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Category Archives: Meet Toks!

This is me! I surprise myself sometimes as I discover gifts and talents the Lord blessed me with. I also uncover weaknesses that has lain burried for years. I thank God because His strength is made perfect when I am weak.

The Blooming of Madness

Read here: http://bit.ly/1vnNCJ7

We’ve moved to our Dream Home!

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Come hang out at:
www.pawpawandmango.com
There’s room for you. ūüėÄ

Urgent Nollywood Appeal

I have tried very hard to keep this under wraps, it isn’t exactly the sort of information you broadcast, especially when described by one’s own husband with terms like actress or worse, alata, which means pepper-seller. In Africa no one grows up wanting to be a pepper-seller and if by some misfortune they fall onto that path, they would not broadcast the fact either. Sadly, my mum and brothers are on the same bandwagon and have even dragged my innocent sons, kicking and screaming onto it to join them. They think I’m an actress and may have missed my calling. The only one who insists on seeing me as I am, a dignified, ambitious woman is my precious father.

So here it is, I need a connection into Nollywood

Starring in a¬†Nollywood movie isn’t number one on my bucket list but it is there nonetheless. And since I’ve never deluded myself into thinking I’m Ms Organised, I won’t explain why I’m not addressing my list in chronological order. Plus of course being me, chronological order does not mean in¬†order of importance. It just happens to be the order in which the thought ¬†forced itself on me.

Why Nollywood? I can’t tell you why because I don’t know. I only watch the occasional movie and those occasions are very few and very far between. Like many people I became¬†fed up of the cliffhanger¬†annoying endings signalled by the words ‘To God be the Glory‘, followed by credits to the many Chief and Chief Mrs Okonkwos and Otunba Babatundes.

Still, I want the opportunity to ‘side-eye’ people up and down to the cham-cham, kpas-kpas sounds of my chewing gum. ¬†I want the Nollywood style makeup that not only transforms your face, but changes your accent¬†while you’re wearing it. I want to play the part of that wicked madam who treats her minions¬†as though she is only just coming to terms with the bitter truth that they breathe the same air, or maybe even play the role of the secretary that’s so rude even the mice shudder. I want to be able to gist with my friends and say; ‘Gurrl!! Can you imagine? Ehnn!?‘ complete with appropriate hand gestures. I want to say I’ve got my ‘international passport‘ ¬†That one baffles me, is there a local or national type?

I’m not keen on the role of being the bit on the side with whom ¬†chief belts out his dirty sexy laugh; and he puts his arm around her shoulders saying¬†‘Come here my dear, he he heh!!’

So will you hook me up? Bear in mind I do ¬†have a reputation to protect. I don’t want the ones¬†where every character including the vulcaniser¬†has an American accent. I also don’t want any movies with a car accident scene- they just don’t work. Especially¬†when the doctor has the task of breaking the sad news of ¬†death to a worried relative. Although he has been instructed by the scriptwriter to ‘break… gently’ he chooses instead to jab¬†the pre-wailing character with these exact words (every time);¬†”sorry, she’s dead. No need to cry, no need to cry, be a man!”

My friends and I went to watch Chimamanda’s Half of a Yellow Sun a couple of weeks ago, which by the way in case you’re not familiar does not fall under the Nollywood umbrella. First we had dinner and then the movie. We were very surprised to see a red carpet and a bevy of ¬†beautiful Nigerian folks dressed to the nines all milling around. There were 8¬†inch heels, weaves down past their bums, make up that I swear changed them on the inside as well as the outside¬†and tons of backs. Chocolate-coloured backs, yellow backs, bleached backs. I’m thinking the dress code was backless dresses. Thankfully I took some pictures- otherwise you would not have believed that there really was a man dressed in a gold shirt with gold accessories. And a white waistcoat. And a white fedora¬†hat. I spotted an acquaintance on the red carpet, sashaying about as the cameras took her pictures. She is fairly well-known on the entertainment scene. She told me it was the premiere for a movie which raised awareness for cervical cancer. My brothers and sisters, there was no indication of cervical cancer awareness anywhere. ¬†There were backdrops, camera men, photographers, actresses and actors, but nothing about cervical cancer. Just hair, make-up, dresses and gold outfits. And backs.

Just so we’re clear, I’m not looking to make a name for myself, go backless on a red carpet or hang out with gold-shirted men. I just want to cross one line off my bucket list.

Thank you for reading, do write something in the box below, I’m desperate for comments¬†I would love to know your thoughts. It’s been a while.

 

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Gold Shirt Tinz

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Backs & Weaves

Raising Awareness.

Raising Awareness…







 

 

 

 

Stalking is a Strong Word…

On my way home from the school run I saw what looked like a cat being walked. On a leash.

I whipped out my phone to take a picture, but couldn’t quite get a good shot of it.

The dog that thinks its a cat

The dog that thinks its a cat

The owners are an older couple. They’re walking their dog which appears to be dressed up as a cat. I drive slowly behind them to try to get a clearer shot. The blasted trees are getting in the way, thankfully no cars are behind me. They keep walking, I drive up some more, now we are near the junction and I don’t know if they’ll be turning left or right. So I slow down to a crawl. I reluctantly admit to myself that I may have stalking tendencies. Then again don’t we all? I say a silent prayer that they turn left since that’s the direction of my house. They turn right. I turn right too. Now this road is one if those thoughtlessly constructed ones where the trees separate the sidewalk from drivers trying to get a good view. It’s even harder to take a pic unless I come out of the car and walk behind them. But I can’t find a parking spot. Eventually I find one far ahead which means I have to wait for them to go past. I pull up, starting to get rather annoyed with this couple. You’d think they knew I was¬†stalking¬†following them because now they are deliberately being difficult.

So I come out of the car, it occurs to me it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a shot from the front as well as the back. But we’re the only ones in the area and it’ll be hard to conceal taking a photo of them. I also have on red loafers, I ditched the boots to get spring to hurry up and come. Do you know anyone who hasn’t had enough of winter? Even those in tropical countries are just about done with it. At this very moment I ask myself how exactly I got to this juncture in my life. That I am chasing an old couple and their dog? I start to contemplate simply asking for a photo of their cat dog. But what if they say ‘no’? I know there’s no way I could live with myself after taking a long detour and risking arrest for stalking while dealing with a migraine- if I don’t come away with my picture.

They’re getting closer.

Deep breath! I put on my “trust me I’m harmless voice”¬†it comes out a bit higher pitched than I intended.

“Your dog is so cute! What’s his name?” Dumb question Toks, that’s the question you reserve for strangers’ babies.

”Cindy”

”Wow!!! What sort of dog is she?” Again too enthusiastic, tone it down sister. I suspect she’s a corgi, but just in case I feign ignorance. Telepathically I inform them she is so pretty she looks better than whatever her actual breed is which is why I don’t recognise it.

”An American corgi.”

”So adorable!” Wrong answer again Toks, get with it.

”What sort of dog do you have?”

”I don’t have one yet, but my children want one, however I grew up with dogs” I announce proudly, to let them know I belonged in their circle. That¬† I too, was a dog owner. In the past.

I quickly go back in time to Benin City where we had Scooby, Scrappy and Snowy. I don’t know what sort of dogs they were because in Benin they just call them dogs, except they are German shepherds or Alsatians which I know quite well that ours weren’t. I hope they don’t ask, I can’t just say local dogs¬†now, can I?

They advise me that this dog who used to be a show dog is quite difficult to maintain and requires 2 hours of coat brushing daily. So to think twice before I get one for the boys.

“Can I have a picture?” I blurt out. ”Of your dog?” Bated breath. She looks surprised- or is that suspicion? She looks at her husband, he looks puzzled, or is that pride that their precious dog is so beautiful that strangers want a picture?

Meanwhile I’m wondering, why the hesitation? it’s only a dog!¬†I understand the dangers of babies pictures circulated on the internet, could they also share that apprehension?

”Of course you can, sit Cindy”!

Cindy.  Former Show Dog

Cindy.
Former Show Dog

Isn’t she beautiful?

But now we have a problem. Because the whole thing that got me embroiled in this¬†malarkey¬†started with what Cindy¬†looked like from behind. And I still don’t have that picture. I find myself at another crossroad for the second time this morning. I realise I can still save myself. I have a good life. Besides the weirdness that comes with being a parent, some may even say my life is perfect. Why would I destroy what was once beautiful? How would I explain myself to my dear parents who worked hard all their lives to give my brothers and I the best life they could afford?¬†I can hear people discussing my ‘plight’; ‘And she seemed ok o, we heard she became a dog chaser,¬†stalking old people in her neighbourhood”. I could see myself on TV and in the Voice newspaper.

With that I got in my car, turned around and headed home.

Now what dog do you suggest I get for the boys? And please don’t say a local dog.

A Brief Report About Nothing

I first awoke at 5:36am. Some days I wake up twice. And I don’t mean postpone waking up by 5 or 10 minutes with the snooze button. No. I actually go back to sleep, the sort of sleep you embark on at 11pm, having left home at 4am to go to work in a factory with faulty machinery. That sort of sleep.

My second wave of sleep was accompanied by a dream in which I was driving. In India. Ladies and gentlemen I’ll have you know that the only time I’ve been to India was in conversation with my friend Tanya who makes Luxury Leather Fairtrade bags there.
I haven’t got ‘go to India‘ on my bucket list. I haven’t even got ‘perhaps go to India‘ on the list.
I woke up again at 9:32am, and thankfully remembered #4 had a birthday party to attend ¬†exactly 18 minutes from that moment. I had my day planned out- and it didn’t include hanging out waiting for him at a party. I wanted to read, blog and do some outstanding work¬†¬†that’s been outstanding. The double emphasis is not an error. The single good thing about that party is that it was in the shopping centre that housed my favourite cafe.
I arrive looking like the coolest mum in town, no one knows what’s happening underneath; that my insides are carefully knitting themselves back together again, the way it does after you’ve done something as drastic as getting yourself ready and out of the door in 18 minutes, with #4, the one who has Mafia mannerisms, not the one who has a story for every word. That’ll be #3.
I say ‘Hi‘ to the other mums and will forever remain baffled yet stand respectfully in awe of those supreme women who choose 20 or more children, over their own company.
Why would I? When I can go for a Chocolate Viennese and toasted baguette all by myself? The Chocolate Viennese is a steaming mug of chocolate drink topped with a generous swirl of whipped cream and a dusting of cocoa powder.¬†I barely finish taking off #4’s coat and escape from the scene like I’m being pursued.
I make my way to the cafe and place my order. I scope out the joint to find my favourite table, the one by the window. That spot is perfect for observing. It is from that seat that I will later swing effortlessly and in perfect rhythm between guilt and justification, as I watch mother after mother arrive for a special time of breakfast with their children . While Toks ran away left hers behind so she could be by herself. That feeling will occur in due course, because like my sleep, I arrive at the cafe twice. Meanwhile I go to pay. My wallet isn’t there. Yes Toks, how can your wallet be there when it’s in your other bag?
I brace myself as I prepare the speech for the security guys as to why I can’t pay for my ticket. At that point I remember a few years ago when I lost my parking ticket . It was the second time in as many days. So I buzzed the help button at the exit barrier to let them know I needed their kind assistance to please let me out. OK I didn’t quite put it like that. They were not ecstatic.
”Madam, did you not use the same excuse just yesterday?”
”Yes I did. Because I actually lost my ticket”
”Sorry madam, but you have to pay a lost ticket fine of ¬£10”
”Ok, but how do I do so when I don’t have my wallet on me?”
By this time a long line of cars had started to form behind me. Some drivers were already craning their necks to see who was holding up traffic.
”Well there’s nothing I can do, I offered. No ticket, no wallet.”
Defiance was starting to set in . Life for me was hard so some drama to punctuate my sadness was welcome.
”I’ll come down to sort it out”.
The security guard sounded like he couldn’t wait to let this woman out. I was wrong. I think what he really said was I’ll sort you¬†out. He came for a fight.¬†He proceeded to erect a temporary barrier behind me and direct traffic to exit on the oncoming lane, effectively locking me between the exit barrier and the makeshift one.
I switched off my engine and got on the phone to hubby. After a few unsuccessful minutes of role-playing as a traffic warden, ¬†he let me through. Hubby’s concern was more for my emotional well-being as I had become rather forgetful and distracted, and it was starting to look like a ‘pattern’.
Thankfully on this occasion I was treated with grace and sympathy and was immediately allowed out without any drama.
My drive home to get my wallet was uneventful, besides nearly running through a red light. I am later seated with my mug and baguette, by the window where I pick up a rhythm; observe, guilty; observe, guilty. 
I picked #4 up from the party, this is #4 who never has enough of parties. This time there were no mild tantrums about leaving. Instead he had a look on his face like something was bothering him.
”Mum, can I ask you a question?”
”Of course sweetie!”
”Are we vegetarian?”
I laugh in amazement at his perfect pronunciation of a word (I think) he has never heard before.
”No darling we’re not. Why do..”
”Oh crumbs! I think we have a big problem mama!”
”Why?”
”I was asked and said we were and I was given chicken nuggets for vegetarians!”
He sounded like being classed wrongly as one meant certain doom for he and his family. Like he had unknowingly initiated us into some kind of cult. I assured him that we were both vegetarian and not vegetarian, we ate everything. I confused him more I think.
I went on to explain that vegetarians didn’t eat anything that was once alive, like chickens or cows.
The next day and I decided to buy some fish, I rarely eat fish but¬†I decided some grilled fish and roast plantains sounded exotic and yummy so fish it was. Blame it on Aji who doesn’t stop going on about her hubby’s grilled fish and plantains. And you know there are some people who would beautify an unsightly item just by the way they describe it? She’s one of those. I had them gutted and cleaned but according to Mustapha ‘we don’t fillet fish here’. And yes he may or may not be called Mustapha.
I showed the whole, gutted, headless fish to #4 and he promptly asked; ”Is it dead? Why did they kill it?”

About now I’m blinking rapidly, wondering if I’m prepared for what might come next. I have never imagined living the vegetarian lifestyle- nothing against them but you can almost say it’s against my religion not to eat meat.

I think I may have created my first vegetarian. And since it’s this particular child, we’re all in trouble. Big trouble.

Do share some words of support. Please!

All Stations to London Euston

After a week of full-English breakfast debauchery at the Hampton Hilton in Birmingham I return home to my beautiful family. They all seem so normal- compared to what, I don’t know. I walk indoors thankful for my spacious kitchen- staying in a hotel room for a week will do that to you.

The sun showed up as soon as I stepped into the taxi, almost as though the city was glad to see me leave. Hadn’t it rained non stop for the entire 4.5 days I’d been there? Even last night when I went searching for Afro-Caribbean food, I stood outside in the rain for 15 minutes, OK maybe 10. Still that was 20 minutes after they were to have opened. Another man came and stood next to me and asked if that was the Caribbean restaurant. I wanted to draw him into the heated discussion I was having with myself, about the state of affairs in our community and how were we supposed to get ahead if we didn’t even stick to our own opening times. But I couldn’t tell if he was Black or Asian. So I hushed up.

I chat with Ahmed, the cab driver. No he doesn’t tell me his name but he looks like an Ahmed. I double-check with him about Birmingham’s ‘city centre’. I don’t hide the incredulity ¬†that laces my question; ‘Is the city centre by the station really the city centre of Birmingham?’ A part of me wants him to say yes, so that I can have one more thing to be thankful for, that I don’t live there. The other part hopes for his own sake that there’s a real centre, I just didn’t see it during my stay. As if he can read my thoughts he says ‘I don’t live in Birmingham , I live in Dudley. And yes, this is the city centre’. He explains to me that the city is fraught with a network of canals. At the mention of the word ‘canals’ I drift off to Venice where my head becomes filled with a network of idyllic images of passionate love and romance. It occurs to me that if I were to be asked about the size of my city centre, for example, ¬†I would not be able to descend into its history or topography. I think that’s a bit sad and needs to be rectified. Oh to come from a beautiful city that has a network of canals, like Venice! Or Birmingham.

He tries to tell me my fare is ¬£6, when I know fully well that it’s ¬£5. I don’t prepare to argue. I simply tell him its ¬£5. He mumbles an apologetic explanation as to how he forgot that ‘customers like you get a discount’. A feeble attempt to erase the brief shame you feel when you’re caught doing something infantile and silly- not silly enough to be told off, yet the silliness is what embarrasses you and not the being caught¬†or the telling-off.

There is an immaculately dressed, older woman making her way quickly towards the station entrance, she tries to force me to confirm that she is scurrying in the right direction of the entrance, I nod with little certainty. It would appear the architects of Birmingham New Street Station made a grave error; it never occurred to them to put the entrance closer to her, knowing this day would come. I say a silent prayer of thanks because for once in my life and in what might actually be the first time, I’m not rushing. I have a whole 45 mins before my train departs. It is with this newfound calm and dignity I go to pick up my tickets- prepaid, I might add. I meet the older lady there, snapping at the ticket machine; ”it’s no point, I’ve probably missed my train, this is so ridiculous’‘. Her tone doesn’t go with her appearance, funny how the external can mask what’s going on inside. I realise I have been on the receiving end of a casual observer ¬†many a time. I decide I prefer to be the observer and not the observed.

I sit in a waiting area and chat with my friend on the phone. A woman comes in with her guide dog, a beautiful cuddly, friendly thing. She snaps at her friend ‘sit down, please’, ‘please‘ is uttered with more force than ‘sit‘ and ‘down‘ and the dog quietly obeys. I think this must have been how Adam told off the animals in Eden. Soon my platform is announced, I make my way there where I am gifted once again with a feeling of superiority as I arrive on the platform to wait for my train. Usually trains wait for me, then change their minds as I arrive at the door huffing and puffing.

This one is a slow train, the type that makes up stations as it goes along just so it can stop at them. Our first stop is Stetchworth. Yes. And people clearly live there for a few passengers get on the train. Even more surprising, some people alight. A woman comes in with her 2 gorgeous little daughters. They look about the ages of 4 and 2, the kids look Nigerian but their mum looks err.. not Nigerian but she can pass for one. One daughter seats opposite me and the other stays on the other side of the aisle with her mum. Before long they’re skipping and whizzing around, and starting to irritate passengers. My eyes unintentionally lock with another passenger’s and she gives the polite British smile that says ”control your kids”. I smile back hoping my smile conveys to her; ”they’re not mine”.

The train stops at Rugby. It is standing room only and ‘my daughter’ is seating on her mother’s lap. A friendly passenger settles into the now vacant seat opposite me. Before long she is speaking French to the girls, ooh-la-la-ing with them, It’s a rare and beautiful sight. A complete stranger choosing to converse with 2 little girls. In French. The same girls that a few minutes prior I didn’t want mistaken as mine. The older girl smiles broadly and asks, ‘you speak French?’ Suddenly I feel jealousy creeping up . I want to be associated with these girls who speak French. I want to speak French too. I wonder if I can conjure up a reverse smile that does the opposite of denying them. I try to find the woman I need to offer this smile to, she’s gone.¬†La zut! Ce qui est tr√®s triste!!!

Thank you for reading!

Partagez votre opinion ou être à jamais condamnée. (Translation: Share your thoughts or be forever doomed!)

A World Away

I’m sitting with Ian, he’s driving. My ears are being held hostage by the radio. The song’s chorus goes; ”every time I think about you I touch myself”. Uncomfortable does not describe how I feel. Nothing does. So I do what I do best, I start to chat.

He studied Eastern European History. I don’t ask why, even though I really want to know why he chose to dedicate his future to the past of a group of people who thankfully have stolen the spotlight from Nigerians in the UK. He is Welsh, born of Welsh parents and raised on Welsh soil. I ask him what sort of career path he’ll be taking, he doesn’t know. Perhaps my question isn’t clear. So I rephrase. His answer remains unchanged.

I leave Ian in mid-sentence and mentally teleport myself to West Africa, where I arrive in the sitting room of an average Nigerian family. They’ve just finished dinner and father asks son to repeat what he just told him. Then he holds up his hand signalling to the son, to ‘hold that thought’… he calls mother ¬†to come and hear what her son is saying. Then turns back to son;

”Oya, tell us again what you want to study at University, the university that I’ll be paying for. With my own money”.

The rest of the scene is a blur so I take my leave and return to the car, we’re nearly at our destination but there’s time to chat some more. He tells me he’ll be leaving his job in 15 days to travel to South America. I ask where- eager to add my tuppence worth. I have Brazilian roots and I’m buzzing with the newfound knowledge that my ancestors first arrived on Nigerian soil exactly 100 years before I was born. My dad is our genealogy tzar. I’m blessed.
He tells me he’ll be travelling everywhere. I probe deeper. When will he be back? Because in my world people come back when they travel- usually within two weeks, four weeks tops if you’ve gone to bury a relative who had a chieftaincy title and lived long. Any more than that they’ll consider you as having emigrated. His answer reminds me he’s not from my world; for he’ll be gone for a year, maybe even two.
He did the same thing two years ago, quit his job and went travelling. Again I ask where.

”Oh you know, the standard. India, USA, Turkey”.

Standard?

I shut the heyall up. He carries on humming to the song. I don’t make the comment that’s been slowly making its way down to my mouth from my head.

Yesterday I met another one. I needed to buy a mobile broadband dongle, she looked and sounded like she would rather be in bed. The 21-year-old proceeded to take my details.

Ms or Mrs?

Mrs.

She replied in her sleepy voice, ”oh! You’re sooo lucky!”

I decide she needs some advice. A slap upside the head. A wake up call. Kick up the backside. So I ask how long she’s worked for Carphone Warehouse. ”one year”, she manages to offer. As though an additional word would send her over the edge and into Alice’s wonderland, which is precisely where she doesn’t want to go- in my opinion she’s halfway there.

So what do you plan on doing? I’m sure you don’t want to work for Carphone Warehouse forever?

No, I want to travel. Afterwards I want to finish my final year of degree.

Oh that’s nice! Where are you off to?

Australia.

What’s your degree course in?

Criminal psychology.

Sounds exciting!

Everybody says that.

She drags out ‘everybody’ so much so that the poor thing is unwillingly turned into a seven syllable word.¬†I pay for my dongle, and as I leave, I wish her well on her travels.
Oh it’s not for a while, I have to save first. I don’t even know when I’m going.

I start to tell her where the nearest Starbucks is, so she can grab a coffee. then I change my mind. It’s only 10am. I don’t need this. Besides they may not drink coffee in her world.

Joanne says I attract odd people. Like those gypsies. Did I share about the day they came to the office? And puked in the toilet? It was no small matter. Another day! Now you have to come back!

Thank you for reading!

Good enough!

My new year resolutions for 2014 can be distilled into one buzz word, authenticity.

Not that I have gone out of my way to be pretentious or fake, but after some reflection in the last few months of 2013, I realised and faced up to the fact that there have been times when I haven’t been entirely comfortable with who I am. I love myself to bits- I don’t want to be anyone else, I don’t wish I was Michelle Obama, but still I noticed that I have struggled to be myself in certain situations, especially when outside my comfort zone.

Case in point the new blog issue. I wanted to start a new blog that would appeal to my clients, none of whom I live like or look nothing like. So I struggled with a blog name and content. The plan was to write as this personality that fit in with the quintessential Brit. A lady who lunches. I was to visit places and appreciate the sort of art I normally don’t care for, then write about it (in a genteel tone) as though it was normal for hubby and the boys to go to Lords Cricket Ground, while I had afternoon teas with the Windsors. Don’t get me wrong I do love the finer things in life and appreciate art and beauty, but your girl wanted to take it to another level so she could fit in.

After struggling for a while I pushed the  idea to the back of my mind. But the comments you kindly share on this blog, the email responses I get from friends and in conversation with my friends, I tend to get two main descriptive phrases that resonate deeply. One of them is being authentic.

I have come to the conclusion that the best personality I can portray is mine. I cannot successfully try to be someone else. The fear of not being accepted in a different social circle is gone, because God made me with a personality that cannot be replicated. So who I am is unique and beautiful as it is, I don’t need to alter me. This is not to say I won’t try to improve on areas that need improving on, I believe in education outside the classroom and life-long learning, and I will still go out to expose the boys to the epicurean lifestyle, but I will do so while remaining authentic. I love my name and totally love my skin colour and I’m comfortable in it.

I have also come to the conclusion that excellence can only be achieved when you’re being yourself. Because that’s what you were pre-wired to be. Imagine a car trying to be a boat? Or an apple hoping to taste like an orange? You get the picture!

Here’s wishing you a wonderful 2014, filled with the confidence to be you! Thank you so much for being in my life and sharing my journey with me!

I’d love to hear your buzz word for 2014.

PS:

On the blog note, I have decided to step out and create a separate page on the business blog, complete with my photograph and sharing my life and loves, the real one, not the imagined one, it’s a big step for me and I’m VERY excited!

Crazy, Ditzy, Cool

Crazy, Ditzy, Cool

Crazy

I owe The Wordsmythe an apology- and that’s putting it mildly. I stole her fiance. In the dream she was getting ready for her traditional wedding. There wasn’t going to be a white one, she was marrying ¬†Chief Muyiwa, a semi- illiterate man. I don’t know how and where my obsession with illiterate old men came from to the point that I have now started to dream of stealing someone else’s own. Nkem, forgive me, I’m baffled myself. Anyway, in the dream I positioned myself for a hostile takeover of her husband-to-be but pulled back just in time. Needless to say her aunties were not pleased. I have no idea how I got from the village to Kent but I’m glad I did.

Today I’ll be explaining Apartheid to #4. That’ll be a challenge as I don’t want him looking strangely at our caucasian friends and questioning if they have any desire to rule over his family. He is likely to do that. The thing is he would start his sentence with ‘my mother said…”

Hubby, I have had to ban from grocery shopping. In a bid to cut down on my workload I shifted the weekly shopping responsibility to him. The man buys premium everything. I walked in to find a pack of Andrex-quilted-scented-premium-luxury-limited-edition tissues in the kitchen. I had one question. ‘Why?

However there are some things I won’t compromise on, like cotton buds. It has to be Johnson’s. Add cotton wool to the list too as the last one I bought appears to be polyester instead of cotton- completely useless at removing nail polish. It glides all over my fingernail as though the polish is the one trying to take the cotton wool¬†off.

Talking about nail varnish, I am currently obsessed with glitter polish. I used one the other day and referred to it as glitter burgundy. My friend asked; ‘Is that burgundy? It was a simple question yet I spent the remaining part of the week staring at my nails ¬†asking¬†chanting; ‘burgundy or purple? burgundy or purple?

Ditzy

I was invited to the launch of BMW’s first electric car. It was a very posh event. Posh because of the canapes and ‘very’ because of their size. Seriously. The whole evening was spent trying to figure out how on earth the canapes were made. Even with tweezers it would have been quite a task to layer one itsy-bitsy shred of slow-roasted beef over a crouton piece of pastry drenched in half a drop of sauce. Every so often a waiter would show up with a teeny wooden platter and 8 pretty ones perfectly arranged for presumably 8 people. He would begin the spill;¬†This is french Pain de mie with slow roasted pheasant and a single dried olive dipped briefly in a 200 year old rice vinegar, drizzled with ¬†olive oil and a hint of mild Japanese black pepper’. By the time he finished I’d have popped two or 3 in my mouth. How some people were able to bite into them is beyond me. I didn’t want to appear any less dignified than I already did by also taking a photo with my blackberry, but they were the size of #4’s thumbnail. Then there was the small matter of the verbal¬†faux pas.¬†When a representative told me the staff each had a company BMW Toks of course forgot herself and asked if they had vacancies. Half jokingly, half serious. He looked at me quizzically, no doubt wondering why one who couldn’t drop ¬£100k for a car was doing in their Park Lane, Mayfair showroom. We were looking at the i8 due out later this year. I noticed Helen take 2 steps away from me, denying that she even knew me. I heard Aji’s thoughts as she wondered why her friend would embarrass her in that manner.

We’ve had some big changes on the business side. Very exciting indeed. Now I go to the website and spend about 5 mins smiling in sheer admiration. And another 5 wishing I had spent that time working instead. I’ll be writing a book on our business experiences. Crazy customers featuring will include the one that told me he wasn’t excited about the pregnancy since his wife had STDs.

Cool

I have been invited to speak at a major event at the NEC in Birmingham. This is huge. So understandably I spent the first 2 weeks waiting for the email to tell me they were sorry- it was sent to me in error. Consequently I haven’t prepared yet. And mild panic is starting to set in.

On that note I’ll stop for now. What have you been up to? ¬†I’ve missed you!

Midnight Post

Beautiful and crazy in a good way. That’s how I was described last week. This week so far I have heard Petite– that’s a first. The beautiful and crazy definition is also a first. ¬†I’ve had my fair share of adjectives used to describe me, each time I get a new one I search to find Toks in it, (or it in Toks)

The crazy part I can’t argue with, I have an imaginary husband-to-be, Chief Bello. I remind hubby I’ll leave him for Chief whenever he gets on my nerves. Please note that chief Bello exists only in my mind, but he does exist.

He is twice thrice my age, pot-bellied and semi-illiterate. He also has 3 wives and I’ll be the fourth. His educated wife to show-off to the rest of the villagers.¬†On a good day I remind hubby that I dumped John Legend for him- yes, I have a healthy crush on John Legend. And Denzel Washington. And I kind of like Lionel Richie, my favourite song is Three times a lady.

Petite. I was skinny as a child and consequently gathered some unsavoury nicknames. Now I’ve got some meat on me and I am sooo happy! I unashamedly stare at ¬†shop mirrors when I walk past- just to make sure it’s all still there. You’ll be forgiven for thinking that I’m arrogant, or that I suffer from of kryptonic levels of self-esteem, wrong, but forgiven. So I refuse to agree with the petite part- even if it has any truth to it.

I love music. Music transports me into a world I can’t physically get to, but can arrive at in every other way. The downside of this is that once I start listening to songs that have a nostalgic effect on me, I could go on for hours. So I understand my dearest friend Iluobe’s pain when she lost hundreds of tracks some years back. I can only hope she is completely healed.

My favourite meal remains Rice, Fried Plantains and Stew. I think it’s a waste to have tasty stew and perfectly cooked rice without fried plantains. However I’m on a mission to improve my meal choices, swapping good, tasty foods for crap, so-called ‘acquired taste’ ones. I can’t quite fathom people who have cold green salads for lunch on a winter’s day. But they have said I will eventually acquire the taste. Let’s see.

I had a happy childhood which included growing up with pets- dogs and cats usually, but once had a monkey, an anteater and a crocodile. See explanation here. I want my children’s experiences to be even better- if that were possible. Unfortunately I’ve grown into an irritatingly protective mother and want to shield them from the pain of losing a beloved pet. It happened to me way too often as a child. Then again I’m torn between protecting them from pain, and¬†¬†preparing them for pain, as life will dish out its fair share.

The only reason I’m blogging at 00:36 hrs is to avoid tackling work that’s staring at me menacingly from the other nine tabs opened on either side of this page. And I’m avoiding work because I refuse to accept that the Bank Holiday is over, so we’re err… trying to stretch it. It also explains the rather lame title (and content) of this post.

I hope you had a lovely long weekend.

Do come back, I promise I’ll have a more substantial post next time!

One Woman, Several Lives

Courtesy of my sister-friend Tiwana, I have been delivered from my involuntary blogging hiatus. And I feel sorry for you because this is going to be one looooong post!

I do get asked often a question that I feel should be reserved for the real superwomen; ”how do you do it?” By ‘‘it’‘ specifically they mean running my business, a household of 5 guys, blogging, hosting the occasional brunch- and by occasional we mean up to once a year- and living this seemingly fabulous life. I always have two answers, depending on how desperate they are for an encouragement or the naked truth.

Answer #1, the encouraging one.

My alarm goes off at 4am, if I’m really lazy I snooze till 4:30. I have my quiet time and exercise for 30 minutes. All of this happens in my clean and spacious kitchen, it would have been made spotless the night before as the boys are quite good staying on top of their chores, bless them. ¬†Then I get ready, shower, hair make-up and all. They get themselves up and ready for school, I get the younger ones up, sorted and fed for the peaceful drive to school. We go over timetables or spelling during the drive, or I tell them a story with a moral at the end.

I return home for my healthy breakfast, tidy up breakfast things- just #2 and #3’s as #1 and #2 would have done theirs before they left for school. Grab my laptop and head off to work where I meet a load of orders that arrived overnight, some thank you emails from delighted customers and enquiries for new orders. I go through my work in bliss, then leave at 2pm to go prepare dinner. The school run starts at 3pm and by 4pm everyone except hubby is back home. ¬†The boys have lunch and at 4:30pm it is homework time. They don’t need to be told. ¬†They play from 5:30 to 6pm when hubby arrives, and we have dinner at 6:15pm. I incorporate quizzes and chit chat during mealtimes. After dinner they do their chores, clean their teeth and go to bed. At that point having watched some TV or chatted on the phone for about 40 mins, I work for an hour and go to bed, I usually read a book before I nod off.

