RIP Chad Boseman aka Ebubedike

Igbo Kwenu! Yaaa!! Nigeria Kwenu Yaaa!!! Uwanile Kwezuenu Yaaa!!!!

Every once in a while, you encounter a stranger, but strangely, you feel like you already know them.

That person to me, was the Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman.

Each time I looked at him, I saw an Igbo man. I generally don’t watch too much television, or movies for that matter, but he got me to watch the Black Panther movie not once, twice, but three times!

I will confess that he did not quite nail the African accent in his memorable role as King T’Challa, but between his gap teeth, easy smile and dark chocolate tint, he made my heart flutter each time he appeared on the screen.

Yes, as far as bodily features and physique go, Killmonger had one, ok, two on him, but, Chad was electrifying on screen, and since the BP movie was my very first time seeing him ever, I was hooked!

He had an easiness about him. His stride. His thick dark coils. His eyes. His eyes.

This past weekend was such an emotional roller coaster for me, like many people of color and our allies, we have watched as things have continued to deteriorate on the streets on Amerikkka, but nothing could have prepared me for his death.

I was already greatly saddened by Mr. Blake’s shooting, and the inhumane way he was treated at the hospital. The pockets of unrest, the increase in boldness of the Karens and others like them, the nut job we have for a president, the death toll of Covid-19 and everything in between were already bothering me big time.

To top it up, my two eldest sons both returned to college (one to grad school and one to undergrad) in the past couple of weeks. I also happened to have had the added adventure and trauma of being a Black female, and mother of 3 Black boys with the added layer of trauma as their primary provider.

So, you get that my stress level was already at a semi-high place. And with the loss of 2 super heros (Black Mamba and Black Panther) within the space of 6 months is a huge blow to the African Americans, period!

In honor of the Black Panther, I have written a list of what I am calling “Lessons I Learned From Ebubedike aka T’Challa, aka Chadwick Boseman.” Enjoy!

1/ Live For Today: While I never really knew him, somehow I think that he lived each day in the last four years to the fullest. I, like most of us have found out that he apparently starred in multiple movies for the 4 years that followed his diagnosis.

2/ Live For Now: Like #1, I know, he did everything in his power to enjoy his every minute of every hour of the time he had left on earth, and luckily, he took us along with him on the journey.

3/ Make Your Mark: We must live our lives to leave a mark on this earth. Like I say all the time, when you meet people, you must leave the best piece of you behind with them. Make your mark on this earth. Start where you are.

4/ Be Unstoppable: Once you find your purpose, and you get on your path, become unstoppable! He was so good at what he did. He fought to the end. He was unstoppable in his brilliance!

5/ Take Every Opportunity to Do Good: Whether he knew it or not, he exemplified taking opportunities to do good, and he was good at it. He made us fall in love with a him, easily, he was not only a hero, he was also a Black super-hero.

6/ Smile: I have seen pictures of him not smiling, but the pictures that have been etched in my heart are those with him flashing his gap teeth in a smile. Such a handsome young man with such an infectious smile.

7/ Make People Happy: Did King T’Challa make us happy? Yes! Did he make his family happy? Yes! Did he make the world a happier place? Absofreakinlutely! Making people happy is much easier than you think!

8/ Make Yourself Happy: Yes! Do make yourself happy. Wear your mask first. Fill your cup first. Something tells me Ebubedike always made himself happy by making a tough decision to show up 100% of the time in all his roles, despite his pain and suffering.

9/ Challenge Yourself! This was probably one of the most important things he did. He challenged himself everyday to do something meaningful, knowing his time was limited. What about you? When was the last time you challenged yourself to do something meaningful?

10/ Do It! Just Do It! Yep, I know for a fact that he “just did it” He simply did what he knew needed to be done! How many times have you had a project or a deadline, or something that needed to be done, but didn’t do it? Why? Because you think/thought you had time? Well, he KNEW he DIDN’T have time. So, he just did it.

11/ Be the one: Be the go-to “guy”. Be the person who we all want to go to for it. For life, for service, for laughter, for what we need. Would you, could you be the one?

12/ Be the best: At this time, it is not even a matter of whether he won awards or not. While I have not seen any more of his flicks, and I know for sure that I can’t bring myself to watch it, I know he was the absolute best at what he did. And I am proud of him for that.

13/ Play hard and live like today is your last day! Ooooh, if I could get a penny for every time I heard that, I would be a millionaire now! I am going to learn to play hard these days. I know it will be hard, but it is doable. Think about it, how could would it be if you were able to live each day like it was truly YOUR LAST!

14/ Stay true to yourself! I honestly believe that this was him in the truest sense of the word. He was honest and true. And it showed in the way he conducted himself during his last 4 years of life.

