My birthday wish

Every little bit of me is excited and full of cheer not because everything is going my way but because I have life and oh what joy that brings me, especially today! 😄

September is a special month for me for two reasons; it is the month I was born and also the same one I chose to take a leap of faith and leave formal employment to build my dream.
This post has a little something to do with both.
Four years after quitting my job, and 5 after starting this 40-40 journey and it is still such a struggle, so much fatigue and heartache. I am still mostly clueless and some days are longer than years.
That is the truth.
The other truth is that it is an extremely rewarding gift, that keeps giving. So many lives have been transformed, including my own and I am convinced that the best is yet to come!

This year I thought I would travel to an exotic destination to mark the passing of a decade. After a while, I joked to my friends that all I wanted for my birthday was money. I have a long list of needs and I would help them help me. They gift me with cash, I buy stuff I actually want/need instead of a gift I might just look at, unable to re-gift it or use it. In my genius plan,everyone wins😛
Buttttt…there are some things more important to me  than the Maldives and Jimmy Choos.
One of those things is the dream that is 4040. A chance for all of us to play our part to make the world a better place.
I now have a birthday wish that is less about me and more about some beautiful children, some of whom I am yet to meet- getting more resources to make their lives better and we can get them there-together!

A month ago, I signed us up to this platform called Global giving. It presents an opportunity for people all over the world to contribute to causes they believe in and you stand a chance to have your donations matched.

The catch is that we need to raise a minimum of $5,000 (approximately 18 million) to stay on as permanent partners and receive access to new donors.
The other catch is that we have until 29th September to make this happen.
This $5,000 will bring us closer to our dream of setting up learning centres for vulnerable children. These centres will have books,toys, computers and learning aids availed at absolutely no cost.

You can watch a short video that summarises our dream here

These centres will also give individuals an opportunity to train children in different skills.
You get to spend your free time and weekends teaching the children an a centre near you how to play guitar, code or fix a car. The opportunities are limitless!
These children will not only learn but also get exposed and hopefully inspired by your success stories. These activities will also keep them occupied instead of being engaged in child labour or crime.

The first centre will help us test various interventions, learn and improve so that we can put up many more for children who most deserve it.

So how do we do this? We do it together!
You can follow the link and make your donation here. 

Will you be our first? 🙂

Donations can only be made online using a debit/credit card.

I do have another suggestion though. If your preference is mobile money and it is what you can access easily, we can make it happen too.
I am happy to share my number (which is registered in my names so your heart is at rest) 077-749-9991

Every donation that will come on there shall then be converted to dollars and I will find someone to donate the equivalent on the platform.
I will then send you evidence of your donation on the website.

We need 500 people donating $10 each/250 people donating $20 dollars, 100 people donating $50 dollars each or 50 people donating  $100.
That is approximately Ugx 36,000,72,000,180,000 and 360,000 respectively.

Lucky for me, I believe in the impossible; Not only because I am a dreamer but also because I have seen the power of people almost daily, for the most part of this beautiful journey.
We can do this!💪

Check out our Website, Facebook and Twitter to get acquainted with our work if this is the first time you are hearing of it.

Also, here is a picture of me doing that which makes my heart leap for those who don’t know me personally but will come across this blog post.

Es black and white

Please join me to make my birthday wish come true.  So many lives will be better for it.

Thank you in advance!

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Not-so-terrible twos

Dear Penda,

You turn two today! How awesome is that? 😀 My excitement is quite unhealthy but don’t you worry, I am going to try and keep it under control (or not).

Apparently this is the age when you start saying ‘No’ a lot and struggle with your desire for independence. Are we ready? :O Before we can start to worry about all of that, all I am concerned about right now is the precious gift that is you 🙂

Your name is a beautiful representation of who you are. You are love and you are light. What more could we possibly ask for? Sometime last year, we were hanging out together, along with aunt Ritah and aunt Doreen (you have like 671 others of these, and uncles too) on a sunny day. You could hardly say a word but your presence was completely enthralling. I marveled at God’s goodness, that he would package so much beauty and personality in one little being who was completely oblivious of the joy that she brought to us. That week had been long but when you danced on the table (not like that, I was holding you as you jumped about) and we sang ‘twinkle little star,’ everything was perfect, if only for a moment. There have been many such moments since, your smile and laughter should really be considered as ammunition against terrorists. They would probably surrender and dedicate their lives to spreading love. (Don’t you wish life was that simple?)

