Happy Momma’s Day!!

My mother is special in so many ways.

I believe she is definitely the right woman for the job as I am not the easiest of her kids to parent, and that’s because I come in a different mold than she’s used to, nothing more.

As I was growing up, I could tell that she loved being a mom, because she allowed us to be kids no matter how silly we acted. There was always love and laughter despite the fact that we didn’t always have enough.

Not sure if anyone else did this, but we made chin chin for occasions, mainly Christmas. She allowed us all to take part in making it, of course, she couldn’t stop us. We would have cried to no end and she would have no rest. We molded the dough and cut it into tiny pieces while eating a major portion of it, licking the wooden spoon and bowl. While frying we would eat some more.

I remember a time that I had to go back to school. It was in another state far from where we lived and she had no way of getting me there. She made a deal with a taxi driver she felt she could trust and had him drop me in school. It was a far distance and I remember seeing the tears and faith in her eyes and she hugged me and kissed me. This was before there were cellphones. She encouraged me to be strong. I didn’t understand back then, but I know she could not leave work and the other kids. She prayed and trusted that I would be fine. I was. It’s the faith and I would say almost desperation in her eyes, but she knew she had no other way. I was fine.

Back then I used to wonder where she always seemed to get money from. Many times she was not paid for months, that’s just how things work in Nigeria sometimes, but she always seemed to find a way to bring money when we needed.

There are too many things she’s done and too many ways she’s awesome to list here. I have learned a lot from her. She definitely made life much easier for me.

We have not always agreed on everything, but I know she does the best she knows how and that she loves me.

Happy Momma’s Day!!!

 

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Boarding School

I went to a boarding school from what we call in the U.S, middle school till high school. I was almost 11 years old when I started.

Oh my God! The stories I could tell you. I may have to write a series because it’s not a one post story.

I loved boarding school. It was the place I discovered myself. It was the place I would say that I grew up. Being the second child of seven children, I always had to take care of my siblings. I was in charge of the home, but when I went to school, I didn’t have to be in charge of anyone. I could just be me. It gave me structure because there was a time for everything and you had to adhere or face the consequences.

Most kids went to boarding schools in Nigeria unless you were so poor that you couldn’t afford it because it was not exactly cheap from what I heard my parents say. My Dad insisted that we went to the best ones at the time, Federal Government Colleges.

I remember the first time I washed my clothes. I was so naive and casually hung my clothes on the line to dry (This was normal. We didn’t have washing machines) and went about my jolly way. When I got back to take them in, they weren’t there. What? I was shocked. It hadn’t dawned on me that people stole. Imagine the surprise. Not only did they steal my clothes, but they also stole my bedsheets, pillowcases, bras, and panties. Everything was gone.  So I only had what I was wearing and the sheets I had on my bed. Too bad I was wearing my day clothes. We had clothes we wore to classes in the morning and clothes we changed into that were a little more relaxing for after school. We were not allowed other clothes, just uniforms, and sleep clothes. So I had to wear my day clothes to school in the morning. It didn’t help that my parents lived far away. Back in the day, there were no cellphones and barely landlines. I wrote by snail mail, which was really painfully slow. I was stuck in this situation for a few weeks.

I first went to Federal Government College, Enugu. It was a strange place with red sand everywhere. The people felt harsh to me and spoke a language I did not understand. So I naturally felt lost. Enugu is a few states from where I lived. You have to remember that in Nigeria there are many languages and dialects. My language is Ibibio, but in Enugu, they spoke Ibo. Although the classes are all in English because that’s the major language in Nigeria, at other times the children spoke their languages.  Children were admitted from all over the country because it was a Federal school, but the indigenes of the state had priority so the school had mostly Ibo children. I loved the fact that there were people from all over because I got to see how other people lived. Many of my friends were Ibos so I naturally learned the language.

It was in boarding school that I had my first crush, his name was Ayo. A mild-tempered Yoruba boy. He was a grade ahead of me and in my house. Every student is assigned a house for structure. We had house mistresses over the girls’ dorms and housemasters over the boys’ dorms. They were teachers that made sure everything ran well. So during meals, we sat according to our houses. That’s where I first saw Ayo. Sometimes he would be given charge of some tables. I figured that I would let him know how I felt,  so one day I wrote a letter and gave to his friend to give to him. I didn’t expect the reaction I got. He was nice, but his friends thought it was funny and they made fun of me to no end. So I made up a lie about someone giving me the letter to give to him. I was 11 and naive, but I learned a few lessons there.