Answer #2: Flip all I’ve said the other way round and insert yelling after the word boys. Every time.

So my laptop died on me. Actually it was a bit unwell. The experience of being separated from it showed me how alarmingly attached I can be to an inanimate object. I took it to the repair shop where I met Akhtar* name changed for protection, mine and his. Before he looked at it he made the sign of the cross and a silent prayer. You’ll understand my confusion- if Muslims had a look, a smell and a sound, this was it. I asked why he did that and his response was so God could help him find the source of the problem. I proceeded to remind him that he was ¬†Muslim- then rephrased just before the words tumbled out;

Me: ‘Are you a Christian?’

A: ‘Yes, I converted’

Me: ( getting all excited) why?

He lowered his voice: ‘ever since I found out that Mohammed was a paedophile, its not good’.

Me: Both feigning and¬†actually being surprised at the same time- really? I didn’t know that.

A: Yes God told him in a dream to look after an 8-year-old girl, why couldn’t he be a dad or friend? Why did he have to marry her? It’s not good. I’ll call you when your laptop is ready.

I leave deep in thought, pondering on my new-found knowledge that there are actually Muslims who convert for other reasons besides being preached to.

I received an invite to the launch of Polo in the Park, being held at an exclusive venue, champagne, blah blah blah. The invite added:¬†Please RSVP to confirm as spaces are limited. Instead of replying via email like anyone else would do, Toks chose to call the guy- Chris – with an excessive amount of confidence. Here’s how our convo went;

Hi this is Toks from blah blah, I am calling in response to the invitation to the launch, I would like to attend. We’ll need 2 spaces.

Chris: Who is this?

Toks from blah. (whose company you recently requested the pleasure of- abi  were you drunk when you sent the invite?)

Chris: Oh I see. It err.. isn’t lunch, it’s champagne and strawberries.

Toks (confidence crumbling): ¬†I know it’s not lunch as in to eat, but the launch of Polo in the park, right?

Chris: ohhh Lau-nch!

Clearly I need elocution classes. Excuse me for being raised in Nigeria and not enunciating the way you do. E kpele. ndo. Sorry

I went back for my laptop, and my new friend told me he was stressed due to poor business performance. I suggested networking events attended by nearby businesses, since he supplies a service that small businesses need. He dismissed it as irrelevant to his current need. Then I suggested going to award events which are again attended by small businesses so he could be directly in front of them.

His response? (squinting and pointing to a building across the road)

You see that restaurant over there, don’t go there. I bought chicken yesterday but it was bloody expensive. Not good

Yes my life in actual fact is more often like answer #2. A mish-mash of crazy, unrelated events which somehow manages to reconstruct itself and fool everyone into thinking that I have it all together.

I need my bed!

Thank you for reading, kindly leave a comment- it helps to boost my ego confidence.

War in the Audition Room

So child #3, the sweet, chatty one was invited to audition for a role in The Bodyguard, the musical. Today marked the third time I’ve been in a high-pressure environment with boys and their mums.

Typically the boys sit unperturbed,¬†¬†playing with their phones or consoles- except mine of course, this is not a playing matter. I’m a novice but the other mums are not. They are busy shooting poisoned thoughts at each other, each one is sheathed with a thin smile. Behind the smile a debate with self rages;

He’s too tall for the role, didn’t his mother read the brief?

Nope, not cute enough, my son is cuter.

I bet he can’t act, see his buck teeth.

Hmm, this one looks confident, I wonder if he has been to stage school.

As if on cue, the internal debate s politely¬†interrupted¬†by the voice of the¬†confident¬†one’s mother. She says a bit too loudly;

‘Yes he’s been in 3 plays and a movie, and a couple of adverts’.

She speaks loudly because with each decibel her ego is heightened- so much so that she is now being quietly revered by the other mums. A hierarchy which previously did not exist is formed and she is at the top. In this game no one wishes anyone luck, why pretend?

The second time was in a less combative environment. This was when the selected few were called back for a second audition.

I engage in a¬†t√™te¬†a-t√™te¬†¬†with a parent I meet in the waiting area and¬†within 20 seconds I discover something about him I don’t like; he is a name dropper. But he must be dropping T-list celebrity names since I¬†don’t¬†recognise any of them. No, I don’t know the actor that plays golf with your father-in-law, or the newsreader that shares the carpool on the school run with you. I don’t know them and I don’t care to either. His next sentence infuriates me. I ask him to repeat the name of a stage school he just mentioned, he does- then quickly adds- ”you need to be able to sing and dance and act- all three excellently to even get in”. I nearly punch his already crooked nose but take a deep breath and count to 100 instead.

Today is the third time. They want an African or Afro-Caribbean¬†boy. A dark-skinned boy. Like my son. They are very specific. We walk in and see one mixed-race boy. I feel my confidence rising. More children arrive, all mixed-race. The¬†hierarchy¬†is being formed and guess who’s at the top? More children arrive, all very light-skinned. No shaking. Then a couple of dark-skinned ones turn up. The battle lines are being drawn- but I shan’t be moved.

The assistant announces that she’ll start collecting our completed forms- which I forget to bring. She’ll also collect the passport photos. I of course forgot those too. I have 4 sons, a husband and a demanding business, in fact I’ll be silly not to forget them.

The woman next to me produces her completed form, photo and CV- for her dark-skinned 10 year old. Yes a resume. She apologizes for not stapling the form to the resume. I take the unanimous decision to dislike her. The hierarchy has been rearranged. I start to rehearse my non-commiseration speech to child #3 which will go like this;

Next time when your parents tell you to practise, I hope you will”

Shey you’ve learned your lesson now abi?

Whose fault is it that you were not picked? Mine? Did I tell you to watch looney tunes while you should have been practising your lines?

You’d better not cry or else…

Thank you for reading, do drop a line below!

Stop by my other blog, Inspireme, a blog for the faint-hearted

Growth

Disclaimer: While it may appear I’m trying to shove down an epistle of the last 3 months down your throats or minds as it were, this isn’t my intention.

Child #3 made ¬£6.00 yesterday. He also got to sign autographs. I’ll explain.

We were invited to a photo shoot by The Voice newspaper for mothers day. It was to be a picture-led feature, lots of pictures and an interview. I’ll point out that I behaved in a dignified manner throughout.

Child #1 got some telling off from me because I insisted that he dressed formally, with a shirt and cardigan and chinos. No jeans, no T-shirts and certainly no hoodies. I got irritated with him as it was the umpteenth time (ok actually the 4th) I had addressed his dressing as it relates to race and stereotypes which he still doesn’t fully get- or rather he chooses not to understand.

Child #2 was elated. He has always considered himself a fashionista. This shoot to him had nothing to do with mothers day, (after all his mum knows he loves her) and everything to do with the catwalk. It was his moment. Finally his opportunity to become a model despite the fact that mummy said ‘over her dead body’ (whatever that meant).

Child #3 was as cheerful as ever. We were served chocolate drink with chilli pepper (no lie) and some moreish brownies. Child #3’s telling-off needless to say came down to; ‘stop stuffing your mouth!, ‘ come on! wipe those crumbs off your face‘. ‘you’ve had enough‘. ‘Anyone would think we were starving in our own home’.

Child #4. The one called Josh. This one, my conversation with him boiled down to; ‘stand still‘, ‘smile‘, ‘look at the camera‘, ‘no¬†MacDonald’s¬†for you when we leave this place’. ‘‘That’s it, no x-box either’. ‘In fact you’ll be facing the wall once we step indoors‘.

Each threat to my boys was accompanied with my already big eyes widening and my mouth twisted in more ways than I could count. It was important to me that we were seen as refined, well-groomed folks. I don’t know how well it went down with Child #4’s answer to the question; ‘what makes a good mum?

His response; ”A good mum lets me watch TV”.

Child #3 made some money because he told his friends he was featured in the papers and they didn’t believe him. So the savvy business man-child that he is, made bets with his friends and promptly asked them to pay up once he produced the newspaper the following day. He hasn’t stopped smiling. ¬†He decided to stretch the truth by telling them he would be starring in a movie. His classmates (who by now believed every word he said), proceeded to ask for his autograph. Which he gave.

He isn’t starring in a movie, but he did do an audition (another gist which I will share).

I got an email from a casting agency looking for 9-10 year old boys of colour for an upcoming movie, a biopic of a Motown singer. Like any other mother who wants their child to go far in life, I quickly suggested my son (with pride and confidence as the boy is talented- like all our children are). I have learned to GRAB opportunity with both hands when I see it. We were asked to send in a single recording of him singing. As far as hubby and I and even his god-mother is aware, the boy has an angelic voice, he can sing. I hasten to say but between you and me, when he did the recording, it wasn’t the same voice. Lets just say I became increasingly uneasy as we recorded song after song after song. I am yet to hear back from the agency. ‘Nuff said.

The children are on Easter break. I warned them from the start that it would be an ‘indoor break’. No going out for us as it’s just too cold and I’ve reached my quota for cold days in 2012/13.

Talking about cold, I organised a seminar. It was to be a relaxing brunch with about 6 to 10 friends at my house, and a speaker sharing some wisdom with us. But it grew out of my home and into a lovely hotel close to where I live. I got into event-planning mode and very excitedly had it all down to a T. I had room for 30 and sold all 30 spaces with a couple on the waiting list. On the morning of the event we awoke to heavy snow. I had just enough time to cancel and inform all the guests. The postponement and my ensuing reaction showed me how much I’ve evolved as I was not in the least bit disappointed. It had crossed my mind to pray for the snow to stop, but I felt the Lord telling me to use common sense instead. I am glad that I did. I’m glad that I did not fret or panic, I’m glad that I saw the weather as something outside my control and therefore not to be angry at, I am so glad I made a sensible decision without dilly-dallying. For you it may be the norm, but for Toks, trust me, it’s a sign of growth.

Thanks so much for keeping up with me, I’m working on growing in frequency of my blog posts!

I also blog at http://www.inspiremeinc.wordpress.com. A blog for the faint-hearted.

Quick Update on the Temperament Test

I had no idea what The Personality Test post would result in. I¬†received¬†results of the test from friends by phone, email or on facebook. Worse than that was the fact that I started psycho-analysing¬†everyone I came across. Someone on facebook had posted a cute picture of her daughter and one of the commenters couldn’t simply say ‘aw, sweet‘ like everyone else did. She had to add; ”my daughter does that too, a lot!”. I immediately recognised it as typical sanguine behaviour. The need to steal any limelight that isn’t shining brightly on her. I had to resist the urge to comment after her; “madam, you have your own wall, go there to boast about your daughter!” And no, I don’t know her.

Suzy and I were holding a normal conversation and without realising I started to analyse the people she was talking about. ”She must be a melancholic”, said Toks. “She can’t help being moody”.

I forced, told¬† suggested to my staff to take the temperament test too. Now I realise that although she’s a sanguine like me, I’m the one who instigates all the chatting in the office. Not her.

Clearly I need help.

Justjoxy (aka Dynamite) also did the temperament test and found out she has painstakingly surrounded herself with fellow cholerics. Sanguines, Phlegs or Melancholics need not apply. That means I am really chuffed that she couldn’t resist having me, a mere sanguine as her friend!

Remember I had asked for help in naming my new blog? Now I request your help in naming my new personality. I thought about taking all the fine points of all four temperaments and creating an alter ego but I don’t know if that’ll work, I might forget which trait I’m trying to exhibit on a particular post. I have a habit or a rule of not using my real date of birth. Besides my passport, driver’s¬†license¬†and birth cert, I see no earthly reason why any organisation should have it. I’m talking about utility companies and the likes. When I opened a mobile phone account 2 years ago, I gave a fake date. Unfortunately¬†that¬†was before I decided to stick to¬†one¬† fake date of birth. So when I was moving house and needed to verify my account, 3 dates later and I couldn’t remember my ‘D.O.B’. The customer service rep turned on me saying ‘you don’t know your own date of birth?’ I could have slapped her! If there’s a way I can present multiple personalities without coming across as having a personality disorder, please share.

Remember my wedding videographer I mentioned in the last post? Well I called him and he assures me he really still has my video- that should be DVD by now. We had a good chat and I want him to refer some business to me. ¬†He wants me to add him as a friend on facebook. Trouble is¬†I have already tattled about him on Pawpaw & Mango (note: previous post only!) and I shamelessly pedal the blog up and down on my facebook wall. Please send in your suggestions on how to get out of this pickle. It gets worse. I have become bolder and now accept friend requests from acquaintances especially if we can¬†mutually¬†benefit each other, or we have common interests. This means I can no longer write posts brazenly. They might conclude I need psychological assistance if I share some more on how I raise my boys. They might stalk me if they feel I’m writing about them.

I shared a post on InspireMe on how blessed I am. This week has been phenomenal as God revealed to me how blessed I was with very good friends. My friends are all dynamic in their own way and invest in me too. Just the knowledge alone gave me such joy. Now I really have to do that post on friendship I have bragged about for the last two years. I’ll do it. Next time.

Nothing more to report, have a blessed week!

The Personality Test

Storyteller. Just one of the words the personality test result chose to describe me with. It also said I was friendly, impulsive,¬†boisterous, cheerfully optimistic, ¬†confident, a lover of people and chronically late. In addition I have a habit of repeating stories- which means this is only the first in a¬†non-consecutive¬†series of blog posts that would tell you I’m a Sanguine. This is what I discovered after taking¬†a test to identify my temperament following my last post on¬†Frenemies.¬†I like the word. I’m glad I’m not a phlegmatic- simply because it’s one of the four temperaments that gets its name from ‘phlegm’. It wouldn’t have been a problem if I turned out to be one because hubby is, and I love him just as he is. Okay even if it was a problem, what could have been done?

Back to me. Sanguine. We talk about ourselves quite a bit and love to be the centre of attention. The word, for some reason fills my mind with images of a chocolate-skinned, beautiful, young lady wearing a floaty yellow sun dress, a red hibiscus tucked into her ¬†hair. She’s twirling around happily on a beach in¬†Anguilla. The sun sets in the distance turning the horizon into a bloody-red backdrop. She is completely carefree and filled with pure joy. She is me.

For me, Sanguine evokes tropical associations. As tropical as a glass of fruit flavoured cocktail with an umbrella and a slice of lemon. Not the astringent type that goes straight to the head. The type that is sweet and tart and makes you feel good on the inside.

I suspect #3 and #4 are sanguines. I¬†will not¬†make them take the test as they are young and I don’t want to define and lock them in a box for life, but they are talkative to the nth degree! Yes¬†that’s¬†a trait of us sanguines we can talk. It’s really odd as I was very shy and quiet as a child. I read a lot. Storybooks mainly. I have lived life as a white¬†upper-class¬†school girl, I lived as a black slave woman in the 1800s ¬†and as a fairy with magical powers- all through the soul of books, but I don’t remember talking a lot. Then again maybe I did, I can’t remember, who cares?

The test is by no means absolute. If it was, the results would have told you more. Like the fact that I am so proud and thankful for my brown skin. And I worry sometimes that my favourite lip gloss, Oh baby by MAC will eventually be discontinued. Or that I long for the day that I’ll be able to pull off my dream hairstyle, cropped afro and blonde. It would have told you that the year Kenny G’s Breathless was released¬†featured¬†one of my best summers ever. It was also the year I must have started falling in love as J and I spent a lot of time together. ¬†It would have informed you that I am an¬†eclectic¬†and can swing effortlessly from one topic to another in a single sentence, without stopping for air. My friend Justjoxy will attest to that.

It has been good for me, taking the test. At least now I know why ¬†I’m¬†the only one who thinks my wedding videographer is telling the truth. That he still has my video and just hasn’t gotten down to editing it- after 16 years. We are gullible and easily fooled.

And now I remember to hold my tongue when my friends call me for a chat, when they need a listening ear. I know to hold my tongue because I have a natural disposition towards ‘one-upping’ other people’s stories. I know.

It has helped me become more forbearing towards a certain relative, I won’t judge her for bringing so much attention-deficient issues¬†to the table again.

I won’t be forcing hubby to get super excited about a gift I bought him or a new piece of information I found. Those poor dears don’t get excited over much, they are not like us. They are a peaceful bunch. Bless.

This isn’t my end of year spill. Sanguines like to have the last word so I’ll be back with my 2012 thankful list! Amen.

Here’s where I did the temperament test, there are four main temperaments andeveryone falls into one, or sometimes two. What’s yours? Do share!

Frenemies

Friendship isn't about whom you've known the longest...it's about who came and never left your side

Friendship isn’t about whom you’ve known the longest…it’s about who came and never left your side

This post was inspired by Charisse, we don’t see often but whenever we do we really jam! Shout out to you my sis!

So Charisse shared a link on her Facebook wall with the title Frenemies. I read it. And of course while reading I did a mental check of my friends to see who- if any had morphed into a frienemy.

A few years  ago I discovered a friend had become a frenemy, actually in fairness to her she had always been that, its just that Toks was so accommodating and a tad bit naive to call a spade a spade. The final nail was hit when she passed a comment that was hurtful (like most of her previous ones) and constructed to cause harm. And it hit its mark. I wrote this poem signalling the end of our relationship as we both knew it.

A frenemy is a friend that has morphed into an enemy but still retains the same qualities that¬†endeared¬†you to her in the first place. There are two classes of frienemies. Intentional and unintentional, or types A and B. The intentional frienemy as her title suggests is determined to hurt, pull you down or step on you to get to the top. To you she’s a friend, to her you are a rung on the ladder she’s climbing to the top of her game. She will not pull you up if you are down, but is gifted at using ‘words of encouragement’ which suggest you’ll always be where you belong- at the bottom, while she sympathises with and is there for you. She is very insecure- though it may not be very obvious, so she has developed a unique way of gaining security. How does she do this? ¬†She takes yours. She grabs your pride and dignity and dismembers them right before your very eyes. Words are her tool, either through salacious gossip or by¬†embarrassing¬†you with cutting remarks in front of others under the guise of humour or¬†innocence.

An unintentional frenemy is less¬†aggressive¬† You are also a rung on the ladder, but she has no intention of climbing over you. The trouble is you ain’t going nowhere. You are the rung she holds unto to keep you from going forward in life. Ever heard the saying ‘misery loves company? She, my dear is Ms Misery. She is negative, whiny, forever discouraged. Type B frenemy thrives on sharing her woes and like a vampire bat, she wants to suck your strength. She does love you but she’s a user. When she leaves your presence you can tell because you feel drained, tired and a dark cloud of ¬†despair¬†and¬†hopelessness¬†now looms over you. Did I mention she’s a user? She not only drains your emotional strength, but possibly takes from you without ever giving. She’s manipulative and would blackmail you emotionally for gain.

Perhaps a ¬†sub-class of the unintentional frenemy will be the one that loves you, loves your company but not enough to see you excel in life. They want to be ahead of you, always. When opportunities for growth arise they’ll keep it from you. These types do not share vital information just¬†in-case¬†it causes you to become successful. In this relationship, you may not have been told but you are in a race. You see them as a friend, they see you as a rival.

So how do you deal with frenemies? Without a doubt type A needs to be cut off. No ifs, no buts. They’ll never change. Talking to them is pointless, are you God?

Type B requires wisdom. It’s up to you if you want to cut them off, but if you choose to keep them, the phrase¬†Know thy enemy is your weapon of choice. ¬†You need to set boundaries, both emotional and physical. ¬†Do not let them get into your head, don’t buy their sob-stories. Refuse to be moved, refuse to be manipulated. Play your cards close. More tactics can be found in The Art of War by Sun Tsu. If like me you can’t be bothered to read that epic book solely for the purpose of finding out how to deal with a ‘friend’, just cut them off.

A friend is none of these things. A friend sticks by you regardless. She is there for you and helps you get to the top. She is truly happy for you when you succeed, even if things are not perfect for her. I am blessed to have some really good friends, they know who they are.

Finally after my lesson on frenemies, I decided to look deep into my heart to determine if I had inadvertently become one. That voyage led me to do a personality test and the results blew my mind.

Another post, another day.

What’s your take on frenemies? Do you have any in your life?

Eavesdropping

EavesdroppingLast night found me at the hospital with child #4. He suddenly developed severe pain in both legs and couldn’t stand, let alone walk. I wasn’t in the¬†least¬†bit bothered as #2 had that right after a bout of cold when he was 2. At the same time one must not take chances. Off we went to the GP who looked¬†perplexed¬†(she was young and inexperienced) and she panicked, calling the hospital ahead to expect me; she sent me off with a letter to the children’s A+E explaining her ‘concerns over this odd turn of events’ I tried to reassure her that it wasn’t serious, then I realised I had¬†unwittingly¬†swapped¬†roles with her and stopped.

At the¬†hospital¬†we had to endure a 4 hour wait, a situation that wasn’t helped by new patients arriving and then leaving before us. I decided to make time pass by¬†eavesdropping¬†on every diagnosis my itchy ears could pick up. Then my attention turned to the young mother of a newborn, no more than 3 months old. She was having a slightly heated conversation with the police, about 4 of them were with her. Then she disappeared into a room presumably with the doctors while the cops gathered outside the door of the waiting room where Toks was strategically positioned for more gist.¬†They¬†talked amongst themselves and I heard them say ”16 times in the last x weeks”. And I heard the phrase ¬†Munchausen’s By proxy. ¬†I vaguely remembered a nurse in the news about 10 years ago so¬†I whipped out my phone to check on Wiki. Between the great Wiki and my hyperactive imagination, we concluded that this young woman had brought her baby to the hospital 16 times¬†in the last 3 months, trying to convince the doctors that the baby was ill. When she was sent home again and again with no diagnosis she possibly deliberately harmed the baby- at least¬†that’s¬†what the police determined. It is a psychiatric disorder and the mum needs help- if this is the case. An hour later she left crying with her mother- but without the baby. The nurses where stifling their tears. The atmosphere in¬†paediatric¬†A+E was very heavy and sombre. For a moment the only noises were the mother’s cries and the bleeping of the monitors. The machines appeared to be busy minding their own business, yet silently conversing amongst themselves about how crazy the humans were with their strange problems. And how glad they were not to be humans.

About 20 mins later another woman left cradling the baby while¬†receiving¬†instructions from the¬†police¬† She was either the foster mum or the social worker. My heart was heavy and I felt so sad for that woman. Of course I began to wonder how they determined that she was an unfit mother. What triggered the hospital to call the police? I took my first son to the hospital many times and even once took a carrier bag of ¬†dirty nappies filled with green poo. That’s normal for a first time mum right? ¬†Whatever! to you if you’re busy shaking your head! And what if they were wrong about her? I wondered if there were any false signals I gave out that would lead them to think I had some unpronounceable syndrome. The first time I brought #4 to the hospital I couldn’t¬†remember¬†his date of birth. We tried 3 different dates, all of them wrong¬†and¬†had to call hubby who found it hilarious; he comforted me by telling me I had a lot on my plate. 4 children plus him and running a business wasn’t an easy brew to swallow daily.

Later as I chit-chatted with the doctor, she asked the ages of my other children. Wahala. #1 just turned 13 but I’m still used to saying 12, so I said 12- er..¬†13! Long and short of it I muddled up all their ages., I wondered if they’ll see that as a sign of a syndrome. I decided from now on, if I am mistaken with their ages, I’ll stick with my¬†first¬†story. They might be keeping a tab. I can just see it;

  • Appears uncertain about ages of her children- Frequently changes their dates of birth.
  • Takes bag of dirty nappies to hospital and forces senior doctor to look at each one.’
  • Doesn’t cry when child goes camping for a week. Evidence here
  • Uses unconventional threats to¬†discipline¬†children, see tongue-cutting episode and cancer story.

I said a prayer for that mum and had to drag myself out of the¬†feelings¬†of despair that overwhelmed me, there’s just too much pain in this world!

Thankfully we were sent home after a few hours. Earlier when I left for the hospital I was grumpy. I had a sore throat, most of the folks in my house were either dealing with or recovering from the flu or cold. I was unhappy about the icy cold weather. I was tired and felt drained from countless nights waking up to administer cough medicine, rubbing menthol on their chests,¬†and forcing calpol down reluctant throats.¬†But as we drove back home, I did so with joy and thankfulness. Joy that I had a home to return to, and I’m blessed with a sizeable family that’s mine. And of course that I don’t have any syndromes named after foreign Doctors or professors. There really is nothing quite like good physical health and soundness of mind, for that I am thankful to God. No doubt you are too.

Thank you for reading, do come back!

The Gist. And the winner is…

Waldorf Hotel London

Thoughts running through my mind as I make my way to the awards ceremony.

I love my new hairdo, it totally rocks! I could live like this (uber chic) every day. Perhaps not, there’ll be nothing to look forward to. I wonder if I’ll win. I hope I do. Zack’s party is today isn’t it? Only one child for hubby to pick up from school today. Glad I got the size 7 shoes not 71/2. I hope I come back with an award. What does it matter? I was happy before & I’ll be happy after. Yes even though they’d have ruined my life by nominating me in the first place. No my life is not ruined. It is blessed.

Pause to have mindless conversation with a guy hitting on me ‘you are looking gorgeous, where are you going? What’s ‘the’ name please?’ (dead give away of his nationality) I tell him the name. ‘That’s a gorgeous name’- clearly needs to acquaint himself with more adjectives- ‘Can I have your number please?’

I respond. ‘I’m married I don’t give my number to guys, sorry’.

‘Then I can give you mine, please, just to be friends, please, blah, blah, blah…’

I tune him out auditorily and physically and rush to catch up with my thoughts- after wondering why I don’t attract ¬†Denzel Washington type gentlemen. Where were we?

At the event, the hotel is a stunning, stunning piece of art in bricks and mortar. The Waldorf speaks of opulence like it wants me to become familiar with it. One day. Today. I am friends with opulence and breathing rarefied air- deep breath, hold, exhale! hmmm!

I meet Angelina. She. talks. a. lot. She hates people who arrive late for events and she can feel there’ll be late-comers¬† She turns the corners of her mouth down as she spits out that hateful two-word phrase like the very mention of it disgusts her. Which it does. She hates to toot her own horn during conversations and doesn’t like to bring up the big shot celebrity that she helped launch into stardom. So she mentions his name. Two more people join us and we all chatter happily. Angelina again doesn’t like to mention her big shot client so she does again (remember the¬†newcomers¬†were not there the first time)
We sit down to eat. The lady next to me is vegetarian. I spend 2.5 minutes feeling awfully sorry for her- even though she looks perfectly happy with her life. Dessert is served and I wonder aloud what a knob of butter is doing on my plate. I’m told its clotted cream, my bad! Don’t worry I didn’t disgrace the family name. There’s pride in confidently admitting to not knowing some things.

The awards are now being called out. Can you hear my heart beating? I recognise a few celebs and newscasters. Okay I didn’t know the one now giving a speech was a newscaster. I spilt water on her shoes earlier while asking her what she did for a living. Another post that belongs under the title, ‘major cringe factor’. Eventually my category is called out and the winner is…. Not Toks! How come, did the judges not do their research well? Why not me? My tantrum lasts for 49 seconds as I hear story after story of inspiring women, challenges, loss, even HIV. I feel humbled and blessed to be in the company of these leading ladies, I realise that it is truly an honour to have been shortlisted along with this calibre of women.

I have a fantastic time networking and meet some very exciting business women, all successful in their own rights. They balk when I reveal I have 4 kids. They sputter on their champagne when they learn I don’t have kids, I have boys. We end on a happy note and I make my way out with one of them. I walk on the cobbled streets of Covent Garden, and stop at my favourite designer’s store- Michael Kors. That’s favourite fashion label but I don’t own a thing of his (yet). I think I blend in with the other shoppers seamlessly. My feet are now painfully sore. I learn a new thing about myself- I will not compromise comfort over style. I look around the station and become green with envy; my eyes shooting daggers at every woman wearing trainers. On the train I squeeze myself into the seat between two men who don’t want to share their space, I will fight them if needed, it isn’t needed. Hubby picks me from the station, I’m still all glammed-up, then I walk indoors. All glamour disappears. Life back to normal, far, far away from the Hilton.

Thank you for reading, do come back!

Read my other blog for Christ-Centred Inspiration- InspireMe

When I Compare Myself to you…

Each week the Lord teaches me a lesson. Sometimes the lesson runs for weeks, sometimes it’s a short 2 -day course.

This week’s lesson started ¬†when I came across a statistic that said 67% of Americans are blue collar workers as opposed to 10% of T.V characters. This means ¬†about 90% of T.V characters depict people who are well heeled. While it’s nice to see so many of your favourite characters doing well in er.. T.V land, the problem is that it creates a false reality. Lucky for you if you live in the UK, you won’t have that false-reality issue. Have you seen¬†EastEnders?¬† They go out of their way here to make sure the homes are run down, characters are in dire-straits and only ever wear grey jogging bottoms and puffer jackets. They live half their lives in smoke-filled pubs, gossiping or whining about their lives in the doldrums. It would appear the plot is thoughtfully woven to stop you from aspiring to be anything beyond working as a security guard at your local supermarket. Compare that to Desperate Housewives, or Dallas where the characters drive nice cars and live in suburban golf communities. They are NEVER without make up; blink and you’ll miss the slight glimmer of lip gloss even as they roll out of bed. They stop for a quick chat and tall latte at gourmet coffee houses, ¬†opening ¬†tiny¬†sachets¬†of sweet ‘n’ low¬†and pouring in the contents ever so slowly with¬†French¬†-manicured nails. Oh, and they only stopped for coffee on their way to the nail bar. The bottom line of the research is (American)¬†television¬†makes people unhappy as they compare themselves to the characters and constantly fall short. I don’t know if the Brits have conducted a similar research but we all know what the result will be. A¬†happy¬†bunch of people. Theoretically.

I guess that triggered a series of observations for me. I discovered that I compare myself unfavourably to others a lot. The most obvious is found in my mothering skills. These are just some of my observations as to what some mothers have done that Toks did not do:

Post first day pictures of their little one with child¬†holding up a large postcard complete with dates,¬†etc.¬† At least I did take a picture, it’s buried somewhere on my phone providing #4 hasn’t deleted it.

Organise a coffee morning- we see each other every morning and afternoon, there aren’t enough hours between school opening and closing time. Never even crossed my mind!

Ask if anyone else has successfully logged into the new homework monitoring system – didn’t know there was one.

Ask how to make Mr Fox’s tail curl upwards for the¬†upcoming¬†Road¬†Dahl book day- blank stare.

Keeping fit- close to half of the yummy mummies come kitted out in designer, sometimes matching sportswear complete with water bottles and heart-rate monitors. They jog home. I jog to the car. They are a wonderful group of ladies, glad to have them in my life!

I stumbled across a movie on T.V. The scene I had the patience to watch featured three siblings plotting to get their separated parents back together. These young kids discussed. They were well dressed. They ate cookies (which did not crumble unto the vacuumed carpet) and didn’t squabble and scream the words that mine do; ”that was my cookie! I had it fir-ir-irsttt ahhhhh!”

Besides life as a mum, I compare myself to other women in business. I had mixed feelings as I watched another mumpreneur grow her seedling to seemingly huge heights. We started our businesses in the same year, but she has rocketed and I feel like I’ve been left behind. That was until someone told me that things were not what it looked like. For starters she had a multi-millionaire¬†for a husband and worked on her business for 4 years before she actually launched it. I haven’t complained since.

With all of this palaver I need to start a new blog. Pawpaw & Mango remains my first love but an additional one is needed. When I applied to add my business blog a certain organisation to join their network of bloggers, I was turned down on the basis that my business blog was of a commercial nature, promoting a business.¬†They were right. So I was advised to start one that was non-commercial where I could promote my business ‘occasionally’, this was at the start of 2012. The reason I have held back is because I felt doing so will be denying who I truly am. I do love to drop the¬†occasional¬†pidgin¬†or¬†ebonics¬†in my writing but ¬†in the midst of bloggers like¬†Mary, Mary Quite Contrary, and¬†The Quick Brown Fox of Hampstead Heath¬†, I’d stick out like a sore thumb. I am also not too keen on using the word ‘one‘¬†excessively¬†in place of¬†‘I’, because one does not really speak like that. There’ll be no talk of eba and banga soup, or NEPA or Kumasi market. You get the picture. So I need an appropriate name for this new blog, I would greatly appreciate your input for a catchy, creative ¬†one please. ¬†Bear in mind I’ll be blogging along with others who go by names such as ‘down the laundry hole’ and other sweet sounding Enid Blyton-type names. While I am trying hard to be authentic and be me, I have to learn how to blog like these ladies do, is that comparing myself?

