When I Cried For My Dead Mother-in-Law, God Sent Me This Instead

On a recent clear sunny day, I was sitting on a bench in the playground crying my heart out.

The tears came down my cheeks fast and nothing my husband could do or say would make them stop. I was having one of those days again which, as a mother living far away from two of her children, felt hopeless. There were so many complex thoughts going through my head and I couldn’t make a single one of them hush down.

‘Children should never live apart from their mother’ I thought to myself, over and over again like a trapped hamster in a running wheel.

I felt depressed,

and guilty,

and angry.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, my boys weren’t living with me and there’s nothing that I could do (at least at that moment) to bring them home.

“The only woman who could have ever understood what I feel is Mama Sakina,” I angrily answered my husband when he asked if there’s anything he could do to ease the pain. Mama Sakina was my husband’s mother (now dead) and like me, she also had to endure an extended period of distance parenthood. My husband was raised by his father and stepmother.

“If she was still sitting here with me, I’d ask her so many questions. I’d ask her how she survived, how she kept hope alive, how she never let this experience turn her into a bitter person.She’d understand. She’s the only one who’d understand.” I leaned forward on the park bench and dug my face into my hands.  That moment felt like a very dark and lonely hole.

Just then, Sakina, my four year old daughter, and late mother-in-law’s namesake, came closer to stand beside me. She had heard me crying so she dropped her playing to come see what was wrong. She stroked my hair gently and softly released the grasp of my fingers from my face. With her little hands, she raised my chin and brought my eyes level to hers. Her eyes softened as she gazed into mine; they spoke of understanding and companionship. Then, with her tiny little fingers, she brushed my rolling tears away. Her presence filled the air with tranquility.

“I’m sorry, Mama” she said in her sweet, innocent voice, “everything will be fine.” And with as far as her hands could stretch, she hugged me tightly. As our cheeks touched, I could feel myself melting into her warm embrace; the urgent thudding of my heart calmed down and my breathing came back to normal. I felt light again.

I looked up and smiled. Sakina smiled back and just then, as if nothing momentous had happened, she skipped back to little her brother who was busy trying to climb up the ladders to go down the slide.

God had just answered my prayers in the most unexpected of ways.

 

A free on-demand ‘listening’ app

I was having a really crappy day at work last week when I reached for my phone to look for a distraction from the app store. Quite accidentally, my eyes fell on something that surprised me. I’ll be honest- the ‘cup of tea’ part reeled me in.

7cups

 

I clicked on it and there it was, in the middle of a hectic day full of demands, an app that could connect me to someone anonymous whose only purpose was to lend an empathetic ear (or eyes, in this case.)

7 cups of Tea is a free app that provides on-demand emotional support. Essentially, it’s like having a friend in the palm of your hands just listen to you rant away.

When I clicked on ‘connect now’, I was redirected to a list of possible of topics that were on my mind. I’ve been trying to develop my CV so I picked on ‘getting unstuck’ and I was immediately connected to a helpful listener who promptly introduced herself. We spent about 20 minutes chatting, and she was patient enough to wait for a response from me while I handled my work related business.

Was it a good session?

All in all, it was. My listener was very keen on understanding what my issues were and she even offered a few helpful tips on how to manage stress and to pursue my passions.  The fact that it was completely anonymous and free was a big one for me because let’s face it, counselling can be quite expensive and sometimes all you need is for someone to listen to you unconditionally.

For more serious issues such as suicidal thoughts or self harm, please definitely skip right over to a professional therapist or your local emergency line.

The follow-up

After my session, I received a few prompts on exploring more mental health resources including mindfulness videos, support groups, a wellness plan, and a directory of certified local therapists in my area.

Would I recommend it?

Absolutely, yes. You have nothing at all to lose (except maybe a few frayed nerves). Technology can be so mentally overwhelming but this is one of the uncommon instances where it helps you decompress.

Check it out and let me know if you liked the app!

More information at: https://www.7cups.com/about/about.php

“I used to feel bad when women weren’t given their rights in court”…

I so admire women who never let age or circumstances define them; who use the negative experiences they’ve face to make life better for others, and who go on to leave a legacy of hope and triumph over adversity.

I’m inspired by Safiyo and I hope you are too.

Book Review-Black Ass

blackass

by A. Igoni Barrett, published Chatto & Windus (2015)

Literary Awards: Longlisted for the inaugural FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Awards and was shortlisted for the 2015 Kitschies Golden Tentacle Award

Chai rating: 3.8 out of 5 cups


Black Ass is a story of major transformation. Furo Wariboko,  the main character in the book, sleeps a black man and wakes up the next morning a white man.  This new identity brings privilege; his new found skin colour (ogibo) enables him to get the senior sales position, a job that he as a black man, could not dream about. He is faced with the realization that he has no future as a black man and no past as a white man the best thing is to make the best of what he now has. Furo decides to run from his past as fast as he can and embrace with pride the privileges his red hair and green eyes bring along.

The Good

Many Nigerian books are written for non-Nigerian readers: they explain each context and every foreign word, and the English employed is British as opposed to the native pidgin.  This book, however, is unapologetically Nigerian.  This is the first Nigerian book that I have read that is written in first-hand local lingo; it reads like the real Nigeria without a map of translation.  It is a book for anyone who dares discover stories within their real twisted context. Igoni’s writing is a refreshing surprise of realism within fiction.

