13 Mar

Steps

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Lao Tsu

Last week was a rather overwhelming one, physically. It all started when I decided to spend 11 uninterrupted hours last Saturday working on our new website- it looks simply amazing if I can say that myself! We are moving onto a new super- duper platform and iits like going to school allover again. I have been going to bed with html codes and various image editing softwares swiming in my head. Anyway, after my stint I was surprised at not feeling a huge sense of accomplishment, you know the way you’re supposd to after you have done a lot of productive work. That feeling was carried into Monday, the start of the week. At the time I thought perhaps it was because I did just one task. It was unbroken and unvaried, maybe that’s why it didn’t feel like I had done much. Nonetheless I still felt burdened as the week wore on.

On Wednesday the Lord gave me a vision. A simple picture of a person (me) walking on a mapped out path with round stone slabs. It is a winding road and there’s nothing but fresh green grass on either side. The yellow daffodils swaying in the gentle breeze are a sight to behold,  pretty. In the distance the path leads to a beautiful house on the hill, the only possible destination. I keep stopping and looking up to see how much further I need to go. That was when it hit me. Rather than taking one step at a time, I look ahead and see the seemingly insurmountable task ahead. I keep looking at the big picture and feeling discouraged because although I have come a long way- evidenced by the long path behind me- I am impatient and want to get to my destination, like right now!
Yesterday, following my boycott of the suddenly expensive Tesco, my quest led me to Lewisham in south London. Here you can get fresh vegetables and meat at much lower prices. I parked the car a distance from the shops and did quite a bit of shopping. As I walked back to the car with my purchases I longed for one of those trolleys the senior folks use. It was the bags holding yams in my right hand for the week’s planned yam peppersoup, the plantains that will go nicely with rice and stew, the pounded yam meant for monday’s efo riro and the large bag of onions. My left hand held my bags of meat- neck of lamb, goat, chicken and kidney, coconut milk, okro and spices. I looked in the distance and saw the car park so far away. I decided to look down and keep walking knowing I will eventually arrive- that’s just my coping mechanism folks. I don’t like pain or discomfort! I took my mind off the journey and planned out the rest of the day- doing my hair and eyebrows and suddenly I had arrived!
I learned some valuable lessons;

I have learned to stop to appreciate the journey. It is not a race to get ‘there’ the fastest. There is so much beauty on either side of our lives that we need to be thankful for. Yes pollen may bring you hayfever but if that’s all you choose to see, that’s all you’ll be ‘enjoying’.

Take one step at a time. There is no other way to arrive than to take it step by step. Place your vision in front of you but you have to focus on taking the next step.

Stop and relax. Yes I am a busy mum/wife/business woman but that doesn’t mean my life has to mirror a roller-coaster ride- which I think may be part of the problem- I love excitement, but it is necessary to stop to recharge, take a breath, and energize myself. Life is what happens when you are busy making plans. I certainly don’t want my life “happening away”.

So as I look forward to the start of a new week, I do so with the knowledge that I will arrive at my destination. All I need to know is what step I’ll be taking tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that…

Have a blessed week, thank you for reading!

 

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.

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!

25 Sep

What’s Poppin this Weekend?

I am so glad it’s Friday. I started loving Fridays years ago. it did not start in boarding house. No, no, no. On the contrary Fridays were hellish for us. We had to “sweep, scrub and mop” everything in preparation for the house inspection on Saturday. Everything got washed and most got stolen after you would have left it out to dry. And woe betide you if your white bed sheet was among the missing. I hate the phrase woe betide you. It is ugly. You can’t even figure out the meaning unless you already knew what it meant. Who ever came up with it even? It brings back memories of little Toks being whooped for not bringing Senior Risi’s plate on time  to the dining hall.

Anyhoo. Back to loving Fridays. I started loving Fridays when I worked for a large Pharmaceutical company. The pay was awesome, plus brand new company car and all but I hated my job. It just wasn’t me. I’m not pretentious and you needed to be in that field. So needless to say I didn’t work hard at all. I worked from home so it was very easy to do a whole day’s work in 2 hours. I was always on edge and worried that my boss would call me anytime to let me know in her lovely Mancunian accent that I wasn’t pulling my weight and I’d be busted. (She sounded remarkably like Daphne Moon from Frasier) She did however make it a rule never to make business calls on the weekend. Plus we were allowed to set aside Fridays to catch up on paperwork. Paperwork that I usually didn’t so much as cast a passing glance at until the wee hours of Monday morning. So my weekends started on Friday. Thursday night to be precise, as I left work early on Thursday to put said paperwork together in preparation for Friday. I loved Wednesdays because it was the end of the week beckoning to me from the distance. Midweek. Who thought I’d make it through? especially with Gwen Ellis, my old thorn-in-the-flesh colleague who was under grand delusions that she was my semi-boss. I wonder if she ever sampled those mood-altering drugs we were supposed to be giving free to Doctors? I bet she did. Gwen broke her ankle once and got her Son to chauffeur her around, she refused to take a sick break. I mean who does that? In England?  By Wednesday the pressure was off (at least for me) and I was pleased to have Thursday around the corner. I loved Tuesdays because it simply wasn’t Monday. That was a good enough reason. Monday? Let’s not even pretend.

Nowadays I’m glad its Friday because the boys will be playing Football on Saturday morning, I’ll have the house to myself (almost) with just my attachment with me. Baby J is my attachment. Hubby insists on referring to him as my growth. I will take my time to get out of bed. I will go to the mall. I will make a tasty dinner but only if I feel like it. Otherwise Ginny will be getting a routine call from me for her special fried rice. I will not raise my voice, choosing instead to clench my fists- hope that works. I will read my new book “Grown-Up Girlfriends” referred to me by dear friend Kennie. I will have a blessed day. It is afterall Saturday, the day that the Lord has made. So I will also rejoice and be glad.

I pray that your day will be blessed, fun-filled and relaxing, just as God meant for it to be. Thank you for reading.

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.

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.

18 Aug

The Greatest Salesmen in the World…

I am convinced are media sales people. Do they go to school to do that laugh-and-talk thing they all do so well? I remember the lovely one in the states that promptly showed up every 4 weeks to take me to the hottest spots in town. We’re talking Buckhead Dinner’s Key lime pie, Houston’s Hawaiian Steak and Justin’s P Diddy’s Fried Shrimp.
The ones here in the UK haven’t started to treat me, perhaps because I don’t take out ads that matter. So far I have been threatened as I ‘verbally signed a verbal contract‘?? A full or half page regularly at the rate of $15,000 (or $150,000) Yes $150,000 for a full page to advertise in O! magazine will buy you regular meals at the best spots in town (and pay the media folk a very large bonus).
The knowledge that companies pay that much to advertise has made my sky that much clearer- still a distance but I know there are people that actually reach it. Like Mrs Steins in NY who has downgraded to a part time gardener, $40,000 salaried Nanny & even canceled 2 of her 3 country club memberships to help cope with the recession.
Someone said aim for the sky, even if you fall you’ll land among stars. I’d like to add that if you do miss the stars on your way down, you’ll still end up with your head above the clouds. If that fails & you’re lucky enough to be overweight you’ll hit earth with a soft cushy bump.

Lord, I ask you to lead me to the rock that is higher than I. You know I’m not greedy, I don’t ask for much. But I’m not wasteful either Lord so I don’t want to waste the blessings you’ve already given me. I want them all so I can also bless those around me who are waiting. I give you all the praise and I receive your blessings. All of them. Today, amen.

www.punkin-patch.com
www.punkinpath.co.uk

No media sales please, thanks.