So this evening I came across an angry tweet conversation started by one of such bloggers and visited her page to see what the¬†furore¬†was all about. I discovered the playing field wasn’t as daunting as I thought. There are some writers I would not compare myself to, some do have a fine way with words. But the exclusive ¬†network of bloggers isn’t really what I imagined. There was bickering, arguing, insecurities, grammatical errors you name it, she was there. They were being themselves.

Comparing myself to them certainly worked well in my favour, just for today.

So what should we name the blog?

50 Shades of Blue

Shantung & Tulle Dress by Shade Brielle

It’s been a busy last couple of months but I still found time to learn about the different shades of Blue, read a scandalous book on competition in black churches and ramp up my facebook activities on the business page.

On the¬†home-front, hubby picked up his Blackberry this morning and went into the browser. Lo and behold, ‘someone’ had done a google search- how to fake being sick to your school nurse’.

We narrowed the culprit down to either child #2 or child #3. In cases like this I don’t believe in simply asking who did that. That’s too easy. They’ll admit and jump onto the emotional wagon as to the reasons they hate school. I prefer to use ‘small talk’ as my method. My first suspect was #2 because he’d been complaining of a runny tummy for the last week. I even gave him Imodium and Paracetamol. So I stole up to him in the bathroom and casually mentioned that I had been up for hours¬†speaking¬†to the doctor, because I didn’t realise that taking both Imodium and Paracetamol could lead to cancer. He stopped dead in his tracks:

#2: ”Mum, what do you mean?”

Me: Oh it’s only if it’s taken improperly, for example if you don’t have a tummy ache but you say you do, you know that sort of thing. Nothing to worry about.

#2: (Looking very worried); Did he say taking them together or taking them at different times?

I mumbled something incoherent and left him stewing. Five minutes later, he wanders up to me.

#2: Can children have cancer mum?

Me: of course, you know there are lots of Children at Great Ormond Street Hospital with cancer.

#2: What’s going to happen to them?

Me: Oh, some die, some survive you know the usual.

#2 Can cancer show up outside the body?

Me: (slightly confused as to what this has to do with anything) Not really, usually it’s too late by the time it is found out. But you have nothing to worry about, you have Jesus in your heart and you’re really ill. Now go get ready for school.

Then #3 shows up, “Mum, #2 just told me he has cancer.”

Mission accomplished. But I’ll let him stew all day before letting him know he’s been caught out.

#4, Josh has had his first days off sick at school, he had an eye infection. I picked him from school on Wednesday and he didn’t return till Monday. Here’s how the conversation went.

Josh: Mum do I have to go to school today?

Me: Of course darling, it’s Monday!

Josh: Ooooh! Flaps arms about in frustration. Why? Why do I have to go? Every single day I go to school why? Why do I have to go again? It’s not fair!

Me: Stunned into silence wondering what I did to deserve a drama king with mafioso style mannerisms.

I learned an important lesson on friendship this month. I am blessed to have some really good people as friends, that post on friends is coming up soon! But I also discovered something about a friend that revealed what they really thought about hubby and I. Not nice at all. We’re still friends but I’ve placed them neatly in a box labelled ‘one to watch’.

I’ve been nominated for an award- business of the year. I am chuffed about it and when I received the notification I didn’t ask who nominated me for fear of revealing the nagging thoughts that screamed; ‘you don’t deserve it!’. The award is given on merit by a panel of judges and not on votes. Sadly I don’t know the judges’ names as I would have asked my homies to go and ‘have a word with them’ complete with al qaeda threats. So all I can do is pray that their hearts are turned like a watercourse in my favour.

On the plus side I’ll be dining at the magnificent¬†Savoy¬†Hotel in London. That’s how come I got to know about the various shades of blue. I want to wear something in my company colours and¬†ideally¬†would be this navy blue dress by my good friend Shade, but since at $470.00 it’s ‘a little’ outside my budget, I thought I’d find an alternative. It was my search for something similar that led me on an adventure of becoming acquainted with ink blue, midnight blue, navy blue, ice blue, baby blue and kingfisher blue as relatives of the simple colour, blue. ¬†I tried on this dress at Phase 8, but with the lacy bits I think it looks more like a party dress. I want to be taken seriously. So My options are down to a black dress with petrol blue accessories if ¬†I can’t find the perfect blue dress. Which I won’t. Because the perfect blue dress is the one that’ll cost me $470.

I’ll keep you posted!

On the subject of black churches, my good friend Joxy is throwing it down with a series on how to run a black majority church. Please check it out here

And if you are looking for Christ-Centred Inspiration, check out my other blog, InspireMe.

Thank you for reading ūüôā

What I didn’t tell the Journalist

I want to share a small personal story that happened to me. A little while back I read an article in Success Magazine titled ‘What’s¬† your Story?’
It was about the ways in which you can tell your life story. I’ll share two versions of Ruth’s tale.

I graduated from one of the country’s top universities and landed a job within a day of graduating with one of the top 5 PR¬† firms in the world. Exactly one year later I moved to the City to take a job with the number 2 firm in the world and was involved in million dollar projects. Fast forward 3 years and I became the CEO of my own company, and here I am standing before you all. She finishes her story with a smile. That is called the ‘rock-star’ version.

And here’s the sob-version.
I graduated college with a 3rd class, I never really did well at my studies so even obtaining a 3rd was a miracle. On the day I finished school my father’s friend’s uncle had mercy on me and employed me as a cleaner, he worked for one of the top 5 PR firms in the country.¬† Since it was a temp job, the contract ended 1 year later. It was 3 months of unemployment before I was forced to move to another state to live with my aunty since I couldn’t afford my rent. Eventually I got another job and it was a bit better than the previous one since I no longer cleaned toilets, I was a cleaning supervisor but of course the pay was rubbish and I was very unhappy.
After applying for and being rejected by about 150 job applications, I was forced to start my small side business. Thank God I met a PR person who allowed me to speak at this event, the original speaker is ill so I’m just filling in.

Which story do you prefer? They are both true but one has an upbeat, positive tempo while the other sounds like a loser’s drivel. That also happens to be the more common one too.

It is a fictitious but very familiar story.

I became inspired to rewrite my story in a rock star version, I read it from time to time when I’m down in the dumps as a result of yet another¬† business mishap and it never fails help me regain the right perspective.

Slowly I began to think things were not so bad after all. In fact it read like a familiar story of any entrepreneur, at least their humble beginnings.¬† I didn’t lie, I just chose to view and say things positively.

So when I got a call from The Voice Newspaper (Britain’s Largest Black Newspaper) to do an interview I had my rock star version on the tip of my tongue. And it got published last week, yay! As a matter of fact the call was to do a small feature on the business and our products, not actually on me but when the journalist asked about my story, she found it fascinating enough, paused to call the editor with the words ‘I have a story for you’. I hoped she was talking about me and thankfully she was!

Now only a few close friends and family know the sob-version of my story. Like the fact that I cried so much while expecting child #4 that I was certain he would be born with some sort of disorder. I didn’t tell the journalist that there were times I found myself in a hopeless state, wondering when things will change for the better and had to challenge God to see if He was real. I didn’t mention that a lot of the growing of the business, or dealing with celebrity clients wasn’t done from the nice office she interviewed me in, but rather from a dodgy table in a small corner of my tiny home. And that I had my baby propped up with pillows on my lap, breast feeding while building my website. She didn’t need to know those details.

If you haven’t yet done so, I implore you to rewrite your story. Write the Rock Star version and memorise it. Instead of listing out your struggles and challenges and saying how weighed down you feel, use the phrase ‘in spite of my challenges, I did…’ When you think about it, you are alive and you’re still going strong despite the challenges.

A lot of Entrepreneurs use the rock star version which makes us wonder why they had it so easy while years later we are still struggling. I have fallen into that ‘stinking thinking’ lots of times but I know better that its the story they’ve chosen to tell. Now if you get down to the nitty gritty, you’ll find that their struggles are not much different from ours.

I was chatting with a dear friend who wants to get her business idea off the ground. She shared with me how small she felt compared with others in her industry. My advice, rewrite your story and make it as big as you want it to be.

Proverbs 23:7 says as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.
Numbers 13:33…And we became like grasshoppers in our eyes.

You decide how you want to be seen and do it. I believe we all have a Rock star version.

I hope this blessed you, holler back!

The Toddler Insists on Growing Up. I Refuse to Let Him.

My little Josh started school an hour ago. its not like he hasn‚Äôt been to ‚Äėschool‚Äô before, after all he was in pre-school. Does that count? No? Ok.

He looked so cute, determined and excited as I dropped him off, wondering if his school will take me in as a substitute teacher for one day only.

The day started with me waking him up and asking if he remembers what he’ll be doing today.

He answered; ¬†‚Äėsleeping. I want to sleep some more‚Äė and he promptly nodded off to sleep again.
Finally we get him all dressed with me fussing over him the whole time. I ask if he is excited about school, he replies quizzically,

‚ÄėWhy?‚Äô

You see this child has inherited his some father’s cynicism and I keep forgetting that. It wasn‚Äôt like this with my sweet son #3, he cuddled me and shared the same emotions I had- which went from extreme calm to anxiety nervosa.

We try to take some pictures. He keeps jumping off right before the flash goes thereby rendering my resolve rewrite history, useless. I  need to have every memory recorded because now I know I’ll forget like I’ve forgotten a lot that happened with his brothers.

On our way to school I tell him how proud I am of him.  Again he asks why, this time with a real desire to know. I explain that he is such a good, clever and handsome boy. I tell him how proud I am to be his mama. At this he smiles his charming smile. I push back the tears I feel welling up.

When we arrive he runs ahead happily, promptly stops and asks me to pick him up, he is tired of running. I worry that this carrying thing won’t last for long. I stop worrying and choose to enjoy the moment instead.

We arrive and go to meet his teachers, they are warm, friendly and appear to like my Josh already. I notice that I’ve managed to smear his white shirt with my make-up. I don’t care, I hope my love and my smell got smeared on too and will remain with him until I pick him up at 3:20pm.

While we wait in the presence of other mummies, many of them visibly nervous, I ask him if he’ll make new friends.

‘Yes mum, and if anyone punches me I punch them right back’.

‘¬†Punch them right back’¬† is accompanied by a forceful swing with his fist, I think it’s called the uppercut in boxing.

I watch my potential rep as a perfect mum disappear quietly down the proverbial drain. You know how there’s always one mum who annoyingly stands out from the rest of us as perfect. She is NEVER late for the school run. When you’re late she just has to ask;

‘Did you over-sleep?’

You reply defensively but with just the right amount of dignity;

‘No I didn’t, but I had to scrape the ice from my windscreen’

She replies in a sing-song, high-pitched voice;

‘You should have allowed time for that!’ Her response is finished off with a small laugh and a cursory wave of her left hand. Not just a laugh, but the laugh that is er…’at you’.

She buys mainly organic veggies from the grocery store and plants her own herbs and tomatoes. Oh and she makes her own ice-cream in the summer. She has on brown cords, knee-high boots and a tweed blazer over her cream coloured, floral top.

Sorry I digress, another post.

I sprint back to the car, partly for exercise (still trying to get past 3 mins of exercise daily. The plan was to start small and build it up. The problem is not the starting.  Another blog post, another time.) I remember the last time I sprinted to the car after dropping of a certain son on his first day. I was sprinting from a myriad of emotions, glee, liberation, thankfulness. I didnt want to waste a second of my new-found freedom. That child shall of course remain nameless.

My advice to mums who have found themselves an emotional wreck on first day at school? Remember that a new experience prepares them for all things life has to offer. They’ll enjoy the exhilaration of new friends, new routines and new toys. It works for me every time. Except today.

Off I go to vent those tears, they’re becoming rather annoying!

Toks Uncovered

Yesterday found us at a parray! My big cousin turned 60 and we attended her surprise birthday party. It was grand!

I have no idea what the matter is with me but recently I’ve caught myself tearing up so easily. Even a fond memory has me welling up in tears. It happened again when she walked into the hall- all decked out for a party because she knew she was attending one, just not hers. When she walked in and everyone cheered, she realised what was going on and immediately started crying, then I started crying too.

Later when the announcement was made to give¬†congratulatory¬†messages, yours truly shot her hand up because she had plenty to say. The celebrant is a darling, darling cousin of mine and as I grabbed the microphone (which I’m not shy of) to give an epistle of her fabulousness, dusted with good humour in all the right places, I just knew I’d have the guests roaring in laughter and begging for my autograph afterwards. Guess what happened? My eyes welled up with tears again and I never made it beyond the first sentence. The rest of the night was spent kicking myself over and over again. Please if you have any explanation as to why Toks keeps crying, do share. Just to give you a heads-up to aid your diagnosis, life couldn’t be better for me, seriously. I have ‘found my happy’, when I cry I don’t feel sad at all, just happy and overwhelmed. I am baffled.

One reason I’m in a happy place is because I read ‘Who moved my Cheese’ by Spencer Johnson. I recommend it to everyone. It’s a funny little story that shows us what we’re like when we’re forced to change and we resist it. Cheese is used as an allegory for what you want out of life, financial freedom, a happy home, dream career, etc. The 4 characters in the book are all in this maze (life) searching for cheese. Sometimes they find it, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they get lost, at other times they hit dead ends. Either way they keep searching. The cheese station is the site of¬†copious¬†amounts of cheese, which is akin to finally having that dream job or meeting that¬†special¬†person to share your life with. Of course for everyone it is different. When the cheese runs out what do you do? In my case I began to see the truth about an ongoing saga in my life. I finally accepted that a part of my life I had held onto stubbornly for years was well and truly over. That cheese was finished and the crumbs were mouldy, but I remained at the old site of the cheese factory hoping it would somehow show up again. Letting go of the old has been a refreshing, liberating experience for me and ¬†has freed me to move unto bigger and better things.

I met an old friend at the party, he is pretty much family and although we only tend to meet at family functions sometimes as rarely as every other year, we carry on where we left off, no warm-ups needed. He calls me Tokunbo. Most people at the party call me Tokunbo and I respond easily because it warms my heart. Anyone who calls me that has been in my life for a very long time. I tend to use Toks a lot more, but I love being called Tokunbo. It speaks volumes to me, comfort, home,¬†familiarity, family. ¬†Being in a ‘cheese station’ is a comfortable place to be and it’s hard to leave, but there are times we have to get up and move, either because the cheese has run out or our tastes has changed.

On another note, hubby used to call me Tokunbo, then he moved unto Toksi, then Toks and now he calls me T. I’m thinking the next step is to ¬†just imagine my name and I’ll hear him.

Thanks to my dearest friend and sister Iluobe who started me on that path of ¬†‘happiness’, gave me the word ‘fabulousness’ and has been so kind to remain in my life. You are a blessing in a million ways, I love you sis!

Thanks to my dearest friend and sister Suzy who had my beautiful dress made in record time AND found someone to bring it to me on time for the party. When I think of the words ‘loyal’ and ‘reliable’ Suzy comes to mind. I love you Suzy!

Now let’s see if I have the guts to upload my photo to Pawpaw ¬†& Mango and completely blow my ‘cover’, I do want you to see that dress!

Thank you for reading ūüôā

This, That and Part Deaux of Church Wahala

It would suffice to say that the reason for a 2nd part to an April post is of course, my dealing with more church wahala. But I’d be lying, and as I already shared the lie I told in part one, I shall refrain from telling any more. Today’s thoughts and musings are enough to account for my er…intermission.

What hasn’t gone through my mind today? That’s like asking which models of cars drove during rush hour Third mainland, Brooklyn or Tower bridge. It has been a traffic jam of thoughts all day.

The four boys and hubby have decided to come down with a cough and cold, no doubt getting it before me so I’d be the one to nurse them all. I went from feelings of despair at the thought of waiting hand and foot on five men- little ones and large ones- to feelings of joy that I’m the presiding queen blessed to have them all in my life.

A friend changed her facebook profile picture to one taken back in her school days, I marvelled at how pretty she was then and still is. She appears to have perfect features- she’s from the Ashanti tribe in Ghana and has such a beautiful smile! Shout out to you Harriet O!

Son #2 found an unopened sanitary towel in the bathroom, opened it and brought it¬†downstairs¬†to ask what it was. After years of telling them it was part mummy’s make up kit, I told him what it was, straight-up! He knows all about the birds and the bees but I had omitted the towels part.

There are four people in my household who now use mobile phones, we also use the same chargers so there is sometimes a scramble for one. It is both disquieting and satisfying. On the one hand my babies are growing up too fast, the day is coming where we won’t be a young family any more- who am I kidding? The day has come. Son #4 thankfully anchors us to the coveted category of ‘young family’ as we sometimes go out with just him in tow, leading people to think he is our first- we love that. Yes hubby (not me) can be a fraud sometimes, he pretends to have just started a family. The thing is he looks like it too. On the other hand, it is satisfying because this is how it should be, things are progressing in the natural order. Babies should grow and one day turn into adults.

I miss my mum. Very much. She is an amazing, kind-hearted and selfless woman, it appears she has lived her entire life for us her children, and even now still places us ahead of any and everything else in life. I can only hope I do nearly as good as she does as a mother, if I do I’ll win a prize for the world’s’ greatest mum.

I spent Saturday evening with my dearest friend and sister, we watched the movie, Think Like a Man, and then gisted into the night. There is something about having a transparent conversation with a fellow sister that you really click with. I am so blessed to have a number of friends that share a connection with me on an unimaginable level. These are sisters I can comfortably call in the middle of the night without needing to apologise that I disturbed their beauty sleep. I am blessed to have some friends who are selfless and would go out on a limb and for me; and I’ll willingly do the same for them.

I have a half-finished post on the business blog, it remains half-finished because I started by talking about one thing, digressed and lost my way. With that admission, you obviously know where today’s post is going. Nowhere.

So to part deaux of my church wahala. Since the gist is stale, I’ll round it up by saying they incessantly texted and called us inviting us for one event or the other.

One day hubby ran into the man and he declared his undying love for us, shared how broken-hearted they were that we didn’t warm up to them. Don’t you feel the same way for us that we feel for you?’ He kept asking. And if you knew my hubby, he is not the touchy-feely type, Christian brother or not. He’s more like Jack Nicholson in the movie something’s got to give. We are friends, but no strings attached. So imagine his horror when this man went on and on, and in front of the shopkeeper too. Have we offended you? What if something happened to us, you would never have known. You didn’t even check on us. I will not yield to the temptation to type out the¬†myriad¬†of borderline expletives that went through hubby’s mind. Thankfully he didn’t¬†yield¬†either so they remained unspoken.

That’s been it, I am so glad to be back on Pawpaw and Mango- and yes I agree no one drove me away in the first place. I am excited about some help I’d be getting at work which should free me up to do what I love doing, writing.

Thanks so much for reading!

Church Wahala

The 'My Church is the ONLY church going to heaven' syndrome

I have my radar permanently on for strange churches. I don’t know if you’ve had the privilege of attending one- it is a privilege because if you come out alive and in your right mind, you can survive just about anything in life.¬†¬†I’ve been blessed in that manner but I neither hope for nor desire such a blessing again.

I have been in a church where the culture of the nationals¬†superseded¬†the word of God. I have also been in one where the church decided what day of the week you could get married on. When we were looking for a new church some years ago I would type in the name of the church and then the word ‘cult’ right after it. Because there is no smoke without fire, nuff said!

It would appear I have an affinity for such members because as I type this we are currently being stalked by yet another one. I won‚Äôt go into details but instead will share with you my freshly brewed experience. A little while ago we met this lovely couple at #2‚Äôs football practice. They were a lovely pair, seemed harmless enough and their twin boys both played in our son‚Äôs team. We gisted on the field quite often. No wahala. Then one day they told us they had something important to discuss with us, and could they come round to see us? We asked if it could be discussed over the phone, they insisted in person. We offered our time over the weekend, they insisted it couldn‚Äôt wait and suggested we meet for coffee that week after work. So we obliged them. The first 2 hours were spent gisting about nothing in particular ‚Äďyou know, the fact that the twins were so identical and how she was once told she‚Äôll never have children, yada, yada, yada. This is called the warm-up.

Finally at a little after 10pm they began ‘the spill’. I knew we had arrived at that point because the woman took on a humble stance as she adjusted herself in her chair, while her husband shifted his coffee aside and put on a grave and sombre countenance. He shared about their dreams and how they were on course to achieving it, but God had stepped in to interrupt it. God wouldn’t let them move forward until they did his will. We agreed that seeking God‚Äôs will was very important in all our endeavours. He continued and spent a great¬† deal of time on how pressing this particular plan of God was, me I held on to the hope that our friend will eventually reveal the great mystery. And he did. The will was that they plant a church in our neighbourhood. By this time my radar had picked up the conclusion of the story aka the koko of the matter.¬† So on they went, they had prayed about it and God gave them a list of the founding members, we were of course on that list. The founding members were needed so that once the church was established; they themselves could then leave to pursue their dreams, seeing that the church was now in the hands of God’s chosen ones, aka those who had no goals or visions for themselves. At this point I wanted to belt out ‘do you not think I have my own dreams?’ But I didn’t, choosing instead to nod my head repeatedly like an agama lizard. Hubby said ‚Äúwe’ll pray about it and let you know‚ÄĚ, even as he said it we both knew there shan‚Äôt be any praying about it whatsoever. I guess you could say we lied, Lord forgive us. They even offered and said ‚Äú we don‚Äôt want you to jump on the bandwagon just yet, pray about it for ‚Äėconfirmation‚Äô and let us know‚ÄĚ.

On our way home hubby and I ‘discussed’ in detail. The issue wasn’t the fact that they dragged us into the cold night at an ungodly hour, there were several baffling issues on so many levels. While we were together I had responded to each sentence (using my inside voice) and I‚Äôll share some of my raised points:

1) You hardly know us. Just because I say amen in all the right places and I’ve quoted some scriptures does not mean I’m not a cult member.

2) Don’t you think God would have told us too? Reminds me of the story of the brother that went to the sister- ‘God told me you are my wife’ and she replied ‘did God also tell you that I‚Äôm a happily married woman?’ Some people take this ‘Fools for Christ’ thing to another level.

3) I have my own church and I have responsibilities there. How can you expect me to dump my beloved church family to enable you pursue YOUR dreams? You don’t even know the name of my church, like I said I could be a very ‘dodgy’ character.

So two weeks later we made our return trip to tell them what we felt. We rehearsed what our ‚Äėofficial‚Äô reasons were and agreed hubby would do the talking while I took the humble and sombre stance. You wonder why a rehearsal was needed? My friend, I‚Äôve been there done that. Some people don‚Äôt take ‚Äėno‚Äô for an answer, plus they may not know where we live but do know that we‚Äôre at soccer practice on Saturdays, there‚Äôs no telling how far people will go- I don‚Äôt want wahala.. Hubby was very polite and explained our reasons for not dumping our church and following them like sheep. He said we’ll support them through prayers and even assist on outreaches when we can. Surprisingly they were very accepting and thanked us for being honest.

We thought that was it, but it was only the beginning of real wahala.

To be continued.

This post is dedicated to Lateefah Olayinka who reminded me to pick up my pen again! Thanks Lateefah!

The Hair Situation

I’ve just returned from the hairdresser’s and I’m not happy. I am not ridiculously fussy about my hair but it MUST look good always, or be covered if I’m outdoors. Interestingly enough I love my hair looking wild when I’m indoors. It is very thick and luscious and two weeks after a perm it looks like it took the unanimous decision to revert to its natural afro state. Back to why I’m unhappy. I already knew what style I wanted, i.e the one shown in the pic above. 2 weeks earlier I had sent my braid specialist the pic to ask what type of hair was needed.

Warning #1¬†She told me to ask the hair shop. I should have taken that as a sign that this deal wasn’t going to go down well.

Warning #2 Next I made my way to the hair shop and after a couple of feeble sentences with Mukhtar, left  store with what looked like a close match to what I wanted. My hairdresser suggested I bought 3 packs but knowing my hair I took  4.
Warning #3. Hairdresser takes one glance and declares it isn’t going to be enough. So I suggest cane rowing the front, same effect, no big deal. She finishes the canerow and says it still isn’t enough. So we agree I’ll go and buy the weave version of the hair and weave the back instead. Even better for me as it means I’ll be done sooner.

Warning #4.  The hair only comes in braid format, weave version is not available. I also learn that although there are possibly hundreds of brands, but no two brands are the same. So I purchase the closest weave I could identify and hope for the best.

My preferred braid

My preferred braid

Warning #5. It wouldn’t blend. Silky versus kinky. Now I’m gutted. The logical thing was done which was forget my afro style and go with the silky one ( which I completely do not like)

The battle between coming to terms with the turn of events and refusing to be angered by Aunty Catford’s conversation begins. I don’t know why she’s called Aunty Catford, my only theory is that she lives in Catford. The entire time I’m there she doesn’t crack a smile. And as she’s the one doing my hair I dare not ask why she’s called Catford. For all you know they might not even be saying Catford, though I’m pretty sure that’s what I’m hearing.

See, you’re lucky. That first hair you got was rubbish.‘ The ‘R’ ¬†and the ‘sh‘ are heavily¬†emphasized. Me, I quietly denounce every negative pronunciation over my afro.

‘It would have tangled very badly and you would have just wasted your money’, she continues. Some people just can’t take a hint! You can’t force one to like what one does not like.

But I like tangled! Tangled is natural’, I scream with my inside voice!

See how nice it looks? It looks like human hair!’

Every single person in the shop agrees with agama lizard style nods. It feels like I’m in a war with everyone in the shop.

Me, I want my face to be admired too, ie ‘your hair suits you‘, or ‘you are beautiful all round, love the hair too’. What I don’t want is to have people admire the hair I purchased from Mukhtar. You might as well go to his shop and admire all the hair he sells.

I don’t usually wear weaves, I prefer braids or my relaxed hair cut in a pretty nifty style. So this is new for me.

Silky Hair

Silky Hair

I’ll see how I feel in the morning, If I’m still unhappy I’ll execute plan B.

It is morning.

Thank you for reading, do come back!

By Force History Lesson

I feel so sorry for my friends and family. I recently enrolled on a course in period interior design. Attending a design course isn’t new to me and normally I wouldn’t even say much about it, but this one is different. It is different because I have never had an affinity for period design in any way, shape or form. I mean why would you want to design your home with the old when you are young and hip? The truth is that I actually nursed a certain anxiety over the subject, personally I prefer contemporary decor, and in my previously limited thinking I associated ancient styles with ancient folks. Kind of like my Mum’s¬†Wedgwood¬†plates, you know the blue and white one with a scenery of what looks like a Victorian playground. Give me plain but brightly coloured,¬†unusually¬†shaped plates¬†any day. However in preparation of my taking the world by storm, I realised that citing ignorance during my acceptance speech of my lifetime¬†achievement award just won’t do, so I thought even though I don’t particularly like the style, I at least need to be educated about it. So here we are.

I am now in love with history! Poor hubby can’t even enjoy a simple movie or T.V program any longer as I’m constantly pointing out the different eras that the fireplace or staircase bannister came from. I go on to explain how design styles, though limited to nobility and the wealthy, travelled through time and various countries. Rome and France were the trend setters, but because of the limited transportation ( we’re talking 18th and 19th century) a style could be in vogue in France but wouldn’t arrive in Britain for another 100 years or so. The poor Americans had nothing going on for a long time as most travelling was done within Europe. Would you like to know how churches came to be so tastefully designed and decorated? No? Well I’ll tell you anyway. ¬†In a nutshell, during the renaissance period, many wealthy families lived very extravagant lives. The guilt of the way they lived caused them to donate ¬†a lot of their money to the church, and even build elaborate churches. It was seen as their penance especially since some of the wealth was ill-gotten. Did you know Leonardo Da Vinci dissected human bodies to see how the body was created, so he could recreate it, sinews, muscle and all in his art? You knew? I didn’t! Did you know that the mistresses of monarchs were formally¬†recognized¬†as the Royal mistress? She had to have certain qualities and not just anyone could fill that role. She had to be a married woman for example. And her husband would have been very proud to share his wife with the King!

I won’t bore you any longer, oh and the reason I feel sorry for my friends and family (and now you) is that I can’t stop¬†talking¬†about my new found knowledge! It is so fascinating and I’m thankful that I am able to learn, i.e the boys haven’t sucked my mind away with their¬†boisterous¬†activities- like child #3 who is suddenly obsessed with wars. Search me. He is¬†gathering¬†knowledge on all the different wars (including dates!) and watching¬†YouTube¬†clips of Saving private Ryan. He told me about the cold war, why it started and about the Battle of Red Cliffs,¬†fought¬†between Northern and Southern China, what’s worrying is that this particular war was fought in 208 AD. I have no idea why an 8-year-old would be interested in that, he still has us baffled.

Here’s wishing you an awesome week ahead, and may the writer’s block never catch me again, amen!

Thanks so much for reading ūüôā

Why I haven’t blogged in a while…

There are many possible reasons for my blogging hiatus.

It could be because my neighbour across the street still has what appears to be a christmas tree complete with lights on his front porch. Or the fact that Josh’s words keep replaying in my head- ‘mum, see no car has hit me yet’. Uttered moments after I informed him that sticking his head outside the window of the moving car would most certainly get him hit.

It may well be because of my new friend who shall remain nameless. I tried desperately to get her to dicsuss her roots, she’s Nigerian and I was interested in the part of Nigeria she hails from. I love to show off my knowledge of the little-known parts, okay, one little-known part. She seemed rather uncomfortable, choosing instead to stir the conversation from ‘village talk’ to Britico talk.

Truth is I don’t know why I haven’t blogged in so long. I have had errr… ‘writer’s block’. Yes I have. I’ve¬†been short of ideas, actually I have had ideas but they’ve been limited to single lines. That wouldn’t do for Pawpaw and Mango (which I just realized has no tagline, suggestions welcome). The single lines of course being the titles, like:¬†The morning after the night before I¬†took too many Ibuprofen ¬†capsules and¬†panicked¬†while I imagined my stomach digesting itself as I recalled the story my dad told me of the man who reacted badly to Ibuprofen and lost no less than two pints of blood ‘before his very eyes’. Or- I wonder if my neighbour is an¬†ax¬†murderer, I have no reason to believe he is but you can’t trust anyone these days especially since he refers constantly to ‘Marie’ and we have never seen a ‘Marie’ or any semblance of it her.

I stumbled across a Nigerian Singer on Twitter. I’d never heard of her before she was trending that particular day, and like all normal folks I clicked to see what the fuss was all about. Apparently someone had called her ‘ugly’, I have no idea why she chose to respond to this person, but she started calling him names, vacillating between English and Yoruba.. Idiot, Oloshi! Your mouth is dirty! Seriously, on Twitter! That was the funniest tweet conversation I’d come across. But even that did not evoke a decent blog post.

My dear friend and fellow blogger Justjoxy has been writing a mini-series over on her blog. It was supposed to be a short story, at least that’s what she told us. Two parts at the most. Three postings later and we are yet to read the end. Humph! It is a very good read, would make you think before you wear your weave again. No she isn’t one of those activists for natural black afro. She’s an activist for rare species like giant king prawns sauteed in peppers and ginger, and the like. Which is precisely why I haven’t been able to write. I’ve been reading!

Thank you for coming back, I promise not to ever allow Justjoxy and her Sango priestesses stop me again, ever!

 

In the Village of the Blind..

The boys and I went with our beloved dog to visit my cousin, Jumoke. Biola was also present and we had a really good time. When it was time to return home we managed to get lost and found ourselves in what seemed like a run-down coastal village. People were milling around rather aimlessly, it was getting dark and the water drainage system¬†didn’t¬†seem like it was functioning for there were puddles everywhere. The women looked weather-worn and poverty-stricken, but happy in their own way. The happiness seemed contained, as if they were only happy so long as they were in that environment. The men walked around in small groups or alone, they wore well-worn clothes, unbuttoned shirts and trousers rolled up to their knees, presumably because of the puddles.