It was an interesting time. I went from being an all A student to flunking badly. This first year was hard to adjust because the conditions were not favorable. I was just learning the system, then my clothes were stolen, and the kids were not as warm as I was used to.  I was bullied by the seniors. They sent me on errands to no end and punished me for every little thing and sometimes for nothing at all. I mean they found ways to make me suffer. Since everywhere had red gravel, sometimes they would make me kneel on the gravel for hours and then crawl on it. By the time I got up my knees would be bleeding. There were many things that were wrong and many things that were right.

Now that I’m thinking about it, those seniors could not have been more than 17 years old. They were still learning themselves. Now I know it’s wrong to give any undeveloped child that much power because they will abuse it.

Through it all, I made some really good friends that were in the much of the same predicaments and we helped each other. There were four of us. Once we learned how the system worked, we devised ways to escape the seniors. Sometimes we would spend long hours at the stream just talking and laughing and having fun, away from the seniors.

After spending a little over a year there, my parents moved me to another Federal Government College close to home. This was even more exciting.

Uncle Inwang

When Mom moved us to Ikot-Ekpene, her brother, Uncle Inwang decided to visit her since he hadn’t seen her since she came back. He fell in love with us and Ikot- Ekpene and decided to move there. He got a job and a place almost immediately. He played a major part in making it easy for us to adjust to our new lives. He was the closest uncle we had.

Since Mom was technically a single Mom, Uncle Inwang was the Father we didn’t have at the time. He was excellent with kids and also a disciplinarian. We merely needed to hear his voice and we were running to him from everywhere, shouting at the top of our lungs. He had to brace himself because we just jumped on him.

There was no kind of play that he didn’t play with us. He rolled on the floor, swung us around and played house with us. He even let us cook pretend food where he was the baby and we had to feed him. He was a very patient and kind to us. Sometimes when he said he was leaving, one of us would climb on his back while the two others held each leg shouting, “Don’t go Uncle! Don’t go!” He genuinely had a love for us.

He didn’t joke with his food which was always a huge mountain of eba or fufu. When he molded them into balls we were always amazed at how he could swallow such huge sizes, “Uncle that is too big, you can’t swallow that!” but he did. He teased us endlessly about chewing fufu. We didn’t know that there was any food you shouldn’t chew. I still chew till today.

He made life so pleasurable for us.

Uncle watched us when mom went to work. When NEPA took the power, which was almost every night, he used to allow us to stay up late, playing on the porch and then we’d all fall asleep out there because it was too hot in the house.

He never did get any rest with us because we played continuously, you had to make us stop.

One of the many things we used to do to him was plait his beard with thread. You had to be a patient, loving man to allow three little, but noisy girls, pull and tug on your beard. Mom had a sewing machine with all colors of thread. We would take different colors of thread and use to plait his beard. “Uncle stop moving! Keep your head like this. Nseobong move to your side! Mfon don’t push me!” before long we were fighting. He had to tell us where to stand to prevent any fight. When we were done, he would have red, green, yellow, blue just about every color on his beard. Most nights Mom came home at almost midnight and had to get us into bed. Since he left our house so late, he didn’t get a chance to undo what we had done.

The next morning, as we passed his house on our way to school, he’d be outside with a mirror, tugging on his beard, trying to loosen the thread only to hear us from the car as we all struggled to put our heads out the window waving and laughing, “Uncle! Uncle!” then he would begin swearing, “Mma Abasi, ndito anem eye wu mi” meaning, “I swear to God these children will kill me.” The interesting thing is that he would come by the house after we got home from school and allow us to do the same thing to him.

We used to hear stories about his love for alcohol and getting drunk which he never denied, but since he never drank around us, we didn’t ever see him drunk. We also never saw him go to church and that was strange to us because we had to go every Sunday. One day in our innocence we asked,

“Uncle, why don’t you go to church?”

“Who told you I don’t go to church?”

“You don’t. We’ve never seen you go.”

“I go to church”

“What’s the name of your church?”

“Since you asked, my church is called, do me I do you, God no go vex”.

“Uncle! That’s not a church”

“It is. You asked and I told you now you’re saying it isn’t a church.”

So naturally we asked mom and she confirmed that it wasn’t a church.

