On being thankful…

On being thankful

The year is stealthily coming to an end! It feels like every month was shorter than the last.
September was different for me though. I made a conscious decision to enjoy it. Most of my feelings were intentional. I let happy moments linger and ensured that negative energy took a back seat, way back! I am happy to report, it worked!

thanks 1
This month, I picked up one of my countless notebooks and started a page titled “Thankful September” Here, I jotted down at least one incident that brought me joy on any given day. Some days were more joyful than others but that’s a great thing so the lists could be as long as possible.
Some days brought out the best of mundane moments, others were truly special because people went out of their way to ensure this. Sometimes, I went out of my way to milk that happy ending out.
I am hoping that this can become a habit. I remember Kathy asking me how I was a few weeks back. I replied that I was great and would be the same for the foreseeable future. A few days later she asked again. “Yes, I am still great, just like yesterday and the day before.” “I like you like this,” she remarked. Me too! Me too! I thought…
There is no such thing as a perfect life and of course there are many depressing moments that have come my way. The only difference is I chose to count it all joy because it can always, always be worse!
A good friend of mine has a patient in hospital whose condition has been deteriorating daily. She called me last night and I gasped before I could pick up the phone. I feared the worst! When I heard her tone, I let out a loud sigh of relief. I explained that night calls give me palpitations but this particular one came with an even bigger scare. At this point, I could only cry out to God. I have faith that it will get better and for life, we are thankful. That there’s hope means there’s even more to be thankful for.
I shall pick out one day from my month of thankfulness.

Last week I visited a couple that welcomed a beautiful angel into their family. I had been ‘on my way to visit’ for the longest time and the guilt was ripping me apart. The moment I got a few free hours, I made my way there. It rained heavily that day, as if to mock me. Thankfully, by the time the taxi reached their stage, only drizzles could be seen.
I called my friend, ‘Tim’ so that he could pick me up but he was on a boda boda so he did not hear it. I decided to wait near a supermarket. I noticed a lady, probably in her late 30’s staring at me and figured I just looked like someone she knew. She slowly walked up to me and said “Thank you for all the work you do, we appreciate it.” I shrieked! She walked off before I could start my ‘what, where, when, who…?’ By the time Tim showed up, my cup was already full but the day wasn’t done with me yet.
We got to the house and I finally met the little (now grown) lady and Tim’s business partner. The lady of the house joined us later. Now, I would not say Tim and I are close friends. We went to the same school, and were acquainted then. We have probably met a total of 5 times since (unplanned) but I keep tabs on his work and he does the same with 4040. I have invited him for pretty much all our events but he almost always has work. Nonetheless, he makes that known and applauds our little milestones.
We got to talking about work and life and then something happened during the course of the conversation. He stopped saying “4040 should….” Or “You need to think about….” Instead he was saying “I think WE need to consider a,b,c…” Now, this might not be a big deal to everyone but it was to me and I am not sure I can illustrate why.

See, I stopped seeing 4040 as ‘my thing’ a while ago and try to, (in both word and action) ensure that those who work with us can feel like they have a huge stake in it. That one person’s failure is our failure and any success is ours too. I am the first to admit that it is a lot to ask but, I do it anyway. The few who get sold to this are…enough.
Additionally, there are those days when you feel like you need new blood, new ideas to increase your momentum. You know that you need to innovate but you have been at the frontline of things for so long that you doubt your ability to sit at the side-lines and sincerely critique your very foundation. Do you eve get that feeling?
Well, Tim had some great ideas and seeing as he has a tech background, I was even more intrigued. We had a mini brainstorm and it took everything in me not to pull out a notebook and give timelines. Gosh, this was meant to be a casual visit!

He beckoned his business partner, ‘Ivan’ and asked that they dedicate one of their sessions to some of these ideas. Whhhhaaat?! As if that wasn’t enough, he named them in order of priority and even set his own targets. My little heart did so many backflips, I thought they could see them.

Later that evening, I had a ‘post birthday’ dinner with my uncle and spent my journey home humming with glee.
It’s a few days to our event and I am a nervous wreck, as I often am. There are several hurdles that need to be overcome. Nevertheless, I am thankful because it means I have something that I care about. How incredible is it to love so much that you literally feel the passion on your skin, in your heart and everywhere in between? Yes, there is always something to be thankful for!

thanks 2
I am hoping I can carry my September challenge on for months to come. Try it?

 
XX

Still on that journey…

It is about two years since I told my not so surprised boss I was leaving my job to chase a dream. He was very supportive, and to date, I think he is one of the most incredible people I have worked with.
This month is always one of great self-reflection for me. At first it was because it was my birth month, but now, it is also a reminder of the fact that I am really an adult. Really!

