Sunday, August 31, 2014

Help Save Yomade Balogun...

Yomade, Before.
Does she wonder if she will raise enough money for the kidney transplant? ... Does she sometimes breakdown in tears when no one is looking – an endless “why me” stuck in her thoughts?

Yesterday, I tried to blog about Yomade Balogun. I tried hard, but the words wouldn’t form. I must have written no less than six opening paragraphs. I deleted them all. No words, absolutely no words, were adequate to convey the depth of my emotion.

Today, I must try again – even though not much has changed. I must force myself to find the words, fully cognizant of their inadequacy, in the hope that they might move even one person to action.

Yomade is 26, first of three children, and a graduate of the Obafemi Awolowo University. She lost her dad to a ghastly motor accident in 1992. A few years ago, she started her own company – “Adornare Clothing and Accessories” – where she trains other tailors and makes clothes under her own label.

Yomade is a regular young lady, with dreams and aspirations of her own – but for an ailment that threatens the very fabric of her existence.

Yomade is battling renal failure.

Sometimes, like tonight, I sit by myself and wonder what might be going through her mind at that instant. Does she wonder if she will raise enough money for the kidney transplant? Does she despair at having to depend on Dialysis Machines for her continued survival? Does she sometimes breakdown in tears when no one is looking – an endless “why me” stuck in her thoughts? Does she sometimes break out in fervent prayers – beseeching God for her healing?

Hopefully, one day – I can ask her for myself how it felt to go through these trying times, and if this battle for her life changed her perspective on living.

But today, we need to take action. Indeed there is so much pain in the world, and frankly speaking – there is very little that we can do. But sometimes, ‘little’ is all it takes. My ‘little’, and your ‘little’, and ‘little’ from a few hundred people – and we can together give Yomade a chance at an healthy life again.

See below for account details. Give, cheerfully - even if it's just a thousand. Coldstone Ice Cream can wait. That fancy extra top you really don't need can wait. That movie can wait...

You just might help to save a life.
Account name: Balogun Yomade Yewande
GTB: 0130520176
DIAMOND BANK: 0051136447
ZENITH: 2084974783.
Yomade, During. One day, soon by God's grace, I'll put up a picture of her looking healthy and chubby again - with the caption "Yomade, After".
People have mailed me asking for more details, ala 'proof'. Go to BellaNaija and Obajeun.Com to view other posts. I have also included some scanned letters from her hospital after the cut.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Thoughts on Death

Three people I know directly or indirectly passed on within the past week. They were of different ages and at different stages in life: one a grandfather who had clocked 80, one a young father, and one a young mother.

In the past few days I have found myself constantly praying for peace for the families and friends they have left behind (really - what else could one wish the bereaved?), and thinking again - and again - about death.

Sometimes I wonder how it feels to be dead. To lose all consciousness of life on this plane, not for a while, but forever. To be unable to console family and friends as they ‎wail uncontrollably. To lie there, seeing nothing and feeling nothing, while strangers poke around the body conducting autopsies and later preparing it for burial. To no longer be able to defends one's self against accusations of any sort. To no longer be able to spend any of the money one has gathered and probably spent a lifetime protecting. To have someone else clean out one's dirty underwear and rummage through the many other secrets one has left behind. To not attend the many birthday parties, matriculation ceremonies, and graduation ceremonies of children and other dear ones left behind. To not be there to hold a spouse on a cold night or work through a difficult decision with them.

I could go on and on, but you get the drift.

The interesting thing is how inevitable all of this is. Rich, poor, old, young, sickly, healthy - we all die someday. And like in the overused cliche, the sum of our lives will be represented in a hyphen between two years.

What then is important? What then can humanity do in the face of such helplessness? What then can we do in the face of such inevitability? What then can we do within our Circle of Influence, seeing as death is within the Circle of Concern?

We can choose to live.

We can choose to die as empty as we can. To live our dreams now (within our means), rather than put them off till an uncertain future. To give now, even if we can only give thousands today as opposed to millions at an uncertain date in the future. To love now, and fully - even if a scarcity of resources limits us in its immediate expression. To learn now, ‎and find fulfillment in putting our learning to work - for there is no distinction between preschoolers and Professors in the grave. To work hard and play hard in complementing cycles. To "make the most of every opportunity, because we live in evil times". To fear God, and obey His commandments.

To live, love, and learn.‎

We never know what the future holds, but we can live in the "now", with eternity in mind.

May the God of all peace by Himself grant peace to the bereaved in due course, and may He be with us all.

Cheers to the new week.

