Charity, not the name, the virtue

Thursday 9th June 2016

Last week I had the good fortune of attending a three-day all-women spiritual retreat in Tigoni, a small cold, lush, green town just outside Nairobi, at a serene center where we prayed, meditated, listened to talks and reflected on faith and life in general. There were 27 of us and for each of us it was an opportunity to not only relax away from the hustle and bustle of work but also a chance to re-energize and learn some pretty important virtues that we all sort of know but somehow forget.

One of the grand lessons I took away was on Charity. You see when we think of charity, we, or at least I, think of Mother Teresa, Oprah Winfrey, Shelby Davis, Bill Gates, Manu Chandaria, the various foundations world over and so on. But in actual fact, we are all called to charity; it is not for a select few who are wealthy, or old or ‘holy’ (because hey at this point in my life I am neither of the three 🙂 ). All of us in our wisdom, folly, wealth and poverty, weakness and strength, are called to Charity. I was intrigued to learn that charity is positive, it is proactive. It is not about not being mean. It is about doing, it is for instance, seeing others in suffering and reaching out to them. That story in the Bible about Lazarus and the rich man, that rich man’s sin was not being rich, no. It was that he did not notice a fellow human who was suffering right next to him and therefore made no effort to alleviate his neighbor’s situation.

I took this lesson as a calling to myself. Many times we console ourselves about our ‘goodness’ by saying, “Okay I am not hurting anyone, I haven’t been mean to anyone today, At least I didn’t answer her back even though she deserved a hot slap, I didn’t steal, I didn’t lie…I didn’t do this or that therefore if we really think about it, I am a pretty decent person.” But we can be so much more, we can do so much better! At the end of the day, we need to be able to count what we did do not what we didn’t do.

As you know, I am big on love, and so when we got to describing charity in love terms, my ears really perked up. Charity, we learned, is about loving people, loving them with their defects and miseries (Yes, their miseries, Haha, yaani wao na shida zao in Swahili, them and their issues/problems, LOL.) It is about loving them as they are. And love is not so much about feeling. Love is a decision we make. Love, in the case of charity, is sacrifice. It is about seeking to understand the other more than seeking to be understood. Even those we have had altercations with – and all of us have a short (or long) list of people we can count who are not exactly our cup of tea… Well, charity is about trying to also love those [crazy, mean, selfish and all the words we use to describe them] people. Because, and listen this is where it got deep, our charity to them can love them back to good. Have you ever thought of that? Loving people till they come back to good- assuming they were once good, of course. Okay, I joke 🙂 I mean this was now too deep! So deep in fact I am still just teetering reservedly about it and haven’t even jumped in yet. I am looking for floaters before I can attempt to dive into this one…

I think this topic, and it was one of the last ones in our three days there, stood out (in addition to the incredible food and picturesque compound), because it is a word that we throw around quite easily when we say ‘Charity Event’, ‘Charitable Organization’ and so on. It made me really evaluate if those things or people or organizations we call charitable are exactly that. More importantly, it made me evaluate how I am doing on my Charity graph. How are you doing on yours? Charity is in our actions, thoughts and words. Our words can be like arrows that hurt and they hurt even after we stop saying them so we must be careful. Everyone around us, no matter how strong, stoic, angry, mean, wealthy, poor, composed, happy and smart they look or seem needs charity. Everyone appreciates kindness. Everyone craves love and love, remember, is not selfish or self-centered, it is not envious, it rejoices in the success of others. This is all a very tall order. But we can try.

Ultimately charity is summarized in that simple commandment- do unto others as you would want them to do unto you. Quite simple, yah? Yet so very difficult to live out! I end this with a prayer that I read somewhere while at the retreat, ‘Fill our hearts with love, so that our words can be full of love.’ I would take it further and say, fill our hearts with love, all of us, so that our world can be full of love (and charity).

Work, Words, Weaves, Waves

For International Women’s Day

Tuesday 8th March 2016

The ones who have raised us, the ones who continue to raise the bar,
the ones who inspire and motivate, who encourage in times of drought.
Who have taught us to laugh and dance,
to sway our hips and gloss our lips.