2 years
Here are a few bits and pieces of this experience.
Mixing business with pleasure
I never had a choice really. I did not know where 4040 was going and as such, I started with the low handing fruits, my friends. Along the way, others joined and also became family. It is fun. It is difficult. It is exasperating. It is love. I would actually not advise anyone to go into business with their friends. It is not for the faint hearted. In my case, however, I am not sure ‘robots’ looking forward to their next pay cheque would have driven the organisation to where it is today. Ours is a unique blend. We have won some and lost some. Along the way, there is a glue that has kept us (mostly) together. I can hardly find the words to describe that glue. We are often our own greatest strength and weakness. It is an oxymoron really but we own it.
Of uniqueness
I try to learn from as many organisations and people about different things. Management, organisational structures, charity, business and the like. I am yet to find anyone doing ‘exactly’ what we do. This means we are often inventing a wheel. It can be quite challenging but perhaps a decade or two from now, there will be mini organisations learning from our struggle. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
Bagala alina, gende okole (Loosely translated to mean, people like those who have, go and work)
I met Linda last year through a mutual friend who thought it would be great if we worked together. She was disinterested and it showed on her face. Nonetheless, I later sent her a message about future correspondence and possible partnerships. She did not respond. Last month Linda called me for an ‘urgent meeting.’ I was a bit shocked but my gut told me she wanted something. I agreed to meet her. She started by asking several questions about the organisation and I kept thinking “When will she tell me why she actually called me here.” Though shielded, it finally came out. She had seen a picture of us receiving an award from the first lady. I was finally worth something! It turned out she needed help with an upcoming project and thought I’s be the right person to consult. Yes, this is the point where you become the bigger person, even if it kills you.
Disguised lessons
About a year before I started 4040, a friend from school came up with a business plan. It was a great idea but from the onset, it showed that it would take a while to pick up. When it did, however, it would soar. I honestly supported him simply because he was my friend. He had a graphics person, a numbers person, I would be part of the PR. It was pretty solid. We met every week and contributed an amount to the company’s fund. His closest friends often missed these meetings and had a general aura of laxity but I believed in him, along with a mutual friend. I believe he and I did one pitch before the company dissolved without so much as an explanation. I guess it wasn’t its time. He is doing quite well for himself now. Sometimes, I sit and wonder if I would be this dedicated to something someone else began. I remember that experience and realise that I gave it my all even when I had no idea where it was going. How dare I give up on this baby then? It came with its own lessons.
Letting go
I am a hopeless optimist, often to a fault. This means that I give several chances to people and situations because I envision a happy ending. Needless to say, life does not always operate like that.
As a result, I have had to learn to let go, even if it may not come naturally. I have watched the people closest to me betray my trust and the most distant of strangers hold my hand when it counted. If like me, you have let some people stay in your life longer than you should only for them to steal your happiness, don’t beat yourself up about it. I shall tell you from experience that it takes time to ‘change’ but once you do, it comes with great benefits. In the meantime, treat every loss as an experience worth learning from. It really is.
A promise is just that, a promise.
Have you ever lent someone money? They tell you they shall pay on Wednesday so you mentally plan for all the things you have to do on that day. In fact, you probably also promise another person you will pay their hospital bill on D-day because you are sure. Wednesday reaches and the debtor is nowhere to be seen. If you are lucky, they shall pick up the phone and feed you with a story. You are disappointed but you have to disappoint someone else. It is a mess.
In our line of work, people will make pledges, often out of pity, guilt, pretentiousness and a host of other sentiments I fail to explain. Back in the day, (adult speak yo) thee pledges counted as a reality for me. I’d start making plans based on those numbers. Shock! Horror! Coming to the realisation that most of them were simply promise that may never be fulfilled. I was ‘bitten’ enough. I try to treat everything as a miracle and leave a nice, spacious red margin for disappointment. This does not mean you become 100% numb of course….but it helps.
Speaking of  differences..
My friends and I attended an event recently. We were excited to support this group of youths since we are all in the ‘struggle’ together. We arrived early and got ourselves a nice corner to make noise in comfort. Imagine our shock when one of the organisers came to ask us to move. Turns out the nice corner was for sponsors. The problem was there was no ‘reserved’ sign or anything so we couldn’t have known. We grudgingly carried our drinks to another table. Just as the ranting began, something occurred to me. Simply because we do not have VIP seats at our events, we had forgotten that it is the norm for most events. We made the best of the night anyway.
Humility
I am constantly praying that we remain humble in our ways. Several experiences remind me ever so powerfully, how easy it is to forget.