I made a U-turn right by the edge of the river which left me feeling unhinged. The whole scenario unnerved me and I¬†couldn’t¬†wait to get us out of there. I came out of the car to ask a lady for directions and she leaned over and whispered urgently ‚ÄúYou‚Äôre in the village of the blind, the villagers are all blind and the most wicked on earth, you want to get out of here as soon as possible‚ÄĚ Strangely enough she didn‚Äôt seem perturbed that she was a seeing-woman in a village of violent, blind people. As I turned to go back to the car, the boys had already come out of the car and child #1 was chasing our dog who had managed to get off his leash. I was so angry as I ran after them screaming and asking him why he let go. The dog found a round pipe and ran inside it. We chased after calling him but he seemed to think it was all a game. As we approached the house where the pipe lead into, I noticed an old man sitting inside right by the window, filing his fingernails. I asked him nicely if he wouldn‚Äôt mind passing our dog to us and he responded with ‚Äúno.‚ÄĚ He¬†didn’t¬†even look up and he didn‚Äôt stop filing his nails. I noticed he had two opaque eyes, each sunken in their own socket. He‚Äôs face was tanned and etched with 8 to 10 deep lines. He looked and felt very diabolical and evil seemed to emanate from him. It was as if he was the very embodiment of evil. My heart started to pound as I¬†realized¬†I had come face to face with one of the most wicked people on earth. ¬†Then I saw our dog being humped by the man‚Äôs bigger dog, we started begging for our dog and our poor, previously un-humped dog ran upstairs to escape. I stopped child #1 just in time as he made to go in through the pipe. I resigned myself to the very real possibility that we would be leaving without our dear, dear dog whom we love so much and is a member of our family. As I turned to gather my boys, I noticed child #4 had been snatched away ¬†and they were now trying to take child #3. I blacked out, and saw nothing but white light. It was the sun streaming in through my window, it is morning and I‚Äôm awake, safe and sound and so are my children. We have no dog.

I can’t help but ponder on the meaning of this dream, not all my dreams have meaning but this one was so poignant. For one I am so thankful for God’s protection over us. That we are safe, the children are free from danger.

I wonder if it has something to do with spiritual blindness. That being blind means being in danger?  What if we could see into our future, what effect will that have on our decisions today? What if we had eyes on both sides of our faces as well as in front and at the back? Besides looking hideous I think that we would do much better in possibly all areas of our lives. What if  like Google earth we had the ability to zoom in and out?

At the moment I feel very overwhelmed, I have a lot on my plate- mostly good stuff but find that I can’t exactly enjoy them yet, as I’m either trying to do all of those things at the same time, or I am¬†paralyzed, wondering where to begin. I know that if I am able to stand all the way back, I’ll have a clearer picture of what needs to be done, and even allocate timelines for each item. I’ll be able to connect the dots to form a nice, chaos-free picture. When you are in a situation that is usually all you can see just like when you zoom in at street level on google maps you only see a few streets. You can’t see the train stations and public buildings unless you move around or better still zoom out.¬†¬†If you keep zooming out the full picture becomes clearer until¬†you see our beautiful planet earth.

So today I think I’ll put pen to paper and zoom out, start with the finished picture and slowly zoom back in, connecting the dots until I finally find my way around. I’m learning to live by having faith in my vision, i.e the outcome and not getting stuck on how I’ll get there.

I with you a fruitful and productive week, thanks so much for reading!

7 Things about me!

I am so glad we made it into 2012, “We” as in you and I. I have always liked the start of something new, moving into a new home, having a new baby, starting a new year and even writing in a new journal. The whole journal thing deserves a post by itself, I love paper. I love books and journals. I don’t just buy a notebook to write in, the cover has to have its own personality. The ones I purchase tend to depend on where I am in my life at that point, it’s almost a ritual. I arrive at the book or gift store in style- with no child in tow. This is a ME!! moment, like going to the spa. One season I picked an Indian baroque style journal complete with glitter and beads¬†sewn¬†in. Then there was a time I got one that was fabric covered in green linen- not just any green, a cross between olive and celery green. I love green, it’s a calming, peaceful colour. Next Journal was a rare 300 page one in a colourful, psychedelic¬†design- you know that 60’s style design used to depict a drug-induced mind. That’s the one I’m still on- and I’m coming to the end. I haven’t started seriously shopping for a new journal yet because I just picked up a really cool day-to-a-page A5 diary. It is covered in a patchwork design that looks like a myriad of odd pieces of fabric haphazardly sewn together and I LOVE it! I chose that because I’ve recently been focusing more on interior design on the design blog. Read my posts here and here and let me know your thoughts if you don’t mind.

Okay I know I got carried away. I love the start of the year because it hasn’t been tainted with disappointments or regrets. It hasn’t even been tainted with sin or ill behavior either. Yankee candle do a scent called Clean Cotton, it really smells like a¬†clean¬†white¬†bed sheet. That’s what the start of the year looks like, a clean white sheet.

Last year (I’m ashamed to say) I was¬†honored¬†to have been tagged and awarded a versatile blogger award by the oh-so-consistent-in-her-blogging blogger, Nita. Nita, you are a stylish and sincere writer and I’m glad our paths crossed! Thanks so much for the award! As you have already guessed I gushed and ah-ed about the award but didn’t write the 7 random things about myself, so here it is:

1) I converse with myself- a lot. Sometimes I do it when I’m alone, at other times I do it when others are around. I used to work with a young lady who would have spontaneous bursts of laughter and say “Toks you’re so funny!” in her sing-song voice. When I asked why, she’d say “you’re talking to yourself, again”.¬†I would start to explain I’m not talking to myself, I’m talking my way through a task, but instead say “never mind dear” with my “this-is-too-heavy-for-you-to-understand voice.

2) I don’t like arguments or confrontations. Therefore you won’t catch me starting a conversation with;¬†“I need to have a word, you offended me the other day”. If the offence is so bad that I can’t overlook it, I tend to drift slowly away from the offender.

3) My favourite childhood movie is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, with Sound of Music coming in at a close second. My favourite grown-up movie (I nearly wrote adult!) is Gone with the Wind. I cry when I watch it.

4) I had a happy, flawless childhood, I have no regrets at all about growing up in my household and I owe that to God and Mum and Dad!

5) I hate fish. Okay ‘hate’ is a strong word, but I don’t like the smell, the skin or the bones. My mum had to have surgery to her throat when I was a child to remove a fish bone, maybe that’s where the aversion stems from. I don’t know how people systematically place a pice of flesh embedded with bones in their mouth and somehow manage to swallow just the flesh and spit out the bones in a neat, confident fashion. I don’t care to know either. The skin, I have found to be of an irritatingly sleek and slimy texture, plus the markings resemble that of a snake. As for the smell, I believe there is a part of the fish where all the smell emanates from, it’s that brown part next to the skin. Since I can’t be bothered to extract brown flesh, I just forget the whole thing.

6) ¬†I love to take solo short breaks, no hubby, no child, just me. A the risk of sounding like a¬†Buddhist¬†or new-ageist, getting away helps me get in touch with myself, *insert peaceful, zen-like voice* I would love to go on an all-girls short break soon though, like the ones you find profiled in Essence magazine like The New Orleans Essence Festival or something like that- and short means no less than one week. I do the solo breaks to catch up on work, reading and just to enjoy my own company because I think I make good company ūüôā

7) I was supposed to be a doctor- but I got, er sidetracked, we’ll blame hubby for this one. I have a super-retentive memory when it comes to anything to do with the human body or medication, but I’m apt to forget my friends birthdays ūüė¶

She said seven random things! ¬†So I can’t tell you my most¬†embarrassing¬†moment-ever! (I would have gone on to tell you how I once walked in on my stark naked, middle-aged distant-relative. I was a teen and trying to act so grown up that seeing a grown man in his bathing suit was normal. It was his birthday and I wanted to be nice and give him a card,¬†after all¬†he and his wife had kindly welcomed me to their home when I arrived in Stratford. So when I knocked and I thought he said come-in, I behaved as though seeing him naked was no big deal. I still walked up to him to give him his birthday card while mumbling an incoherent ‘sorry, I thought you said come in’. ¬†A normal child would have flinched and ran back. ) Argh!!!!

But if I told you I’dmlp+be breaking the award rules.

Thanks for reading and happy new year!!!

Regrets

It was 3 weeks ago as we prepared for church that hubby informed me rather solemnly that Joe Frazier had been admitted to a hospice with Liver cancer. I was shocked and sad. Sad for the man who was now nearing the end of his life, and shocked because I didn’t even know he was still alive- that shows you how much I know about boxing and even sports in general. I support Chelsea football club because Chelsea is a fine part of town and also like their jersey colour. I don’t know any of the players. I probably know the names but can’t say whether or not they play for Chelsea.

Anywho! I didn’t let on to hubby that I had no idea theman was still alive as that would have been a new avenue for him to ‘diss’ me. So he wonders out loud why he is in a hospice; ¬†”abi he has money problems?”¬† Trust me to quickly wiki him. So I start from the very begining and learned a lot.

He had a rough childhood. He was raised on a farm in South Carolina during one of the most racially charged times in America. He endured the humiliation of Jim Crow and his family, although owned a farm were not exactly wealthy. After he broke his left arm in a nasty fall from teasing their¬†sizable¬†hog, said arm became permanently crooked as his folks couldn’t afford a doctor, the arm was left to heal by itself. By the age of 15 began to fend for himself. Long story short, he got into boxing and that let arm became a weapon in his career.

His rivals were¬†Muhammad¬†Ali and George Foreman, they were the kings. Ali, who has always had a mouth loved to tease and curse, comes with the territory right? Well Somehow all that teasing and cursing didn’t go down too well with Joe and they became enemies. Later on Joe will refuse to have anything to do with Ali, even appearances and events that would have earned him some money. This carried on after he lost close to $1m on a land deal. The trust that held his money went bust and he lost it all. Funnily enough Ali also went through his own financial hell ¬†due to mismanagement and being surrounded by vultures, some employed by him who did nothing but scavenge his fortune. His salvation came in the form of his current wife who fired everyone in sight and set things straight, charging for the use of his name, etc. I don’t know much about Mr. Frazier’s personal life to see if he also had a good woman behind him after he got divorced following a 20 year marriage. I do know however that he did sue his daughter for holding unto contracts and documents that supposedly would have made him more financially¬†buoyant. ¬†Apparently he was in such dire straits that he chose the one option he had. I have no opinion to air on this since I don’t know why the pikin sef was holding unto her papa’s stuff.

Through it all Joe remained bitter towards Ali, even after Ali apologised and said many of the things he said were wrong and were done to promote the fights. Here’s a quote from Mr Frazier during an interview:¬†‚ÄúI don‚Äôt mind talking about the rivalry I had and have with Muhammad,‚ÄĚ Frazier said. ‚ÄúI know it‚Äôs what most people remember me for.

Well I beg to differ here. You should not be remembered for negativity of any sort. There is no pride in saying your legacy was being rivals with someone else, or worse remaining angry and unforgiving toward anyone. ¬†Bear in mind that he was a heavyweight champion of the world and beat Ali, actually he had 32 wins, 4 loses and 1 draw and was inducted into the Boxing hall of fame.¬†And when Ali lit the¬†Olympic¬†torch in 1996, he apparently said he’d like to throw him in the fire.

When asked about forgiving his opponent, this is what he said:

“Forgiveness? It’s not up to me to forgive him, only the Lord can do that. There’s no forgiveness.

“Who will be the best guy in the final round, who is the one of us two who is going to heaven and who is going to hell? I know which one it is and I sure ain‚Äôt the one who is going to hell.‚ÄĚ

Folks, this interview was held last year. He was 68 at the time. To allow hatred to marr your life for so long is a tradgedy. It is as if his own hatred robbed him.

So Sunday had me imagining what he was thinking on his death bed. What do people think about when faced with the unwavering certainty that they will not be walking out of the hospital? Or while the nurses discuss about their shifts next week he knows without a doubt that he wouldn’t even be there? Imagine being told you have 5 days to live. Mentally you are stable enough to understand exactly what that means, you can even transport yourself mentally into the next 3 weeks but your living body will never arrive there. Your mind in fact is healthy but your body is dying and as healthy as your mind is, you cannot will yourself to be made whole again.

For some reason the word regret ¬†has been playing around in my mind, i.e I don’t want to regret a single thing¬†at the end of my life. I don’t want to sit and wish I hadn’t wasted my time and expended my emotional energy hating someone else, acting to please someone else or pretending to be someone else. I want to enjoy every moment of every day and be glad and rejoice in it. I want to see the beauty of God everywhere I go and even¬†recognize¬†that my trials are part of the tools needed to shape me into a beautiful soul, so that when trials come I’m not perturbed but happy that work is still being done on me. I want to be an excellent mum to my children and raise them well, while remaining a true friend and companion to hubby. I want to be a dependable friend, the type that has you confident to turn your back because you know I’ll be watching it not stabbing it. I don’t want to stop cracking jokes or being funny. I want to use up all of the gifts that God placed in me, they are many. I want to inspire people and make sure their lives are better because they met me.

I definitely want to keep blogging, but to do so very regularly and not sporadically. Did I mention I was still being worked on?

Thanks so much for reading!

PS;

If you are unsure about how to live free of fear or regret the one solution I have found so far is salvation through Christ. It doesn’t stop you from making mistakes or even physically dying, but it does give you a hope and a future and a new life after death.

Frazzled Belle in Love

One month. That’s how long it’s been since my last post. At this point I agree with Jim Rohn who said time is more valuable than money, money you can always make back. I refuse to look back and try to account for what transpired over the last month to the extent that I couldn’t or didn’t update my blog. Although so much has happened.

I celebrated my 15th wedding anniversary. It is scary to even type that number, I can’t believe hubby and I have been together for 15 years. Actually lets make that 17.5 since we dated for 2.5 years. Since we’re counting we’ll make that 20.5 years since we were best friends before then. Yes, I stole my best friend, lol! I remember the day I met him, it was at a mutual friend’s house. I had on my glasses and I got up to go to the kitchen. He said, ”take off your glasses let me see you without them” Can you imagine the cheek of him? I of course said no! In my mind thinking you are very bold, you barely know me and you’re making demands. He still thinks I have beautiful eyes but refuses to say they are my best feature, he believes all my features are best, awww!

Back in the day we all used to converge at Alex’s house on a Sunday to eat, gist and chill. There wasn’t much to our lives then, we were students and miles away from our parents or any sort of authority and life was good! It was there I also met Tinuke, along with Tola, Ronke and Tayo. I’m pleased to say that most of the friends I made in that house- which was ¬†filled with Bobby Brown posters and¬†weird¬†haircuts- are still in my life today. And so many more wonderful people have been added over the years, including a certain blogger who will be the subject of my next post!

So Hubby and Alex along with Tinuke became my closest friends. As each dropped off the bandwagon dating their future spouses, hubby and I were increasingly left to go to the movies alone and spend hours on the phone. One day he asked who I saw myself with in the future, I realised then that we clearly had been spending so much time together that all I saw was him with his tiny eyes. Hmmm. Not good. I quickly made an excuse and got off the phone, which was the beginning of a week long of intense worry that I’d fallen in love with my best friend! I summoned reinforcements in the form of dear friends and a pastor’s wife to seek a way out of this¬†dilemma. I couldn’t even speak to him the next day as I felt this was so wrong, plus I was convinced he would be able to see my thoughts through the phone- seeing him face to face was certainly out of the question. I guess I was that flustered as he was the first person I fell in love with, if you don’t count Blair Underwood, Johnny Gill and Babyface. He eventually told me how he felt about me- more than just friends. He told me how he hated the fact that I told everyone we were like brother and sister! The rest as they say is history, a beautiful one. That was all before I became a frazzled mama to 4 boys. Yes they are gorgeous. Yes they are adorable and sweet, but they also have major frazzling power!

Toddler J now talks. We already have a talker in the family- number 3 and we have been praying and confessing that he wouldn’t have a rival. Alas it wasn’t to be. I swear this boy just started talking on Monday. He has always chatted, don’t get me wrong but something happened on Sunday/Monday that turned on a switch in him. Today is Thursday and he hasn’t slowed down. He not only speaks in sentences, he speaks in paragraphs too! Please pray for me.

Number 3 is still as sweet as ever and learning the lesson of tolerance, tolerance that is of number 1, who has suddenly turned teaser-extraordinaire. Number 2, the sporty one decided he no longer wants to play football. One is unsure of whether to force him to carry on as he is very talented, or allow him to choose another sport so that he enjoys his childhood. Suggestions gladly welcome!

Lunchtime update

I’m working from home today because I had to wait or the washing-machine repair man. He has come and gone- without repairing the offending machine. I prayed that he would arrive early so I could still make it to the office- God¬†answered¬†my prayer, he came early. What I didn’t know was that I should also have prayed that he wouldn’t be chatty, that he’d simply fix the thing and leave with a smile.

He started by telling me he didn’t have all the parts. In my opinion he shouldn’t have bothered to come. But he went on to say that he had to log the call, blah, blah, blah. I permitted him. Next he proceeded to show me drawings of the washing machine, and all the different parts. He showed me the parts he had and the parts he didn’t. He then went on to explain why the missing pieces were essential. Mohammed then carried on, telling me what would happen if I continued to use it. He explained how one customer’s machine drum “was ripped apart like a can of sardines” when they carried on using it in its faulty state. Perhaps it was because I didn’t rant and rave about the wasted time that Mohammed felt the need to educate me on how angry I should be when I called Comet’s customer services to complain. “You really must put your foot down. You cannot afford to wait another 2 weeks for me to come back. Ask them why they are putting you through this. Write a letter to their head office. Don’t say I told you. Call first then write a letter”. I already knew that. But you see I have learnt that you cannot change what has already happened, and God forbid I waste my energy and emotions on ranting about something that cannot be altered. At this point I began to consider feigning disgust and anger, just so I could move on from there. It’s a sunny day and this might well be my last chance to wear my floaty summer dress. I don’t think I did a good job because my feigned irritation only seemed to spur him on. Finally he offered to show me the parts he had in his car “So I could understand the gross incompetence of Comet”. I quickly declined and said I needed to “GET ON THE PHONE RIGHT NOW!!!” and “SORT THEM OUT!!”

When you visit the PP website, you’ll be greeted by an orange bubble that allows you to chat live with me, or anyone manning the store. I smile when I hear first a ‘knock-knock’ which notifies me someone has landed on the homepage, and then get even more excited when the message notifier comes up for a chat. So that was how I felt some 15 mins ago when Bertha* came up with a chat. I haven’t met her before but she is a retailer in a complementary business, we send each other customers (at least I hope she does). Anyway, she asked if I attended Langley Girls School*. I said I didn’t and asked if I looked¬†familiar¬†(she had gone unto my¬†Facebook¬†page and seen my photo). She explained that she used to know a very sweet, very pretty girl like me called Toks, but she went to Nigeria after graduating from Uni. Her family owned a luxury apartment in Marble Arch (that’s how we roll!) She has been trying to find her for the last 10 years or so. After smiling bashfully at being called sweet (she doesn’t know me) and pretty (even photos can’t be relied on these days), I asked for her friend’s surname and promised to ask all my (Nigerian) contacts. Which is where you come in. Do you know any Toks F that is sweet and pretty? I don’t want to spell out her¬†surname¬†so my cover is not (completely) blown as my friend said she googles her all the time- but if you want to help, do let me know.

Of course the amebo in me couldn’t sit still and I wanted to do my own searching. I google everything! ¬†So I came across a pretty Toks that sadly passed away recently. I start to dig and try to find out more about her, where she schooled, etc. Then of course I get really sucked in and find pictures of her sister, in-laws, etc. No I don’t watch CSI, I simply wanted to update Pawpaw and Mango with my findings. Nothing to report I’m afraid. I decided not to send Bertha the link to the late Toks’ page, just in case. I spread good tidings, not bad ones!

*Bertha- not her real name!

*Langley Park- not the real school either!

Thanks though for reading, I’ll keep you posted. Back to work!

The insanity test

Dear Rosemary,

It is 8:43am. I very nearly forgot that I need to pick child #3 up from his sleepover at your house.

You see it has been a blissful week. Child #2 went on a school camping trip on Monday and only returned yesterday, Friday. Five days with 3 children has had hubby and I wondering what life would have been if we stopped at 3. Of course we love all our sons equally and life would have been lacking a ‘certain something’ if we had just 3, but boy! ¬†People ask me how I ‘do it with 4 boys‘, ‘boys’ is always¬†emphasized. They think I’m superwoman. Or suffering from madness. Or both. Those who tend to accord me these laurels usually have one or two children and naturally find things very hectic already. My response is always the same. “When you have 3 children, adding 1, 2 or 3 more really makes no difference, so please leave them, I’ll be more than fine”,¬†¬†I respond dismissively. The other mum will then look at me in awe, no doubt wishing she had my powers. Or mental condition. Or indeed both.

Well all that has now been proven to be inaccurate. ¬†In the last one week, the scales have had a recalibration. Stress¬†levels, down. Shouting frequency, down. Accidents, greatly reduced. Even whining is on the low. ¬†On occasion hubby and I find ourselves calling one or all of the remaining ¬†3 just to see if they are still in the house. Yes it is that blissful. This serenity isn’t being enjoyed across the board, i.e ¬†in other homes that have one less child I mean. While the parents waited outside the coach seeing their children off, there were tears, lots of them. I didn’t see ours off, hubby did. He saw some mothers crying hysterically. Some trying to console their friends, all were about to suffer the same demise for a week. Hubby was baffled. In our house when one child goes away for a short period, we don’t cry, we laugh.

So¬†Friday¬†came and child #3 was off to his sleepover at your house- as you know right after school. We even had the privilege of a 1 hour window with just 2 children as #2 didn’t get back home until 4:30pm. Consequently we were granted an extra night as parents to 3 boys.

Clearly I am getting used to this. I love my sons and love them being around me. But are you sure you said one night and not two? Just asking. Sometimes I do get my dates muddled up.

Thanks so much for keeping our Zack, I would love to return the favour someday but you’ve pretty much just told me that I’m not superwoman. And that I’m mentally stable. I can’t promise anything, but er, ‘we’ll see’.

Yours most thankfully & worrying-about-life-going-back-to-normal-ly,

Toks

Thank you for reading, do come back.

A Culture shift

Following CNN’s award of the 5th sexiest accent to Nigerians, I suspect change will be coming our way very soon.

Here’s the tongue-in-cheek comment;

Famous tongues: King Sunny Adé, Omotola Jalade Ekeinde
Dignified, with just a hint of willful naivet√©, the deep, rich ‚Äúoh‚Äôs‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúeh‚Äôs‚ÄĚ of Naija bend the English language without breaking it, arousing tremors in places other languages can‚Äôt reach. Kinda makes the occasional phone scam worth the swindle.

Don’t mind them, we are not phone-scammers.

Do you think we may at last start to feel comfortable with our accent? I watched a Nigerian movie at a friend’s barbecue a couple of weeks ago. It was a¬†Yoruba¬†movie with subtitles in English. The entire movie was cringe-worthy especially when they kept spelling many English words with an “l” inserted in it. Dealth. Belthday. A guest explained to me it was the “aso” way of speaking. Dealth. Okay o!

I attended my friends baby dedication on Sunday. It was a proper naija affair, packed with hundreds of people with aso-ebi to go. You see, the fan-fare was necessary as the twins were waited for for 16 long years. An awesome, emotional testimony indeed. I noticed quite a few of us had on English dresses topped with burgundy¬†gele. I’m so loving it and have started to¬†acquire a collection of geles for future events.

The boys are back at school, yes school runs have begun. Child #2 will be going camping next week for 5 days. To remind you, child#2 is the fashion conscious, it-boy. I have threatened to pack up some eba and banga soup to take with him.

You should see his face, I keep a straight face whenever the conversation comes up.

So mum what am I taking to camp?

Sweets, biscuits and of course Eba and banga soup.

Mum! I can’t take Eba to camp!

Why? Are you ashamed of your culture?

No, of course not. It’s just that I’ll look¬†weird.¬†

Do you look weird when you eat sandwiches?

No, but it’s..

Ehen! Nothing weird about eba and banga soup. You love it abi? Or do you want me to stop making it?

No, but…

That settles it then. Eba to camp!

It is very hard to keep a straight face but I’m able to pull it off every time! He believes me. I hear him mumbling to his brothers about it. A few minutes later he comes back.

How am I going to warm it?

That’s true, I didn’t think of that. You can eat it o the coach on the way to camp.

Horrified look!

Yep! I’m on a mission to increase cultural awareness, what better place to start than at home?

Thanks so much for reading!

Glossary:

aso: Westernised Nigerian, usually used as a form of ridicule

gele: African head-gear- quite sizeable

aso-ebi: Outfits made from matching fabric to be worn by a group of people to an event

Eba: Staple food eaten in parts of west Africa, sticky, heavy and very filling

Banga: Nigerian soup made from palm kernels. Whatever you do don’t get some on your clothes while you eat!

Multiple Personalities & a London Street Market

I spent an exciting day at a business workshop in London.

My first shock of the day came when I introduced myself and stretched out my hand to shake one of whom I thought was a facilitator. She said; ‚Äúno, you don’t need to shake my hand; I’m just here to sort out the video equipment‚ÄĚ. My hand’s never been left hanging before. Hmm.

Thankfully I found a friendlier person in Vicky, the facilitator. She spoke slowly, carefully enunciating each word and with a smile. I think I’ll start to speak slower too.

Moving swiftly on I start to guess personalities and life histories of the rest of the delegates as they arrive.

The first to arrive was Sheila. Sheila’s in her mid-50s no doubt, very friendly with a cheery smile. When asked what her business was she proceeded to tell us how the company in which she had worked for 20 years went bust. So she took all her contacts with her and has now stared a business of her own, creating custom business stationery. She said the last two words with a nod. What we didn’t know at that time was she would go on to tell the whole story- nod included, each time she had cause to mention her business name.

Dot.

Dot is a little round with a lovely haircut; she seemed really busy even as she walked to take her place. Everything with her seemed so rushed, like she was only present because she painstakingly edited her plan for the day and managed to squeeze in a few minutes for the workshop. This was further evidenced when she was asked what she hoped to get out of the course. While others listed an average of 5 points, she only had one. What her business was? She had two. The first she’d run for 3 years- a service to transvestites. At that point I crossed out her name from the list of people I’ll be staying in contact with. She went into detail about the fact that she was a naturist turned swinger. I crossed out her name some more. Then she finally told us her second business which was in project management. She talked in detail too about that, I re-wrote her name while trying to see signs of trans-vness in her.

Kevin

Carpet Seller. Bless his heart he came with his daughter as he wasn’t computer savvy so she could help him out. Sweet guy, but had me wondering why he attended the course especially as he kept reiterating he was going to keep doing things the way he always had, even though the course was designed to reduce paperwork and make better use of one‚Äôs time.

Ruhul

I don’t think Ruhul knew why he was on the course. Recently arrived from Sri-Lanka, his bosses paid for and sent him on it, without telling him why. Lovely guy.

Lunchtime.

As Vicky wrote out our plan for the day on her flipchart, my eyes lingered on lunch time. You see years ago- in our student days Tinuke and I used to traipse around London, favouring good street markets. One of such markets was Leather Lane. I hadn’t been there in at least 15 years and couldn’t wait to go back. Vicky asked if 45mins was enough for lunch and I resisted the urge to shout NO!!!

Suzy's future bag?

The market has changed so much. Back then we used to buy high-street label clothes and shoes for a fraction of the price tag. There didn’t seem that many exciting clothes  any more. I saw some beautiful leather bags which I priced for Suzy, she needs a tote bag. It was ¬£75 and retailed for ¬£250. He’s usually there on weekdays and Camden market on Saturdays.

Street food.

That's my Daddy Chicken Burrito!!!

I had no idea we had street food in London, besides hot dogs and burgers. The market smelled delicious- Greek, Lebanese, Mexican, Mediterranean you name it all was sold on the street. It was divine. Reminded me of New York.  I went for Mexican and I tell you, it was good. Didn’t quite compare to Willy’s but it was pretty close. Now I had to face the challenge of eating it all up before my time (now 5mins) was up. And I did.

Thanks so much for reading, do come back!

Daddy.

When I grow up I want to be like my daddy. My daddy is the best father in the world. He has always been dependable. I remember as a child one evening while he was going out, I felt the need to say something more than just “Bye dad” so I said; “daddy buy me a book” and he did. I didn’t really want a book, it was a flippant request, more like an afterthought. That book became my favorite book for years. I don’t remember the title but it was a book with two stories, that was my introduction to stories with a twist at the end. I cannot even remember what it was about only that I read it over and over and over without ever getting bored.

Another time daddy had planned a surprise birthday party for mummy. It was at a banquet hall and all day there was a lot of ferrying of food from the house to the hall. On the final trip as daddy as leaving for the party, I hid in the back of the car. I could have made it all the way to the party but I announced my presence just as he pulled out of the gates. Daddy found it hilarious! He said; “if you were dressed properly I would have taken you”. He didn’t yell at me for slowing him down or making him turn around to take me back home. That’s my daddy.

He also has the greatest amount of confidence in me, he is absolutely certain that I can be anything I want to be in life, I believe him. ¬†He allowed me to browse through his gory medical books, while mummy tried to stop me as she felt it was too much for a little girl to see pictures of abscesses and strange diseases. The skin ailments fascinated me the most. To think that a human skin could mutate into a mass of puss-filled rash always left me in wonderment. The stomach ulcers and the tumours on organs didn’t hold my fancy for that long, I guess because I didn’t see the inside of the human body regularly so there was nothing to compare it with, but the skin I did. There was one series of pictures that had the stages of an appendix from initial stage to it being burst. Fascinating!

Sorry, I got carried away there.

Daddy used to tell his friends that his only daughter would win the Miss world contest. He said it so often and with such conviction that I accepted¬†my fate. Mummy on the other hand frowned at such¬†suggestions. She didn’t appreciate the thought of her daughter strolling up and down some stage for men to look at. Lai-lai!

My daddy is very accomplished. He retired in his forties to do his own thing, when asked why, he replied that he had reached the pinnacle of his career and had to move in a different direction in order to keep growing. This is true- see post on alligator here

Can you see why I want to be like my daddy?

Did I mention it’s his birthday today? Please wish him a happy birthday, you should see him. He looks 20¬†years younger than he actually is. Happy birthday daddy, I love you!

Have a lovely day and thanks for reading ūüôā

Business News Today…

It’s my 100th post!!!!!

I am very thrilled to post my 100th blog post on Pawpaw and Mango. I am even more pleased that you have stuck with my sporadic, random ramblings, your interest means so much to me and I thank you most sincerely.

So what do I write about? I want to share a part of my journey that I mention quite often, my business.

I don’t know if they are made or born but I know for sure running a business didn’t come naturally to me. I can tell you about a good number of my weaknesses- reasons I should not be doing what I do. Rather I want to share some of my challenges and how they have evolved over the years.

Emails.

Emails should never have been a challenge in the first place (except with their unlimited storage, the guys at Gmail have made me averse to deleting emails hence my 17,506 unread emails in my inbox. Yeah.) So my first emails when I started out in business went something like this:

Dear Mrs Blah,

Thank you for your order. Our customer service line is open from 9- 5:30pm should you have any queries, have a good day.

Yours sincerely

Kelly

Customer Services representative

Name of Company.

Then I came to understand that I needed to differentiate my emails from the perfunctory ones sent by department stores in Bond Street, like John Lewis. I was told people like to hear the sound of their names and have a more personal interaction. So email format changed to:

Dear Mrs Blah,

We are so glad you ordered your baby’s cot from us. We trust that little Miss blah is sleeping comfortably in it. Mrs Blah, we would love to assist you again in the¬† future Mrs Blah and hope you shop with us again, Mrs Blah. Thanks so much Mrs Blah, have a nice day Mrs Blah.

Kindest regards,

Kelly

I needed no one to tell me it was overkill. And then with the recession and businesses closing down, more and more people started to shop online. Not only was competition becoming rather stiff but consumers yearned for the personal contact once enjoyed. Consequently emails changed to:

Dear Mrs Blah,

Thank you for shopping with us. We are working hard to fulfil your needs beyond your expectations and would like you to send us your comments on our products or services. Also, we’ll send you a free gift voucher if you suggest us to your friends. They will get a voucher too. Please join our Facebook page on … and we invite you to follow us on twitter. Have you signed up for our newsletter? If not you can do so on our homepage (link). Finally please let us know if … And on and on I went.

I have since shortened my emails considerably; they are relevant, friendly and to the point. Plus this new-found confidence in who I am allows me to use my real name and not Kelly. Or Zara. Or Joelle or any of those names I wish my mother had named me.

Refunds

I hate refunds- I don’t like requesting them because it means I am unhappy about my purchase. Worse than that though is issuing refunds. I really, really hate that. I would much rather not have sold the goods in the first place. I detest it so much that I don’t let it linger. If a customer purchases an item that is out of stock or damaged or unsuitable for any reason, I give a refund within minutes of the request. Why let the pain drag on?

At the store we don’t give refunds for custom-made items and our terms and conditions clearly state that. So when Mrs Pain* returned item number 1 because she didn’t “quite like it”, I wasn’t perturbed. After all it wasn’t made just for her. I suggested some other alternatives as I always do but no, she wasn’t happy. I didn’t give a refund immediately this time because her second custom-made item was on its way to her. You see I had a bad feeling right from the start. I wish I had gone with my instincts and not offered to customise her second item for her. Needless to say it arrived over the weekend and she wasn’t happy either. I wasn’t surprised. So it was with a bitter-sweet feeling that I processed her refund a few minutes later. It’s not so bad these days as I rarely get complaints about the quality of products, I take the view that my items are great but just not right for that person at that particular time.