The ones who give up their likes for those they like,
the ones who eat last, who wake up first,
who pick themselves up after they fall,
who are not afraid to ask for help,
the ones who lend money, clothes, time, a shoulder.

The ones who day in, day out, live with uncertainty
but don’t let it show in their eyes,
the ones who are lied to but still choose to believe
in truth
and hope for light.

The ones who are loyal, who will never let you down.
Who would rather die than watch their ilk suffer.
Who build homes with blood, sweat, tears,
mud, stones, bricks, grass, cash.

The ones who balance careers, babies, family, school,
partners, husbands, society,
expectations .
Who clean homes, streets, churches, offices.
The ones who do hair, nails, face, beautifying the others.
The ones who make beds, nurse wounds, till land, wipe tears, teach,
The ones who talk, the ones who write, the ones that sing.
The ones who make decisions in board rooms and sign hiring letters,
who do appraisals and give feedback and promote.

The ones who defend their honor and that of those around them.
The ones who are courageous, fearless, naughty,
real.
The ones who are unafraid to live.
The ones who give life.

These are the women I dedicate this day to.
And I am so blessed to know, to love,
to be loved and surrounded by so many of them.
All around me, all my life.
I hope we raise our daughters to be like this too.
I hope we always raise each other.

Happy International Women’s Day folks, as we celebrate ourselves.
And all the women in our lives, in the world.
And the men who respect, honor, protect, love and raise us.
As we celebrate our unique journeys, our shared struggles, our triumphs.

Our presence on this earth.
Our very being.

Of Relationships and Weather

Friday 19th February 2016

Recently, as in July last year, Poriot and I both happened to read Stephen Covey’s writings at the same time. I, while I was at the African Leadership Academy for the Global Scholars Program, and he when he was at Kenyatta University for the Young African Leaders Initiate (YALI) program. Among many things that we learned from these two amazing programs was proactivity- the idea that you (can) choose how things affect you. Instead of being re-active, you can choose to be pro-active. You may not have control over how things affect you but you do have control over how you respond to the issues/feelings/people. One of the taglines for that is ‘carry your own weather’, meaning don’t allow yourself to be sad just because it is a gloomy cloudy day, or vice versa. You can/must be in control of your reaction and mood and response to stuff.

So he (Poriot, not Covey, may he rest in peace) and I have been reminding ourselves of these lessons and trying to practice them (among other things such as me going to bed earlier so that I don’t fall asleep while driving). This week, on Monday, we drove home together and I was chatting like a chatterbox, (what’s new), and I was really in a great mood. Earlier in our relationship I used to feel guilty about this because it felt like I was hoarding all the ‘talk time’ until I realized that Poriot really did (does?) enjoy my banter and like most men (I generalize, I know), really only listens to half of what I say and knows when to Nod thoughtfully and say ‘Mmmhhhmm” and usually really that’s all the prompting I need to keep going. We also came to discover that in every (most) relationship(s) there is a talker and a listener, so long as you both are cool with the roles, it usually works fine. It has worked perfectly for us so far (in my view of course, you’ll have to ask Poriot for his :-))

So, back to the story, on Monday evening as we drove home together I was all sunshine and rainbows. I had managed to do thirty minutes of Zumba in the morning and was feeling very happy with myself because I had not done it for like two years and as a result of doing it I had had a really great day at work. Zumba always takes me to a good place. Apart from the glimmer of hope of finding my waist which went missing in 2012, and has since been quite elusive (One of these days I am going to put up a Missing Things poster for it); I really just enjoy the dancing, the rhythmic music and the endorphin that is released that makes me less stressed about everything at work and in my social life (such as people not responding to stuff in WhatsApp groups, I know I should drop it, shouldn’t I?).