crying Janet
I look at this photograph from time to time. It reminds me of everything I felt from the very core of my soul. It represents several feelings engulfed into one moment. I wept with reckless abandon, oblivious of the cameras. This journey is not about the photo ops or the perfect make up, it is not about how many people recognise you on the street or which media house covers the story. It is about the work and the people it impacts. Everything else is a plus. Unfortunately, the side shows can get to one’s head, so much they forget what it is really about.
On Leadership
I do not consider myself a natural leader, more like an accidental one. There are people who have it engrained in their DNA, you know?  I am not one of them. People have these ambitions all their lives, I didn’t. Here I am though. I don’t always do it right. Half the time, I am thinking with my heart instead of my brain. The other half finds me clueless trying to figure things out. I am surrounded by amazing people though. We are learning and sailing. As long as we continue, it can only get better.
You are only human
If you are in a position of leadership, planned or accidental, remind yourself that you are not God. You can make mistakes. You are allowed to cry. You will inadvertently yell at a colleague. It happens. Forgive yourself then do that which you were called to do.
Protecting your brand

Do your best to protect your brand, but understand that somethings are not in your control.
Early this year a tabloid picked up a story on social media that involved 4040. They called me for a comment on a Sunday. I declined. The next day, it was on their front page and I had a paragraph on page 2. Knowing the story was going to run kept me at night. I stressed my poor mother to the extent she bought the paper by 7a.m the next day. The reporter had not even attended the event. I know people say that any sort of publicity is good but tabloids irk me. They make sales out of people’s misery and sadly, the readers continue to ensure they are profitable. I would love for our work to speak for itself. No publicity is actually better than those media houses that make it their life’s purpose to peddle lies. Argh. Moving on…
Rome was not built in a day
Four years ago, 4040 was not anywhere in my 5 year plan. According to my version of dreams, I am supposed to have started a family. If you think about it, I already did, just not the kind I had in mind 🙂 When you meet people, they have several questions, numbers, sustainability, the future. Gosh, it is all there! They are valid questions too. I don’t think there is anyone who contemplates all these issues more than I do, almost daily. There are moments when I am worried about all this and more but I remind myself that this is not about me. It is a grander picture and sometimes you need to be still. Nothing I have accomplished has been on my own accord, none of our milestones were a result of an extraordinary mind in a single day. It has been a process and will continue to be. Always allow yourself to breathe, to grow, to just be.
Criticism
I keep thinking I have heard it all, and then something new comes up. I convince myself words can’t bring me down but the truth is, some will. You just need to decide who or what is worth your pain.  Some of this criticism is helpful. A good chunk is simply disgraceful.A clear conscience is incomparable, listen to it.

I have learnt plenty over this period and something tells me, it isn’t even 20%. I am ever so grateful for the wonderful people who have made this journey worthwhile. More importantly, I am awed by the fact that God chose me to be his vessel and then blessed this dream in unimaginable ways.
P.S: Join us for our inaugural event, Hoops for grace this Saturday from 9 a.m. Entrance is only 5,000 and there is fun for kids and adults alike. Let’s complete this dormitory! See you 🙂

 

Hoops 2015 poster

Sacrifice

Am I the only one who thinks of the Elton John hit.. *breaks into song* “..but it’s not Sacrifice…..when I read that word? No? Okay. Moving on.

It’s drizzling as I type this. Most of my errands today involved a boda boda. In some cases, it is actually one that will take me from point A, to B and then C, while the rider waits for me to make some drop offs. As if that is not enough, I woke up with a cold in the middle of the night. The universe surely has something to say to me. I am smiling to myself because you can make plans for an entire year and in the end, half or less will work out the way you envisioned they would. Does that mean you stop planning? Definitely not!
When I noticed this week had a public holiday. I was overjoyed. Unlike most people, it was not because of the rest that these days tend to come with. It was the fact that I could get my team together for longer hours instead of the usual Thursday evening meetings. This time, we would leave while the sun was still out, or so I hoped.
When I mooted the idea, a few people suggested Wednesday night instead, so that they could rest on Thursday. Others just remained silent, probably thinking “Catch me leaving my bed.” I can certainly relate.Everyone needs a break.  ‘Jane’ assured me she could not come because she had to rest and insisted that we change the date. I encouraged her to take the rest but assured her the deliberations would still  go on as planned. She could  still get the updates.
I thought about our chat for a long time after that. 4040 has been one sacrifice after another for the past 3 and a half years. Some weekends and holidays are cramped with strategy meetings while the rest of the week sees most of the team receiving pressure from their 8-5 jobs,families and life in general. It just never stops. At 4040, you will get a thank you and “I am proud of you” now and then, and it is expected to be enough. Every so often, we shall have a retreat or a thanksgiving day but I guess one would argue that does not put food on the table. Something inside of you needs to speak to you, to make you believe/ understand why you do what you do.
People have walked into our doors and left, others have walked in and stayed, some have one foot in and another out depending on the situation, many more are yet to come. It is a quite a mix. It all comes down to what and how much of that you are willing to sacrifice.
At the end of the day, each individual has to decide why they do what they do. Whether it is for the passion, fun, fame, fortune, camaraderie, survival or simply as a pastime before your next fix, you and only you can determine that ‘one thing.’

