Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Weekend three - the good times continue

The weekend seems to come upon me suddenly, before I know it, it's Friday and time to go home. I left work about 3:30pm and usually go all the way down the M1 to the M25 junction, but after a few nasty surprises, I now know to get off at Junction 12 (Dunstable) and go through the back roads eventually ending up at St Albans and then home. Despite getting a bit stuck at St Albans, I still managed to make it home by 5:40pm - 2 hours and 10 minutes! On a Friday evening? - a record since I've been in Leicester.

From an earlier phone call to Tunji, I knew he was not going to be home by the time I got back - but I was okay with that. As much as I like my every wish obeyed, I don't want a subservient subject for a husband. I did not buy a gift for my baby this time, I was going to be his gift and as usual, I got my 'jump up and down' greeting. He's only just mastered the fine art of jumping with both legs off the ground and it is the cutest thing ever.

Dominique was making one of my favourite dishes, pan roasted potatoes with mushroom, onions and coriander with mint and coriander marinated grilled chicken... mmmmmm! I promised myself I'd start to eat healthier at home to complement my healthy balanced meals in Leicester but I put off that plan for yet another week.

Tunji walked in a short while later with a huge bouquet of flowers! Wow! Not only that, he'd been shopping and had bought me this gorgeous pair of knee high black leather boots. Ofcourse, they were the wrong size n all, but it was the thought that counted. He had made a real consious effort to please me and I really was pleased. I had forgotten about the all-night Festival of Life conference holding that evening and was almost too tired to go but I really felt the need for spiritual replenishing so I took a short nap and we set off about 9:30pm.

We got back home about 7am Saturday morning and despite still being tired, I was up by 10:30am to play with my baby. I had bought a cheap mp3 player in Leicester to listen to when in my room and I wanted to show it to Kitan. I really love introducing him to new items and experiences, the look on his face... priceless. He had never listened to music through headphones before, so this was a first for him. He loved it, watching closely as I selected the tracks for him to listen to. After a few minutes of being a dutiful student, he suddenly felt he'd learnt enough and could take over, so he grabbed the player from my hand and sat with the headphones on, merrily pressing away at all the buttons on the mp3 player. How daft!

Kitan and I played until about 1pm when he went to nap. I decided to dash to the Galleria to do some really quick shopping and then to Tesco. As I was getting dressed, Tunji offered to come with me - shock horror! "Really?" I asked because I could not remember the last time just him and I had gone browsing through the shops on a lazy Saturday afteroon, it reminded me of the early years - nice.

During our shopping trip, cost did not seem to be an issue. He did not go pale when I browsed in the handbags section - looking at only the soft italian leather ones. He did not feel faint in the coats and suits section and even continued chatting merrily while we were looking at shoes, usually, he would have gotten tongue tied, his eyes darting desperately at the exit. I was wondering if he'd won the lottery or something but I resisted the temptation to ask or make a catty comment. In the end I only bought a new work bag (nice shiny italian patent leather), some work tops (boring!) and some make-up (bodyshop stuff). We decided to go home first and pick up our baby then all go together to Tesco. Ofcourse, that turned a 1 hour shopping trip to 2 hours - but I was with my boys and feeling light-headedly content.

Sunday was church as usual. I've decided I quite like church but what I don't like is the early morning wake-up and the dressing up. My friend from Nigeria (who's still around waiting for her mid-wife checkup) had made me a lovely ankara outfit which I wore. I got loads of compliments and actually felt quite girly girly pretty. The best part of church was the fact the the G.O (General Overseer) of The Redeemed Christian Church of God (of which my church is a parish of) paid us a surprise visit. Tunji and I sat right behind him which was quite exciting. His sermon was on Ps 23 vs 6 - Goodness and Mercy shall follow me all the days of our life and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. That simple verse exploded with so much meaning and revelation, full of promise, hope and expectation that we can truly enjoy God's goodness and mercy everyday of our lives.

I had planned to leave home on Sunday because I had delegates to train first thing Monday morning. I'd bathed Kitan and was putting him to bed. We'd read stories and had just finished saying prayers when I found tears rolling down my face. My tears. This was another first for my baby. He had never seen Mummy cry and looked at me puzzled.

Why was I crying? I think it was because the weekend had been so good, I was holding my baby's soft clean little body, putting him to bed and knowing I won't see him for another week. It was distressing. Heartbreaking. Even now as I'm writing and remembering, again tears are flowing.

I'm so silly. I know a lot of the time before Leicester I felt stressed, unfulfilled, unappreciated, a liability, helplessly overweight, jobless, broke... I could go on. Leicester was supposed to give me some of the things I thought I needed... and it does. Work was getting better, I'd made some friends, my training classes were scheduled to start and really, it was getting better being in Leicester but... and it's a big big BUT it all paled into insignificance when compared with what I was giving up.

