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!

Monday, July 21, 2014

What Hailey Knows

Geography dictates that nights are colder when the sky is clear. A clear sky allows heat to escape from the earth to the sky. A clear sky also enables easy visibility of the moon at night. We are therefore tempted to assume that the presence of the moon makes the nights colder while in essence it is the clear sky (which coincidentally enables us to conspicuously spot the moon) that causes the drop in temperatures at night.

And our geography lesson for today ends there.

I am taking the kids to catch the bus to school in the morning, right? It is a cold morning and I lament how cold it is as I pull my jacket to hug my body. As soon as the words are out of my mouth, Hailey looks up to the sky and tells me that the reason it is cold is because the moon is out. Yes, it is cold when the moon is out, she shares.

You must have caught on by now that my children have a thing for the moon. This must mean something, and I believe we will find out in due course.

I ask Hailey to repeat what she just said because I can’t believe my ears. She goes “When there is a moon, it is cold” I say ok. Then silence.

We wait for the bus which should be here any minute now. Heidi is standing quietly beside me. I am looking at Hailey just to make sure that nobody made a switch at night to give me someone else’s daughter. She has Hailey’s face alright. I see my cheeks in there. My eyes are looking back at me. Her father’s ears and nose stand out defiantly. Haha..those ears! They confirm to me that I have the right child for sure.

“Who told you that mum?” I ask after the long pause.

“What?” she asks. She already forgot we were having a conversation. Kids!

“Who told you about the moon and the cold nights?”

“I just know” she says as she shrugs her shoulders

“Come on. Who told you” I ask again. Coz really, I need an answer.

“Najua tu!” she shrugs her shoulders again.    
Then we see the bus. It’s hugs and kisses. “I love you!”, “Good day!” and off they go!

I am left there standing, and still in need of an answer. Sorry, but Najua tu will not cut it for this mother. Someone is educating my daughter about stuff and I have a right to know who, right? I know for a fact that they are not on ‘The Correlation Between The Moon and Cold Nights’ topic in their Science lesson because 1) She is in class one. So, pleeease! Digital kids or not, NO WAY! 2) I check her books every evening, which confirms point no. 1, that they are still learning the basics. Come on, she doesn’t even know what the word ‘Correlation’ means!

This is what you see when you go through Hailey’s Science book.

When the trees are swaying, it is a windy day.
When the sun is out, it is a sunny day.
When it is raining, it is a rainy day.
When there is cloud cover, it is a cloudy day.

The above sentences are accompanied by ill-drawn pictures of the sun, rains, swaying trees and clouds.

They were asked to carry balloons the other day to learn about air and bubbles and moving air - which is called wind by the way. Hihi…you’re so welcome!

Given the above evidence, I expect weather conversations with her to border along the lines; “Mum, since it is raining, today is a rainy day sindio?”  Yesterday, while reading her Science book, she looked up to ask me whether it is possible to have rainy and windy nights as well. To which I answered in the affirmative.

You get my point?

I need to know who is teaching my baby and the fact that she is not sharing information with me has me worried

This is how it all begins. It’s the moon today, tomorrow it will be the “Birds and the Bees’ story. She is growing so fast and before you know it, it will be time for that talk. I will sit her down and putting my shyness (Yes I am shy… sometimes) aside, I will look her straight in the eye (Oh boy!) and say; “Hailey, I think it is time we had a talk.”

“Ok” she will respond while looking at me straight in the eye. Hailey has a steady stare. She looks you straight in the eye when you talk to her.

“Now, there is a story about the ‘Birds and the Bees’…”

The she will burst out laughing. I will look on with shock.

She will laugh and laugh. Hysterically.

“Hailey, what is so funny?”

“Muuum (she likes dragging the ‘mum’) I know that ‘story’!” She will put imaginary quotes on ‘story’ using both her forefingers.

“You do?!”

She will nod, with a smile on her face.

“You know about the birds and the bees?” I will ask again, unbelievably.

She will nod again, still smiling

“Ok. So you know what the story means?” I will give her a knowing look like…you know.

Then she will nod again.

“…REALLY means?” I will not believe her

“Yes, I know what it REALLY means. It means that children are not bought from hospital. That a man and a woman….”

“Ok! Ok! Young lady! I would like to hear the story from you, but first things first. Who told you the story?”

Then she will shrug her shoulders and say “Najua tu!”

I will lose my mind! I promise you!

Like this information falls from the skies?  

Ok, maybe her teacher mentioned about the moon in passing or she heard a conversation between adults. I mean, kids hear and see things and learn from them all the time. It is no big deal really. The only problem I have is with this ‘Najua tu’ business. Why won’t she tell me? Is this what our relationship has become? She learns new stuff and doesn’t see it fit to share with her mother.

Sometimes it is unsettling that my children are growing up and they are learning so much from so many people. PEOPLE I DON’T EVEN KNOW! From the way those people speak, to what they do and how they carry themselves. They are watching, listening and learning. I wish I could hand pick the people they are allowed to emulate. Maybe even make a list for reference. Once out there, their small minds belong to the world. It belongs to her friends, her teachers and any other person who crosses their path in the course of their day.  

