Monday, October 13, 2014

Back to the Beginning.

We always start with a mattress, don’t we? We take our first salary which is not much at the time and we go to a supermarket nearby because carrying a mattress over a long distance is nobody’s piece of cake. With our meager earnings, we purchase a mattress that will be as kind to our backs as it will be to our pockets. We grab a cheap blanket and pair of sheets on the way out and, carrying our only possessions proudly in our hands, walk with heads held high into an empty house to start our life of independence.

We will spread the mattress on the floor at the far corner of our one-roomed house. This mattress will serve as our sleeping area, our dining table and our sofa. For the most part, we will not entertain visitors much. We will not cook much either. The nearby food kiosk will be our saving grace from starvation as  we will rush there to grab a serving of madondo or githeri or … what else it there … chapati? to take us through these empty days.

We will however not live like this forever. Our circumstances will help fan a flame in us. A flame that will propel us to excel. We will want more room. We will get tired of madondo chapo and crave for home-cooked ugali, sukuma wiki and beef stew. We will then save up to buy a stove or a jiko, a sufuria and a cooking stick. Maybe one plate and a cup? A spoon and fork…no, the cutlery can wait. We will fall asleep on the mattress and on it dream of laying our heads on a bed for a change. We will have an obsessive desire to sit on one of those fluffy couches that come with pillows to cushion your bum and your back. We will want. This wanting will drive us to work even harder. We will hustle day and night for more financial freedom. Soon we will be rushing back to the supermarket for that bed. For that dining table. For the curtains that match the seats. For a carpet, a fridge and a cooker. Subsequently, we will move into a bigger house. In no time, our cold and empty one-roomed house will become a warm fully furnished multiple-roomed home.

How about that for small beginnings?

This is how most of us are introduced to a life of independence. If your stride to independence was to a furnished house then you make me jealous. Consider yourself exceptionally lucky my friend.  I remember my first house. It was a very small affair. It had a sink and a kitchen cabinet – which was a bargain for the rent I was paying. There was barely room for a bed. There was an adjacent room with shelves, which was supposed to be some kind of store room? It was small and cozy. Not much, but it made me proud that I could sustain myself and did not have to live off my siblings anymore. I had come of age. It was exciting as it was limiting.

With time, I could afford to move to a house with rooms and stuff. I had the luxury of a living room and a modern kitchen. This house had a balcony to boot. It was timely too because Hailey happened at the time. The timing couldn’t have been better.

This is what life is about. Evolution. You start small and dare to dream big hoping that someday you will need to create more room for your growing collection of shoes, your ginomous TV set,  your king size bed. We grow progressively. And it is a good thing.

But even when we move to bigger things and bigger places, we never forget our humble beginnings. We always treasure them because it made us want more out of life. With that desire, we were able to strive hard to make it. Our beginnings made us who we are.

This was my first home. I have laughed in here but I have cried most of the time. I have been so many things at different times.Yet with every first home, there comes growth. We live somewhere and with that growth, we tend to want more stuff.  We just want better.

I want more. I want better.

What I am doing now is that I am packing. I am leaving. I am looking for a better home. A bigger home with bigger windows and nicer stuff. I need a backyard. I need more space. It is a bittersweet experience because I am leaving this home that I have grown so attached to. It stings a bit. I don’t know whether to be happy that this new home is a step forward? I should be happy about this no? But then again, humble beginnings. They are responsible for who I am. Bittersweet is the emotion I will settle with for now.

I am emptying the closets and putting everything in labeled boxes. Soon, I will be out of here.

I will sure miss this place.

Come with me?

Come with me!

Come with me.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Crying Space

Photo Courtesy of
When have I not cried? Yeah, that is an easier question to answer than; when have I cried? This gets me more to the point because I have cried more times than I care to remember. I cried when the Titanic sunk in the movie Titanic. When Phoebe gave up the triplets she had been carrying for his brother in Friends. I cried in almost every episode of Army Wives-that series is a tear-jerker! I cried when Md and I got engaged. I cried when Heidi tearfully bid farewell to her cousin recently and hugged him so tight, refusing to let go. When Hailey, while hugging and kissing me on the cheek, neck, eyes, mouth, told me how much she missed me when I was away in Nairobi for a whole week.

So, when have I not cried?

This warm Wednesday evening, I am walking along a busy road. I am in deep thought. Cars swish past me. Thoughts that I shouldn’t be having start creeping into my mind. They peep in. Look around for some space. There is little room, barely enough to accommodate one leg or an arm, or a small head. These thoughts are determined. They know that all they need is a small opening. True to their conviction (and thanks to my aimless walking, my straying thoughts, and a difficult day that drained me as it took its time to come to an end) they find that tiny crack to squeeze themselves through.