You are a special gift to us, you know? We just can’t help but gush over you. I hope you will get used to it because it is not about to stop. I remember your last birthday like it was yesterday. Your mommy went out of her way to put up a real bash for you and boy were you adorable! Do you remember? If you don’t, I will have you know that you enjoyed yourself and looked like a princess.
Your grannies were there too, there was plenty of laughter and good vibes. We had a session to write you little notes for your teen years and you can guess who wanted a ream of paper when all they had was a sticky note (smh) It was such a wonderful day, as we celebrated you and your little precious life.
P.s: If ever we delay to pay your school fees, this is the disclaimer in advance. Remain comforted in the thought that those shillings were well spent on the birthday of the year;2015 😛

The other day, mommy sent me a picture. You were probably 5 days or so and I was holding you in one arm and pointing to the camera with the other. You were sooooo tiny! Nonetheless, your gaze was still focused and as it turns out, you are quite the photogenic little lady now.. I wonder where you got that from. *side eyes Kemigisha*

Your pictures, videos and best of all spending time in your presence just makes me smile for days!Your character is steadily developing and I look forward to the years when we shall hear you speak everything that is on your mind and watch you grow into the phenomenal woman I know you shall be. You make mommy proud, you make us all proud.

 

Ballerina Minion character cake

Happy birthday our little beautiful star,Estella. You make life better just by being in it.

Much love and lots of prayers now and for the years to come ❤

Your Godmommy.

Xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out of sight,out of mind-Nope!

Midnight chat with the birthday girl,Anna, check. Assignment check-ish, to be completed during holier hours. A few plans on what the next day would look like and then  Linda hit the sack.

The next morning she decided not to attend one of the optional classes she had signed up for, to concentrate on her other modules. Staying at the residence often provided on and off distractions like imaginary hunger, loud music and conversations from neighbouring rooms but on a quiet day, it was as good as the library (with a bed)

Afternoon came and just after she had settled down for the next session, Linda heard a knock at her door. It was quite loud and she wondered who could be on the other side. Lo and behold, in front of her stood a tall handsome gentleman and he came bearing gifts! She looked down and noticed he was carrying flowers. Surely this was a mistake, who in the world would be sending her flowers at her doorstep in her little haven away from everything. He confirmed that they were indeed hers and the little card checked out with the exact name and address. When she finally got over her initial shock, she eagerly opened up the card. “Thinking of you as we celebrate my birthday :)” was the lone statement that stood proud on the cream coloured card. Whaaatt?! She had to hold back tears as she hastily dialled Anna’s number. Anna’s first question was “Has the boda guy arrived?” A few weeks earlier she’d asked for Linda’s address under the pretext of sending a ‘boda guy’ to visit. They had a conversation that was mainly filled with ooohhs and ahhhs and so many questions. Needless to say, Linda’s day had been made, probably her month too.

Flower station

Flower station

Now, whom to share the good news with. She looked around and the empty room suggested she’d have to hold that thought. She decided whoever would ask “How are you?” would be bombarded with “I am fantastic, I received flowers today.” ‘Too much?,’ she wondered. Jeff would be the first victim . When he returned from class, he inquired why she had not attended. She explained her reasons and then skillfully wove her surprise into the tale.

Jeff: No wonder you didn’t want to ruin your day with class. Valentine’s came early?

Linda: No, it was my friend’s way of keeping me involved in the birthday celebrations across the miles.

Jeff: Huh? Not your birthday, not valentines? Friend’s birthday and they send you flowers for kicks?

Linda: Now you understand I am not being childish when I tell you I miss home? I have amazing people in my life who bring out the best in me.

Jeff: Evidently. Can I be your friend?

Linda: *Laughs* Send an application for vetting.

Luckily for her, Grace also dropped by to visit and she got to share with someone who ‘understands’ as they gushed about how beautiful the flowers were, not to mention the gesture. Win.

This thoughtfulness says a lot about Anna, someone who would go the extra mile to make another feel special on a day when she should be the one receiving all the love and attention. The whole exercise can’t have been easy and yet she did it so effortlessly. Don’t you just feel a sudden surge of warmth in your heart? I know, I do.

Allow me to steal Linda’s moment for a bit as I try to add some ‘notes’ to this beautiful melody. I remember a couple of years ago when I did something for mum’s birthday and she shared her joy excitedly with a relative. The relative wasn’t as enthusiastic as she hoped. Her response was “But Esther can exaggerate her love.” When mum told me, I wasn’t offended at all, I took it as a compliment. Why not exaggerate my love towards she that taught me to love?!
I guess you can see where I am going with this, yes?

Go forth and exaggerate your love! I mean, we have only one life to live, why not spend it loving?

P.s: I hadn’t even thought of this valentine’s day train at all but if anyone asks, I am living my life vicariously through Linda;we must ‘tie’ on good things!

Love away!

Xx

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.

3: Still here

It is said the two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.

I ‘accidentally’ found out my purpose at 24, as a passionate, curious, naive and mostly unstoppable woman.

On February 27 2012 when I opened that 40-40 page, I could not have imagined that three years later, we would still be here. Yes, I became we and to me, that is the biggest achievement thus far!