15/ FIGHT! FIGHT!! FIGHT!!! I don’t think any one needs convincing that he was a fighter! He fought to the last breathe, and as far as I am concerned, he won! So, let’s go forth and fight like the Black Panther did!

16/ Die hard: What I really want to say here is, die hardest! There is no doubt that it must have been really hard staring death in the eye. But he did it, without fear. He went about his business, doing what he had to do with a vengeance knowing death was eminent.

17/ Breathe: I know, that is the watch-word now, thanks to George Floyd. But seriously, find times in the day when you can breathe easily. Find moments that take your breath away, look for them, they are there.

18/ Know: Get to know yourself and to know what time it is. In my heart, I know he knew exactly what he was up against. He knew every single detail of every single thing that mattered in his life. You, my friend should be in the know.

19/ Believe: in yourself. That is the best strategy. He was sick, but he believed in himself. He knew exactly what and who he was, and believed he could pull off that many movies AFTER he was diagnosed with terminal illness. If you only believe in yourself…

20/ Be brave: Look fear in the eye. Be fearless, be bold, be brave. Yes, be brave enough to do that which you would have never believed you could achieve. Regardless of what it is, if you are brave, you can conquer

21/ Ask for help: Yes indeed, it is brave to ask for help. A friend of mine once said “it is easier to say yes, than to say I need help”. That means we need to learn how to ask for help. Period. Don’t assume we can read your mind…:)

Now, please enjoy this poem I wrote for him on my Facebook page on Saturday.

Such a beautiful smile

Such a good soul

Such strong laughter

Such a brave heart

Such a great actor

Such a resilient person

Such a SUPER HERO!

Such a Black man

Such a Black son

Such an exemplary American

Such pain you went through fighting one of the worst diagnoses of all

Such bravado in the face of the inevitable, as you gave us some of the best out of Hollywood

Such a wonderful ambassador of mother Africa

Such hot tears running down my cheeks as I write this

Such a blessing to have “known” you

Such a good and restful sleep you’ll now have, as you close your eyes this one last time

Such a sweet reunion with your friend, Black Mamba

Such a painful goodbye dear Black Panther

Dr. L

BB

Is Your Child A Bully?

Dear Blog,

This is not a new story, but it remains heartbreaking.
While researching for my new book, “Is Your Child A Bully?”, I came across it again.
I remember being tagged by a follower when it first happened in March of last year.

I would like you to read it, and share it with your kids and ensure that you have a discussion afterward.

Talk about injustice, prejudice, racism, religious intolerance.
Think about her and her family.
LOOK into her eyes.
See her smile? It is out of place…
Feel her mom’s heart
Weep for her father
Be her siblings
Know their pain.

9-year-old Syrian refugee Amal Alshteiwi committed suicide last month after being bullied in Canada [Twitter]

I am also sharing it because I want folks to know that NEARLY ALL CHILDREN WHO DIE BY SUICIDE AS A RESULT OF BULLYING DO NOT HAVE A PRIOR H/O ANY MENTAL ILLNESS.

The ensuing depression or anxiety that results from their ordeals is at best, reactive. While counseling might work for the victims, better parenting and stronger rules and such might work on the bullies.

Mental ANGUISH is 1000x worse than Mental ILLNESS.

It is a very profound emotional state of exhaustion, it causes the sufferers to become so overwhelmed, hopeless, AND helpless, that they will do anything to make their pain stop.
Including ending their lives.
They are often thrown into a state of deep despair.
They suffer A LOT.
There are NO MEDICINES for anguish or despair.
Suicide victims are NOT selfish
Au contraire, they feel like they are a burden, they are lonely, they are burnt out, they don’t really want to die, but living is often no longer an option.

I ask as you spend time with your children, STRESS kindness, and compassion to themselves and to others.
They are the antidotes for the type of meanness that our kids are exhibiting through bullying these days.
In my first bestseller ” How to Raise Well Rounded Children”, I discuss 16 guiding principles that you need to instill in your kids to help them grow up with the right doses of “goodness.”
Get your copy on AMAZON.

In the meantime, look at her eyes, her angelic face, her hijab perfectly tied around her beautiful brows,
and offer a little prayer for all children being bullied all over the world.
THEN share this post and tell your friends and family Dr. Lulu sent ya.

Syria refugee, 9, commits suicide after being bullied in Canada

 

Don’t know the symptoms of suicidal behavior in your child/teen?
Click this link for a free PDF to download (thank Dr. Lulu later:))

https://forms.gle/5Me5FKWtu2uWTHpy8?fbclid=IwAR0IOPWiSgMfgnljetAa_axU9C7AJqtF_exLGqCEvzpM1YxknnbOMQOPtSk

BB

 

 

10 Ways to Practice Self-care During the Quarantine.

I don’t know about you, but 2020 has sure become one heck of a year! If anyone had told me on January 1st that by April I would be on quarantine with not only my family but the entire universe, I would never have believed it!