Why I didn’t give it 5 stars:

There are unnecessary twists that bring no meaning to the main story and the ending is not well done. I feel cheated: the book left me hanging in suspense in an uncomfortable way.

Would I recommend it? Yes! Black Ass is the Best contemporary African book of our times.

My favorite quote:

“Womanhood comes with its peculiar burdens, among them the constant reminder of a subordinate status whose dominant symptom was uninvited sexual attention from men…A woman is not expected to live alone, to walk alone in peace, or to want to be alone.”

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

This Guest Post was generously contributed by Janice Nawal, a vivacious trainee solicitor studying in Nairobi, Kenya. You can read more about Janice’s writing adventures at www.janiceink.wordpress.com

 

Escape From the City: Bath & Stonehenge

Oh, Bath, how I love thee….

 

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A view of the Roman Baths across the River Avon

 

My brother and sister-in-law recently visited me from the States so I decided that a trip to Bath and Stonehenge would be a great addition to their London itinerary.  We booked a bus tour and the next morning, we headed out from Victoria Station.

As soon as we drove out of London, I could literally feel my shoulders relaxing just so. London, I love you, but the grind can wear one out after a while.

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As we approached Bath, the tour guide gave us a detailed history of the city. I’ll spare you the history lesson but I should mention that Jane Austen’s novel ‘Persuasion’ was set in this city. Right…. moving on.

 

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Gorgeous sunny day at the riverside park

 

Once we arrived in Bath, I was surprised to see how architectural the city actually was. There were magnificent old building all around and they were set in the most picturesque surroundings. We had two hours for walking around so I tried to take as many pictures as I could.

 

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Mystics waters..

 

 

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Bath Cathedral

 

Later, we dug into some luscious mussels and chunky chips at the charming Riverside Cottage right by the River Avon. The food was so delicious and the view was overwhelmingly beautiful.

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Sadly, we didn’t have enough time to visit the famous Roman baths; which actually makes the perfect excuse for me to re-visit this gorgeous city.  I must admit though that next time I go, I will go by train or car and make an entire day trip of it. Two hours are barely enough to scratch the surface of Bath.

After Bath, we made our way to Stonehenge, one of the wonders of the world and the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe. It was an interesting ride and we got to see quaint little English villages along the way. The sun was beginning to set so by the time we got there so we didn’t have much time to take good shots of the famous stones. Here’s one I managed to get. img-20160923-wa0046

Most of the tour party was exhausted by the time we pulled out of Salisbury and even the noisiest chatterboxes kept quiet on our way back to London. It was already 8pm by the time we arrived back to the capital and although we were knackered to the bone, we were happy.

Was it worth it?  Yes!  I’ll definitely (God-willing) go back to Bath soon but I’ll probably save Stonehenge for when the kids are old enough to understand the significance of these historical stones.

(Pictures taken on my humble Samsung S6)

Book review-Brick Lane

by Monica Ali

Published June 2nd 2004 by Scribner (first published 2003)

Literary Awards

Man Booker Prize Nominee (2003), Guardian First Book Award Nominee (2003), Orwell Prize Nominee (2004), Audie Award for Fiction, Abridged (2004), Kiriyama Prize Nominee for Fiction (2004)

Chai rating: 3.5 out of 5 cups

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Nazneen, a 16-year-old village girl from Bangladesh, is married off to a man 20 years her senior and moves to a council flat in London with nothing but memories.  She is constantly haunted by her mother’s suicide and worries about her sister, Hasina, who ran off to Dhaka to pursue a ‘love marriage’, leaving the family in a cloud of shame.  Unlike her sister, Nazneen  is determined not to shake up the order of her destiny and thus resigns herself to a presumably easier life of domesticity and submission. Her world is turned upside down when she falls in love with the young and charismatic Karim; suddenly everything that she thought she was so sure of become uncertainties. With two young daughters and a husband whom, despite his physical imperfections and professional flops, she cares deeply for, Nazneen must decide whether to flow with the tide of fate or be the director of her own show.

Brick Lane is a captivating narration of the immigrant experience and while the minute details of daily life can sometimes be tedious to read through, they do add up to valuable lessons on love and destiny.  The characters are comical and profound, and each one feels like someone I would actually bump into on my travels within London. They offer a vivid tapestry of the different intersections we make as humans in our quest to find,and define, home.

This book reminds of Zadie Smith’s ‘White Teeth’ and while I prefer the latter book, I am amazed that this is Monica Ali’s debut novel.  It is very well written.

Why I didn’t give it 5 stars: Hasina’s letters took up a lot of space in the book and I feel like they didn’t contribute much to the plot. Granted, they were written by an illiterate ‘village girl’, but those damn letters were written in such poor English that I could barely make out Hasina was trying to communicate to Nazneen. I feel like the book would have moved along just fine without them.

My favorite quote:  “What I did not know – I was a young man – is that there are two kinds of love. The kind that starts off big and slowly wears away, that seems you can never use it up and then one day is finished. And the kind that you don’t notice at first, but which adds a little bit to itself every day, like an oyster makes a pearl, grain by grain, a jewel from the sand.”

Would I recommend it? Yes, especially if you like Zadie Smith or Amy Tan.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?