Turns out I blog about death a lot. Read my previous posts about death here:
1. Thoughts on Goldie's Passing (2013).
2. Thoughts From A Funeral (2012).
3. What Will You Be Remembered For (2009).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Randoms:: No More CNN, Contentment, Dr. Adadevoh, Ebola

1. I had an addiction to CNN. Until today. I'm done, at least - for now. There's so much pain in the world, and CNN does a good job at forcing me to share in that pain. It's either ISIS, or Ebola, or Israel vs. Palestine, or something else! I know hiding will not take away the pain, or change anything for that matter, but let's hope it stops the nightmares and helps me sleep easier at night.

PS: I made the mistake "of life" and watched the video showing the beheading of James Foley after seeing the news report on CNN. That's probably the worst choice I've made this year. This is the part where I go to bed singing "My Heart Will Trust".

2. My friend, Wale Osideinde, wrote a good post on his blog about contentment. Again I am reminded of my favorite line from Acres of Diamonds: "He was a contented and wealthy man -- contented because he was wealthy, and wealthy because he was contented". Go to Wale's Blog to read the full post, but net - "Godliness with contentment is great gain". Given - we can't all be the richest man or woman in the world, heck - not even in most of our neighborhoods.

It is completely pointless to compare your life/wealth/career progression/achievement with another. It's a lot more important to raise the bar for yourself and aspire to be the very best you can be.

Am I suggesting that you become complacent? No. I'm saying gratitude for what you already have is a great place to start. Life is a long race, and in the end - it's only with yourself.

3. Yesterday, I was saddened beyond measure at the news of Dr. Adadevoh's passing. Chxta wrote a great post that more than adequately conveys the pain I feel, and more importantly - echoes my thoughts that her (and Justina Ejelonu's) actions be immortalized.

4. This is for all the Health Workers on the front lines of the fight against Ebola and other such diseases. We respect you. We admire all that you do. We know the world would be a very different place without you. We thank you.

PS: Go here to download Acres of Diamonds for free if you'd like to read it. Again, it's available for free because it's long past Copyright.


Monday, August 18, 2014

It's Okay to say "No" Sometimes...

You know what I thought about on my way to work today? Of course you don't - because you don't live in my mind. I'd like to share with you though, so - here goes:

Sometimes we try to be nice to people by not saying "no" when they make inappropriate or inconvenient requests of our resources (such as time or money), but then - having accepted to help - actually do nothing, because it was a request we simply couldn't have granted in the first place.

In this case, the other person - the one we tried to be nice to by not turning them down, leaves the experience even more hurt than they would have been if we had said an outright "no" at the beginning.

Addressing this is quite easy, really. Next time you're about to say "yes" without thinking, hold-on and double-check. If you know you're not going to do it, there's no point setting the wrong expectations.

Just say "no".


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Randoms:: Dolly Parton, Nuhu Ribadu, Real Madrid

This post is a collection of randoms. Now that you have been warned - here you go:

1. Dolly Parton made great music! Singing along to "Here You Come Again", "Double Dart", and "You Know I Love You" (songs from 1975) this evening, I have to 'give it up' for the power of music.  For example, I get a kick out of knowing my Mother grooved to "Jolene" back in the day, and I can listen to the exact same song with the original instruments and all today. That's awesome stuff!

Only thing is - I think she had a bit of an inferiority complex, and it showed through in her songs. Listen to "Joline", "Here You Come Again", and indeed most of her songs - and you'll 'see' what I'm saying.

2. So Nuhu Ribadu has defected to the PDP? I don't even know what to think. Tyma thought I would laugh at her, but laughter was far from me when I first read the news. That says a lot about politics in Nigeria. We are a really, really long way from 'enjoying the fruits of democracy'. But then - why am I so surprised? The APC and the PDP are basically made up of the same people. Neither party has a manifesto worth the paper it's printed on. Both parties are bereft of sound ideology and principle. Abegggggie - let the macabre dance continue.

3. My mother narrowly escaped a fatal accident yesterday. Thank God with me. Right now, I just can't imagine life without Mrs. Ko.

Casillas baby!!!
4. Football is BACK! Thankfully, Madrid won the Super Cup... (no need to specify which Madrid, there's only one authentic Madrid)... Now hoping we can go all the way this new La Liga season and win a record 33rd title - (and maybe defend the Champions League successfully while we're at that). If none of this happens though, I won't be flustered in the least. Winning La Decima last season is enough to keep me happy for another two seasons!

That's all for tonight :)
Cheers to the new week, people...


Friday, August 08, 2014

Circle of Concern vs. Circle of Influence: What are you choosing to focus on?

I made a choice recently, to focus on my Circle of Influence (or what I can control) - rather than my Circle of Concern (the many things that concern me, but have outcomes/results I can neither influence nor control).

It is a choice that has changed my life.

Many times, we obsess about the things we can not influence or control. We obsess about what people say about us, rather than focus on how we can lead better lives on an everyday basis. We obsess about the rain, rather than buy an umbrella and get on with life. We obsess about what we will do when we have money :), rather than take steps to make money.