As soon as we got home, however, I started noticing all this stuff that hadn’t been done in the house, and all the mischief that the kids were up to, pressing remotes and so on, and read an email that someone had sent that was not so positive, and my mood started going down. I started complaining, sulking, pulling my (already prominent) lower lip out…and Poriot was like, “Nooo!” “What? What has happened, I asked?” He told me, very gently, that I should stop being sad because when I am sad, I affect his mood too and he starts to feel sad too. And I was like, “Yah, by the way, I meant to ask, why are YOU looking so forlorn all of a sudden?! At least I know my ‘forlorn-ness” is about dusters and carpets and upcoming programs at work which people are emailing about at 6pm, for you what is the issue?” And he said, which I had never realized, that when I start to sulk and cause havoc and complain about tomatoes and cabbage and whatever else, I actually affect the whole household, kids included- though maybe not Lulu, her she really carries her own weather. Part of it is just , I think, she is not at an age where she can understand what people are saying so she is in La-la land having a ball full time, bless her. Lukundo is more sensitive and senses when you are sad or mad and you see him become withdrawn too. Our help too is generally very jovial and very social but she too withdraws to solitude when Mama Lukundo comes in with stress from work or the air or wherever I usually catch my stress from.

Poriot reminded me of that statement that I shouldn’t allow minor things to put me down when I had had had such a great day- that I should carry my on weather. And I asked why HE wasn’t carrying his own weather? Why was he allowing my mood to affect his mood? And he said, and this is the punch line, “You see what you don’t know is that you carry your weather and mine.” Gosh. I stopped right in my tracks and went quiet for a while. I felt that that was such a profound thing to say (I am a hopeless romantic, we all know this, so bear with me). I mean this sentence summed up an important aspect of relationships – marriage in particular, but relationships in general. When you are in partnership with someone who you love dearly, you carry each other’s weathers (to a certain extent, of course).

The whole point of it is that if you are in a relationship and you are ever busy sulking, complaining, worrying, stressing…you might be affecting more than yourself. In fact you ARE affecting more than yourself. Sounds quite simple yet we miss it all the time. You might be a major (not the only, but a major) reason why your partner seems sad, mad, down, uninspired, not thrilled all the time. I am not saying that we should take responsibility for our partners’ or loved ones’ moods (after all we live in the era of each man for himself and God for us all), but I AM saying that we have a lot of power over ourselves and over those we love, and those who love us, and vice versa. Hence it is worthwhile to try and give off what we want to receive, if it’s positive vibes we want, let’s try and give the same off. If it’s assurance, calmness, respectfulness, compliments, warmth… let us give off the same.

The following day after that conversation, I tried carrying my weather. I refused to allow people’s words and actions to dampen my spirits. I refused to allow them to determine my happiness or unhappiness. At work, I chose to respond rather than REACT to stuff. And what big difference it made to my stress levels! When I came home in the evening, I withheld from commenting negatively about this or that, and it worked like magic. It really did. Not that we must now keep quiet and not improve things that we see as problematic, but maybe do it with less stress, panic and less doom! So maybe the baby poured milk on the sofa… it is not the end of the world. Maybe someone at work is trying to pass blame on to you for something that they or someone else were/was totally meant to do… it is not the end of the world. Respond (maturely, rationally); don’t react. Maybe that rude, crazy driver is trying to cut you off in traffic, let them. You don’t have to stoop to their level (of foolishness), it will only aggravate you for nothing if you let him (okay, or her, or her) make you angry.

Now allow me to start my Friday, folks. I have weathers to carry. Today I would like to carry sunshine and warmth; I will try and keep dark clouds and storms at bay- for myself and all the people’s weathers I clearly carry. Are YOU carrying your own weather? I sure hope so! Good day.

Songs of Praise and Other Stories

Monday 12th October 2015

Hello Birthday Week, I have waited for you for a whole year and at last, here you are.

This week, on Saturday October 17th, I turn a year older. Let me take this early opportunity, friends and family, to welcome (and suggest, you’re welcome) all kinds of gifts – cards, pictures, memories, music, song dedications, quotes, jokes, puns, poetry, books, notebooks, paintings, shoes (can share my size, no problem), clothes (the size here varies from week to week 🙂 ) jewelry, hugs, cake, love, the works. While we are here, please let me also request that if you are really busy on that day and feel that you can only write HBD, kindly just wish me in your head, and wait until such a time when you will have more time and energy to be able to write out the full sentence- Happy Birthday, okay? Seriously, what is HBD? You get to bless someone once a year, once, and the best you can do is HBD? Really?

On a more serious note, last year at this time I was going to turn 30. This year I am also going to turn the same age, for the second time. In the weeks leading up to this week last year, I remember feeling like I wasn’t doing enough with my life. The feeling is still there and I guess it is a good thing because the day we feel that we have done enough is the day we stop living and start existing.