I decided to spend the night at home and set off for Leicester at 6am in the morning.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Comment from Everywoman

Leicester Life Adventure

Your honesty is really refreshing,
Totally loving our work!!!!!


Bernadine

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Weeping may endure for a night.... end of week 3

As week three draws to a close, I marvel at how different everything was from last week. God obviously had mercy on me and changed things around.

Ofcourse, they always say in any situation, the only thing you can really change is yourself, so that was where I started. I am not so arrogant that I would think the whole world was wrong and I'm the only one that's right.

Coming back to Leicester on Sunday after a row with Tunji meant I had no support, no one to cry on the phone to, so I relied even more on God. I prayed for wisdom, direction and utterance and used the verses in Romans 12 as a guide.

On Monday, for the first time since I'd been in Leicester, I wore a skirt and held back my full cascading curls in a butterfly grip. I was going for a softer non-threatening more approachable look. I don't know where I got the idea for that from. Previously, I had worn only trousers and kept my hair down around my face.

I walked into the office with a cheery smile greeting friends and enemies alike and from the very first day, it looked like my new tactics worked. The 20yr old, the 23 yr old and the gay guy all commented on how much they preferred my hair up. My main-manager guy winked at me, the 20yr old sent me an email effectively apologising for Friday and before I left my direct-manager guy came up to me and said he was glad that I looked much happier, he did not want me unhappy at work and if I had any problems to come to him. Amazing!!!

That evening, I was doing my weekly shop in Asda and spotted some posh chocolate biscuits reduced from £1.89 to 40p, without thinking, I grabbed 2 boxes. The next morning, I took them in to work with my hair pulled back and wearing another skirt. "Help yourself guys!" I called merrily as I placed the biscuits in the middle table. Ofcourse, I had taken off the reduced price stickers. "Thanks for the yummy biscuits" my main-manager said, emails and further comments on the biscuits flowed all day. The gay guy asked me to lunch, he helped me so much with stuff I needed, I joked that it would only be fair to split my fat contractor wage for the day with him. I was engaging in non-work related conversations... talking about an up-coming wedding with one lady, holidays with someone else and much more!

A part of me was sad that they were so superficial, so a skirt, hair pulled back and biscuits was all it took plus I was having to play the game but another part of me just wanted 'no more drama' and to work in peace with everyone.

By Wednesday, I could not bear any more 'play acting' and I took myself off to Site 2 and another suprise awaited. My only friend since I'd been in Leicester was a Jamaican lady, Sandra whom I'd met only the week before. She is an SAP expert, 10 years older than me, a Christian and really friendly. We got on very well but unfortunately her contract was due to end last Friday. We'd said our good byes but who did I see when I got to Site 2? - Sandra! Apparently she'd been asked to stay on for 3 more months to help with testing the system but she could not say anything to me on Friday as it had not been confirmed. She's obviously based at Site 2 while I'm at the Head Office but it was so good to see her! We lunched together and I filled her in on what had happened last week.

Tunji and I made up, finally speaking on Wednesday. I had avoided his calls, only sending him text. When we did speak, I explained things from my point of view, he explained it from his point of view and apologised. He promised to change. "Yeah right" I thought. After 19 years of being together, I doubt much more will change but thankfully there's enough there to love and be grateful to God for. Nobody is perfect, least of all me.

It's Thursday night now and I'm a much happier person. I think I've even lost some weight, a work skirt I bought when I first moved to Leicester could not button up and now it does easily. I'm looking forward to the weekend and I'm even looking forward to work next week - now that's a miracle!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

And this too, shall pass

Oms, Under no circumstance should you ever leave home in a huff to drive to Leicester, round the corner yes, Leicester NO.

No good purpose was served by this. You were angry, Tunji would have been worried and now your landlady thinks you are mad! It if was easy, it won't be fun. This is a learning experience for you, Tunji and Kitan, and I am sure they think you are having the most fun. Picture this, Tunji away for the whole week and then on Sunday, he asks you to put Kitan to bed so he can get ready for the week ahead. You would have said exactly what he said :)

Now we have to make sure that you do have fun. You are a strong and confident woman and that can be a bit scary for some but the onus should not be on you to lose your strength but for them to step up to the mark.

It will get better. In my grandfather's favourite words "And this too, shall pass"

KK

Second weekend home - not a happy ending

Weekend number two started well. I took advice to take it easy and not try to do so much and be everything in such a short space of time. The first weekend home left me very tired on Monday morning. I was determined not to let that happen this time.

