

I find that simply choosing one sacrifice presents me with numerous opportunities to actually live that sacrifice. The temptations are so strong. Take the snooze button, for instance. I know people (read: yours truly) who set their alarms for 5am so they can wake up at 5:30am. The battle to jump up immediately the alarm rings is not a small one. And how about sticking to a preset bedtime? Isn’t it when you’ve decided to go to bed at 10pm that something interesting starts trending on Twitter at 9:50pm? And don’t even let me start with the social media fasting! Going cold turkey might be easy; staying cold turkey is the problem. The itch to check your Instagram feed, the burn to tweet a brilliant line, the lure of BN and Linda Ikeji and Nairaland and even this blog 😊…

  

But we can do it! We will try. So help us, God. We pray for grace, and strength for Lent, and also after Lent. Hopefully, our secret practices become lifelong habits and the beginning of a deeper relationship with God. May the blessings of this season be on us all.

What other ideas would you add to the list above? What could people give up or start doing for Lent?

    My Natural Hair Regime: Daily, Weekly, Monthly

    I’ve been asked many times about a simple weekly regimen for natural hair care. So I’m going to share what works for me. I’m pretty lazy about my hair, I’m not always faithful to this regimen,  I’m not an expert and if your hair is different from mine, your results might be different. That said, here goes.

    Taking care of natural hair involves balancing the protein and moisture needs of your hair. Experience usually teaches you whether your hair needs more protein or moisture. Mine needs more moisture.

    Daily Routine

    1. Fill a spray bottle with one table spoon of vegetable glycerin, two tablespoons of any oil of your choice (olive, coconut, jojoba etc.) and top up with water. Shake well and spritz your hair.
    2. If your hair is short enough, you can comb it. If not, just use your fingers to detangle it. Fun fact: nobody expects natural hair to be sleek and smooth. Don’t stress yourself.
    3. Style your hair.
    4. Sleep with a scarf on. It’ll preserve your hairstyle and protect your hair from drying out.

    Short Afro puff

      Weekly Routine (short hair)

      1. Co-wash hair with a cheap conditioner. I recommend VO5.
      2. Air dry hair.
      3. Apply leave-in conditioner and seal with an oil or butter. I recommend Cantu Shea Leave-In and whipped Shea butter. Some naturals apply a moisturizing cream too but I don’t. It weighs my hair down.
      4. Style hair.

      Wild hair, don’t care!

        Weekly Routine (long hair)

        1. See step 3 above.
        2. Co-wash hair every two weeks.

        Monthly

        1. Deep condition hair. Alternate moisturizing conditioners and protein conditioners.

         

         I use CPR Deep Conditioner for protein and Aubrey’s Organics Honeysuckle conditioner for moisturizing. If you’re a DIY person, you could make a protein conditioner by mixing one egg yolk with two tablespoons of honey. For a moisturizing treatment, blend one overripe banana with two tablespoons of honey and two tablespoons of olive oil. Lol. People tease that natural hair eats better than its owners (#foodnothairproduct) but hey 🙂

        That’s about it. All that’s left to add is to be sure to deep condition your hair before and after you do a long term hairstyle like braids or fixing a weave.

        Above all, be patient with your hair. It’s unique to you, and doesn’t have to be like anybody else’s. Give it time, it will grow. Have fun with it. Enjoy it. It’s an accessory so don’t let it dominate your whole life. Make it work for you. 😀

        Pregnancy Diary: Part 3 (Giving Birth)

        Sooo…you might have noticed that it’s been awfully quiet around here for a while. I literally just found the time to open WordPress…and to breathe…and to take a proper shower…and to think…because, would you believe it, I am now a mother!

        A couple of weeks ago, a little human being whipped and nae-naed his way out of me. He did whip and nae-nae, I have video footage to prove it! I will be keeping that to show his friends when he’s a teenager and starts to annoy me.

        This was my perfect, ideal birth plan.

        • At the 39-week mark, with my husband and aunt in attendance, go into labour.
        • Manage the pains of first stage labour with activities like sitting on my exercise ball, long walks, baking, reading a book, taking a warm shower etc.
        • After my water breaks, proceed to the hospital with my packed bag containing my music player, framed pictures of calming scenery, energy drinks and cookies for my nurses.
        • At the hospital, chat with my nurses. Brave the pain. Dance a bit to the playlist K was supposed to compile for me.
        • Delay or totally avoid the epidural. Labour for 6 hours or less. Deliver in the squat position.
        • Avoid any tears that will require stitches.
        • Walk out the next day with my child.

        Didn’t happen, folks.

        First, D. arrived at 37 weeks. Everyone said that was almost impossible. It’s your first baby; first babies usually overshoot their due date. Didn’t happen, people. 37 weeks, and I hadn’t packed my hospital bag or bought him a car seat. When labour started, I remained in denial. “It’s impossible, I’m not in labour. This can’t be happening in real life…”

        It happened in real life.

