04 Mar

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. 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!

16 Aug

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.

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.

20 Sep

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.

20 Sep

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

06 Sep

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?

31 Aug

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.

29 Aug

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 🙂

27 Aug

Joy

I don’t say this to brag but I have been filled to overflowing with the Joy of the Lord. This is a very different kind of joy to what I’ve always known it to be. This joy is alive, it rejuvenates me, causes me to laugh and cry for no apparent reason. Plus I am peaceful too. I first experienced this mind-blowing joy about 10 months ago when I read a little book titled “From Prison to Praise” by Merlin Carothers. I read it when I was going through a very difficult time in my life. The only thing worse than having the hardest trial is going through it without knowing if God is even aware that you exist, let alone there to hear you when you call. That’s where I was, difficulty along with the absence of Christ. Yes I was going to church and praying daily but did not feel his presence. What I took away from that simple, small book was that the word of God says rejoice in all things, so we should-all things. I started to learn to simply believe God’s word even if it did not line up with my current circumstance. The Lord does not need our situation to validate the authenticity of His word. His word is what it is. Period.

So I believed God’s word. If the word said I am blessed and there was nill evidence of blessing in my life, I chose to believe his word rather than what I could see or feel. I am learning to walk and live by faith, what his word says is true, and there’s no other proof He has given, so we just trust him. My testimony is looooooooong, but I love to share it so PM me if you want to hear it!

But there was a problem, this new joy was intermittent, and I noticed a pattern. When I take my eyes of God, panic sets in, stealing my joy. If I miss a period of prayer, the joy slowly ebbs away. Not because prayer is the currency of God’s joy, -there is no currency- but because in His presence is the entirety, the fullness of this joy. It goes without saying then that if you leave His presence, you’ll be leaving that joy behind.
Many times I attempt to replace the joy and peace of God with temporal things, but it all fades away after the novelty of the source has worn off- the new car, new home, shopping spree, etc. Jesus on the other hand never wanes, He is constant. The other thing I noticed was that my situation didn’t change yet I was filled to overflowing with joy. Then I started to change. God allows a trial to shape and mold you- painful but the finished product is beautiful. I love the new Toks!

Jesus, I pray you will deliver us from questioning your word and our situations. Help us to simply trust you and follow your leading. You came that we may have life abundantly here on earth before we go into eternity. Make your word true, unquestionable and infallible in our lives, amen.