Shipping

This one has¬† the potential to cripple my day- if and when it goes wrong. What hasn’t gone wrong with our shipping? Missing items, check. Damaged items, check. Items damaged on purpose with a hammer, check. Illiterate drivers that don’t understand English and therefore cannot tell left from right on their sat nav, check. Items turning up more than a month after it was mailed, check. I could go on but I won’t. The thing about shipping is that a good shipper is hard to find, but once you find one, hold on tight and never, ever let go.

Social Media

This one is new. Yes I created a twitter account back in 2008 but didn’t do anything with it. Facebook was courtesy of Suzy. Linkedin, I don‚Äôt even know how I got on but somehow I ended up there. Thanks to my business mentor you can find me (with my picture!!!) on twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. The twitter one was rough going, I still struggle to understand why we are limited to 140 characters. Plus I had and still have a couple of pychos following me. Once psychotic behaviour is exhibited, I click the block button. Simple.

Marketing

I have written about my feelings towards sales and advertising here and here. My marketing used to be limited to placing a few leaflets in shops. I hated doing that at the beginning because I don’t like rejection. Maybe mum and dad spoiled me and gave me everything, but I don’t quite know how to handle rejection. So when I ask very nicely if I can place my flyers in your store for your customers as they would find it relevant, and you say “NO!”, I tend to run and hide. I am a lot better now thankfully. My marketing these days consists of- but not limited to- running away from advertisers and magazines. Yes they call me every day! I Thank God for caller display. I don’t mind advertising when budget allows it, and in fact I need to but I hate being sold to.

Competition

One of them left a bad taste in my mind as she stole images and text off my website, which was my introduction to “the competition”. I have since forgiven her (I hope) and have even added some (other) competitors to my network on LinkedIn. I tell them I admire their work and have sent some of my customers to them if I’m out of stock on a particular item. I learned that from Tony Heisch, The oh-so-cool Zazzle CEO.

That’s all for now folks!

Thanks so much again for reading, I am so glad to be back to blogsville! Missed y’all!

Bus 227

I’m on the bus on my way to work. I love going to work, I have to peel myself away from my desk each evening and the only reason I leave is because my beautiful family is at home waiting for me. Most days during my bus ride I busy myself building and connecting with my¬†LinkedIn¬†network or attempting to tweet something short and sensible. ¬†Twitter is still a struggle because I’m not a woman of¬†abbreviated¬†words or¬†sentences. Facebook, I have been running away from since I shouted from the rooftops that the new site was going to be launched today so I’ve chosen to bury my head in the sand and pretend I am not even aware that I uttered those words.

I sit at the back today as I must sleep. I haven’t had more than 6 hours sleep in total over the last 48hours, and I don’t function well in a sleep-deprived state. I have taken to drinking cold coffee- Espresso is too bitter to gulp down so I end up letting it sit. I have also cut down on my sugar intake thanks to Akunna, so the coffee tastes horrible. I can’t sleep because the engine is vibrating rather noisily, particularly when it stops and starts to move again. So I toy with the idea of moving to another seat but can’t be bothered to. A well-dressed lady gets on the bus with her pushchair. She rummages through her bag and finds her bus ticket, but it isn’t valid. She reaches for her purse and hasn’t got enough change. She then has to walk the length of the bus to exit with her pushchair. ¬†don’t have any cash on me so I can’t help her. I wonder what sort of life she has. Is she broke? Does she have money problems or is it just one of those days?

The fat lady in the green, floral dress is on her mobile ¬†phone chatting¬†excitedly. I can’t hear the gist besides “you must tell him!” and I really can’t be bothered to today. ¬†Two teenage boys come on the bus and take their place next to me. They are in uniform but I don’t want to ask why they are not at school during school hours, who wants to be stabbed? I¬†realize¬†my presumption of these two boys whom I know nothing about is rather negative. My thoughts go to my dear, dear friends who lost their 14-year-old son 2 weeks ago. I won’t go into that. I drag my thoughts back to the 2 boys and wonder if they are good boys like my friend’s late son. I decide to listen in on their¬†conversation, they don’t swear or talk about sex, neither do they brag about how good they are compared to some other boy in their class. I think I really must sleep as Helen is coming around to help me with my marketing- I need to be on full alert as she is full of ideas.

I decide that if I get up only to sit somewhere else the boys might think I was running away from them. I keep eyeing the empty seat two rows ahead and decide to make my move, who cares what they think? Silly me, someone else grabs it. There is another in front of one of the boys. But what if ¬†he stabs me from behind? While I’m sleeping? I finally make my move for a different seat when an older gentleman gets of the bus. At last. But wait, someone else comes on and stats to walk towards me. He looks a hot mess! He cannot possibly be normal I tell myself. He stinks andI pray silently that he doesn’t sit next to me. He sits behind me instead. Now I really can’t sleep because what if he pulls my hair? I mean what if he pulls my hair very tightly after winding the braids around my neck twice?¬† Didn’t he have a crazed look in his eyes as he walked past me? I know I must share the gospel with him but I quietly decline.

I start to plan my day, although it is only 10 in the morning, I might only be able to function for 2 hours. You wouldn’t know that to look at me. It’s one of those days where I look good and I’ll be happy to meet John Legend, my crush on him hasn’t ended. I look up the thesaurus for a new word that describes the sharp taste of coffee and I come across Piquancy. I like the way the word sounds so I use it in a facebook status update.

Finally the bus comes to my stop. I start to work slowly up the hill as I don’t want to use up any more energy than I need to. Today will be ¬†good day, I just know it. The website isn’t up but it will be good.

And it was good! No website yet, nearly there but it was hugely productive and fun. Especially when Helen and I sat in the park under the sun and devoured a loaf of yummy coconut cake. I feel blessed.

Please like our facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/thepunkinpatch so you can be alerted when we arrive at Nirvana.

Thank you for reading. Thanks to the lovely Myne who unwittingly dragged me back to blogsville, and to the sweet,  health-conscious Akunna who has made me aware of what I consume. Thanks too to the glamorous Helen, my sister-friend for a great day yesterday!

Have a blessed day!

Boarding House Memories, Blue House Hostel A

We stand in a line just outside the entrance of Blue house. My heart is doing the thump-thump thing again. I had heard many stories about boarding house, some good, some downright scary. So far I have had two experiences of boarding school, the first did not count as it was when I was transported into the fictitious world of Enid Blyton while reading¬†The Twins at St Claire’s series. Secretly I hoped my boarding house experience would be like theirs, never mind that I will not be brushing my hair at night till it shone or forming pigtails with it. Never mind too that I would not be needing a winter coat- ever. My 2nd boarding house experience was when I attended the school’s entrance interview. Candidates were required to stay for 3 nights in the hostel and have a taste of life without their parents. It was on that trip I met Funmi. I lay ¬†on my side, back toward the bed where these giggling girls lay and tried to fathom what made them so happy. They were laughing? I was very homesick and every time I thought of home, which was pretty much every time, I burst into tears. I remember Funmi and her friends calling out to me to come play with them. They probably assumed I was tired since I didn’t respond. In actual fact I was crying. My brother who was a year ahead of me in another boarding school had warned me this would happen. “Toks you will cry“. “Absolutely not!” I retorted. I was certain I was such a big girl yearning for her independence that I would be doing cartwheels instead.

Back to the line. We are all dressed in exactly the same blue¬†check¬†¬†uniform. There is a general buzz of excitement in the air as people like seniors Ayo and Ronke busy themselves, walking hand in hand in twos or threes- they are the confident, very excited ones. I am to later learn that they are in the second year, seniors for the first time. New words fill my ears like kerosene lanterns, dining hall, morning piece of work, prep time and siesta. I struggle to figure out the meaning of siesta, I don’t want to come across as being too naive. I hear these seniors can take advantage of you in a heartbeat.

The soft spoken woman at the front of the door is calling out names and assigning the students to their hostels. I listen very carefully as I don’t want any attention drawn to me, you know the kind that results from everyone looking around as she calls the name a second time, wondering who Tokunbo is. I hear my name and hear hostel A. I’m not sure if that is a good thing or not, but I squeeze past the girls, most of them bigger than me and make my way to the hostel that would become my home for the next five years. I am scared, I am excited and I’m uncertain. I miss my mum and dad. I miss my brothers and our dogs and cat. I miss Benin and I want to go back. There is something comforting about Mrs Udehin. She continues to call out names and I quickly realise that she is the first likeness I have seen of my mummy. She is very soft spoken so she must be kind, like mummy. The tears well up again behind my big eyes and I force them back down. I am becoming quite good at doing that. The method I use is to think of all the times mummy and daddy smacked me when I was sure I didn’t deserve it. That brings up sufficient anger to force back the tears. It isn’t a fail-safe method, but it’ll do for now.

In the hostel I find out that my wardrobe partner is a senior called Senior Shade. She is a ¬†real mother figure, a bit plump which makes her huggable. But I don’t hug her, I don’t know what the rules are and I don’t want to start by breaking them. She tells me to arrange me¬†provisions (another new term) on the left side of the single shelf wardrobe and her’s will be on the right. She explains that we put non-consumables like the kerosene lamps, buckets and soap at the bottom and the rest on the top. I love to arrange things, one of my favourite games at home was to arrange mummy’s dressing table. I would start with the tall perfumes and nail varnish removers; “You stay at the back” I’ll tell them. My role was a photographer arranging people for a group picture. The tears well up again and I force them back. The thought of being independent, grown up gives me good goose bumps and I smile.

“Hurry up, it will soon be time for dinner.”. Senior Shade reminds me of aunty Titi, she has a sing-song accent like that and I find myself warming up to her even more. I wonder what dinner would be. As if she can read my thoughts, she continues; “Friday night is Rice and Fish Stew, you don’t want to miss that”. Now we have a problem. I don’t like fish, I wonder if they’ll give me beef? Of course I don’t say that out loud, but I really hope they will. Oke and Folukemi stop by to inspect my “corner” This is nice they say; “let’s go we don’t want to be late.” All this clamouring for fish is doing my head in, what is wrong with these people? Oke and Folukemi were some of my first friends along with Mubo, Ijeoma, Ifeayinwa, and Funmi, who really talks a lot! I also become friends with Folake, Kehinde, Ashenedu, Aisha and a host of wonderful girls I will never forget.

Mummy had warned me to be careful as “They steal in boarding house”, hence the three padlocks she armed me with. So I clutch my cutlery, plate and cup and go to the dining hall with my friends. Another long line. This time there are boys there too. A man who is clearly an adult in uniform is calling out our names and assigning us to tables. There are about 13-19 people on each table and a head is elected to bring order to the table. The food is brought in in the largest metal bowls I have ever seen. Someone gets up to serve the rice, our plates are pushed to the front of the table. Mine is a large shiny metal one which I don’t like. ¬†I see some of the plates I become quite satisfied with it. I try to tell the server not to give me any stew or fish for that matter, my attempted request is met with a threatening glance by the table head, so I withdraw my raised hand. The dining hall is huge and very noisy. I nearly jump out of my skin when someone hits the table 3 times, very loudly; these people know the drill for there is a sudden hush. The man prays out loud, “For what we are about to receive, we thank thee oh Lord” The “Amen” is swallowed up as¬†spoonfuls¬†of rice are shoved into hungry mouths…

The senior girls do not like to take their own dirty plates back to the hostel. In fact a lot of them act as though food, plates and dining hall are terms that should not be associated with their names. So we juniors have the sad misfortune of becoming plate carriers, along with other titles like shoe polishers, laundry girl, slave. This does not happen tonight,  it is saved for later in the week.

Back at the hostel I envisage my friends and I sitting on one of our beds and chatting quietly into the night. That of course remains a fantasy, instead I spend my time with my friends, going to other hostels. We are told night prep has been cancelled so people can unpack. From time to time someone will make an announcement, “Blue house girls! The person that stole my socks should return it or else there will be trouble!” I find it fascinating and long to be able to make a bold, public announcement like that. I don’t have to wait too long as my cup disappears by the next morning.

“Blue house girls return my cup!” I shout with pride as I stroll down the middle of the hostel.

“Ehn???!!” ¬†Someone pulls me by my collar, “what did you just say?”

“I-I….someone took my cup” I manage to splutter.

Ohhhh! You are only a junior. You have no right to make an announcement like this. You can only say it to form one girls, understood?”

Then a bell goes, people start to move quickly. Someone counts very¬†loudly but slowly to 10, the girls now start to run. It is almost chaotic as we scramble for our beds. I make it on time, the lights go out and she shouts “Lights out!!”

I cover my head with my blue blanket and give those tears free rein.

Thank you for reading, more to come ūüėÄ

Myself

It’s the start of a new month. I love all things new, especially days, months, years. I really do see it as a new slate with a chance to start all over again. I love what Jaycee said when she wrote that your new year is when you want it to be.

February holds a special significance to me because we have two birthdays in our family. My mum and my super-fine nephew. It is also the month when our new website will be launched. Yes I am putting myself out there so I can be accountable. This is one deadline that must be met.

Things are working out very well with my resolutions, regarding work and home life. The only snag is that I don’t get to speak with my friends as much as I used to, I know it is only for a while.

I have decided to become a bit more outgoing. That probably sounds rather contradictory as I just said I don’t get to speak with friends often enough. By outgoing I mean making myself available to others. You see I can be a tad bit self-centered sometimes, this is evident during conversations when I find myself thinking of the next thing to say when I should be listening. I am working on that, God is helping me as I know that it isn’t and shouldn’t be all about me!

I had the privilege to have been featured in a Christian Lifestyle magazine recently, It was very special because I totally love that mag and read it daily. I wouldn’t have been featured if I hadn’t reached out to them in the first place. Granted all I was thinking was more publicity for the business, but God had other plans. It ended up being an inspirational piece and all who read it said they were actually inspired? Really??? So I guess I need to speak to people more, be a blessing and be a better listener.

Enough about me already, see what I mean by being self-centered?

PS; Inspire Me! has been updated.

Thank you for reading

Boring Update

Okay. I’m finally able to get to Pawpaw and Mango! It is Friday and I have quite a few random and totally unrelated thoughts simultaneously going through my mind.

The ache in my thighs reminds me how well I must have gotten into the grove with my exercise DVD this week.

The silence in my room is an indication that hubby is tired and is having an evening snooze. He was miffed over the last couple of days because Trevor, his colleague insisted on coming in to work despite his dripping nose and sneezy self. You see hubby is a bit of a germ freak. He¬† notices how many dandruff flakes Trevor has on his jacket. He notices that he sneezed and didn’t use a hand¬† sanitizer, then promptly touched the mouse with the same hand. Yesterday he mapped out an area of his desk as a no-go zone. I wish I could tell you more but you may start to look at me funny, like I look at hubby funny.

The noise coming from the sitting room tells me the boys are having fun on the x box, it is Friday and the weekend has started for them.

My desk with the piles of paper and the sticky notes on the wall shows how unbelievably busy and productive I have been this week. I love the desk. Part of my 2011 race to be focused, it’s working!

At the moment I am typing racking my brain as I have been tagged to blog about me. Plus of course it’s about time I wrote something decent, come to think of¬† it isn’t there meant to be a part 2 of the boarding house post?

I am looking forward to 10:30 as I’ll be chatting with my dear friend Shade, it’s been a while and I can’t wait to catch up. The time difference makes it hard to do so but today I had a much-needed nap and will be awake to chat with her.

It’s Kenny’s birthday today, Happy birthday Kenny you are a good sister!

My dear friend Lowbay is slowly falling in love and I think she has stopped fighting the feeling, yeah! We love D!

Lara has disappeared from facebook and we haven’t even spoken this year. Saturday can’t come fast enough!

I have 4 audible credits and can’t decide which 4 books to download

I am so glad for the grocery delivery service, I will not be stepping out until Sunday. It is icy out there. I am thankful to God for a warm home.

My baby nephew is the cutest thing e-verrrr!

I’m looking forward to a 3 or 4 night break, girls only in April.

I feel like eating banga soup.

Jk promised to teach me how to make afam soup, but she hasn’t.I must bother her this weekend.

The ring didn’t mean a thing song from RHOA keeps playing in my head. And I don’t like Kim!

Thank you for stopping by!

Tagged!

I’ve been tagged by¬† to say 7 things about myself.

1)¬† I am not confrontational. I don’t like tense situations, like people getting into arguments around me. Once my newly wed friend got into a very mini tiff with her husband over the phone. I cried. I wasn’t married then but I was very uncomfortable and wondered if I was sure I wanted to go down the same nuptial route.

2)¬† I am very creative. I love colours, design and fabrics. I love to design spaces that result in a desired feeling. When I visit people’s homes I always do a mental redesign. I also mentally prepare myself when I revisit a friend’s home that has abused design principles, like using blue in the dining room. Not cool. Warm colours like red and orange stimulate appetite, blue will work in a study or bedroom. Nuff said.

3)¬† I love to tell stories. So much so that I recycle a lot. My friends sometimes finish a story I start as they’ve heard it all before. When the Lord teaches me something new, I tend to really run with it. Like my recent lesson on negativity, I now drop in some info on the subject in almost every conversation. Currently lesson en vogue is hardwork. Very hardwork. I believe there is reward in it.

4) I don’t like pretentious people. I like people who are real. I don’t trust people who put on airs and graces, it makes me feel like I’m being judged by not living up to their standards.

5) I married my best friend. We were friends for years, went to the movies together, etc. We would stay on the phone for hours talking about school days, etc. Then one day he asked me who I saw myself with in the future. We talked easily about that kind of stuff. I panicked because I looked into my future and saw one man- him! That was not good. Of course I didn’t tell him but became very guarded from then on, it was akward. I still don’t know how long I had been in love with him before he asked that question. Eventually I had to confess, as he was my confidant, huge disadvantage to me! But he still had to ask me out officially, I’m old school like that ūüėÄ

6) I am a daddy’s girl, the only girl of my parents. I grew up with brothers only, now I have four sons of my own and no daughter. Could God be telling me something? Like I’m so special there couldn’t possibly be another girl in the family?

7) I like to solve problems. I don’t know if it is a gift or not but I believe there is a solution to every problem. Sometimes the answer is walking away from the issue. I think I might have been an inventor if I was born during the industrial revolution. Okay now we are getting into big-headed zone, I’ll stop now!

The following bloggers have been duly awarded the STYLISH BLOGGER AWARD and tagged. Award details here: http://www.lightherlamp.com/2011/01/stylish-versatile-saturday.html

I want to stop and say “thank you” to the people who have made it possible to stand with my head held high, tears in my eyes…you know who you are!

Boarding House Memories, 1

Alice was ill and the fever showed no signs of receding. Senior Funmi made an announcement for someone to go to the staff quarters to call Mrs Uzo, the house-mistress. Of course no one volunteered, who in their right mind would go to the staff quarters at 10pm on a path ridden with ghosts, bush babies and snakes? Why would anyone choose to meet madam kos-kos in the middle of the night? Alone? Plus of course in boarding house no junior ever volunteered. They were confined to a life of submission. Most juniors often wondered why senior Funmi and others like her never did anything for themselves.

There was one little girl who was always up for adventure. I think she did too much reading of stories of children in the woods, like the Famous Five. She was also keen to prove to everyone that she had guts.

So off T and IJ went to the staff quarters. They walked quickly and chatted quietly, knowing that in no time they would be back in their beds and hailed as the courageous ones who braved the elements and night prowlers for the sake of their sick friend. Before long they heard dogs barking. Heart in mouth T muffled to IJ that it was fine, she knew how to handle dogs. Afterall didn’t she have five dogs at home? Scooby, Scrappy, Snoopy, Lucky and Lulu?

As they approached Mr Offoh’s house, the sound of¬† the barking got louder a result of more participants joining in the canine chorus. T, the self-styled animal lover, the fearless, the brave started to sweat rather profusely. Meanwhile IJ had leaped unto the top of Mr Offoh’s blue Volkswagen, she didn’t even know she could fly! T promptly joined her where they both knew they’ll be spending the night. Two big black dogs stood guard to ensure the girls never made it down. The barking slowly died down. Then the prayers began. “Lord as you shut the mouth of David in the Lion’s den…shut the mouth of these dogs. They slowly climbed down from the car after deciding not to risk the possibility of their male classmates seeing them in their nighties and wrappers atop Mr Offoh’s car- not even Ms Hadiza’s, at least she was nice!¬† Considering the boy in 3B who liked IJ, and the one in 3D that T had a crush on- she was sure he liked her back- it was not worth the risk. Where would she hide her face? The other day he stared at her long and hard from the back of the class, she could feel it because every hair on the back of her neck stood still, even the tiny baby ones. Her palms became sweaty and her writing bore a striking resemblance to chicken scratches. There was the familiar churning going on in her stomach. It always started when her heart made the daily descent from its station in her chest to her stomach, triggered during assembly when she was fortunate to stand only a few kids away from him. Maybe that’s where the courage to leave the safety of Mr Offoh’s car came from. Or perhaps it was the thought of ‘failing’ at a task so great, that she would become just like everyone else,¬† and no longer be hailed as being brave. The reason did not really matter.¬† They gingerly walked on, one half step at a time and made it to Mrs Uzo’s house, where they encountered her own dogs- Concorde and Punch. Thankfully all the noise had awoken Mrs Uzo, who most likely slept with one ear open waiting for girls like these to come get her for one mishap or the other.

I can’t remember how we got back to the hostel that night, I vaguely recall Mrs Uzo driving us back. I have since forgiven senior Funmi, but still get a kick from using her name when I talk about seniors. I am still good friends with IJ, she is one of the blessings in my life. I don’t have any dogs currently, I can barely get the boys to keep their rooms spotless. The guy I had a crush on? Remains the first guy I ever had a crush on, but not the last. I have also stopped showing off. Sometimes the old me shows up and wants her voice to be heard above others. Sometimes she struggles to listen during conversations and wants to do all the talking. If you have recently ended up as my sounding board when you wanted to be heard,I apologize. Please be patient, God is still working on me.

Thank you for reading. Do come back for the next part!

Words and their Alibis

It has been a very hectic couple of weeks- and I thank God for every minute!

2010 seems bound to be my year of immense transformation, growth and restoration. It’s a task in itself to gather my thoughts together and attempt to put up a post. Truth is, the entire experience deserves a whole new blog by itself.

Child number 2- the sporty, fashionable, charming one has picked up a new word. Urinate. He came home the other day announcing that he knew what urine meant and that he wanted to …you guessed it, urine. Which I corrected him and told him the verb form of the word. Big mistake. He no longer uses the word “wee-wee”. He chooses at all times and without fail to say “urinate” instead. We are all fed up and can’t quite understand why the child will pick that word over it’s friendlier alias. Sadly it didn’t stop there. He asked what the corresponding word for poo-poo was. Now it’s defecate this and defecate that. Sorry, I didn’t mean to put up a tasteless post but I thought you’ll like to know! Afterall what are friends for if not for sharing? LOL!!!

Thank you for reading, have a blessed rest-of-the week!

Itchy Ears

So I’ve stolen a few moments to do an amebo (gossip) on today so far on the upcoming business blog. If you have any great ideas on what I should name it do share!

The DHL man cracked a smile today! If you read the last post you’ll see why this is worth mentioning. There is some sort of glitch in the system so that his manifest doesn’t show all our collections for the day. This means he has to create one by painstakingly writing out each name, address and long tracking number for each parcel. Today we had more parcels than usual so he was well annoyed. He looked up and hissed; “what kind of life is this?” I had nothing to say besides; “Have you made a complaint to them?” which immediately sounded stupid as: 1) He probably had- countless times, and 2) Would they even listen? This is DHL.

So I pop in to get him a small card- an invitation to church with times and address. The reverse of the card reads “Life doesn’t have to be difficult“. I give it to him as I ask where he lives, etc. He says; “church? You won’t need that”. My heart sank, brotherhood of the cross and star maybe? He continues; “I’m a leader in the church!” He said it with a smile. I was so happy because this man has never cracked a smile, ever. He went on to tell me the name of the church and it was not a cult, relief. If the Lord allows me, I’ll do a post on cults one day ;-).

The second bit of gist is still evolving. I got a general email from a supplier who informed us that his payment terms are changing to pro-forma, i.e full payment is required before goods are dispatched. I email him back to let him know that we are happy with that, hope he is well, etc. The reason for the change is that yet another children’s furniture store has gone out of business and he has lost money for the second time in 6 months. So we email back and forth a couple of times as I commiserate with his loss of funds, and we talk about the economic climate. Then my curiosity got the better of me and now I desperately want to know who it is. So I google all kinds of keyword combinations- children’s furniture bankruptcy, insolvency, this, that and come up with nothing. I email him after thinking of a dignified way to be an amebo, and he is yet to reply. Hmmm. This was not on my schedule today by the way. I guess now I am feeling embarrassed because he knows my reason for finding out isn’t because I want to console the other party!

On another note, I’m super excited about tomorrow’s fair! I don’t quite know if it is the prospect of meeting customers face to face which I love doing, or 2 nights at the Best Western-complete with a protein-rich breakfast, no house chores, and my own space? The word “mummy” will not even feature, WOW!!!

Thank you for reading, a more informative post next time I hope!

A Day In My Life…

I’ve been thinking about starting another blog- 2 actually. A spiritual one sharing my journey with the Lord like Bimbylads and Jaycee and a business blog.

If I had the Christian one, I don’t know what I’ll call it but today’s post will read something like this;

It’s been a week since I started to examine myself. It all started when I read a devotional with the title, “Check yourself.”. The scripture referred to was Haggai 1:5,

Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: ‚ÄúConsider your ways! You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes. Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Consider your ways!'” –¬†Haggai 1: 5 – 7 (NKJV)

So began this journey of self discovery as I spent time with the Lord and the fine-toothed comb of the Holy Spirit going through every area of my life. The¬† topics I covered were (spiritual, emotional, physical, past present and future) on my conduct, attitude, health, finances- everything, even down to beauty regime- yes I like to look good! The Lord uncovered and discussed topics like time keeping, focus, discipline, obedience, etc. Apparently there’s plenty in my life that needs working on! But the good thing is that he also showed me my strengths and they are many too. I wrote out new goals, resolutions and carved out a new vision for my life. Right now I am feeling very refreshed, clean, free, lightheaded, and happy. Something else I have learned to do in the last week is acknowledge my weaknesses and disappointments. It is perfectly okay and expected that you will have disappointments in life and there are some things you cannot do. Denying it isn’t and shouldn’t be the name of the game, instead recognizing and embracing them even makes you stronger. After all that is a part of who you are. Just as I don’t hate any part of my body, I don’t hate any part of my life, past present or future.

Oh, and in the process I adopted Maria Shriver as my second Mum and Paula Deen as my big sister and mentor. Let me know if you want to know why! Trust me, strange things happen when you examine yourself.

And my Business Blog would possibly be named “Dairy of a busy mum of four active boys and wife to an affectionate, loving husband- each with a humongous appetite- working towards her enormous goal of being the Purveyor of fine Furnishings to the Rich and Famous“, or something like that.

Today’s Post will read:

I am loving my new schedule. I had no idea successful entrepreneurs needed to have an airtight routine in order to function so well. I thought being your own boss meant being flexible. Carla is settling in nicely and she is very quick and enthusiastic. I realise now that I am a control freak and have a tough time delegating. I am also a bit of a micro-manager. I know God will deliver me from that.

I thought my root canal would be the worst occurrence of the day but now Schenker“Europe’s Largest Logistics company Established in 1872” have lost 2 cradles bound for the Republic of Ireland. I have been on the phone to Eve all day, it baffles me how she is able to keep the cheer in her voice amidst such a catastrophe. You see to her it is no big deal, the company she works for has dealings with multi-million pound companies and my little tuppence aint that much. Plus of course, she’s just the Customer Rep responsible for deliveries. Unlike me she would not spend the weekend agonizing where my customer’s new twin babies will sleep, as they’ll be arriving soon. She’ll be going off home to her boyfriend, or out with her friends for a girls’ night out.

I digress, sorry.

The other issue is with one of my European suppliers. After countless emails over the last year we finally met in Germany last month. It was a lovely meeting, the Italians are very affectionate. We hugged like we were sisters. Now she’s gone AWOL and I have an outstanding order with her- and a very anxious customer “whose baby is about to pop” any day now. I can’t reach her. Emails, phone, fax, nada. I sent an email to her colleague or business partner or whoever the other company is that she is associated with. After struggling with the language barrier and half-making sense thanks to google translate, he called her for me, said he spoke to her and asked her to call me. Of course she didn’t and now he isn’t answering my calls either.

I’ve been searching for affordable but comfortable hotels with wifi in Hampshire for the Christmas Fair next weekend. My assistant-cum-young cousin who was to go with me has pulled out of the trip. The Lord is taking care of that so I know that I will have some assistance during the fair, I’ll let you know how that plays out.

The Green Tea Rug was collected today. This was the second attempt at collection as the printer jammed while printing the shipping labels 2 days ago. Surprisingly the usually grumpy DHL driver was sympathetic. His mannerisms and expressions always seem like he is about to scream. I’m sure the customer will be well pleased.

A customer has made about 5 different attempts to purchase an ¬£¬£¬£¬£s baby cot online. His card isn’t going through. I call him for his card details so I can get an authorization from the bank. He declines and says it’s a surprise for his S.O and he didn’t want her coming into the room and overhearing. He keeps trying- on one occasion with a different name. I can approve the transaction if I am confident that it isn’t fraudulent, but I’ve been burnt once before- and it still stings. So I google his name and come up with a man recently arrested for killing his pregnant girlfriend. I’m not inferring, just saying.

Thank you for reading, do come back!

Lessons The Vacuum Cleaner Salesman Taught Me

I promise this is my last spill on Salesmen. I may have made that promise on this previous post, I apologize for breaking it!

Hubby, who is ever so sweet finds it hard to shut the door in people’s faces so when the Vacuum Cleaner man came acalling, he agreed to a demonstration at a later time when yours truly would be home.
The demonstration was meant to be for an hour, and by our calculation would be done and dusted by 8pm. Now 8pm Tuesdays was a crucial time in our household. The boys went to bed earlier, I was on a high and hubby and I just couldn’t wait for Prison Break to begin!
So the salesman began by introducing himself to me, showing his driver’s license for identification. That was when I made my first mistake.

Lesson one
Don’t engage in conversation.
I remarked how slim he had become compared to his photo. That, my friend was when the man gave me the looooong spill about how he was so overweight that he nearly died. He told me his story while very slowly unwinding the power cord from the cleaner. I figured it was an emotional story, once we get past this point, we’ll be on the move. Wrong again.

The conversation went on, I learned that he nearly died twice on the operating table, during his stomach stapling procedure. And how he had to have his stomach stapled twice. That he otherwise shouldn’t be standing in my living room at that time. Somehow it led him to talk about his grandmother and how her son (his father) knew she was going to die. And how she asked her son to stop praying for her so that she could go in peace. This led to talks about our faith, we shared the same faith- then he told me the history of the church he attended. His father was the pastor. He paused only to describe in detail the directions to the church and if I’d ever been to Marietta I would recognize the monument a few yards from the church . I should have just said ‘yes, I know the church‘, sadly some of us are slow learners. So he continued until I was forced to lie.

Lesson two

Be ruthless

By this time the presentation had not even started. I gathered the courage to gently stir him towards the reason he was in my living room. He then began by saying he got paid just to do the presentation. I assured him we had heard of the brand but we certainly were not going to purchase a thousand dollar vacuum cleaner today, but he was happy to simply do the pres and get paid. He said it didn’t matter so long as he showed me what the machine could do. If that’s what it took to put some money in the man’s pocket, it wasn’t so bad right?
He finally began. Attachment after attachment, he drawled on and on and on about how great the equipment was. From the ability to suck up and hold onto a Yellow Pages Phone book, to the gentle rose petal cleaning setting. Hubby wickedly abandoned me by this time to watch Prison Break upstairs, can you imagine?
Don’t worry, I paid him back as the V.C man asked to show me the dust mite removing function, so upstairs we went!

Lesson three

Don’t take him upstairs, Do tell him you majored in Biology

Not surprisingly the dust-mite demonstration was preceded by a lecture on the life cycle of dust-mites, what they liked to feed on, etc. He went into details of how allergies could lay dormant and then suddenly appear- a result of inhaling dust-mite droppings. His words were shrouded with pity as he spoke.

Next we went back downstairs where he nearly showed me the fan blade cleaning attachment. This time I put my foot down,” NO! I believe you, no need to show me!”

Finally, he asked me a very surprising question; “Would you like to buy one?”

My simple answer was “no thanks”

“Can I ask why?”

