31 Oct

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.

27 Oct

Today at The Mustaphas’

Do you ever look at people and wonder (or in my case conclude) what their lives might be like? It’s a habit I have. And enjoy. At the post office today I stared at Mustapha while I was in the line. Mustapha is in his fifties and he is always at the counter. I think he is the Post Office manager because the others direct all their queries to him. His face is rugged, like he has lived and seen a lot in life. His complexion is light brown, Asian no doubt. Mustapha never has an expression, he seems neither sad nor happy,  just…there. The longest conversation I have ever had with him was ‘hi’,  ‘grunt’.

Two spots away sits a middle-aged woman her name tag reads Maureen. I think she’s Asian although she kinda looks Mediterranean too. Her hair is in place and face very well made up. She seems to be enjoying her lunch- I spot some brown sauce, rice and salad. Her lipstick remains eerily in place despite the dripping sauce. I of course start to wonder what her life is like. Does she enjoy her life or despise her boss?  Then she says something about there being some salad left and passes her polystyrene take-away bowl to Mustapha. Aha! They are married.

Now I start to imagine what their home might be like. I conclude that their home is very comfortable and very well decorated. Rugs and wall hangings from Cyprus, dark chunky wood furniture with black metal hinges from India. Rich burgundy soft furnishings with gold threads running through. The scent of  spices hangs in the air. There is a large family portrait above the fireplace showing Mustapha, his wife and their three grown kids. Two boys and a girl. The first son is a doctor, practising in Canada. The second is the girl, she works as an accountant in central London and the last son, the one who refused to be  a doctor, accountant or lawyer works for a nightclub and has started his own gig as a DJ on the side.  Mustapha does not approve as he thinks he should have gone for a more serious profession. He is the one who point-blank refused to speak their native dialect when growing up and as a teenager brought a caucasian girlfriend home for dinner. He frowns each time he remembers the way she spluttered and coughed after her first mouthful of kesari bath, his beloved mother’s secret recipe passed down to Maureen. No one outside of the family knows this so it isn’t really talked about much. The family rarely shout, speaking in measured tones as though they don’t want to awaken the faux tiger fur rug that greets you in the hallway.

The knick knacks on the bookshelf tell the story about Mustapha’s immigration to the United Kingdom years ago. The photograph of him on his bike, with his mother in the bacground laughing heartily- something she rarely did after losing her husband years earlier to a bad illness. The black and white photograph of his young bride taken at their traditional wedding ceremony is framed in a beaded work of art, he promised to send for her once he settled in London and he did. That was 36 years ago.

Finally it’s my turn. The outsider attends to me, asking Mustapha a question about how to change the label on the parcel from Royal Mail to Parcel Force as the customer just realised Royal Mail strikes might delay the delivery of  her parcel.  Mustapha answers her without glancing up. Yep, he is unhappy with his third son’s choice of a profession and it’s all his wife’s fault for pampering him so. Life.

24 Oct

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.

24 Oct

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.

21 Oct

I’m Miffed with Balloon Boy’s Father

In case you missed the news coverage of “Balloon Boy”, I’ll recap. The Heene family are an adventurous bunch, you know the outdoors sort:  storm-chasing, UFO-believing, experiment loving type. Think  “Honey I shrunk the Kids” but up in the mountains somewhere. They’ve even starred in a reality show, not that it matters- the T.V stations are doing the rounds so if you haven’t had your’s it’ll be soon I’m sure. I hear they have so far covered half the world.  So the Heenes had this home-made helium balloon and their 6-year-old son was “seen” climbing into it by his brother just before it wafted up, up and away. Crossing over 2 counties and covering 50  miles, we watched live as we feared for his life. I stopped all I was doing to pray as I imagined how terrified the poor child must feel and of course the very real possibility of death. An army, police , helicopter, ground-all-flights-from-nearby airports-rescue operation later, the boy was found to be safe and well “hiding” in the attic.

It was only when CNN interviewed the family and asked why the boy didn’t come out- actually the father asked him: “why did you not come out when I called you Falcon?”  The innocent child replied, “But you said it was for a show!” Hmm! Come and see the mother trembling and shaking her head saying “No, no Falcon, we didn’t say that” desperately trying not to raise her voice even a fraction of an octave to keep up the charade. Father nko? You could hear him gulp as he stammered, praying no one heard Falcon while he repeated the question.

Enter the body language experts who analysed his deep sigh, and every move they made and they concluded it was a hoax.

If only they had been smart enough to leave the children out of the press interviews. Where I come from, that child won’t even have the guts to look the camera man in the camera not to mention answering the questions asked. If like Falcon he decided to answer, there’ll be sure to be a serious butt-wooping when he got home. And who names their child Falcon anyway? I guess it was planned from birth, but they forgot to tell CNN that he was born to fly.

Dear Mr Heene,

If you want to further your career please don’t use the kids. There’s absolutely no need to put a black mark of fraud on their innocent young lives. And yes, it can be frustrating when you are tying to break into your field and become recognised for your expertise.  Now they have dug up your past records of assault and vandalism which when compared to today’s criminal activities can hardly be described as horrific. The hoax has magnified the old charges. Mr Heene, Mr Heene! How many times did I call you? See what you’ve done to yourself? Ehn? My advice, if you must create a hoax, for Pete’s sake have a briefing first or leave the kids out if they are too young to learn their lines. Plus I’m mad at you it’s not like I had no one left to pray for that I had to deviate to pray for your son. {Insert long drawn hiss}.

20 Oct

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!

17 Oct

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

 

16 Oct

Little Miss Know It All.

I attended my business class today. You know how you always have that one person in class who knows it all? Well ours is a straight-haired girl named Carol.

Every question asked, rhetoric or realistic was answered by her. She, by the way asked all the questions too. People like that irritate me. Not always though as they tend to be the source of amusement in boring classes. This one didn’t entertain me today because it was just one of those days, I simply wasn’t in the mood. Know-it-alls have similar characteristics. They tend to be talkers. They have this insatiable desire to air their views, to say that they love the sound of their own voice is a gross underestimation which does them no justice.

They are also quite knowledgeable on the subject, hence the title. And if you try to catch them, they will counter your opposition by dragging a new subject into the old, and by the time you know it you are chasing your own tail.

I think know-it-alls (KIA) are also insecure, so they have to support their egos with knowledge. This one supported hers with knowledge, manicured nails, straight hair and a quantity surveyor boyfriend who although he is not on the course, by the end of the evening we were all very well acquainted with him. I bet I can tell you where all his birthmarks are.

These annoying breed IMO don’t have a ton of friends, but surprisingly do not care. Their knowledge is their friend.

Perhaps it was a good thing I wasn’t in a good mood today. I may have spent the evening devising a plan to bring Miss Straight Hair back down to earth including her high-heeled boots and missed out on a valuable lesson. I may have spent more time writing about Miss KIA instead of moving forward and chucking it down to life’s experiences.

The class concluded with her letting me know the reason she missed last week’s class on marketing is because she would have ended up in front as the lecturer. Ohhh yeah, she’s that good.

I ain’t hating, just venting, thanks for reading!

14 Oct

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.

09 Oct

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.