Last week I was in a meeting at work where we were preparing for a leadership program and one of the activities proposed was to ask people to write their own Eulogy. What would you want people to say about you at your funeral? This exercise, when it’s been done before, has really gotten people thinking, and has gotten them to change the way they look at and live their lives. I find that yes, it is a good exercise but it is not enough to inspire me to change my life. You see, I have attended enough funerals to know that when you die, people will almost always say nice things about you, unless you were really bad, in which case people will say ‘Good riddance!’, and even then, under their breaths, not publicly. Somehow, even the most cowardly person becomes a hero at death, and why not? Death has a way of making us remember people in clean bright light; we obliterate anything bad they had done from our memories, we place them on a pedestal, praise them, almost glorify them. It is natural and it is not a bad thing. So by all means, at my funeral, guys, go ahead and laud me; like everyone else, I want my funeral to be one where the starring character is referred to with fondness, admiration and great respect.

Anyway, how funny is it that we are discussing death when we really are talking birthdays here? The thing about that whole eulogy exercise is that I want to know what people would say about me now. I am not as interested in knowing what happens when I die because then I won’t have a chance to change anything, will I? I want now, to hear it said that ‘She is caring, she is loving, she is hardworking, she is foolish, she is annoying, she is inspirational, she brings sunshine to my life, she lifts my spirits, she helped me when I was down, she dances hard and sings heartily, she makes me laugh, she makes me cry, she cried with me, makes my life more meaningful…’ I want that now because then I have a chance to change the things that I am not doing right and to perfect the ones that I am doing right.

Last year, in a similar post leading up to my birthday, I made reference to the fact that Jesus began his ministry work at 30 and by 33 he was done, having performed a number of miracles including raising people from death. So one year has gone by since then, I only have two years left, to be as amazing as Jesus. Not sure if I can beat his record, but I am trying to live up to it. Minus the miracles part- which might be a little tricky. Only a little.

Last year, at this time, Poriot and I were managing a children’s home (what some people call an orphanage) and its attached primary school in Londiani, Kericho County. One October afternoon while Poriot was away at work, teachers from our school, came to visit the Home. They brought gifts and we sang, prayed and shared the word of God. When we got to speeches and sharing, a few teachers spoke, and then the headmaster stood to speak. In trying to motivate the kids to work hard, he asked them who or what they would like to be like when they grew up. Many of them mentioned that they would like to be a doctor like Poriot and also mentioned the names of their class teachers as well as the headmaster and his deputy. The headmaster kept saying, “Good! And who else? Who else is a role model to you?” I saw what he was trying to do- because I was seated right there. He was hoping that at least one of the kids would say that they’d like to be like Elishibah when they grow up. Listen, the kids did not say Elishibah. They did not. Not even one. Can we just pause for a moment to absorb that?

Do you know how I felt? Shall I tell you? Let me tell you. I felt discouraged, disillusioned, disfigured, dismembered, deflated… (Okay maybe not dismembered and disfigured but you get the point). I felt like I was nothing, like I was rubbish. In that moment, I smiled and closed the session graciously with a huge Thank you to the teachers for visiting us. I told the headmaster afterwards that I had seen what he had been trying to do and that I appreciated it. He said that he was sure they all wanted to be like me, but just hadn’t voiced it. I thanked him for his kindness but knew in my heart that the damage was already done. Suffice it to say, when I got back to our house and our room that afternoon, I cried really hard. I cried because all my life I had grown up being a role model. The first born. The prefect. The head-girl. The wonderful daughter. The great sister, cousin, neighbor. A well behaved child at home and in school. A leader. A star. And so on. I realized, on that day, that I had gotten drunk on praise and had come to expect it. Of course this all suggests that I may actually be not too shabby a person- let’s be kind here 🙂 But to be honest, I realized that I had come to assume I would always stand out as not only good but very good and exemplary.