With one leg in, the thoughts start to slowly feed my mind with negativity. They can barely be heard since I am on a busy road and thinking is not all I am doing entirely. I am watching out for the passing cars, giving room for the human traffic going against my direction, stopping to give room to a sweating mkokoteni guy…these thoughts need my attention. They squeeze in and before I know it, two legs are in. Both arms find room. A big head squeezes in as well. They are slowly progressing from inconsequential whispers to overwhelming noises. They are taking over. My attention is drawn to them. My positivity is neglected. Surely, I am not going to kick positivity to the curb only to focus on these newcomers, now am I?

Well, I do.

A car passes by in full speed almost hitting me. I have strayed from the pavement to the road. The driver peeps out and curses me out. Just like that, the negatives find a better avenue to assert themselves: “You could have died on this road. That car could have hit you. If that happened and you died, would anyone really miss you? You really think so? Who?” Do they have a point? I think about it.

I think about so much more. I am now a walking host to bad vibes. I reek of negativity.  I stink of a bad attitude. Of bad feelings. I am all blue and full of gloom. I have a mind to get a sticker and put it on my forehead that reads: Suffering from Acute Melancholia. Highly Contagious!  

I have a lump in my throat. My eyes tingle. There are tears welling up. Fast. They want to be let out. But I am on the streets. People will see me. I might meet someone who recognizes me and they will insist on talking to me and I will feel like slapping them across the face, and I will try to talk to them anyway because it’s the right thing to do and my mouth will open and the words will refuse to come out and the tears will refuse to stay in and the waterworks will flow and the person will stand there looking all confused wondering what it is they said, or did, or who is responsible for the tears, whether I am a victim of a dead beat dad…then  I will shake my head, they will keep prodding, asking why I am upset, what has gone wrong, who has wronged me, whether I am sick or hungry, or angry or ... That sign on my forehead would have come in handy!

Seriously, who doesn’t know not to ask questions when you see a grown woman crying. Women need some alone time with their emotions sometimes. I know I do.

I need space where no one will ask me why I have tears in my eyes. Where I can cry so that the lump in my throat is cleared - I actually get a sore throat when I am stressed so there must be a connection. I need somewhere where I can cry, wail, snort, sob, heave, and not care how ugly I look. Well, I need space to wear that teary, mucus-y face with pride. And I will not answer any questions. Space that will shield me from judging looks. A place that will cushion me from labels like ‘softy’ or ‘pathetic’ or ‘unstable’ or ‘poor Renee’. Where I will not be expected to act all put together. I need a place where I can break apart.

This space will enable me to express these dark emotions the way a mother expresses milk that burn her welling breasts. The toxic emotions need to be excreted from my body before they corrode me from the inside. I am in dire need of some crying space. But where does one find that? Where in this crowded busy world?

While others can hold their tears and their hurt until they are in that comfortable crying space; in the comfort of their beds at night, behind the walls of their homes, out of glaring eyes and unwelcome queries- I don’t have that luxury. I am embarrassingly unable to hold the tears when they demand to get out!

As if on cue, one tear trickles down my cheek. Maybe this is not the best time to cross the road to the other side then? I will just stand here for a minute or two. I reach for my handkerchief from my purse…

See, until I grant these ‘visiting’ thoughts time to express their fears, their anger and disappointment. Until I acknowledge these feelings and cry them out of my system, I will not be able to smile again. Unacknowledged feelings are like that drunk cousin at a family reunion, they say. They won’t shut up so you can hear anyone else. They go on and on and on. These feelings may be unwanted but they have a purpose. After the acknowledgement, I will be able to see more clearly (I will cross that road with better care for sure!) I am then better placed to forge ahead. I can then welcome back positivity. I can even afford a smile. J

I will be ‘normal’ again in a minute. Normal meaning; jovial, full of hope, fun. But that is not really the meaning of ‘Normal’, now is it?

If you spot me standing at the corner of a street with my head bowed down and a handkerchief covering my eyes, do me a favor and move right along. There is nothing here for you to see. Just an emotional woman grabbing her rightful crying space.

And No. It couldn’t wait!

Have a positive week!

Monday, September 29, 2014

This feels like 36.

36 is that age.

That age where you are neither young nor old. You have the liberty of officially declaring yourself old when you clock 40, I think? Or maybe you don’t? Ever? Life begins at 40 anyway, right? Middle age is what this is; a tad confusing because you are neither here nor there. Neither hip nor extinct. You are in between being cool and being so outdated.

36 is that age where you are no longer content with status quo. It is that age where you grow tired of mere talk and yearn for more action. You want things to change. You want to leave a mark. This is the age where the bucket list is unleashed with zeal and thrown thunderously onto the table for serious consideration. POW!

If you don’t allow its liminality to get to you, this is the age where your dreams seem so reachable. You are vibrant and energetic enough to go for what you want. You have the confidence and the zeal to leap without fear of landing face first. You have sure steps. You know your strengths and you understand your weaknesses. You are ok with that. You are ok with all of you.