Forget the moon stuff, I can let it go that she learnt it somewhere and won’t tell me about it. Maybe she doesn’t even remember where she got that piece of information from. What I will not take sitting down is if someone else beats me to the ‘birds and the bees’ story. What if someone else out there, teaches her about it before I get to it? That really scares me.

I am therefore watching Hailey closely. I am watching her like a hawk. When she is ready for the ‘birds and the bees’ narrative, it will not slip my surveillance. I will grab the chance and be all over her mind like white on rice. She gets to hear it from me first. I think I earned that right when I pushed her out of me in the delivery room 6 years ago. Once we have had the talk, I hope, oh, I pray that she will come to me for clarity whenever she is confused. O how I pray!

In the meantime, this shrugging and “I just know” business between me and Hailey, needs to stop. It has to.

Do you understand my anxiety? Do you?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Life & Football

My body is literally sprawled on the couch. No, I did not finally solicit the services of a shrink, thank you very much!

I am watching the World Cup finals. It’s Germany pitting against Argentina. I am not watching this game because I love football much (much) more than my beauty sleep. Nor because I am so knowledgeable on matters football. I am not doing this because I suffer from insomnia (I am in fact very sleepy!) No. I am watching the finals because I am a sport. I am keeping Md company. Unlike me, he loves football. He is knowledgeable on matters football and he is not sleepy. Plus I had a bet to win. I supported Germany, he supported Argentina. Guess who lost! Guess who is getting herself a new pair of shoes! Woot! Woot!

I promised him that I would not fall asleep. That I would watch the game (I am a sport remember?). That I was eager to witness ‘my’ team trash ‘his’ team. He wasn’t convinced given the ‘sprawled on couch’ posture I had assumed. I promised. Then I fell asleep in the twenty ‘something-th’ minute.

Not my fault really. The thing about me is that my productivity is at its peak from morning (read 4 am) when I wake up, and it keeps dwindling as the day progresses, up until  the time I go back to sleep. After 7pm, I am dawdling through the remaining activities of the day. I am a Zombie at this point. So, don’t go taking my word for it when I make promises about activities that require my attention during those hours because I will disappoint you. During this time, I am only good for quiet (meaningless) chatter, leisurely activities like filing finger nails, applying nail polish, watching comedy, sprawling on the couch…you know? Nothing serious.

Knowing this weakness, I try to cram all the important stuff on my to-do list into the morning hours. If it spills over, I have no choice but to start with it the next day. I write early in the morning when my mind is top notch. I then post blog posts, read blogs, read articles, news items, books, in the afternoon. 

You therefore have to understand that I wanted to watch the game. I wanted to. But, of course, I drifted off to sleep. I remember waking up briefly to some commotion about a goal by Argentina. Then it was cancelled ati offside. I asked Md what this “offside” business really meant. Was it just a ploy by the referee to deny a team a rightfully-earned goal? He almost jumped at the suggestion seeing as he was supporting the offended team, but opted to try and explain it for the umpteenth time. I have never been able to grasp the ‘offside’ concept. I wasn’t getting it now either. Not because I don’t generally get stuff, but because…well, I am a zombie from 7pm, didn’t I tell you? He gave up talking to himself after a while and resigned to watching the game ‘alone’. I slept. Maybe I snored (he insists that I snore can you believe that! Me, I think that when one’s team is about to lose a game, the ‘disgruntled’ loser can say crazy things!)

Half time came. I woke up briefly then snored away (As if?!).

When I woke up next, the score read Germany 1, Argentina 0. Only then did I really wake up!

“Do you smell something?” I asked Md.

He looks at me puzzled ‘What?’

“VICTORY!” I shrieked. (Don’t you love that World Cup Ad? ‘The Diehards’ make me smile always.)

“Now you wake up! Now you wake up?” He asked as he shook his head.

Suffice to say, I was wide eyed as ever as I watched Germany receive with pride the world cup trophy and held it up for the world to acknowledge that they were champions. I had no ounce of sleep in me when I stretched my hand to receive my well-earned one thousand shillings from the bet with Md.

Well-earned you wonder? I slept through the march and never cheered or supported ‘my’ team in any way, right? But that is life my friend. And in life;

1.    There are people who only show up for the celebration and are nowhere in sight when you are grinding and need their support the most.

2.    There are people who will cash in on your success.

3.    People will always put their needs ahead of yours.

While still on football, learning something new never hurt anyone. So…

The offside Rule in Soccer (Defined) The law states that if a player is in an offside position when the ball is played to him or touched by a teammate, he may not become actively involved in the play.
A player is in an offside position if he is closer to the goal line than both the ball and the second-to-last defender, but only if he is in the opposition half of the field. To be offside, a player must:

§  Be in the opposition half.

§  Be in front of the ball.

§  Have fewer than two opposition players between himself and the goal line when the ball is played to him by a teammate. The goalkeeper can count as an opposing player in this instance.

(Source: About.com)

Do have a lovely week!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Roaring Lady In Red

“When in doubt, wear Red” Bill Blass

“When are the elections for the PTA officials held?” She asked.

