Thursday..

36

Originally posted on Thursday 6 April

It is Thursday, my most ‘predictable’ day of the week because I am sure how it will end- with a 4040 meeting.
I often schedule appointments around it..If anyone wants to have wedding meetings with me involved, I ask that Thursday isn’t an option; if there is an invitation on a Thursday, I make an exception only if it is really important or if I know my presence will make a difference.
Everyone who knows me, knows this bit of my schedule. *If I owe you money, this is all a joke👆*
This bond has lasted longer than some relationships. We stick together. Before the meetings we are catching up, during the meeting we’re being a menace to the chairman and after the meeting we are saying goodbye but really staying. <cue song- Everytime I try to leave, something keeps pulling me back…🎼🎶🎵>
Even when I am unwell, I force myself there. I know that a night fight or disagree, but we all want the same thing-to create change and that is priceless.
Today it rained in the evening and there were some cancellations as expected but still 14 friends were there to discuss over tea and snacks, sharing ideas that we hope will change lives.
We used to meet on Tuesdays, then two members enrolled in a Master’s class that required them to study on Tuesday. We moved days and never looked back.
We have had ‘5 homes’ where we have met for 5 years.
Some members have settled down and stopped coming, others have settled down and still come; some are single and searching..others are single and being searched..and some..we don’t even know..and it doesn’t really matter. What we know is a have each other.

I don’t know what this picture will look 5 years from now and to be honest, that doesn’t make me lose sleep at night (as much as it used to) I am basking in the now..and the now is beautiful!

It speaks of dreams and rainbows, pain and lessons, love and loss, hard work and loyalty. It provides so many things I never even knew I wanted, that fit right into this life of mine.

 

I probably didn’t do much in my own power, to deserve this blessing that keeps on giving..but one thing is for sure; I will do everything in my power to keep it, to keep them.

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He stayed

Story 5: Giving thanks

The Lord my father, my friend my rock, has been part of this journey before I ever dreamt of it, before it began and every step of the way since.
About 4 years ago, I went by *Terry’s office to pick up a few items she wanted us to donate or sell and use returns to fund our projects. I got in, said hello to her workmates and went ahead to sit with her and talk. As I said my goodbyes, she told David (real name) about 4040. He said he knew about us.
He took out his ‘other’ business card and asked me to contact him if we ever needed a public address system for our events. I thanked him and left.


Fast forward, David has provided sounded for pretty much every event since, at no cost.
Imagine that.

Before him, we kept changing service providers and calling in favours. We were afraid to ‘beg’ again and again. One time, a team member, Jack got us equipment from his boss and I later found out it had got messed at one of our events. I was completely crushed and started to panic. I offered to replace it well knowing that we could not even afford it.


Since David swooped in to literally save us, the process has been smooth. Sometimes his team even arrives at the location before we do. He has no airs around him and has never made us feel like second class citizens (which sponsors/donors often do)
Do attend next Friday’s quiz and karaoke night at Yasigi’s. The equipment you will see and ‘hear’ will be from D&J audio, all these years later.
You ought to contact them for all your sound needs. See link

d-n-j-photo

It is evident I shall never ever be able to repay their kindness but it won’t hurt if you can give them business too😊 Might I add, their professionalism is at 💯?
If you bump into David or speak to him, let him know how much we appreciate him, his team and his work. We tell him all the time but it never seems enough.

Especially thanking God for the people he has placed in our lives along this journey.

The fault in our stars

That’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.

When Raymond gave me the movie “The fault in our Stars.” He warned me that there would be lots of tears involved.
It is for that reason that I put it very far from me, waiting for the ‘right moment.’
They say ‘misery loves company’ but I find that when I am at my lowest, the last thing I need is to find out that someone else is in pain.
I had been having one bad day after another and as a result, I did not need any pain inducing movies or activities.
What I needed was a few happy endings and perhaps a chance to be invisible for a while. *Didn’t happen*

