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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!

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.

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.

Balloon Boy 2

After my last post on Balloon Boy, I felt a pang of guilt as I had judged the family without any evidence. It didn’t help that a Christian channel had portrayed them as innocent- at least they didn’t suggest that The Heenes were guilty of fraud. Afterall the only thing we had to go on was the body language experts analysing of the size of the sweat beads and how fast they fell from Mr Heene’s forehead.

Well all my fears were laid to rest today (or was it yesterday?) when Mrs Heene admitted to the incident being a hoax. I still feel sorry for them for as Michael commented they were driven to desperation. I agree. Desperation can drive one to do all sorts of things which is why as I raise my kids I enforce boundaries around them. Even on days where they are perfectly well-behaved, I don’t say yes to everything they request- harmless requests included. Like today child #3 asked for cookies. There was nothing wrong with the timing, it was midday. He was neither full-up nor hungry but he had eaten so it was actually prime time for cookies. Plus he was well-behaved (relatively).  But I said no. He asked why and I explained to him that in life you don’t get everything you want.

He did get the cookie later, but only after I had made sure there was no sulking and he was happy not to have received it. It is very hard to pull that one on toddler J. He would scream the house down and I hate noise- all kinds. Perhaps what I should do is say “no” and run outside so I don’t hear his cries.

My prayer is that I raise my children to have a realistic view of life and an unwavering faith in God. That way the chance of ever being analysed by body language experts remains nill to nada.

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.

He loves me!!!

Ps 139 has become one of my favorite passages of scripture. It talks about God’s perfect love for man. I love the part that says; “your thoughts towards me are precious- so many, more than the sands”. Each of God’s thoughts towards us is precious. Each one of those precious thoughts is like a grain of sand- more than all the sand in the world. So that even if you could count all the grains of sand in the world, God’s precious, loving thoughts towards us is more than that. (v17, 18)

Another verse says; “you have hedged me behind and before, and such knowledge is too wonderful for me (v5, 6). Even if I make my bed in hell, you are there”. God is ALWAYS with us, even if I make my bed in hell, he is there (v8)

Dear Jesus, I thank you so much for loving me and hedging me in with your love and presence. I thank you because I am no longer in darkness. And if I were in darkness the darkness would be light to you, (v11, 12) so I am never, ever hidden from your view. Every thought you think towards me is precious. There are no angry thoughts, or thoughts of disappointment, malicious, irritating or negative thoughts. Only good precious thoughts (Jer 29:11). The reason there are no negative thoughts is because your ways are not my ways and your thoughts compared to mine are higher, even than the heavens (Isaiah 55:8). For that, I bless you- always.

Love, Toks

Life, Actually

The common cold. It sure ain’t common to me, especially as it knocked me for 6 yesterday. You may have read an earlier post where I chronicled my pet peeves. Sore throat I think was number 3 on the list. It is a simple ailment that everyone gets from time to time, but when Toks gets it, it is no longer so simple. It affects my mood. It affects my energy levels. It keeps me irritated. It ensures I look only to self, thinking that self is going through the ringers, all for a sore throat. I want to stop ALL activity, hide under the covers and place myself on propofol (tasteless I know, couldn’t resist).

It is the same way with a pebble in your shoe. You have a head (hopefully just one), shoulders, arms, knees, feet and everything else. Yet one pebble touching just one of your ten toes on one of your two feet, which is one of your many body parts can cause you to stop your journey, sit down and work at dislodging that pebble.

A similar scenario is this journey called life. An annoying pebble finds it’s way into our grand big plans and throws us off course, causing us to sit still and take the time to make the journey less tedious. Sadly by the time the pebble is removed, we’ve missed the bus of opportunity. We catch another one but it takes us somewhere else, not to our dream destination but an alternative- one that “will do”. Some even forfeit the journey altogether and go back home, to the job they hate or the relationships that hinder.

Meanwhile there are those other travellers who are just like us  but in unlike some of us they have no shoes and are used to walking on, in and around pebbles. Every step they take is bound to be taken on pebbles. Yet they keep going because they know they will get there and they also want to, at any cost. And they arrive at their desired destination reaping the rewards that come with persistence and hardwork.

Can you ignore the pebble in your shoe today? It will not kill you. I ignored my sore throat for what might possibly be the first time in my life yesterday because I am self-employed and can’t afford to take time off work. I actually survived the day, surprise, surprise! Yesterday came and went, I worked through it all and today I am fine. I shall not spend the evening even thinking about buses I’ve missed. Thank God for countless second chances in Christ.

What’s your pebble?