After the horrendous week at work, I needed some quality 'me' time.

As always my baby was jumping up and down in excitement to see me. If anyone had any doubts about having children, it's moments like these that make it worth it. That unashamed pleasure and delight, just because I'm home was like a long drink of cool pure sweet water. It may have had something to do with the Bob the Builder magnetic sticker book I was holding... but hey!

As usual, Tunji was still at work, so I bonded with my son and caught up with the goings-on at home in the last week. Dominique put Kitan to bed and I chilled in front of the TV watching all my recorded programmes. By the time Tunji came home and we went to bed, all the problems of work were still on my mind and it was hard to be intimate. I decided not to tell him about it so he doesn't use it as a reason to get me to leave Leicester. That should be my decision.

On Saturday morning, a good friend from Nigeria arrived to spend the weekend with me. She had been in town for a week already but stayed with other friends as I was away in Leicester. She brought the usual goodies and we had a long gisting session - which was fun!

In the afternoon when she and Kitan were both napping (she's pregnant) I popped of to do some shopping - assorted meats and chicken, plantain, fish and some Tesco stuff. I had this weird urge to eat Banga soup - a traditional Nigerian soup made with palm kernel paste. I had bought the tinned palm kernel paste whilst I was out and now needed a recipe as I had actually never made it before. My friend Bernie gave me the recipe and also the Banga soup spices I did not realise I needed.

Later on Saturday, Tunji and I attended an Indian wedding engagement. His client's son was getting married. It was fun, the saris were breathtaking! When we got home whilst still sitting in the car, he asked if I was okay and I then told him about work. All he said was "we'll pray" - which was fine for me. He apologised about the rent problem and promised to give me more money on Monday.

Sunday. Church was great! I'd not attended for 3 weeks whilst Kitan was unwell and in quarantine. I got lots of compliments on how well I looked etc... but I'm sure that was because I'd been scarce. For lunch, I made my Banga soup and it was superbly fantastic - even if I say so myself. It turned out perfectly! Tunji and my Naija friend had it with Amala, I did not have pounded yam at home so I had mine with garri. It was chockful with beef, shaki, cowleg, stockfish and dried fish with a tiny bit of bitter leaf for added flavour. I had to freeze the left overs to avoid it being finished off. I'll have it next weekend.

Despite a great start, Sunday did not end well. By 8pm, Kitan was still up. I had bathed him and wanted Tunji to put him to bed while I got my stuff together to leave 6:30am Monday morning. Tunji refused. He said I had not spent enough time with Kitan this weekend and he felt I should take the opportunity to spend more time with him by putting him to bed.

I was so angry! How dare he tell me how to be a mother? How dare him monitor how much time I was spending with my son? He had spent the weekend exactly as he wanted. He even had time to go visiting. I had spent the weekend cooking, caring for Kitan, going with him to his engagement (I'd have prepared to go watch a film) and entertaining my house guest who also happened to be his best friend's wife. I went the extra mile because he'll be staying in their house when he goes to Nigeria in December.

I was really angry. I told him all of the above and more. I said "you won't kill me for my parents". I then went upstairs, threw my things into my case, kissed my baby goodbye and jumped in my car, heading back for Leicester. I set off about 9pm and got to Leicester just after 11pm. My housemate as already asleep and had not answered her phone. I had to ring the bell to get her to remove the chain and open the door.

I don't know what's wrong with everyone or is it me? Stress at home and stress at work. Who lives like that? What a mess!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A nightmarish second week


Where do I start?After a very tiring weekend, I was looking forward to the peace, quiet and simplicity of my Leicester life.

My second week in Leicester was hell!. I seriously reconsidered my decision to take up this job and was millimeters close from packing it in. It's a long story.

Monday started off well enough, drove in from London that morning and got on with work as per normal. By Wednesday, I had started sensing some sort of atmosphere, nothing definite but my intuition was picking up some strange vibes.

My main boss was speaking to me with a blank stare on his face, avoiding eye contact and talking in a funny tone. My direct boss was not communicating with me at all preferring to send messages to me indirectly through my training partner. A team outing was planned, even though I had paid my £5 deposit, I noticed no one was particularly interested in if I was attending or not plus I had not yet been given the restaurant details. I decided not to go.

On Friday, none of my team members who went for the outing commented on my absence and a pre-arranged meeting I and a colleage (the 20yr old) had made almost fell apart because she did not show up neither did she call me. I was definitely now convinced that there was a problem, I had to pray to God for guidance on how to deal with it and for the best opportunity to address it.