Yesterday my friend and I were discussing a post we loved on ‘Humans of New York in which this gentleman worked at a restaurant as a maitre d’ (manager)  for 13 years. One day he was hospitalised for pneumonia and while he lay in hospital, he realised he didn’t want to return to his job. His ‘aha moment’ came when he watched a motivational speaker on t.v that said “Think back to what made you happy when you were young. That’s what you should be doing.” He remembered that he loved dogs and it would be great to become a dog walker. Long story short, he made a uniform soon as he got better, got his friends to wear it and they handed out business cards. He is  is now thoroughly enjoying his life.

HONY

In his words “I’ve been walking dogs for 14 years now. I’m the Pied Piper of dogs. I can walk five dogs in one hand, and five dogs in the other hand, and I can tell you which one needs to poop.”
Do you see how it really is about the little things?
During our meeting yesterday, we planned for a literacy project that we are launching at a Primary school in Kibuli today. We have a skit prepared for the little children from the story @The boy who cried wolf.”
As we acted, we had so many great laughs, including from some unserious sheep (Yes, sheep, because the story has sheep!) who were laughing instead of bleating and dying when attacked by the wolf. Meanwhile the wolf was roaring instead of howling. Smh <Remind me to hire people who went to acting school next time>
In that moment, I knew that we would be okay. See, it does not benefit you to have 100 people in your life who are there because they need something from you or because they have to be there. The ones who truly count are the 5 who are with you, because they want to be.

I shall be updating you on what the 132  (P.1 and P.2) pupils of St, John Baptist Primary School think of our acting plus our plan to make them fantastic readers/writers.
In the meantime, let me gulp my lemon-ginger-honey-garlic concoction and hit the road.

P.S: I can’t for the life of me remember why I wrote this but I feel better.
Have a fabulous weekend!

Feeling. Sharing. Learning from pain

Last weekend I attended a small event. I am part of a two year program with a couple of other Ugandans.
I had met two other participants once before and everyone else was either in administration or had completed the program.

After settling down, I shared my experience with those I knew over some bites. We agreed that we had faced similar challenges, except in different doses. Sadly, one of us had not even made it beyond two months of the intense program. Later, I mingled with the ‘experts’ armed with my notebook so as to learn a trick or two.

When we got to the sharing session, I turned to my counterparts, hoping that our joint voice would hold more water. They were completely silent. They only spoke up if it made them look good but otherwise had nothing to comment about the rigorous exercises we had earlier discussed. I was stunned. They are both vocal people actually. I realised it was not because they were timid. It was just easier for them to admit failure to one person (me) than to openly express any kind of discomfort publicly.

I decided to take it upon myself to articulate my issues and those of the people who suddenly could not speak. Frankly, I did not care if I was being judged by the listeners because everything I said out loud became a problem half solved. At least in my mind.
After the session it became evident that they were grateful for the advice received as a result of the candid feedback.

I do not blame them or at least, I would like to think I understand them.
Many a time we make decisions, consciously or sub consciously, solely for the benefit of others, or so we tell ourselves.

‘My father is a respected member of society, what will people say if they find out I am pregnant before marriage? I must terminate this pregnancy.’ ‘I cannot quit my job to start the salon I have always dreamed of. Everyone will think I wasn’t good enough for the promotion I have been talking about endlessly.’ ‘My colleagues can’t know I have family issues. This will be their chance to try and steal my position.’
These pressure groups (read family and friends) have their own issues, a battered spouse here, a rogue teenager there, millions in debt. The only reason you don’t know this is because they have decided to bury it under a rug. You are probably in a better place than half the people whose ridicule you are afraid of.

We live in a hypocritical society, quick to throw labels, remarkably sluggish when challenged to back our words with actions.

The truth is not everybody is capable of sharing their pain. Whether because they believe it is a sign of weakness or  prefer to be discreet and a myriad of other reasons.
We often find it easier to discuss achievements. If there is mention of tragedy, chances are it is occurring in someone else’s life. Here we can sit and give them advice (in their absence) while feeling good about our ‘drama-less’ life.

We are so afraid of what people will think, of pity… of everything that is remotely close to real.

No, our beautiful wedding photos, awards and promotions are not what make a marriage work or a job more meaningful.
I am honestly more interested in the process, the tears and the loneliness at the top. I want to know what keeps a mother up at night, how many closed doors this big shot CEO met before he got where is today.
If I am lucky, I will find it in a biography.
If I do not experience some of things for myself, I might never hear of them even if people I am close to people who have gone through the same. WHY?

