Sunday, December 29, 2019

Embracing Vulnerability: The Storm after the storm.

This  is a hurricane.
This is the hurricane that passed through me.

This is the hurricane that threw me into a tight crack, and almost destroyed me.
But a little woman rescued me
She said "It's safe to come out
Look, my weapons are down
Put yours  down and come
It's safe here
There is a bit of trust here
There is a little rest here in-spite of the sadness that overwhelms us
There is hope here in spite of the helplessness that we have to battle."

She said "choose a direction."

I chose and walked the path that is always ready  to embrace me like a child.
They call me the daughter of our father.
And a man and his wife said 'come home for tea.'
They didn't known it but it was that that kicked out the last vestiges of the storm.
I could live again.

Friday, December 27, 2019

This chic- Spontaneously Constant.

I’ve always been an outlier, not a recluse, but never following the crowd either
And for that many times I become an object of curiosity. Not because I am trying hard to stand out but because I didn’t do what everyone else in the room wanted to do.

As a child, I got bored easily by games children played and instead would read or just, dig a trench in the ground and cover it with sticks or whatever.
Hard headed
Are terms that have been used to describe me.

I never cared much for popular opinion, I didn’t watch popular TV programmes or enjoy popular music. Instead I talked to the quiet  people in the room, read Surgeon’s Diary and Walked inside the maize plantation to see what little animals I may meet.

The different path is not that smooth. Whenever I am new in a place, people will be asking who is she, what tribe is she, is she rich, is she married, is she dating an old mzee?
Because people will always try to find out where to place you.
They start with your clothes
Then your accent
Then how much money you are willing to throw about.
And then maybe they will listen to you tell them who you are.

I dress for comfort, and ease of movement, and I’m glad I have an eye for what suits me.
I’m grateful to BG Ngandu Girls and British sitcoms for cleaning out my accent. Though I didn’t really have a distinct one to start with, within the country.
And I am glad that even though I know how to have a good time, money has never been the focus in my life.
Sometimes I have it, sometimes I don’t but whatever stage I am at financially, I still get round.

2020 has been my pivotal year, the year that I kept telling myself I would be mature enough to make decisions. It was something I decided in 2011 and each year I tell myself, it’s coming.
I am not so eager now for it, my mother is not here to see it so whatever, but I am sure about one thing, I won’t change much.

But I will be less tolerant
More Resilient
Less talkative
More meditative
Less Cowardly
More courageous

Sunday, December 1, 2019

J209: This type of Love

Sorry, but if you've never seen me on a bad hair day
We aren't friends
If you have only seen me with my red lipstick
And woolen stretch blazers 
Never in my old pink T-shirts I sleep in,
You aren't family either.

If You have seen me scared
And confused 
And totally embarrassed, you are my friend.
If you have seen me a little tipsy
If I've have told you to go to hell
And still you stayed
You are family.

If you only know my smile
And my jokes
And good wishes
You are just a passerby
Keep walking, stranger.

If you have seen my tears
And heard my sobs
And read my despair.
You are my soulmate

One positive thing that has come out clear from the death of my mother is; I am sure I've made good choices in friends.

Last week my friend called me and said she has been meaning to call but was waiting for the right time.

She is not the sensitive types, I was expecting her to tell me to suck it in, life must go on and we all end up in a hole anyway.

But she didn't say any of those things. She told me something that opened a whole new perspective to the relationship I had with my mother.

She told me ' my parents have been dead for over ten years but whenever there is something that I need to do which only my parents could have done for me, I cry like a baby.'
She told me it's still too soon to think that I can stop crying and feeling sad.

Then she said, ' Don't expect comfort from humans, they are imperfect, anything they say is not enough so let Jehovah comfort you he knows the best way.'

I was crying by the end of the call but didn't want her to know so I was speaking with that hollow voice that's between a stifled yawn and cheerfulness.

And of course my mind went to an over drive.
I thought about the many times I disagreed with my mother. The many times we told each other off. The many times she told me off for not eating enough and having a bony chest and I would tell her to leave me alone that's how I am shaped! 
And how finally this year she said ' I will get you a hair dye that doesn't break the hair, I've noticed those kinds of hairs like yours can be dyed.'
I told her to get me maroon. She had accepted me as a curly haired girl.