This year a friend even bought me a gift on this special day. It was heart-warming knowing that my baby was being celebrated. Best of all, it was by somebody other than myself.

This weekend also holds special meaning. It was during the Easter weekend that a group of friends whom I had collected over the years came together for what we mostly believed was a ‘one time thing.’ For two days I had people I had been with years ago in Primary school up till my ‘working life’ all gathered together-celebrating these amazing children that barely had family but had a whole lot of love.

Over the past three years, I have changed. We all have.

I will be the first to admit that it was easier then. There was no pressure of an organisation and all its structures, being young(er) helped because there was less to worry about and people were mostly gracious because it was a ‘casual’ arrangement. No one had signed up for forever. Wait a minute. No one had signed up, at all.

According to an article I read on one of those days when I was fretting about the future, it takes about 18-24 months to determine if a start-up shall succeed/fail. We are past 36 months (yaay!) but I am quite certain my definition of success is different from that of the business books. Thankfully, I am not running a business 🙂

Which brings me to my next thought; I do not know another Organisation doing what we do, exactly the way we do it. If you have any leads, do point me in the right direction. In the meantime, this ‘virgin land’ means that many mistakes are bound to be made out of ignorance but also because of sheer lack of a manual.  Needless to say, it has been a whirlwind that is difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t been part of it. Heck, it is even challenging to explain to people who have been there since the days when we were merely attempting to crawl.

This week I was privileged to be featured on NTV’s women and power.  The first thing 50 year old Mr.M asked me was “Who paid the other, you or NTV? That is what it shall always come down to for many people, now and in the future. It is sad. Nonetheless, I doubt any leader ever performs their roles expecting to convert ‘everyone.’ That would be dooming oneself to failure before even beginning. What do we do? We continue no matter what.

The past year has turned emotional pain into a physical reality and vice versa, brought out the worst in people and also challenged almost everything we know and believe-but that is just the grim part.

It has also allowed us to grow as individuals and as an organisation, given us the opportunity to fall over and over again and get up.

For the past couple of years, I have given a recap of the journey in my anniversary blog post as seen here and here but this time, I am compelled to simply celebrate. To celebrate the fact that we are still here.

I still pinch myself when a stranger strikes up a conversation because of our story. Seeing a 4040 tee or wristband, especially on someone I don’t know makes me smile. I am inspired by everyday people who simply believe and go on to act. I am especially excited by children and teens who take part in our activities-they give me hope in abundance. I am overjoyed by the fact that we have to change lives, and work towards it everyday.

Yesterday someone asked me if I am living my dream. The short answer is/was yes.

However, none of it would have happened if I simply stood tall. Alone.

As I reminisce over this three year journey, I would like to give special thanks to the amazing people whom God has placed in my life; Those who joined at the start and never looked back, those who came by along the way and made 4040 home and those individuals who show constant support even across the miles, watching and waiting for an opportunity to help; I celebrate the believers and dreamers whose ‘invisible’ hands picked us up and continue to.

Although love is patient, kind and is not jealous or self-seeking, the world is not complete, it is not without its adversaries. I am glad we had those along the way and hope that we shall always have the wisdom and courage to understand their purpose and fight them off respectively.

To God be the glory for starting all of this and continuing it. I am confident he will carry it on to completion.

May the Easter holiday be glorious and fulfilling for you-no matter what your beliefs are.

Love is universal. No?

Happy 3rd my baby. You scare me. In a good way; mostly.

penda 4040

A mother’s love

Is it possible, really, that there are things I have not said about this woman? Well, perhaps it isn’t always what you say but how you say it. For her birthday this year, I will revisit some of the lessons she has taught me. I know other people have learnt from them so I shall speak for all of us 🙂

I just read this and although I wrote it last year, it covers most of what I want to say, so perhaps today I will only make a few more additions to what may one day become a collection of letters to my mother, our mother.

“My mother… she is beautiful, softened at the edges and tempered with a spine of steel. I want to grow old and be like her.”

1. Your guests are royalty

You need to be fly on the wall when we are receiving guests. Each one requires a special kind of welcome down to even buying them their favourite drink if mum knows which one it is. I have seen some of these people for years, so I will know they are coming and still go on about my business but no, one must give them special treatment till they leave. It is worse if they are spending the night. Even if they came on a bicycle, bus or plane, you shall press the best bed sheets and give them 5 star treatment, even when it is your room that is now becoming theirs 😀

It is so ‘bad’ that even my very own dear brothers who don’t stay at home have to be treated like kings when they visit. Breakfast menus change, suddenly they need a chauffeur and one must pick after these grown men. Hehe, I grew up and stopped complaining. I am now happy to play my part in making their stay grand because one needs to make the best of all the time spent with family. *once in a while a side eye shall escape *

2.Stay up, listen, be present

My brother says that when he was a student far away from home, he would buy a call card specifically to catch up with mum. He would have the issues to discuss noted down so that nothing was left out but alas! Mum would give him so much ‘kaboozi,’ he would even forget why he called and his list would have to wait for the next week or month. Knowing her, the first part is about healthy eating and questions about your weight, vegetables et al, then everything follows.

