Unless you walk in my shoes….

Do you judge? Yes, you. You might gasp in indignation and say : “who, me? I am very openminded, tolerant and understanding. Why would I judge?”

Courtesy of Pixabay

Ah, but you see we all do. Sometimes with malicious glee and self righteous sense of morality: ” You wouldn’t catch me dead in that place, that dress, with a car like that, ___________insert your disgust here.

It is so easy to believe we can do better than others. Even feel that if it was our child who was throwing a tantrum at the supermarket we would handle it better. The little brat would really know who was boss.

We ladies are especially guilty of dissecting other people’s marriages and/or relationships and: “What is she thinking! Squandering away such ‘gold’? Does she have no idea how hard it is to find a good honest man like hers? She must not treat him well for him to behave like that!”

Or maybe we feel that if we had the opportunities or the relationships that so and so has we would do a fantastic job (what does he know?); that the challenges he was facing would not even arise.

Or that we would have given a more assertive reply to the rude salesperson or the insensitive family member. Or that we would have gotten a bigger discount, saved more money, given a better presentation, raised more disciplined and genius kids. Gotten better grades; nailed the speech or gotten the promotion if it was us!

It is so easy to label others; to judge their decisions and their actions, to tut tut at their slips and failures; to conveniently fit them into a square box of our choosing:

This one is lazy. This one is simply unmotivated. This one is just not interested. This one prefers his own company no doubt about that. That one just can’t say no to food and is allergic to exercise that’s why he is this fat. This one is just stingy. This one got rich because his uncle is so and so. This one has no clue about how to________ insert your disgust here.

Unless we walk in someone else’s shoes…..we have no right to judge.

That was brought home to me quite vividly the other day. A lady friend of mine constantly complains (I write this with her permission) that her husband has no inclination or energy after work to do much except collapse on the living room sofa infront of the T.V. She felt he was just being lazy and inconsiderate; unwilling to put any effort towards keeping their marriage fresh and interesting. After all everyone worked long hours including herself; he was not exempt from playing his part.

So she spoke of it to whoever would listen and bored everyone with her tales of marital unrest. One day on leave from her own job, she decided to spend the day with her hubby at his. Her husband works outdoors; his job is physically demanding and requires superhuman amounts of patience for dealing with unreasonable authorities and impractical demands from clients. Traffic jams are not part of his commute, they are an ingrained section of his work day. Moving from meeting to meeting across opposite ends of town in scorching weather was one item on his job description.

When she returned that evening, my friend had no strength or energy to do anything other than to collapse on the living room sofa in front of the TV. Her hubby raised his eyebrows at her and struggled to keep from grinning with amusement and told her: “I am sorry you had to go through that.”

She freely admits that now she has more respect for him and his work. She understands him better and plans for their outings and their time together bearing all the challenges he faces during a typical day in mind. She admits she doesn’t nag him that much about it these days. Somehow that seemed to motivate him to get involved that years of judgement from her could not.

I judge(d) as well.

I am not a fan of any of the social media apps. I reluctantly and grumpily have some on my phone out of necessity. I often pray for a freeze of the internet or a blackout so I won’t have to use them. I don’t like how dependent we have become to them so to speak. 

I also (had) never understood the appeal of modern day entertainment via YouTube, Netflix etc. I considered anyone who spent more than half an hour on there as hooked, attached, addicted and as merely one who has no self control or a life for that matter.

And what’s with the selfie obsession?

My kids, on the other hand, being teens of the 21st century, never seem to tire of YouTube or Instagram or the latest PlayStation update when they can get some time away from the demands of the brutal Kenyan school curriculum.

I, being the good mother that I am, shout, nag, bribe and yes, I admit it, even threaten that if they do not find other ways to entertain themselves I will ground them until a few days to their wedding and that I will stop paying for the internet and so on.

I am not proud to say that I was always reminding them of my teen years when my nose was always in a novel or nonfiction book hence my always great grades blah blah. I conveniently forgot my own mother’s concern that I get up and do something else with my hands (Like learning how to cook or sew) and my time (like going out to visit with family) instead of my nose always being invariably behind the covers of a paperback.

That is until I stumbled upon a children’s series- on YouTube no less- and I was hooked. Work, writing, chores, and other duties were impatiently done away with so I could settle in to watch the latest instalment. I can tell you Princess and Little Man are smiling with amusement at their darling Mum.