When I look back at how “well” the year began, and all the promises that the new year brought with it, I honestly don’t know if I should continue to shake my head in disbelief, if I will wake up and it is all over, or if I should simply smile and wait a bit more, knowing that “this too shall pass”. I wish I knew for sure that this too shall indeed pass. No one knows.

As a parent and a spouse, I am grateful that my children are a bit older in age, and it is a bit easier to explain this whole thing. Luckily, they have each other to keep company, while I try my very best to stay sane.

So, what have you all been doing to stay sane this period of uncertainty? I know, the word self-care is now the buzz word and for good reason. Never has there been a better time to practice what I am calling “the three pillars of self-care”: self-compassion, self-kindness, and self-love, than now.

For me, I am pretty carefree, I don’t dance to anyone’s tune, I simply go with my flow, but for those who would like to share with me, below are 10 ways I have come up with that might interest you as far as practicing self-care goes. You are probably already doing most of these things, but it is always a good idea to share with each other and learn and grow together.

1/ Prayer and Meditation: Whether you see prayer as a way of talking to God, the universe, your personal chi, or simply communing with nature, I strongly recommend some form of the practice daily. I have found that it often goes best, hand in hand with meditation. Both are best practiced in the morning, but, frankly, it could be at any other time of the day, as you wish. Since this whole quarantine thing started I have been joining Jay Shetty and about 30K other people around the world, daily for a 20 minute guided meditation at 1130hrs CST daily. It has been so rejuvenating and invigorating and has fast become the best 20 minutes of my day.

2/ Yoga: One of my personal favorites. I used to be a major “yoga groupy” several years ago when I was younger. But I am finding my way back now since the quarantine. These days, my fibromyalgia is flaring up, the pain in my lower back is sometimes unbearable, and my neck arthritis is worse. I actually started to practice daily sun salutations, and it’s yet early to call, but, so far so good. Down Dog My eldest son recommended it to me. He saw a YouTube video of Kita Liss, who had similar issues with her neck and back and reportedly did sun salutations for 2months and presto! Her aches and pains were gone! I might sound a bit gullible, but, the way I see it, there is no medication use involved, and it’s actually great for you and your joints, so why not?

3/ Walking: The ultimate exercise if you ask me. This is especially if you are a little bit older like I am, but generally, most people will tell you that your knees will thank you if you walk. Whether brisk walking or slow strolling, walking beats running for your knees any time. For me, I use my morning walks to commune with nature, exercise the dog, and take phone calls in my telemedicine practice. Sometimes, I simply walk alone, lost in my thoughts. I have also recently started using it as a tool to meet my neighbors (thanks to the recent lockdown in San Antonio, Texas), we pass each other, 6ft apart, say hello, make small talk about Covid-19, the weather, homeschooling or whatever else.

4/ Reading: Ha! This is one of my “favoritest” things to do! I. Love. Reading. My go-to genre is fiction, and my place to be is romance. Since starting my own business though, it has been a bit tough getting my romance reading on. Thankfully, this quarantine has given us all permission to #slowdown and “smell all the roses” and other accompanying smells that make us smile. What about you? Do you like reading? What is your favorite genre? Are you in need of some good non-fiction this quarantine season? If so, I beg to suggest one of my two books. The parenting book: How to Raise Well-Rounded Children, is my favorite pick for now since many of us parents are all “stuck” at home with our kids.

5/ Write: Yessss! Next to reading, writing is one activity that I enjoy. I find so much joy when I write that I recommend writing to every single patient of mine. Furthermore, studies have shown that writing can be therapeutic. You can start simple, like writing in your (gratitude) journal, or simply writing about your day. You can also start writing a book, start a blog or write poetry. Just start writing… You will be so glad you did. If you do decide to go on to write something, please let me know. One of the things I also do on the side is to help people write their bestseller. Yes. I am a writing coach and I will be glad to chat with you and explore the possibility of working together. Click here to schedule an appointment if you’d like to explore this.

6/ Practice Gratitude: This is a natural successor of writing. The gratitude journal is a recurrent theme when we speak about writing. So, to write about gratitude then means to practice it. To practice it means to be intentional about it. To be intentional about it means to be present in each moment, acknowledge each moment, and be thankful for them. We must try to find something new each day to be grateful for. These times might not appear to be teaching us anything positive, but if we look for the lessons, we will surely find them. This year started on such a positive note, that I refuse to believe there is no silver lining to all of this. We are told we grow from pain, so let’s lead with grateful hearts in order to allow for said growth.