At this point I was convinced he had a recorder as his sales calls were being monitored. What else was I to think? Did I not tell this man at the beginning I only agreed to this for his benefit? Still I answered;

We are not in the habit of making spur of the moment financial decisions, especially spending that much on a V.C.”

“So it’s the money then? Give me a second“, he quipped excitedly.

He gets up to make a phone call which goes like this:

“The lady said she isn’t willing to spend a grand on a v.c. Oh? Really? I didn’t know that. Okay, that’s awesome. Are you kidding? Right, I’ll get on with it”.

He carries on with me;

“This is so bizarre. My boss actually said we can offer you interest free payments. They don’t do that anymore but he’s willing to do so just this once.”

He whips out his order forms.

“Er.. no, not really. We are not looking to buy a new one, even with your kind offer, thanks anyway. Besides we already have a v.c that does the job, we seriously don’t need all the attachments too.”

“Oh! So you have a v.c already?”

“Er…yes?”

“Great! What’s the brand?”, he scribbles down as I tell him.

“What would you be doing with your old V.C if you were to buy one of ours?”

“We will not be buying one.”

“Hy-po-the-ti-cally speaking, it’s just a survey question, no big deal.”¬† He was starting to sound condescending like I could not think hypothetically.

“I’ll give it away to charity.”

“Okay. I just need to call my boss.”

“The lady said (repeats entire conversation) and that she’ll be giving away her old one to charity if she bought ours. Oh really? You can-not-be-serious. No! wow. I didn’t know you could do that. Okay, that’s fine then, thanks man.”

V.C shakes his head a few times.Stands up and paces back and forth. Then he sits again and puts his head down on the table for effect, mouth open wide in “disbelief”. After what seems like an eternity of me wondering what his great comeback will be, V.C speaks.

“I didn’t know they could do that. I se-ri-ous-ly did not know that was possible. You learn a new thing everyday”, he says to me. He keeps shaking his head. Me, I leave him to do his routine in peace.

“Would you believe they said because you are giving your old cleaner to charity they will knock off the cost of a new one? Approximately $120?”

“??? I’ll be honest with you V.C. Even if you sold us this cleaner for 10cents, I wouldn’t buy it, we don’t need it. Maybe when I move into my dream home I’ll give you a call but for now, we are very happy.”

Finally he left, but not before admitting to me that the only reason he bought one was because

he moved into a previously lived-in house. Oh and yes, we didn’t really need one as our home was a new build.

Phew!

See You in Heaven Nonso…

If there is one thing that’ll get me writing, it is sorrow. Pure joy usually has me skipping and rushing about in glee. I can never settle down to write, I much prefer to chat. Which is why I’m here- one month after my last post to write about Nonso’s death. I’m almost too frightened to carry on, I don’t want to speak about him in the past tense, especially as he is so alive in my heart. If you’ve ever lost someone dear to you you’ll know what I mean. I can hear his voice, I see his smile, I don’t think he was capable of talking without smiling, it’s just the way God made him.
As this isn’t intended to be a eulogy, I won’t tell you about how much of an avid reader he was, or how he had such a way with words. As I didn’t ask his permission I can’t share any of his writings from a blog he used to keep years ago. I once begged him to get back into blogging, he said that his blog was dead, old news. How such talented writing could be described as old news is beyond me.

After less than a year of fighting one of our generation’s greatest enemy, he lost the battle to cancer. I refuse to give that ugly disease any glory by saying more than that.
He went to be with the Lord yesterday (and I thank God I am not using it as a clich√©). All day long I was in shock, but also glad that his suffering was finally over. It wasn’t until the evening when I looked on his facebook page and saw evidence that the news had started to filter out. Each line I read was like a hammer that forcibly drove home the news- in case I dared to forget that I will never see Nonso again, or hear his voice or see his smile on this side of life. I’ve been back on his page today and a few people possibly who didn’t know he had been ill are begging for “this sick facebook joke to be stopped”. I can understand where they are coming from as he was not even 30.

It’s funny how life has a wicked way¬† of going on when the world stops for you. I was on the phone to someone last night as she lamented that there was no room for her biscuits and margarine. She was preparing for her next day trip to Nigeria. You should have heard the lament, like it was the end of the world, “What do I do now, ehn? Where am I expected to put my biscuits? everyone keeps asking me to take stuff to their folks, but when you turn them down they get mad at you. I really don’t know what to do”.¬† I didn’t interrupt her bliss by telling her my sad news. No doubt when I hung up she broke into a fresh bout of tears, a result of having to make the difficult decision to leave behind not one but two packs of digestive biscuits. Talk about someone needing a paradigm shift.

Where am I going with this? I tend to bring my write ups full circle by making a point at the end of it. Not this time. I have no point, it all doesn’t make sense to me.

Thanks so much for reading, do come back.

The Nigerians Have Come Again!

It is 3:35am, Monday morning. At this time I’m usually fast asleep- except the odd time I have a burst of energy and a determination to finally complete a project that has dragged on for weeks or months. That, however is not the case today.

I attended a Nigerian function with my Mother in law today. To tell the truth when hubby first suggested that I accompany her as it was important to her, I wasn’t too keen, but then I decided to go because I’m a good daughter-in-law- of course! Anyhue, Sunday morning arrived and she announced over the phone that I was to attend in my best traditional attire. It was a “heavy do” and we had to dress to the nines. I panicked only slightly, thinking about my green and black ankara dress that I love so much and how it would remain hanging in my closet indefinitely. I considered my lovely brown skirt and blouse which¬† I had made in Nigeria last year. No point really as it was now too small. Remember I have been growing larger? Then I remembered my grey lace from my cousin’s wedding. Surely that would fit. I would accessorise with burgundy- my favorite colour. I proceeded to dig out this outfit but instead hubby and I ended up spending nearly 2 hours going through old photos and old memories. It was something! The way the Lord has blessed us is amazing! We have grown and multiplied, hubby must have doubled in size since we got married. I saw photographs that told beautiful stories of long-lasting friendships. We made resolves to make an effort to spend more time and build fonder memories with our friends. Some have traveled every road and taken every turn with us. Some have been there through the tough and good times. I could go on and on about our friends and never stop, I thank God most sincerely for you- I will do that post on friendships that I promised!

Back to the outfit. Grey lace did not fit. So I settled on a nice evening suit, it fit, hooray!

MIL had told me the event started at 8, I told her I’d be there at 7 and to my delight I knocked on her door at 6:45! She was nowhere near being ready. Along with her sister-friend we finished the cooking. In the meantime 2 more people arrived. Finally at 7:50pm we set off for the 30 minute drive to the function that was to begin in 10 minutes. After my detour to Peckham where I picked up some fried fish from a Nigerian restaurant owned and run by Pakistanis- no lie, we arrived only to wait for a further 2 hours. The event was the¬†indoctrination¬†of two new members into an exclusive, expensive Nigerian social club. This was the type where wealth is celebrated, where your monetary contribution is counted out and announced for all and sundry to hear. I was fascinated! The delegates where all Igbo, a¬† people whose customs and traditions I have always loved learning about. I love the way Igbo is mixed with English- Nne, oodi very good girl. Lots of Nnes and Daalus going on there. The women were very well dressed. They sashayed about greeting each other excitedly in Igbo as they went past. One woman bumped into her friend and said; Darling, oodi sweet sixteen! The friend responded by waving her left hand in the air before breaking into a mono dance routine. Everyone clapped and cheered. The children that were referred to as spoiled kids were busy playing hide and seek, weaving and diving around and getting in everyone’s way. Their fun was not interrupted by the multiple hisses and echoes of “but where are their parents, ehn?”

The family that caught my eye was a perfect looking Nigerian family. I managed to steal a few shots of them with my blackberry, he he!

The Perfect family

Father, mother dressed in kingfisher blue lace. Three children, 2 sons and a daughter wearing matching royal blue lace. They looked so perfect. The children were in their late teens to early twenties. I couldn’t take my eyes off their mother. She was very pretty, skin caramel coloured¬† and well-built. Her husband was about the same height as her and looked older. MIL told me that you could only join this club if you were invited. One of her guests told me it’s a well-known group, very expensive and only powerful people were members. This led me to believe that Mr Perfect was a powerful, wealthy man. So when I looked at his wife, I came to realise she was the “strong, Igbo woman” Lucid Lilith has often referred to in her musings.

Strong Igbo woman. Who is she? Did she work outside her home? I know what her type would be had she been in Nigeria. She would belong to and head several women’s groups or clubs. She wore sunglasses to most occasions, as long as she wore her george. She probably didn’t call her husband by his name, some pet name like “dear” is more apt. When her husband got home from work, tired after a hard day’s work she’ll ask if he wanted dinner at table or “dinner” in the bedroom. Her children are well brought up- and pampered. It is said that Igbo men take care of their wives. That they would rather wear rags and have their wives looking good, than allowing her to have a so-so life. I can say from my own experience-as hubby is half Igbo, this is true!

The men went in and out of the main hall, as they made bathroom trips. They always stopped to say “nno” to us and that we’ll start soon. They wore red or white beads, some wore red hats, I was to later learn that the red hat symbolized it’s wearer was an Igwe, a chief. The Igwes have a special greeting. They don’t shake hands like you and I. They do a few gentle backhand claps before the handshake. I mentioned that everyone was dressed to kill right? Well this was different. I have seen dressed to kill at Nigerian weddings. These however were not party clothes. There was something subtly monarchical here. The men and women seemed very important. They carried that air about with them too. I really can’t explain it beyond this. What I wondered though was what these people did for a living. What were they returning to on Monday morning? No doubt many were self-employed, but where there any office clerks, street cleaners or cab drivers amongst them?

Another hour later and the ceremonies began. The way we were rushed into the main hall, you’d think we were the ones who were late; “Oya, oya, madam hurry up please, this way, that way! Where are your guests? Ngwa ngwa”.

First we had a long boring speech about the club and it’s bylaws. The speech was in English, but the jokes were in Igbo. Guess who sat there with a plastic smile on her face? At least I was able to respond to shouts of “Igbo kwenu!” The only other non- Igbo was Aunty Irene, whom I was excited to meet earlier, mother in law’s friend. I was excited as I thought I had an ally. We’ll both feel left out together in this clan meeting. Alas, aunt Irene turned on me the minute someone said something in Igbo which I didn’t understand. Bet (but) why haven’t you learned the language? You should speak it by now! she insisted very accusingly- her with her big eyes and hideous shoe and bag!

Next the first new member was invited to come forward- it was Mr Perfect who will henceforth be known as Dr Nwanze. Dr Nwanze had the same smile and expression he was wearing when we first arrived 2 hours prior. I wondered how anyone could do that, perhaps he had just one thing on his mind? Dr Nwanze came with drinks- Hennessey, Gulder, Stout, etc The bottles were counted and announced. Loud cheers followed each announcement. Then he handed in the large white envelope. A stack of ¬£20s was quickly revealed and counted, it amounted to ¬£1000. Then another couple of envelopes were also counted. More loud claps and cheers. The people at the high table, the officials had this insanely greedy look about them. They were pretty much rubbing their hands in glee, no doubt excited about the people they’d just suckered.¬† One of them looked like Zik- in fact if Zik wasn’t dead, I’d be forgiven for thinking he was Zik.

Sitted next to me was a very nice gentleman, we quickly became friends and he explained a lot of the traditions to me. Like when I was offered Guiness and turned it down, he suggested I take it so I don’t offend them. ¬†My friend remarked that the chief officer’s glasses resembled his primary school headmaster’s glasses. I couldn’t agree more.

Dr Nwanze and his beautiful wife remained standing through all the disquisitions. They showed them the club’s secret handshake so they’d recognise each other in public, exulted the qualities of “this auspicious club”, and so on and so forth. At this time my concern was the food we cooked. It was dangerously close to midnight on a Sunday and there were coolers of rice, ugba and fish all untouched.

Finally at about midnight the food was served. Friend, there is something eerie about eating Jollof rice in the middle of the night- particularly on the brink of the first working day of the week. A pot-bellied man kept yelling for the Ugba to be brought to him. He stressed that it wouldn’t be funny if he didn’t get any to eat. After all food was served, one of the servers an older lady clapped loudly demanding to be heard. Another speech? I wondered. The “speech” begun;

I have food in my house! She was gesticulating wildly.

I have food in my house. Even if I invite you all to my kitchen this very minute, I’ll have a surplus of food after you’d all have eating your fill. Everyone nodded in agreement while wondering where this was going. She was clearly very upset.

So why my second and I, who laboured to serve all of you should be left starving; at this point she revealed a large pot of fried fish heads, showing it round for everyone to see- why we should be treated in this manner, I don’t know. See! Is this what we should be eating? Ehn? Not one person thought of saving us some food! And on she went.

This was followed by mumbling from the crowd as the guests all asked one another who could have done this wicked thing, and how bad people can be sometimes.

My MIL proceeded to offer her a plate of uneaten ugba, which she vehemently refused. “I’m not hungry o! ¬†Like I said I have food in my house. I just don’t know how people can be so greedy”.

I went to introduce myself to the perfect family. The lady was lovely, her husband looked at me with that strange smile. I gave her my business card, told her I admired her lovely family and she must be so proud, blah, blah.

There was a large trolley of unopened alcohol. The designated guard was good, he never left his station. Finally we left at about 2am on Monday morning. This morning, which is how I came to typing up a blog post at 3am on a Monday when I should be fast asleep.

I’ll be back to one of the many functions, more blog material for me.

Thank you for reading!

Here’s a Picture of another branch of the same club, see what I mean?

Quickpress on Hubby’s Facebook Activities

I interrupt my epistle on the Nigerian Event I attended over the weekend to give you an update on Hubby’s Facebook activities and it’s effects.
Hubby’s buddy, Alex expressed his heartfelt joy at hubby’s reunion with his friends from boarding school. Alex (who is so sweet and ever so soppy) noted that his buddy seemed to have a new lease of life. I don’t know whether or not to be offended at such a remark. What? Is there something I’m not doing right? We’ll have to revisit the issue. I’ll wait until tomorrow as today is my wedding anniversary- 14 glorious, fun filled joyful years and counting, with my bestest friend in the world yay!

Back to Facebook- which I wonder if it is a proper or improper noun, I mean with 500 million users it is worthy of being proper init? So Child 1- the creative one has been moved up to the highest math group and is officially at the top of his class, double yay!. He calls his dad to tell him, we speak for a while about our children’s progress and the topic turns to…you guessed it, facebook. He was informing me about a friend he just reconnected with, S, who used to be a bed-wetter but because of his height no one dared mock him.
Hubby also mentioned another friend- B. He is skeptical about B because B was a deceitful boy at school, very conniving and hubby wonders if he has changed, he is very wary of B and not as excited to reunite with him.

So far all the buddies he has reconnected with all agree J.J is still full of himself especially since he refuses to settle down and get married, apparently J.J is looking for the perfect babe. They have all rested their case with him.

Dear friend Iluobe told me this morning that she hates to burst hubby’s bubble but the fad would soon fade. The daily conversations will trickle to a miserly occasional wall post or shared note. Both hubby and his friends will return to life as they knew it. That won’t be so bad for hubby cause he’s married to me right? Exactly!

Thank you for reading! You don’t want to miss my next post on The Nigerians, Igbo kwenu!! Hey!

The Men in My Life

Writing about my scare tactics on child 3’s tongue issue reminded me about an incident following a great book I read years ago. I think we’ll have to become more creative with my children’s¬† pseudo names. Going by their birth positions is boring! (to borrow the wordsmythe’s son’s descriptive word).

Child #1 will henceforth be referred to as The Creative One. He is artistic, loves to write and is a brilliant actor. He is also very empathetic, emotional and sincere. He’s a deep thinker and incredibly mature for his age. Did I mention that he is empathetic? It appears he has the ability to read thoughts, especially sad ones and he’ll be there for you, always.

Child #2 is The Sports Fanatic. That says it all, he is good in sports and he knows it. He is also fashion conscious. Sporty was the one who at the tender age of 2 would throw a tantrum if his jeans did not have pockets on the sides. He has recently decided that hats is his “Thing”. Like Usher and Toby mac he wants to be known as a man (boy) with excellent tastes in hats. Maybe we should call him Hat Boy. When he was four we noticed a growing obsession with spiders. All four boys are nature lovers and have always collected bugs, but this was different. He’d pick the spiders and let them crawl all over him. His brother finally explained that he was hoping for a bite so he could become spiderman.

Child #3 is The Musically Talented one. He plays the piano and has an ear for music. I can comfortably and unreservedly compare his voice to Michael Jackson’s- unbelievably sweet. I think of Lionel Richie when I hear him play. If you like, disagree, I refuse to get into a wordpress banter with you. This same child is talkative to the power of 10. Maybe we should call him The Talker. Then again maybe not, we want to confess positive words over his life. On second (or third) thoughts, we can call him The Talker since he will address nations. Then again, Musical…oh I don’t know, you decide!

Child #4. Hmm, this one’s a tough one. We don’t know what he’ll be yet. He talks, kicks, jumps, shouts, flies- that’s it, Batman! He’s the one that chose to call a sweet baby girl at the grocery store 2 days ago “disgusting baby”. Over and over again, very loudly for all to hear. There was nowhere to hide, run or duck.

Hubby, we might keep as Hubby for now. For the simple reason that he recently signed up on facebook and I’m seeing a different side to him. This person who until a few days ago thumped his nose up to fb users as though we were the scum of the good earth and he was the one going places in life is now an avid facebooker. He didn’t even tell me he was signing up. I simply got a friend request. Imagine that? Of course convinced someone was using his name fraudulently I called him and gingerly told him I got a friend request from him. I was trying to break the news gently to him that his name had been linked with a dirty word. And that he shouldn’t worry, there are “measures” we could take to identify and destroy the culprit. Now he calls me every 5 minutes regardless of where I may be in the house to ask how to do this and how to do that.¬† Hubby has become something else, I’m not sure I know this guy. Names like¬† A- squared, Micky Chicks, Micky Roy, Sir Kay, Mentalo, Hills, Prince and Dignity are now the buzz words in my home. Bellowing laughter, phonecalls to Nigeria, USA and beyond, phrases like we must meet up, LOTS of pidgin English and eighties slangs are now the order of the day along with countless stories about wicked seniors and teachers and other boarding house tactics. Can you see why we don’t have a name for him yet? I estimate metamorphosis will be complete sometime before Christmas, I hope I am not being naive.¬† It feels so good to see him hook up with his old buddies and laugh so much. Watch this space.

Thank you for reading, do come back!

PS: I never got round to telling you about the incident following the book I read, now you really must come back!

Today so far…

It’s looking like a good day so far.

Toddler J is just out of nappies and pooped on the bedroom floor. I didn’t step on it when I walked in.

The same child grabbed a bottle of bath oil and emptied it into a saucepan. The saucepan was empty to I was able to decant it back into the bottle.

He is picking up new words and phrases, the latest is “shush mama!”

It’s a good day, I’m glad and rejoicing in it! Have a blessed day too!

Tongue Tied

Even I have to admit, a July 19th post is wayyy too long ago! A plea by IJ this morning and I knew I couldn’t carry on this AWOL thingy. I know we’ve all been busy but unlike you I only get¬† 24 hrs per day, each hour is remarkably shortened by 4 children and hubby.

Child # 3 has a habit of leaving his mouth slightly agape. Having gone from prodding to gentle threats and then down right blackmail, I finally ended up showing him a video on YouTube to back up my promise to take him for surgery to reduce the size of his tongue. When I did the search I seriously did not expect to find anything in pictures let alone a video. But alas, there is such a thing as tongue cutting. So I screened it first and showed him about 5 seconds of it. My only disappointment was that the “patient” wasn’t screaming in pain.

You see I want my children to do well in life. So I explained to child # 3 that¬† in life you are judged by your appearance before you even get a chance to show the great person on the inside. Child #1 quickly reminded me that haven’t I told them never to judge a book by its cover? To which I responded, “yes, but people do judge you by your appearance. For instance no matter how nice your brother looks in his suit when he goes for a job interview, the tongue sticking out thing just won’t fly”.

But didn’t you say that we’ll one day have our own companies? That we’ll be our own boss? Like you?

You see this child 1 has always done this to me. When he was four #2 was naughty and I got him to face the wall. Child #1 asked; “Mum can God see my brother?”¬† Naively I responded, “of course He can”.

“But you said God can’t look at sin, which is why he turned his face away from Jesus while He was on the cross”.

Or the day he wanted to know why God the father didn’t do the dying on the cross himself, why did He have to send his son to do it?

Tongue tied.

Thank you for reading and being patient while I negotiate on longer days and longer nights for Toks!

Napoleon; First Emperor of Fierce, Passionate Love

This is what I had in mind when I wrote my last post. How I ended up on the very unromantic abiku poem is beyond me.

If you have never read Napoleon’s letters to Josephine, you will thoroughly enjoy reading this. If you have read them, the pleasure is about to become your’s all over again. Napoleon wrote letters everyday and is said to have written the better part of 75,000 letters to Josephine. I have picked some of my favorites, enjoy.

Dec. 29, 1795

I awake all filled with you. Your image and the intoxicating pleasures of last night, allow my senses no rest.

Sweet and matchless Josephine, how strangely you work upon my heart.

Are you angry with me? Are you unhappy? Are you upset?

My soul is broken with grief and my love for you forbids repose. But how can I rest any more, when I yield to the feeling that masters my inmost self, when I quaff from your lips and from your heart a scorching flame?

Yes! One night has taught me how far your portrait falls short of yourself!

You start at midday: in three hours I shall see you again.

Till then, a thousand kisses, mio dolce amor! but give me none back for they set my blood on fire.

Dec 14, 17..

Grand Empress, not a letter from you since you left Strasbourg. You have passed through Bade, Stuttgart and Munich without writing us a word. It is not very friendly, nor very caring! I am always in Brunn. The Russians have left; I have a truce. In a few days, I will see what I can manage.

May you allow yourself, from the peak of your class, to occupy yourself a little with your underlings.

March 10 17…

I cannot go a day without loving you; I cannot go a night without holding you in my arms. I cannot have a cup of tea without cursing the glory and the ambition which keep me away from the love of my live.

And my personal favorite… not that I’ll be smiling if hubby refers to me as a wretch, perverse or stupid!

Spring 1797

To Josephine, I love you no longer; on the contrary, I detest you. you are a wretch, truly perverse, truly stupid, a real Cinderella. You never write to me at all, you do not love your husband; you know the pleasure that your letters give him yet you cannot even manage to write him half a dozen lines, dashed off in a moment!

What then do you do all day, Madame? What business is so vital that it robs you of the time to write to your faithful lover? What attachment can be stifling and pushing aside the love, the tender and constant love which you promised him? Who can this wonderful new lover be who takes up your every moment, rules your days and prevents you from devoting your attention to your husband? Beware, Josephine; one fine night the doors will be broken down and there I shall be.

In truth, I am worried, my love, to have no news from you; write me a four page letter instantly made up from those delightful words which fill my heart with emotion and joy.

I hope to hold you in my arms before long, when I shall lavish upon you a million kisses, burning as the equatorial sun.

Thank you for stopping by!


On Poetry

As a young child I didn’t like poems. I preferred stories. Poems seemed to give you a taste of a story when you wanted the real deal. My interest in poetry began in my early teens. Precisely the day my Literature teacher recited Abiku by Wole Soyinka. That poem gripped me with fear and curiosity. I was raised in a westernized Nigerian household where English was the main language sprinkled with affected Yoruba. My father didn’t and still doesn’t believe in superstitions or fetishes. My mother never told us any such stories so I lived in Enid Blyton’s blissful world where fairies strutted their stuff and goblins were bad creatures, the ones responsible for the stubbing of your big toe against a stone. This is the same world where little girls hair formed pigtails, and not scrunched up bunches that resembled tangerines that had been left out far too long.

Back to the poem.¬† An abiku is a child believed in some Nigerian cultures that is born and dies at will, only to be born again. Typically such children are marked physically so that they either remain, or are recognized if they do come back. It filled me with fear because I had heard about such stories in boarding house but no real confirmation that it was true until our teacher- can’t remember her name- read the poem out loud. It is a harrowing poem especially when you had classmates that claimed to be one of those and your mother wasn’t there to chase your fears away.

Yet I was curious because I wanted to believe there was a supernatural world. Not necessarily a bad one but something out of the ordinary. I wanted to believe ‘Grace’s’ mark on her face had indeed shrunk like she claimed as she got older because she had “come to stay”. I’ve changed Grace’s name- just in case. With facebook and others you never know.

As an adult I actually don’t know what to make of the whole abiku shenanigans because I know demons are real. But could a child really come and go at will? Perhaps its familiar spirits? What do you think? A friend told me of an aunt that was born with two missing toes. She had apparently come and then died as a child and they cut off her toes in order to recognise her if she came back. Behold the next child born after she died had two missing toes.

Back to Blogsville!

It has been a very interesting last couple of months. I disappeared without any notice of my er.. vacation. Truth is I have actually been busy growing. I didn’t go out looking for growth, it sort of handpicked me. Growth is a euphemism for challenges because we grow when we are pushed and pulled in all directions and before you know it you are so stretched that your capacity increases. God is totally awesome, I hope to share when the time is right as my journal has borne enough of the brunt of my musings. I do however thank you for coming back to read, and I apologize you were met with the same old story of my dentist who may have by now moved to Harley street- designer glasses, boots and all. Best of luck to her!

Now unto my next post…

Adventures at The Dentist’s

OMGoodness! I haven’t been here in almost a month. Thank you Arit for your complement this evening, it stirred me up to write again.

Toks plopped into the dentist’s chair, the head wrap preventing her head from connecting with the headrest. The dentist turned around, startling the poor patient. She had false eyelashes that threatened to poke their way through her designer glasses….she glared at her patient with eyes that screamed the obvious, her den had just been invaded. A quick scan around the room for an escape hatch and Toks knew she was in trouble. There was no crawling out- the dentist’s large-sized bottom blocked out every ray of light that struggled to force it’s way through the burglary-proofed window. The doorway was obstructed by a trembling assistant. Toks knew that the said assistant was bound to inject her with mouthwash in error. So she stayed…and prayed.

I attended a dental appointment yesterday and the dentist wasn’t anything like I expected. To tell the truth I don’t quite know what I was expecting or hoping for but she certainly wasn’t it. My dentist turned out to be a real mama. The type that would not be caught dead wearing anything less than her full traditional attire, with matching shoes and bag from a store like Zaffaella.

She looked more like the one whose diary is filled with 40th and 50th birthday celebrations, along with christenings and house-warming parties through out the year. Her conversations will be peppered with “Ore mi, (my friend) I have hot jist” and “I’m tired of my 8 month old car, it’s about time I changed it“. She doesn’t eat at parties, choosing instead to bring her own cooler of rice for herself and her friends. One must be careful, you never know who is envious of you, like that Kemi.

Her friends are fellow dentists and other qualified professionals. She doesn’t hang out with the likes of Kemi who simply wants to feel like she “belongs”. Kemi works for some accounting firm somewhere, who even knows the name of the firm?

She attends church every Sunday, you may have met her if you are a member of the mega church downtown. She’s the one with the ridiculously large hat that come rain or shine, hat must match her shoes and consequently her bag. She got married last year and her wedding is still the talk of the town. Her friend Penny appears to be trying to out-do her but it will never happen. She went to Dubai last month to purchase her ring. This is the 6th one as the diamonds appear to shrink with each month that passes. Maybe she actually does it to cover her knuckles, the evidence of the experimental skin bleaching she carried out a few years ago.

She loves the status that comes with her job, but quite frankly would rather run her own practice on Harley St, London. Right there is the caliber of patients someone of her importance should be treating. She needs to work where people will notice that the shoes she wore on Monday were Jimmy Choos and the ones she has on today are Christian Louboutins. She really shouldn’t be doing this job, where patients’ jaws drop open when she tells them the cost of a procedure that isn’t available on the National Health Service. Just the other day this cheap skate came in asking if they offer discounts to single mums- she wanted a gold tooth.

Anyway, it’s only for a while. Once the no-good husband she managed to marry finally lands the “big contract” he keeps going on about, she just might take the plunge into private practice.

Her next patient arrives, with a head wrap on. She turns to look at her….

Thank you for reading, do come back!

Another Sales Rep Story

Maybe one day I’ll get over it, this wariness I have for salesmen. I was walking through the shopping mall the other day when this young lady selling ‘designer make up as low as ¬£4.99’ approached me with a big smile saying

“I love your wrap, how do you do this?”

What?

“Your head wrap. I’ve always wanted to learn how to tie one just like this but I can’t”

I felt embarrassed for her, not because she couldn’t tie her headgear but because she was so obviously using that as her friendly opening line to sell me make up. Now I suspected that she was the gele tying, head-girl of head wraps, one of those who even arrives early to assist the entire wedding party to tie theirs but she was forced into acting mode so she could get a commission on her sale. I think my response would have been kinder if I did not feel like I was being sold to. I feel as though I am being taken advantage of when sales people come up to me with a rehearsed pitch, it sounds so…false.

The One About The Time Share Man

This one happened in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Dear hubby excels when it comes to booking holidays, he gets us the best deals and leaves nothing out. He even pre-plans our days to make sure we see the best sights while having fun. He builds in time to simply chill out so that our holiday is not a rat race trying to see all the sights. So when he booked our holiday to Peurto Vallarta, he booked us a cab from the airport to our hotel. Everything went well. We arrived at the airport and more or less walked into the waiting arms of “our representative”, Lupe. She was very efficient and guided us to the desk where she confirmed our hotel, etc. She arranged horseback riding, whale watching and a free couples’ massage for hubby and I. It was all gooood! Lupe told us the cab would be waiting outside for us and she’ll be picking us the next day for our massages. We were taken aback as this was not in our plan- but it was free right? She ‘warned’ us that there’ll be touts waiting to grab us,¬† some would even have our names on placards, we were to ignore them and ‘jus keep walking, jus keep walking’.

When we arrived at our resort, the service was grand, to say the least. The children were immediately given cold drinks and snacks and we were taken care of in a fine way.

And then the conversation with our hotel rep began;

“Tomorrow morning we’ll be taking you all on a tour and you’ll get a free couples’ massage!”

Confused stares.” We actually already have an appointment for massages tomorrow.”

Menacing look. “Did you get approached at the airport”. It was more of a statement than a question.

Unsure of whether to answer or not. “Err…why do you ask?”

Did they?

At this point hubby and I knew we had fallen or were about to fall  into the hands of the Mexican mafia! It seems everyone in Mexico existed to sell timeshares. But they dialed the wrong number this time!

“Sort of.. Yes, is there a problem?”

They are touts! Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it. TAKE CARE??? What exactly does take care mean?

We figured out that Lupe was not our rep especially as hubby’s booking said nothing about a rep. Our hotel rep told us not to go on Lupe’s tour as they had one of their own in the morning, plus we will also get free massages. We assured her we’d think about it.

It all started to get very exciting, this clamouring to give us free massages. You see I am very well versed with sales people and know there will be no parting with my money, even if you killed me.

We got a call from Lupe that evening begging us not to cancel, she knew the drill and was aware that our hotel would try to talk us out. She told us that the journey to the hotel alone was her whole day’s pay and that she got her commission if we simply showed up for the tour and our massages. We didn’t believe her but were happy to go along, so we did.

After a lavish breakfast at the Hilton Beach Resort (which deserves a post all by itself), we were introduced to Arianna- a petite woman in her 60s with a look that said I- must-be-hip (mama oni gba). Arianna was dressed to the nines with make-up to go, she introduced herself to our boys as their Mexican grandma. Arianna told us to look into her eyes, which we did and she said she had 12 children. She said we would see the love for children in her eyes. I bet the looking into the eye bit was when we were supposed to get hypnotized.

Arianna explained she had only been with The Hilton for a few weeks so she’ll pass us over to wait for it…Bob.

Bob was American and looked like he was in love with himself. His Hawaiian shirt shouted volumes and his tanned complexion along with the designer sunglasses told us he loved being outdoors. His hair was slicked back like a mafia man. Bob told us he had lived in Mexico for 15 years. He didn’t tell us to look into his eyes but instead focused on our kids and how nice it would be to provide a wonderful life for them. Talked a lot about building fond memories and how it’s so easy to do so these days. He asked about our tour of the resorts and our thoughts on it, to which we replied sure, we’ll be staying here next time. Finally the time came for him to begin his timeshare sales pitch which in reality began the minute he set his eyes on us.

He blabbed on about the Hilton Group being the most recognized, etc, etc. Then moved on to the ‘numbers’. We allowed him to go on, agreeing with everything he said and oohing and aahing at the pictures and the numbers.

Finally he asked, drink in hand “Gold, silver or Bronze, which one will you go for?”

“None”

“Pardon me?” He spluttered.

“No, we are not interested at this time”.

“Can I ask why?”

“We didn’t plan to buy a timeshare.”