You feel attractive, still. Ironically, you don’t care much for physical attributes as you do the non-physical. You don’t walk into a room or stroll across the street and get an ego boost at the number of stares and catcalls that follow you. Or do you? You however find fulfillment in connecting intellectually. You are enthralled by a man’s mind as opposed to his abs and broad chest. You don’t judge books by their covers anymore. You delve deeper. Scratch beneath the surface. In the process, you lose respect for people you initially held in awe only to scratch beneath the surface and find nothing.

At 36, your patience wans. You become intolerant about hanging around pretenders. You appreciate people who are real. Those who don’t try to pretend that they have it all together – who does anyway? You are drawn to people who are clear on what they want out of life. You love the honest prostitute and abhor the promiscuous bible-wielding nun, so to speak.

You don’t waste time on arguments anymore. If at this age, they still don’t know what you stand for. What makes you tick. What ticks you off.  What your principles are. You cannot help them. Not at 36. Surely there are better, urgent, more productive, more important things to do than to make someone see your point. You either agree, or agree to disagree. Life goes on.

And we only live once. Get on with the living.

You learn to let go. Especially of the adults that you might have, sorta, in one way or another, ‘babied’ for a while. At some point, you might have conceitedly thought that you could solve all problems for those who came to you.  Thankfully, you grew up enough to realize that grownups have the capacity to take care of themselves. You offered unsolicited advice,  talked to them about this and that. The importance of doing this and living like this as opposed to the other way.  Then you got tired.  It took you a while but you managed to finally see that an adult will (and rightfully so) do whatever they damn well please. That is one of the perks that come with adulthood; freedom. Every one of them is entitled to their own mistakes. Your attitude, now that you're 36, towards adults who insist on making glaring mistakes is summed up in two words; your life.

Arrgh! But mediocrity  tires you. It really does! You strive for excellence. You want to explore more. Travel more. Feel more. Achieve more. Do more. Read more. Ultimately, write more.

You are not just a dilettante anymore. You are the real deal. The Da Vinci. The Elvis Presley. You have purpose and you are committed to it.

At 36, you grab your dreams with both hands and refuse to let anything, anyone take them away from you. You are going in. Full throttle. No holds barred.

Maybe it’s just me?

Yeah. This indeed feels like 36. The countdown begins; it is exactly one week since I turned 36. This will go down in history as the age at which I wrote my first book . The age at which dreams transitioned to reality; I bought my first car, I travelled the world. I made a mark.

I am grabbing these dreams.

Not letting go.

Not letting go.

Have a productive week!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Storymoja Festival: Reading is so cool!

I was washing the dishes in the kitchen one day when Hailey brought her plastic chair and sat behind me. She had her bible story books in her hands. She had; The Miracles of Jesus, Joseph and His Brothers, and The Birth of Jesus. I asked her what she was up to and she told me that she wanted to read. She started reading quietly. “Why don’t you read aloud?” I asked her. She read aloud and I listened as I did the dishes.

It was an interesting dish-washing experience. I got to listen to my six year old daughter read and I was able to teach her how to pronounce difficult words in the process. I am happy to have a daughter who reads because reading is a good thing.

I remember my father buying us storybooks when we were young. Each one of us owned a book that we held onto for a long time. They included Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Charles Dicken’s Hard Times & David Copperfield, and Anthony Hope’s The Prisoner of Zenda.

Growing up, I saw my father grab a book and get immersed in it so dedicatedly. There was a shelf full of books (which exists to this day) from where we would once in a while make our own selection and share in the reading  experience. That experience was invaluable.

Since then, I have read books that left me shaking my head in disapproval or nodding my head furiously in approval. With every book, I have been able to learn. A lot. My emotions have been stirred by authors who made me cry and laugh. I have been angered, while on other occasions, I have been deeply impressed. Books have had me thinking about stuff. I have changed my opinion about stuff. I have made discoveries, travelled to different worlds with different people in different times. Reading has made me learn. It has made me write better. Speak better. It has helped shape my dreams. It has sharpened my mind.

I am glad to have had the chance to peep into the reading culture and entering deeper and deeper, to a point of no return. I am aware of the transformation that happens between the time one opens a book to begin reading from the first page, to the time one closes the same book having read it to the last page. I am privy of the fact that every book one reads does not leave one the same way it found them. That we learn from each reading experience. I want the same for my children.  

Reading is cool. I know that. Do you know that? The Storymoja Festival begins this Wednesday the 17th through to the 21st of September. During the festival, there are events that will be too important to miss. Case in point is the Reading is cool! Kusoma ni Poa!  event that will be held on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 8.30 to 9.15am. This reading anthem (click here to listen) will be sung by the Grace Children’s Centre choir. They will perform and launch their CD during the festival. Listen in. Dance to it. Teach it to your children- I intend to teach it to Hailey and Heidi too. Share it and let it become a powerful tool for spreading the reading culture in Nairobi and beyond.