Later that day, we had a team scheduled, just before the team meeting, my housemate/landlady Louise left a message on my phone that the rent/deposit cheque I had given her on Monday had bounced. I was shocked, upset and embarrased because Tunji was supposed to make sure there were enough funds in my account for that. I sent her text that I will bring the cash with me after the weekend but she replied that she needed it immediately in her account as certain payments were going out. Tunji was in Essex in an all day meeting so he was not pleased about having to sort out this as well as deal with my anger. Obviously, the bounced cheque was not the only thing upsetting me, I still had this work issue to deal with and he got the full brunt of my upset.

The meeting started and seemed to be progressing well when the other contractor guy suggested that training partners draw up an agreement to manage communication and general interaction whilst training. I saw my chance and said it was not going to be possible for me to do that as communication with my partner had broken down. All eyes turned to her and she burst into tears and ran off from the meeting. Her friend, the other youngster, followed to comfort her.

I explained to the rest of the team that I had been feeling an atmosphere and had no idea where it was coming from as I thought we had built up a good relationship. They tried to explain that she was under a lot of personal stress and was especially sensitive.

I noticed her and her friend returning and I got up to talk to her before she got to the meeting table. I asked her where all this was coming from as I thought we were friends. She replied that it was not just her that had a problem with me, everyone in the team did. At this point our direct manager joined us and I turned to him asking what this was all about. He hesitantly indicated that someone had told him that I said he did not deserve to be manager. I asked him why the hell I'd say that when I knew nothing about him and his work experience. I asked that we all returned to the team meeting table and discuss this in the presence of everyone. Of course when we got back, I asked each person directly if I had spoken to them about him and they all denied I had. I then asked each person to say what problem exactly they had with me as that was the only way I'd be able to make changes.

My partner said she was trying to log on earlier in the week and whilst she was having difficulty doing it, I suggested she tried one or two other things. She felt I only said that because of her age. I did not trust that she knew what she was doing. The gay guy said I had asked him what he was doing for lunch and when he replied he was meeting up with his old workmates, I said "well, I'll have lunch here in the training room". He said my response upset him. The other youngster said during a training session the day before where I was training a class of 15 delegates including her, I had asked her a question and when she responded, I moved on to someone else.

I realised that it was impossible to create a professional working relationship with them and any notion of friendship was totally out of the question. As I had more pressing things to deal with, namely finding £580 cash within the next hour to pay my landlady, I thanked them for their feedback and promised I will bear in mind their individual sensitivities in my future interaction with them. I think my direct-manager person felt a bit bad and started saying he did not want me to feel everyone was picking on me, he could imagine that it would be hard on me too leaving my baby and husband to come to work in Leicester. I did not want his sympathy, I interrupted him saying "Yes it is hard but don't worry about it, I'm strong enough. Are we done?" When he said yes, I wished everyone a pleasant weekend and left.

Tunji could only rustle up £450 for me and I drove around for ages looking for a branch of her bank, Alliance & Leicester, which you'd imagine being in Leicester would be easy to find. By the time I found one, paid the cash in and began setting off for London, my stress levels were going through the roof. In that state, I decided to call my main-manager, the guy who interviewed me.

Luckily it went to voicemail. If I had spoken to him at that moment, I would have quit there and then. By the time he called me back, I was calmer and told him I felt it was neccessary to flag some of the problems I was having with the team, particularly my training partner and how that could impact our working effectively together. He in effect asked me to walk on eggshells (he actually used those words) around her for the time being and things will improve and the project progresses. His response was not reassuring and I was convinced he had been told these lies against me and his behaviour earlier in the week was in reaction to them. We ended the call with niceties and I continued on my journey home.

This experience rocked me to my core. I was hurt, angry, confused, upset, frustrated, friendless - and these are those feelings I can articulate. I felt so much more stuff I can't put into words. My Leicester life adventure had become a nightmare. I'm convinced I've made a mistake.

Why did the team turn on me? They made comments like "You are a strong woman. You are very confident" etc... Was that the problem? Two weeks before I was singing along to Teletubbies with a cereal stained t-shirt on the floor with my baby.

Did I try too hard to come across as a confident professional woman and over do it? Should I have been more timid, nervous, self-deprecating?

Did they read my blog? Even then I don't think I have written anything bad about anyone. The blog is about me. Maybe when I said I did not need them, my attitude went too far into the realm of "I am an island" when obviously as we know, no man is an island.

A friend said to me, your testimony is too big and satan would want to sour it. He certainly had a hand in this no doubt but what avenue did I give him? Had I become too self-assured, trusting in my own ability to do the job?

In almost every job I've done, I've been liked and have liked the people I worked with. One of my former workmates from 1998 is my baby's god mother. I still get birthday cards from another. When my son was born, one former workmate from a place I worked in 2001, sent £40 gift vouchers and remembers his birthday religiously. I meet up regularly with a bunch of upto 15 others not to mention the numerous emails I exchange with previous workmates.

