computers 101 reload

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So this past week I sat in my first basic computer class in eons, at this uni.

When asked by the lecturer what my expectations from the class were, I answered that I had three and the first one was obvious: that I get an A.The second one is that I complete the class. And thirdly, that I get to learn how to use a few more tools embedded in the programs I already use.

An A because it is a ‘basic’ computer class and hence I feel entitled to my sense of entitlement having used computers for a while now. And I’ve come a long way since that embarrassing instance at a cyber cafe at Madaraka Shopping Centre in 2002 when I discovered that a browser was not a physical gadget. How else could I press the back button of the browser if it wasn’t? That the cyber cafe attendant didn’t laugh in my presence (she should have laughed later for her own sanity at least) transformed cyber cafes to be my first legit computer training centres.

Completing the class is important to me. I quit a class several years ago after High school when I prioritized being a member at Tumbo’s Bar across Ngong Road at Adam’s Arcade whenever it was class day. I didn’t last long in either.

Then I joined USIU where the basic computer class was a compulsory one. I walked in to the computer lab, got bedazzled by the array of computers in the room and immediately freaked out by this high-risk danger zone. The class of MIS 101 were all issued with a floppy disk that we were to get formatted before the next class so that we could start using it for I dunno what. I doubt ever darkened the doors of that computer lab again.

In my dysfunctional relationship to miracles, I figured that I’d get the required computer skills by waltzing through the streets of Nairobi whilst flossing an unformatted disk outside my school bag, on the bar counter. Pretty much the same deep seated belief I long held of winning the sweepstakes without ever needing your buy a ticket. No one could convince me that I was delusional before I screamed “DELUSION!” at them for having such low perspectives on life matters.

The guilt of eventually losing that disk was truly heartbreaking and not necessarily because of the undone assignments that were supposed to be saved in it. The agony was how people would now know that I am a very important university student. Go back to the lab and get another one? Nah!

I shared with my class why I MUST complete this computer class and my classmates, mainly freshmen, chuckled.

Isorait, do keep coming back, you’ll find out that those drivers who are always reported to escape unhurt in road accidents does not actually mean they ran away from the accident scene unscathed.

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Overcoming the war within

source: meetville.com

“Chris, I invite you to imagine a life different from all that you know about yourself when you had a chaotic life and now, the one of your recovery journey. Imagine a Chris different from all that.”

“No, it isn’t possible. This is it! Besides, it’s better than what I used to have.”

“I thought so. You couldn’t even if you tried, could you?”

“Nope! Simply because it just isn’t possible or even reasonable to do so.”

Within two days of that conversation with Ginger, I prematurely quit that training program where I felt my current life as it stood was being invalidated and I was being vilified for not doing the impossible. I quit because the program coaches were wrong, and I was right. I quit because they deliberately raised the stakes so high that in my failure to attain them, they could then validate themselves for having such a demanding six months leadership program. I quit the program. I resented being put on the spot in a conversation I felt I couldn’t win. I quit.

I had quit several times in my life; when drunk and in my recovery journey. When I got sober, I saw and accepted why I used to quit during my alcoholic doldrums; that life I had was a loser’s life. Quitting was the obligatory part to complete the script.

Recovery presented a different dance to the quitting song.  I was now sober. Sticking with the winners was the rallying call and all the self-help and empowerment books never tired in reminding me that winners never quit. I have found myself in situations where I really needed to quit; a dangerous relationship, an unfulfilling work situation, being in the wrong queue, or in a matatu that had been nabbed by cops or one that was simply heading the wrong direction. But no, I remind myself of my commitment to stick it out and that I had put my butt on the line. In my mind, I bang my chest with my fist proudly. The KDF would have been proud of me as their newest, proudest, most committed recruit. If only I wasn’t too old.

Oh, excuses, I thought, were a mark of one who is truly in touch with reality. I never called them excuses, though. Explanations. Reality checks. Pragmatic observations, maybe. But not excuses.