“But at this price, it will be suicide not to. Your friends will benefit, your family will too. Think about your children”.

“I know, we agree with all you’ve said Bob but we don’t make spur of the moment financial decisions”.

“Okay then, I’ll give you some time to think about it”. He got up and wandered off.

Cool, sleek Bob who had not broken a sweat all day now began to sweat. He got on his phone a few yards away while hubby and I stifled laughters.

Then he came back, clearly he had been encouraged as he seemed to have a new lease on life.

I like you guys. You are good people and are such a beautiful family. I’ll use my employee discount and give you a reduced rate. There is a cancellation period, no questions asked. We can transfer you from your resort to ours today to complete your stay here, at no charge. A suite in this resort for a ridiculous price what could be better? You can have 6 holidays a year at any Hilton in the world and at no additional cost.

Your children are growing up, you can’t be shuffling them from one hotel to another when they become teenagers. A suite at the Hilton will set you guys up for life, you are good people. Look, I’ll hold this offer for 30 days, you can sign here but it will not be actioned until you give us the go ahead with your payment details.

At this point I felt sorry for him and decided not to waste any more of his time. I also began to feel slightly annoyed that he was trying to take us as fools.

Look Bob, to tell you the truth, it’s a good deal. But we are not going to buy a timeshare. Ever. Not today, not ever.

Bob picked up his brochures and files and left us without a word, clearly angered by this irritating couple that led him on and refused to bite.

We spent the rest of our day on that lovely resort, it was very nice and I’ll be going back there. But not to buy a timeshare thank you very much! I’ll just keep an eye out for Bob, in case he decides to spike our drinks, everyone knows the mafia believe in revenge, big time.

Thank you for reading, do come back!

My Month of Enlightenment

It has been a crazy-busy month. I have always loved the month of April, I love the way it sounds. I can’t claim to like it simply because it signifies spring- although I do like spring. Actually I like any season that isn’t winter. The reason I can’t allow my love for April to rest on the laurels of springtime is because where I grew up, we had just one season- or so it seemed. There was no clear demarcation between hot and cold seasons. Some people insisted on referring to the period from May to August as summer, this was very common in boarding house and we allowed them to as it clearly made them feel good. Why stand in the way of others’ happiness? Especially amongst those who wanted to show that they had some kind of connection to countries outside of the continent of Africa. “We’re going on summer hols” was the ultimate declaration of enlightenment. Many times fought the urge to ask a sarcastic why? seeing that we had summer in Nigeria. I thought it’d make more sense to go for winter so you had the opportunity to experience a climate we would never have, no matter the extent of global warming.

I watched a very interesting documentary on the BBC called Welcome to Lagos. It was pretty enlightening for me and many others I’m sure. The first part of the mini-series follows the lives of two men- Slender and Joseph each pursuing their dreams. Slender’s is to become a recording artist, while Joseph strives to provide a good life for his family. For starters I had no idea people actually lived like that in Nigeria. I knew there was poverty, don’t get me wrong. I also knew that there where people who picked stuff from the dump. What I didn’t know was that they lived as a community, that for them was normal life. Not a bad or hard life but life for them is as normal as you see your’s or as I see mine. They do not go about moaning about how unfair life is for them. The same way some multimillionaires had their fortunes reduced from hundreds to tens of millions during the recession, and labeled the event a catastrophe, is the same way Kazim and Slender and the others viewed the misfortune of losing the dump to a fire that burned up all the rubbish. Most people I’ve spoken to agree that the documentary revealed a group of resilient, hardworking and innovative people. I learned lessons in business from the food seller who after dealing with customers that refused to pay, sat back and observed her customers, learned their ways and now no longer has that problem. A one day course in ‘Dealing with Challenging Customers, light lunch provided” will set you back anywhere from ¬£400 to ¬£1,000, perhaps more. Then there was Mohamed who did not go on the “Effective Customer Communication, light lunch provided” one day course, yet had the wisdom to learn 5 languages in order to be accessible to customers from all over the continent. I was well and truly enlightened, hubby will not be hearing me complain anymore, at least no more complaints about my right arm being bigger than my left from so much typing.

I had a conversation with a dear friend this week about the choice we are all given which is happiness. The people featured in the documentary chose to be happy, it was evident. Happiness is not dependent on your situation, you can choose to accept where you are and make lemonade from the lemons that life hands you, or choose to be miserable and wait for ‘the lemon thrower’ to pass by swiftly on. I choose the former, bearing in mind that it might be a very long time before ‘it’ passes!

I have found myself talking about the ups and downs of life lately. Life is full of ups and downs, there’s no avoiding either. The funny thing is that while happiness is a choice, sadness or discontentment isn’t. You have to fight to be happy, but when presented with a challenging situation, do nothing and you are guaranteed a rough life!

Thank you for stopping by ūüėÄ

If My Mummy Was Your Mummy…

You’ll have a very good life. It’s her welcoming face. Her cheerful demeanor. The comfort that resides in her voice. When she smiles her eyes sparkle, maybe it’s the tears in them. She’s very tactile so you’ll have to get used to that. Sometimes it is to stroke your face in love, other times its just because. Mummy is very cuddly so you will get lots of cuddles. She says she’s fat and needs to lose weight. We tell her she’s filled with love and needs to remain that way. Mummy has had her share of struggles, notice how I avoided the use of the word “fair”? Mummy is the definition of one who feels hungry just before you do, or the one that feels chilly when you’re about to become cold. Mummy loves sacrificially. You will never want for anything if you are her child, she’s the one who warned me about being too close for comfort with a particular boy.¬† When mummy warns you about being bad, her eyes tend to grow big and her voice forceful, but somehow it exudes all the love in the world. With each challenge you’ll ever face, you can be sure she’ll feel the pain more than you. If you happen to go to school 10 hours away from home, mummy will brave the elements and bad roads to come and spend your mid-term with you. She’ll arrive with home cooked meals- I can’t tell you what she’ll cook since I don’t know your favorite meal- but she’ll cook it to perfection. She will fuss over you and worry that your skin looks dry which is why she showed up with jars of cocoa butter along with all that food. Convinced that you don’t eat properly she’ll attempt to fatten you up in the 3 or 4 days she spends with you. Her parting words will be a desperate plea for you to eat, after all you are so thin there’s nothing left to lose. Her fussing will carry on until the end of her days. It will not stop when you get married, or become a parent, or become a grandparent even. She’ll always be on “worry alert” just in case something comes up that needs worrying about and while she’s doing that, she’ll be busy praying for God’s protection over you. Meet my mummy, her name is Joy.

Today

Today will be a good day. I will return from church and kick my shoes off, having been in pumps for all of 3 hours. I will walk barefoot to the kitchen with confidence as dear hubby cleaned it before we left. I will light my kiwi scented candle and proceed to make dinner, it will be Jollof¬†Rice, Fried Plantain and Roast Duck. As I bend down to pull out the pot, The 10-year-old will walk in and rubbing my shoulders affectionately will ask “What’s for dinner mum? I’m hungry”.

The 9-year-old¬†will come in almost immediately and ask “Mum when will you sort out my PSP?”¬† This question will coincide with¬†the 10 year old’s¬†repeat of his question.

I will make a concerted effort to answer both children at the same time while closing my ears to number’s 4’s screams in the sitting room as number 3 and he compete¬†to see¬†who can do the flip the fastest. Number¬†4 doesn’t realise he’s only 2, he thinks he is 4 or 5. I will wash my rice to the background sounds of the 9-year-old telling me about the Charles Dickens’s movie he watched yesterday. His narrative¬†will be regularly punctuated with “guess what happened next mum?” To which I must reply “What?”

He will call my attention to look at the way the child’s leg was bent, he shows when he tells. I will then comment on his narrative, and give him a life lesson or two from the gory tales.

I will beg the two boys to give me a minute so I can type something on the laptop. I will go to Pawpaw and Mango to attempt to finish updating today’s post. Child number 4, the 2-year-old¬†will then rush in¬†gleefully to¬†switch my laptop off. I will clench my jaw and thank God for His gifts to me. I will decide to wait until he falls asleep. In the meantime I’ll go and watch Colombo with the older boys. Hubby will be somewhere in the house, perhaps on the phone to his buddy discussing the upcoming match between Arsenal and whoever, while eating a bowl of cereal. Hubby likes his cereals.

He will ask me if he can quickly check on an update on a sports station, it won’t be more than 2 minutes. I will get up to check on my Duck sizzling away in its own oil in the hot oven. I will forget about Colombo and go to the room to go back on the laptop since number 4 seems engrossed in his play. At that point he will start screaming “Stinky, Stinkyyyyy!” He needs a nappy change or needs to use the potty. The 6-year-old¬†will remind me about the adaptor for his keyboard, I was supposed to have replaced it by now. He will tell me all about Sunday school and how well-behaved¬†he was and that he answered all questions correctly. Chances are that it would lead to¬†an account on how he answers questions in class at school, but Todd doesn’t. He will tell me Emilia is very annoying and his best friend is now Tristan. This in turn will lead to what Tristan loves to eat at lunch. I will at this point stop him from talking too much.

I will call my friend Justjoxy¬†to get an update on her day and to update her on mine. I will call Kenny in Minnesota (like I mean to do every Sunday). I will call Tolu as well as Shade and Lara. I will not be calling Bukky¬†because she’ll be busy, we’ll catch up in the week. I hope to catch up with Tola too.

Our dinner will be like no other, very lovingly prepared and so tasty too. While having dinner I will regret not buying coke when I went shopping yesterday. I will lie down to read Rich Minds, Rich Rewards-¬†again. After that I’ll grab my planner, pic shown below and plan my day tomorrow.

Tomorrow will be busy. I have to attend to two enquiries from the UAE, the customer whose custom-made¬†valance did not fit her daughter’s bed and is now worried that¬†said child’s¬†bedroom will not be ready for the¬†her 4th¬†birthday, ¬†I will chase up a missing chandelier as well as an old invoice payment that has gone AWOL, I will send a gift voucher to the customer whose stepstool¬†arrived broken-twice -yet sent us a nice comment,¬†that makes me smile ūüôā I will update the PP Blogs and prepare Tuesday’s newsletters.
 

But that’s tomorrow. Today, I will enjoy and rejoice in; it is the day the Lord has made.

I hope your Sunday is restful and filled with all the goodness God has in store for you!

My Hedgehog Story- Circa 1984

Thanks to Ijeoma and Ebun who inspired this post!

What would I do without my friends? There are parts of my life that I’ve completely forgotten about like the fact that I wrote short stories at school. I remember when dad told me he would publish my stories, I was ecstatic, oh the thought of seeing my name in print! Which by the way is the reason we sell personalised children’s everything from artwork to bibs, toy boxes and beds all with your child’s name on it at PP. Ahem! I gave¬†dad my first story in no time, he explained that having four words per line would look really, really short when it was typed up. The fact that I filled two A4 pages made no difference with my giant handwriting.

Anyway, my favourite author as a child was Enid Blyton. This was before I moved on to Pacesetters and Mills & Boon. I am pretty confident that I read every Enid Blyton book ever printed. It was like disappearing into a world only imaginable. It was there that I¬†learned about pixies and goblins, animals that made sensible, well thought out decisions and toys that conversed. And weird¬†creatures like hedgehogs. I believed Enid Blyton’s definition of world only existed in the western world, in other words, in oyiboland. The knowledge caused me to implore my toys to talk to me- the rule was that toys didn’t speak when humans were present. I begged them to let me into their inner circle as I wouldn’t tell. And you can stop laughing because if I had¬†the know-how to send my idea to Hollywood, I’ll be laughing at the upcoming release of Toy Story¬† 3. I digress, sorry. So when friends in boarding house discovered this strange animal with spikes all over, I was over the moon! I explained that it was a hedgehog and they lived in the “woods”, a vicinity only present in the west. We don’t call it woods in Africa, it’s simply the bush. And in case you didn’t know,¬†it isn’t called the jungle either, it’s the forest.

The hedgehog was a baby one so it was easy to carry; its spikes were still soft. I spoke to it and told it not to worry as we’ll be going home the following day. I couldn’t wait to¬†break the awesome news¬†to my¬†younger brother, we shared the same fascination. Thankfully¬†it was the end of term. I was excited for more reasons than one. Mum’s cooking, freedom from prison¬†jail school, access to TV, wearing anything other than our tired green uniforms.

I don’t remember if the hedgehog ate; I think I dug up some worms for it as I was convinced whatever it lived on in the “woods” would not be available to me. There was no Google to check- it was 198something ya’ll! That night I locked him up in my wardrobe and went to sleep. Imagine my horror when I awoke in the morning to find him floating face down in my bucket of water! So “we” mourned him and I insisted “we” have a memorial for him by bathing with the “water of death” sorry guys! You know who you are!

Thank you so much for reading and getting (yet another) glimpse into my childhood ūüôā

 

Rumours & Urban Legends

Back in the DayRumours Album Sleeve

Nigerians are the world leaders when it comes to spreading rumours. Here are a few I recall;

The Sound of Music

That Gretel, the little girl died during the making of sound of Music 2. They were all jumping from the plane¬†with parachutes and her’s failed to open.¬† Gretel is alive and well, living¬† in LA and is resuming her acting career after a long break studying. Plus there was no Sound of Music 2. Maybe it got cancelled after she died?

Bonney M

That the man was married to the lead singer, the one with braids was his sister and the fourth one was really a man who performed a sex-change operation to become a woman.

Heavy D

That he jumped from the 2nd floor of a building, and he died. Heavy D has since gone on to release more albums and is still recording. When Heavy D released his non-posthumous album, a follow up rumour said he realised his enemies thought he died so his new album had a rap on it that said “no, I’m alive”. We got our own thang!!!

Yar Adua

That the Nigerian president was dead.

Mariam Babangida

Now dead for what seems to be the second time in the space of weeks.

Bush Baby

I fell for this one hook, line and sinker. Boarding school. 1983 to 1988. Aparently a midget with a rolled up mat and a kerosene lantern walking around. If you could get a hold of that mat you’ll be wealthy for the rest of your life, but you could get killed or transformed into one of them in the process. I feared for my life during night prep, refusing to sit near the window. And it was no small commotion if someone got up too noisily from their seat as it was taken as a sign that a bush baby had been spotted. Time to flee.

Bongos Ikwe

That he had an affair with former president Bababgida’s wife- Mariam, they had a son and the song Marianna was really about her. Said son mysteriously died during her reign as first lady.

Ola Ray, Thriller

That she was Nigerian, her real name is Olanrewaju and she dated Michael Jackson. Didn’t she have a secret child for him as well?

Evelyn King

Also Nigerian, can’t you see her lips?

Rafael Cameron

That he was Nigerian, his real name is Rafiu Kamoru. The music video we loved so much was shot in Port Harcourt.

Lawrence Anini

Our very own infamous superhero. That he would drop a naira note, do a spin and pick it up again all while driving at 200mph. Lawrence Anini was feared as the most notorious armed robber in Benin. Then there was Shina Rambo.

That Nigerians are the happiest,¬†most generous and most vibrant group of people you’ll ever meet. Actually, that’s no rumour, lol!

I know there are more but I can’t recall…Thanks for stopping by!

And Death Showed Up Again…

Last Sunday was my best Sunday (possibly even best day) of 2010. I awoke¬†at 5am¬†to spend a few more precious minutes with my¬†brother who I hardly ever see, he was returning to Nigeria after a “long” 3 day break with us. Having packed the chicken I made for mum and said¬†our goodbyes, it was only normal for me to tumble back¬†into my warm bed considering we were all up jisting till 2am. But when I¬†looked around I realised I was in¬†an oasis of peace – kids still sleeping and¬†hubby out,¬†thought it would be best to recollect my jumbled up thoughts and spill it on paper.¬†

I love to journal. I love to write, period, but journaling carries even more weight than mere writing. This is where no holds are barred, all thoughts are poured on paper and the only other person present is the Lord. God speaks to me and teaches me stuff I would otherwise miss as I buzz around my activities daily. Stuff like the fact that I am perfect for God. Not just perfect but beautiful.  God points out how talented I am. He shows me visions of where my life is going to, if I get off my behind to do what I should. This is where all doubts and insecurities about my abilities are severely dealt with- and they are plenty- doubts about my abilities as a mother, a friend or a business woman or even as a child of God.

And so I write happily away. Layers of pent up fears and aged stresses¬†are¬†peeled away, I have no idea that thousands of miles away in a house in California is a grieving family. Wife pregnant, children¬†very young.¬† It’s members are¬† still trying to come to terms with the awful fact¬†that¬†their head was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. And while everyone¬†was busy praying and being baffled, Emeka Dillibe¬†died.

Now I’m not going to pretend that he and I go so way back that I’ll miss him daily, yes we did go way back to secondary school but didn’t stay in touch. I feel sad because his entire life has now been condensed into a few pages on in-memory-of.com.¬† Now if Emeka had spent his life sitting by the wayside waiting for whatever life threw at him to be aimed perfectly into his open palms, we could possibly fit his life on one page along with a few black-and-white passport photos. But that wasn’t his life. He’s was a rich, colourful, generous one. The type that changed the course of other people’s¬† lives- people who would otherwise have become nothing but sidekicks sitting by the wayside with palms wide open.

Emeka will actually be missed,¬†i.e people will notice he is no longer around. Somewhere in a village in Nigeria, children’s lives are being touched daily because he single-handedly refurbished the school. And the church. And he set up a youth charity. And he coached under 14s in soccer. And he was a father, a father to be, a husband, a son, a brother and Lord knows what more. As I read the memorial I had to stop and think about¬†your’s truly¬†and what¬†she was bringing to this table called life. I would like to be described as selfless, influential, honest- in fact every adjective that this man was described with. Yes I may not have known him that well, but when I grow up, I want to be like Emeka.

Rest in Peace brother!

http://emekadillibe.memory-of.com/About.aspx

Letting go…

If I run into you or speak with you anytime between now and the next ooh-¬†let’s say 6 weeks, chances are I will ask if you have any goals for the New Year. Its funny how¬†very often a lot of folks tell me they don’t believe in resolutions; they tend to get broken anyway. Some say why wait until the new year to make changes in your life? It’s just a hype, they would rather live it in the hands of God anyway. No doubt there are others still who believe any reference to the calendar year is all a big conspiracy by the government to control their life.

I have a ritual I perform annually about this time. This is the sweeping away of the old and behold the slate has become new event. It is when I gleefully look at my list of yet-to-be dones, label each with a new name and then put it on my to-do list for the¬†next year. It’s also the only time that I don’t groan while looking at my list of still-to-dos. This year a wise friend has told me to let go. If it didn’t get done, does it still need to be done? Or can¬†I simply cross it out and move on? Today is my letting-go day. I will be giving up several goals which have morphed into fantasies.

  • Doing laundry on Tuesdays and Fridays. I’m not a robot, I’ll do the laundry when it needs to be done.
  • Have a flat tummy by the end on 2009- it ain’t gonna happen in 6 days Toks.
  • Have all my paperwork organised by the end of the year. Ha!

There’s more that I will not be carrying-over into next year, but I will be setting some realistic goals. Not ten or twenty but about three to five that will improve the quality of my life. After all it’s just one life right? Merry Christmas and a happy new year y’all!

Spoiled Brat!

You’ll probably conclude by the end of this post that I was raised a spoiled brat, I wasn’t!

My worst Christmas as a child occurred when I was about 8. This was the year I saw my¬†present before Christmas day. My parents went the extra mile at birthdays and Christmas to make sure those days were special. We usually had a party for our birthdays and we always celebrated the end of the year with¬†an end-of-year party. It was huge. We’re talking stacks of¬†chairs being delivered, tents put up and tons of kids from the neighborhood were invited. Our presents were usually grand too, nearly as grand as our tree which was¬†decorated not in any particular theme or colour way but instead¬†was a potpourri of every imaginable color, shape and size of bubble. Even wall decorations went on the tree, anything in fact so long as it was shiny and Christmassy.

So when Mr Michael¬†showed mummy¬†this unique brand new, must-have-since-no-one-else-had-it gift, mum was absolutely chuffed. On Christmas morning we rushed to the tree to open our presents. All we got was the white tee-shirt that said “Smile, it’s a happy New Year“. The same one I witnessed Mr. Michael showing mum days earlier. The large circle in the middle had the individual’s name on it. Smile Toks, it’s a Happy New Year. That was my Christmas present. I think what spoiled things wasn’t just the present but the fact that I saw it before the day, ruining any chance of¬† a surprise. Needless to say, I wasn’t smiling. Personalised¬†tee-shirts were a fad that was just beginning, at least in my neck of the woods. I was miserable the whole day, it didn’t help that every member of our household and every worker had the same top, they were all very happy and wore their’s¬†with pride.

Thankfully these days waking up alive is a present in itself, bigger and more valuable than any gift I can imagine. I am in good health and in my right mind. I am filled with joy, I believe the word of God, I have a great family and I’m blessed with good friends.

May your Christmases be many and blessed!

Employment 102

Here’s some more of my work history as promised.

Wimpy wasn’t so bad. I loved their¬†hot¬†dogs¬†which¬†the workers were proud to call ‘benders’. A classic breakfast consisted of fried eggs, bacon, fries and a bender.¬† Now I had told Marcel, the restaurant manager that my previous experience was at McDonald’s. The way his eyes lit up made me realize that in his opinion¬†taking this job was a step down the job hierarchy. He offered me the job on the spot. I was ecstatic. My only prior experience with McDonald’s was ordering food, to which the sales assistants would respond “Eat in or take away?” To prove my imaginary experience was in fact¬†real I took to asking every customer at Wimpy¬† “eat in or take¬†away?” That frustrated Marcel to no end as he got tired of telling me Wimpy was not McDonald’s, it was a “real” restaurant¬†and most customers¬†would eat¬†in. I now see the illogicality ¬†of asking someone¬†purchasing eggs, sausage and bacon if they wanted to take it away. Sorry Marcel!

McDonald’s. I¬†actually worked here after Wimpy! At the interview¬†I was given my uniform and told to begin work the next day. My classmate- Chris told me to apply¬†because the hours were flexible, perfect for a student. I wonder where Chris is now? He was a truly sweet friend. On day one I arrived at work ready to get introduced to the fryers, cold rooms and so on. The manager showed me the staff room to get ready, it was at that point I realized that I forgot my uniform at home. 3 hours later I returned with my uniform¬†and was¬†told to mop the large golden arches just outside.¬†Problem: What if any of my classmates saw me in that less than dignifying position? Next I was introduced to the fryers. I was to fry half a bag of chicken nuggets, which I very quickly did. At McDonald’s¬†you are not allowed to be idle even for a second. As there was nothing else to do I thought it would be nice to keep frying the nuggets. So I fried and I fried and I fried. It was no small commotion when a couple of the staff saw what I was doing and quickly alerted the manager. Apparently¬†it is sacrilege¬†to fry up to one bag at a time, I had fried¬†more than two¬†and now everything had to be¬†thrown¬†away¬†because their policy is to serve “freshly prepared food”.

My McDonald’s job lasted one week. It was the mopping of the logo outside that did it.

By the way I now make all my sausages like benders! Works particularly well with hot-dogs. You make incisions¬†at regular intervals¬†across the length of the sausage and when you fry it, it bends into a¬†‘C’ or an ‘O’, hence the name.

Thanks for reading!

Employment 101

Some people have a job history, others just have the one job for life, others still work at home raising kids or from home running a business. Mine is quite a history. In fact I suspect my first few jobs instilled the distrust I carry around for sales people today. See post on salesmen here.

My very first job was in¬†a country where teenagers work- England. The thought of working at the age of 17 was both ludicrous and exciting.¬†So as I came across the ad for what I thought was a telephone canuasser (the writing on the display window was bad and the¬†v looked like a u) I felt I could handle it, whatever that job meant. How hard can it be? I can dial, I can¬†talk. The pay was ¬£3.00 per hour and the job entailed going through a list of some 100 names,¬† calling each one and telling them “wow, your name was picked out of our draw and you have just won a trip to Turkey!” I had to sound excited and genuinely pleased that¬†the gods were¬†indeed in¬†their favor as they ¬†had ‘won’ this all expense paid trip to a dingy Bed and Breakfast somewhere in Turkey. I worked 3 hours per day and on my 3rd day I was “let go” as ‘head office’ decided to cut costs by closing the East London Office.

“We have to let you go Toks.” It was the first time I had heard that phrase.

“No, I’m fine you don’t have to let me go, I like it here.”

“You don’t understand- head office have decided to cut costs…”

Ahh! So that’s what let go means.¬† They¬†told me they would stop by the next evening with my pay of¬† ¬£21.00.¬† Besides learning the new term of being dismissed, by the end of the week I also learned¬† through experience a new word- ‘Naivet√©’¬† as they never showed up with my ¬£21.00.

I got my next job a few days later working for a double glazing company. This was where I learned that “commission based” was a euphemism for “voluntary”. That job lasted all of 2.5 hours.¬†It was in 1990, the year of the worst winter for 27 years and the snow reached close to my knees. We were told to knock on doors¬†asking for an appointment for potentially free Double Glazing. With the assurance that¬†most sales men in the company¬†secured a minimum of 4 appointments daily and at the rate of ¬£25 per¬†appointment, it was a steal.

Armed with visions of my new car,¬†new wardrobe and ¬†house I trudged along expecting to have 10 appointments that evening. ¬†I didn’t have a single one. In fact no one wanted to see us.¬† To tell the truth I couldn’t really tell who had double glazing and who didn’t -something about an aluminium strip was mentioned earlier when the manager explained but I didn’t get it. When we returned to the base, the same guy who told us top sales people in the company made up to 10 appointments per night now said Monday nights were notoriously slow as people chose to stay in watching Coronation street. When I realised there was a soap on television¬†every single night from Emmerdale to Eastenders and what-not, I faced up to the fact that¬†I was working with cowboys and fled the scene of the crime.

This is a 2 part post so do come back to learn about my stint at Wimpy’s, MacDonalds, Woolworths…

Thank you for reading! Don’t hold back from sharing your thoughts in the comments box below ūüôā

“I remember…”

Excited because I caught up with a long lost friend today.

The best part of re-connecting is that we actually chatted. I mean, we caught up until our chats became separated¬†by yesterday and today. And then she had to go to bed. So we’ll catch up later. Much better than the one who accepts (or sends you)¬†a friend request and then doesn’t respond to a follow up message. And then you wonder if perhaps they do not sign in often but they do because their wall is peppered with hourly¬†tid-bits and comments. Anyway I digress. During the course of our conversation Funmi mentioned the name of a town that I have not been to in well over 10 years. At that point¬†I realised I have a memory for every place I’ve been to. A bit like child number 3 who has a¬†narrative for just about every word he says. I guess he gets that from me, I have a¬†story behind every outfit I own, many times when complimented on a dress, I start at the very beginning.

Stratford ¬†Thanks to a¬†kind family, I lived in Stratford for about a year when I first arrived from Nigeria. But the main memory I have is of the day I went swimming. I had this friend who wanted to date me. I come from the school of thought that belives in playing hard to get, yet I wanted to impress him. So when he asked how I spent my afternoons after school I told him I usually went swimming. He asked if he could come along the following Thursday, I wanted to show off some more so I said ‘sure’. Trouble is I couldn’t swim. Enter dear friend Eva. I¬†grabbed hold of her and informed her¬†that¬†somehow, anyhow, I must learn how to swim by Thursday. Day after day we trekked to the swimming baths¬†in order not to¬†bring a¬†disgrace upon my good family name!

Highbury My cousin lives there. Safety and security come to mind when I think of Highbury. My big cousin¬†always was¬†(and still is) a welcoming face. She loves to cook and entertain and so we have a feast whenever we go there. I remember standing at the bus-stop by the butcher’s waiting for bus 4 or 19. I didn’t mind at all as the butcher¬†was just like the ones you read about in fairytales- fat, jolly and wearing a white stained apron. Next to him¬†was the cobblers. Again like the ones we used to read about, particularly because where I come from they are not called cobblers but shoemakers. 20 years later, the butcher and cobbler are still there, same sign, nothing’s changed. That’s security, un-moved by time.

Elephant and Castle I hate that place. Sorry if you live there but I actually loathe the place. I have memories of dear friend Tinuke and I in our student days, living a¬†student’s¬†less-than-cushy¬†life. Plus it took me a while to realise that the station actually had a shopping centre in it or vice-versa which was¬†unbelievable dinghy, I thought it was an indoor market- then again maybe that’s what it was. Either way I still don’t like it.

Cricklewood¬† Many fond memories here. My uncle and aunt’s home and I loved living there.¬†One day someone parked in front of the drive-in, Tinuke promptly told him to move his car as he was blocking¬†our drive- not that we had a car. He refused. That night we both made eba (starchy, sticky African staple meal which hardens on exposure to air) and plastered it¬†all over¬†his windscreen¬†then we¬†stuck a note-” See, we told you not to park here!” I am cracking up as I write this! The next morning the oyinbo man came out and as Tinuke walked across the road, he tried to run her over, we burst out laughing! He was lucky it was a slightly damp¬†night, the plan was to have had the eba harden by morning.

There are so many memories, some unbelievably embarrassing with a major cringe factor! Who knows, I might muster up the courage to share some day. ¬†Like the day I walked in on uncle Ade…

Thanks so much for reading, do come back.

 

Scrutinize This

Wednesday was me-time, I look forward to any trip that guarantees my own company. Not that I don’t like people but¬†I ocassionaly crave silence. I cherish the drive so much that quite often I don’t speed just so that¬†every long minute is savoured.

I arrived at the hairdresser’s to discover that there was only one stylist present. And she was very presently doing someone else’s hair.¬† So I waited, enjoying the latest issue of my Success¬†Magazine. Then I called and jisted with JK. Next I¬†called hubby and¬†caught up on household news.¬†I had to text Tolu because my battery was fast running down.¬†Some more texts and a few rounds of wordmole on my¬†Blackberry and I was still waiting. ¬†And then I waited some more. Who begged me to go and have me-time? You wanted me-time Toks?¬†¬†Whoop! There it is. ¬†

It is all hubby’s fault. On Sunday as I tied my gele, this touch-and-go ritual actually worked first time. I was very proud of myself, the wrap looked fab. When I asked hubby what he thought of it,¬†he suggested that my hair should be covered in the middle to make it perfect. I know better than to listen to that sort of “advice” but I did and regret it till this day. I just couldn’t get my head gear looking fab again so I had to prevent the forced use of¬†the gele¬†(and spousal unforgiveness) by visiting Mane Attraction.

Common sense told me not to tell hubby about the article on healthy eating I read in Success Mag. The article listed the benefits of healthy eating in a way I’ve never quite seen before.

  • Raw nuts increases mental alertness so you are able to accomplish more while staying focused- good for me, I struggle to stick to tasks until¬†it is¬†¬†completed.¬†
  • One of the most effective ways to fight our stress response and to stabilize hormones is through lots of water- I didn’t know there was a stressless response to stress.
  • The benefits of fruits and veg and their role in boosting immunity has long been sung- some of us have heard the song but tuned out the lyrics, choosing instead to believe that since one is not overweight one must be fit and healthy.

Needless to say regret set in once I had shared this new info with hubby. He immediately¬†crowned himself Chief Scrutinizer of Toks’ diet. It was on an empty stomach that I planned my evening meal. So when I made my stir-fried noodles with sweet corn, prawns, chopped carrots, bell peppers and chilli, ¬†it was for me to relish every mouthful and not feel as though one was destroying one’s body. I didn’t enjoy my dinner because Chief himself advised me on every spoonful.¬† But I ate it all, after all I slaved over the stove right?

An author recently said that she has a good friend who calls her on Thursdays to see how many pages she wrote in the week. Accountability helps you reach your goals and keeps you on the straight and narrow. I thank God for my¬†family and friends who keep me going in the right direction.¬†Pawpaw and Mango¬†blog readers keep me blogging as I know you’ll be stopping by to read. You really don’t need to be seeing the same title every time ¬†you pass by, so to you I say a big ‘Thank You!’

A Chief Scrutinizer (or trusted person) should be one you have confidence in and respect, and of course is relevant to the task. I have someone that advises me on spiritual matters, I know who to go to when I need clarity on a business ¬†issue,¬†a few numbers are on speed dial if I need to vent¬†and¬†I even have¬†those on standby¬†if I’m trying to bring a mouth-watering meal to the table and¬†need a tip or two. I would say my friends play a valid role in my life and for that I am truly thankful. I hope yours do too.

My Heart Skips a Beat

I don’t get on the trains or tubes a lot. As a matter of fact this year I’ve only been on it twice. Once on our trip to the Natural History Museumremember the post? And recently when we went to watch Sister Act. I think there was a time- yes Easter time as well on another outing.

