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Love your enemies…It is good for you!

I am currently reading a book called the stepmother. It is a work of fiction but it gives a very vivid account from the ex-wife and new wife’s perspective about the blending of two families.
It’s not lala land. Everything is not perfect. The two women do not meet and form some sort of instant friendship, like add husband and mix. Not at all. They spend a lot of time wondering, fearing, secretly wishing away and envying each other. But I am at the part where they meet. And it is in a not so good way. In fact it is in a terrible way. A way that could have made them adversaries for life. But because these characters are open, honest and compassionate, I can see cautious and tentative bonds forming. These women actually help each other. They even begin to like each other.

Of course it sucks to know that the man one slept with for years, had babies with and pledged to love forever is now loving another and that another actually spends time parenting said babies, every other weekend and on Wednesday nights, of course it sucks. But it is. And because it is, it must be dealt with. And because it must be dealt with, these characters choose to look past the stereotypes and embrace the humanity. All stepmothers aren’t wicked and all ex-wives aren’t evil. People are sometimes just people. Most are innately good not wicked but sometimes even when they are, there are opportunities to change.

Sounds great right? I wonder how life would be if we adopted this attitude. When things are not magnified in an overly dramatic way. When simple slights do not spark lifelong feuds, when we start to believe the best and not look for the worst? How would it be?

I find that in Nigeria, we are incredibly suspicious. Not that we can be blamed. The average person can name at least one person who has sworn, e no go betta for that person. We have had our belongings pilfered by family members, our loved ones kidnapped through an inside job, we have discovered chicken legs tied together end to end and placed under the bed by our househelps – Don’t act brand new…that stuff doesn’t just happen in the movies.

Not that I haven’t been guilty of this myself (Not the chicken legs o! The being suspicious), I have. I have also had times when I had extended a hand in friendship and drawn it back with blood and teeth marks. I have had people swear for me with such vehemence that you would wonder what I did and be surprised to know that all I did was smile at them at precisely the wrong moment and apparently in the wrong way. I have known people who have no doubt stood in the crossroads naked, in attempt to destroy me, simply because they think they want what I have. Meanwhile like MTV’s the diary…you think you know, but you have no idea!

Ha! I have been woken up in the midnight hour by a nagging and prayed, only to hear later that at that moment, this one was planning for me. Hia! Meanwhile, I don’t have any interaction with these so called enemies. In fact it was on their own that they decided we were enemies, I wasn’t even called to the meeting.

There was something someone said they wished for me that shocked me. I was truly and deeply hurt. Na wetin! I thought. What is it? Even at that moment, God pushed me to see their humanity. Hmm… It is still a process sha, I won’t lie. Every time I take communion I say I have forgiven, but mention their name and an eyebrow goes up.

However today I am once again challenged, to think and see them as humans. Like me. Haven’t I made terrible decisions in anger? Haven’t I said horrible things when I let my emotions get the better of me? If I were judged by every bad thing I ever did, then where would I be today. True I don’t know the way to any babalawo and honey, you can’t catch me at any crossroads, but really can I not understand the fear, the insecurity, the pain, the frustration that gives root to their behaviors? Can I not see the human being that lies beneath? Should I give a dog a bad name and hang it?

I wonder what would happen if we began to give each other the benefit of the doubt. The country that has supposedly some of the happiest people in the world, what would happen if we became the kindest and most compassionate people?

I am not asking you to be naïve and be led to slaughter. There are many people with whom I dine with a very long spoon. In fact there are many with whom I don’t dine at all. However what I think matters most here is how I view and think about them. I can forgive and understand. I can see them as flawed humans like myself. I can also understand that said flaw is quite dangerous and something over which they have no control or no desire to stop and as such I can remove myself from harm’s way if necessary, but I don’t have to hate them right?

I wish you could hear the sigh that escaped as I wrote that line. Some folks make it hard for you to love them. Yet we are commanded to. And I continue to think, especially as I read this simple book that I bought as a distraction, that when we love and lay down suspicion, anger and thoughts of treachery, irregardless of what may come, ultimately it is our lives that are the better for it.And so, I lay you down! If you want to fight, you are fighting yourself. Me, I see you. Just as you are, a scared little person who has no idea of your own strength, power and purpose in this world. I see you. And yes by the grace of God, I love you…And one day, I may like you.

Exercise for only a few minutes a day!

Only have a few minutes to work out? Don’t have hours to spend at the gym? Well that can’t be an excuse anymore. Here is a fitness workout that will take only minutes a day and it will transform your body if you are diligent with it.