Our heads turned from her to the person she was addressing.

“The elections are held every year” he replied.

We all turned our heads to look at her. She was still standing.

“When? Cos we’ve never heard about them?” I could swear I saw a sneer on her face!

Heads turn back to him.

“Actually, the PTA officials are selected by a PTA organizing committee, not by the members” he explained patiently, ignoring the sneer.

Heads turn back to her.

“Why are you here alone then? Where are the other officials?”

Back to him

He smiled. No, that wasn’t a genuine smile. More like a ‘who-the-hell-do-you-think-you-are’ smile

“Good question. I don’t know where the other officials are either. ” he laughed


She is still on her feet. Clearly, that answer did not amuse her as it did the gentleman.

“Ever since we started coming to these PTA meetings, you’ve always been introduced as the chairman. You mean to tell me the committee has been re-electing you over and over?”

Someone in the crowd giggled. Another gave a low whistle. Claws were out!

Had we been a fun crowd (which I thoroughly regret we weren’t) we would immediately have played the song ROAR by Katy Perry as the soundtrack for this scene. I need more fun parents with a vibrant playlist in their touch screen phones to attend these PTA meetings with. “…you’re gonna hear me roar oh oh oh oh oh oh…” The lady in red was roaring alright! Imagine the above exchange happening as the song played in a low volume. That would have been fun! We were no fun! Or maybe I watch too many movies!!!

“I stand here as the PTA Chairman because I was elected as such” he answered, visibly pissed with the interrogation.

It was getting ugly people!

Md and I shared a look. He shook his head. I smiled. Where was popcorn when you needed it!

“So when is the next election?” she prodded.

She was not going to let this go, was she?

We all turned to look at her then back at the gentleman. Our head choreography was spectacular!

“December. But as I said, the organizing committee elects the officials, not…”

You could tell he was struggling to be civil. The interrogation went back and forth, and so did our heads. Back, forth.

“But we don’t even know when these elections are held. We’ve always known you as the chairman, aren’t there other people who can be elected to that post”

The guy yielded. He must have realized that this exchange was headed nowhere. He kept giving answers, while she kept asking the same question over and over.

“I will sit down now and let one of the committee members answer your questions”

He sat down. She followed suit. FINALLY! Something told me that she would stand up again for another reason. She was after all, dressed in red.

The committee member stood up and repeated the same information that the Chairman had given. YAWN!

The exchange we had just witnessed was between the PTA chairman and a parent. We attended the girls’ Academic day at their school this past weekend and all was going well, until one lady in a red dress decided to give the PTA Chairman a hard time.

Now, you would be tempted to think that the Chairman was incompetent, or did not chair the meeting as expected hence the attack from the lady right? You would be tempted further to think that he refused to let her speak her mind during the meeting, that he ignored her hand when it went up? Au contraire! He was doing a good job of chairing the meeting. He was fair and gave the lady so many chances to stand up and wow the audience with her beautiful personality, grace and charm.  He in fact insisted on hearing contributions equally from men and women alike. He said it. He said, I will give three gentlemen a chance to speak, and three women a chance as well.

“Sema equality!” I whispered to Md.

She wore a red dress and had braided hair. She was slender and from the introductions - we had to introduce ourselves, the name of our child(ren) and which class they were in- I gathered that her son was in standard 3. Allan, if memory serves me right.

The meeting had been going well, and we discussed issues that needed to be addressed by the school. Issues about changing the school uniform – they are introducing some pretty dresses for our girls, yay! – how we need more buses for transportation to and from school. Punishment issues, how flogging should be done with moderation. It was in essence a very constructive meeting. Until her claws came out.

If you ask me when I first sensed that she was trouble, I would tell you when she stood up to make contributions several times and I noticed that she was wearing a red dress. The confidence that comes with wearing a red dress! I knew there and then that she was on fire! If you ask md when he first sensed that the lady in red was trouble, he will tell you when she took every chance to take photos with her i-pad, even during moments which were in his opinion, not the standard ‘Kodak moments’.

Bill Blass said that Red is the ultimate cure for sadness. Wearing red attire builds up your confidence. They say that it gives you a presence, perks you up. It is almost like a drug! (Sssssshhhh!) Think about it. So hate the game, not the player.

Theatrics aside, I finally met Shanterina. Not my Shanterina, but Hailey’s friend Shanterina. We met her after the PTA meeting, as we were going to Heidi’s class to meet her teacher. Md is holding Heidi’s hand as we are walking, then she suddenly yells “Shanty! Shanty!” as she waved at a young girl in a ponytail. Our attention was piqued. Wait, we know that name, don’t we?! That name gets a mention in our household quite a bit. But isn’t she Hailey’s friend? We say hi to Shanterina Odhiambo as she gives Heidi a PK (chewing gum) tablet from the pack she had.  Apparently, Shanterina though in Hailey’s class, is both Hailey and Heidi’s friend. And she is the sweetest girl!

PS: I apologize for the late post. My schedule this week has been quite messed up. Forgiven? Aren’t you guys the best-est! J