Anyhoo, the last time I was on the train I noticed a pattern had been evolving. Whenever the ticket inspectors came around, my heart would skip a beat. There was no reason for this to happen as I always had a ticket.¬†¬†After some digging, I realised that the reason I panicked was as a result of past journeys made when I didn’t have a ticket. This was as far back as when there were no ticket barriers and you could just walk right through and the ticket inspectors would wish you a pleasant rest of the day. I can’t believe I still suffer the effects of those years gone by. How much longer? I have to tell myself¬† that it is absolutely fine Toks, you bought a ticket, remember?

My heart skips a beat when a cop car is behind me. I start to wonder if my break lights are¬†working correctly. What if I get pulled over because they suspected¬†the threads on my tires are not 3mm deep? I mean do they really do that? I can’t afford any¬†more points on my licence because I currently have¬†6 I think. Maybe the¬†first 3 have expired. I trace that problem to the period I was driving without a licence. I remember how it all started too. I used to drive down to the stop on Finchley Road to catch¬†my coach to Hatfield. One day I missed it, so I chased and overtook¬†the coach¬†to the next stop. Then I thought, hey I know the way,¬†why not?

My heart skips a beat when¬†I get a call from Nigeria.¬†Can’t trace the root of that one except that in all the ethnic books I read, when someone comes all the way from ‘home’ it is to break bad news in person.

My heart skips a beat when  one of my boys give a blood curdling yell. I instantly think A&E, broken bones or worse.

My heart skips a beat when a friend says to me “we need to talk” I fear I have done something to offend them. These days I don’t get too bothered about that. I have over a hundred contacts on Facebook, never mind that I haven’t spoken to more than half of them in ages. I may just be able to live without you- just kidding! Seriously I hate being the cause of¬†annoyance to people. I love to¬†be a source of joy.

When hubby says “we need to talk” my heart skips a beat.¬† I immediately rehearse my lines on why¬†the bank balance has shrunk to zero. But then he only¬†does that to tell me that he loves me. Then my heart skips a beat again.

On Why I Blog…

I am particularly excited as I will soon be entering¬†my 50th¬†post on Pawpaw and Mango. Thanks to¬†the stats counter behind the scenes, I can see how many posts I’ve¬†put up¬†as¬†well as how many comments have been made. It also shows us how many visits per day the blog gets, all very interesting.

It is so hard to believe how much time has flown by since I started blogging, needless to say I enjoy it- your visits, comments and emails are proof. I had wanted to start a blog for the longest time but like many things I lived with the satisfaction of talking about it and not really doing anything. Hint: when¬†I have a desire or plan, I don’t do too much talking about it. Chances are it wouldn’t get done because I’ll quench that burning desire each time I open my mouth. Plus I deceive myself into thinking I’m actively on the money, kind of like going¬†back and forth on a rocking chair but not really going anywhere.

Back to why I started blogging. The final push came on the day of Michael¬†Jackson’s funeral. No doubt the biggest shock I have had this year. I still sometimes¬†wonder¬†aloud, “So Michael is actually gone?” As though he was only part human and not destined to die. Like everyone else, I¬†wrestled with mixed¬†emotions of shock, disbelief and sadness. This was not the time to air my views without sharing the center stage. Everyone had something more poignant to say and it was valid. That’s when the blog came. I could talk, and no one will steal my limelight, yay! ¬†The guest will listen all the way to the end and not interrupt me. And only when I have had my say do they reply. Sometimes they respond immediately, at other times it’s via email. I’d like to think that the emailers¬†had to go back¬†to digest what I just written. Still others don’t tell me until they see me or speak to me on the phone- “I always read your blog…“. I would like to believe that wonderful group of people are so blown away and enchanted by my words of wisdom, that they dare not reduce¬†it’s value by commenting or emailing, they have to tell me!

My initial¬†intention was to make the blog very girly since I don’t have¬†that at home. It was to be my virtual spa. All relaxing, pink and virtually smelling nice. I¬†thought it would be this haven where we all get to hang¬†out and talk about all things pretty.¬† Instead it has become a place where I share my random thoughts and sometimes expose my deepest musings. At times I start writing on one topic and conclude the post with an unrelated one. Classic example is the post on names which turned out to be a celebration of friends. Amazingly enough I possibly learn more about me writing than I do reflecting. Its like looking in the mirror.

The post on names may well have been my favorite because as I typed name after name I realised I was truly blessed to have wonderful people in my life. That list is by no means exhaustive as there are more people I am proud to call a friend whose names did not appear. One day, I will write that post on Friendships.  While on the subject, I have a wonderful friend with a tasty blog that reads like cake and custard, check it out here

Now because you have taken the time to stop by the blog, it will be wrong for you to leave without being blessed. I pray Pawpaw and Mango becomes a source of blessing to you and at the very least makes you smile. Thank you so much for reading!

This Too Shall Pass

I love this Poem by Helen Steiner Rice. I read it when I’m facing a challenge to remind me it will be over. No matter how long it lasts, it will eventually pass…

If I can endure for this minute
Whatever is happening to me,
No matter how heavy my heart is
Or how dark the moment may be-

If I can remain calm and quiet
With all the world crashing about me,
Secure in the knowledge God loves me
When everyone else seems to doubt me-

If I can but keep on believing
What I know in my heart to be true,
That darkness will fade with the morning
And that this will pass away, too-

Then nothing in life can defeat me
For as long as this knowledge remains
I can suffer whatever is happening
For I know God will break all of the chains

That are binding me tight in the darkness
And trying to fill me with fear-
For there is no night without dawning
And I know that my morning is near.

…Helen Steiner Rice

 

Toks Reborn.

I hate to budget. I don’t like to¬†pre-allocate my funds before it is spent. It makes me feel restricted, caged even. That’s just how God made me. Hubby on the other hand is all in favor of budgeting, I can’t understand it.¬† He likes to know what’s going to happen before it does.¬†To me that’s like watching a movie backwards. God made me adventurous and full of fun, I like the spontaneity life offers.¬†

So when I recently faced up to the fact that budgeting was essential in order to move forward, it felt like the death of ¬†Toks. The realisation came when said subject’s life was haphazardly spinning out of control. I mean its one thing for things to spin out of control, It is quite another to not even know where it is spinning towards. I am not a big spender, but I always happen to find things¬† I need and¬† possibly can’t do without.¬† When I look at my purchases, not one was unnecessary although I’d admit to some being impulsive.

It’s the same with time. I start my day on an excited note usually. I have my quiet time and then get the boys off to school. Afterwards I excersise- today I went jogging. Okay it was fast paced walking. Then I shower and have my cup of extra strong coffee while reading an article from Success magazine. I always read something inspiring, could be a devotional or a newsletter from someone like Dan Miller (48 Hours). By this time I am so revved up, you would think I can physically move mountains. I get really pumped up as I have my first treat of the day- checking emails on my Blackberry. The Blackberry thing deserves a post all by itself, coming soon. I go through my emails, there are those that are important but not exciting, and then there are the exciting but unimportant, still there are the emails that are neither. Like¬†the company in China offering to sell me a container load of baby furniture. Which ones do I address first? The unimportant ones, yep because they are exciting.¬†As if¬†the inspirational cocktail I just consumed was not enough. These emails I describe as my hydra ones¬†since they¬†grow in many different directions. A simple email like this will lead me to a¬†company that sells beautiful products, then I begin negotiations with them, bear in mind that all of¬†this is unplanned. We go back and forth negotiating and then we reach an agreement. I am still excited. I open up an account, and that’s when the hard work begins and pauses to be revisited sometime¬†in the future. Anyway, that was so not on today’s¬†list. I have new accounts that are yet to be touched because I did not allocate time for them. So why¬†do I then go in search of more work? I tell you that is how God made me.

¬†One¬†phone call to Virgin Media to set up a direct debit will ensure I am not paying ¬£10 every month¬†in late payment charges. A¬†quick call to Vonage will make sure I am on the right tariff and not paying more than I should on my home phone line. ¬£6 in an envelope and given to any of the boys will eliminate the nagging headache that promptly appears after school hours, that is when I tend to remember I haven’t paid the contribution towards the¬†mathematics software subscription.

Do you see why I need to budget my time and money? I am an¬†effervecence junkie addicted to being high yet I have a sneaky feeling I just might enjoy this budgeting thing. I started by creating a meal plan on excel the other day. You should see me¬†staring into space daily as I wonder what¬†to cook for dinner. I was brought up to¬†not¬†have the same meal back¬†to back from one day to the next, so I guess Mom is to blame for all this. Like the need to have rice on Sundays, bless her heart. Well all that staring into space has been eliminated now,thanks to my time table- oh and it’s rice today.

There are some changes I will not be making though, like the need to post on¬†Pawpaw and Mango Blog whenever the heck I feel like it. I should be busy packaging a Magic Mushroom Lamp for a customer in order to keep within our prescribed “5 day delivery” promise, but blog I must- first. Then I’ll budget. He will get the lamp on the 4th day.

Congrats, Mr. Pres!

I’ll try to be as pc as possible and not make you uncomfortable.¬†If I fail in that respect, do bear in mind that feelings of awkwardness and it’s cousin embarrassment are normal human emotions.

I first felt conscious of my skin colour as a business woman¬†late in 2006. The store in a ritzy part of town served predominantly caucasian customers all of whom I got on with very well with no issues whatsoever. And then we had a black female customer who noticed that I and the only other sales assistant in the store happened to be black. She asked very loudly; “Is this business black owned?” To which I very gingerly replied; “yes it is”.¬†¬†“Good, I’ll spread the word”, was her prompt response, again very loudly.

Another time a black guy came in and this time kindly waited till all the customers had left before offering his commiseration as I must be forced to hire only caucasian sales persons. This time the only other member of staff present was caucasian. He  asked what it was like being black in Buckhead. I replied that I had no complaints, I simply felt happy to be doing what I did. And on it went, lots of interviews about how affected I was by race relations in the metro area of Georgia, someone even went on to assure me that the only reason the store thrived was because of my English accent, which admittedly  gets noticeably heightened in a professional environment. Gradually my confidence began to wane. I started to consider the possibility that judgement on my ability to design beautiful rooms was made based on the color of my skin. Then I watched an Oprah Winfrey episode and carefully observed the way she was worshipped by her mostly caucasian audience. They laughed at her every joke, however silly. They were awash with a warm glow when she pointed at them to answer a question, after frantically waving their hands in eager anticipation that she  just might pick them. And when she made eye contact with them, the gesture was returned with adoring eyes and big smiles.

Then I saw Obama. He hadn’t formally announced his candidacy at the time but people were talking. The fact that there were people who even imagined this man running for presidency of the United States gave me a right to be myself, wherever I was. Obama was as cool as Denzel, very eloquent and I picked up this phrase from him- “they massaged the truth” said in reference to the information given out by the Bush¬†administration concerning the Iraq war.¬†If they could worship a black talk-show host and look at a black man as their potential president, then the sky was the limit for me.

I learned that it is far better not to have any prejudice in your heart, justified or not than to try to prove that your race¬†suffers injustice. I heard a quote that says; ‘for every minute you’re angry you lose 60 seconds of happiness’. When President Obama ran his campaign, he chose to ignore all the bad press and lies that were being spun about him. Choosing instead to do as Dr Martin Luther King Jr¬†said; ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can’.

Based on my observation of some Americans’ reaction to the US president and on the amount of racism that his presidency has exposed, I no longer discuss American politics. I refuse to agree or disagree that Obama is being treated unfairly. I once had an email from one of my suppliers in a southern state with a link to a video, where a Catholic priest pretty much called Obama the devil. She assumed that because she felt the way she did, all her customers felt that way too.

Today on my Facebook page I have a couple of¬†wall-to-wall conversations angrily ranting about¬†President Obama’s¬†nobel prize win and saying that he didn’t deserve it. If you don’t support the man and we happen to be in each other’s company, I’ll be keeping my¬†opinions to myself- just in case you wonder why I don’t answer your thinly¬†veiled¬†prejudiced¬†questions. I’d rather use each of my 60 seconds wisely. However If you do support him,¬†I will be happy to¬†hear from you but please keep it short and simple. I have some life goals to reach. Obama is where he is because he worked hard. I need to be where I want to be too, so I have work to do. Thank you for reading.

In Adulation of Weight Gain

Somethings you just can’t hide, like being pregnant. I first noticed I was struggling to fit into my clothes about four months ago. My jeans were noticeably tighter and I even dug out my old jeans that had previously¬†“grown” too big for me, it fit. Blouses were tighter and my appetite soared and changed too. I started craving Alpen and yes more rice and fried plantain. No, I’m not pregnant.
I have finally started to put the weight on. I say finally because for most of my life I have wanted to be er..bigger (must be PC even on my own blog, gasp!) I have filled out nicely, my figure is comparable to a full-figured fifties’ ¬†model and I am loving it! You should have seen me at¬†my favourite clothes store¬†the other day proudly asking the assistant; “Do these come any larger?” I have now joined the ranks of those who say “Hmm.. that doesn’t fit” or “Does my bum look big in this?” Only I say “Hope my bum looks big in this”. Hubby calls me rolling Toks- as in they’ll need to start rolling me around since I won’t be able to walk. I love it. When I run into friends, I give them the¬†2 minute limit then ask¬† if they noticed I was significantly larger (here it goes again). And that’s when my bubble gets popped. Some deny and say no, not really. Others go to such great lengths to remind me that it is absolutely fine. I have 4 children, I still look good, I have tried etc. That isn’t exactly the response I was hoping for. A simple “yes you have and it suits you” will suffice. I had one such conversation early this week with an older¬†lady.

Her: You look very good for a mom of four, how did you lose the weight?

Me: Thanks.  This is  me after I put the weight on, I reply with pride.

Her: No, you’re not overweight.

Me: (Don’t you listen?)¬† I know I’m not overweight, I’m just saying I have put on some weight in recent months, I love it.

Her: No, I still think you look good, don’t say that.

Me: (Slightly frustrated. She’s older so I can’t call her names) I KNOW I look good, I always wanted to put on weight and now that I have, I am happy.

Her: What are the age gaps between your kids?

I tell her

Her: So you had time to diet in between.

Needless to say I gave up at this point and went on¬†to find my next target who will acknowledge to me how good I look with the extra fat I’m carrying.

When did it become a taboo to be shapely? I guess we owe our thanks to Twiggy who put having a woman’s body out of fashion for us chics. Ugh!

What’s in a name?

Plenty if you ask me.¬†Hubby and I labored and prayed real hard for our sons’ names. We wanted them to have cool names. I think names have an effect on how you get on in life. It also determines who your friends will be. I went to Primary (elementary) school with a girl called Pinky. I don’t know if that was her real or nickname, but she was popular and a lot had to do with her name. I remember how everyone was happy¬†to say her name without hesitation. My older brother was popular in primary school because he had the same first name as a well loved football star- and of course he has a great personality too. (He reads my blogs so I have to be careful).

My full name is Tokunbo (which is really an abbreviation of the full-full name). In the part of town I grew up it was uncommon. I wouldn’t say it was liked or not, it was just… uncommon. In some cases I had to say it twice for people to¬† succesfully pronounce it nearly accurately. My surname on the other hand was pretty cool, however it was always spelt wrongly and confused with Ferrari- which happens to be my¬†other car. Amen.¬† So in no time people took to calling me Ferrari, Perreira, Perempe, Ferara and even Fregene. What was funny was how those “in the know”¬† would confidently correct others who called me Ferrari or another name from the¬† melange. Their correction? “It’s not Ferrari, that’s a car! Her name is Ferira”. Wrong again.

It would have been simple if my parents had named me a cool name like Alero. That’s my number one name. I love the way it is spelled- easy, love the sound of it and the fact that it begins with the first letter of the alphabet means an Alero has a higher chance of being the smartest kid in class. Seriously, a survey was conducted and the results suggested kids whose names begin with “A” tend to excel. Perhaps it’s because they were usually called first in the register. My first son is proof, so I’m sticking with that theory. I vowed to name my daughter Alero, even if it meant Hubby and I coming to blows about it. Alas, it was not to be, I don’t have a daughter.

Another name mom could have named me is Tolu. It sounds so cool, I mean literally cool like ice cream. To-lu. When pronounced properly it even sounds melodious. I am blessed to have a good friend called Tolu. And no, you didn’t become my friend because of your name. You are just a sweetheart and I love you!

Yet another name I would have been proud to be called is Buki. Short and sweet. Easy to spell and pronounce.¬†When pronounced properly it suggests there is nothing more; “my name is Buki and that’s it”. ¬†Again I am blessed to have another darling of a friend called Buki. ¬†And since you probably never knew I loved your name, here’s proof that I love you for who you are.

There’s more, like Joke, another short and sweet name. It sounds cheerful and happy, just like my dear friend Joke. Always ready for a chat, always so encouraging. Love you Joke.

I’ll stop now, because this was meant to be a post about names and not friends, sparked by am email I received from another dear friend Bayo. Now I have never wished to have your name, because you’re a dude lol! But it is a lovely name and I’m glad we’re friends, hopefully we’ll see soon.

My post on Friendship will be looooooong. I’ll warn you before hand because you’ll need a snack and a drink. That’s when I’ll tell you all about Lara, and Shade and Iluobe (longest standing friend- 33 years and counting) Nneka and Tola and Abi and Bola and Yejide and Suzy and Funke and Ifeayinwa and Andrea and Kennie and Foluke and Bimbo and Tiwana and Tinuke and Mubo¬†and Josh and Alex and Funmi and Folake and Tony¬† and Tina…..Yes I really am that blessed.

My Well Kept Secret.

One thing you probably didn’t know about me is that I can play the piano beautifully. Every note is flawlessly played, and I am able to compose music too. I have been told by several musicians¬† (whom I respect very much) that I have a good ear for music. I haven’t thought as far as writing songs yet but I’m pretty sure if I penned a song it would top the charts.¬†Learning how to play the piano¬†and other dreams lie buried within me. Occasionally they toss and turn, like they are about to awake, but then I hastily pat them back to sleep again.

At other times¬†the sleep is disturbed¬†when I¬†hang out with others who woke up¬† a while back and are now using their gifts and talents. It is¬†very uncomfortable, staring at the faces of my dreams.¬† I feel like I owe them an explanation. What if I am asked why I didn’t use them?¬† I really don’t have any excuse. Fear?¬† There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out all fear. Lazyness? The lazy man says there is a lion in the streets. Procrastination? Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. Not good enough? I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ¬†Too busy? Martha’s story- Luke 10:38-40.

So today I give you an early invitation to my award night- seriously, my¬†40th Birthday celebration¬†less than 4¬†years from now when I will give you a grand ¬†performance on my baby grand piano. I must remember to invite those musicians who first told me about my ear for music, one of them is¬†my cousin O.T, I haven’t seen him in years. Details to be released soon.

www.punkin-patch.com

www.punkinpatch.co.uk

Autumn…

I even like the way the word is spelled. It is in a class all by itself, no other words rhyme with Autumn, aka Fall. This is my favourite time of the year. It is the various shades of brown, red, orange, copper and gold. The fact that the leaves fall down slowly, sometimes doing a twirl as they descend steadily. I love the leaves being blown around by the wind. I don’t even mind wet leaves blown on my face in the fall, so long as they are brown, lol! You will most likely catch me wearing brown, orange or green clothing or accessories. Green became my favorite colour years ago when I discovered celery green. The other green- bottle green, I still don’t like. It reminds me of beer bottles and long, boring childhood summers.

At this time of the year I usually scurry around, buying candles, cushions, throws and anything to make my home cozy. Needless to say the colours tend to be warm colors of browns, reds and oranges. I think of¬† scented candles with fragrances like mulled wine, hot chocolate or baked cookies. I¬†fill my freezer with all kinds of treats as food and comfort go together. I don’t really like to go out in the Autumn, prefering instead¬†to stay indoors drinking hot cocoa, reading a good book and watching those leaves fall from the trees. I love the sight of the squirells doing the same thing, scurrying around filling their homes with nuts before they hibernate. About now I¬†burst into homemaker overdrive, making sure every need is met, the house is warm, smells nice and is good enough to eat.

The fact that¬†it gets dark early only makes it better. It reminds me that I have a roof over my head. I also realise that having a house isn’t necessary having a home. A house you buy or rent, a home you create using ingredients of love, joy, peace, gratitude…

I have no idea what this autumn holds in store for me. There is so much I will be doing without this year, its hard to imagine any semblance of my autumn. However I do have a major ingredient I have never used before- a new attitude filled to the brim with gratitude, joy and peace. I am truly grateful for all the Lord has blessed me with regardless of my list of wants. I choose to be thankful for what I have and not whine about what I want. 

I pray your autumn is filled with all the goodness God has for you, Amen.

What Are You Reading?

I love to read good¬†books. Emphasis on good. I learnt the hard way not to judge a book by its cover when I read a bestselling book by a very well known TV personality. It set me back $25 and by the time I was halfway I still didn’t know if I was done reading the foreword or indeed what the book was about.

I admit to being biased when I say I’m currently reading Success Magazine. Truth is I am always reading Success.¬†At the moment I am hugging four issues from the current year. All are dog-eared and I guard them ferociously. In fact I’d go as far as saying you stand a better chance taking one of my boys out for the day than taking my Success Mag out my bedroom door.

I first read this gold-dust-in-paper-format in 2006. I read and re-read it and told EVERYONE about it. Suddenly and without warning it disappeared off the shelves and I was devastated. Success Magazine then got re-launched last year and I am still reeling from the excitement. I urge you to subscribe to this amazing material.  It covers real life success stories, not the sugar-coated type. It celebrates virtues like hard work , integrity and perseverance in work-life. You get an audio version of the mag on CD as well as, get this- book summaries. They select timeless bestsellers from authors like Napoleon Hill, Steven Covey, Andrew Carnegie, etc, the real stuff.  You can subscribe online at a discount here . Then there are the free audio interviews. Like the one where bestselling author Jack Canfield of the Chicken Soup for the Soul fame said his manuscript for the bestselling series was turned down 150 times by publishers. Or when talk show host Montel Williams shared about his ongoing battle with multiple sclerosis, did you know he once attempted suicide?

I rarely write to the editor, but I made an exception here. And they’ll be publishing my comments in the¬†December issue, yay! I shamelessly begged for some free publicity by asking them to include my website address beneath my name. They didn’t reply. There’s just no pleasing some people!¬† ūüôā

Besides my daily read of Success, I’m currently reading Michelle Obama’s Biography. Now I know why they call Chicago’s South Side, The South Side. More later.

www.punkin-patch.com

www.punkinpatch.co.uk

Why did I do that?

You may have heard the story of the woman who was asked by her daughter why she always trimmed both ends of her joint of ham before she cooked it. Her response was, ” Well, my mother always cooked it that way, ¬†we’ll ask her why”. Grandma’s answer was the same, her mother always cooked it that way too. Luckily great-grandma was still around so they asked her why. Her reason? She didn’t have a pot big enough to cook a whole joint so she had to reduce the size.

A long time ago my cousin told me she didn’t sleep with pillows. That was the weirdest, coolest thing I ever heard. So I started to leave my pillows on the floor, suffering greatly before common sense prevailed.

Another time I noticed a friend wore her wristwatch on her right wrist. Of course by the next day Toks was doing the same.

These days¬†I ask myself why I do the things I do. Sometimes I ask just before, at other times it’s a little too late, but I ask anyhow.¬† Why did I snap so loudly at my son when he was acting up? Was it to promptly correct him or was it to show the other moms that “I don’t take nonsense”?

Why did I accept that friend’s request on Facebook when I don’t care a hoot about them? Was it because ¬†they are friends with the others in my connection/circle or was it because I’d like to¬†rekindle a relationship with them?

Why did I agree¬†to the hairstyle ¬†my stylist suggested? Was it because I didn’t want to say no or because I was willing to try something different?

Why did I ask for that lady’s phone number at church? I know I won’t be calling her anytime soon!

Dear Jesus, I thank you for making me the beautiful woman I am. Help me to accept my imperfections as tools to make me more like you. I love you Jesus and I thank you for making me love me too!

Success at any cost?

I work very hard on the business, not because I want it to generate an income, rather I want it to be hugely successful.

A while ago the boys and I visited my cousin who had just flown into London from Chicago. While we chit-chatted with his host -a really nice man, the said host suddenly appeared on TV. He was being interviewed, something that regularly occurs because of the nature of his job. I pointed him out to the boys, It was hilarious the way their big eyes darted first to the T.V and then back at the man, over and over again, mouths wide open as they peered to make sure it realy was him. Perhaps they didn’t believe me. Perhaps they wondered how he could be in their midst, in a house and at the same time on the T.V?

This man is a human rights activist so needless to say our conversation turned to the “plight” in Gambia. First of all I didn’t even know Gambia had a “plight” I tried hard to feign interest while all I really cared about was getting PP on TV. “How, oh how do I bring up my concerns about exposure of my business purely for profit making while we discussed the exposure of the atrocious Gambian president- without branding myself as insensitive?”

I left really pleased about my education on Gambia, Nigeria and other African countries and what Amnesty international is doing to help. I left considering my own selfishness in my own little world and how we all have a part to play in assisting the other man or woman beside us. I was also glad that my quest for success had not yet seared any feelings of benevolence and that it was not too late to start.

Lord I thank you for the many gifts that you have placed within me. I pray that I use them selflessly to glorify you and to bless the people around me, for the gifts are not mine to keep, but to pass on. Amen.

The Lady, Du Pain & The Perfect French Manicure

So there I sat on the Eurostar excited about my very short break away from normal life. The last time I was in Paris was on my first wedding anniversary. Hubby and I were so shocked and disappointed that everything was actually in French. The knowledge that they are French people did nothing to soothe us as we listened to the 60th re-run of CNN in our hotel room- the only TV channel in English. It annoyed us to see blockbuster Hollywood movies voiced-over in French. How dare they? Eventually common sense reigned and we agreed to enjoy our holiday so we did. Lots of french bread (du pain), ham and cheese, but we did.

Fast forward 12 years and I wasn’t too keen on the sights, I just wanted to see my friend whom I hadn’t seen in 2 years and enjoy my VERY MUCH needed break. Alone. Deciding I would need a dictionary, I wondered why Costa Coffee didn’t sell them, it was the only shop without a queue. I ignored the fact that the French customs sign at St Pancras Station in London was written in French first and then English. I even pretended not to notice that the announcements in the train were in French and then translated into French-English. What I could not deal with was the newsagents who had a section for foreign publications, aka English. That was way too much to bear. All was forgotten though¬†when I checked into my hotel, kindly assisted by Ganiyu, the cheerful Nigerian who spoke Yoruba (yo-hu-ba) with a French accent.

I had asked for a single bed- when they said single bed, it meant single-side-of-your body only. But it was my room and mine alone. It was blissful, clean and smelt nice. All TV channels were in French without the luxury of CNN this time. But it was fine. I had an attitude as I went for a walk to the market and in search of MacDonalds, wondering why I felt so superior to the French that I was unprepared to sample their cuisine. For some reason I didn’t even try to speak the language, I couldn’t be bothered and had a strange feeling they should concede to me. I guess it was my irritation at the bewildered look on their faces when I asked where the nearest MacDonalds was. It’s no wonder they are not fond of the Brits. Or the Americans.
At the nail bar the entire pricelist was in French. Surely a French Mani/Pedicure cannot be that pricey, they are the originators. Wrong! these folks charged me 67 Euros! That’s $95 dollars y’all. When she told me the price I quietly prayed she meant 16 Euros. My prayer was ansered, answer- “No, it is 67 Euros!” The mani/pedicure was PERFECT.

On my way back to the hotel I decided against listening to music so I could soak in the sounds, scenes and culture of Paris. I enjoyed doing so. It felt surreal that I was in another country, surrounded by strangers yet was so peaceful and filled with joy. I thought it’d be nice to have some French food for dinner after deciding there may be French word for Chinese which I didn’t know. On my way to the French restaurant, the smell of something familiar wafted up my nostrils. Minutes later I was in the hotel room, watching a movie on my phone and eating the best kebabs ever, served by the friendliest Turkish guys… oh well, French cuisine will have to wait!
And then Shade and I met up, but that’s another story ūüôā

What turning 30 did for me…

That was 6 short years ago, the effects of which I still enjoy today. My chat with dear friend F (happy 30th!) brought this to the forefront of my mind. I have always loved the end of the year. Mum used to get my brothers and I together to pray into the new year. At the time dad was a socialist- referred to in a newspaper article I read as a child as the marxist, military doctor. So church was out of the question for him, he found it funny when on mum’s insistence we’d invite him to church 3 times a year- easter, christmas and new year’s eve. Anyway mum’s annual new year’s eve prayer amongst many others would be “Lord God, please let 1986 (or whatever year we were in) go with all its bad luck. Let all the bad things that happened this year NEVA, NEVA repeat itself again, AMEN!!!” Amidst the new year’s festivities, riding our bikes, climbing trees etc, she’d shout at us if we were being over exhuberant or naughty and say “IN THE NEW YEAR??? You’re already being naughty??” So the start of the year has always held a major significance for me. I have always seen it as a clean new slate, old things have passed away, all things have become new and don’t stain the new with old, bad habits.

When I turned 30, the same held true for me. I’m an April girl so it was a 2nd opportunity for a new start. I decided to take stock of my life. I’m an adult now, I told myself even though I’d been for all of 9 years- 7 in my parents eyes as I became an adult only when I got married. I looked back at my life and noted the things I loved about me, from my handwriting through my hair to my personality. My handwriting isn’t all that by the way but it is mine- it’s always been with me and I love it! I love my life. I love my friends, I love my family. I absolutely love my childhood and every memory I have. I of course noted the things I wasn’t so fond of. There were a few of them. I tend to procrastinate. I am not confrontational. In fact when I turned 30 I realised I could be quite a pushover- not very attractive. So I made a decision to turn things around. I started saying “no”. Like being in church and the pastor tells you to “write this down” or “underline that scripture”. Half the time I don’t want to because I want to underline what speaks to ME at the time I read it in my quiet time, also I hardly ever go back to read the notes I’ve taken. Then I end up with a stack of notebooks cluttering my bedroom, and feeling guilty if I attempt to throw them away. God showed me that I was free. Free to make my own decisions based on the wisdom He gave me and not based on the opinions of man- not even a man of the cloth.
I have always been an avid reader but at 30 I started to read with purpose. I read books that will bless me and not simply to have another gist for my girlfriends at our next buzz session.

At 36 I still say “no”. I say it gently but firmly. I make decisions based on how it blesses me and mine and the persons involved, not simply to fulfil the status-quo. I get tested everyday. At the hairdresser’s 2 days ago I fought the urge to hold a conversation with my stylist when all I really wanted to do was catch up on my reading. It still feels akward sometimes, the need to make conversations that end up being peppered with pregnant pauses.

I pray I don’t stop being the sweet girl I was while growing up. Cynicism sometimes tries to usurp that sweetness but I have Christ in me.

Dear Lord, I thank you for creating me, just as I am. I love the work you are currently doing in me, making me more like you daily. And Lord I pray where I have lost that gentleness as a result of life simply happening, replace it with your fragrant presence. Lord I also pray that my life will immensely bless all those I come into contact with, in Jesus name Amen

Thanks as always for reading!

What irks you?

Everyone has a pet peeve. I have several and I just came across one that is a complete turn off whenever I see it. I received a newsletter detailing the writer’s evening out with friends. His words- “I’ve been to lots of movie night’s but this was the best in 2 year’s“. Emphasis on night’s and year’s. “Night” does not own anything in the sentence, and neither does “year”. The abuse of the apostrophe is my pet peeve. I don’t know why. I did not major in English. I don’t think I’m an above average user of the language but I get distracted when I see an apostrophe ill placed. Funny enough I’m not alone. There is even an apostrophe protection society, no I’m not a member, I have a much more interesting life than being an activist for a punctuation mark.
Other irritations known to me are:

  • The smell of fish
  • Fish bones in my food
  • Rice without fried plantains- not a peeve just an incomplete meal, IMO
  • Standing next to a man or woman on a crowded train with dandruff flakes on their coat or garlic breath or both
  • Sore throat
  • People who try to make me (or anyone) feel inferior

There is more but I won’t be the superintendent of boredom of your day. Thanks for reading, do come back ūüôā

Bread & Cheese

Totally random and unrelated, but that was my lunch yesterday. Bread and cheese is the most basic I do for a meal. It is usually done in anticipation of the real deal- Rice, Chicken Stew and Fried plantains. Now that, I do not play with. I am capable of having that trio 3 times a day. Or more if necessary.  Just thought you should know.

Hello Good People!

Welcome to my first post. I am so excited to put my thoughts out as there’s plenty to say about me! I am a born again christian woman, in my 30s, happily married with some really adorable children. I wouldn’t do much of an introduction as I hope you’ll come back again and again to get a glimpse into my wonderful world!