Understanding the appeal made me realise I had been too harsh with them and all the others I had been quick to judge and dismiss.

From the outside looking in, it takes no effort or any sacrifice to believe you would ace the interview, be a better husband or wife or parent or student or Muslim or child or employee than the person who is in there doing his best for the most part.

We all could benefit from advice here and there even when it’s the last thing we want to hear.

But none of us has the right to decide that were you in my home, being a mother to my kids, or out in the world as a Mombasa Mommy or at my place of work, or in my relationships; unless you have walked in my shoes, experienced my struggles, realized my limitations you have no right to judge how I live my life or raise my kids or how I am being me.

And I have no right to judge you.

JUST IN: A Mombasa Mommy is self hosted now! Please find my next post at amombasamommy.co.ke

Time Out

Sometimes it’s ok to crawl and hide somewhere when life gets overwhelming.

Photo Courtesy of instagram salwa.saleh.ashur

When your arms feel tired of carrying all the responsibilities, the demands, the duties. When you can’t keep up with all the roles you play: mum, wife, writer, daughter, sibling, citizen.

When you feel low on energy and don’t know why; when you don’t feel like hanging out with the guys; when you just cannot attend another meeting, another wedding, another soccer match.

When you can’t read another self help book, or any book; when you want to take your laptop and put it in the trash because you just. can’t. write. another. word.

When you can’t like, comment on or share any more videos, gifs or pics.

When you are sick of the news and long to hear something wonderful and uplifting. When you want to laugh like you used to before life got complicated; before you had to grow up and act like an adult.

When all you want is a tub of no holds barred ice cream and to collapse on your most comfortable chair watching TV on mute…..

Then you know it’s time for you to get away for a little while, to recharge.

To switch off your phone, put up a Do Not Disturb sign on your door and just do your thing.

To indulge the little child inside, give him/her a little R and R. To let her fill her cup.

Tomorrow she will be strong enough to fill yours.

Our Planet, Our Responsibility.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Whether we wish to admit it or not, you and I, individually, contribute to earth’s steadily worsening condition. Granted, giant multinational corporations and other entities hold most of the guilt but you and I, we are just as blameworthy.

Let us begin straight off with this: Climate change is not something out of a sci-fi movie. It is not something that only governments, environmental agencies or National Geographic should worry about.

It is real, it is scary and it directly affects us. Here are some of its signs; please feel free to do your own research:

Warming oceans, sea level rise, droughts, storms, extreme events such as persistent high temperatures, global temperature rise, animal species becoming endangered and not just from poaching!

I have lived in Kenya for most of my life. I remember as a child visiting Nairobi during school holidays and it. was. frigid. Now it barely warrants an extra scarf. Mombasa, on the other hand, was never this hot I can attest to that. This is global warming right here, people.

There is a whole ocean of facts and information about climate change that it is our duty as citizens of this planet to acquaint ourselves with.

It is October and countries all around the world are holding climate change week. You and I need to do our part as well.

You might be thinking how can I, one person amongst billions, possibly do anything to make a difference either way? That is where you would be wrong. Every little thing that we do either hurts or contributes to saving this little earth we call home.

Ever heard of the carbon footprint?

The dictionary defines it as “the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of a particular individual, organisation or community. “

Each of us has to work towards reducing our individual carbon footprint.

Doing our part can be as simple as:

  1. Fixing a leaky faucet: Not only will you put a stop to that irritating plop plop but you will be conserving water as well.
  • Speaking of water, try not to use more than you need when you are washing dishes, brushing your teeth or even washing your hands. Don’t leave it running either. The Prophet of Islam Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) forbade wastefulness of any kind and of water even when one is in the river.
  • Stepping away from the chemicals; I have written elsewhere on this blog about the harmfulness of the chemicals in our personal care products but what about the ones that are present in our detergents and other cleaning supplies? These are used and then poured literally down the drain to go harm the fish and the organisms in the soil which in turn come back to hurt us in the shape of our food.
  • Reusing and recycling. Step away from using disposable bottles, plates, or paper towels. Mop up your spills with a cloth towel; have a glass water bottle or stainless steel one to refill instead of buying singles, use tins with resealable lids. Donate your old unused things or find new uses for them instead of throwing them out.
  • Stepping away from the plastic. Plastic is not biodegradable and so will live for eternity in the land fill. Replace the plastic in your home with glass or recycled materials. Bonus: there is something quite classy about glass and stainless steel utensils…
  • Being careful what you buy and how often you buy it. Products come in packages and wrapping. Products are born in factories which emit greenhouse gases; they also contribute to pollution of our air and our water. If it sounds horrible; it’s actual much worse than that. All you need is to do an internet search to see the extent.
  • Switching off the lights, other electrical appliances and cutting down on electricity consumption. Open a window when the weather allows instead of switching on the fan or the AC. Pull back the curtains to draw in more natural light. Not only will that cut down on your power bill, you will be doing the planet and yourself a favour.
  • Walking or biking to school or work or carpooling to reduce not only congestion on roads but the fumes and the pollution.
  • Buying local, buying seasonal. It’s best for you, your country and the planet at large. Besides, any food that got on a plane and travelled many miles to reach you probably has many nasties injected into it to keep it “fresh”. It is also an unnecessary use of resources which puts further strain on the environment.
  • Saying NO! to littering.
  • Creating awareness; let others know what you are doing and why. Bring them on board. The effects of climate change and global warming do not discriminate.

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” — Jane Goodall (British primatologist and conservationist)

“Twenty-five years ago people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today we have no excuse.” — Desmond Tutu (Anti-apartheid and human rights activist)

“And when he goes away, he strives throughout the land to cause corruption therein and destroy crops and animals. And Allah does not like corruption” (The Holy Qur’an Chapter 2 Verse 205)

10 Things I would Tell My Twenty Year Old Self

When you are young, or younger depending on your perspective, you feel a sense of invincibility. You believe you can and should conquer the world, enrich it with your gifts, and be as Gandhi put it “the change you want to see.”

But you are also besieged with self doubt and overwhelm. You wonder whether a certain career path is for you, if you need to emigrate, advance your education; if, even, you really want to go on that safari your tribe is urging you to for which you have neither strength nor inclination.

I know I faced all that. Now I smile with fondness and affection for that young woman I was. I want to pat her on the back and tell her well done! I want her to know that I understand that she did the best that she could with what she had; with what she knew.

Here is what I would tell the twenty year old Mombasa Mommy and every person in his or her twenties:

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay
  1. Trust yourself. If we wait for the right moment, or until when we have all the information, or until when ‘all’ is well, we would never do anything. Just trust yourself that whatever happens you will be fine and that whatever happens is a step in the right direction. Feeling paralysed, not taking any action is waste of your time and potential.

2. Take better care of your health and well being. The future you will thank you. The twenty year old you will feel sharper and more energized. Ditch the sodas and the fast food. You do not need to check out each new burger joint or pizza palace. Move your body, eat your vegetables, go out into nature. Avoid toxic people and be your own number one fan!

3. Invest in yourself; in your self improvement (remember you don’t have to be broken in order to be improved) learn a new language, take a course, aspire to the best version of yourself. This is a never ending process. Sit still, pray and place your faith in the Almighty.

4. It’s okay to be different. It’s okay to not fit in, it’s okay not to have all the answers. It’s okay to want to take the safest route; that’s just us being human. It’s okay to be scared. Cut yourself some slack.

But nevertheless:

5. Say yes to the road less travelled after you have acknowledged that you would really much rather take the easier route. Challenge yourself, say yes to the right way however difficult. So many adventures; so many opportunities for growth lay in forging your own path, owning your personal truth.

6. Say no to all the ‘shoulds’ imposed either by you or the society at large. As long as you are not breaking any moral laws or doing anything illegal, then ameen to you! Don’t be afraid to rock the boat or ruffle some feathers! Those who matter won’t mind and those who mind don’t matter!

7. Do something for the planet. The future you as well as your progeny will thank you. Every little thing counts! Recycle, reuse! Be conscious of how your spending habits are affecting the environment. Choose what your money is supporting. Also, spread the word so that others can do the same.

8. Invest in your relationships. Who knows where life will take you years from now? Nurture your friendships, appreciate your family especially your parents and siblings. Losing a parent, having siblings in diaspora, not physically present to share our joys and half our sorrows is a reality many of us live with.