If I will be anything, I will not be that mother who never taught her children the importance of reading. A reading child is a knowledgeable child. A knowledgeable child is a strong child. A strong child is a grounded child, a confident child. If my reading has anything to do with who I have become, then I can confidently say that a reading child is a fearless child. Unashamed to live their lives the best way they deem fit. A reading child grows to become a sage.

During these times when the reading culture in Nairobi has degenerated due to the attention given to video games and cartoons as the quintessential pastime for children, you need to introduce your children to the magical experience that comes with holding a book between their hands. Read for them. Read with them. Encourage them to read for you. Read together. Read.

Since you guys are dear to me, I will give one of you a complimentary ticket to the Storymoja Festival to be held at the Nairobi National Museum. If you are interested in attending the weekend events on the 20th or 21st Sept, all you need to do is to email me between now and Thursday at and share with me what your favourite book is to date and why.

The Storymoja Festival weekend events include a session with Dr. Kinyanjui Nganga on Parenting and Marriage, a children’s book launch of The Lizard and the Rock with author Joanne Ball-Burgess, a discussion with award winning Kenyan journalist Jeff Koinange as he talks about his memoir- Through My African Eyes, a Wangari Maathai Memorial Lecture delivered by Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka from Nigeria (I know!). There will be exhibitions, talks by Tony Mochama aka Smitta, Caine Prize winners - Okwiri Oduor and Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (I know!) There will be hot conversations, Poetry, storytelling, Mchongoano, film screening… Go on, hit my inbox and grab that ticket!

Oh, almost forgot - Sauti Sol will also be there. I Know! (sigh!) They together with Berry Heart of Botswana and Dizraeli from UK will steer the Jaza Matatu na vitabu concert to raise money for in order to stock libraries in schools. Storymoja Festival attendees will literally get to jaza matatu na vitabu. Reading is such serious business!

Do me a favor and let your children, your young nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters…this young generation, let them know that reading is cool. Reading is oh-so-cool!

Have a cool week!

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Reward

We are doing breakfast, my sisters and I. My dad did something interesting with our names. He named his first two daughter names beginning with (I), the last two he gave names starting with (V) then for the middle daughter, who sits smack in the middle of the I’s and the V’s he distinguishingly gave a name starting with ‘R’. Granted, this must have been a coincidence since there is no way he could have known beforehand that he would have five girls in succession. But still, the coincidence is uncanny.

Breakfast it is, at my sister’s place. Now such gatherings are normally very interesting because there is laughter, there is madness then there are the arguments. Part of the fun of having siblings is for the fights right?

I see how Hailey and Heidi do it. One day they are the best of buddies, throwing in the ‘sister’ word here and there in their sentences. “Mum, sister yangu anataka maji ya kunywa” Heidi says as she comes to fetch drinking water for Hailey. Or Hailey insists on giving Heidi a piggyback ride, and when I try to warn her that they might both fall down, Hailey reminds me “Si Heidi ni sister yangu?” – Like that has anything to do with anything. On other days however, the sisterhood is thrown out the window and they scratch each other’s faces, and a stern “Hauna miguu?” is shot when one asks the other to bring her something. That is what siblingry (if such a word exists) is all about: Fighting with love.

Ever watched the series Brothers and Sisters? You get to witness typical sibling behavior in this series; the gossiping of a sibling by the others to a point that it finally reaches the gossipee and all hell breaks loose; the formation of alliances against one common ‘enemy’; the silent treatment of yet another sibling for a reason they have no clue about, and so on. I seriously need to catch up on this series from season 4 onwards.

This post is going somewhere, I promise.

Breakfast at my sister’s. I am charged with preparing Sandwiches.  All five of us have a thing about well cooked, adequately spiced (masala) tea that has enough milk. I therefore steered away from tea preparation because the pressure my friend. The pressure! No, sandwiches were much safer. Every time we visit each other, we  prepare tea with precision. We just don’t take kindly to mediocre tea. You will be forgiven for forgetting to add the key ingredient to your recipe; say, pilau masala to your pilau, but not for serving ill-brewed tea. Be forewarned.

I swear this post is not about tea. Nor is it about food.

So, breakfast. Me, sandwiches. Others prepare sausages. A brave soul takes on the tea while my older sister is busy attending to her 7month old baby. We are chatting about the most recent series. In between this flurry of activities, we mention the series Scandal. Most of us agree that it ain’t all that.  Olivia pope? Meh! There is absolutely nothing phenomenal about Olivia pope. We decide.

“Which series is that again?” my eldest sister asks

“Scandal” all of us reply

She shrugs “I don’t know about movies or series anymore. I don’t watch them”

We all nod in understanding. We all assumed that her little boy is taking most of her time. I remember how it took a while with Hailey and Heidi for my life to become ‘normal’ again. It took months to finally get some alone time or even manage a trip to the hairdresser’s. Between her job and taking care of the baby, we understood how hard it was to squeeze in a few hours of TV.

