Our Fallen Iroko Tree…

Chief’s Mona Lisa

I am writing through my tears.

I am writing again through courage

I am writing through my deepest grief … I have lost my father of 83yrs to the ages💔.

God called him home on the feast of our Lady of Sorrows ( the day the Catholic Church celebrates Jesus mother Mary receiving the body of her son from the cross)

I have lost the one whose existence added sauce to my life . Now the world seemed more bland without him.

Dad absolutely giddy at receiving this gift of a T-shirt on his 80th birthday ♥️

DH*and I landed in New Orleans airport on that day that he was called home to God. Even the air seemed to stale and lack spice. It was like being given food without any salt.

Typically, our landing at Louis Armstrong Airport is filled with the anticipation for a wonderful family reunion , with my Dad at the center of all the excitements.

My Dad knew how to take his job as a great fun father and grandfather seriously.

Dallas Texas

We called him “Chief” and he was regal in so many ways even though he was also the most humble human I ever met…

Our family trips to New Orleans were filled with Chief planning this or that, all in an effort to ensure that WE all had the very best times! They were organized bus tours , just because- with his clinic staff as our make shift bus driver lol, nighttime boat cruise on the Mississippi River with all his grandchildren, catered local Cajun cuisine at thanksgiving, tourist tours to visit the alligators in the swamps of New Orleans, big fun parties thrown in their home just to welcome their first grandchild, or parties just in celebration of his family coming home.

Every visit to New Orleans was memorable and filled with JOY! .

New Orleans with grandchildren
Dallas with grandchildren
Washington DC with family
Touring Washington DC with grandchildren
Breakfast in Eziachi Nigeria with grandkids
50th wedding anniversary/80th birthday party celebration in New Orleans
South Africa visit with grandchildren
Capetown South Africa with grandchildren
Twins’ First holy communion St. Louis

Memorial Day vacation with family, Florida may 2022
Visiting him at Downman Urgent Care Clinic- a place he absolutely loved and gave his life’s work as a physician
Owerri with grandkids
With his beloved sons in-law

My Dad was truly the bagpiper , always finding tunes to bring us Joy and we , his children and grandchildren enjoyed dancing to the tunes of the pure joy he brought us.

My Dad seemed to have life’s manual in hand- and he lived to the fullest! My mother now reminisces on how it was not unusual that they are the last ones on any dance floor. I always loved how easy going my father was, he fit nicely into ANY room, and always had the right words and mannerisms at ANY time. If there was a cramped car during our full family gatherings, he would volunteer to be the adult sitting in the back of the minivan with the kids, just so everyone can fit for the ride to church or wherever.

Chief was adventurous and carpe diem*ed) the heck outta life .

Dad and I , New Orleans
Dancing completions you daughter Ginika

At 19 yrs old, he left the comfort and familiarity of his homeland in Nigeria, to land on the American shores after he had been awarded a scholarship geared to attract brilliant African minds to the USA in the 1960s.

He embraced his new land and thrived, becoming a surgeon, marrying his bride from his homeland, becoming a father and grandfather , a cultured man, a philanthropist, an author , a man of God and friend to so many.

Dallas 2021

Now, I find myself waking up each morning to the reality that he is no longer with us in the physical form. The pain is so real in numerous moments of the day, when I reach for my phone to make a call to tell him of this experience or the next, only to be reminded of the rude reality that he is gone.

Mexico with grandchildren

Even if he lived another 100 yrs it will not feel like enough, because he embodied so much Love. However, I also know that he was only a gift from God and has returned to the giver of life. Indeed we are all on borrowed time.

A reminder to make the most of our lives on earth.

The condolences keeps pouring in and I often find myself consoling tears on the other phone line.

So many stories of people whose lives he touched, as a physician, an Uncle, a mentor, a friend etc etc.

Celebrating a surprise birthday gathering for him at his clinic
Mardi Gras New Orleans

Now there are the moments that I now choose to call “God-Win” moments where I am convinced of his reunion with the communion of saints and smiling down on me. I am so grateful that I have so many wonderful “ make you smile” memories of my father. Those are my gifts to hold on to now and I hope to keep these always.

I see him in the legacy of his family , his children and grandchildren. He hasn’t left us completely, because his spirit and legacy are alive in us.