9. Have fun! Go out, enjoy yourself, play! Laugh!

10. DREAM BIGGER ! The biggest injustice you can do to yourself is to play small and play safe! You are worth it and you have what it takes! You are limited only by your imagination.

They say hindsight is always 20/20. Are there things I wish I could have done differently? Certainly! But life is a course; there are some things in it that we may not understand until after the fact.

Still, each new day is another opportunity to do better. Seize it!

‘Just’ a stay at home Mum? There is no such thing!

I know. I know. It has been a while. But it is great to be back!

I want to share something with you that has been eating at me for a while now……

Mother Hen with chicklets. Image Courtesy of Pixabay.

“Yes, but you don’t work….”

I stared in shock and disbelief at a so-called friend who I had not seen in ages and who I was very much looking forward to catching up with. I had engaged a teenage niece to take care of my little ones so that I could go meet with said friend and another.

We had been laughing and reminiscing; complaining about how dieting was sucking the fun out of life and speaking of life what would we not give for a few extra hours in the day just for ‘me-time’?

My two colleagues (both of whom have high powered corporate jobs)  seemed puzzled that I was including myself in the ‘there are not enough hours in the day for me to do all that needs getting done’ train since I apparently ‘do not work’ . After all, stay at home moms are supposed to have all the hours at their disposal.

At the time of this incident, Little Man was barely three months old; Princess was still in diapers and Junior was only just starting to adjust to another newcomer in the family. It had taken days of planning to be able to even make this reunion.

Needless to say, I went back home thinking: ” that’s two hours of my life I am not going to get back.”

I have been a ‘stay at home mom’ at various points during my life; mostly surrounding the births of my kids up to three or more years after that.

Contrary to popular belief choosing not to work outside the home does not equal long leisurely walks, or dinners or leisurely anything!

In fact quite the opposite. Just because you do not have a nine to five job does not mean you have no demands on your time. Or that you are any less of value. Or that you are somehow ‘second class.’ Or the all time favourite: a traitor to womankind for having a choice but opting for that.

While being a stay at home mum, I did what every mother does whether she stays at home or otherwise. I supervised homework, I did the housework (house help is relatively inexpensive in Kenya but for many years we didn’t have that option). I organised our lives, I disciplined, I cooked, I attended school meetings, I fell into bed exhausted most days like many moms. I thank Allah for JD who has been a hands-on Dad from the word go.

But I also took several courses to advance myself, my education and my spiritual life. I did very fulfilling part time work when I could find it, I wrote, I volunteered, I contributed. I (voluntarily) put my salary from the few hours of “REAL WORK” I did to the running of the household (as do millions of other stay at home mothers like me)

I don’t know about elsewhere but here in Mombasa stay at home moms, aside from the demands of running a household and overseeing (and yes, sometimes micromanaging) their kids’ lives, have other interests.

Many have home based businesses like making and selling of local street snacks; many are seamstresses (many generations of the women in my family including Mom, her sisters, JD’s aunts have been and still are) Others are expert henna artists, beauticians, and private mathematics and English tutors (Once upon a time I belonged to this group also)

Sadly, all the grief stay at home mothers are given come from other women. I would have thought that we would unite in solidarity and support each others’ choices but there have been many a time a sister has come up to me and said she wishes she could buy my education, my degree and the diploma itself (literally buy it from me and change the name) because I was wasting it staying home. “You could be making big bucks from it.”

But let us assume for an instant that all stay at home mothers do nothing to advance themselves, their net worth or contribute not a shilling to the household budget. Let us assume they are not even remotely interested in the above. Let us assume that all they do or want to do is ensure that their homes run smoothly, their children and their other half are happy, fed and are where they need to be at any given moment in time. To me, that is noble enough and even honourable.

If it is a choice they have made willingly, who are we to judge?

Things You wish Your kids Won’t Say or Do! When You Have Company

April is coming to an end and today marks the first day of school. For us parents, it’s yey!

For the kids……. not so much 🙂

You see, for millions of Kenyan children the best part of April is school holidays.

Boy, Children, Drawing, Female, Girl, Kids, MaleImage courtesy of Pixabay

 

For us parents, not so much.