Exercise 1 – The Hindu Squat
Place feet shoulder width apart and raise your arms up to the height of your shoulders to keep your balance. Bend knees and go down making sure to keep your hips over your heels and your back straight. On your way down, stop and hold that pose for 10 seconds. Then lower yourself further and hold for another 10 seconds. Repeat this 3 more times, keep your stomach muscles tight, and end by squatting deeply. Then slowly straighten your legs.

Photo credits: Good Housekeeping

Exercise 2 – The lunge
Stand with one leg forward and one leg back. Bend your knees and lower your body into a lunge. Be sure to keep the front and back knee at 90 degree angles. Utilizing the weight in your heels, slowly push back up to your starting position. Don’t lock your knees and don’t let your knee bend past your toes. Repeat this exercise 12 to 16 times.

The Plank. Photo credit - Womans day

Exercise – The Plank
Lie face down with your elbows on floor next to chest. Push your body off the floor in a pushup position with body resting on elbows or hands. Hold in your stomach and keep your body as straight as possible from head to toes. Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat as many times as you can. For beginners, do this move on your knees and gradually work your way up to balancing on your toes.

Exercise – Wall sit
Stand about 2 feet in front of a wall and lean your back against it. Slide down until your knees are at about 90-degree angles and hold. Keep the stomach muscles contracted for 60 seconds. Release and repeat, holding the squat at different angles to work the lower body in different ways. To work harder, hold weights. Repeat 3 times.

These strength training exercises build muscle and endurance.

Improve low self esteem

Hide the good stuff

Photo credit:

Kids are notoriously finicky eaters and unless you subscribe to the you’ll eat what I put on the table rule and are prepared to enforce it by any means necessary, you’ll have to find creative ways to sneak nutritious foods to their diets without their knowing it.

Here are some suggestions and please readers leave comments with your ideas and tips that have worked on your kids.

Green eggs
This is perfect for any Dr Seuss fan. Puree cooked spinach or broccoli or some other green vegetable and add to eggs while scrambling. The eggs will turn green and the child will be tickled that he or she has green eggs and if they refuse, you can always act out the book, playing the role of sam I am!

macaroniandcheesePunched up mac and cheese
Most children love macaroni and cheese, and lets face it, they need their veggies. So if they won’t eat it with the veggies obviously peeking out, try pureeing steamed cauliflower and adding it into the mac and cheese while it cooks. They’ll be none the wiser.

Protein shakes
If getting your kid enough protein is a problem, perhaps he hates milk, you can try making him a smoothie in the morning and adding silken tofu (which can be found at foreign grocery stores or imported, I know it’s not on most African grocery lists, but we have to expand our boundaries folks) and his favorite fruit and a touch of brown sugar or honey and it is sure to be a hit.

Veggie meatballs
Finely chop vegetables and mix in with minced meat of choice with eggs and breadcrumbs when making meatballs. You can also add pureed veggies of choice into spaghetti sauce.

Leave a comment with your own fun ideas or let us know how these worked for you

The dangers of Obesity

Photo credit:

Big can be beautiful, we all agree. However in the quest to make sure we all have healthy self –esteems, let us not forget that obesity can lead to serious health problems. Obesity is not always a sign of a person being out of control. It is a serious medical disease that affects over a quarter of adults in the United States, and about 14% of children and adolescents. It is the second leading cause of preventable death after smoking. The common thought is that you can simply determine whether you are obese by stepping on a bathroom scale. Obesity is measured by more than just weight. It is measured by a number of factors. Which include BMI—Body mass index and waist circumference.

Body mass index is a calculation based on your height and weight. Generally a BMI of 30 or more suggests obesity. However the BMI is not a perfect measurement, sometimes a person may have a high BMI but have more muscle than fat.

The second measurement is waist circumference. Studies have shown that women with a waist circumference of 35 or more are at a much high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension and
cardiovascular disease.

While beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, a beautiful person is not necessarily a healthy one. It is important to recognize that while we must maintain our emotional health by feeling good about ourselves, we can maintain our physical health by being good to ourselves. The best ways to decrease one’s chances of developing a disease are by diet modification and exercise.

For more information see:

Go deep

The other day I went swimming with my husband. Well he went swimming and I went paddling. You see I much prefer to hang out on the side of the pool where my feet just about touch the bottom and I paddle along nicely there, however according to David, my husband, that is not swimming.

“Come on out into the deep end” He called, determined to share with me the joy of doing laps. I shook my head. He came out to meet me and tried to show me some basic moves. “Just relax and let go” I stared at him blankly…let go into what, didn’t he understand the panic that rose up inside of me, the new sensation of being completely underwater was so uncomfortable that I kept jumping up gasping for air? Clearly not, because he kept pushing me to come out of my comfort zone, to go deep, so to speak.