The other day, I had a God win moment as I dropped off one of my twins to football practice ( DH dropped the other twin as we always divide and conquer with this parenting gig)…

Anyways as I watched one of our twin walk away from the car in his football gear looking so grown up , hair flowing and handsome, this thought came to my mind and literally spoke out loud to myself – “Well Dad , there goes YOUR legacy “and that was comforting.

Thanksgiving New Orleans
Mexico

The reality is that OUR big Iroko tree who was our healthy , never sick , never demanding has indeed fallen, and all the cover and protection is lifted and we , his mourners are feeling the lack of shade and comfort that this giant of a man provided us all.

We must now try and readjust to our new reality without his strong protection , along with the wonderful qualities that his life added to give our life more sauce, making life so much more sweeter.

Thankfully I am consoled with the belief and reminder that he is now in the communion of saints and will keep his love and care on us now from heaven – for all eternity.

Even in death he keeps blessing us 🙏🏾♥️

Capetown South Africa

Joining the club of those who have lost a parent is such a hard club to be belong to now. Especially when you had an amazing father like I have had all my life . I am now choosing to mourn him while remembering to honor his legacy in those that I have left .

Pastor TD Jakes talks about “ strengthening what remains”even in losses. I am choosing to do just that one day at a time . My tears will flow and at times stain my face, but I will choose to love all that remains , in the example that my father has given me throughout his life .

In my Igbo custom, I was the reincarnation of my father’s mother and so he called me his “ Mama Janet”. A term that has always been endearing and also allowed me space to share so much humor with him, as I would in our later years teasingly call him “ Odi ishi okpukpu” like his sisters nicknamed him.

Dog lover all his life
Florida with grandchildren
Rollercoaster with grandson at almost 80yrs!
Hanging out with Chief St Louis

I am so grateful that we really shared So much laughter and fun together. Chief inspired so many and in his presence, he had a way of making you feel seen, like YOU mattered.

Thank you Dad for always SEEING me I will forever be grateful for your love ❤️

Poet and philosopher Kahlil Gibran says, “To live in the hearts of others is not to die”.

Rest in God Chief Omenka, my dearest father🙏🏾♥️

New Orleans La
Lagos , Nigeria
APA conference with his best friend/brother in Law, Atlanta Georgia.
Our wedding 2005
My father daughter dance at our wedding
Seregenti, Tanzania
With his son, Nigeria.
Buffalo, New York
Tree house, St Louis
St Louis MO
Enjoying simple things in life like this ice cream cone on the beaches of Anna Maria island
Adieu Chief Omenka🙏🏾♥️

(*DH =Darling husband)

(*carpe diem is Latin for seize the day )

Long live the Queen !( In our hearts)♥️

Photo credit: Jonathan Brady/AP

Today is one of those days that we will remember for the rest of our lives… The day that Queen Elizabeth II was lost to the ages.

What were you doing when you heard the news?

It’s a news that we knew was inevitable but still it stings us with surprise and sadness.

I mean she was the longest reigning monarchy! 70 yrs of rule🙌🏽 and yet that doesn’t seem quite enough.

Most of us have known her as Queen of the commonwealth for all of our lives.

It just feels weird to have that reality be different now.

Again , we are reminded of the seasons of change , for change is the only thing constant about life.

Change always happens.

Truth is Queen Elizabeth was beloved by so many!

My dear friends and I are even more grateful that we made our first trip to the London Buckingham Palace during our spring break circa 2002. I am also grateful that DH* and I visited again during our very first international trip as a couple

Queen Elizabeth embodied courage and loyalty which are human characteristics that inspire us .

So where were you when you heard the news today?

My kids heard it during the 6th period at school today.

I heard the news of her passing while I chatted on the phone with my MIL ( Mother in law) during my after school activities mom taxi runs😅

My MIL and I connected (yet again ) on our common admiration of this queen of many decades. My MIL is really is our local STL Queen with her many wonderful qualities ♥️

Truth is that, we need Queens in our lives , people who inspire us to be courageous, graceful, have impeccable taste in clothing and jewelry , loyal and above all , LOVING.

Queens with those qualities bring HOPE to humanity, no matter the seasons of our lives.

I am grateful for all the Queens in my life.

Rest in glory your royal highness 🙏🏾 Queen Elizabeth II.