It dawned me quite hard then, that these kids saw me in different light. Poriot tried to tell me, when I told him about the incident a few days later (I needed time to absorb first before sharing), that it was because the kids saw me as a Mum and not as a career person/option to grow up to be like. But you see, even if they saw me as a Mum, at the very least, they should have admired my Mothering skills. Surely even if I wasn’t working and was staying at home managing things and people, I wanted them to want to be a good home manager like me! I wanted them to see me as an example of good leadership, humility, excellence, discipline, hygiene, good character, felicity, anything! (What is felicity?) But kids can be quite honest. They didn’t sit and plan to not mention my name, so the fact that I did not appear anywhere on their mental radar as a role model meant that I was doing nothing! At least that’s what it felt like.

I was already feeling low for not being as amazing at running the Home as I had thought I would be, and there were many issues- financial and otherwise- that were going on at the time and that were really hampering our effectiveness as directors and parents at the Home. I felt that at 30, I really had failed because here I was, having resigned from my job and moved my whole life and family from Nairobi, and the very people that I had given up that for did not view me as a good Mum leave alone a Director and role model. I felt empty, hurt and confused.

But at the same time, I learned a big lesson. I realized that I had to keep being a good Mum whether or not it was acknowledged. I know that kids grow up and realize much later that they should have been grateful to their parents for this and that, I get that. But I grew up in constant and complete admiration of my mum and took every opportunity to tell her how much I loved her, respected her and admired. Much like I do with Poriot now as my partner in life, and my kids and everyone that I interact with. I find it easy to seek and see good in people and often take any opportunity, when I I love, respect and admire people, to let them know that I do. This had almost always been reciprocated, until this one afternoon. What was I to do in this situation where I felt like rubbish but yet had to step up to the plate? Was it because I was too strict, I wondered? Was I was not hands-on enough? Was I too demanding, over-bearing or too detached as a guardian? What was I not doing that I should have been doing? I had a million questions- and very few answers.

I came to see, later, that the kids and workers did respect me, just that it was expressed in very subtle ways. They did, to my relief, all sign my birthday card with very kind words- phew! But a birthday is one of those things like eulogies. I mean what mean thing are you really going to say to someone on their birthday card? Really? (Except HBD… 🙂 )

But that is not the point. A year on, there are still very many areas in which I feel that I am not succeeding- very many, more than I care to share here. But one thing I know is that I have grown to a point where I am able to do what I do without being worried whether someone praises me or not. I have come to realize that I cannot take my motivation from what people say or don’t say. Okay let me rephrase that. I have come to see that I can work on getting myself to a point where praise doesn’t make me or break me. It is a work in progress. At times you do really well and nobody appreciates you for it- it doesn’t take away from the fact that you have done something with all your heart.

Two weeks ago in one of the WhatsApp groups that I am in, this one is for family but ladies only, we were talking about character traits that make us who we are, and my cousin said that I love fiercely. Fiercely, she said, do you hear that? That is one of the best things I have heard said and I felt like if I wanted something written on my tombstone, this would come pretty close. What better way to sum up my life philosophy? ‘Here lies Shibs. She Loved Fiercely.’ The reason everything means so much to me, including things that really maybe shouldn’t, including that session with the teachers and our kids at the Home, including how people react or don’t react to this or that on a daily basis, is because I love so passionately and expect the same back, but unfortunately life does not work like that. Be that as it may, I believe we all serve a purpose in this world- some perhaps a more obscure one than others, but a purpose all the same.

As I turn a year older, I hope that some young people (and older ones too) do want to be like Shibs ‘when they grow up’. Not because I am so awesome, but because, if we look hard enough, we will find that we all have something that we could learn from each other. Something that we could offer each other and something that we could gain from each other. In light of that, I want to do amazing work, like Jesus did, for the next two years of my life, and then for many, many more, as many as I’ll be around. I want to give myself to life, to people and to God, without dwelling on praise or no praise. I want to live well for the now not just for my eulogy. And most of all, I want to continue to love. And I will. Fiercely.

This Sleep will Kill Me

Monday, 28th September 2015

Today, for the third time in my driving life, I fell asleep on the road.
There was traffic , we stayed stationery for many minutes, I put the handbrake up and the gear in Parking mode, switched off the car and left only the radio on, then, without realizing it, fell asleep.