I decided to take swimming lessons. So eventually I will really learn how to swim properly.

However I was thinking about how that experience is like a reflection for life. So many of us paddle along thinking that we are really living; we deal in the superficial, focusing on the aspects of life that keep us from drowning, (or so we think) a big house to live in, a fancy car to drive, a marriage that looks good to onlookers, designer clothes to rock and so on.

When something doesn’t feel right we address it on the surface. We feel inadequate because we don’t have what others in our social circle have, so we hustle to make it, in order to keep up with the Jones. We feel a little unsure with our looks, so we weave, paint and glue on, false pieces to embellish our sense of identity. We starve ourselves if necessary not to be healthy but to fit into a contrived version of beauty.

We only focus on what is on the surface. And I don’t blame anyone, going deep, going underwater is scary. You feel as if your lungs are going to explode and that life as you know it will no longer continue because you might drown.
Here’s the thing I am finding.
No matter how much you are paddling and how cool you look in your bathing suit with your hair not really getting wet, David was right, you are not swimming. No matter how comfortable your life appears and how glamorous you may be, if your life serves no purpose, then you are not living. Simply existing. If I can be morbid, you are a walking corpse, albeit a fabulously dressed one.

Whose life have you touched? What heart have you inspired? What kindness have you proffered that has impacted someone’s existence? What is your life’s purpose? What were you born to do?

I was coaching a woman the other day and she said “I have no idea what my purpose is. I don’t know what my passions are either.” Now this woman holds a professional degree, is a mother, wife and has been working in corporate America for more than a decade, but recently she came to the conclusion that she wanted to change her life. She was dissatisfied with so much in her life. Her marriage wasn’t quite what everyone thought it was, intimacy between she and her spouse had all but died, she felt like she was shortchanging her children because she never had any quality time to spend with them and while she was a competent worker she felt like she would never reach a certain pinnacle of success at work. And moreover, she just simply wasn’t happy.

So we talked about what it would take to create the life she wanted.
And at the end of that conversation, she responded with “Ekene, I just don’t know, you are asking me to change my life, I don’t think I can…” I smiled and reminded her that I wasn’t asking her to change her life, she desired to do so, but her response was what I expected. She was like me, content to paddle along and watch others swim powerfully, slicing through the water and creating a new path. I was afraid and so was she.

Going deep isn’t easy. It’s about looking at yourself and dealing with what lies underneath. Not focusing on the extra weight you are carrying about but dealing with the reasons why you are carrying it around (I could write a book on this…wait, I am writing a book!:)), not fretting about the cost of that designer bag you feel you have to have, even though you know you can’t really afford it, but facing your feelings of inadequacy that push you to have it, it’s about getting to the core of who you are, discovering your weaknesses, fears and strongholds and dealing with them, strengthening your core.

In the world of fitness, you will hear a lot about strengthening your core, it is where your true strength lies. Well going deep is about doing just that, strengthening your emotional and spiritual core. Understanding and accepting who you are and the value you add uniquely to this world. It takes work, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not about a man shrugging his shoulders and saying “yeah, I cheat occasionally, it’s just who I am”, It’s about recognizing that you have the power to be better than who you think you are and pushing past your comfort zone to achieve it.

I say this, not because I am there yet, but because I am in the process of going deep. And it has been painful at times and exhilarating at times. I have looked into what lies underneath my emotional responses to things, why did I make some of the choices I made in my past, who am I really, under the words and the sound bytes? What are my areas of insecurity, what are my areas of strength?

Going deep is a process and it is scary at first. But just like you won’t drown while learning to swim, you lungs expand and your endurance builds, your life changes, you get stronger, wiser and deeper. When you choose to leave your comfort zone, then you can begin to live in a way that is purposeful and impactful to the world at large. Then your actions and choices will begin to add positivity to your life.
Then you can really begin to swim.

Homemade Skincare

We have become conditioned to spend a great deal of money on skin care. In fact the cosmetics industry is one of the most lucrative. However there are many simple recipes we can create at home that can take care of our skin.

Salicylic acid scrub.
Salicylic acid is a common ingredient in many facial skincare products. This is because it can reduce the amount of acne and clarify the skin. It works by reducing redness and it also encourages the sloughing off of dead and damaged skin cells.
Mix the following.
Crush 5 to 8 tablets of Aspirin (Aspirin contains salicylic acid) into a powder. Mix aspirin powder with a few drops of water to form a thin paste. Apply to skin.
This is a scrub that can be used occasionally.