This experience was certainly a new one for me.

So what do I do going forward? Well, my bible tells me "Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible. Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, "I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it," says the Lord. Instead, do what the Scriptures say: "If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you." Don't let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good." (Romans 12:17-21).

That's what I'll do, by God's grace.

Sorry this is so long... a lot did go on this week and I've actually left out some minor bits. I'll appreciate some tips and advice on me and dealing with this from a practical perspective.

Friday, November 17, 2006

First weekend home

Friday at last and I was all set to go home. To be honest, the weekend was like an interruption, I had not yet developed a routine and all too soon, it was time to head back home. Still, I was glad to see my baby. The last time I saw him, he was recovering from an operation and a bit poorly.

I set off from work at 3pm, hoping to be in London by 6pm at the very latest. Horrendous traffic on the M1 and M25 meant I pulled into my drive about 7:30 - I was not in the best of moods. I honked my horn and my baby popped up at the window, a big smile on his face, I could not hear what he was saying but he was very excited. When I got into the house, he was jumping up and down shouting "Mummy, Mummy" - I was soooooooo happy to see him. He seemed bigger and more grown up than the image of him in my head.

A friend had warned me not to be critical of the house so they don't dread me coming home, but I could not help casting a glance around as I scooped up my Kitan. Everything seemed perfect.

Tunji ofcourse was still at work and I could not help but be a bit annoyed that he had not made a special effort to be home by the time I got home. There were no balloons or welcome banners either, but I could overlook that.

Home was stressful, purely due to the pressure I put on myselft to make up for being away. On Saturday, I spent most of the day cooking food for the freezer, I was with Kitan 24/7 even when I was tired, I bathe him, I put him to bed, I took him with me shopping. I went with Tunji to a party on Saturday night. By Sunday, I was shattered, even Tunji was telling me off for not relaxing. But it was impossible for me to, there was so much to do. I had done my laundry on Friday and ruined a brand new white shirt because I had put it in with black trousers (silly me!) and now Sunday night there was a load of packing to do. I had to get in-between clothes for when I was not at work and not in bed.

One of my plans for Leicester was to lose weight as I'd not be cooking and eating much healthier, plus being at work will mean I'm more active. I planned to have a handful of cereal for breakfast, oat biscuits, apples and fruit tea as snacks, a packed lunch (sandwich or pasta salad) for lunch and a microwave meal for dinner. Compared to my usual fare are home, that was so much less. I also planned to join the gym or start walking a mile in the morning before work.

I had done the eating part but had not started any excercise. Well, I jumped on the scale Sunday morning and discovered that I weighed 3lbs more than the last time I weighed myself, admittedly 6 weeks ago. I tried not to be upset, reminding myself that it took time to put the weight on and it'll take time for it to come off. I'll also try to stay off the scales and use clothes that were previously too tight to wear as a guage.

Come Monday morning, my baby woke at 7am, earlier than his usual 8am, which was good as I got to see him before I left. I gave Dominique the food menu for the week. She made me a toasted croissant and coffee and I was off by 7:30am.

It seems unfair not to have mentioned Dominique until now as she, even more than Tunji, has made my Leicester adventure possible. She's been with us as nanny and housekeeper for 5 months and Kitan loves her to bits. It's mutual as she treats him as her own baby and the house like hers. She cares for him, keeps the house spotless and cooks. She's a godsend and we take very good care of her by God's grace.

Just so you know, I welcome all comments! Please let me know what you think of my adventure so far or any particular part of it. I need all the help I can get.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Comment from JD

Not sure also if I should be replying but girl you are trully blessed & strong. So many emotions in 1 week. If noting else thanks for giving me the inspiration to know as a new mum to be it will be possible for me to return to work.

My first Leicester week ends - 26 more to go

Today marks one week into my Leicester life adventure. I remember reading an article recently about 'Expectations' and it came to mind when I was trying to figure out whether my expectations had been met. What was I really expecting and had I achieved it? What have I learnt so far - especially about myself.

In the first couple of days, I realised I was desperate to be liked. I'm not sure if everyone feels this way in a new job but I was irritating the hell out of myself and I did not know how to switch it off. I seemed to have this permanent inane grin on my face, I was agreeing with things I thought were crap and laughing at the most stupid jokes and wise cracks. I wanted to present my authentic self but I did not know how. The funny thing was when I got home in the evening, I still did not know how to behave around myself.

