Enchanted Japan💕

On our recent trip to Japan , DH described this country as enchanted, and I couldn’t have agreed more. Except for a brief layover in an airport in Osaka many many years ago, while our way to Bali for our honeymoon, we had never visited Japan.

Therefore when our 7 th graders had an opportunity for a spring break Apoogee ** school trip that could include parents, we were being excited to sign up to travel with them.

First we had to figure out the affordability for our family of six as well as the logistics of tagging along with our twins boys, but this 15 hrs trip made sense for our family for so many reasons!

We also have our amazing niece/god daughter who has been living in Tokyo whom we’ve talked about wanting to visit for soo long now . I’m addition, we as a family had also entertained the idea of hiking Mount Fuji.. I mean why stop at just Mount Kilimanjaro right?😉

Upon landing in Haneida airport in Tokyo , we meet up with our lovely family friends who were traveling on a similar itinerary as us, their young son also traveling with the Ladue Apogee class trip. The first things I observed was how efficiently we moved through customs, picked up our luggage and off we were, trying to navigate the JR train system all on our own. Travel instructions were mostly in Japanese writing (Konchi), and while there were signs in English, they seemed to be in the minority, so you had to pay very close attention reading maps /signs or you missed out.

This idea of needing to pay attention is not uncommon when you travel to a new place, but somehow with the very fast pace of Tokyo’s busy metropolitan’s city with its countless trains, bullet trains,subways, buses running so efficiently on a tight time schedule ~we really needed to pay attention or risk getting lost on this huge city of close to 30 million people.

DH and our daughters 💕💕

I literally give my DH, all the travel credit , on this trip as usual , he had done so much research and pre planning to ensure that our ten days of traveling through Japan was smooth as possible. Our daughters and I had the best time exploring foods ( thanks to recs from our niece/god daughter guide extraordinaire who was quiet fluent in Japanese already), there were cousins and friend times, lots of matcha flavored ice cream and drinks, local snacks from seven eleven on every corner, and we even found Starbucks and McDonald’s there too !

We traveled in mid/late March, with a stroke of good fortune and fate , found ourselves right on the middle of the blooming of the beautiful cherry blossom season! Okay, that was just pure lucky as we could not have planned THAT!

Adaeze and others admiring the cherry blossoms
Philosopher’s path in Kyoto

DH , our two daughters and myself travelled together , while our twin sons travelled and explored with their class travel group . There trip was organized by a tour company EFJ, that included a well planned itinerary , lodging and accommodations as well as a local Japanese guide. We would meet up with their travel group ecru once in a while for dinner or to visit a temple together or just for a hug and a picture! This felt bold,to give our 13 yr old sons’s independence in another country,while being just a text or call away. The teachers and parents that travelled and stayed with the group were all so wonderful, keeping us in the loop as much as possible , amidst wifi woes at times lol.

Twin A waiting for the bullet train
Early morning bike ride on the Philosopher’s path in Kyoto
Me and our Twins 💕💕

We visited several cities in Japan , mostly following along our sons’ itineraries while improvising our own plans here and there. There was A LOT of walking so make sure to pack comfortable shoes . We stayed at nearby ArNBs and hotels except for one night that we shared the same hotel as our sons in the town of Kawaguchi while visiting Mount Fuji.

Experiencing the beauty of this country is incredible, from the intimidating snow capped mountains of Fuji to the beautiful island of Mayijima with its floating Torrin temple gates, numerous beautiful temples and shrines,and the in between cities of Kyoto with its classy charm, the sophistication of Tokyo with its art museums and sharply dressed women and “salaried men” to the sobering city of Hiroshima – Japan had it all to offer an inquisitive tourist!

Beyond the beautiful landscapes of this country, I believe I was intrigued the most by its people and culture. I had SO many questions.. how do they manage to keep the peace around them ? Is this really a NO gun society ?wow! Everyone seemed to simultaneously mind their own business while also showing respect to eachother! How are there hardly any trash cans and yet the streets and the train stations were SO clean?!, where were their homeless population? And how is everyone seem to be so nicely dressed, appearing to have purpose with something to do/ somewhere to go?, how are they so quiet on massively crowded buses and trains? Why do you not even smell people standing so close to you, armpits raised to hold on to poles for stability on those crowed moving trains?

I also wondered a lot about how efficient the Japanese technology appeared to be, warm toilet seats, with badoe , even in public places?!😳, bathroom so compact and efficient , random anti fog mirrors in hotel bathrooms( this was such a champion!, I mean who really wants to get out of shower , only to view their reflection in a cloudy mirror? Yes sometimes those bathroom fans just don’t cut it I’m sorry lol.