I found out Joan was suicidal years after she had started feeling that way. I was ‘lucky’ to see her in a towel that exposed her cuts. Before that, she wore a sweater whether it was 30 degrees or 8. We figured it was ‘her thing’ and simply teased her about her collection of long sleeved clothing.

I had hundreds of questions to ask per minute. She had a practiced comeback for each. The overriding condition was her uneasiness in her skin and the absence of someone to speak to.
She was a star student, bored with books; a perfect daughter, struggling with this façade.
I was broken. Luckily, after finding out I could do something

Perhaps, we to have had similar encounters. Situations when you front a different you, that you think the world will love, only to go home, take the mask off and feel the misery and regret in one large lump.

I admit to being in this place before, many of us have. The saddest part is that even if you succeed in fooling everyone, the person in the mirror knows the truth. That person can’t be fooled.
My 20’s have proved to be a great turning point and you will now find me ‘preaching’ about self-belief, learning from failure and encouraging people to let go and often saying ‘do you.’

This is because I have admitted that my mistakes don’t define me. I have made a joke out of my lowest moments and intend to make it my life mission to share as much as I can about my journey without sugar coating it.

I was speaking to Tina recently and asking her why she had been off the radar. She explained that she had been going through tough times and didn’t want to trouble anyone. I have heard this ‘excuse’ many times and I have also given it to some people. If not out loud, then definitely in my head. We are all superman or superwoman. How dare you fall when you are supposed to fly? How can you let us down with tears when you are our source of strength? How? You traitor!

My reasoning is always the same. Solitude is good and we need to obtain it from time to time. However, in many cases, when you stay there long enough, it sometimes consumes you .Before long you forget who you were and who you want to be.

Speaking up on pain is not a crime or a sign of weakness. You don’t have to walk around with smudged mascara or swollen eyes to show you are hurting inside. You can look perfectly fine but still tap someone close by to say, “I need help.”
It is true that not everyone around you needs or deserves to have insight on all your deepest fears and aches. Nevertheless, a big hug and some shared tears can go a long way. I have learned that there’s almost always a solution but how will you find it if you do not ask?

While Tina is quietly struggling with unemployment and not ‘troubling anyone,’ I might know someone in desperate need of an employee with her qualities. It will take some nudging and a bit of telepathy for me to get the truth out of her before I can make any recommendations.

Life is fast. Friends are few. Foes are plenty. We all want to get to this mythical destination as soon as possible. If you do not speak up, we shall simply run over you as we get there. You will stay lonely and bitter, complaining that no one cared. Except they did, until they didn’t.

I am sad that there are Tina’s in my life who don’t know that friends (except fair weather friends and the like) are actually more likely to run towards you when you need help.
I am mad that we would rather stay in dead relationships than admit that things did not work out
I cringe at the thought of lying to my child that everything is fine and it’s the onions that made mommy cry, and sniff. Loudly
I am repulsed by anyone who isn’t a child that still makes decisions and utters views they don’t believe in for the sake of cheap popularity.
I am bothered that we still stay in jobs we don’t like, working for bosses we despise, living lifestyles we can’t afford simply because we are wondering quietly ‘What will people say/think?’
The truth is nobody cares. Whatever we are gossiping about you now shall infinitely be replaced by a bigger scandal before nightfall. Just. Do. You.

I know it is easier said than done but it is not impossible.

I find that real failure occurs when we don’t pursue our dreams, not when they weigh us down to the point of wanting to give up. It’s also true that not all of them will come true. BUT How shall we know if we can only sit and say “hmm, for her she’s lucky at least she had her money” Goodness! How many people have risen above humble backgrounds to get to the top? Try, fail, try, fail…repeat.

What I am advocating for <even to myself as I am also a victim sometimes> is some honest pain.

When you get depressed, ‘Oh it is in your head, those are mzungu problems.’ Counselling? What? No child of mine will be seen going to a counsellor. Never mind that the child’s problems could have stemmed from your parenting skills, or lack thereof.
That’s if you are lucky. In many areas, any mental illness is ‘community diagnosed’ as madness, probably a result of bewitching.

I know of a young man of only 25 years who is locked in the house every day of his life because he abused drugs, right here in Kampala. It is his paid caretaker who told me but I have so many questions for his parents. Visitors are banned from their premises in case the ‘mad man’ strikes. Writing this alone just gives me shivers. Why?!

So yes, a lot of what I had to say must have been lost in translation. If it’s incoherent, it’s only because it is the exact reflection of my thoughts on this matter.
Talk to your children, friends, family and anyone who cares to listen. Don’t allow your loved ones to feel so alone that a suicide note will be their only explanation of their last years of pain.