“But you need to grab some ‘me’ time whenever you get the chance.”  we offered our advice.

To which she said “No. I wouldn’t do that”

“Why?” we were curious.

“Not now. Maybe a year from now. I don’t know… I consider it as rewarding myself for a task I haven’t even completed yet. ” she replied.

 “Wow!” “Deep!” “Aaaw!” we all said in unison.

 “See, I look forward to his first birthday. In fact, his first birthday will not be about him. His first birthday will be about me. I will then reward myself. But not now” she continued

I had a tear in my eye which I swiftly wiped away.

That was the most beautiful thing I heard someone saying that day.

That was a mother putting a part of her life on hold to deliberately focus on her young son. I found that utterly profound. I Still do.

He is a beautiful boy, my nephew. He is a happy child. When he grows up, I will rat on her mother. I will tell him what his mother did for him. How she took care of him meticulously.

Make no mistake; Mothers. Are. Awesome!

Have an Awesome Week?

Monday, August 25, 2014



This is the cry of a manipulative child. It is distinct. It is recognizable. It does not sound like a cry of pain. It doesn’t come close to a cry of disappointment or a cry of hunger. It is worse. It is shrill and piercing to the ears. It is uncomfortable because it is exaggerated.

Adults react to this cry in the way that children expect them to; They wear worried faces. They fear that their child is hurting. They try to find out how they can make things right. How they can enjoy silence again? We do whatever it takes to stop the ‘irritating’noise.

And therein lies the problem.

I am enjoying the company of my nephews and nieces who I have not seen in a long time. We are taking late afternoon tea. Hailey and Heidi are with me and they are happy to be in the company of their cousins. Kids love each others company and to them, it is creed that the more is indeed the merrier. A neighbor's kid comes to join the merry as it is also my neices’daughter’s birthday (hehe, I like making your reading life difficult, don’t I?)

All is well in play and they even sit down to tea. I notice the manipulative nature of the neighbour’s kid early enough. He wants this, doesn’t want that. He wants to sit here, won’t sit there. He needs this, won’t do that. He had a lot of preferences. He had a lot of dislikes and you would be in this child’s beck and call if you were to give him everything he wants.

You have seen that kid right? He is with his mother at the supermarket. Mother gets to till to pay for the the stuff in the shopping basket. Child decides that he wants something. Mother obliges and gets him ‘something’. He is happy. But just for a while. The queue is moving slowly and soon, child asks (nay, demands) something else that catches his eyes. There is so much that catches a child’s eye when you are close to the checkout till; the candy strategically placed at a child’s eye level; the pocket-unfriendly, useless, tooth-damaging, appetite-eradicating, goodies that are there to solely create a rift between parents and their children and so much more. Child demands for something else. Mother is on a budget. She declines and tries to convince child that what she has bought for him is enough, baby.

Baby will hear none of it. He wants what he wants and he wants it now. He gets what he wants or there will be trouble to pay if he doesn’t.. Mother tries harder to talk to him because what he wants is expensive. Stuff that is not in her budget. Stuff that will not feed him, educate him or clothe him. But see, the child does not care about usefulness. He wants it, he wants it, he wants it NOW and ….. WAAAAAH! That distinctive, unmistakable manipulative cry is unleashed!

Frantic mother tries to end the annoying noise. She is wondering what to do to stop this child from embarrassing her. Everybody is looking at them. Watching to see what she will do. she returns something from her basket. One of the useful stuff she had picked. Maybe even something that could have fed, clothed or educated him. She instead puts the useless expensive thingamajig that the child demanded into the shopping basket. Noise ends, there is peace and quiet just like she likes it. Child is happy. Prying eyes look away. There is peace. Are you kidding?

The neighbour’s kid was such child. when he was ready to go home, he decided that he was going with another child’s stuff. ”But those are not yours young man.”he was told. “They are mine! Mine! mine!”he replied. He threw everything he had and demanded to be given what he wanted. WAAAAAH?!

And off he runs to fetch his mother from the adjoining house. We sat still. We sipped our tea.

Hailey tried it once on me. Its a cold afternoon, we are outdoors with family. The ice cream guy comes to where we are picnicking and strategically places ice cream a sniffing distance away from our children’s noses. Hailey takes the bait, tugs the sleeve of my shirt and goes “Mum, buy me ice cream?”I say no, it is cold for one, and two, you have recurring tonsilitis. She starts pleading. I stick to my guns. Seeing that pleading is not working, she unleashes the weapon: WAAAAAH! Everyone looks around. What does Hailey want? Just ice cream? Surely, si you buy for her? It’s only ten bob!? Just buy her the damn ice cream! Someone brought out a ten bob from her purse, “Here Hailey, go buy yourself ice cream” she said. I snatched it away before it reached her hand. “Don’t!”I warned them.