As always, thank you for visiting and reading my blog and of course I welcome your comments and any shared experiences .

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(*DH Darling husband)

Seasons of Change💕

Have you ever heard the saying “ it smells like rain?”

I always wondered what exactly “it” smells like? Those who say that they can smell the incoming rain usually state it with some confidence in their knowing.

Typically they don’t give a precise description of the smell of incoming rain except to say “yup! It sure smells like rain”

It would be nice if the storms of our lives came with warnings in the form of a fragrance or perhaps an alarm. This will help us prepare for the changes of new season in our lives.

Not every change of season is to be feared. Some changes of season are welcomed for the endings that they bring and the new beginnings they usher in.

In life, change is inevitable. A wise man once said that the only thing constant about life is change.

Nonetheless change can be hard. We are creatures of habit and we thrive on predictability.

While we are always undergoing changes , some changes of seasons are more impactful than others.

Going through changes in our lives and the lives of those we love can be OH So bitter sweet.

There are joys in the new seasons but there are also challenges and hardships with having to make ANY change.

As the fall winds begin to enter the Midwest American atmosphere, I too notice the changes in my own life.

I am watching my young children become teenagers who are now sparing with their hugs from time to time. Distant are the days of their toddler selves , physically clinging on to my arms ( and even legs) for security.

Their growth is beautiful to see, but they are also growing into their own independent lives.

In addition, I am also watching my dear parents, now grandparents beginning to age and need more care.

Spending the past week with my parents in New Orleans, was a stark reminder of these winds of change.

Is this what they mean by the “sandwich generation”?

My family, parents and my parents in law at our twins’ holy communion celebration.

I don’t know what the new season of life will bring however I am hopeful. Hopeful that I am equipped with all the grace I need to triumph through this season of change.

Gratefully, I don’t walk this path of change alone, and will not take for granted, the many loved ones I have , on this journey of life .

All of your support have been highlighting the blessings of God in this season of change.

As always, thank you for reading my blog and of course I welcome your comments and any shared experiences .

Have you had to care for your aging parents while raising your own children? Do you have any advice for managing these sandwich generation years?

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Lost and Found on Trail

As many of you may know by now, our family loves to travel and explore!

This summer, DH planned another amazing adventure for us that took us on an exploration of the pacific north west of the continental USA.

DH is especially well traveled so any opportunity to get to see a new place for the first time together is a real treat! He also happens to be a fantastic travel planner and takes the credit for our many family travel adventures.

Feel free to read about our adventures in Africa climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and summiting exactly on our twins boys tenth birthday, which allowed them to hold the world record for the youngest To officially Summit Mount Kilimanjaro! What a gift 💕

https://mindmuse.blog/2019/06/17/embarking-on-kilimanjaro/

Okay back to this summers travel.. we landed in Portland Oregon and drove straight to the trail heads of Maultnomah falls. As I’m grabbing my camera to hit the trail ,I realized that I had forgotten to pack my hiking or running shoes!! Oyiee 🥴Luckily I was able to borrow some from my family and off we went!

Pearl #1: pack for your vacation ahead of time, considering specific activities ,so that you can bring appropriate gear. Just open your luggage and keep throwing in stuff you’llneed, at least a week before your trip.

Maultnomah falls views was breathtaking! I promise it looks way better in reality than the still pictures you see hanging in hotel rooms etc. There are other hikes around the Maultnomah falls such as Bridal veil trail which was also totally worth the short hike. We did this hike first which ended in a lovely water fall and a beautiful creek that our kids enjoyed exploring.

We took a break to get some pictures on the bridge alongside numerous other tourists . It was close to 6 pm when we began the 2.6 mile moderately challenging hike up Maultnomah falls ( 823ft, 11 switchbacks, pretty steep ) while the sun was still very high in the sky .

Needless to say the nearly vertical hike up was challenging but doable , switchback after switchback we climbed. Meanwhile scattered all around us were glorious views. The sky was beautiful and warm as the sun cast gorgeous shadows and lines on everything in its’path.

I will only give you the following pertinent details about our hike up. Having almost four teenagers they were basically running up the climb thanks to their athleticism.