Ad it hit me that, the thing that will bite me the most is I have no one else related to me ingīrutīra ūrimū.
That was something exclusive to the one that gave birth to me.
I didn't walk around egg shells around my mother. 
I didn't have to filter what was in my head.
I told her as it was.
Growing up I had to give the extended family a certain amount of respect not to embarrass my mother, I still try to conduct myself politely around them.

But my mother, I had exclusive rights to her and after not picking up her phone calls for a month I could call her and ask her 'can I come over tonight?'

And that is exactly the kind of relationship I have with my closest pals. 
We don't have to hold hands and take selfies but we are in sync.
Sometimes we don't talk for a whole week. Sometimes we just exchange emojis.
Sometimes they can't stand me, many times I order them around. They say I'm a bully but honestly you don't just come to my house and sit I cook for you. No. Make your useful.

People say they know their true friends when tragedy strikes. 
Me, I have been convinced that my friends are true.
Everyone that matters has been present .

I will miss my mother every time I listen to KĪhenjo or Kata or JKL.
But I am comforted to understand now that I had a real relationship with that woman.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Embracing Vulnerability: Things I want to remember.

10 years from now I will say 'I lost my mummy 10 years ago' and it won't have the same sting  as it does now, although 10 years is a long time.. Will I still be standing? 
Maybe I will have  a couple of babies and too preoccupied with breastfeeding and  PP2 Graduations .
I will not be too turned inwards as I am right now. But I don't want to forget that on the day we went to pick my mother's body from the morgue, I came out to faces of friends and family who came to mourn with me. 
I had not decided whether I would view the body or not. And Mama King'ori holding tightly to me was saying you don't have to a cucu wa Kangemi was saying you need to and I remember asking for Munyeki to hold on to and collapsing into a chair and being led out, being asked to sign here and sign there and please keep this safely and do you want to sit down?

Then I came out and Lydia of Passion Fashions was standing outside  in skinny Jeans and a pink Jacket. My cousins Maina Kabutu and Mwangi wa Pia came forward at the gate saying - Gathoni, tumekuja. And my late uncle's kids. 
There were there and I didn't feel 

I don't want to forget that when we were discussing what kind of dress to put on mummy I said please don't buy anything pink. And my aunt went and had a green dress made, my mother's favourite color. 
I can only imagine if my mother heard Jesus voice and came out in a pink dress. I'm sure she would rip it off, then we would have to look for a leso or some leaves.
Well, at least we know she will be happy she got up in green. She will look at the material and probably say- this one looks like Riveroad material-

I don't want to forget that 
on the day we went to have the post mortem done,
 my uncles bought me lunch. 
It tasted like sawdust.

Then we stood outside the gate at Outspan to wait for the doctor to come out of a meeting.
They smoked five packets of cigarettes as we waited. They were nervous. I was not, at the moment. I guess they were more nervous about me seeing my mother's body being cut up. 
They smoked some more.
I bought some yellow passion fruits and cracked  them open, one after the other and read a Watchtower.

I have a way of being calm in emergencies,
 my mother used to say maybe
 I'm not understanding, but I do. 
I break down after.

My distress is private.

In this respect I am Scarlett O'hara. I can tell my mind and body- don't panic now- panic tomorrow- or tonight at 2a.m everyone is asleep and I start sending them messages (I have priceless friends. They call back and calm me down or just listen) or I get up at 3 a.m coz I have remembered I forgot to put an apostrophe in a word in my will. 

I'm composing an article about what to expect when you lose a close family member. From my own experiences and from the research I've done in the last one month.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Grieving 101: Packing Up

Packing up my mother's things was the hardest thing I've had to do this year.
First, it didn't feel right going through her things, opening up boxes, drawers, handbags.
I felt like she was gonna come in anytime and ask -why are you going through my things?-

My heart felt heavy, weighty. I knew I needed to do it but I needed help.

Some ten years over ago, my mother's sister got sick and died. I wasn't told until the day I finished my KCSE exams. 
(Though a classmate who had finished her exams earlier and knew about it had had the brilliant idea to send me a condolence card with a warning not to open until my exams were over. Of course I could see the words sorry for your loss as plain as day through the envelope. I know I made a mess of my remaining papers but oh well, it was well meaning.)