         January 10, 2015

         

         Our wedding anniversary. K and I go out that evening. In New Orleans, there’s a street called Frenchmen. It has the most amazing jazz clubs and the music is top-rate. We went dancing 🙂 Hard to imagine with my big, 37-week pregnant belly but yes, I managed to make a few moves. 🙂 When I get home, I notice some cramping, nothing major. I ignore it.

          

        January 12, 2016

        I wake up with an unexpected burst of energy and the inexplicable need to scrub the bathroom. I pull up a new playlist on Amazon Prime and I belly dance. I wash the bathroom, on my hands and knees. (One of the signs of early labour is a spurt of extra energy that the body plans to use to labour.)

        When I stand up, I notice that my bump seems lower.  My husband agrees it looks funny but we shrug it off. (This is called ‘lightening’ and is another sign of early labour.

        I sit on my exercise ball all day. At some point, I even pump it higher. (The exercise ball is used during pregnancy to relieve back pain by promoting good posture. It also widens the pelvis, and helps position the baby in the optimal position for birth.)

        By bedtime, I have cramps and a backache. I’m too restless to lie in bed, I lie on the floor instead.

        Me: These cramps are uncomfortable.

        K: Drink water. (My OB-GYN had once commented that false contractions might be caused by dehydration.)

         January 13, about 1 am

        I drink water for hours, people.  I lean over on my exercise ball, hugging it and rocking myself back and forth. It helps a bit. I drink more water. I’m tired but I can’t sleep.  Maybe this is really labour. The thought crosses my mind for a second and I panic. I am not ready to have the baby. There are things to buy. There are preparations to make. There are books to finish reading!

         Me: I think we should call the doctor.

        K: And tell her what? It’s midnight. There’s nothing wrong. 

        Me: What if I’m in labour?

        K: You’re not. This baby isn’t due for 3 weeks. Just rest. Sleep. We’ll see her in the afternoon.

        Me: *lies down on the floor. Starts to Google early labour signs*

         I download an app to time my contractions (honestly, this is the only way to time contractions. I can’t imagine using a clock). Some contractions are long, some short and the intervals vary. The randomness comforts me. The standard for confirmed labour is the 5-1-1 rule; five-minute intervals, one-minute duration for at least one hour.  This can’t be real labour, I think.

        About 3:40 am.

        Somehow, improbably, I doze despite the discomfort. I’m lying on the floor, covered in blankets. How do contractions feel? Like period pains multiplied by a million. They’re not unbearable if you don’t panic, if you don’t think about them lasting multiple hours.  And they stop. So you have a minute or so of intense contracting where you can’t talk or think of anything and then you have two minutes of nothing. No pain. No squeezing. Nothing. Not so bad, right?

        Then my water breaks. A small pop and a release of tension I wasn’t even aware of. A leak, like I’m incontinent. My pyjama shorts are wet but I can’t tell if it’s because I’m sweating so much.

         Me: I think my water just broke.

        K: That’s not how water breaks, na. There should be plenty. This is too small.

        At this point, I decide to listen to my body instead. And my body is telling me that this baby is coming at 37 weeks. And that I’ve been in labour for hours without knowing it. And that I better get to the hospital unless I want to give birth at home.

        We wake our very amazing friend and hostess, Akunna. She agrees with me. We call the doctor and she tells us to go to the hospital. She’ll meet me there.

        We drive for what seems like hours to me. In reality, it’s less than 10 minutes. I grit my teeth for for every bump and pothole on the road.

        At the hospital, my contractions are strong enough to make me tremble. I’m taken to the observation room and given a hospital gown.

        kaito_23943169623_o

        #Labourthings #BabyLoading #WeDoItForTheGram #after8hoursoflabour 😀

        “We have to confirm that you’re actually in labour and that your water has broken before we can admit you.”

         They check; I’m about 1 cm dilated and they think they can feel the baby’s hair but they’re not sure my water has broken. They decide to wait and see before sending me home. I just want to sleep. I’m hoping they give me a sleeping pill or something. If I can only sleep for a bit, I know I’ll be able to wait out the contractions. I ask K to hold my hand, massage my feet… anything to distract me. Nothing works. I start to pray.

         An hour later, the nurses return to check me. I’m still only 2 cm dilated but they decide I should be admitted. Yay!

         I’m not allowed to eat or drink anything except for ice till the baby comes. The nurses poke me with needles over and over, drawing blood, setting hep-locks, setting up my IV. They keep apologizing for the discomfort they think they’re causing me. I don’t have the energy to tell them not to worry. Compared to the contractions, needles in my arm are insignificant.

        24474589300_5b6ffc5942_o

        Welcome banner on my room door for Baby.

        7am

        K leaves me at a little past 7. He has to go back to the house. The nurses offer me an epidural once, twice. I’m worried that if I take it too early, it’ll wear out by the time I really need it. I ask to see my doctor first. A nurse teaches me how to breathe through each contraction and not hold my breath. It helps. In my lucid moments, I pray, “God help me, I can’t do this by myself.”