Dealing with bored kids and trying to navigate our way around the ‘urgencies’ of housebound children with nothing to do but call mum at work with a laundry list of complaints the top of which is ” Mum, we are bored we have nothing to do” is ….um….challenging. 🙂

Especially since you forbade the excessive use of handheld gadgets. Little Man always finds a way out of this by declaring that a laptop is not handheld therefore he is allowed to use it.
No use packing them off to grandma for a change of scenery either since she disapproves of children entertaining themselves via the internet. I know Little Man will take his leave, board a tuktuk and make his way home.

That’s the great thing about kids; they stay true to themselves.

They will say what they honestly think usually without filters.
They don’t have two sets of behaviours; how they act at home is usually how they will conduct themselves elsewhere.

How they interact with others when grandma is around is usually how they will behave when she is not around. How they behave when Dad is around…….well…….that’s another story……

Kids will say what’s on their minds. They will also repeat what they heard you say. And they will usually do this at the most public of places and in the most inappropriate of ways.
They will be clueless as to what that look you are giving them means.  (hint: Shush! Shush! You don’t need to be sharing this!)

If you have been around children for any length of time you will recognise some of the things I am about to regale you with 😀

Having a large extended family means that there has been no shortage of cringe-worthy moments. Somehow children seem to favour the presence of guests to be extra honest.

Princess and siblings laugh with horror and disbelief when I tell them some of the things they got up to.


I know the guests who came over for a planned lunch or afternoon tea with us often left amused. I am happy that they had a sense of humour (well, some of them anyway) and could see some of their own children’s behaviours in my kids’ shenanigans:

biryanni dish on round stainless steel tray
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

1. They bicker- very loudly- and spill out all the reasons why they don’t like each other.

Junior: ” that’s why Umi won’t play with you anymore- you are so stubborn!”

Princess: ” well, no-one wants you on their team Mr. I- am- a- better- soccer- player -than everyone- else!”

2. They ask- very loudly- why your best crockery comes out only during Eid or when there are guests around. (Hint: you probably would have no best crockery left if you let it out of the sideboard for everyday use) ” Is it Eid?”

3. They announce- very loudly- (at age three anyway😁) that they have finished a “number two” and can you come sort them out? Never mind you assigned that special duty to the designated baby sitter.

4. They ask the guests if they can have the appetizers that you set out for said guests even though you explained to them. Very slowly. That the appetizers on the kitchen table with less spice are theirs. And that the appetizers on the best crockery on the living room coffee table are for the guests. ” Mamaa said these ones are for you.”

5. They (all of them but older sibling) refuse to take orders from their teenage cousin who you put in charge while you are entertaining. They come straight to the living room where you are and: “Mama, go discipline Salma (the teenage cousin). She said if there were no guests she would give us a smack behind our heads for not listening to her.”

They (the three-year-old) also -sometimes- come into the said living room wearing nothing but undergarments.

6.  They (all of them but older sibling) announce- very loudly- that Baba (their Dad) called to ask if the guests have left and can he come home? Not understanding that Baba wants the ladies to feel free and not worry about hijab.

7. You hear thuds and screams and bangs and glass breaking and someone sobbing. You go to investigate and you find all seated innocently but the vacuum cleaner is strangely out of place. You shoot them a warning look and they smile sweetly.

8. It is the only time you whisper while in your own home (you don’t want the ladies hearing your threats)

9. Because you were not blessed with Baba’s (your husband) extremely effective ‘go play in your rooms or else’ look.

10. You go in and give them big hugs every now and then because somehow they manage to get more adorable with each mess they make. 

 

I treasure these memories and wish there had been more of them.

What about you? What kind of things do the kids in your life get up to when you have guests? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breathe…. 8 Guideposts to Help You Navigate the Parenting Journey.

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.

Often on my journey as a parent, I have found myself exhausted, overwhelmed and second guessing myself. I wonder about the impact that my words, my actions and my choices have on my children. I wonder what they take away from my reactions to situations; I wonder what I am teaching them without even knowing that I am.

I search for clues from their faces, their monosyllabic answers or grunts and from their own reactions. I debate whether to broach a subject with them fearing if, by even bringing up a topic, I am planting seeds in their minds that have no business being there in the first place.

When children are at a very young age it is easy for us parents to figure out their needs. If we have done a respectable job we can usually tell if our teens are upset, ambivalent or could not care less about an issue.

But parenting. Dear God, parenting.