7/ Learn a New Hobby: I love this because time is one thing we all have on our hands now. We might as well learn something new with our adult brains, which I am told we only really use less than 10% of. A new hobby can be anything from playing cards like bridge or poker, to photography, sketching, piano or any other musical instruments, bowling, etc. Studies have shown that learning a new hobby not only keeps your brain young by creating new synaptic connections, it also helps to de-stress, and helps to keep you busy. I know, many of us claim we are busy, but… 🙂 Let’s just agree that enough of us are “busy doing nothing aka mismanaging our time”. A new hobby would certainly take care of that.

photo of person s hand soak in water

8/ Pamper Yourself: Yes, this quarantine period has done the unthinkable…our hairdressers, nail places and massage parlors are all on furlough! Time to learn how to do it ourselves. One click to YouTube should help. I have always been a #doityourselfer in this department, and I am riding easily at this point. Yes, it is possible to learn how to self-pamper. It can range from a manicure to a nice cup of your favorite coffee (sorry, no Starbucks), to a good book, to a home facial, to simply washing or coloring your hair. Pretty much anything you can do at the beauty shop, you can do at home by yourself, for yourself. It might need a slight learning curve, but you got this. During one of Jay Shetty’s meditations last week, he actually guided us through a self-massage! I had never done that before that day, and it felt so good!

9/ Call Your Girlfriends: Call, text, or Zoom with your girlfriends for a nice virtual reunion! Virtual parties are now commonplace since the quarantine. I actually had a Zoom party with a couple of my girlfriends from high school just last week, and am planning one for my family members this very weekend. I got the idea from a friend who had a virtual family lunch party at home, and I am sold on it. I have even started a habit of calling as many of my longtime friends as possible daily, which is helping me a lot with reconnecting. I am reaching out to cousins, Facebook friends, and so on. Many of my friends and I are paying it forward and actually enjoying it… You should try it.

10/ Be creative! Yes, be creative, be you. Get in your car and drive, watch reruns of your favorite TV series, pig out on a bowl of ice-cream, dance to oldies songs from the 80s, or simply sleep until noon! As long as you are at peace with yourself, and you are intentional with your self-care, it’s all good. Just remember, we must make the best of every situation we find ourselves; learn to find silver linings in grey clouds, and grow from all pain…#this too shall pass.

No photo description available.

BB

To Bryce…

 

“…he was acting strange, talking a mile a minute, and kept asking his mom large questions about life. He wanted to know if she and his brothers would be OK in his absence.”      ~South Florida Sun-Sentinel

In my brand new Amazon bestselling book, A Teen’s Life, I discuss teen suicide to the best of my ability. One of the teens in that book is Damiko, a football player who finds himself on the wrong side of the law, after making some tough decisions to help him deal with life’s curveballs, mainly to help his family. He naturally begins to doubt himself and ends up on the suicide spectrum. This is a not too uncommon thought-process and mindset for most of us when we are feeling overwhelmed, anguished and trapped amongst other things, as life continues to deal (as it likes) with us.

I begin with Damiko’s story because it is what I am calling “real” fiction. Just this week, we saw my fiction imitate real life in none other than Bryce Gowdy, a football star on his way to the top, with a full ride to Georgia Tech. A life cut short by train tracks. A life cut short by suicide.

While reading his story in the news outside the post office a few days ago, I kept yelling “he left signs!” “He left signs!”…repeatedly, as I cried my eyes out.

Yes, that poor kid, my son, our son, left signs all over the place, but unfortunately, those around him did not know them, or did not recognize them, and thus did not act.

Several weeks ago, another Florida teen walked into another pair of train tracks to his death. (“His death contributes to the roughly two teens in Florida who take their lives each week, and is the second in about a month to do so by train”.)

While most news often connect mental illness to majority of suicides, it is unclear if our latest victim of suicide contagion (defined as the process by which the exposure to suicide or suicidal behaviors within one’s family, one’s peer group, or through media reports of suicide can result in an increase in suicidal behaviors and suicide in persons at risk, usually adolescents), had any issues with mental illness in his past (no diagnosis is stated), what we do see though, is that he suffered from severe mental anguish (aka emotional distress) and despair in his last days. (Despair is defined as a profound and existential hopelessness, helplessness, powerlessness and pessimism about life and the future. Despair is a deep discouragement and loss of faith about one’s ability to find meaning, fulfillment, and happiness.)

This article is not meant to argue about mental illness, and its contribution to suicide, it is, however, meant to showcase the fact that most suicide victims DO suffer severe mental anguish with severe reactive depression (aka situational depression) following significant life’s trauma, which in Bryce’s case was extreme poverty and homelessness. These factors confounded the natural anxiety he was already experiencing about leaving his suffering family and going off to college (college jitters), and the helplessness he felt about his inability to “save his family”.