I was woken up by honking because traffic had started moving and I was not moving. I quickly turned the car on and got ready to move, but the policeman manning the roundabout was like, Not so fast. He told me to park on the side. He was very angry, he came over to my window. He asked me what I was doing, I told him that I had fallen asleep and I was very sorry. He asked where I was coming from such that I was so sleepy. I told him I was actually coming from work and heading home.

Thankfully I was still wearing my work name tag on my neck, so I showed it to him. He told me to be very careful, pointed at me one more time and told me to go. He stopped the other cars, so that I could get off the curb where he had asked me to park and drive onto the Nyayo Stadium roundabout. He had moved forward and was waiting for me to get back on the road as he had instructed. As fate would have it, the steering wheel refused to move, it was stuck.

So I switched the car off then on again and thankfully it moved. But he stopped me again because from where he was standing, he couldn’t see why I was taking so long to just move. He came over to my window, pointing at me again and this time asked me what I had drunk. I told him I hadn’t drunk anything and that my car just stalled on me. He said ‘No, you must have taken something alcoholic at lunch time.’ I told him that in fact, I don’t drink.

I was smiling by now and he was smiling too because the whole situation was so seriously ridiculous seriously. He asked me why I don’t drink, is it because I am Saved (born again)? I told him Yes. Though, in all honesty, the reason I don’t drink is that alcohol doesn’t do much for my taste buds, and it just makes me sleepier anyway. But, yes, I am also Saved. He told me, he knows that some saved people do drink, for example, Catholics. I told him that coincidentally, I am Catholic, but I am one of those that don’t drink. He could even test me with those gadgets that they use to test people, I told him. He laughed, he said they are called Alcoblow. I said, Yes, those ones.

He shook his head, like to say he didn’t know what to do with me. He said he could charge me with obstruction of traffic. I asked him not to charge me please, to let me go home please so I could sleep, and to note that I was very, very sorry and it wouldn’t happen again. He let me go but told me to be very careful.

I thanked him profusely and moved into the roundabout quickly before he could change his mind. This time the steering wheel cooperated.I drove home and got home safe without sleeping again.

I couldn’t tell him that I was sleepy because we had a party that lasted from Friday evening through Saturday day, and night till morning, through Sunday day to evening to celebrate Poriot’s birthday and Quarter Three birthdays; that it was really fun doing so in our house with family and friends, and that I was really happy that we all had such a grand time together, but as a result was thoroughly exhausted. I didn’t tell him that. But if we had talked longer, I would have. He was a policeman with a heart and he was friendly so I am very lucky.

It is not lost on me that this is not a funny story. It is also not lost on me that beyond getting charged for a traffic offense, I could have caused an accident and worse things could/would have happened.

I have often said that my sleep problem will kill me. It is no longer a light statement. I am going to get help. Today yes, I was tired from the weekend, but there have been other times, one too many. In traffic, in meetings, in class, in church, in that very party, during conversations, during choir practice… One too many times. I will seek help because I don’t think it’s as funny anymore.

Anyways, so that’s how my Monday went. How was yours? I hope you were awake, at least.

For Poriot’s 2015 Birthday

Friday, 25th September, 2015

What do I say to a person who is my rock, my wings, my heartbeat, my pillar of strength, compass, my silver lining on the cloud, my rainbow, my sunshine, my rain?

There are many things I could talk about, Poriot, but what sticks out most for me, is that you have remained my best and true friend, through thick and thin, through rough patches and happy times. You color my world and make every storm so much more bearable because you are right there on top of it, handling it, dealing with it, calming it.

The fact that I know you are just a tap or a phone call away, that I can count on you for anything, anything at all, at any time, even if it means you changing your own plans, even if it means you going out of your way, even if it means forgoing your comfort is what I really marvel at. That kind of selflessness is what I have come to rely so much on, and sometimes I wonder if I am not spoiled.

The fact that I can talk to you about everything, every single thing, and have you listen is what makes me so safe in your presence. The fact that I can be myself and not be afraid that you will judge me allows me to be the best of me and to be authentic. The many times I feel discouraged, disillusioned, small and unworthy; and you restore me and lift me up, how do I thank you for that? The many times that something good, big or small, happens and you hear it in my voice, and my face lights up and you see it and you smile at me, with me, how can I describe that kind of solidarity? The many times we can just sit and our conversation is half verbal, half non-verbal, and there is absolutely no need to explain why or why not, is why I feel that there is truly such a thing as soul-mates.