My aunt was very beautiful. Among my shushu's daughters I thought aunt Wangeci was the most beautiful one and it didn't help that she was a beautician and knew exactly which brand of ponds to use. When I was small I would stare at her until she shouted at me to stop it. 
Aunt Wandia, Aunt Wangeci, My mother

After a stint in South Africa she came back and a few years later she fell sick and died.
When I came home, to the house she had shared with my mother, I found a pile of clothes dumped behind the house.
Her death had disoriented the family so much and I guess no one thought much about her clothes.
Her clothes.
She had beautiful clothes. 
She wore silks, and now they were in a pile. Rain had soaked them through, then the sun had created streaks of stains across the once expensive fabric.
I remember thinking, death takes away someone's dignity.

This was the thought I had when mummy died.
So I wanted to preserve her dignity.
I wasn't going to bleh bleh until one day I would come back to the house and find perhaps a 
strip of a favourite shirt of hers flapping against the gate.
Or perhaps a note she had written 
Or worse, her furniture soaking in the Tropical rain.

When stuff happens, that's when you really know the kind of people you need around you. It's the people who show up. 
I rang a friend and she came right away and we created a system.

Things to take to Shushu 
Things for me to keep
Things to give away
Things to burn
Then Malembi came and made us lunch and my little cousins who are not so little any more came and helped unscrew beds and burn trash. My mother's cousins came too and I didn't  have a moment to be alone.
It was three days of pure fatigue, but I was grateful that when I needed volunteers Jehovah sent them. 
I cried a lot saying goodbye to the house that has been my weekend getaway since I came to live in Nairobi.

I have always imagined I would leave that house as a bride. My mother would be in a peach colored dress, the fussy neighbours would ask if we could afford a fancy wedding. 

I guess that's not happening now.

What I have learned: 

1. You never know how a particular death affects someone until it happens to  you.
(I feel really bad for friends who have lost parents in the past and I just said pole and moved on with my life)

2. If someone I 
know losses a loved one, I will have to be there with them, physically.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Self Care: Gratitude releases positive energy

John 13:34,35

I woke up feeling grateful this morning.
The last four days I've had people stay with me in shifts.
I sank last week, I was angry.

But the rescue team arrived.

Each with a band aid for each part of my heart that was aching.
I recovered my sleep.
Someone came and cleaned my kitchen
Another cooked for me
Another brought me apples
I woke up surrounded by bread.

Others washed my floor
A little girl sat with me in sign language meetings
Then an avalanche of mixed company arrived with bags and hugs
And I felt like I'm gonna be okay.
Not 100% but I fully know that my creator is aware of my wanderings.

I am not an insignificant organism roaming the earth unattended.
' with someone loyal you are loyal.'
This evening I am happy.

When you are grateful, good things keep coming.

This morning I received a text from my mother's opposite neighbour. She comforted me and said she wanted to send me cash. She sent the exact amount I needed to pay off my November rent. 
Then I got another call.
'You don't know me but I was your mum's friend. I owed her some cash, Now that I have your number I will send you. Keep strong.'
And she did.
'With God everything is possible.'
I know my life is not a waste of space. I know Jehovah cares about me.
I will tell my mother the things people did for her.
That she had not been a waste of space as well.
Her good deeds follow her.

I have no reason to be angry, 
or be too anxious, or try to find comfort where it's non existent.

Now that I realise real love is not forced. 
It is easy and comfortable. And it knows exactly what needs to be done.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Irene's Army

I woke up enraged.
I felt the heavy weight of injustice on my head and I was very sure I wasn't going to settle until I had done everything in my ability to ensure my mother's days of going without lunch, rainy mornings trying to catch a train ride did not vanish without an explanation.

I guess my heart started burning when after going to her work place, I realized the magnitude of injustice I was tackling , but then I realized I wasn't alone.

We are sitting in this office with people who worked alongside my mother every day, 5,10,20, years and they are telling me
"If you want us to turn Twitter for Irene, just say. "

I am not much in person but I have never been unable to write.
So I sat and composed a letter that would have made any raised eye brow raise both.
It made their ears ring as well I'm sure.

My article about the issue received the highest views for  my articles this year and I decided to pull it down from Facebook.
To give the raised eye brow a second chance
But the comments kept coming and the phone calls.