And the crying went on for a while. Everyone was uncomfortable for the time it lasted. But I knew that it was necessary. I did not want to stifle that cry because it came with a lesson that we don’t always get what we want.

The moment you frantically search for something to shut them up or end the disturbing noise, you encourage them to continue being children when they actually need to grow up. It is not something easy to do, but it is something that needs to be done. Enduring that manipulative cry with resilience, helps rid society of the thieves, murderers, and wayward adults who have a demented sense of entitlement.

So next time your child cries for something you can’t give, try and make them understand why they cannot have it. If they are well fed and hunger is not a contributing factor, if their health is not threatened then relax and sip your tea because growth is happening. Allow them to grow up.

Have a splendid week!

Monday, August 18, 2014

It’s The Little Moments…

Heidi’s closet is getting revamped with clothes that don’t fit Hailey anymore. This means that Hailey’s closet is slowly gaining more room until we buy her new clothes to compensate for the ones she has lost to Heidi. I was arranging their closets the other day and realized that a lot of Hailey’s clothes have become too small and have to be passed down to Heidi.

These are the moments that make you aware that growth is happening. If the fact that they don’t need you to spoon feed them anymore, that they wash their hands before sitting down to eat without being told, that they don’t soil themselves or have small ‘accidents’ here and then, that they go to Sunday school willingly, without a fight (as was previously the case here) and stay there until mass is over before coming to find you - If these fact somehow don’t catch your eye, then you thankfully have the clothes that stop fitting to jolt you to that glaring reality.

But my Heidi sweetly thinks that the same way clothes become small after a while is the same way, they become bigger for a bigger person to wear. So when Hailey makes a face because she doesn’t like the idea of passing down her favorite skirt, Heidi is quick to console her saying “Usijali Hailey. Ikikuwa kubwa nitakupatia, sawa?”

I am glad that this growth is happening right before my eyes. I get to experience some things for the first time since this is the first school holiday that we are spending together entirely. Previously, all the time I could afford was a smidgen just before they closed their eyes to sleep or very early in the morning when they woke up, if they woke up early to catch me before I went to work. There was also the weekend option of a Saturday afternoon, and the whole of Sunday (God bless Sunday!) Things are different now in the sense that I am present. I am doing everything for my children from the time they wake up to the time they go back to sleep.

I am cooking for them, giving them baths. I am disciplining them, scolding them for not answering when I call them and admonishing them for not sharing their toys. I am also learning in the process. Learning to be patient with their young exploring minds. I am also learning to write and read amidst the noise. I am learning that children can play endlessly without tiring (the energy, my goodness!) especially now that schools are closed. I am learning to expect an unexpected kiss from Heidi when I am helping her get dressed. And I am loving it! I am learning to accept a helping hand from Hailey when she offers to do the dishes. And not to tear up when she does a jaw-dropping job.  I am watching them eat, play, and sleep. I am watching them grow. I am watching them watch me and emulate me.

Under my watchful eyes, my children blossom.

It doesn’t escape my mind that these moments will never come back. This is it. I am living for the moment because who knows… tomorrow there may be no kiss from Heidi. She might have gone to college, got married or relocated to another continent. And I will think of that kiss, crave it, but it will be gone. So, yeah, I will have one kiss to the cheek now, this moment, before it is taken away from me, thankyouverymuch!

As I put them to bed every night, I know that this is it. This is what their childhood will read like in their books. As I cook their favorite meal, I am fully aware that the smell of the food wafting from the kitchen to fill the whole house will be picked by their nostrils in their adult life and it will bring them down memory lane to this very moment of their childhood.

These are the moments. And these little moments are a big deal. It’s the little moments that make life big, innit?

I was just reading about the Cherry Blossom, a white flower with a tinge of pink at the base. These flowers are, apparently, Japan’s unofficial National Flower. Why doesn’t our country have a National Flower, woiye? Cherry Blossoms symbolize a bright future. In full bloom, they are a sight to behold with the trees taking the appearance of a beautiful cloud from afar. There is in fact a Cherry Blossom viewing ceremony (Hanami) where people hold picnics underneath the tree, taking the chance to relax and take in the beautiful view. What do you know, it is in fact said that most people give the answer ‘Under a Cherry tree’ to the question, ‘Where would you like to get married?’ Though Cherry Blossoms are nothing short of tres magnifique in full bloom, they only last a week or ten days tops before all the blossoms are carried away by the wind. Ten days and it’s all over. So even with all these hurly-burly surrounding its bloom, the Cherry Blossom, in all its glory and splendor lasts for ten meagre days.