The worry. When they are a little late. When they get hurt. When they are sick. When they have exams. The angst……

When you walk into a mobile phone store to buy yourself one you walk out with a box with all the accessories, a user manual or guide and a promise of after sale service.

Not so with having children. You have the baby and a couple of days later you walk out of the hospital with the car seat, diaper bag and a whole cornucopia of joy, bewilderment and a terrible, terrible! fear that you are going to mess up. Big time. Because that tiny little human being is dependent on you for everything.

Down the road, that tiny little human being may turn eighteen, or twenty-one or fifty but you are still the parent. You still worry, fret, guide, feel concern, nag and cheer on.

As my Big Bro is fond of saying: “It’s not about you anymore.”

And that’s why we need signposts, speed bumps and traffic lights to help us if we are to survive this journey called parenting:

Pray. A lot.

Ask God to guide you to give what you are able to give of yourself when raising your children. Ask Him to grant you the wisdom and the clarity to do your best by your kids. To fortify you with mental and emotional strength.

Say a prayer for your kids; that they may be guided to be the best of themselves. That when they stumble (and they will) they know enough to pick themselves up and dust themselves off. That they may be safe from harm.

There is so much relief and freedom in handing over your worries and fears to a higher power. You will feel a lightness you did not realise you could feel no matter the extent of your concerns.

Breathe.

While parenting is a 24\7 job, you are allowed to hand over the kids to someone else for a day or two or whatever feels comfortable and go do your thing. Call it your off duty time. Non-negotiable;-) This, for me, was so vital when my kids were younger. I looked forward to it and strangely (or maybe not!) I found myself missing them desperately!

Keep a Positive Mindset

Tell yourself I can do this! I got this! Even when you are feeling anything but. Even when you are disoriented from a lack of sleep or when you get a call from your child’s principal. I got this!

Ask for help.

There was actually a time when I thought that asking for help or advice meant I had failed as a parent. Or that my kids were such a handful that I needed someone else’s expertise to tell me how to raise them! We are all trying to do our best by our kids. But, I would be careful who I asked for help or advice though. We all know those people who show you the way and then proceed to tell all and sundry that you are such a parenting mess that they had had to sort you out! 

Listen and Empathise

If you are raising teenagers like me; it is important to listen and empathise with your kids. Put yourself in their shoes. You have been there after all. (Yes, I know- There are teenagers and then there are teenagers from this decade 🙂 )

Doing that saves you the angst and stress that comes with: ‘because I am the parent and I say so!’ The chances of them actually seeing your point of view because you could see theirs is much higher.

Step back

Let them fail, and make mistakes. You did not stop your toddler from trying to walk! Stop fighting their battles for them and stop micromanaging. This is the hardest for many parents I know. We want to shelter our kids, give them what we ourselves never had, make sure they do, are and show up the best. We end up suffocating them in the process and strangling their self-esteem.

Stepping back requires strength and the faith that you raised them right. It requires you to believe in your kids even more and to trust their choices.

I am still learning to accept Little Man’s choice of clothes and training myself not to cringe -or offer an unsolicited opinion- at the all colour soccer jerseys which he prefers.  All the time 🙂 Somehow, there is less stress now because of it.

Fall apart.

Allow yourself to admit defeat, overwhelm and whatever else you are feeling at the time. Chances are after that you will pick yourself up and be able to handle whatever crisis your teenager from the planet rude and unresponsive has managed to get himself into. That whatever misfortune has fallen into your lap you will get through and handle it.

Forgive yourself.

You are human, beautiful in your imperfection. Acknowledge the fact that you will make mistakes as a parent, probably the same way your parents did with you.

Cut yourself some slack. As long as your kids know that they can come to you no matter what you can stop beating yourself up about blips here and there.

 

Remember…... “there is no such thing as a perfect parent….so just be a real one”

                                                                                                                                      …..Sue Atkins

 

 

 

HAPPY.

I was, one day, standing by my window looking out. The sky was grey and pregnant with rain. I could hear the neighbourhood kids bicker as they played with gololi (marbles) on the wet soil making the most of their time outdoors before it started to pour again.

An amazing sense of peace and well being came over me; my heart felt like it would burst with joy. Tears pricked the corners of my eyes but they were happy tears. I stood there for quite a while filled with awe and gratitude.