The team I'm working with are a young team, my training partner is only 20, my immediate boss is 23. The other 2 trainers are 24 and 27. They are all internal staff and the only other contractor is probably closer to my age than the others. The guy who interviewed me, my boss' boss is 30 on Saturday. I feel ancient. I feel like what have I been doing with my life if a 20 year old girl, who did not go to university is right now working in the same role that I am? I was amazed and gushed all over her the first day, telling her how clever she must be, how sorted her life is and how bright her future is. I am supposed to mentor and coach her being more experienced but that seemed besides the point.

So imagine me desparate to be liked and to fit in with people so much younger than me. Pathetic. Anyway, I wanted to snap out of it.

The team dinner went well. It was at an Italian restaurant in the city centre. Around 4pm, it was suggested we close early, go home and change before meeting up at the restaurant. "Go home and change?" I thought, "into what?" I had only packed work clothes and my nightwear, nothing in between. The life I imagined I'd be living seemed disconnected from reality. I was like the 'Office Barbie' - you unpack the box and bring her out with her array of work clothes - and that's it. Nobody lives like that in real life, but that's what I was trying to do.

It was interesting to find out more about the people I was working with. The 20 year old's mother was in hospital with stomach cancer, the 24 year old's mother died of a heart attack when she was 11, she has no relationship with her father or step mother even though they all live together, the 27 year old hates religion and the 23 year old has an English mother and a Mauritian father who he has not seen since he was 3.

That was what did it for me. I did not need these people to like me - not in that way - ofcourse I know we all have to get on and work well together as a team, but I did not need their mobile numbers, I did not have to need to hang out with them after work, I did not even need to spend every single lunch break with them, I did not need to meet their parents and get invited to their homes. I really did not need to be best friends with them, there was really nothing they had that I wanted and they had nothing to offer me.

What a breakthrough! The next day, we all went to Sainsbury's accros the road during lunch, I had a packed lunch and wanted to buy a memory stick, they wanted to get sandwiches... "I'll see you guys back at the office" I called out merrily as I broke away from the group heading towards the computer section. "Are you sure?" the 20 year old said "Yes, no problem" I replied, and that was it. Done!

So what have I learnt this first week
1. I have a need to be liked which is so strong it can compromise my authentic self and I am no longer me.
2. I'm uncomfortable around me. I always need to be doing something and can't just be still.
3. My brain still works - and works well! I have a natural curiousity and enjoy learning.

I have not missed my old life as much as I thought I would, actually I did not think I'd miss it too much but I have tried not to think too much about my baby Kitan because once when I did, I got tearful. I have no pictures of him either. I'm not sure I can take that on right now. I speak with him 2 or 3 times a day on the phone, sometimes all he does is breathe into the phone, the phone is pressed tightly to his ear and he's listening so hard to my voice trying to stick himself to me somehow. Still, children are resilient I know, 2 minutes after the call and he's fine again. I can't keep beating myself over that.

Tunji and I have a 'calling schedule' to keep the lines of communication open, even if it's not 'sweet nothings', I know 'just talking' will keep the bond alive.

The next challenge is my first weekend back. Will I be pulled apart by all their needs? Would it be selfish of me to meet a friend for lunch or spend the whole day in the Salon or go shopping by myself?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Response

Not sure if one is meant to post comments here to your BLOG - but I reckond that you can always take it off...if you donot like it;

Omara....

You are a true writer and also a heroine...I have just read all in your BLOG and is still fighting to hold the tears back...I wish I didn't have to work right now - so I could devote more time in my response to you...instead for now I will say well done and God Bless...You are doing a great thing and do not feel guilty about your choice...in time to come you will be able to help creating a much better life for Kitan..not just material...but also by him having a Happy and well-respected Mum. I am sure that the future still has much to offer you.

I can only say...I hope that we meet one day....Maybe when I find myself in Leiceister at some point.

Lots of Love and hugs...

Lise

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

First day in Leicester

I drove in to Leicester from London Monday morning, again it only took me 2 hours and there was absolutely no traffic. I decided to leave on Monday instead of Sunday so I could be with Kitan if the fireworks scared him on Sunday night. He slept like a log and did not need me at all. I had to wake up at 5:45am this morning to leave home for 6:30am.

My new boss (Francis) and colleagues all seemed very nice and friendly. As I had been recruited via a phone interview, my colleagues had placed bets on what I'd look like. They knew I was definitely black and figured I'd have a big bum as a result, I'm not sure how that's related to the job I have to do. Still it turned out I don't have a big bum so they all lost. We're all going out Tuesday night for a team building dinner. Should be fun.

Work finished about 4pm, they are really big on flexi-time and doing your own thing here and even try to wrap up Fridays by noon, which is good for me as I can be home in London by 3pm to start the weekend with my boys.