I also noticed that while I still needed to pay attention in order not to miss bullet trains which ran so precisely on time, by the seconds even! As the days went on, I became even more and more relaxed .

I was not worried about my safety in Japan. Our brilliant god daughter’s apt explanation that Japan allows for creative thinking because your fight or flight nervous system is not always activated, trying to ensure your safety. This felt absolutely true to me, it was much easier to be in the present in the moments, here in Japan.

Ultimately, this turned out to be a trip of a lifetime. I keep telling my DH that he really has a natural calling to travel planning if he ever gets tired of being a shrink lol

In all seriousness , I would love to return to Japan again very soon, not only for the amazing foods, sights and shopping. I would return for the peace and tranquility of this place. Amidst the bustling cities, visiting beautiful temples tucked in along lovely hikes and trials provided me with much needed quiet.

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

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** DH ( darling husband)

**Apogee ( gifted class name at Ladue Middle School)

Hope in Ballots

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Hope is the engine for tomorrow.

Hope allows us to create visions for our future.

On Feb 25th 2023, my home country Nigeria , the giant of Africa, held elections to determine its’ future.

This was the most anticipated election of our time, as millions had their hopes for a better future hanging in the balance.

The youth poured into the streets , to those voting polls to cast their hopes for their future into ballots.

The older generation also went to have their voices count , in the form of votes.

There were MANY deterrents that day, such as long lines that took some literally all day to vote, rain that interrupted these lines, dust storms that choose to dance and scatter INEC polling stations, sun and heat that made voters question their resolve to continue to wait in the hot sun.

Through it all, Nigerians waited patiently to cast their votes. Many were voting for the first time in their lives. Some who had started in the lines early that morning with the sunrise , could not cast their votes until the sun was down from the sky.

Finally the votes were cast. The ballots were collected , and we waited.

Nigerians at home and those in the diaspora, waited on pins and needles for the election results.

Then the silence was deafening. Days after such a hugely anticipated election, and no results ??

I was in Mexico with my American in laws and they would ask me “ any news from Nigeria?”, and I had nothing . Crickets.

This was unusual and very much unlike American elections where projections are typically displayed on TV, literally at all hours following elections.

But this was different..

I too waited , then I called family at home in Nigeria .. they too had nothing .

We were ALL waiting.

Then on March 1st, while people were asleep , the INEC * reported a winner, shocking the whole world.

This was NOT what the youth of Nigeria expected. To have their hopes dashed by reports of corruption and inappropriate handling of election ballots. To hear of many cases of election interference in the forms of violence at election polls, voter intimidation , mismanagement of the ballot counting with faulty machines that could not “ upload” election results and outright election fraud.

This was NOT what we had hoped for as we anticipated and dreamed of a new Nigeria, all those months ago.

Those ballots promised us of a new Nigeria, one with less corruption.

Now those ballots threatened to take away HOPE from us and for our future generations.

We will not let it. We must hang on , even if with the tips of our fingernails to hope for Justice.

Hope now for Justice to challenge the recent electoral process.

Now more than ever , we need HOPE for our beloved country Nigeria!

I will continue to HOPE

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

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***Independent National Election commission.

Duckie Drama

We have an adventurous family with lots of travel interest.

White water rafting on the salmon river in the wilderness of Idaho during the hot summer month of July 2021.

This was during the pandemic and a 5 days river trip vacation seemed like a reasonable idea.

You see we had had a great time floating down the Colorado river the previous summer with our extended family, so this time we invited several family friends to float down the Idaho salmon river with us.

Our traveling crew consisted of at least 6 different families , some were life long friends while others just met for the first time the morning we set out on our on River trip. Everyone was wonderful.

In fact there are so many stories to tell you about this trip however I will focus on one particular floating day .

We had river guides who were truly shepherding us and keeping us safe while we enjoyed the adventures on the river.

There was an inflatable raft called the “ Duckie” that was an option for any takers to raft down the river . I asked DH if he would ride with me and he gladly accepted ( ofcourse not before making sure that no other takers who wanted a turn to float down on this particular Duckie)

Our kids stayed on more sturdy rafts with family friends and were having a blast . Some of the moms were either on other rafts or on the bigger boat calmly enjoying the warm breeze and nature with a cold beverage…. Smart😉

I choose more adventure ,so off DH and I went on this “Duckie” . I sat in the front providing the “ power” while DH was behind steering us in the direction we needed to travel . I had a lot of laughter and squeals as I enjoyed riding the waves while DH seemed to be enjoying hitting rapids that produced even more laughter and squeals from me.

