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

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 .

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

Alaska Calling

“ A girl like you should see the mountains” – those were the words he said to me while on our long telephone conversation .

You see we had just starting dating ,after our chance meeting at Ohare airport but we were separated by distance for the next several months until graduation. He was doing a sub internship in Alaska and I remained at my school in St Louis.

Not withstanding our busy schedules and the time zone differences, we made time for our evening long distance phone calls. This was before the days of cellular phones popularity , and he had let me borrow his bright green telephone with the longest rippled cords I had ever seen . The long cord allowed me flexibility to be able to walk around my townhouse while we chatted the night away.

We conversed about any and everything! This is one of the beauties of a new relationship. Each conversation is magical and everything is so brand new and intriguing. It’s a wonder we both were able to keep up with our personal daily obligations!

It was also during the Lenten season and as Catholics, it is commonplace to choose “ a Lenten obligation “- that year I decided on the challenge to say my rosary nightly. This was a complicated by my more natural inclination and enthusiasm to converse with my favorite human nightly .

I had shared my Lenten quest with him , and he decided he’d join me in praying the rosary nightly. I didn’t quite expect this , although I wholeheartedly welcomed his offer to join my nightly prayers.

Praying the rosary (a beautiful meditative prayer by the way, typically takes about twenty mins and is filled with many spiritual rewards . Most nights , we started strong and finished together.

However, there were also nights that my tired self was lured to sleep with the repetitious prayers, only to be awakened by the louder voice on the other end, announcing that “ we “ were done praying the rosary and it was indeed bedtime. You mean, you just let me “ finish “ the rosary and hopefully getting some credit for keeping “my” Lenten obligation for the day, all while catching some zzzs?.. wow! thank you!

I was starting to fall more and more in love with him!.

On a recent trip out west, I was exploring the google maps of the states as we drove our now family of six across many state lines. I remarked at just how far across the world Alaska seemed on the map. You see, incidentally I did take him up on his invitation for me to see the mountains of Alaska – over a weekend!

The truth is that I had Nooo idea that I had just agreed to travel almost half way around the world just for a weekend🤨

He was living and working in a remote part of Alaska , which also meant that he had to drive 8 hrs just to come pick me up from the Anchorage airport . Our reunion and time together was magical albeit too short , but totally worth it . We whale watched, hiked, listened to music, saw more wild life such as mountain goats , visited ski slopes and cliffs, dined and it all was pure bliss!

We packed a lot into barley 48hrs together and my only wish was that I could have seen the heavenly magical dance of the Aurora borealis too.

Almost 20 yrs later , and with our growing family, I would still make this “ crazy” decision to travel across the world to see mountains with you because you’re right … “ a girl like me should see the mountains…with you♥️

What “ crazy” gestures have you made for love – both young and old love?

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 !💕

Embarking on Kilimanjaro….

05BE2741-295B-4636-AA84-4574CDF26B31Sunday June 16th 2019… in about 8 hrs my husband and I are taking our four precious children on a trip of a lifetime.

We have spent the past two days enjoying NewYork City ‘s tourist sites and visiting family and old friends. This is our pit stop on our way to Tanzania to hike Kilimanjaro. Yes the highest free standing mountain in Africa! And did I mention we are going with our four children ages 11yrs daughter , twin boys who will turn 10yrs the day we summit and our 8yr old daughter?. We have had our eye on this goal for  several years now and now we are just hours away from embarking on the journey.

I’m writing to release my nerves but I also am so excited at the possibility. To see with our own eyes, majestic creations of God while bonding our family ties . Summit day will find us exhilarated and I’m sure tired , maybe even exhausted, but definitely GRATEFUL!

Grateful for the opportunity, grateful for this beautiful life we share together. It has taken a lot of sacrifice to do this and my DH has been such a ROCK in planning and executing this family adventure . I am most grateful for his love and adventurous spirit that motivates us all.

My prayer is that of safety and joy! I have asked loved ones for their prayers and kind thoughts as we journey.  I will ask the same of you , my readers  .

I plan to document our trip as we go and you are welcome to come along on the adventure with us! I hope to look back on this someday with even more GRATITUDE to have gone and seen for ourselves Kilimanjaro!