Life is Not All About Work…..

Suddenly, a wave of sadness engulfed me….for a moment, as I sat down in the Library with Child of Mine [who by now you know I refer to simply as, COM], pondering over “The Absurdity of my Life”. Well, perhaps it is not all absurd, thus the quotations. I have COM to keep me moving, thinking, believing, and brightening up my days. I have no more tears; they dried out since taking on COM. Now I cry dead tears, mourn internally, all the while, wearing a smile around him. How can I allow him to see me break down? I need to keep his hopes up. OR so, I tell myself.

Ok, I take that back; in fact I have tears, but not for my absurdity. I cry about anything related to him. For instance, I cry when I think of him returning to school, I cry when I put him on the bus on the first day of school, and on some mornings. Sometimes I cry when I wake up before him, and have to leave him to go out for a run. I cry, at the thought of him growing up and going off to college. I cry thinking about whether I am a good mother to him, and if I will raise him to be an astute guy.

Today was one of those days. The heatwave got to us, bringing a rush of responses in my head, in case one asked about me. “Well, my life isn’t worth sharing. The absurdity does not make sense. Yes, I have this and that experience.…plenty to talk about. I have a recollection of plenty of exciting words, with thoughts, energies…powerful additions to life, society and to the human experience. But it is also in a web, a sea of complicatedness. I will spare you the details, but I imagined myself responding to anyone who cared to ask about me.

Then I remembered the words a corporate mogul on a TV show I watched, “Life is Not all About Work”. Totally stolen from my thoughts!

By work, he meant, the hustle and bustle, the paper-chase, growing corporate bodies, stocks, and financial superstardom.

Life is also about the paying deeper attention to our relationships, smelling a rose, listening to “the dull and ignorant,” and taking inspiration from other people’s miseries.

Life is Not All About Work reaffirms to me that, perhaps I am doing the right thing, spending plenty of time with COM, chaperoning him to Day Camp and Overnight Weekend Camping, entertaining his young buddies and relatives with, impromptu “picnic at the park”, summer birthdays in the park, swimming at the pool, or offering myself to babysit and take care not just COM but the same number of children like my mother had. Either because their parents are not available, need an extra hand, or they are dealing with ill loved ones.  FotorCreated SUmmer 2015

In all these challenges, engagements and sacrifices, I draw plenty of lessons, and comfort in a seemingly bleak tomorrow. I am also re-learning to rely on my biggest assets, my strengths, stamina, optimism, creativity, social upbringing, mental forage, hunger for learning, reading and sharing, intellectualism, networking skills, love for the outdoors, adventure and the sprit of giving.

I take time to recall plenty of lessons my mother instilled in me, directly or by default. Among which are:

  • Better to keep your mouth shut. No one will blame you for thoughts unsaid.

– Those obsessed with respect, overwhelm them.

– One without shame is a fool. [She attributed this to my grandmother]

– In another person’s house, your choice is to slave. 

Obviously, there are better English phrases/proverbs with similar meaning to mine above. However, I prefer to present mine in a literal interpretation of my mother’s words. For instance the last one could be rephrased as, “A beggar has no choice” or “Silence is Golden” or “Respect Thy Master”…She is a great inspiration to what I do, what I pay attention to and my commitments.

I am grateful that I am spending time with my son, and providing him plenty of opportunities beyond what money can facilitate. As the summer draws to a close, I reflect to all the accomplishments we have made together or with family and friends. With a very humble budget, but a big heart and strong drive. At the start of his First Grade year, one of his “Resolutions” from a class exercise read, “I wish to go on vacation this year.” I am grateful that I was able to make that happen for him.

On his last day of school, I got him off the bus and onto the bus to New York City, and train to Legoland Discovery Center. We spent our first weekend in New York State, between Westchester County and Brooklyn, NYC. Phenomenon experience, plenty of excitement in one weekend!

At Legoland, we built bridges and apartment blocks, built and raced cars, flew on a jet. He spent plenty of time in a bouncy house, while I spent some “Me” time reading and fb’king. We spent quality time hopping from
store to store, including playing with electronics, in ‘his favorite store of all time,’ the Apple Store, while I charged my phone.

The weekend came to an end with a trip to visit cousins in Brooklyn, went to Brooklyn Bridge, Park, walked on top of rocks, eat free food, and enjoyed a free Skloosh. Moreover, COM had a chance of going on a whirlwind through NYC subway, from Port Authority to Time Square to Penn Station. He quickly learned that, “NYkers are not friendly to others. They do not say hello.” COM is smart!

Out of New York, went off to Palmyra, PA, Lancaster County, to visit my family, since my mom was visiting us here from down south (Georgia).  Exciting, quality and fun family time: Hershey Chocolate World and Harrisburg, PA State Capitol, and ran through the corn fields of Lancaster County. Back to the Poconos, and before long, another road trip to Accokeek, MD, on July 4th Weekend, for a cousin’s birthday. I, got to ‘sneak away’ to meet old friends in Wash/DC.