One day, a few years later, Uncle said that he was born again. I could tell that he was because there was a kind of peace about him. Nothing changed about him, but the drinking and swearing. He said he went to a church called Christ for the World Mission. The change for him was instant because Uncle was naturally a trouble maker and very stubborn, but he became very peaceful.

Everyone should have an Uncle Inwang. He’s the father every child deserves and the uncle anyone would be privileged to have.

Much Love and Laughter.

 

One Dollar to One Naira

A few years ago, I was doing business with a lady for the first time, and as we were getting to know ourselves and talking about our backgrounds, I explained that I am originally Nigerian. She asked how long I had been in the country, so I had to think for a minute, as I was thinking she said four, five years. I explained that I was calculating because this was a coming back for me. I was born here, but raised in Nigeria and then came back. “Oh!” she exclaimed, “It’s usually the other way around. People are born outside and then come here, but you were here and left, why?”

I had to agree partially with her because that’s what the majority of people do, but that doesn’t mean there are no exceptions. I happen to be one of the exceptions and I’m thankful for that because I got the best of both worlds. I wouldn’t have it any other way, not like I could change the past, but I had a great childhood.

I remembered this lady because I have had other people say the same thing to me and just last week someone said it again. Sometimes in conversations with people, this issue comes up, and during the conversation, the Americans would say, “if you were born here, you’re American”. Then I’ll say, “I know I am, but I’m also Nigerian.” On the other hand, the Nigerians will say, “I don’t care where you were born if your father is Nigerian, you’re Nigerian.” Thank God it’s not up for debate and I know who I am because it does get tiring.

The answer to the lady’s question is the title of this post. Although Mom wanted us to understand and experience our culture which I’m very thankful to her for, she also considered the home advantage since the economy was booming. She said my Aunt called her from Nigeria stating that there was no need to be in the U.S because the economy in Nigeria is booming and the country is doing better than ever. The conversion rate is one Dollar to one Naira. So the logical thing was to go back and see how to make things work out better for her kids.

We stayed with my aunt in Lagos for a bit and then my mom got a job in Ikot-Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State and we relocated there. It was a village. Here was a single mother of four loud kids all alone in a village. I say we were loud because I remember we were. When we disagreed or argued, it was loudly. It did not help that we were straight from Connecticut because we were also fast talkers compared to the average Nigerian. My sweet mother had a lot on her plate. Every time we argued she said the whole compound could hear us. Maybe they could because sometimes I would see kids looking into our house, maybe not. Whatever the case, she had a lot to deal with.

On many occasions, she tried to settle the issue and asked us to explain what was going on, but she couldn’t understand us because we spoke so fast. She’d say, “pew, pew, pew, pew, pew, pew, pew, pew, pew I can’t understand what you’re saying. Now calm down and talk slowly.” I always wondered what she meant by, “pew, pew, pew” but as I grew up I realized we talked too fast. As kids, you never really understand what’s going on. All I remember is that I was excited and I just wanted to play.

Mom didn’t allow us to play outside immediately, but we had a verandah and she allowed us play out there. The neighbor’s kids didn’t speak a word of English and we didn’t speak the language. Keep in mind this was a village. They spoke Anang, a dialect of the language. We would ask the kids their names and they would retreat without answering and watch us from a distance. It didn’t occur to me that they didn’t understand us because they didn’t speak English. I just thought they were shy. There are many things you don’t think of as a child. You just think everyone is like you. Don’t ask me how it happened because I couldn’t tell you, but we just started playing together and before long these kids were speaking English and we were speaking Anang.

I always wondered why my mom’s relatives were constantly laughing at us whenever we went to her village. When I asked her she said it’s because you’re speaking Anang. In her village, Eket, they spoke the Eket dialect, and here are these kids speaking clear American English, but at the same time responding in the Anang dialect to anyone that didn’t speak English.  We were so fluent that you would have thought we were born there. As I grew up, I understood the humor.

A combination of the experiences from here and there make for a richer life. There are things one can only learn by experiencing them.

Much Love and Laughter,

Mfon Sophia.

 

So Long A Time

Hello friends,

Yes, it has been a long time. I have missed you and I have missed sharing with you. Somehow I allowed myself to get distracted, but now I’m back and I will be posting every week. As things move along, I hope to post twice a week.

I met up with one of my friends that I hadn’t seen for about two years, and although we have been apart for that long whenever we get together it’s like picking up from where we last left. We don’t miss a beat. I feel like that with you. We are picking up from where we left and keep moving. In trying to explain being away to someone it just came to me and I said, “It’s the business of life.” Joyce Meyer said, “Life is what happens while you’re making plans.”