Do not be fooled by airbrushed photos of everyone livin’ da vida loca.’ If you only share what you think the world wants to know, what makes you think we are any different?
Cry. Fight. Despair.
I will take scars over pretence any day. The latter wears away to expose rot. The former exist to remind us of healing.
I am the first to admit. I am blessed to be in the position that I am right now, playing a small role in transforming lives. However, I am also the first to admit that it would be impossible without sacrifices that many have made to get us to where we are. Ironically, I also know that there is a lot worse ahead but it will be rewarding. When Jane walked up to me and said “Eh, is it fair? You guys are in the papers and t.v every other day!”

I responded “Eh, is it fair that you don’t understand all that work we put in?”

I am honestly happier to discuss the process than newspapers that will wrap a rolex.

Whenever you can, share a lesson from your pain. You’ll be surprised how many people have gone through the same or worse. You might be amazed by how many lives you can touch.

X

lonely man

Celebrating Life :)

September! Oh how the months have flown by!
I am always excited about beginnings. If you tell me you have got a new job, or started a new project, I am going to blow it out of proportion. If things don’t work out, well we celebrated when we could.
New months are no different. My insomnia helps me ‘watch’ them begin, as the clock strikes midnight. No, no glass slippers, just lots of glass dreams.
I begin the months with hopes of unforeseen goodness. Surely they sometimes backfire, but the glass is always half full. *Goodness, the overuse of this glass analogy must stop* Okay. The mug of tea is always half full 😀
This month was no different. I was chatting with a few friends when I noticed one rare addition to my chats at about 23:58.. Gloria is always in bed and offline before 10:00 pm. I instantly asked her what was wrong. She said she was waiting for September. Caught the bug, have we? I thought. Two minutes later I told her we’d made it to the ninth month that happens to be our birth month. Yaay!
On twitter, I noticed she was replaying some of our conversations with the hashtag #CelebratingEsther. I simply ‘favorited’ and went to bed. The next morning I noticed a few of my friends  were doing the same. Oh well, no one will know which Esther it is. Except, a few quirks were uniquely me so it would be difficult to deny. I hid in a corner and waited for the day to end thinking they were doing it because in was the 1st of the month. Alas! it was not to be. It has continued and it is mostly sweet and bittersweet. Some experiences I actually have no recollection of. The beauty of friendship 🙂

So here I am smiling my way to ‘old age’ because everything that might have made it to my eulogy, I get to ‘hear’ while I am alive. That can only mean at the funeral, everybody will just sing and dance as they celebrate life. Oh wouldn’t that be fun?
Speaking of celebrations, last week I got a message from a gentleman who commented on one of my blog posts. It turned out he wanted to invite a few people, including myself to dinner. This invitation to dinner at Endiro coffee came with some coffee tasting too. Yes, even with my sworn love and dedication to tea, I can sip coffee. I noticed it was happening on a Thursday (which is 4040 meeting day) and almost cancelled on Cody but instead I decided to multi task. I attended the meeting for a bit then made it in time for dinner. That day I got soaked twice by the rain until it just became funny.
The guests were all female bloggers except for one gentleman who works on television. The conversations were engaging and the atmosphere pretty friendly. Being a slow eater who is often slowed even more by ‘kaboozi,’ I was shocked to realise the pork ribs and rice on my plate had disappeared in record time! I looked around and noticed almost everyone was still eating. *high fives self* The food was great, as was the company.

Cody explained that he had called us all to celebrate the positive messages in our blogs. “I want you to know that someone out there appreciates you. That is why I called you here today.” Normally, I would have broken into a loud ‘awwwww’ but I kept it silent. I was shocked when he made reference to one of my blog posts.

To be honest, I started to write because I needed to, hoping my story or those of people I know could touch a life or two. I only just recently changed my theme after a long time and don’t even know how many people follow my blog. I think sub consciously I believe if I put so much effort into numbers and appearance, it will become work. That would take the love out of it. For now though, it is just honest and I am glad someone out there appreciates it.
It was an unexpected experience which I loved. It reminded me of a time last year when I got a group of my female friends and told them we needed to give ourselves a treat. Everyone would buy their own dinner. The only condition was that they had to dress up or make up, generally do whatever else they needed to do to impress themsleves  and then have a good time. It ended up being a beautiful night where we got to know each other at a deeper level and share laughs. It coincided with a good friend’s engagement. She had been proposed to just a couple of days before. We were left swooning as she narrated her love story.
It cost us Ugx 30,000 tops and at the end of the night each one of us hitched a ride with whoever was going to our side of town. Seriously, you need to consider celebrating every milestone even in the tiniest of ways. In the absence of one, create it. “Just because it’s Tuesday” sounds doable…no?