According to Stephen R. Covey, truly "proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about... Reactive people, on the other hand, focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern. They focus on the weakness of other people, the problems in the environment, and the circumstances over which they have no control".

Next time you find yourself starting to moan about a situation or circumstance - ask yourself first, is there something I can do (or cause others to do) about this situation - and just do it. If there isn't, accept the situation and move on.

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference." - Reinold Neibuhr.
Cheers to the Weekend!

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Three Years of Awesome 'Online-Published Fiction'

In 2012, I wrote this story about falling in love with two women. It felt quite ordinary to me, but it was released to 'widespread acclaim'. I love this story because it contained an experiment that delivered satisfactory results... I once read that a master storyteller starts from the end of their story, proceeds to the beginning, and the ends with the middle - so I decided to try it. Without fully fleshing out the plot, I wrote the three paragraphs I wanted to end the story with - then started off the story with them. The results were fantastic. Go here to read "How I Fell in Love with Two Women". (I'm sending you to Facebook so you can also view the comments).

In 2013, I wrote "Things We Do For Love". It was about a lady's attempts to get her lover a job - regardless of the personal cost to her. In what I consider a huge sacrifice in a relationship, she was going to sleep with a guy she detested - if it would get her Mofesola a job. This story also contains an experiment after a fashion. Versus my forte of picking a central character and writing the entire story from their perspective, I decided to write this one from two perspectives - hence, alternate episodes were written from the viewpoints of Ikepo (female lead) and Mofesola (male lead). In addition to this, I also wrote these alternate viewpoints in different time-tenses. Ikepo described events as they happened, while Mofesola was narrating in past tense. I love how it all came together at the end. Go here to read "Things We Do For Love". (Again - I'm sending you to Facebook for the same reasons above).

This year (2014), I have decided to put my short story into a book instead. It will contain quite a few 'experiments' too, and I will offer it for free when it is done. While you wait however, I thought to give you "Recision" - a story of betrayal, love, and forgiveness - written in beautiful prose by Enekabor Ehinomen - my Mentor. This one is hot and fresh, so I choose not to give you any spoilers. Go here to read "Recision". (This time, you're headed off to Ehis' blog).

Shout out if you love these pieces...

Cheers to the coming week,

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Half of a Yellow Sun (The Movie) - Thoughts

Half of a Yellow Sun (the movie) premiered in Nigerian cinemas yesterday, and I went to see it today. I came away from the screening with a cornucopia of thoughts, and I wanted to share some of them here…

First, HOAYS is an excellent movie! Apart from a few anachronisms like a late 90’s style Ox fan in a 1960 room and a few 2000+series handbags used by characters during the Civil War, the movie was worth the nearly two hours I spent seeing it. The movie theatre was packed full, and I was proud a Nigerian-directed movie pulled that kind of crowd. Great work, Mr. Biyi Bandele.

Second, I didn’t quite like the fact that Mr. Bandele looked outside of Nollywood to find his lead characters. While the boo argued that his use of Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton in leading roles made the movie more appealing to the international audience – the proud (and possibly illogical) ‘Nigerian’ in me wished there was more Nollywood ‘leadership’ in the movie. For example – why wasn’t Genevieve Nnaji casted as Olanna?

Third, Onyeka Onwenu was such a natural! She killed it!!! I totally fell in love with her portrayal of “Mama”, and was quite sad when she died (in the movie – of course)! Sorry – but that there is a spoiler.

Last but not the least, at the end of the movie – I was reminded of my long-standing admiration for the Igbo people. The fact that they bounced back from the killings and persecution that went on unabated in the late 60s to yet again permeate the top echelons of Nigerian society today is a testament to their perseverance, long-suffering, and innate excellence.

I am grateful the Censors Board overcame their fears (with a little external prodding I believe) and released Half of a Yellow Sun for public viewing. We must tell the stories of the Civil War to young Nigerians; yea – we must teach its lessons to the coming generation.

We need to do what we can to ensure we do not repeat our fathers’ mistakes.

Net – watch “Half of a Yellow Sun”. It is well worth your time.
1. There’s some nudity. You might not want to see this one with kids.
2. It’s not entirely like the book. Prepare for a somewhat-related story, but again – NOT the book.
3. I shed a tear (well, more like a few tears) when Olanna's wedding reception was disrupted by Federal shelling... War :(, oh War :(.


Welcome to August; It's Never Too Late...

Welcome to August.

While thinking about the new month yesterday, it struck me that it's the eight month of the year. Little by little, "play by play", 2014 draws to a close...

I wanted to share with someone out there...that it's never too late. It's never too late to articulate your goals and reach for them. It's never too late to take baby steps towards the future you have always desired. It's never too late to take the first step towards breaking that negative habit that has held you down all this while. It's never too late to take the initiative and change your life...

Today, you have 100% of your life left.

Happy New Month.