Salt Body scrub
Mix the following.
½ cup olive oil. (You can also use coconut oil/shea butter – You may need to warm them as they are in solid form when cooled.)
I cup of salt (Sugar can also be a substitute, especially if you have sensitive skin)
Few drops of essential oil. (optional)
Shredded ginger (optional for more exfoliation)
Lemon peel of 1 lemon (for invigoration)

Essential Oils
Orange, lime, tangerine or lemon: For an uplifting effect.
Rosemary, eucalyptus or peppermint: For clearing out the sinuses and stimulating the body
Cinnamon or clove: For improving circulation and adding a spicy kick to your scrub.
Rose, jasmine or ylang-ylang: for a romantic floral scrub.
Geranium: For balancing your mood.
Lavender: For promoting relaxation.

Sweet Lemon scrub
Mix the following.
1 tablespoon of honey
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Juice from 1/2 lemon
The sugar exfoliates the skin while the honey is a humectant meaning it is hydrating and also moisturizing for the skin. The lemon clarifies and evens out skin tone.

Egg white mask
1 egg
1 tsp honey
Separate egg white from egg yolk. Beat the egg white until stiff peaks form. Add one teaspoon of honey. Stir together put on face. Rinse off with cold water after 30 minutes.

Carrot mask
Carrots are high in vitamin A which is good for your skin.
2 – 3 carrots
4 tsps honey
Grind carrots into a puree. Mix with 4 teaspoons honey. Apply gently to the skin, wait 10 minutes. Rinse off with cool water

Is your life filled with stress?

Today’s world is rife with stress, from deadlines, demands and disappointments, there are very few people whose lives are devoid of stress. For most people, stress is simply a way of life. However stress in it of itself isn’t always terrible, when its manageable it can give you the push needed to perform at a higher level but when it is unmanageable it can wreak havoc on your mind and body.

If you are constantly feeling fatigued, overwhelmed, anxious, near tears or suffer from physical symptoms like constant colds, dizziness, headaches, body pains or stomach issues then it might be a sign that your body and mind may be under too much stress. If you find yourself stuck in destructive behaviors like eating compulsively, drinking excessively, losing control of your emotions or other forms of acting out then that can also be a sign that your life may be out of balance.

Understanding your body and listening to the signals that your body, mind and spirit are giving are the first steps to coping with stress.

How does one cope with stress?

The first step can be to limit or reduce stress in one’s life. If your job is too stressful to the point of being debilitating, then it would be prudent to begin to look for other employment. If your relationship has become a terrible stressor then it would be wise to discuss this with your mate and look for resolutions, if external stimuli are the cause of stress then where possible limit or remove contact with such stimuli.
However removing all the causes of stress is impossible for most people and in fact perhaps not even desirable as it has already been noted that stress in reasonable doses can positively impact our lives.

What are some things we can do to manage stress?

Manage our diet: Our dietary intake should include whole-grains like oat, maize, brown rice, fruits and vegetables and it should be low in refined carbohydrates, like white flour and sugar (cakes, pastry), chocolates, as well as junk food like potato chips etecera.

Limit alcohol: Alcohol can drain the body of nutrients and even though we are socialized to reach for that glass of wine when we are stressed, it can actually intensify stressful situations rather than alleviate them.

Stop smoking: Smoking can increase stress by increasing the stimulation of the adrenal glands, leading to constricted blood vessels and that can lead to headaches, among other things.

Use herbs and vitamin supplements: Herbs such as Siberian ginseng, kava kava, chamomile can help to calm the nervous system and decrease the body’s response to stress. Vitamin B is called the stress vitamin and vitamin C, an antioxidant, can help to boost the immune system and prevents stress related colds and infections. As with any supplement please contact your health care provider to ensure that it is safe for you to take, in case it interacts with any medications or pre-exisiting conditions.

Aromatherapy: This can be an effective tool in reducing stress. Chamomile, Clary Sage, Frankincense, Lavender, Marjoram, Peppermint, Rose, Rosemary, Sandalwood, Tangerine and Ylang Ylang are relaxing and soothing. Using candles that are infused with these oils can help.

Massaging and Baths: Massages relax the muscles and improve blood circulation. Warm baths can also reduce stress by relaxing muscles and increasing circulation.

Exercise: This is essential to the body. Vigorous exercise for 30 minutes, at least three times a week, can relax the body and reduce anxiety. Exercise can include walking, jogging, biking, swimming or aerobics.

Meditation and Prayer: Taking time out to be quiet and contemplative can work wonders for the stressed mind and prayer is restorative to the spirit.

All of these are easy things to incorporate into any lifestyle. Every life is worth living with balance.

You are what you think!

Stretching for a healthy body and mind.

Great techniques for stretching! People often underestimate the need to stretch your muscles. Stretching increases flexibility, helps to prevent injury and is necessary for overall health. These techniques are easy and focused and can be done anywhere by anyone.