Later I would sit down to wonder at that strange moment . It then hit me that happiness and joy apparently do not arrive with big momentous occasions.

I had thought that deep, tear inducing exhilaration came only when you got married. Or gave birth. Or bought a new house. Or graduated. Celebrated an anniversary. Welcomed a loved one home. Or realised a long held dream come true.

I had thought that big, audacious happiness came as a result of big ‘life changing’ events. But that lovely morning standing there, breathing in the smell of the earth after the first rain shower, watching the dark gloomy clouds which nevertheless promised so much; listening to the sweet childish arguments of the children immensely enjoying their game, I knew happiness is found everyday. In the smallest of things. In the things we usually take for granted. In the things we don’t even think about. In the things we don’t see anymore so commonplace have they become to us.

I realised that the small things are, in fact, the real big things.

You see, happiness and joy is not experienced after a happening or after an action or after an event. It is not something you experience during Eid or after landing a lucrative job or marrying your soulmate. It is in the smile of your little one, and in a meal well-cooked. It is your Mother’s hug and in the ‘hi-how-are-you’ text from your high school friend.

It is in the reminisces with your siblings as you laugh over shared experiences. It is in the beautiful heena on your hands. It is in the sun on your face and the water down your throat as you drink to quench your thirst.

It is in the greetings of a stranger and the kindness of your neighbours. It is in reading a good book. It is in the smile on your face as you think about people you used to know whose whereabouts you wonder about. It is in watching your kids as they focus on something that they love……….It is in the cool tropical breeze that fans you as you walk; it is in the people all around you who remind you of just how human we all are.

It is in the quiet moment as you sit contemplating on your prayer mat. It is in the now, in this moment, today.

So then why do we postpone being happy? Why do we focus on the negatives? Why do we define ourselves by our limitations, our sickness, our lack, our supposed helplessness?

Someone once told me about a colleague of hers who would greet everyone he knew with ‘Eid Mubarak Minal Eidin’ every day of the year. When asked why he did that, he replied: ‘ every new day is a reason to celebrate…..”

So go on. Rejoice and thank Allah as you go about your life even as you are doing ‘boring’ everyday things. There is so much beauty and joy to be had. Don’t deprive yourself of them.


Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

5 Signs You are a Lousy Listener and What To Do about it.

I admit it. There have been times I just have not cared enough to listen. I am not proud of it although that still does not make it alright.

Like at a certain time last week, I am painfully aware that I was impatient and wanted to be heard and I really did not want to listen. My story was more important. I am ashamed. I know I can do better.

I also know that listening is a skill and like all skills it can be learned. The key is to first notice the ways in which we are ‘not listening’ and then take steps to do better.

  1. Focus and Attention (Not!)

Your focus and attention is anywhere but with the one who is speaking with you even though you are seated across from each other. You are filing papers or folding laundry or trying to catch the eye of the waiter. Or the greatest offender- CHECKING YOUR PHONE EVERY FEW SECONDS. You are doing anything but making eye contact which is a fundamental part of listening.

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.These can wait. If you seek real connection, pay attention to those in front of you.
Photo by Tracy Le Blanc on Pexels.com

What To Do About It.

Put away your phone or the work you are doing. If giving someone your full blown attention is not possible at the time do not tell him yes he can come in for a minute to ask or tell you something. Make another time for it if it’s possible or ask him if he could give you a few minutes to wrap up some things if you know you cannot give him your fullest attention.

2. Listening to reply

You listen but with the intention of replying such that as your colleague talks you are busy processing your answer to whatever it is he is saying. You probably want to come up with a funnier story than his or a more shocking one. Out of every a 100 words he spoke you heard about a quarter.

What To Do About It.

Ask yourself why you want to one up him. Why do you need your story to be better than his?

Chances are that a) you were probably not aware that you were even doing that and

b) you have certain issues with that person in the first place that you are better off addressing. This is not going to be a fun journey if the issues run deep but for your own peace of mind they need to be dealt with.

3. You interrupt.

Most of us are guilty of this at some point or the other. I know I am. Usually, when we feel attacked or insulted we are quick to rise to our own defence. Usually, chaos results.

Or when we feel we must give an immediate response to what is being said before the moment passes. Or we are afraid we will forget the point altogether.

Truth be told, sometimes it is just rudeness and a lack of sensitivity that drives one to cut people off in midsentence.