This morning I woke up to a sweet message that ‘celebrated’ my belief in love, in people and kindness. I have read and re-read it and I can’t stop but wonder where it all began. I think it has a lot to do with all the rain and clouds that brought beautiful rainbows at the end. Where would we be without faith or love?
This month I committed myself to write at least one thing I am grateful for every day. I am hoping the 30 days will become 365 days and then life will just be an all-round celebration!
I don’t know about you but I am going to celebrate the life out of September and if you don’t do something about it, I might consume your sun light too.

celebrate

 

Carpe diem.

Getting out of your comfort zone

Earlier this week, someone that I am only just getting to know described me as ‘limber.’ It was surrounded by other adjectives so I almost missed it but thankfully I didn’t. I did not know what this word meant so I quickly checked it out. Available synonyms included ‘flexible.’ I like flexible!
For many years, I was a slave to my own habits and values. I was far from flexible. Things had to be done a certain way and that was it. I still have my moments but I have consciously chosen to be more open minded overtime. There was a time when I had every minute of every day thought through. If one person switched up an appointment, my plans crumpled as did my mood. If I kept time and the other person didn’t, I waited impatiently for a concrete explanation. All I often got was a simple apology if I was lucky. I wasn’t helping anyone by keeping an invisible black book. In fact, I was only hurting myself. Of course I also had to admit to myself that I had 3,432 bad habits that my loved ones had to deal with. Why did I have to scold them each time for not living up to certain standards? As you can imagine, this OCD reduction cannot happen overnight. Every now and then we have a relapse. It is not all doom and gloom though, some people actually change for the better after you have yelled enough 🙂
This weekend I did two things that were out of my comfort zone. They weren’t exactly planned for prior, at least not completely but I patted myself on the back for not running away simply out of discomfort.
Exhibit A
This gentleman I will call Mr. K asks that we meet on Saturday so that he could give me some ‘bricks’ for the dormitory. I agreed and waited for him to suggest a venue. He did. A sports bar. In the afternoon. During Premier League season. I thought of several possible excuses but I kept them to myself. Instead I figured, I would get in and get out. There was a problem with this plan though. Just picking the money and leaving would not be polite. The other option had its own issues though, stay and chat in a place where people clearly came to watch football not talk? I would endure option 2. I had to.
Thankfully I found Mr.K seated by the door. If adrenaline had a smell, it greeted me at the door. The bad news was he was surrounded by at least 8 friends. Efforts to introduce me were futile. Guys had come for soccer. I might as well have been a rucksack on the chair. This worked in my favour.
We did talk though, with outbursts of ‘Laba guy ono’ or ‘Goaaal…’ and other football banter. I finished my bottle of Krest in record time. Finally it was half time and the group could now ‘talk.’ He introduced me and what I do and did the same for me. Give me a one on one with a stranger any day or a room full where I can make eye contact only when I choose to but this? Can the ground swallow me up already? Very soon we were talking about 4040 and bricks and business cards were being exchanged, pledges made and cash handed over. Uneasiness pays! Well, I stayed for a bit longer and asked to be excused.
As I left, I saw some friends. I was determined to say hello and leave. Eh, we talked another former colleague into a pledge and got into other random conversations that never ended. Each time we began, someone almost scored or got a foul (is this the spelling/right way to say it?) I refused to eat or drink because I knew what it meant. I can actually pretend to enjoy some football matches and can tell if it was interesting or uneventful. However, setting and company play a big role.
I fled soon after and one of my most interesting boda rides yet (and I have had quite a few) When I got home, I narrated the abridged version to my mom and she said. “Would anyone have found you in your room and handed you that money?” The correct answer is no…so perhaps I need to get me a team to support and train myself in the art of getting emotional about a game.
EXHIBIT B
About a month ago, I was invited to give a talk at the end of August. I asked what the topic was and was told to choose my own. I asked about my audience and the response was “young people like you.”
I reached the venue and suddenly my notes needed to be heavily edited or not used at all. Thankfully the session began with mass which calmed me down. Why did I need to calm down? Well, I am always nervous when I have to speak but this time my audience of about 100 was so diverse, I couldn’t keep up. In the front were little ones, 3-10 years old, then some teens, followed by twenty somethings and lastly their parents! Seriously, the oldest person was probably 65 years old. How to use a language that appeals to each of them, without them falling asleep or resorting to their phones, neighbours and private games was a paradox. Somehow, I did it. My favourite participant was the three year old who said “I want to be a doctor to treat people well,” when I asked them to share their dreams. She was so cute and confident. None of the teens were about that life, till I walked over to them and put them on the spot.
I had to run soon after the talk but one of the youth out up her hand to say she was thankful because even though she is an orphan, someone looked after her and she is now a C.F.O of a company. A few others asked how to work with 4040 and I was surprised by some texts during the week. A lady who knows mom called later that night. She was exclaiming that the talk made her husband cry.
I shall tell you the truth. I left that place unsure if I had even got through to anyone. Honestly, I was too busy worrying about what could go wrong to pay attention to little details.
The moral? Get out of your comfort zone and the results might pleasantly surprise you. What have you done differently today?
x