Nonetheless, she is an amazing listener who will keep in mind all your milestones and pray about your trials.

When guests come home, the television is to be switched off, as you speak to her, your phone should be far away. Those things you do where you look at your phone and reply a text but keep going ‘Yeah, uh huh…’ will not cut it. It is only fair you return the attention she gives.

There are so many times I have come late after a long day. I neither want to eat nor talk, just a bath and my bed. She will wait and give you company as you eat or just ask ‘How was your day?’ Whether you give the short version or long one, you know that someone cares to ask and usually, that is enough.

3. Mother knows everything, even when she doesn’t

She is always right, always. Instead of asking a fortune teller, just bring your boyfriend/boss/best friend home for tea. After that evening, she will most likely tell you many things that you looked at but didn’t see, heard but didn’t listen to.

It is from very simple things to actual life changing ones.Before the rains even began recently, she saw me walk out of the house and asked me why I wasn’t wearing closed shoes. I didn’t have a good reason except that  wanted to wear sandals. Two hours into my errands and the skies growled and gave way to endless rain. I died in my movie.

From a young age I have taken her predictions seriously, and I can still hear her voice when I am about to fall off the right road.

4. Compromise

I love road side chicken and in mum’s eyes it is unhygienic and deadly. However, when I am under the weather, she will bring it home and even get mad if I eat too little. See a team player!

I borrow her car all the time and sometimes she needs it or me but as soon as I share my plans- she is willing to compromise. She owns the car and me, technically, but never to rub those things in my face.

Speaking of rubbing things in faces, today her reply to my birthday text had a ‘LOUD HINT.’ Unless I get grandchildren, I have no reason to live for many more years.’ Well played mummy dearest. (CC the rest of you guilty clan members)

5.Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Today is her birthday so I can’t say negative things,right? Are you sure?

Have you met someone who arrives at parties before the host? This one time we were so early, that the priest ended up making me a ‘one-woman choir’ because there was no one else (They all came late, including the host!) I came up with the order of mass, hymns and all this time hoped she was getting all my side glances. *fail*

Thanks to her, I value my appointments and time but sometimes, the ‘recipients’ fail me. How do I know that it is bad? These days she sees me panicking and says “Why are you in a hurry yet you know that they will be late?”

It isn’t just time, she is a perfectionist with everything else from furniture alignment to dress code, no matter how old you are!

Recently, I got home exhausted at about 11.00 p.m and ‘they’ asked me why my shirt was creased. “Is that how you were the whole day?” I rest my case.

6. Make new friends, but keep the old

When mum tells me of the friends she has had for over 30 years, I listen in awe. They still talk and laugh like little girls. Their friendships are not marred by many vices that I see in young people today and it is refreshing. I envy what they have/had and hope that we can emulate at least half.

She has taught me not to mix friendships and to compartmentalize. It is possible to have friends that are geeks-introverts-fashionistas-introverts and sustain all of them in their capacities, even if they never meet.

I have also learnt to maintain privacy even when the rest of the world sees the picture they want to see.

Speaking of privacy , she hates photographs of her taken but after my brother and I took 8,765 pictures without her knowledge, one or two surfaced *evil grin*

mom

7. Beauty that is skin deep

What can I say, she is gorgeous! No pricked ears, minimal jewellery at all times, nail varnish, huh? What is that? And yet her beauty is natural and simply timeless. She can come to me and tell me how mosquitoes bit her and she has swellings and I am like ‘Huh, I only see beauty spots.’ It is really true that love blinds us to all imperfections because I see only her beautiful self.

She has her own style and it works. Recently, a friend asked me when I had bought the ‘new’ bag I was holding. I told him I had had it for at least two years, then it hit me. I am becoming her! She will carry one bag for weeks before switching to the next one which will also work plenty of weeks before the next switch. *See our lives*

If there is anyone I know whose life is a gospel, it is my mother. Through pain and sorrow, joy and grace, she remains her.

She does not need to tell you she is a Christian because she walks the talk-

She tells us she loves us, but she doesn’t need to because her every action screams of love that is clear for anyone to see.

In Mother Theresa’s words;

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

That right there is how my mother lives her life and the rest of us try to walk in her footsteps. Thankfully, they are wide enough for us to fit and have room for us to grow into them.

If you listen to her prayers, they will revolve around everyone but her and on this day, I pray that she will have many amazing years filled with joy derived from her friends and family but also her own for the jewel that she is.

Happy birthday dear mommy, I love you forever and a day :-*