Then I started to overhear the guides talking about needing to stop to “regroup “ before the last rapid before we get to camp for the night . The head guide was giving instructions to the order guides who were rating the order boats.

I started to feel a bubble of worry rising within me as I observed them “plotting“ from our Duckie. So I asked the female guide what they were “plotting “ but her only response was “ it’ll be fun” with a coy smile and a shoulder shrug that I immediately interpreted as a way to calm my nerves.

So I sat back focusing on my rowing to provide the power for our raft while encouraging , okay maybe warning him, DH to steer us safely.

The Duckie

On white water rafting trips, the thing is you can hear the rumbles of the rapids before you even see them, so the suspense is real and palpable!

The guides had given us very specific instructions before that last rapid to avoid the left side at a particular point “ no matter what”.

Apparently that spot on the river has a “ hole “ that people can literally get sucked under into a vortex that seems like a washing machine cycle that is hard to escape from.

So off we go with DH maneuvering our way through the rapids . At the start I felt DH and I working well together and I clearly was trusting him with my life in those moments more than ever .Oh , did I mention that I am not a strong swimmer? Like at all!

Things seemed to be going well until BOOM! … I feel myself get knocked off the Duckie from the side and I went under the water for what felt like A LONG QUIET EERIE TIME.

I popped up again briefly again only to be hit in the head by the same Duckie. That was actually my saving grace as I grabbed on for dear life while my feet dangled in the rushing water.

Let me back up a sec to say that I actually began praying in my mind once I felt me worrying about the upcoming rapid as I was observing the guide prepping.

Psalm 23 was on my mind and I thought about God’s protection of us as we go through “ raging waters”. Those rapids definitely were raging waters😏

God had allowed me to hold on to that Duckie and then I realized too that DH had managed to stay on the Duckie the whole time. This was a double lucky blessing 1) DH was safe 2) DH was able to continue steering the Duckie so I just had to keep holding on to it since I was no strong swimmer.

Truth is I somehow managed to stay calm throughout the raft accident.

I believe it was purely the Holy Spirit that accompanied and encouraged me in those moments when I was under water or struggling to get a hold of that Duckie.

Ofcourse our Duckie accident caused some panic with our children and friends watching as all of this took place. I had lost a water shoe in all the chaos but can you believe one of the other boaters somehow found my shoe and we reunited post Duckie drama.

Shortly after the ordeal we made it to camp for the night and I was mostly quiet and reflective., probably still in shock from all that had transpired.

Nonetheless , the hugs with my children, DH and time spent at camp friends somehow held more value that evening because being alive felt like SUCH a gift!

Have you had a time when you felt you were close to loosing your life? What thoughts did your mind entertain?

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

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Giving thanks in every season💕

In every season give thanks – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

This season of my life has been hard.

I have been challenged by loss and grief.

Waking up to my First thanksgiving without my father physically present on earth is TOUGH!

To say I miss you is such an understatement 💔

Arrival hugs the day before thanksgiving day 2021

I no longer have the casual opportunity to physically express my gratitude to him with my words, a hug,a plate of yummy thanksgiving cooking, or jocular conversations shared on a thanksgiving morning family walk on the trail to Stacy Parks.

Arrival hugs the day before thanksgiving day 2021
Thanksgiving day family walk 2021
Thanksgiving day 2021

My thoughts wonder deeply into an existential plane… What does your view from heaven look like now? Are you gathered in heaven with your parents and other family members enjoying great laughs with the communion of saints? Is food even a thing in heaven?

Now your image mostly exists in my mind and my heart. Your eyes always so full of love and I only imagine that this love is intensified from heaven now .

Therefore your love goes on.. even in death.

I am choosing to give thanks to God for this love and all the manifestations of that love in my life .

You see , because my Dad loved so freely, he also accepted and gave so freely this love.

My dad’s love and acceptance of my DH , despite our cultural differences, while some Naija parents would have given a side eye to an interracial marriage and therefore blocked blessings – he did not, and not only welcomed my DH with open arms but supported our union true and true.

Thanksgiving day 2021

This gift of love and acceptance has therefore abounded exponentially in my life in so many angles.

Kids table Thanksgiving Day 2021

Wherever I look I can see the manifestation of love in my life .

