Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween creativity

I am constantly awed by people's creativity.
I was at a Halloween party Friday evening and saw the coolest (and tastiest) treats. Above are chocolate mummy cupcakes. Below is a grisly face made of proscuitto and cheese. The hostess used her son's face mask as the mold.

I got to work this morning and my colleagues had gone all out with their costumes. (Me? I came as "Lola Alapo." Quite the classic look.)
This was my favorite costume:

Other scenes from work:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The mail brings amazing things.

Travel is one of my passions -- after loving Jesus and food.
That's why I was thrilled this evening when I opened my mailbox and saw a packet that I instinctively knew contained my brand new U.S. passport.

It arrived 12 days after I applied for it, well ahead of the expected mid-November date. Yay for the travel off-season, our good friends at the U.S. Department of State and quick delivery by the U.S. Postal Service.

For years, I traveled on a Nigerian passport to Kenya, Poland and other countries in between. As a U.S. permanent resident, I had no trouble leaving or entering America. I also had no problems getting into most places. The issue sometimes came if it was a country that didn't have friendly relations with Nigeria. Boy, did they like to give Nigerians a hard time.

As a result, when I took overseas trips, I dressed in such a way that I could pass for a teenager in hopes that I would be left in peace as I came through that country's passport control.

A perk of becoming a naturalized American is getting the U.S. passport. Native-born Americans may not understand the gravity of this. Until now, I had to apply for expensive visas and fill out **ridiculous** amounts of paperwork (which I did gladly). I also had to get friends in those countries to vouch for me that I was not a terrorist, crazy, etc.

An American passport is like gold. You can literally walk into just about anywhere on the globe. No hassles.

I can't wait to use my passport on my next overseas trip. Who knows? I may just do a happy dance through that country's passport control.

World, here I come!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Because my co-workers are awesome

My U.S. citizenship celebration continued into today, thanks to my University of Tennessee colleagues.
I got to work this morning and found this on my office door:


How very cool!
I've been at the university only two months but my co-workers are already figuring me out. They gave me a citizenship gift ... and it was edible :)

Notice anything , uh, interesting about it? I think the Food City lady was having a bad day but her cookie cake was still delicious.
I have now been properly "Amurikanized" ;)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I am officially an American!!

I am officially a daughter of America.
My 20-year odyssey to this moment ended today when I took the Oath of Allegiance in Chattanooga and became a naturalized United States citizen.

                                          My naturalization certificate

Why it took that long is a story I'll have to tell you another time (preferably over a meal). Suffice it to say that I am overwhelmed.

At one point during the ceremony at the National Guard Armory, we each had to stand up and say our full name and our country of origin. I started crying as I listened to those around me. Netherlands, Peru, Iran, Canada, Vietnam, Nigeria and countries in between.
101 people. 45 nationalities. What a sacred moment.

I'm thrilled that a year from now, I'll be able to vote in my first federal election. Not only will I have a choice, I will also have a voice.

                          One of the pamphlets in my naturalization packet

Today was extra special because of the friends who were there to cheer me on. Thank you, Ansley, Bill and Angela, Patty and Tom, Nancy and Vern.
You honored me with your presence.

                                          The dinner party crew

I especially want to thank the people who prayed me through the many tough parts of this journey. You know who you are and you know what I mean. This is like the biggest "ebenezer" of all, isn't it? :)

I am not just Nigerian anymore. I am now Nigerian-American. I have fully come into the two parts of who I am.

Everything in me wants to stand on top of a mountain somewhere (or at the very least, a table in a public place) and scream: "MY IMMIGRATION JOURNEY IS OVER!!!"

It's on to the next chapter of my life.

                              The first day of the rest of my (American) life

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Finding a soldier, meeting a president

I found me a soldier today!
He's from 1863 but that's of little consequence.

That's Matt Lakin, my friend and former News Sentinel colleague, who is a Civil War reenactor. He fights on the Union side.
Matt this weekend participated in the Battle of Fort Sanders, a re-enactment of two poignant East Tennessee fights between the Confederate and Union forces at the height of the Civil War.
The Battle of Campbell's Station and the Battle of Fort Sanders both took place in November 1863.