The many, many, times where we have no ‘plot’ or ‘plans’ except knowing that we just want to hang out together whether we are taking a walk to the shops or reading the papers at home, or going to look for nyama choma, or watching Wedding Show (okay that’s mostly me. That and Woman Without Limits, lol), or you watching a Series and me not getting what the thrill is about…and yet, these very mundane things are the things that build into unforgettable, invaluable memories.

I don’t know what I could really say to someone like you, who is beyond special to me. It is a blessing to be your wife, it is a blessing to be able to share in your every day and to walk this journey called life with you. You are an amazing dad, and a hero already to Lukundo and Lulu. They are so blessed and lucky to have you and I pray, pray, pray, that you will be there to see them grow until such a time when they too can be heroes for you.

I pray that your star continues to shine, that God continues to bless you and lift you. That He will continue to hear your prayers, to guide you and guard you. That He will see you fulfill your purpose and that He will grant you your heart’s desires, in accordance with His will.

May you never stop being kind, may you never stop being generous, and by all means, please, may you never stop enjoying life, each step of the way. May life be kind to you and may people meet you with the same energy and positivity that you meet them.

With much respect, admiration and gratitude, I write this for you, about you, to you. I am so happy that you are turning a year older, because it’s a start to another 365 days of greatness, of growth, of failures turned into lessons, challenges turned into opportunities and dreams turned into reality. Another year of fabulousness. Another year of being you.

Happy birthday, my dear. Happy, happy, happy birthday.

Long Distance

26 August 2015

This week marks the end of our relationship as we have known it- Poriot and I.

I am so happy about it; I don’t know what to say! We are not breaking up- for those of you nay-sayers who love drama, God forbid. That’s not it. No, what’s happening is that Poriot is moving to Nairobi, which will bring to an end our long distance marriage. Yay!

After four years of working in separate towns and having two houses, we will for the first time, actually live and work in the same city and one house, not two or three. I say, our relationship as we have known it because though I met Poriot while I was still here in Kenya- (we met at Alliance Francaise, in a French class, I speak some French, he doesn’t speak much beyond Bonjour, but at least he got a wife from the class) – we actually started dating while I was already a student in the US.

For years, from 2005, we survived on phone calls, SMSes and emails. Those were not days of WhatsApp, and international calls were not cheap. He had to go to a call bureau to call me, and I would have to buy calling cards to call him. He would have to go to a Cyber cafe to send me emails- which he did on a daily basis. Guys, if you are trying to woo a lady, that is what effort looks like, take it from me. For years we lived for the summer break- the three months when I would be home in Kenya doing internships, touching base with family and friends, but also, refueling my relationship with this Beau that my heart had fallen for. Many, many times, we needed more than a phone call, more than an email to communicate what we really felt. But many, many, many times, all we had was exactly that- phone calls , SMSes and emails.

Post College, I came ‘nearer’, I was working in South Africa so at least we were on the same continent and I could afford to come home much more often. But still, it took a flight to get to each other. We planned our wedding over email, Facebook inboxes, SMSes and phone calls. We fought through the same medium and reconciled through the very same. Good things happened and bad things happened, both major and minor, to us as individuals and to us as a couple, but we went through all of them together, through the distance, despite the distance.

When I came back home 6 years post the start of our courtship, essentially to marry him, we thought, Ahhh, finally, we can live together! But that was not to be. He was stationed in Ole Nguruone, four and a half fours drive away from Nairobi; and I had found a job in Nairobi. So we still had two houses- but at least we were on the same time zone and could call on Safaricom. Seriously, Safaricom, we owe you.

After our wedding, we stayed home together for over a month. He was on accrued annual leave, and I was going to start my job in September (we got married on July 30th). We spent the days unpacking gifts, reading wedding greetings cards, arranging the few pieces of furniture we had, looking at wedding pictures, visiting people, attending plays and concerts, and getting used to the idea of being married. It was hands down the most blissful six weeks of my life.