After work, I went over to my 'lodgings' and could not unpack because I had no hangers, I could not have a drink because nothing in the fridge or cupboard was mine. My landlady, Louise, was away on a course so I was on my own, lugging my huge suitcase up the stairs and dying of thirst. Horror of horrors, my suitcase then left a big black scuff mark on the landing wall and I had to rush to the kitchen to get something to wipe it off. Remember I mentioned that the house was like a show home.

The reality of this 'single-life' living dawned on me. I got back in my car and headed to Tesco. Of course I had the address of the nearest Tesco but because I did not know the area at all, it ended up being 15 miles from 'home'. That's like driving from Harrow to Bounds Green - crazy! Anyway, I got there and bought really basic stuff like milk, tea, toilet roll, water - it was weird.

When I got back, I realised that I had forgotten I was shopping for just me. My freezer space was too small for all the stuff I bought and I had to get rid of a bag of ice cubes and a few other things I had bought. By the time I put away my shopping, rustled something to eat, tidied and tidied to erase any sign of my having messed things up, I was shattered. Even when I settled down to watch Spooks at 10pm, by the time I figured out how to work the TV, I had missed 17 minutes of it, I could not catch up with the plot and decided to go to bed.

Still, I thank God that it's all started really well. By His grace it will get better and better. I thank God for the opportunity. I thank God for His protection upon me.

Goodbye old life - welcome new

I now had a place to live in Leicester and in 10 days, I'd be there. I had a huge list of things to do and very little time to do it.

My son Kitan was scheduled to have an operation to remove his tonsils and adenoids as well as have grommits put in his ears. Quite a lot for a little 2 year old. It meant 3 days in hospital and only 2 days with him at home before I set off. The company had wanted me to start a week earlier but I had to put them off a week because of my baby - even before I started, I was already whipping out the baby excuse. No wonder companies avoid hiring mothers. Still that was my primary job and there was no way I could leave before making sure he was okay and safe back at home.

It had been 4 years since I last dressed formally for work, I was a size 12 then. Now a size 16, nothing I had fit.

I needed work clothes but with very little money spare, Tunji did not want me to get cheap stuff and I did not want to wait so I wrote cheques willy nilly then put pressure on him to put the cash in my account so the cheques did not bounce. To make this adventure work, I still needed him and I knew he was glad I did.

I also needed to service my car so it was reliable enough to make the weekly journed to and from Leicester.

With all the other expenses, in all, moving to Leicester was going to cost almost £2000 pounds. Not cheap!

When it came to going into hospital, everything was ready and bought so I could throw myself into being a full-time mummy for probably the last time. It was me and my baby - just like it was in the beginning. Being in hospital reminded me of when he was born, only this time, he was the one in the bed and I was the one sleeping in the recliner chair beside him. I told him a million times "Mummy loves you" and he'd look at me with his large eyes and cheeky smile, totally unaware that his world was going to change big-time in a few days.

Why was I doing this again? Why was I going to Leicester? Surely with my child where I should be? Being a mother is what I should be doing? I did'nt know of any other mother who had left her child to go off and work and I felt selfish and guilty.

Moving to Leicester - Flat hunting

Within a week from the verbal offer, the contracts were signed and there was no going back. I went from being giddy with excitement to terribly apprehensive. Freedom! It was scary. It occured to me that I had never lived on my own. I met Tunji when I was 16 whilst still living at home. When I moved to England in 1994, it was to join him in the flat he was already living in. By the time we got married in 1997 any opportunity of living the single life was gone. Though I loved him and it was fun, it did seem like I'd been married since I was 16!

With Leicester, I'd have that opportunity to live on my own, sprawl out on my own double bed, cook for me alone - and that's if I felt like it.

First I had to find somewhere to live.

After a week of trawling through Gumtree Leicester and other internet sites (Loot is so not what it used to be) I'd got a list of places to view some places I had selected. I decided to house/flat share to avoid bills etc... So on the Sunday, I set off and in all, it was a 2 hour drive even in the crappy rainy weather we had. Before I went to Leicester, I prayed to God to send me to the right place first out of the 6 places I had to see. I went to see this lady first, Louise, loved it and her and paid a deposit. I did not bother going to see the others. I just sent them text and headed back home. It really was that easy.

Louise is 36, lives alone in a 3-bed town house (similar to mine, so obviously I felt at home), she's a HR manager at a phone company, very career focused and has lived in London,Australia and one other place - I can't remember. She goes to the gym every morning and eats healthy. The house looks like a picture from a magazine, very nicely decorated and in a nice area. The top floor has her bedroom and ensuite, the middle floor is mine with a large bedroom and my own toilet and bathroom. We'll both share the kitchen, lounge and other facilities. She even reduced her advertised rent rate because I said I'd hardly be there at weekends.