And with an explanation (read excuse), I quit that leadership training in 2008.  My contention was that Ginger didn’t know what she was talking about when she challenged me to see my life outside and apart from all that I already knew as a problematic drunk and a recovering alcoholic. As if it existed. Mschew!

In 2009, I was thrown into a deep end of that life that doesn’t exist. I was to be introduced to the Christians’ world. Maybe say reintroduced. And it was with this backdrop of being a Christian in recovery that I was recently invited to share my story at the chapel sessions at Daystar University.  I had been there in 2013 but then it was different; to share my story and market the services of the rehab I then worked in.

This time, I shared my story at several forums, but in preparing for this one, I was asked to draw my sermon on a couple of verses from scripture. I struggled with that for a while. I read and reread the assigned verses and slowly welcomed the thoughts arising. I found it a bit daring. I was going to talk about my encounters with Christians when I was drinking; now, this is a topic I don’t often openly venture in where Christians are involved. While I take full responsibility for how I treated Christians in those days, I can’t say I find the same accepting spirit when I share my experience of getting help from them or even their attitude when they were offering it. Yet, in preparing for the chapel session, I felt a deep stirring to share this with the audience. It would be a risky move, in my opinion. The stakes were higher this time, and if there’s one thing I learned at the leadership training, was that a life geared to making a difference was risky, lonely, possibly thankless, and not often pretty.  I couldn’t turn back. As an experienced quitter, I knew nothing new or fresh would be gained from quitting on this opportunity.

The first session came, all protocols observed and I stepped up to the podium. I was placing my butt on the line as a recovering alcoholic, first year undergraduate student at Daystar university, a husband to a Daystar university faculty member, and most of all, as a Christian ‘publicly’ confessing my salvation for the first time.

Yes, my life has been catapulted into different expressions than I previously thought impossible. Living in the impossible dream is still daunting. The war within is still a common phenomenon. In an expanded space of faith, however, I am gratified that I can now surrender my life, my will and the results of an uncertain future and impossible dreams to a God who I believe is all knowing and is the source of the past, present and future.

I also endeavor to be anything but the truest reflection of Christ that I can muster. It’s about progress, not perfection. I have since learned that Christians get depression, commit suicide, and get involved in criminal and corrupt schemes. And most of all, Christians are human beings. Yet, the hope I derive from this way of life is that the war within can still be won.

Whilst in third form at Strathmore I wanted to be a catholic. My aunt and godmother thought otherwise. She reckoned that I shouldn’t convert to Catholicism simply because I wasn’t going to be a good catholic. I only got it later that her reasoning was that I was already a lousy protestant and that a conversion would not produce the miracle I craved.

Besides now being a firm believer in a God of second and third chances, I am now an advocate that there is always something beyond our present reality. The greatest risk is to act as if it’s true.

And that’s the war within.

So please find attached the sermon I recently presented at the chapel sessions at Daystar University. 

OVERCOMING THE WAR WITHIN – The Sermon

Sharing is Caring

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I was on a boda going through a murky muddy wet Katani-Syokimau enroute to Mombasa Road to get my mat to Athi River. I had come from a most thrilling session at New Life Mwangaza Rehabilitation Centre.

“Ohh, umetoka kule kwa machokora?” the bodaa guy commented.

Ouch! That was the first time I heard the centre referred as such. Yes, majority of its client population is made up of former street boys and my presentation was done in sheng ya mababi.

I was nervous and dreading the presentation mainly because of a lackluster, severely underwhelming presentation as part of University of Nairobi’s World Aids Day celebrations a few days earlier, where even what I thought was my very witty intro turned out to be a very quick outro. The students didn’t connect, and the conversation was soon reduced to why masturbation should be condoned.

I really need packaging by a speakers bureau, at this very late rate. Ahem ahem Paul Achar.

That intro punchline. I shudder when I think about it.