When I realised things were not changing, I decided to give the movie a chance and it is from it that I heard the phrase “That’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.”
Not that this was an epiphany or anything but it perfectly summarised what was going on inside.
Ever been in a place; where you did not want to hear phrases like “It gets better,’ or ‘Hang in there?’ Have you had to pretend that everything is okay when in fact it is the exact opposite.
Are there times when it was your ‘duty’ to be strong and so you did precisely that even if you dealt with fear after fear?
Did you ever need to turn to someone only to find they were not there?
It happens to all of us, at some point.
It is in these moments that self pity might creep up and you seek every ‘portion’ you can find that will bring even a speck of positive vibes, if only for a minute.
Although the movie mainly centred on victims of cancer, it was beautiful in so many other ways. Yes, it had me unashamedly wailing like a little child.
The tears might have been induced by the characters, but deep within so many emotions were aroused.
Aches from the thought of death, the real victims I have encountered who have lost the battle to cancer or are still struggling with it. The families, friends and care takers who are learning to adapt albeit sorrowfully. It was pretty devastating.
It ended. I meditated. It stayed with me.
Fast forward, to a few days later.
We were all set for Akiba, ready to pain the house, put up playing places and material for the kids who are struggling with cancer and make merry.
I was excited and restless.
The skies seemed to have other plans and I began to anticipate the “It’s raining, I can’t make it’ messages. A few of them came in but I was overwhelmed by the number of people who turned up despite the terrible weather. The kind of loyalty you do not find everyday.
We played indoor games during the downpour and it was so much fun 😀
When the tea arrived, it was just what the doctor had ordered. A huge ‘tumpeco’ (mug) all to myself 🙂
The cleaning, painting, building and at time demolishing (ssshhhh) finally began. People were like worker bees. I have not seen that amount of dedication and team work in a long time.
They did not even want to have lunch before the work was done.
My heart was just all kinds of warm and fuzzy watching all this.

akiba paint

akiba washing

paint 2

One pose then back to work

One pose then back to work

I had to run and give a talk at a women’s conference but I felt like missing even a few minutes of the ‘Akiba pimping’ would kill me. I know. I know.

Akiba with kds
You know how a young mother can leave her son with a sister or even her own mother and call to check almost every 10 minutes? Even if she knows the little one is in safe, experienced loving hands? Yep. That is the best way I can explain it.
Immediately after the talk, I rushed back to see what was happening. Not before a young lady, Daphne* asked for my contacts.
I shall share an excerpt of the email she has sent me.
Thank you so much for what you do to bring a smile to children in Uganda. Growing up as an orphan made me go           through various challenges but luckily, I was able to study and graduate.
I have no stable job but believe I don’t need a lot of money to help the less fortunate. I believe I can volunteer with you and bring a smile to some children.
I therefore request to be part of your team and look forward to changing lives.
After reading this email, I was reminded of what 40-40 is all about.
It is not easy or painless but it is certainly worth it. (Also, pain demands to be felt so we shall have to accept these demands, no?)
The feeling of joy in my heart from the experiences this journey has brought me is almost palpable.
It is also quite evident that I have been blessed in more ways that I ever could repay.
Related: Christmas is here 🙂

baby Jesus

Cheers to the future

A couple of weeks ago, I started a new year, a new chapter in my life.

Unlike past birthdays, this was the first one where my mindset switched from “Where did all the years go?” to “I cannot wait for what the next few years have to offer.”

This past year was also one of growth and maturity (or so I hope) and I have learnt a few things, noticed others that hitherto silently passed me by but mostly I am grateful for  several things that will probably not all be tackled in this post.

Providence, family, friends

I didn’t think that I would quit my job for my passion and I did not know if I would last. I did it anyway..and here we are.

It is one thing to believe in something so much you will give anything for it, it is completely different to have people believe with you.

I have been blessed by God in countless ways but the most important gifts he has sent have come in form of angels that I call my family and friends.

We do not always agree or even pretend to. Many of them saw what could go wrong with my choices, and continue to remind me how precarious it is, but they stay anyway.

What we all deserve is someone/some people who are willing to put their doubts aside and support us, if for anything-just because it is what we need.

 

The will, the drive, the strength to carry on

 

I am not a morning person mostly because I get very little sleep at night and then actually begin to rest just before sunrise so conversations, phone calls, work that start this early often mess with my system and I avoid them when I can.