They took turns hiking in pairs, while at times the youngest daughter was leading the hike. On family hikes, I tend to bring in the cabiose often. Perhaps because I enjoy admiring all of my family from behind their strides as I count my blessings for each of them. Ofcourse it could also be my shear laziness or that I have diminutive athleticism compared to my children’s young blood and DH’s strong chiseled muscles 🤪

The hike was demanding and I kept pushing back placing one foot infront the other, as I counted my switchbacks to the top.

Suddenly the terrain flattened and allowed me some breathing space to reset my mind and focus inwardly. Just as soon as a prayer of gratitude came to my heart, I also added a prayer of protection for all of us on the hike.

With the space created, I was more intentional and realized that by now DH has slowed his pace to wait on our youngest who has started to dwadle perhaps frustrated this hike was much longer than we all had expected😏

Then I stopped to take a sitting rest while I waited for DH and our youngest to catch up. A few mins later DH was there and we exchanged “trail greetings”, that’s when he noticed there was a fork in the road right at the spot I had decided to stop.

Pearl #2: Keep an eye out for trail signs!

He told me he wanted to wait there for our youngest to make certain she took the right path at the crossroads . At that exact moment , my mind flashed to the three oldest ahead! I wondered if they all stayed close together? Did one of them lag behind and missed the fork on the road? My mind was beginning to race with anxious thoughts now .. the devil is such a liar! I literally JUST found my calming space on the hike and there I am now about to freak out!

I began bolting down the path running as fast as I could to our children,while I called out their names loudly. I don’t know how long I ran on that path before I heard two of them respond to my calling “ We’re here at the River mom!” The River was the end of the hike up , the top of the waterfall which was our destination before we turn around and head back down.

Phew! My mind was about to start to relax but not until I asked if they were ALL three together? They answered affirmatively for two but stated that their brother was trailing behind them…. Oh shoot🤬

Pearl #3: Don’t hike alone , bring water, have time piece etc etc

I didn’t even remember if I eye balled them before I quickly made a U turn and headed back UP the path to find my missing twin.

I passed DH who has stayed at the fork waiting to make sure our youngest didn’t do what I now feared her brother had done.

We agreed to reunite after I found our son and off I headed without even thinking .

Technically DH was a more seasoned hiker than myself , and if anything I should have let him go on the search himself. He likely maybe more efficient but my momma’s heart would not let anyone else do this job other than myself… I HAD to go find my son!

Besides I couldn’t manage the angst of waiting for the search to be completed.

I was off running with so much adrenaline than I imagined possible in my tired body . My legs just kept moving while my mind raced and raced… it must be a mother’s worst nightmare , the fear of harm befalling her offspring.

My mind flashed to all the horror movies where children are kidnapped on lonely trails and never seen again.

Then the waterworks came flooding my eyes, my tearfulness kept getting interrupted by my thoughts which challenged me to HAVE FAITH.

I didn’t want to be lean into my crying because it somehow meant that I was accepting the possibility that my child was in fact lost on the trail.

I prayed , I bargained with God then I blamed myself for having agreed to go on this adventurous hike. I mean those views were NOT worth loosing my son!

I was now hiking down that notorious fork in the road . I even warned some hikers on the path to watch for the fork and take the correct path to lead to the river , which was the infamous top of the amazing Mount Maultnomah.

The path got more and more quiet and isolated. I was no longer seeing any hikers and I was panicking as I was left to only my own thoughts. It all seemed like eternity , as I prayed my son to come back to me.

Then I saw a couple who were hiking from what seemed to be a completely opposite direction on the path.they were coming from the direction I was headed in search of my son.

I asked them in between breaths if they have seen a young boy as I described my son to the couple. They both shook their heads and THEN said the most dreadful utterances , that they had been hiking for almost 20 mins and hadn’t ran into anyone on the hike.

I almost lost it ! 😱

Do I keep going in search of my son? We hadn’t lost site of him THAT long, had we?Do I go back and inform DH that I hadn’t succeeded on my quest to find our son yet?

My head was spinning at this time and I could hardly focus on any one thought..

I believed the couple but I also didn’t want to believe them . I was now at my own crossroads, then my panic REALLY set in.

Confused I started to head back for more help and just as soon as I turned a switch back that led me facing back the path I had originally gone looking for my 13 yr old teenage baby, I saw him calling out to me.. Mom!!

In a flash we both were speeding towards each other , mostly in silence , and then my tears really gushed out like a heavy release as I embraced him with all my might.