In explaining that love liberates, Maya Angelou said “Love says, I love you if you’re in China, I love you if you’re across town, I love you if you’re in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I’d like to have your arms around me. I’d like to hear your voice in my ear, but that’s not possible now, so I love you. Go.” I want to thank you for loving me. Thank you for letting me go and still loving me. Thank you for still being here. It’s going to be an exciting ride. I have so much to share with you. We’ll have things to laugh about, cry about, be inspired and things that cause us to rethink what we thought we knew. Whatever happens, we’ll have fun. I’ll be pulling back the curtains and telling the stories that I know to tell and sharing experiences.

Once again, thank you.

Much Love and Laughter,

Mfon Sophia

 

Wings

All of life is about perspective. Your mind determines the quality of life you have, because your perception is your reality. It may not be right, but if your mind says it is, then it is. That’s why Henry Ford said, “If you believe you believe you can, or you can’t, you’re right”.

Being able to be thankful in any situation is a beautiful thing. Because that attitude of thankfulness is what gives you wings to move to higher heights. I prefer the word thankful to gratitude, both great words, but thankful conveys more of what I’m saying. I’ll explain in a later post.  Thankfulness is a sign of humility. Only the humble can find reasons to be thankful. As they give thanks, there’s something called “grace” that is given to them. Grace is an unseen force, but it’s effects are undeniable. It causes doors that would normally be shut, open up to you. It causes some people to just like you and want to favor you. It causes you to be at the right place, at the right time, and hands to you opportunities that you may think you don’t deserve, but you do. Because of grace, you meet certain people that change your whole life. Grace is a gift given to the humble.

I tell people all the time that humility is not stupidity, because some are under the impression that to be humble, you must be someone that everyone walks over. Others think that you must be this low life, dressed shabbily, walking with your shoulders slouched and head down. That isn’t humility. The fact that a person is poor doesn’t necessarily make him humble. In fact, a lot of poor people are very proud. That is why some of them never get out. Some are bitter and angry with the rich, as though the world is not open to everyone. They make judgments about people they don’t even know. Many tend to talk more than they listen, and don’t follow instructions. How can you learn when you are talking all the time, and think you know more than everyone else? The “grace” factor is not there. They find that they are being resisted from advancing. If an individual is being resisted by a power higher than him, how can he make any progress?

All that can change with a change of attitude. It’s easy to be a thankful person. It’s easy to find ways to be thankful. It starts with the things we may call little, like your health, and life, and your family, even that job you hate. Find ways to be thankful for it because with it you can move into the job you love. Be thankful for the people in your life, and those that left (or the ones you evicted). Be thankful for the ones that helped you, and those that hurt you. If you see life as a winning game, you will always be thankful. It doesn’t matter what happens, you always win. That is really the truth, but again remember, your perception is your reality.

Thanksgiving keeps a smile on your face.

You’ll discover that you can’t have a thankful attitude and an angry, sad or bitter one at the same time.  As you get into it, you will begin to see clearly. Your heart and your mind begin to open up, you’ll see opportunities that were right in front of you, but you were so blind. Your health will even begin to improve almost immediately.

Oh! the wonders of thanksgiving. Whether we believe it or not, there is a greater being that created us and loves us. Your life is bigger than just you, because your purpose is bigger than you. Nobody was created to serve himself. As you begin to be thankful to God in any situation you find yourself, and develop that habit, you will begin to see and understand your purpose.

This is not about religion. I don’t believe in religion. This is about being thankful. It’s not about what you’ve done, are doing, or will do. It’s not about cleaning up your ways. Just right where you are, forget everything else, take a moment to be still and be thankful. It will give you wings!

Much love and laughter!

Two Awesome Gifts

There are many great gifts one can give and receive, but then there are gifts that never stop giving and enriching the lives of those that give.

  1. Forgiveness. It’s a gift you give yourself. It’s so enriching, empowering and freeing. I heard Bishop T.D Jakes said, “when you hold onto your history, you can’t pursue your destiny”.

You have to let go of things people have done, are doing, or will do. Plan ahead of time to forgive, then you will have it always ready. Because people are going to do things that you will need to forgive, and as long as you have prepared to forgive, it will just flow naturally like you prepared a box of treats to give out.