If you are reading this, then you would agree that it was all a bit much for anyone, let alone a young adolescent.

So why does anyone kill themselves?

Image result for bryce gowdy

Why did a young gifted and talented athlete do this? The truth is that ultimately, we may never know his real reasons. However, a psychological postmortem would definitely bring in all the above factors and maybe even unearth more.

What role does resiliency (or the lack thereof) play in suicides? Are suicide victims truly weak? Are they truly “quitters”? Like a friend mentioned on a Facebook comment recently. Is it truly easy to end one’s life?

As one who has struggled in my past with suicidal ideations (SI), I know just how hard, overwhelming and lonely that street is. I know that the world looks at you with tinted lenses when you mention that “S” word. I know all the stigma, shame and silence that accompany it. I know no one wants to talk about it. Ironically though, talking about it is just what this doctor orders. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has the #silencekills and #talksaveslives hashtags for this particular reason. We MUST talk about these issues. We must call its name, SUICIDE, so as to take its sting and strength away, or at least diminish them.

*In teens specifically, adolescence brings unique challenges that often confound life’s experiences, so they have a tendency to succumb easier to SI.

IS PATH WARM is a mnemonic used to list the signs of suicidal behavior, but, I am quick to state that in youth like in our young teen, Bryce, signs might not be as organized or as obvious. Simply acting differently from the norm; becoming more agitated, giving away their stuff, asking and verbalizing about death, losing sleep, becoming more reckless, buying a gun, writing a suicide note, becoming suddenly happier, calmer, or simply saying goodbye, etc, could be signs of suicidal behavior. We as parents and as adults around them must be vigilant. The list below is of factors that lead to suicidality in youth, an excerpt from A Teen’s Life.

● A history of bullying ● Relationship issues like breakups ● Previous suicide attempt* ● LGBTQ+ sexual orientation ● Access to lethal weapons in the home ● Behavior problems like ADHD/ADD ● Poverty ● Socioeconomic/sociocultural oppression ● Institutional racism ● Lack of access to treatment and support for mental illness ● Substance Abuse ● Microaggressions like police brutality and racial profiling ● Social Media ● Lack of Support at home and at school ● Suicide in peers and in the community (suicide contagion) *A prior suicide attempt is the strongest risk factor for a suicide death*

Reading the article, it was quite obvious that he was faced with what appeared to be “unsurmountable” life’s challenges to him. If he had only waited a few more days. If he hadn’t had that train track beckoning. If he only knew the future…if, if, if. But, he had no way of seeing the future, he had no way of knowing the outpouring of love from the world to his family following his ultimate sacrifice. He had no way of knowing how much I cried when I read his story. He had no way of knowing that much like his mother, I also have three sons, and I am a Black woman in America, and I care. For him, at that moment, he felt he had used up all his options, and death was the only choice he had…and then there was a means: a train, and a history of a recent teen death by another train.

A brave child who carried the weight of his family’s troubles on his young shoulders. A brave soul who wanted the best for his family. A boy, a teen who actually reached out, but not quite far enough to save him. A young man seeking answers, but finding death in its stead. We preach reach out all the time, the question then becomes, “what if folks reach out and no one responds?”

Apparent unsurmountable life’s challenges, feelings of entrapment, overwhelmedness, helplessness, and hopelessness…these are the ingredients for suicide.

RIP Bryce, you fought the good fight.

Image result for bryce gowdy"

“Parents, please, know the signs of suicidal behavior. Our kids DO leave signs”

~ Dr. Lulu®

 

 

BB

 

 

#Becoming

The month of September is the halfway mark for the 50th anniversary of my birth.

Today, I am reminded that I am #Becoming a new me, a more fulfilled me, a more conscientious, mindful, freer and more productive me.

As I look back at the past 6months, I see a lot of change, a lot of progress and a lot of challenges that have been on my path, and I see myself as a woman conquering.

As I look into the future, I see my dreams on the verge of fulfillment, it is going to be a mix of uncomfortable, inconvenient, uncertainty, pain, and who knows what more.

My ever-constant companions, fear, and doubt, still rear their ugly heads from time to time. Tugging at me, distracting me, taunting me…all the way.

Have I accomplished everything I set out to do this year? No.

Do I still believe the future I dreamed for myself is attainable? Hell Yeah!’

Am I going to go forth, afraid? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Isn’t that the definition of courage? Going forth…albeit afraid?

One kid is a senior in college; the other, a sophomore in college; the baby in high school. A blog, a bestseller, a parent and teen workshop, speaking engagements, a podcast  (another in the making), two brand new side gigs and a brand new private practice, all in the space of one year, ain’t too shabby if I might say so myself.