Nevertheless, I do them anyway. There are t.v interviews I have had to do which involved getting there before 7a.m, appointments with people who have no time besides those early hours and I can’t begin explaining my issues.

So, that boda has to be flagged down and the cold braced. When there, sense has to be made even if you are there only in body.

The rain has showered me from time to time but I think of them as hazards that come with the job.

What is most challenging is the fact that there are no ‘direct results’ and even if they come, they take a while. Unlike the early bird who will get to his stall and  target those heading to work to increase sales, I will talk till I am out of breath, meet everyone I can to sell this dream and the wait. Simply sit tight and wait.

I am grateful for the patience to wait, and to have something that I believe in- to wait upon.

When it comes to strength, even I have no idea where it comes from. Sometimes 36 hour days occur and you can’t explain to an ‘ordinary person’ what it is you were up to, many times not even yourself.

It is funny how people are so quick to judge based on physical appearances.

Big=strong, Small=weak. What is worse is that they openly admit it.

“You are Esther? I didn’t expect you to be so young and this small.”

Me: I had no expectations of what you should look like but that is just me.

The 40/4o team recently participated in the cancer run.The idea was that we stick together whether we have to jog, walk or crawl, and we did. I had not eaten well for the past few days but I didn’t give it much thought. That was until my stomach started to act up after we reached the 5km mark or so. When my friends would say, let us run downhill, I would gesture that I was right behind them but the truth is I was barely managing.

Somehow, I grabbed one of them and told them the truth on one condition- we finished the race no matter what. We did 🙂

I want to say size is not everything but it would be redundant.

The mother’s ‘motoka’ eh!

I learnt how to drive when I was about 18 and I thought at the time it would be a nice skill to have for the ‘future.’

Driving was easy but road users were not. I got so many insults for being ‘mu kintu,‘ coming from the ‘privileged side’ or simply for being young and a woman. This would mostly happen when stuck in traffic especially next to taxi. I started to always have the window up no matter what or pretend not to understand Luganda.

The skill did come in handy! Before long, I was the go to person to pick that relative arriving at 5a.m or drop another to the bus station at 12a.m. Was this the reason driving school fees were paid? Well played.

No but seriously, I did my duties grudgingly but with a lot of love 🙂

Fast forward to the past year, after worrying about her daughter’s late nights and endless meetings, events and appointments, the mother decided to give her blessing. If I was coming late, I needed a trusted chauffeur or her very own car. That is how the ‘small’ woman above ^^ began to worry less about those constant meetings, pick ups, deliveries and for that I am truly grateful!

40-40 registered, complete with an office and bank account

There was a time when Banura and I would have millions of shillings for a particular projects. We could not bank this money in our personal accounts because, you know and then keeping it was also not the best idea.

When your friend in the UK says they have sent 100 pounds, you run to western union and withdraw it. You get to your favourite restaurant and a menu with scrumptious meals is brought before you. You check your wallet and look at the crisp new shillings you got from the exchange and none of them are yours. So you order for mirinda fruity, with ice instead. Don’t ask about the ice, it is a long story.

Those days are now over, no more nightmares about missing funds that were meant for the children. Temptations are fewer.

As`we hunted for banks, one Relationship Manager told us ’40 days over 40 smiles’ sounded like a forged name. That did bite quite a bit, but when I look at our registration certificate,the office, that one dedicated employee and a bank statement- I am more than thankful. Also, I know that this will make for a good story one day 🙂

Sleep/Rest, when it does show up

I am very thankful for the gift of sleep. It might not always be there but when it is- ooh the joy!

Sometimes I wonder if I had a boss what I would say. “Sorry I came in at 11, the sleep only came to me at 6. You understand, right? Thanks”

My schedule can be crazy but at least it is on my terms, okay mostly it is. When I wear myself thin, it is my choice and oh how I cherish the ability to blame myself for my own bad decisions.

I know who I am

The first thing that comes to me is the gospel song “I know who God says I ma, What He says I am, where He says am at, I know who I am.”

When you really know who you are, to the extent that you are not shaken by what people think or say of you, you are walking a fine road.

I can’t pretend to have got to that level,more so when it comes to people I care about being on the ‘other side.’ However I am comfortable in what is within, knowing that it belongs to me and I am in control of it.