I still don’t know how I was invited to speak at a World Aids Day Forum yet I am a newlywed having lots of shameless, unprotected sex. It just seems really unfair to you guys.

And then I lost my audience right there.

So, how could I expect a different reception from the twenty eight young men at Mwangaza Centre? Oh the dread.

I begun with some team building activities, then delved directly into my story and resigned to my fate of perhaps 26 of the 28 souls immediately falling asleep. Of the remaining two, one would be still be awake because he had a toothache and the other would have happened to have overslept that morning.

I shared my story after establishing that the only saints in the room were those perhaps buried within the foundation of the building, because the only thing common about saints is that they are all dead.

I shared my story. The family background. The schooling. The drinking. The impact. Sobriety. Recovery. Sex.  My marriage.

Then came the questions.

On love.

“There is a girl I have seen at the church we go to. The way she prays, sings and carries herself well. I think she would make a good wife. Only thing is that she knows I am here. How do I katia her?

On family.

“How can I get family to trust me despite what I have done? How long will it take to obtain their forgiveness?”

On life after rehab.

“We are going back to that mtaani? Life is hard there. How will I maintain my sobriety?”

These questions are fairly standard, regardless of the audience I speak to. It could be clients at a different upmarket rehab or teenagers at a holiday camp. Or university faculty members. Or parastatal staff  sitting on the Alcohol & Drug Committees formed to support their alcoholic and addict colleagues.

So, I was quite set aback when the boda boda guy referred to where I had just from as kule kwa machokora.

And I got why I do what I do the way I do. The struggle is real, life is hard and the addict in recovery is a brave, brave soul.

Give him a chance.

Or two. Or three

 

 

Why I Really Need to Write

Now, almost two months down the line, you would imagine that I would have written about Our Wedding. Or that I would have written about That Article.

Or you would imagine that writing about the transitions from being a single unattached guy to a boyfriend to a fiance to a husband in the dream stage of marriage is a story well worth telling.

And in there, there a several stories that could be told;

Stories of overcoming cancer and alcoholism, of blended families, of finances and marriage, of depression, of gender roles in marriage. Stories about love and sex in old age as someone described us.  All these are stuff I could write about.

Or I could write about how the recovery journey and toil as I have known has borne dividends in real-time.

I could write about how perplexed my sweetheart and I were about the amazing goodwill from friends and family when we first announced that we were dating and later that we getting married.

I haven’t been writing. I have been husbanding and parenting and doing my intervention work. Yet writing was an integral part of our meeting, dating and getting married.

I could write about how I persuaded, cajoled and convinced my dearest to sign up for the ten-week premarital class experience amidst her protests that people might think that we were planning to get married. Ahem ahem!

I could write about how I felt hopeless when, on examining our respective backgrounds and getting a stark reminder of how rather structure-less and inconsistent (as if I didn’t know already) mine stood against hers. Her background was characterized by orderliness, discipline and predictability and, of course, structure and consistency. Now, how on earth could I possibly imagine being a responsible husband with that kind of background? I could even mention how my son, at the time, once stumbled upon me sighing loudly (sobbing sounds just sad). I think he was going to ask for a pony or something ridiculously huge like that. He noticed that my eyes were wet and in rare wisdom, he pretended that he’d forgotten what he wanted and quickly left the room.

Or I could also write that how I hoped to make a great husband was not the most important question I had to deal with during that Ndoa class. Being asked why I wanted to get married was. And I was strongly encouraged to go beyond my initial answer that I was getting married so that I would have ‘legitimate’ sex (where I could take a call from my mum without first running out of the room) for the first time in my life.

Then came the wedding planning process which I could also write about. I could tell you I was baffled that those who have trodden this path before never talked about how ‘adult’ this space is. Wedding planning, I feel, is a growing up experience and the wedding ceremony is an induction to the club of grownups. what with the juggling of choice of service providers to suit tastes other than our own; having conversations about and with exes; engaging in brutally honest conversations with our officiating pastors; or learning how to graciously receive support from friends and family. This was adults only stuff. My beloved and I got it early in the planning process the wedding was not just our own.