For once, I refused to listen to the bully inside my head. The one that goes about telling me lies, telling me I am not good enough, not girl enough, not woman enough, not man enough, not Black enough, not White enough, not… simply put, I am just not enough.

I also refused to listen to those that said I couldn’t do any of these things successfully, what more doing them all!

I quickly realized this past year that friends and family are sometimes worse than strangers and foes, and strangers are sometimes better than friends and family.

Many still think me a fool for helping others along the way…for free. Many think I have the formula wrong because I am not charging $$ for “every small thing”.

To them I say, was it not given to me freely? Is money really the heart of everything? When do you then use your heart to help? Only when you get paid? Ha!

Neither one of us can take that money with us. None of us can add one single day to our lives with all the money we (shall) acquire.

So, what’s the fuss?Me, Red Dress

I shall go forth, loving myself more, caring for myself more, even daring to praise myself more. I am, and should (after all) always be my own self’s best cheerleader.

It has been a long hard road to that realization…so…

Never again will I critique myself negatively. Constructively? Yes.

Never again will I allow my inner bully to convince me I am not enough. I might not be good enough at somethings, but I am darned great at many things.

Never again will I allow others to dictate my direction for me. Guide me? Maybe.

Henceforth, I will allow myself to fail as often as is needed because failure, to me, is now nothing but fuel for success.

It is a chance to say to myself “maybe things weren’t supposed to end that way”, “maybe we should regroup and retry”, “maybe just maybe”. After all, none of us can see the future.

We are all work in progress, but we must get out of our own way.

In the end, I have realized that… I was good enough yesterday, I am good enough today, and I shall be good enough tomorrow, as long as I continue to believe in my process of #Becoming.

“If you want to go somewhere you have never gone before, you must be prepared to do something you have never done before” ~ Lisa Nichols

BB

 

The Making of My MD/MBA

Dear Blog,

 “Adult Ed is a Mother, but it’s also a Keeper!”… Dr. Lulu

Last Friday as I found myself finishing up the last day of the last week of my 27-month journey into the land of a Masters in Business Administration at UTSA, my heart was a mixture of all sorts of emotions, the strongest of which was joy! Since I couldn’t keep it to myself, I did an impromptu FB Live and literarily broke into song and dance on screen! I no longer have to stay up late studying and doing homework EVERY NIGHT. I can now stop using “school” as my excuse for everything (I really don’t want to do). I get to add those coveted three letters to the other two after my name. I can now get much-needed rest (umm, say what?) Let me rephrase that, I shall try going to bed at 11pm every night (yeah right!) I finally, realize my dream of walking on an American stage wearing the black gown and black “crown”, and as an added treat, I get to wear VA cords!

In September of 2016, my 4yr term as a Lt Col. in the United States AirForce came to an end. In deciding what to do next, I realized I had multiple options to pick from; join the Air Force Reserves, go back to school and get a Masters Degree, or get a regular job as a pediatrician. I decided to go for the last two options. And no, I had no specific “why”, I simply wanted to use the VA educational funds I was entitled to, it was more like a “why not?”. The decision was met with a combination of gasps, shock, surprise and some reluctant encouragement from friends and family. Never one to waste too much time chewing on a thought, I jumped in with two feet (before I lost my nerve) Coincidentally, my first son was about to go into college at the same time and my spouse had also decided to get her Masters degree as well…so, I was in good, no, great company! (That sh** just about cost us our union, but that’s another day’s blog, LOL)

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Later that month, as I was walking out of my job interview at Communicare Health Centers, I remember wondering to myself how I would manage a full-time work schedule and a full-time school schedule. I had initially wanted to do the combined MPH/MBA program, but FEAR and its close friend DOUBT, proceeded to discourage me and talk me out of it, so I settled for just the MBA. I was as excited as I was anxious! My colleagues, (after getting over the initial disbelief) quickly got on board and started cheering me on. I still had no idea how I was going to “manage” it, but I put my best Naija Igbo Woman foot forward (as per we no de eva carray last) and started the regular MBA at UTSA. Not online, in person, albeit, nearly 30 years post graduation from medical school, owning my own private practice for nearly 15 of those years and doing a brief 4yr stint as a Lt. Col in the US Air Force! I was going about mine backwards.

The first semester went like a breeze (or did it?) I now only remember that I had a hard time getting used to not only going back to school but also going back to school in the tech age! Just like my initial shock when I first came to the USA which I shared here in this earlier blog, going back to school, in America, was FULL of new experiences…!