Everything else that is external shall come and go with age and time but the soul is eternal.

In William Ernest Henley’s words, “I am the master of my fate,I am the captain of my soul.”

My Mony

This lady right here came to my heart and never left.

When I get out of bed and the folks are already at work, I first find her, ask how her night was and then my day can begin.

We have whined, prayed, sang, shopped and pretty much done everything together.

When she finds me meddling in the kitchen, she will ask what I need and fix it, especially those days when a meal is the last thing on my mind.We have an inside joke that even if you have had a meal at a 5 star Hotel, you will still come home and have at least something.

She has loved my family and I and all those who have walked through our doors. Quite frankly, I do not know what we shall do without her.

For now though, I must maximise her calm, generous and prayerful self 🙂

There are so many things to be thankful for and beautiful lessons that have not come easy but have come nonetheless.

Your dream won’t let you be still

The most used ‘app’ on my phone is the ‘notes’ because there is always a new thought,idea or reminder to make 40-40 better. This is on top of the hundreds of notebooks I own (each with different contents I might add).
You can’t stop. You won’t stop. Once the dream begins to grow, you want everyone to feel the way you do, the adrenaline, the pain,the passion, if not for this dream- then for something else because you can’t imagine anyone living without at least one thing that makes them momentarily insane.

The dreams and nightmares too:P

It is one day to Hoops for Grace. We have planned it for a while and we hope it will be massive.  We can only do our bit. Some people on the team started having dreams about it as far back as last week, sleep is becoming elusive and of course there is that drama from within and without that will always be there.

It is funny when it isn’t sad. I would love for it to work, to show the dedicated people that even a handful of people can make huge impact and that their work did not go to waste.

Mostly, I want it to work because the children at Akiba Foundation need a home that has no sign of cancer except the meds that shall be hidden in shelves.

This Saturday, come to bush court and change a life! If you can’t, feel free to make a donation to the worthy cause.

hoops poster

What goes around comes around

So many incidents come to mind but the one that I have recently been musing over occurred sometime back.

The manager of a restaurant we were having our meetings scolded me for having meetings where our consumption reduces each week. It was in a good location since the office was too far for most people.

I asked him to let us know if he wanted us out because we would do it.

Exactly two weeks after he called me back. I knew my bluff had been called but alas. “I have realised that you are good at mobilising people. Can you help us get more clients using your networks?”

I needed several moments to recover. A few months later, he was no longer employed there. Perhaps he is in a better place:)

As soon as religion comes to dominate, it has as its opponents all those who would have been its first disciples

How true is that? Replace ‘religion’ with any experience you have and see that loyalty is ranks highly on the the world’s ‘endangered species’

I read a story once of a dog that had been going to the cemetery where its master was laid to rest, everyday for years and the caretaker always waited till it had left before closing the gates.

I might not understand people who leave their wealth to animals. However, I imagine after dealing with betrayal from the human race, a loyal dog or cat may not be such  a bad idea.

The strongest people crumble and fall, the most fickle also have their days of victory.

I have learnt that forgiveness is a gift to yourself. I have also seen the power in silence. When you are wrong, admit, and once you see that you are right, save everyone the ‘I told you so.” The person you are telling knows you told them and so do you. ‘Riyalle’ save that breath for like a Uganda Cranes match.

People will give you 2% after you have invested 100% but if it was never about them anyway, then you march away with your head high and your 100% that they may never find anywhere else!

We have digressed but..we go.

The past year was a good one, even in its bad times-it was good.*We are strongest when we are weak* I mean,even the stone that the builders threw away became the cornerstone 🙂

We ought to be as wise as the man who built his house on a rock.

My birthday month is now gone *tear* but I have beautiful memories to last me a lifetime.

Everyone of you who made my day great and the days before or after, you know I love you and I try to show it rather than say it. The real rebeauty though, is in all the years ahead of us.

Every gift,cake,message, song that I got from those that know me well has a story. Those are the stories I want to build on with each and everyone of you, for a lifetime 🙂

cake 1 es

cake 2

 

cake 3

I might add I didn't sit at the front in school but eh!! *breaks into song...meet me at the river*

I might add I didn’t sit at the front in school but eh!! *breaks into song…meet me at the river*

See you at Hoops for Grace on Saturday. I can’t wait for the blog post when I tell you how amazing it was!! 🙂

Xoxo

The Price of a dream

“Your dream is not big enough if it does not scare you.”