The Cherry Blossom Flower
(Photo courtesy of

The Cherry Blossom Festival - Washington DC
(Photo Courtesy of

It is therefore referred to as a brief burst of the beauty of nature. A brief burst. I don’t think that anything better defines the ephemeral nature of life. Nothing lasts forever; Not the Cherry Blossom, nor childhood. Some things are here to be enjoyed for a moment. My children will soon cease being children. Every moment I can spend with them, I am grabbing now. What I will do is spread out that picnic blanket; stuff a basket full of picnic snacks and goodies. Then I will sit down with them under this spectacular ‘childhood’ tree. We will all make the best of it while it lasts. While the childhood clothes still fit.

I challenge you to emulate the Cherry Blossom. Burst forth with splendour even if its just for a moment. Make that moment count. Enjoy that child, that relationship, that job, while you still can. Live a life of beauty and be present in the moment. Because when you think about it, that moment is essentially all you have. It will be gone before you know it.

Have a splendid week!

Monday, August 11, 2014

45 Years On.

You get into a relationship with a man in your prime years. Soon it turns into something serious. You date and get married, say “I do” because you truly do. You are barely 18. You love him. You would like to spend the rest of your life with him. You are accepting him at his best and will keep him at his worst. You mean it when you promise to be with him for richer and for poorer. In sickness and in health.

You do.

Mr. & Mrs. Murrey

You start your life together. You fit into your new role as a wife pretty fast since you have your first child (a son) the following year. You are there for your young family. You are happy. He works. You are a housewife, which is work too. Immense work. You endeavour to take care of him, your home and your child. And the children keep coming. One after the other. Eight of them, they come. Some pregnancies are easy breezy. Others are a challenge. But you bear them all like the champ you are. With each birth come unsurpassed emotions of love. With each child, you experience elation that knows no bounds. You want more children, but the eighth pregnancy proves challenging. You realize that you have stretched your luck. Eight is ok. Eight is enough. You love the eight.

You take care of all of them. You change napkins more times than you care to count – diapers are not a word that exists in your vocabulary. You run after the children to contain them. You scold those who show signs of straying from your teachings. You crack the whip on your wayward brood more times than you can count. You love them all. You adore them even more.

Soon they start school and have to go to the city to get the good education that their father wants for them. You have to stay in the village and run your home. It kills you to be away from your children. You tough it out all the same. You do a spectacular job. A big beautiful house is constructed under your watch. It rises from the ground to tower intimidatingly at the other huts in your neighbourhood.

You tough out a lot more for your marriage to stand. You are taken for granted. You feel unappreciated. You remind yourself how it felt to be loved. You wonder whether he has forgotten how it was between the two of you. You wonder if he thinks about you. If he still loves you the same way he did when he married you.

You keep the faith.

He loves you. In his own imperfect way. He shows it. He takes you to travel around the world with him. You traverse the globe to countries you only saw in the map during your Geography lessons.

Years come and pass by. Retirement beckons. He comes home to you and you now spend every waking minute together. The children are all grown up. They are out there charting their own paths in life. They visit sometimes, but it’s only you and him now.

Then it hits you. You’ve been together for eons. During these years, you have argued. You surely have laughed. You have cried and made merry. Through the good times and the bad. Better, worse. Health, sickness. Births, deaths. Weddings, divorce. Success, failure. Bounty, scarcity.

It’s been a long stretch. So long that you don’t know where his life ends and where yours begins anymore. You are at this point entirely, completely, confusingly one. Your dreams, ideals, values collided so much over the years to eventually merge into one.

You understand his every need. You know his deepest secrets.  His strengths, his weaknesses. You know what he’s feeling because you have studied his mannerisms to perfection.  You know why he is quiet and withdrawn some days and why he bubbles with excitement on other days.

You look at him and wonder how you managed to stay together for all these years to remain standing. You wonder to what you owe this miracle where you have called him husband for so long, while he calls you wife.

You marvel at how you worked through marital problems and made a conscious decision to stay together at the end of it all. How you honored your leap of faith that resulted in you saying “I do” even without knowing what you were ‘doing’.

You wonder how your marriage stood the test of time.

Most of all, you wonder if he still remembers how it felt to fall in love with you for the first time. How it felt when he led you to the altar to declare to the world and to God that you were his chosen one, his wife.

Then he gathers his children together on the 3rd of August, 2014. He makes it known to them that today is a special day. He explains that it is special because it is the same day he married a beautiful girl 45 years ago. A very beautiful girl, he calls you. He remembers. This brings tears to your eyes.

He remembers!

45 years on, you still do. It’s you and him now till the end of time.

To my parents! To 45 years of marriage! To many more!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Vera Sidika: Whatever Makes You Sleep Better At Night

It is three o’clock in the a.m and sleep eludes me. I have been tossing and turning for a while. Insomnia and I are bedfellows (wink, wink!). Then Md woke up for a glass of milk and the morsel of sleep that I could have used to ignite much more, flew out the window. I had to throw away the covers and seek the solace of the keyboard.