As a lover of history and to support my friend, I went to the East Knox County event this afternoon.
My superhero friend Lydia X. came along for the adventure.
We arrived just in time for the first battle.
As the soldiers shifted locations for the second fight, we had enough time to check out vendors' tents and their authentic historical ware.
We also grabbed a funnel cake and then positioned ourselves to watch the second battle.

A neat part of the reenactment was the chance for spectators to explore an exact replica of an earthen Civil War fort.

I also got to meet Abraham Lincoln ;)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Probationary black belt & other big events

I am now a probationary black belt in Taekwondo!
I passed my test tonight, which included patterns, sparring (five rounds!) and board-breaking.
I'm still reeling from the fact that this is a major step toward my first-degree black belt. I'm now just two belts away from first-degree.

What a week this has been!

By the way, 7 is my favorite number. How cool that it's Oct. 7. I'm also celebrating 7 years of home ownership today.

There was some sadness this week because I had to put down Elmo, my beloved scruffy little poodle.

I'm reflecting on the good and hard things that have come my way these last few days. I'm thankful for the encouragement the good things have brought me.
I'm also grateful for the way I've grown (and I'm still growing) through the hard things.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Saying goodbye to Elmo the poodle

                                                      Elmo on one of his last car rides

Elmo the geriatric poodle is no more.
Today, I made one of the hardest decisions ever. I put him down.
At about 5:15 p.m., our vet Dr. Benny Ferrell told me he'd entered the Great Doggie Beyond.

Elmo, who was 11+ years old, had been coughing up blood. He wasn't really eating much and was losing weight. We'd gone back and forth to the vet over the last several weeks for numerous tests.
The three rounds of strong drugs Elmo had taken didn't produce any results.
Dr. Ferrell suspected he had some kind of cancer or leukemia.
But we wouldn't really know unless Elmo went through an invasive procedure like a biopsy.
I drew the line there.

Elmo had lived a good life. But he was going blind and deaf. Plus the coughing blood and not really eating.
I wondered about his quality of life.

How ironic that I wrote this post just five weeks ago about doggie healthcare.

It's strange what the goodbye process has been like:
I bathed him on Sunday night one final time.
I let him ride in the passenger seat on Monday and today. (He usually had to lay on the floor board.)
He got lots of rubs and scratches.
We had an evening with our wonderful dog sitter Nicole so she, too, could say goodbye.
And I've cried more tears than I thought I would.

I adopted Elmo from the humane society in 2005 as a buddy for Plucky, who was still a puppy. He came with a silly name: Willie. I promptly changed it and gave him a respectable name: Elmo.
He was about five years old and was set in his ways. We had a battle of the wills for some time but after obedience school and much breaking, we finally saw eye to eye.

My oldest sister described Elmo best in her email to me:
"He's been such a good gentle dog, and I'm sorry that he's ill. He's actually my favorite; back when I used to visit he WOULDN'T try to BITE me like Plucky. (:"

She added: "God bless Elmo...may his gentle soul rest in peace. Amen."

Saturday, October 1, 2011


I went to my first-ever corn maze today.
That it was with my friend Sara meant serious adventure.
That it was at Cruze Farm meant serious ice cream.

We arrived at the East Knox County farm to a crisp breeze and gorgeous blue skies.
Our task as we went through the maze was to find five country music legends that were lost in it. If successful, we would each earn a *free* Cruze Farm ice cream cone.
Were we successful? You decide:

                                                    Minnie Pearl

                                                    Johnny Cash

                                                    Dolly Parton

                                                     Willie Nelson

                                                   Kenny Chesney

You can imagine our joy when Sara and I claimed our prize. Jersey Girl Chocolate and French Broad Vanilla.

                                           Sara the lovely hand model

We also ran into a celebrity at Cruze Farm :)

News Sentinel food writer Mary "Dee Dee" Constantine and grandson Logan

More scenes from Cruze Farm:

                                           Pumpkin painter Melissa

Happy birthday, Nigeria!

My birth country turns 51 years old today.
Nigeria, in West Africa, gained independence from Great Britain on this day in 1960.
I'm thankful for my heritage.
Today, I also take a moment to remember my favorite Nigerian: my grandmother Comfort Alapo.