Free yourself from the chains. I know what they did was terrible. I’m not justifying it, but I am saying that you are bigger than those things. As long as you hold onto them, you give them the power over you and you remain in that spot. You can’t move on, because you have somehow chosen to stay chained to the situation. But you have the power to move on. You can forgive that person, not because of them, but because of you. It’s so good to just let it go and not care about it. And be happy.

2. Love. It’s such an awesome gift. No wonder the Bible says, “God is Love”. Just being able to love the wicked and unlovely person, puts you in a position of control. You are in control of the situation. It doesn’t control you. That racist, sexist or abusive person has no power over you because you choose to stay in that place of love. In the case of abuse, you are free to leave them and love them from a distance, but love and forgive them you must if you want a fulfilling life. Love is the shield that covers you.

Forgiveness and love. Two very powerful gifts. Choose to forgive yourself and to love yourself, and you will find it easy to forgive and love others.

 

Much love and laughter!

 

 

Authentically You

Be you authentically. Let your life radiate the purpose and the person you were designed to be. There’s only one of you. Nobody can be you.

Refuse to be defined by what’s on the outside. Refuse to allow the noise drown your voice. So what if you’re different? It’s not bad, just different. Everything around us was created or designed by some person. Why must you change your whole life just to fit in a box that you were never created to be in?

Freedom is living without allowing the expectations and thoughts of others define you. That’s the moment you’re truly free. They are not qualified to design your life. You are the architect. You design it. Design it the way God intended it to be. Follow his lead.

Choose today to be authentically you.

Much love and laughter!

 

Love Yourself

Aren’t you sometimes your worst critic? You tend to see mistakes and missteps in things you’ve done or allowed to be done to you. Take it easy with yourself.

I’m saying be kind to yourself, and take time to love yourself. For in loving yourself you can love others. The greatest thing we can do I believe is to love ourselves. Love yourself because God loves you. He loves you not as you’re going to be, but just as you are. And if he can do that, we must do it too. Have respect for yourself, for then you will have respect for others and be able to show people how to respect you. The truth is people take clues from the way they see you treat yourself. Would you stand by, see someone approach your home, and open the door to them to dump trash in your house? Would you say nothing? Why would you let anyone invade your space with anything trash, whether it’s their words, or their actions? Love yourself.

You may not know or it may not have dawned on you that you are a king. But that doesn’t change the fact that you are. Yes, I mean “King”. That word does not belong to one sex. It belongs to those who are kings whether they are male or female. And as a king you ought to choose what you want. If you allow trash in, everyone will think it’s okay to dump trash there because you have allowed it. You have to say, “no more”.

Treat yourself like a friend. Spend time with yourself. Laugh at and with yourself. Life is too short to be serious all the time. Be lighthearted. Be silly. Discover or rediscover yourself. And when you begin to love yourself, the whole world will fall in love with you. Maybe they don’t, but it sure seems like they do, because all you is love. Then you’ll be able to love others. For one cannot give what he doesn’t have.

“Be careful when a naked man offers you a shirt” – African Proverb

Always Evolving

Life is not static. It’s always evolving, always changing. The only constant thing is change. So we have the choice to change. We can move along a certain path, or choose another. Not choosing is a also choice. Maybe not a very pleasant one, but it is one.

“What will be will be” is a phrase we hear a lot. As a young teen I heard it, sometimes believed it (because of that melancholic feeling that something else controlled everything), and then started questioning it. I was curious. My childlike reasoning would often think, “But if that is true, then I don’t have to wash the dishes, they’ll just get washed. I don’t need to fetch water (https://goo.gl/images/umfQuA)”. I reasoned this way because these were things I didn’t like doing.

I don’t think that has changed. People make things happen. People cause changes. If you want a change, you have to make it. The truth is, if you don’t make the change you want, a change will still be made for you, it just may not be the one you want.

Take the example of a land. The farmer that wants corn, must plant corn. If he says, “what will be will be. If God wants me to have corn, then I’ll have corn”. He will be amazed that he will still get a harvest, a harvest of weeds. Nature abhors vacuums so something will still grow on the land.

Begin to move in the direction you always wanted to, you’ll find that as you make steps, things that you need start coming to you, or you begin to find out places to get them. It’s the universe causing things to align to you. You begin to meet people that can point you in the right direction, or tell you things you need to know. But you have to choose to make the change and take the first step toward your dream.

I’m rooting for you. I know you can do it despite the odds against you.

Much love and laughter!