When we came back from our honeymoon, we drove to Ole Nguruone to go collect some household things that we would use for our new house in Amboseli South C. I had never been to Olee so it was also a good opportunity to know where my husband worked. The climate is very cold in Ole Nguruone, and on the day we went, it was cold like nobody’s business. Prior to that I had had ideas of maybe just finding a school to teach at or an NGO to work with in the area so that we could actually live together, but it was so cold that all notions that I had of ever living there evaporated or condensed, whichever it is that happens when it is extremely cold.

So what followed was more years of long distance relating. I remember the day he left to go back to Ole, it was 6th of September 2011, and I came home in the evening from work, I felt such a void in the house that I cried. No jokes. I cried tears. I called him and told him that one of us would have to move and that if he couldn’t get a transfer, I was going to resign and become a stay-at-home wife until I found something else, so long as I didn’t have to spend my evenings alone. Well, the next morning, I thought about that decision with a bit more sense and a little less dramatic emotion and realized that it was not such a brilliant idea. Shoot me- I was a young new bride totally in love and terrified of living alone for the first time. Anyway, be that as it may, we survived because look, four years later, here we are. Actually it’s been 2015-2005. Ten years of long distance loving.

Recently, when I went to SA, we had another test. We had gotten used to calling each other all the time, and being accessible to each other- except when he’s in theater or something. When I got to my room at ALA (African Leadership Academy) that first night and I didn’t have the WiFi Password yet and so I couldn’t WhatsApp or call or email, I thought I’d go crazy. I texted him, “How in heaven did we do this for six years? I can’t survive.” He replied, ”Yah, I don’t know, I don’t know how we did it”. It was unfathomable to me, and yet we had done it and come out victorious on the other side- that is, if you consider marriage a victory in a long-term relationship- I do! (Pun intended) We survived the 26 days that I was away for but by the time I came back home I felt that I could not have done a single day extra away from him- and now our two babies.

The thing is, you can never really get used to long distance. You still worry. You wish you could wake up in the same room, watch 7 o’clock news together. Weekends means so much more because they are all you have- that’s why we go almost everywhere together. Phones are your lifeline so when the network is down, or coverage is poor, it is not funny. Now in the era of WhatsApp it’s become easier, I can take pictures of something and send them to him to show him, for instance, exactly how his son is trying to fly off the couch like Superman. It still excites me to see on my phone screen that it’s Poriot calling, even though we talk Lord-knows how many times a day. If there’s ever a delay where he needs to leave home a day earlier, or spend an extra day away from home, and vice versa, it casts a shadow on everything because any time we have together is so limited and precious!

In ways, this has actually helped us value each other more. As a result of dating and being married long distance, we treasure every minute we have together and we have learned to pick our battles. You don’t get the luxury of sulking and pulling your lower lip to show how upset you are when you have an argument because guess what, he can’t see you! You can’t be careless with your words because words once written on SMS or email cannot be erased.

Of course there’s the issue of trust. I have known and will always know that there are more beautiful amazing etc. women out there, and that every time he is away from me, there is a chance of meeting them- and vice versa. But that’s where you have to let go because if you sit and imagine how many beautiful girls he is seeing every minute he is away from you, you will go mad for sure. And I have no intention of killing myself so young- and then the women can really have him! Over my dead body (Haha, another pun, get it?)

People ask, Can it be done? It is do-able? I mean, yes, it is…but with a lot of effort, discipline, trust and commitment. If you decide that this is the person who soothes your heart, then you make it work, distance or no distance. We have come this far, and I am grateful for all the trials and strength that it’s brought our way, but it hasn’t been easy at all, don’t be fooled. I am ready to have him come home so that for once, we can wake up in the same house for let’s say even 14 days consecutively!

I thank God for keeping him, us all, safe during all those hours on the road, on the air and all over. I thank God also for giving us the grace and patience to persevere the torture of not being together full time- okay torture is a strong word, let me say, the challenge… I thank God for giving us the ability to be okay with a WhastApp message for a Good Morning hug and an Email to say I’m sorry instead of a nice long chat over a meal. I am grateful for all that, but I am most grateful for the fact that this week, we shall begin the non-long-distance phase of our relationship. I hope we can stand each other!!! There’s that side to it too, isn’t there? But I’ll take that any day. Any day. In fact, I can’t wait. Poriot, welcome home.