What To Do About It.

If you feel someone is coming at you with a vengeance take a deep breath and let him say his piece anyway. Your turn will come. If you interrupt because you fear you will forget have a notepad ready to jot down what he said and your response to it. But that in itself should not take you away from the main issue and that is to listen.

If you interrupt because you don’t know any better then ask yourself how you would feel if the shoe was on the other foot and someone cut you off. Ask yourself if your kids or someone who looks up to you will appreciate your actions. If you don’t care either way then happy finding people to hold conversations with.

4. You fidget; get up to straighten the cushions; get a glass of water; draw the curtains; drum your fingers.

They look fine just the way they are. Leave them be. Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

What the person talking is hearing is: “hurry up, already! I have other more important things to do than listen to you” He will feel rushed, unheard and unvalidated. Not a good thing if you want to cultivate -and keep!-your relationships.

What To Do About It.

Ask yourself why you are fidgeting , getting up etc. Are you afraid of what you might hear? Is it some sort of defence mechanism? If it is just that you are the kind of person who needs to have everything just so before giving someone or something your undivided attention then take care of them beforehand. When you sit to listen, do just that-SIT AND LISTEN.

5. You change the subject of the conversation or bring it back to you.

As soon as your companion stops to take a breath you swoop in with: “Did I tell you I met Nadya at the Town Mall yesterday? She tried to give me the slip but I cornered her at the makeup counter. Thought she could get away with not paying me for the favour she owes me!”

What To Do About It.

Perhaps you mean well but this can put off some people if not most. If you are also eager to have someone listen to you, tell yourself they will be in a better position to listen to you once they are done with what they have to say. Chances are they will be more than happy to lend you their ears since you were so good as to lend them yours.

Listening is an important part of any relationship personal or professional. It is well worth our time and effort to teach ourselves how to listen effectively and sincerely. I have found that real listening requires patience, empathy and humility. Not bad things to have in your personality tool bag.

After all, all great leaders possess admirable listening skills. No one wants to interact with someone who has no time for others’ thoughts, opinions or feelings.

What If You Had Been on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302?

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Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

It was Junior, on his usual phone call to us from across the Atlantic, who told us about the tragedy. He began straight off with: “Maa, why is Uncle and Ahmad all over the news?”

Princess and I had spent last Sunday the 9th of March attempting gluten free bread for the nth time. Each time we do, we always give ourselves hope that the end product will come out, at the very least, edible let alone tasting like real bread. JD had decided it was the History Channel for him so we missed the breaking news.

You see, we happen to be closely related to one of the two fortunate people who missed their flight to Nairobi from Addis Ababa that day and escaped death. Our local news channels and print media-as well as international- were all over the story. Not to take away from the gravity of the situation and the grief of those who lost loved ones but who knew that something as inconvenient, frustrating and ordinary as flight delay and missing your flight could turn out to be literally a matter of life and death?

To say that Ahmad’s parents and family (myself included) were filled with an enormous sense of gratitude, thanksgiving and humbleness before Allah is one huge understatement. You marvel at modern day ‘miracles’ such as these.

Yet, what if?

What if I or you had been one of those 157 people who perished on Sunday?

It is not too improbable. After all, I am quite certain that, as they packed their bags, checked their phones, hugged goodbye their near and dear, held their boarding passes glad for the window seat, I am quite certain that none of them realised that they would soon be a part of aviation statistics; that soon memorials and tributes would be made in their names and that they would never get to their intended destinations.

Who is to say?

Immortality is promised to none of us as much as we desire and strive for longevity.

So then, what unfinished business do you have?

Have you left important things unsaid?

Do you have debts to pay; projects you have been putting off because you are too scared to fail or cared too much what others think?

How about amends? Who have you hurt who you need to apologise to? Who has hurt you that you need to forgive for your own liberation and peace of mind?

Still angry at your parents , fighting with your wife, not there for your kids- not there for yourself?

What about your legacy? What do you want to be remembered for? Someone who genuinely cared for others, concerned about the environment, helped those less fortunate?

What about your most important relationship? The relationship with the One who created you? Have you been faithful to Him in the truest sense of the word?

Who knows what tomorrow, -or indeed the next moment- will bring?

If I or you had had a seat on Flight 302, would our affairs have been in order?