Writing at this hour is so peaceful. So quiet that you can literally hear the ‘tap’ of your fingers on the keyboard as your thoughts flow from your head to a Microsoft word page. The sound of silence is so seductive. The air is still. The only movement is from my fingers, the only sound is the soft tap, tap, tap. This is profound serenity. I wish it could last forever.

All day yesterday, my mind was on a post I was to do. I wanted to give my two cents on Vera Sidika’s recent body changes. Her skin lightening and boob enlargement, mostly. I wrote paragraph after paragraph but the story was just not connecting the way I knew it should. For me, the best thing to do to an obstinate story that refuses to come together is to leave it alone. Let it lie there and ferment for a while. When you come back to it, its ripeness will sting your nostrils as soon as you open the page. Then you can devour it like there is no tomorrow.

I therefore let the Vera story be and I slept. All the while knowing that I owed you a post. That must be the reason why I woke up at a few minutes to 3 a.m to answer the call of nature (the things I share with you on this blog yawa!) and couldn’t go back to sleep. It’s the guilt of leaving you hanging yesterday. I could see your evil eye cast in my direction as you refreshed the page and no new post was forthcoming. Yeah, I could sense your indignation. I saw how you looked at me. How you closed the web page in annoyance. Yeah, thank you very much for interrupting my sleep by the way!

When Vera Sidika first talked about her skin lightening on TV, I wondered loudly what the hell was wrong with this woman. I shook my head, like I suspect most Kenyans out there did as she twirled her hair backwards in a ‘don’t care’ attitude. “My body is my business” she said. I analyzed her. I diagnosed her to have self-esteem issues. Concluded that as a child, she was never told that she was beautiful enough times. I, in my most judgmental outfit, prescribed a shrink to talk to her and help her deal with whatever issues she was dealing with.

I am a woman in my thirties and I too believe that my body is my business. I don’t like being judged. No one out there knows me better than I know myself. My choices now reflect on my experiences while growing up. My thought process is based on my beliefs, my values and my morals (or lack thereof, depending on who you ask)  

I imagined therefore, someone telling me that their life is better than mine. That I should do things their way, based on their beliefs and values. I imagined how it would sit with me to have someone dictate my choices to me. I concluded that it wouldn’t augur well with me. Not in the least bit. This train of thought is what prompted me out of bed.

It dawned on me (at dawn nonetheless!) that at this point in my life, I don’t appreciate being judged or being told what to do, and most probably so doesn’t Vera. As an adult (of sound mind, if I might add) I embrace the person that I am ever so tightly, than ever before. I love my hair in dreadlocks, I love how I dress. I love who I am, warts and all! I make my decisions based on what I believe in. If I can live with the choices I make, then so should everybody else.

I am all woman. Perfectly WOMAN. All grown. I have earned the privilege of being allowed to make my own mistakes. I wouldn’t appreciate it if that privilege was taken away from me.

I don’t know how old Vera is (really) but I know that the people we should be paying attention to are our children. Vera is a grown woman. We should leave her to her mistakes and focus instead in influencing our young children and our teens. We should be helping build their self esteem. We should be telling our young girls that they are beautiful. We should be teaching them to value themselves so that when they choose their role models, it will be someone who is comfortable in her own skin.

If I don’t appreciate an adult woman lightening her skin, tough! That is my problem which I have to deal with. I don’t advocate for boob enlargement through plastic surgery, but tough on me! Those are my demons to exorcise, not hers. So what if she is all fake? If she is happy with herself, who are we? Just because I go to church every (most, really J ) Sunday, does it mean I should go knocking on other people’s doors and prevail upon them to go to church with me? And if they prefer to sleep in, should I sneer and point fingers, predicting fire and brimstone on their souls in the hereafter?

Personal choices, as long as they don’t border on criminality, are to be respected. And mine are as important as the next person’s. Infringing on those choices is denying someone the right to live their lives. The right to be themselves.

Even though you will catch me dead getting a boob job or bleaching my skin (I could only ever afford ‘River Road’ bleaching anyway), I realize that people have a right to make their mistakes. They then get to learn from those mistakes. Folly is thinking that I hold a stake in someone else’s destiny. I don’t. In the same way that no one else does in mine.

Vera could possibly have whatever issues we would like to diagnose her with. But all that is speculation. We haven’t walked a mile in her shoe. We don’t know how her typical day looks like. We are clueless on how she sleeps at night. What goes through her head as it hits the pillow at the end of the day? What does she think about when she can’t sleep at 3am in the morning?

We are in no position to judge her.

I am in no position to tell her story.

When faced with decisions, whatever makes you sleep better at night suffices. It is your life, your beauty sleep. If your conscience is clear, you owe no one nothing!

We will talk and give our opinion about you, but in the end, you are the only one who gets to live with the choices you make. You will stop living the day you let others make those choices for you.

Please don’t ever let that happen. Live your life!