While it has been a period of pre-longed sickness in the family, it became an opportunity to shine through, unexpectedly. I have stepped up to support the family, torn apart, depressed and absorbed in caring for the sick. Turning lemons into lemonades, by practicing my momma adorned skills of patience, humanity and caring for others. Kids have especially been central to my heart and hands, as well as the entire household.

Impromptu picnic in the park, just because we had salad, watermelon, pitta bread to make pizza. Watched the kids play in the park, and made sure they funNED out together, as cousins get to do all summer long at grandma’s house. More fun picnic in the yard, swimming at the pool, playing board games, putting on “The Big Game”, painting girls’ nails and playing games boy play, Hello  Wii U!

Summer bebe means summer birthdays in the park, our an annual fete, with plenty of friends and family. The Ninja within us came out! And if you are a wonderful, sociable, kind and humble child like mine, you get more birthday party invites, with free pass into Crayola Factory! More adventures, more friends, and more exciting moments.

In other news, Scouting just got more fun, with a week-long Day Camp at Camp Minsi, where we got to try out new stuff for the first time: archery, slingshot, building pirate’s treasure chest and telescope, playing cannon balls with marbles, sail-a-ho, making square knot, treasure hunting and fishing, and swimming in the lake (COM has swam in pools, oceans and seas before).

Oh yeah! Even got a chance to “raise the colors” (National Flag); how cool is that! Then weekend overnight camping at Knoebels Camping Ground, with Saturday spent jumping on and off rides at Knoebels Amusement Resort, with new-found friends.

We participated in the Summer Reading Program at our local youth library, and read our way to the “Wall of Fame”, scooped plenty of badges and gifts for 1,000+ reading minutes. Very little of ‘Paws n Pages’, since one of the lovely therapy dogs COM reads to got put down [shhh], and another underwent an operation that puts him out for recovery for a while.

In athletics, we added a new sport, Soccer, and successfully completed the YMCA Summer Soccer Camp with friends and new friends. Learning never stops! And Yes! We are now blue belt in Tae-Kwon-Do, going onto Red stripe, and before long, We will be Red belt. What a year!

No, we are not financially wealthy; we are simply committed to engaging, achieving and growing. Hopefully, COM will continue with some or all of these activities for many more years into the future. Hopefully, it will influence his commitments in life, and future life trajectory.

Throughout these experiences, I am learning and recalling many lessons, and gaining more appreciation for Small is Beautiful!

Never Say Never, also continuously reverberates in my ears, especially now that I am a mother. Eight years ago, I would never have imagined myself hanging out, or letting COM hang with gun-wielding folks.

But Time is Of The Essence! I attribute this kind of growth to becoming a mother. Though, thanks in part to Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, where I learned about the “Role of Force [in International Relations]”.

Whereas I still do not subscribe to the notion that force justifies the use guns, at Fletcher I gained a renewed familiarity with those who take to guns to resolve disagreements. I still do not understand why, a five-year old kid gets a BB gun as a birthday gift from the parents.

Still, I am no longer locking myself away from opposites, nor jettisoning those friendship away from COM, as long as it is clearly understand, “We do not entertain guns as toys or seek to gain expertise in shooting with a gun. Archery or Sling Shots, we shall try. Fotorcollage Summer 20152

Most importantly, I am learning to appreciate every slow-down in professional advancement as opportunities for grow in other areas, such as health, fitness and wellness. I wake up very early in the morning to work-out and keep myself in good mental and physical health. No wonder, my child thinks I am a “runner by profession”.

My runs are my avenues for releasing unwanted toxins, creating new ideas and running away from sadness. On one of my morning runs, a thought came to my mind, Never think of your challenges or life choices as a failure, but life’s lessons and trajectories. Otherwise, you will spend your life, comparing yourself to others, and growing bitterness. You will also lose sight of the important achievements and milestones you make, when making hard choices and while making life adjustments.

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Is It True There is a Place For Everyone?

While visiting New York City recently, a thought crossed my mind, “Is It True That There is a Place For Everyone?”
The City for [not] Everyone