People ready to close their offices to go with me wherever I need to go today
People getting up at five to go to my house and bring my wallet because I forgot it in my other bag
People picking up calls for me because I'm not aware the phone is ringing
People holding me tightly at the morgue in case I collapse, until my sides hurt

Justice was served, although post humously
But one thing I wasn't gonna sit around and allow is
' they defrauded my mother when she lived, but not when she was no longer around to speak for herself.'

It hurts to think of the sense of loss she must have felt.
The lack of trust
The shock
The helplessness
The fear
And the thought she had before she died, that her life's efforts had been completely burned up in a fire.

I will tell her when she is resurrected, I fought for you, though
With trembling hands and repressed tears.
And I Had an army behind me.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Guest Post: Tribute to a Dead Tree

I know a dead tree. It is dead for most of the year. Sometime in September it blossoms. This is the first step towards the growth of plums. After the flowers, come the leaves then the plums then at some point it returns to looking like a dead tree.

I know a "dead tree". For most of the "year" - she looks like she needs to be cut down - she is "a waste of space". She would be better off as "firewood". A certain rough season comes and she blossoms.
She is exactly like those trees that are still standing after a hurricane ripped through an area. The hurricane season is her season to blossom.

Most of the year she looks dead. Easy to ignore or dismiss. Only after the hurricane does it become apparent that she had deep roots. She has resilience. She has staying power. This is the definition of endurance. It can mean "stand one’s ground; persevere; remain steadfast..."

Hurricane season is her season.

I went to visit this dead tree as she was "blossoming".  This is what I observed.

  • She loves her God. He also didn't hide his love for her during the "hurricane season".
  • She loves her family. Her family loves her. You should hear her laugh from way deep down her stomach when she is with them. She is so relaxed and carefree with them.
  • She brandishes a machette or a panga effortlessly while in the shamba (farm). She chooses and cuts (more accurately harvests) maize (corn), cabbage, onions, pumpkin, grass you name it. It is not a weapon but a tool in skilled hands when she uses it.
  • She is so generous
  • She loves animals. There is a dog called Tom - who had not seen her for months but follows her wherever she goes. When she disappears in the corn farm , all she has to do is call him and he appears. She told me what they have is "true love". :-) 
  • She is a bully. No one is off limits. Not even her cucu (grandmother)
  • She really does stop to smell the flowers. Every plant worth smelling. She stopped to smell. I got a chance to pick some eucalyptus because of her.
  • She skips. Yes. She does. :-) When we went for a walk - she was skipping as we went down the hills.
  • She enjoys simple things. I like simple things. I like her. Good conversation overlooking a waterfall and singing. What more would you want?
Without the hurricane season - you would not know she is not a "dead tree". She has deep roots.

I love you my "dead tree". Keep "blossoming".

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Fatherless Race: My mummy was a lioness, "I have a lioness inside me that I keep on a tight leash."

"Are you taking my picture?" Asked Mummy.
"No, it's the books behind you," I said.

Then she took out her phone and took a picture of me, then I took one with her phone,
Then we just sat.
She had had a horrid morning at her bank.
After 32 years slaving away at physically draining job her savings earnings and benefits had found their way into someone's online account and vanished.
She said she had reported it.
I didn't pry
But she got sorrowful day by day
Until they told me pneumonia had taken her life.
My mother had lost her life.

When my mother went on retirement, she had two major plans. She was going to relocate to the USA and she had everything laid out. I thought it was hilarious but many conversations after I realised nothing would stop her.

I guess the moment came after she had renewed her driving license. I thought man, this woman is set.
And knowing her spirit, the same stubborn spirit I have inherited, I took her shopping for thermal heat preserving vests in preparation for winter.

Then she said to me, do you think this phone will help you in your work?  I said yeah but don't feel you have to. She loved her phone so giving it up would mean a better offer was out there, in Trump's kingdom.

The last time I met my mother, she was late than our agreed time.
So I asked her to meet me in Kikuyu town. I wanted her opinion deciding a location for Cisster Salon. She said she was tired so We went to crave kitchen.

My mother loves fine things. She was blown away, she said the chefs were dressed right, the decor must have been done by an international designer and insisted the owner could not be local. I pointed Tom out.