Last year I met someone who said he was interested in hearing more about 40-40. During our conversation he said something that startled me. “Sorry you lost your parents,it must have been difficult.” I was confused. “Did I say I lost my parents?,” I asked, trying to find a polite way of getting to the bottom of it. “No, but I figured the only reason you would be interested in helping orphans is because you are one yourself.” he replied matter-of-factly.

I politely explained what I was driven by and could feel the ‘dissatisfaction’ from across the table. He thought he had cracked the code but now needed to know what my ‘real’ reasons were. He kept probing. I kept cringing.

It is unfortunate, sad actually that society has led us to believe there must be ulterior motives for good deeds. Worse still is the fact that when people fail to find this motive, they will make up one for you.

I will try to ‘briefly’ (because I can’t exhaust this topic) use real life examples of incidents that ‘dreamers’ have experienced and why you have to keep paying the price to see the finish line.

 

When a NO will suffice but….

“I am thankful to all those who said no to me. It’s because of them that I did it myself.”

A musician who is starting out and needs airplay in order for the world to hear her music. She takes her music to a radio station and asks a DJ to play it. After a quick listen, he looks up and says “This is rubbish! The fact that you even thought I could play this on my radio is disrespectful. I suggest you  concentrate on something else because music is clearly not for you.”

Lies often have to be followed up with more lies so I understand why this DJ couldn’t promise to play the song then later bin it, but why not just politely say no instead of using ‘colourful’ language? Well this ‘rubbish’ musician is actually doing quite well, with several hit songs that have been played on several radio stations including the one that was once too good.

Philanthropy on the other hand is probably twice as difficult. You are forced to ‘sell’ feelings like love and empathy and then mix it up with the business angle so that the entrepreneur feels like he too is benefiting. Unfortunately, honesty is a trait that is heavily lacking among several players within and outside the corporate sector.

I was once scheduled to meet a brand manager of this company. He had made promises to support us at one of our events and verbally, the deal was as good as signed and delivered. That is until he constantly made his phone busy, sent messages that read ‘In meeting, will call back’ and generally ignored all my attempts. It is not surprising that when I used a different number, he picked up. I eventually gave up, which is what he wanted.Months later, I met some individuals who had work with him complaining about his behaviour and the scenarios were almost ‘copy and paste’.  When I gave them a brief, they told me to find comfort in the fact that he does this to ‘everyone.’ This was actually not comforting at all! Hope is good but false hope is harmful. Imagine how much time he would save himself and everyone else if he just said ‘NO.’ The brand. He is messing up a brand that he is hired to protect. He knows what budget his company has for particular projects and can explain this in one sentence but no, that isn’t as fun as sending people on a wild goose chase.

“People who lack the clarity, courage, or determination to follow their own dreams will often find ways to discourage yours. Live your truth and don’t EVER stop!” 

Oh, another offer? Yaaayyyy- Right?

Several people shall come up with incredible offers, promises and pave paths for you. They will sound pretty great and you may even start drawing your budget based on these promises. They may even go so far as to put it in writing. Hold on to that champagne. If you don’t, you may have to pop several ’empty’ bottles.

At the beginning of this year, we struggled to complete the dormitory we were constructing. We had had several campaigns and had decided if by December we didn’t have the full amount, we would just have to find other ways to raise it. So behind the scenes,I started to tell everyone I could and on this random day I got a call. A friend of mine wanted me to write a letter requesting his boss for the balance, which at the time was 5,000,000 UGX. He said he had a ‘very good’ feeling because the boss had been impressed by our work. I made sure to follow the instructions. The problem with being ‘in need’ is that you are not sure what is too much or just enough so I tried not to push too hard but still remain in his mind. Each time we spoke, it seemed like the cheque to ’40 days over 40 smiles Foundation’ would be signed that day. I only told one other person (thankfully) and then prayed and waited. Last month this friend told me the boss had been out of the country and was now back.” He approved it,” I was assured. Well, four months and a complete dormitory later, I am still waiting. Champagne does not expire, right?