The City for [not] Everyone

Apparently, everyone who moves to New York becomes a New Yorker instantaneously! New arrivals to the city attest to that, as do former New York City residents, ask me about the latter. I moved to NYC from Boston, MA in 2005. Interestingly, I never felt a belonging to Boston, perhaps because I lived there as a student and within the Boston students “inner enclave”, shut off from the locals! No doubt, Boston is the epicenter for high intellectual learning in America, offering abundant students opportunities: to hangout with fellow students, enjoy student events and student life. Though, migrant students into Boston live largely oblivious to the presence of real “natives” or “locals” in the neighborhood, whose claim to belonging is not a two-year, four-year, or seven-year stint in pursuit of an academic hood and cap!
So, when I moved to NYC, it did not take too long before I felt a sense of belonging. I caught on so quickly like a wild fire, assumed my entitlement on the first day I stepped out to start my job in Manhattan. Every morning and evening when I took the train Brooklyn-Manhattan-Brooklyn, I felt as much a part of the subway ride, the street experience, the music and rats on the illustrious subway. NYC brought back memories of Kampala, my city of birth in Uganda. Similar hustle and bustle, and “everyone got an attitude and knows it” style.  Like NYC, Kampala has something for everyone, street fanfare – art, food or accessories vendors, bike or food service delivery, lost souls and homelessness, plus abundant space to make, break or re-make anyone. In 50c lingua, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’.
But there is a price to pay for that “Free society” kind of Kampala or New York mindset. Certainly true in NYC! You will meet a lover for a minute or day, an admirer of your art, an ear to listen, a dance partner, entertainment, or free exhibition, gallery or museum opening with free cocktails!  None of these ‘freebies’ promise to stay for-ever, especially when you are living it out solo in The City! In that sea of people, it is 10!% possible to feel lonely. Single life is abundant in NYC, finding love is water in the desert, tougher for women who out-ratio men in the city. Out at a bar or dance lounge, you will mingle and easily make ‘friends’ for the night. But they will quickly become strangers as you exit; don’t try to claim you know them on the streets!
My recent trip to NYC brought back all those memories, images  and mixed emotions, looking at lonely people, homeless, robotic pedestrians, wannabes, freestylers, hustlers, friends and lovers. The city looked calm; even Chinatown looked too cool and clean for my liking, sadly! Not to suggest that I did not see happy people, street performers, beautiful boutiques, trendy stores, global brands or juicy splashdown sales. Or the corporate careerists, bubbly college students, colorful fashion, minimalist eateries.
Truth is, I did not feel the Joni “Squeal’ Ernst, “The Greatest Country on Earth” vibe! I didn’t feel as much bustle and energy that tourists feel and bring crowding NYC streets, or the colorfulness that fills NYC streets on Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Rockefeller Christmas Tree or the Caribbean Labor Day Carnival. It was a cloud of loneliness that typically engulfs NYC residents whose lives do not allow them a joyride on the the cities  Citi Bikes, to look up in the skies and count the clouds, a walk in Central park, a minute break to enjoy the street performers on 14th street, the gifted artists on the subway platform, or the “bright city lights” of Times Square. I saw many more lost far from the magnificence of the Big Apple, for whom sinking $4.99 into a street meal would mean a lifetime of bad investment .
Yes, NYC reminded me that there is a place for everyone! From dog walkers, street artists, natural foodies, executives, academics, fashionistas, bus drivers, tourists, smokers, little schoolers, corporate junkies and hourly workers. They wore their “I am a New Yorker” attitude, but the streets also told another side of their stories. There was a lot of emptiness! From Canal, through Chelsea to 14th street, it was not the “Brand NY” anymore, per me. Even parents walking home from school with their children along Broadway and 14th street, or mom and daughter seated in a pizza joint in The Village did not stimulate my duct bile for “My New York”.
The young woman, who spent over thirty minutes in a restroom at Dunkin Donuts, turned the clouds grab! After waiting [im]patiently to use the bathroom, for what could have been thirty minutes, she came out looking timid, reminding me of the ‘hard-knock’ living it out in The City.  She was carrying many bags in her hands, looked a little ‘freshened-up’, put on her ‘fresh jacket and scarf, and headed headed out for the day. Thankfully, DD provides the opportunity to use a restroom sink and sitting area, for those without a permanent home or waiting area.
Lest we forget, NYers come together in time of great need, to share stories of inspiration, pain, achievement, accomplishments, sacrifices and life events. Indeed, no better platform captures the sprit and convergence of the New York sprit than Humans of New York (HONY)! In true American Spirit, no better non-institutionalized non-conscious establishment can replace HONY, providing a platform for NYers to be the random strangers becoming friends, they are good at, reach out for one another in words, skill or process, and share concern, courage and encouragement with each other.
With all its variety of global cuisines, the breathtaking architecture, the ‘walking’ Zombies, the burbly or mechanical lifestyles one encounters on NYC streets, plenty are prancing up and about the streets in desperate search for “the next rent gig”, for love, security and stability. “The Place for Everyone” is also a scary place for plenty of others looking for more than a cosmopolitan affair or wild city dream. True, NY eats natural, organic and minimalist, except when worshiping at the altar of Haute Couture, splashing off Runway, or committing to remain Forever 21. Public spaces are abundantly curved out with seats in the middle of the street for a coffee, bite or to bask in the lunch-time sun at Herald Square, illustrious runways at Bryant Park and dog play park at Washington Square. New York City wants to be that artistic piece that never fades of anyone’s imagination and longing, a lover entrapping one into a lifetime relationship. Yet with all its welcome and host to feet from all walks of life, its spirit does not belong to everyone, its soul ages with time, and its culture is a mixed bag of post-realism, hullabaloo and a lot of emptiness!