Oh yeah, there was also the story about the jeans fabric that I had to transfer to an alternative tailor. This was after the one who’d previously done great work for me preferred to have this fabric grace his shelf rather than my wedding. I am still baffled at how it was my fault that I embarrassed him among his peers. Is there a Fundi101 class that teaches the customer is always left…shocked?

I could also write about the interesting conversations with my fellow travellers on the recovery journey; some of whom acknowledged that it was a culmination and fruit of self-work; while others, being new on the recovery path, hoped that it wouldn’t take as long (their words) for them as it has taken for me to get a life partner. And I would assert that my gratitude is that I was certainly not husband material when I embarked on this adventure and urging them not to do it for the sake of getting a life partner. Staying sober is hard enough as it is.

I could write about the wedding. How I only got about four hours of intermittent sleep and hoped it wouldn’t show on the photos. How I broke down immediately I got to the door of the church dome about ten minutes prior to the start of the wedding ceremony.

I could write about when I first met my father-in-law a few months before the wedding and spent seven hours with him in what he later called an interview. And how I was totally intrigued by the whole conversation. And yet I could also write about how I am yet to call him, even to just to say hello.

And then I could reveal what wedding couples whisper to one another at the loneliness of the high table. Or the pleasant surprise of reading lovely quotes that my beloved had asked the cateress to put on the wedding cake.  Or the day after the wedding which they never tell you about.

I don’t know if it is a normal occurrence, but the anti-climactic depression on the day after the wedding was bizarre. We had had a great time at the wedding. The drama that we were assured would  most certainly happen did happen. At least it wasn’t as dramatic as my pal’s wedding who had no choice but to staple up his incomplete tailored wedding suit.

We wondered why we never settled for that 10 minute wedding option that we had initially hoped for.

I now get why the honeymoon is a most necessary experience (yeah yeah that, too) but more than that, it is a crucial buffer zone between a heady wedding season and sane return to a  reality where everybody seems to have a moved on to the next wedding. I got some good advice from Mathew to sleeeeep during my honeymoon.

Yet, despite almost two decades of foundation filling that recovery work is, for me finding love in my 40s is well worth it.

Keep Calm and Keep Writing

So, for now I will cherish the wife of my mid-life and use the grace of the dream stage of our  marriage – which I am told should last for another eighteen or so months – to build a foundation of that to die for finger licking vanilla flavoured scrumptious melodelicious, chocolate dripping snazzy lifetime discovery filled love life.

And then I will write.

 #Parenteen

Khalil Gibran on Children

Initially written and submitted on 10th October 2014 for a short story non-fiction competition

Early 2013, the calls from both my son and his mum started coming in quicker succession than before.

“Please speak to your son, he is getting increasingly unruly. He is growing horns. Speak to your son!”

“What did he do this time?

“You ask him for the details!

“Kwani kulienda aje?” I would ask HRH at our regular meet up on Sunday morning as we went to dad’s church, as he called it.

“Hakuna.”

This exchange was typical, with each one trading accusations and no one willing to offer any information.

“Mum, amekataa kunipea food.”

“Mum amenifungia nje.”

“Kwani I have become his mboch so that he can report my mistakes all the time? Ebu talk to him. He needs to realize I am his mother and he is not going to get anywhere that kind of behaviour.”

I would share my frustration in my Teen parents’ class, usually via long emails. Very often, I would get no replies.

Finally, one parent replied. He reckoned that perhaps the person who needed to effect the change was me. I was slightly resentful because I felt he was making me the scapegoat of a problem that was not really mine. After all, wasn’t I the one in this parenting class? Wasn’t I the bold one who’d taken the road less travelled of present day baby daddies?

A part of his reply read:

“Chris, you probably need to transform from being a Sunday entertainment buddy to being with you son longer. Consider living with him.”