Crocs store-1.jpgFirst off, I was one of, if not the oldest student in that regular MBA class! I was not happy about that at all. I hated the fact that I was in class with late teens and early twenty-something-year-olds. Their mannerisms were a total lack, they were disrespectful, noisy, lackadaisical, and sometimes rude to the professors(s). What struck me the most was their tendency to not do the work! They were very content with not showing up for class, joining in class discussions or even doing their portion of the school work at all… (I guess I am seriously old school) This bothered me so much that after that first semester, I went back to my student adviser and requested to disenroll. Luckily, she was kind enough to understand my position and suggested I sign up for the Executive MBA program instead. I was really lucky because I literally made the interview on the last day! Reminds me of a similar incident with Howard University Hospital Residency interview, I also talked about here. Thankfully, I got in! Since my paperwork was already in the school of business, all I needed was an intradepartmental transfer. She hit the jackpot with that suggestion because once I understood what an Executive MBA was, I TOTALLY LOVED the idea! However, a couple of my “friends” queried the “executiveness” of it all…”make sure it is not a watered down version of an MBA”, is it an E-MBA as in online/electronic? “are you going to have a real MBA degree when you get done?” and, “why de heck are you even going back to school, aren’t you tired?” Hmmm…how does one respond to all that love?IMG_0818

At the Executive MBA program, my cohort comprised of people closer to my age, adults. managers, business owners, entrepreneurs, vice presidents, CEOs, executives, parents, grandparents, wives, and husbands. A fair number of them were still younger than me, but the age gap was not nearly as much. The youngest in my class was 31 yrs old. They had all seen life and lived it a little. A lot of them were well-traveled. They were much more experienced and for the most part, wanted to do their school work. My kind of people. We were different, yet the same. A few were veterans like me, a few were foreigners like me, a few were mothers of kids in college like me, a few were divorced like me, and one was not only the other one Black person, he is also Nigerian like me! Awon Naija sha! I believe I lucked out!

In spite of all that, the school work was still a huge challenge for me. I had to get used to school the American way. Folks actually call their professors by their first names around here, huh? Not in Nigeria, tufiakwa! I went to medical school in the 80s, graduated in the very early 90s. We had real chalkboards, not smartboards. Our blackboards were not virtual, they were really black and physically present in the classroom. I had no concept of the word office-hours, luckily, my son who was then a freshman at Stanford University explained what that meant to me. I had no idea what it meant to access library books online, and be able to “check them out” virtually? What de? As shocking as these findings were to me, there was more to come.

IMG_0841As the only physician and one of 2 Blacks of the lot, 33 of us to be exact, I had no one else wearing my exact shoes, hmmmm. I had no one to hold on to when Statistics got tough (yea, I know, I did biostatistics in med school, so I recalled sensitivity and specificity, but certainly not Anova or Covariance Analysis) I had no one to hold on to when Accounting reared its ugly head, or when Finance got crazy (my poor mom, a retired accountant, who was visiting at that time, got a daily dose of complaints from me). As a self-proclaimed hater of numbers (except those on my paycheck and bank account) I loathe Excel…still do! First of all, I had never really heard about it, furthermore, I not only had to learn its basics, but I also had to learn to apply it to Accounting, and Finance, WHY!? All of which made for many a tear-filled day at the professors’ office. Every now and again, I did feel lonely and left out in my cohort, but my resilience and adaptability would kick in and I would win the little battles.

IMG_0800Economics was good as long as it was Macro Economics and the professor who worked for the FED was a kindly older gentleman with a thick Texan accent and a friendly smile. Still, I spent too many afternoons in his office at the high-security Federal Building downtown San Antonio. Corporate Restructuring was okay at the start until we got deeper into the mathematical aspects and calculations, then it ceased to be fun. Since I love words, Organizational Behavior was great, Ethics was a bit confusing. Marketing, Negotiations, Business Strategy, and International Business Studies were easy for me because I had no numbers to worry about, furthermore, I LOVE reading and discussions. Looking back now, one of my favorite subjects was Leadership. Not only was our professor really cool and soft-spoken, but the cases were also interesting, intriguing and thought-provoking. I enjoyed learning about exemplary leaders. I learned about myself and my own flavor of leadership. I thoroughly enjoyed the final TEDx talk we each had to give at the end of the class. Oh, my talk was on the power of the word, NO.

One of my favorite experiences during my business school was Executive Coaching. As a matter of fact, I owe my executive coach, my entire career journey today.  She is one cool Chica. She used to work for NASA, so she is equal part brains, beauty, class, and control. I absolutely admire her poise and her presence. She exuded knowledge and she helped me figure out who I am/was, and what I wanted to do with my life after school. Truth be told, I only signed up for the MBA partially because the VA was footing the bill, and partially because I used to counsel my subordinates in the Air Force to take advantage of the GI Bill and Post 911 educational grants and go back to school and further their education. I never even thought I could do it, but I had to heed my own advice.