I see it in you my DH, I see it in my children, I see in my mother and siblings, I see it in my wonderful Oma and Opa and extended family and in laws, I see it in my Dedes and my Dadas, I see it in my cousins and their children, i see it in my dog Teddy, I see it in my sweet friends , I see it in my HOLLA group, I see it in my WOW group , I see it in my work and the ability to provide mental health services to those in need, I see it in the opportunity to be living in a beautiful country with my roots extended from the great continent of Africa.

Hanging out on thanksgiving day 2021

I see it in you ,my readers and I am grateful.

So yes, it’s a bittersweet thanksgiving , however I can still see so clearly the many reasons to give thanks.

I hope that you can look around you and your own unique circumstances and see reasons to be THANKFUL♥️🙏🏾

❤️

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

Click on the “follow” icon, so you can get notifications on future blog posts via email and not miss out !💕

*DH ( darling husband)

*Dedes( Uncles ) Dadas(Aunties)

GOD(WIN) MOMENTS 🙏🏾♥️

It’s been one month and 8 days since I lost my earthily father Godwin Chukwuma Ogbuokiri . It feels like it had been a time warp characterizing both the longest and the shortest time period in my life.

Carving my Dad’s name into the rocks during our family hike through the Narrows at Zion National Park this weekend ♥️

The truth is most days I still cry from missing my Dad. I have since returned to practicing child and adult psychiatry, and ofcourse my job is centered on improving others’ mental wellbeing.

There are days my passion to help others fortifies me in those moments that I sit across from my ailing patients.

Then there days that I find others’ sadness and loss impacting mine – like hitting a healing scab and causing it to hurt perhaps even causing it to bleed all over again.

The truth is it’s not just in my practice that I am reminded of my loss , it ‘s literally everywhere!

Something happy happens and I immediately think “ oh I can’t wait to call and tell Dad”.

With GrandBaby♥️
Wearing the Chosen “People Must Know” sweatshirt ♥️
Wearing the Chosen “ People Must Know” sweatshirt ♥️

I get a condolence call from a less than familiar family friend , then I wish I could call my Dad to give me more context on that relationship, who’s that “ uncle “ again? Where do they live etc etc.

I am not sure whether these moments of longing to have conversations with my Dad will diminish with time or not , I just know that they take me by surprise and shock me right back into my reality- the one where I have lost my precious Dad to the ages💔

There have been comforting moments too , these moments that I am choosing to call “GOD (WIN) moments”.

These bring a loving thought , or a humorous memory to mind that automatically spreads a smile across my lips.

In those moments , not only am I reminded that he lived and loved us fully, but that his spirit is now with God and guiding us forevermore.

Some of these GOD(WIN) moments may feel like mere coincidences, however because I believe in the communion of saints – I know better.

Interestingly, whenever I experience a GOD(WIN) moment , I try to stamp it in reality by taking a picture, or having a conversation about it in real time with those around me. This helps me acknowledge what I am experiencing in real time and give it some level of validation.

You may be wondering what exactly are some of these GOD(WIN) moments? Well I will share a few…

The first time I had a real assurance that my Dad crossed over to paradise , occurred the morning after his death. DH * and I had changed our original travel plans and instead made a trip on that fateful Thursday to New Orleans- part of our plan to spend our wedding anniversary with my parents .

DH * made reservations at a hotel with a balcony in the New Orleans French quarters , which meant music poured out of the streets. At first our arrival into this business as usual part of town felt awkward… I had just lost my most precious father and life seemed to be moving on, as if the strangers on bourbon street were so clueless to my biggest loss.

We arrived back to our hotel after visiting my mother and siblings at the extended stay place where my Dad spent his last 10 days post discharge recovering , or at least so we thought, until he went for a routine PCP visit , had to be called back frantically to return to the ER for a ridiculously elevated white count, ended up in the ER, finally gets admitted, only to aspirate , get transferred to the ICU where he continued the fight for his life for almost 6 hrs before he gave up his spirit at around 9:15 am on 9.15.22.

If there ever was a good day to die , I suppose this might be it.

That day also happened to be the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows day. Significant for the Catholic feast day celebrating when Mary received the body of her son Jesus from the cross.

I just wasn’t quite ready to loose my wonderful father. However I was grateful that our Lady will also bring home my Dad to heaven on her feast day🙏🏾.

Recently discovering my very first statue of Our Lady of Sorrows in my bag MONTHS after I purchased it while on last summer’s vacation.

Dad didn’t wait for DH * and I to get to New Orleans.