        I didn’t expect labour to be… tiring. It wasn’t so much painful as it was exhausting. When my doctor announces that I can have the epidural as early as I want, I nearly weep in relief. The epidural needle is relatively big (5 inches long) and it will be driven a few inches below my spine and a catheter threaded through it. Some say it hurts and that sudden movements by the patient could lead to paralysis. I’d even heard that an epidural could cause one of my legs to drop lower than the other, and that I would limp forever after.

        At that point, I did not care. I just wanted the contractions to stop so I could sleep.

        It works within 15 minutes. I felt it as a cold gush down my back and then the contractions stop. I start to shiver hard; a side effect I’d never heard about. I couldn’t get warm. I request blankets. And then my baby’s heartbeat starts to drop. The nurse stares in horror at the heartbeat monitor. I can hear the murmur of his heart quieting.

        I get on my knees, lie on my left side, my right side. Anything to get his heart back up. It keeps dropping.

        “We have to wheel you in for an emergency c-section.”

        Not good. Not good. “Why?”

        “Your baby is in distress. We don’t know why. We need to get him out immediately.”

        “Is it because of the epidural?”

        “We don’t know.”

        They wheel me to the operating room. “Please call my husband,” I tell them.

        “We can’t wait for him. We have to operate now.”

        I’m lying in the operating room, staring up at bright lights. They’re running around, getting ready. Then the baby’s heart rate picks up again on the monitor. I can hear it and it is the most beautiful sound in the world.

        “He’s up!” Everyone cheers. They wheel me back to my delivery room and eventually the doctor explains that the epidural lowered my blood pressure and that was what affected the baby. It’s a fairly common side effect. I wish I’d known that before.

         Afternoon

        24474594850_0ae8406cee_o

        Imma have this baby. But first, let me take a selfie. You can tell K is way more excited than I am. 🙂

        Things progress after that bit of drama. I dilate slowly and I sleep. They give me an oxygen mask. K contacts our family and friends. He starts a poll; getting our friends and relatives to vote for the baby’s name. A part of me is still worried about the baby arriving at 37 weeks. Will he have to be in an incubator? Will he need specialized neonatal care?

        At about 2pm, the nurses check me and confirm that I’ve dilated to 8cm. I’ve been in the hospital for almost 12 hours. Another effect of the epidural is that it slows down labour so you labour for longer. But it was a trade off I was willing to make. They give me Pitocin to speed things up. Shortly after I dilate to 10cm, I feel the pressure of the baby’s head between my legs.

        “I’m ready to push.”

        24402457619_6ddb2aba9c_o

        The wave-like lines are the contractions.  The topmost green line was the baby’s heartrate. It was cool to watch them. 🙂

        The nurses get ready. I am put in position to push; half-sitting, half-lying down. The doctor lays out her instruments: forceps, scissors a bunch of scary medical gadgets. She sits on a stool in front of me.

        Doctor: You can’t feel the urge to push because of the epidural so we’ll have to tell you when, okay? You’ll push at the start of your contractions; we’re monitoring them on the computer. You’ll take a deep breath and hold it like you’re underwater, and then you’ll push with all your might.

        Me: Got it. (frightened out of my mind, actually. OMG. Baby is really coming!)

        K: *starts to play Coldplay because Baby needs a suitable soundtrack to come into the world*

        Nurse: Okay. Wait for it. Contraction starting. Go!

        I push. I really can’t feel anything on account of the epidural but everyone is so encouraging. K is cheering me on like I’m running a marathon. I brace for the next contraction. My doctor is massaging me, preparing my body to accommodate the inevitable stretching. I don’t feel any pain. (It’s kind of like pushing a car. It’s difficult but not painful. So I’m not shouting or screaming. I’m actually pretty quiet. Isn’t epidural just bae?)

        FullSizeRender

        I push four times before my son’s head appears. “He has so much hair!”

        The doctor helps him out, pulling under his arms.  I gasp loudly as I catch my breath.  And then he’s born; purple, and quiet as a mouse. Purple because he hasn’t started breathing. Quiet because he’s stunned by what just happened.  His head is cone-shaped from the birth canal. He looks alien. I ask, “Why is he purple?”

        He coughs and cries. K cuts the cord. My baby looks at me and I don’t feel that gush of maternal love that people talk about sometimes. I don’t feel anything but awe and relief that he’s out and he’s well and he’s so warm.

         After

        k-netflixing_24143259263_o

        Day 1: Father & Son Netflixing & Chilling

        The days of routine episiotomies for first time mothers are over, thankfully but I still get a few stitches. They aren’t as painful as I thought.

        D. doesn’t need any specialized care. We spend two nights in the hospital and he sleeps beside me the whole time. I can’t believe they let us go home with him afterwards. We’re novices at parenting!

        I’m learning to be a mother. I hope I’m a good one. Thank you all for your kind wishes and prayers and advice. They worked! In the last few weeks, I’ve gotten so many comments and emails and I would love to reply them all but I’m in over my head at the moment. I will respond with time, I promise. J

         So how have you been these past few weeks? If you’re a mother, what was your first labour like?