She totally gets where I am coming from in trying to find myself again after being mummy and wife these last few years.

Best of all, her house is 15 mins to where I'll be working.

The testimony (part two)

It was now October 2006, by this time I was working part-time as a Web Researcher - a glorified data inputer - in Hatfield. Still, it was a job, it got me out of the house, I met new people (not all nice) and I was earning a tiny bit of money.

One Saturday, I noticed Benjamin's card and wondered about him. It had been 6 months since we last were in touch. The next day, Sunday, as I paid my tithe in church, a pittance, I asked God if He was happy with what I was presenting. I had not paid tithe that small since I first moved to England and did odd jobs, did He not want to bless me with a better job that my tithe may be more?

Miraculously, Benjamin called me on Monday, the very next day. He had another opportunity for me. An SAP Trainer role. "It's perfect for you Omara" he said "but it's in Leicester". Not thinking much of it, I told him I was available, afterall, I had applied for loads of jobs with no success so why would it be different this time around? By Wednesday, he called back saying "Your God has decided to show you mercy and answer your prayers" - I thought it was weird, what did he know about my God or even my prayers? He offered me a choice of a telephone interview either that Friday or the following Monday. I opted for Monday so I'd have time to prepare but he suggested I was to be interviewed on Friday instead. "Don't worry Omara, you don't need to prepare" he said.

Still, I tried to revise the little I could and I prayed also. On Friday morning 9am, I got a call and the interview was underway. It lasted about 40 mins and when it ended I knew I had truly messed up. I did not get a chance to talk about my stronger skills. I seemed hesitant in responding to questions and when I was asked why there was such a large gap in my CV, I replied that I had taken time off to look after my son after he was born. I was certain that after that damning revelation - she has a baby?! - I would not be hired.

Benjamin called me late on Friday to say I had been shortlisted. "Shortlisted - what the hell was that!?" I thought. I did not care about shortlisting - just tell me if I got the job or not. I had to spend an agonising weekend wondering whether I got it or not.

On Monday. by 3:45pm, Benjamin called me to tell me I had been hired! In exactly one week, my whole world had changed. I was suddenly going to be earning in a day more than what I was earning in a week! I was going to be using my I.T skills again. I was going to be developing my career in a direction I'd always wanted to AND I was moving to Leicester! Yikes! Am I crazy?

What about my baby? My beloved child I cried and begged God for? A child I would sit and watch as he slept so that I would be the first person he saw whenever he woke up? How can I leave him?

I did not worry too much about my husband at the time - in a way, it was him I was trying to prove myself to.

I was happy, escatic, thankful and grateful to God for truly having mercy on me. I did not apply for a job in Leicester, the job in Leicester came and got me. For whatever reason that this had happened, I was grateful and determined to go.

Now I too had a job testimony that someone else would hear and go "yeah right".

The beginning - a testimony (part one)

You know how when you hear a testimony of some amazing way someone got a job - at back of my mind I used to think 'yeah right'.

I had been looking for a job off and on for about 18 months and I think in all I probably responded to about 500 positions. At one point finding a job became like a job in itself and I sent about 20 CVs a day.

Why did I want a job so badly? - the money would certainly come in handy but it was more than that. Having been home since 2002, a lot had happened, first the redundancy from work, then the fibroid operation, then starting the online dating site, the magazine and running events, then getting pregnant after 4 years of trying, then having the baby and being the most neurotic mother ever with impossibly high standards that I was constantly trying to achieve - not to mention all the other personal family and marriage stuff - getting a job was away of rescuing myself.

Tunji, my husband, usually went out on Saturdays, evangelising, handing out tracts and speaking to whoever would listen about the saving love of Christ. This was not an activity that I always supported as it often affected our family time at weekends.

One Saturday, he met a Jewish guy called Benjamin by Hendon Central station. They had a long interesting conversation about religion and it eventually led to family. Benjamin was an I.T recruiter working for an agency in London. Tunji mentioned that his wife was also in I.T and was infact job hunting. Benjamin hesitantly gave Tunji his card asking that I call him.

This was in April 2006 and by this time I was jaded, cynical and fed up with job hunting and life in general. Benjamin called me several times before I returned his call and reluctantly put together a CV highlighting my SAP skills for him. It was only one page, I really could not be bothered to put in any more effort.

Benjamin had a particular job in mind with Thames Water, but after several weeks, he contacted me saying the company were in financial difficulty and were no longer recruiting. "Typical" I thought, that's all I had had anyway these last few months. I sent him a scathing email asking him to contact me when he had a "real job".

France, Italy, Spain - here we come!

Omara's Weight loss progress (started diet 17th March 2007)