The couple watched our reunion with some puzzled look that there was a boy indeed on the trail after-all ,but I could hardly notice anything other than my son at this point.

We didn’t have many questions for one another , we were just so darn happy to be reunited! He told me how sacred he had been when he realized he was all alone on the path without coming across anyone . I tried not to imagine him so lonely on a path.

Gratitude filled my heart for God’s protection on my son. He may have been physically alone on that path, but I know God was right there on the path WITH him!

We hiked back to reunite with the rest of the family and the hike back ALL together , was the sweetest. This time, I hiked again in admiration of my independent little humans , but now I hiked with two kids in front, and two kids behind while DH brought the caboose.

There were many more family hikes on that trip as we discovered the gorgeous pacific north west coast of the continental USA together , BUT we did it TOGETHER💕

Have you ever thought you lost a child in your care ? Do you cry at joyous reunions?

May God always go with us on all our life trails!

As always, thank you for reading my blog and of course I welcome your comments and any shared experiences .

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Football Nail clipping

Our 13 yr old twins now play football!

Yes “American “ football! …Complete with tackles and hits😳

The interest began last fall at the invitation of the football coach after they participated in the school’s summer football camp.

I reluctantly agreed while swallowing my nervousness about my own fears of them getting hurt, since football seemed to me like such a physical sport😏.

I mean you have people literally charging FULL throttle and throwing their bodies FULL on at one another , in quest of this brown and white oblong shaped object ,prized on the football fields.

I conceded and they have played and loved every minute especially all the way to winning the championship game last year!

Of course once they tasted a winning team , naturally they wanted to continue playing football this year.

So we signed them up.

More 7th grade boys apparently felt the same and the team has now amassed so many new members this school year.

Some whose parents could no longer resist their young boys’ pleas to let them play. They too threw up their white flags and braced themselves for the football rides.

The excitement for the football team at school has been building all summer !

Football practices began and our boys have been playing daily since the latter part of summer break and are still loving this crazy physical sport … their football passion is honestly competing with their long term ice hockey commitment.

We’ll see…

Finally this morning was the day of the football jamboree!! It’s the official unofficial first games of the season.

So this morning we woke up early and I drove with our boys all the way down to Washington Missouri for their first football jamboree while DH managed the score boards at our youngest daughter’s ice hockey game in town.

We really have to divide and conquer with our busy family schedule😅

My muse for this blog post was really what occurred as soon as I announced to our sleepy sons who had fallen asleep on the ride that we had reached our destination for the jamboree about an hour after we set out for Washington Missouri.

As they got out of the car and began to gather their protective chest pads and helmets, I noticed one of them grab a nail clipper he brought along with him and started to trim his nails.

Since we were in a hurry, I offered to help him to speed us along.

While I trimmed A’s nails as we both stood in the parking lot facing the car’s open trunk, I was moved by his reasons for needing to trim his nails right before the football jamboree.

A said he wanted to make sure he didn’t scratch anyone with his nails during the games. A beaming smile came across my face as I was grateful for this child’s caring heart!♥️

Even though he was about to go out on that field to make tackles and hits (or whatever other physical tactics is involved in this game of football that I am still a learning novice at , lol), …..his good natured self wanted to make sure his nails did not accidentally hurt other players?

There in that parking lot, dressed in all that football padded and almost taller than me now, he was still my baby !

He was letting me help trim his nails, which for he and I , was one of our bonding activities for so many years until his preteen self felt that he had “ outgrown” needing his mother’s help with nail clippers.

I loved helping him trim his nails and I absolutely love his caring heart!

They both had a great time on the field and I cheered excitedly for good plays and winced when players got sacked 😳

I prayed for protection for ALL the babies turned preteens and teens out there on the fields and ice rinks or whatever other sports folks are playing.

And Yup! We’re still playing American football 🏈 🤷🏽‍♀️🙌🏽🙏🏾🥰 and loving it!

Do you have any special bonding traditions with your loved ones?

Feel free to share if you’d like, and if you don’t have any, it is never too late to start some 😍

As always, thank you for reading my blog and of course I welcome your comments and any shared experiences . Please feel free to also “follow” by clicking the follow icon, so you can get notifications on future blog posts and not miss out !💕

*DH ( darling husband)