She said: haiya that one with dreads?
She looked around and said she wanted to have a look at the toilet. She came back grinning saying how awesome the place was but would I stop telling her to have the soup Coz she only wanted another mug of tea if I would buy it?
I should have asked if she wanted another samosa.
We talked.
She had had a horrific experience at equity bank that morning.
I didn't probe
But now that she is dead and I have had a look at her documents.. It's no wonder she only wanted tea that day. Me, I would have collapsed right away.

I have been feeling like I'm gonna get blown away anytime now.
It's a feeling I have never had before.
Losing the only parent I have pains a lot.

Losing my mother now, this year on top of everything else just proves how ruthless Satan is.
Satan has no mercy.
But my friend wrote a blog post for me:

My mother's back up plan was to try farming. She was gonna buy a big tank and store water. Then she would look after grandmother.
 I know she would have raised a couple of dogs as well.

Today I'm thankful for the time I spent with mummy in the short time she was on retirement. She made effort to come see me and reassure me. She embraced vulnerability when she accepted my offer to take her to the dentist in August. She was scared of dentists.
I laughed when she said after ' ah ona rītiuma na ruo.' Then she gave me a thousand Bob to pick up my aunt arriving from the village.
I thought it was a bribe for my silence, not to say she was scared of a tooth extraction.

But this is for a short while. I know my mother will get up in future.
Meanwhile, I will try and get some rest.
I will follow up what my mother tried to resolve before death caught up with her. When my anger subsides.
I am angry at a debased society that preys on its defenseless members.
I'm angry at a society that discards it's members when their value has diminished.
I am angry at this old world, and I hate it. May your kingdom come please.
I am assured of one thing though:
Psalms 37:10

Just a little while longer, and the wicked will be no more;You will look at where they were,And they will not be there.

Jehovah will soon undo every injustice that we have suffered in satan's wicked world.
Isaiah 65:17
The former things will not be called to mind.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Monday Profiles: Big Cisster's Got me

This woman is called Estah
Once upon a time I found myself on the precarious edge of a deportation, or imprisonment if the judge decided my hair was too knotty.
I had a month to appeal for my student Visa, I had no cash and my emotions run high between rash regrets, why didn't I just get married when the offer was on and despondent self pity oh no this is not happening again! I have to start over from nothing and why did I even get started in the first place!

We sat in a hotel room in Singapore. I sat on the floor. She lay on the bed, Tlotlego lay flat on the floor completely asleep. Tlotlego has a gift of sleep. She can fall asleep on the kitchen counter and she would be fine.

' The last time they pulled me out of an exam room I broke down and could not say anything.' Said I.

" I want you to go and talk to them like an adult, and state your case, refer to your grades." Said she.

I didn't have much practice
I had never been sent away from school for lack of fees, ever.

But I went and stated my case and got into the line up for scholarships.

A year later, Estah rang me. I was in some undisclosed location. My mental and emotional health quite a mess.
Hurt and completely destroyed and probably even running for my life.

She said I'm sending you cash to come back to the city. She did.

I wasn't ready
I needed to be alone in the open fields to clear my mind.

I got back to the city eventually wit ya clear mind and lighter emotions and Estah called to say she had a job for me.
Who does that?
Who is alive to support your mad schemes for decades?

But That's what she has always been, someone who has always seen my potential.

And put faith in me.

So last week she sent her daughter to my salon. My first hair treatment client.

I believe if I started selling charcoal Estah would order a gunia of charcoal and then look for a maize roasting trader and give it to him.

In 1997, my mother brought me Nivea lotion. I couldn't tell the difference between it and Vaseline Solea or whatever else was there to apply on my legs. But Estah saw it and told me: That's a very good lotion you have. We were in primary school.

In 2009, Estah took me to an expensive restaurant and said: order the Cabarnet Sauvignon, it's not too sweet  and she was right. It's the only wine I recognize.

And all my life I don't think I'll ever meet someone that's got it together as she has, yet she remains modest.

So my big sister has got me,
In spirit of the Cisster Brand let me hear those bookings coming in..

Efficiency, why we must learn to be.

 There are no schools that you will sign up to to learn how to be efficient. Most will teach you a profession or a skill and it's up to ...