Anyways, as DH * and I tried to settle in that first night on New Orleans , I heard a knock on the door . I exhaustedly wondered who could be knocking this late at night.?

Too tired to bother, I fell asleep exhausted in my day clothes ( a very unusual thing for me to sleep in my day clothes)

The music outside the balcony had eventually stopped close to midnight and did not start up again until the next morning.

As I peered my eyes open to the world and the new day, my thoughts wondered which reality I was waking up into, the one where I still had my lovely Dad or the one where I was now fatherless? 💔

Just on cue, one of my favorite songs came on loud over the street speakers. The song is called “ what’s up ? , by 4 non blonds”

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6NXnxTNIWkc

Still laying on that bed , I began to tear up again.

Then there was this feeling of nostalgia – reminding me of my childhood days in my patriarchal home in Aba- Nigeria where I grew up on Hospital Road .

In that house, situated in a busy African street, early morning vendors greeted the new day with their loud music, as they opened their stores with songs like “ Good morning Jesus, good morning Lord”🎤

I immediately had this feeling that my Dad’s spirit was sending me reminders of my childhood days.

I cried some more.

Still laying in bed in my pool of tears , I Immediately began telling my DH * about this nostalgic feeling about my Aba home.

As I spoke , I saw DH have a puzzled look on his face , and asked me if I heard a knock on the door, before I could answer he opens the hotel door , looks up and down both hallways- no one!

Hmm”, he exclaims and returns to sit next to me in bed.

Then as if on cue again , one of the all time love songs Celine Dion’s “ My heart will go on” from the Titanic begins to blare over those street speakers – near and far where you are , I believe that the heart does go on…🎤DH and I look at each other and in that instant it was clear , these specifically chosen songs were not just coincidental , Dad was giving us a message!

That song was very dear to my DH *for an entirely different reason …

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3gK_2XdjOdY

I knew in that instant that my “ rascal Angel Dad“ just made it into heaven!!! He likely just rejoiced with Saint Peter who opened the gates of heaven to him, met up with his favorite saint St Rita , and his music loving self just found out where Heaven’s radio station was and was already requesting specific broadcasts for us to give us comfort, reassurance and yes a healthy dose of missing you tears.

Those early morning tears were cleansing. For me, they were a reminder of the communion of saints, a corridor open to believers, reassuring us that our blessed loved ones can still love on us from beyond this life.

There has been numerous other GOD(WIN)

Incidentally, my sister and her husband also had a lovely message sent to them once they landed in New Orleans on that same day that our Dad crossed into eternity.

Coincidentally found my Dad’s hat in our ole mini van on the way to the airport to go hike the narrows this weekend

Wearing Dad’s “EST 1939” hat in his honor

Theirs was in the form of an evangelical Uber driver who provided them support on their ride from the airport .

That evening , they told us the story of the stranger who not only was their Uber driver but also a gospel musician , complete with a record deal signed by an even more famous gospel musician , who coincidentally plays concerts in Nigeria of ALL places , oh and by the way lives an hour away from New Orleans but just enjoys driving Uber in Nawlins in order to meet people…. Coincidence ? Or a GOD(WIN) moment? …. You get to decide!

I am choosing to keep my spirit enlightened by the HOLY SPIRIT to receive ALL that God is sending my way these days , especially in my time of grief and sorrow .

My brother’s revolving picture coincidentally stuck on this pic of Dad for most of the morning one day 🙏🏾♥️

This weekend we were led to leave the hustle behind and hike almost 20 miles with our children through the Canyons of the Narrows at Zion National Park.

My legs may be exhausted but my spirit of adventure and tenacity is refueled!

DH and I hiking the narrows a second time , this time with our Four Loves💕

God knows what my soul needs and I am grateful he is feeding my soul to bring me healing and strength 🙏🏾

On this trip , we also got to see the Michael Jackson ONE show as a reward after our long hike !

Seeing Michael Jackson One Show in Vegas♥️
Seeing Michael Jackson One Show in Vegas

Finally, there was also one more special coincidence this weekend that allowed for an unexpected reunion with dear friends from my high school , who happened to be in Las Vegas this weekend and seeing and hugging them brought my heart JOY.

I grew up in Aba with this dear friend💕
Meeting our Nigerian/Canadian friends
Hiking and camping at the narrows with my loves 💕
Hiking and camping the Narrows with my loves

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

Click on the “follow” icon, so you can get notifications on future blog posts via email and not miss out !💕

*DH ( darling husband)

Hiking the Narrows – fall break 2022