comfort

Ode to my sunflower

Somebody new is in your room. It feels wrong. It is like somebody moved the furniture and I hit my head against a closet that wasn’t where it used to be. Will I like her? Will she like me? Shall we get along?
Let’s face it. There will never be another you.
Oh my sunflower! I found a piece I wrote about you two years ago here. Still, it feel like it was only yesterday!
On Thursday you told me you would leave on Sunday. You promised to call and visit despite the distance. I asked if you were happy. You replied. “Ye, Essie. Leka ngende mpumulemu.” (Yes Essie, let me go and rest)
I walked away with a choking feeling in my throat. Was this really goodbye?
I would love for your new business to succeed, for you to fall in love, have some mini yous running around. I wish for you only happiness and bountiful love.

Of course I did not think you would stay forever, but the reality hits that much harder you know.
Thank you for listening when I needed someone to rant to. Sometimes you asked why ‘Liz stopped visiting’ and I would tell you she did something nasty. Then you would tell me all the mannerisms you had noticed, such great discernment.
We used to agree on which stories would break mom’s heart and why we should not tell her. Surely, there’s no denying that you grew into a lovely sister.
The gifts and your sneaky ways. The ‘wise men’ who wanted to surprise me needed to speak to you nicely. We would be together and you would get a phone call and walk away. Some minutes later, you would arrive with a bouquet of flowers or a gift. Ever so devious!

Last year on the eve of my birthday, I was duped into a dinner..only for two friends to leave early for ‘other commitments.’ It was on the morning of my birthday that I realised what had happened. I found a breakfast table full of gifts and cake. Of course! It all made sense. I felt like a little girl on Christmas morning (of bulaya definitely) as I opened each gift. I don’t remember eating. In fact I turned down evening plans that day so I could just sit in my room and thank the Lord for my amazing family and friends. You were part of a beautiful memory, you often were.
When I didn’t pick my phone up and my friends suspected I was home. They immediately called you. They didn’t want to hear about my ‘phone is always in silent mode’ nonsense. Goodness, what shall we all do without you?
Just a few weeks ago I was extremely sick and just as weak but still trying to play superwoman. You ordered me into the bathroom, warmed some water and gave me a thorough scrub. Surely, you understand how difficult this is?
Every morning for as long as I can remember, you have been the first face as I see. The first ‘wasuze outya?’and ever since I started dealing with insomnia, after asking how I slept, you quickly asked if I actually slept.

At night, you sometimes sat with me and dozed off as I had a late supper. I’d tell you to go to bed and you would assure me how you are awake. Seriously, there’s a drug in that television that puts people to sleep. These little things meant the world.
You always cooked a hearty breakfast when you knew I hadn’t eaten the night before..gave me options when my stomach played tricks. You understood my love for tea, like no other. Some days you asked if I wanted another cup <at an odd hour> and I always responded the same way. “When have I ever said no to tea?” You made mandazi for us and by us, I mean family, 4040 meetings, the kids breakfasts. Name it. Surely you are already a mother simply waiting for a child.
Speaking of 4040. Gosh the errands you have had to carry out! You were a member of the team in every sense of the word. Helping me pack and unpack a host of items before and after or events, helping me sneak out mum’s flasks full of tea and dishes for our strategy meetings, (even if we were often caught) listening to our grand plans, hearing about most of the issues that I could explain and advising, buying some of the items we sold to raise money. I really could go on. This meant a lot.
The way you spoilt my siblings, folks and I shall definitely stay with us for a long time if not forever. To be honest I only vaguely remember my childhood nannies, if at all. Perhaps it’s because I met you when I was already a teen, heavily enhanced by your beautiful heart. You are my favourite and that is putting it mildly.
Did I mention your constant faith and prayer that held me steadfast in the belief that everything would work out? I constantly shared my testimonies with you because I knew you would get it.
On Saturday night, mom and I handed you our gifts and said our goodbyes amidst sobs. When you noticed the awkward silence that followed, you go down on your knees and said a beautiful prayer in Runyoro..oh it was like music!
On Sunday I escorted you to your brother’s home and we chatted some more. It was like I was giving my sister away to another family..but then again, you are our family, his, bound by blood and us by love.
I know mum and I (mostly) will miss you greatly, as will everyone else who encountered your soul through us. I mean it’s been almost a decade! I know that somehow, we shall be okay.
I am going to do a few things in your honour that I will tell you about when the time comes.
For now though, may my beautiful sunflower, Monica only continue to blossom.

sunflower
XX