 

“If you want to be comfortable, don’t try to live your dreams.”

You are no longer just an individual, you are also your product,your dream.

You have to accept that you are now Ashley the fashionista, if you are into selling clothes. People who haven’t spoken to you in years will call when they have a hot date and ‘nothing to wear.’ Never mind that they ignored all your pleas to come check out the new shop.

If you are in the entertainment industry, be sure to anticipate the ‘Can you get me a free ticket’ messages even from that guy who drives past you in his BMW on a rainy day as you walk to the taxi stage.

I can’t count the number of times I have met someone or called just to check on them only to be invaded with ‘Sorry I didn’t come to see the kids with you guys’ or ‘I know I haven’t been contributing but I follow 40-40’s progress..’ and other related disclaimers. When I can, I re emphasise that it is okay for us to just talk about ‘normal’ topics but sometimes I just listen and let it go. Speaking of normal topics, the 40-40 team which is made up of friends often diverts from fun to ‘work’ without intending to. We are at a birthday party and the food is good, music even better then suddenly you hear “I have an idea we can use to improve our data collection.” and just like that, the next few minutes shall be spent dissecting this idea and coming up with many more. *See why I always need a notebook 🙂 *

“Don’t you find it odd that when you’re a kid, everyone, all the world, encourages you to follow your dreams. But when you’re older, somehow they act offended if you even try?”

If you are doing something that isn’t conventional, then you have to get used to people telling you it can’t happen and asking you when you will grow out of it..

Once you are done with school, people don’t expect you to come and say “I have decided to make art pieces by recycling rubbish.” Your parents expect you to get value for the money they invested. Next on the agenda, is the climb on the corporate ladder. When the dreamer in you decides to make the announcement that you believe your calling is to dance and teach people to love their bodies trough dance, do not expect a round of applause. In fact, keep your armour close by just in case. Aisha (not real name) got 24 points at ‘A’ level and got a Government scholarship to study engineering. After graduation, she got a job but also  started to write more and more. She got to recite her poetry and even came out number one at some competitions which she entered. She listened to her heart and tried out contemporary dance which she loved and decided to do part time. To earn a living, she began making jewellery that she sells to friends and through her networks. All this while, her father was flabbergasted while her mom was supportive, or so she thought. Before long, her siblings called her for an intervention and explained that her parents were worried. “Not my mom, she interjected.” It turned out her mom was just not bold enough to tell Aisha to her face that she didn’t support her life choices. Aisha isn’t driving a sports car or working for a top engineering firm but she is happy. This is what should be important to her parents and everyone who loves her , but it isn’t.

Of course they mean well. Their expectations are high and they feel like she is ‘wasting’ her brain away. I am biased, for obvious reasons. I believe if you are tired  of that office that has constant  AC,scrumptious lunch and crazy benefits 😮 and want to trade it in for a life of ‘hustling,’ you should, if only to now what it feels like. If the hustle fails, you can always come back.

“I believe ardently that you should drop everything and run toward your true self.”

I have interacted with many dreamers and they have experienced all this and more. Here are a few truths that I have learnt along the way.

 

You are going to starve so you can feed your dream.

You will forego several luxuries

It is great if your passion can sustain you

If it can’t, work until it can-

You will often stand alone

Sometimes you will cry tears, seen and unseen

You will lose friends and make new ones

You will also make false friends-

The world will give you many reasons to give up, they might even be more than the ones to keep trying

Truth is there are many great ideas, but not enough people willing to risk

The fact is the world needs you

It needs more eccentric, crazy, passionate and genuine dreamers

It aches for faith, hope,strength and dedication that only dreamers have

You need to know that what you seek is seeking you too

You have to keep telling everyone who cares to listen so the dream keeps alive

But also remind your heart, for it hears you speak-

You were born to honour your calling and if it is the only thing you ever do, you will have done enough.

Don’t find faults when you can find remedies

Allow yourself to be in the dark as you wait for the light

Share your sparkle and be so bright you can’t be ignored

At the end of the day, you are on you own.You answer to only you and the one answer I hope that you can give after it is all said and done is “Yes, I dreamed and I lived!”

sky 2