Singapore 4.jpgI must say the highlight of our entire MBA experience was the 12day international trip to South East Asia! A trip that cost me the attendance of my youngest brother’s wedding in Nigeria, which just happened to have been scheduled for the exact same day. We left San Antonio bright and early that January morning and went through LAX. The 17hour flight both ways was no match for the excitement I felt in finally seeing the world famous Singapore and Vietnam! I grew up in the 70s and 80s and remember listening to the song “Vietnam” by Jimmy Cliff, so, this was a sort of homecoming for me. Singapore, a country born with a golden spoon, is eating its cake and having it too. It is an example of how hard work pays off no matter what. Vietnam, a country that is well on its way back from the ashes of multiple wars, betrayals and “destruction of men in their prime, whose average age was 19” a la Paul Hardcastle in his Jazz Masters hit (one of my faves).  After everything she has been through, her people still wake up every morning, practice Tai Chi, get on their motorcycles and ride!

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I cannot put in words the excitement of Singapore! Its clean streets, ultramodern Singapore 2.jpgarchitecture, eclectic suburbs, fine dining, high-end shopping, educated minds, and multiracial indigenes all living harmoniously in spite of differences in religion, language, customs, cultures, etc. A hard lesson for all African countries to learn (sadly). Singapore welcomed me with open arms. I even got a chance to sing old Karaoke tunes with a local band at a local pub! Vietnam was different. More real, dirtier, noisier, almost “happier” than Singapore. Our class got to visit the Crocs factory, eat with the locals in a traditional Vietnamese home, and take a canoe ride on the river to the coconut village, where my sense of smell was completely mesmerized by the indescribable smells of coconut. Since my wife is part Island girl, and I am the quintessential Tropical Chic, this, was HOME! I was immediately taken back to my childhood, my grandmother’s hut…her smell, her heart, the essence of her being my Nne Akuobu.  As unbelievable as the trip was, I topped it up, by finishing the final edits of my first of many Amazon bestsellers on the plane ride home! BTW, get your copy on Amazon or on my website, it is the best parenting book ever! 😉Singapore 3.jpg

I shall miss school. I have always been studious. I have always had a quest for knowledge. Though old age is setting in and my memory is not quite as good as it used to be. I am proud to say that I completed the MBA and can now print out my new business card with all five letters in their proper order MD/MBA 🙂 I earned it. Considering I got the degree after I have already been in private practice for nearly 30yrs, and considering I have no idea what I am going to do with it…yet, I am still thankful for all the potential doors it will open for me. I admit I had NO WHY, I simply did it because I could, because the funds were available through the VA, and because I might have needed to prove to myself that I still gat it after all these years, or simply because…

In ending, I would like to say; just like that, my 27month program is done. Was it hard? Yeah! Is it doable? Hell yeah! Can you do it? All day! So follow your heart, try something new, push yourself. No one ever died wishing they spent one more day playing a round of golf. This is my legacy, what is yours? What is holding you back from following and fulfilling your dreams? Work? Kids? Family? What are your priorities? Are they in proper order? Remember, life is what happens while you are busy planning…so get off your phone, get off your couch and just do it! If I could do it, with my schedule, you can do it too! Peace still.

My name is Uchenna Umeh, MD/MBA, and I approve this message.

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UU

#neverforget #alwaysremember

 

Dear Blog, as Black History Month comes to an end…

I want to say this to you, to my people, the Black Butterflies, and Black Bees, and Black Hornets out there…

You know who you are, you know yourselves,

stand tall, stand proud, take a knee, take a bow, be strong, but whatever you do…

 

 

#neverforget

#alwaysremember

 

They came from the African coasts

from the Motherland…

from the belly of the seas, the depths of the ocean

My people,

My ancestors,

Aunts and uncles, yours and mine.

 

Look closely,

See the furrowed brows?

Hear their anguished voices?

Listen to the wailing from the depths of their hearts;

the unborn, the children, the youth, the grown, the aged.

 

Their pain, oh, the pain!

I feel it, fresh as it were today.

Our wounds, still hurting from yesteryears,

…and fresh ones today cut deep

Our scars, never healing

Different, yet same.

 

The anguish in her furrowed brows

The cramps in his tired limbs

The cries from babes at the breast

The wailing from youth in pain

The torment that knows no end

Suffering and wondering, where is God?

 

Praying, asking, is this life?

Lives still in limbo

Thoughts still displaced

Hearts still bleeding

Minds still unknowing…questioning,

…wondering and wandering

 

Ashamed, confused, scared, angry, sad, dejected, unhappy but believing…

 

Today like always, we remember, we never forget.

 

Happy BHM

Black history museum pics

BB