What I heard, though, was proposing proposal to reconcile with his mum. This would be kinda a big issue given that we had now been apart fourteen years.

At some point, his mum wanted to have him stay with me, where I lived in Eastlands, have him commute daily to and from school as a form of punishment for his disrespect towards her. But, travelling to and from Ongata Rongai daily is hardly a commute. It’s more of a road trip.

Roogz’s mother saw Roogz’ actions as DELIBERATELY designed to make her life experience a living hell. On the other hand, whilst appreciating the predicament she was in, I could see the futility of such an action.

I had been a problematic teenager myself and coming to terms with my adolescent past had meant gaining awareness of the impact of my not-so-nice actions towards my mother.

I, nevertheless, initiated Project Hero Dad and promptly called a conference. I was going to be the all important solution-provider.

My tripartite meeting was an anti-climax. No one spoke or thanked me for my visionary action. I saw and felt two people desperately crying out for help, clarity and direction. And rather than join them, I was the one to offer leadership.

It dawned on me that I would be the one to move. To Ongata Rongai.

Shudder!

The prospective move was fraught with doubts, uncertainties and conversations back and forth as his mum and I got our intentions and motives tested and refined and several times, altogether invalidated.

Armed with a resolved past and three years of taking and facilitating parenting classes at Mavuno church, I felt I was more than up to the task of having HRH with me and starting the journey towards a problem free adulthood.

Life then did what it does amidst major turning points. It happened.

HRH’s mum changed her mind about me staying with him when she heard that I would be the one moving house nearer to HRH’s school. He would be sitting his KCPE paper in November 2013. That my script was not driven by a desire to punish his derelictions did not sit well with her and she withdrew her ‘offer’ to have me stay with my son.

I had been demoted at work through a restructured progamme. My salary was significantly reduced and I honestly considered accepting the withdrawal of the ‘offer’ to stay with my son.

My ‘Board of Trustees’ unanimously decreed that moving in with Roogz was a matter of life and death. It had to happen.

Shudder! SHUDDER!

Getting Real

All my parenting class lessons seemed to go out of the window when the move eventually happened in September 2013. Initially, I chose to observe us living together so that we could find our bearings. A life coach pal of mine had informed me that the top three stressors in a person’s life are:

  1. Career Change
  2. Moving house
  3. Death of a loved one

I seemed to be experiencing the first two and perhaps all three, because of the demotion and the fact that I shifting from a house that I had lived in for twenty years, and solo for the last fifteen, and I was moving in with another human being who was dependent on me for his livelihood.

The loved one whose death I experienced was me, me who had lived alone for over a decade. I would need to refill my gas cylinder after only four years.

There was minimal TV which meant little distraction for HRH from his studies. I still kept all the DVDs I had acquired over time, which made for great alternative entertainment. And because I was ‘observing’, I couldn’t make any drastic rules except to stack away the R rated movies and series.

It was awkward discerning what was or wasn’t R rated because – and this sounds weird – I just couldn’t tell whether or not the boy was a boy or a young man.

Keeping it Real

It quickly dawned on HRH and I that this move was not exactly what we had in mind; we were not entering a space of eternal happiness, joy and freedom.

I could sense his great expectations of his Sunday entertainment buddy/dad 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year were rapidly dwindling when I imposed rules, sanctions and discipline.

My romantic excursions of evenings of exchanging war stories, talking about girls and sex, giving sound, wise, profound, deep and meaningful fatherly advice about life also rapidly faded.

He often gave me is-that-even-a-question look when I’d ask if he really really had to eat.

What if we could stretch the gas usage to about two years, half the time it took the last one to run out?

This parenting experience was beginning to look like work. Or worse, like life.

He wouldn’t join me at church, citing exhaustion of being in school all of six days. This did not make sense to me because we used to meet at 8.30 am every Sunday mornings after he’d attended the 7.00am mass.

Distorted Reality

He scored an A- in KCPE. We were spared the agony of looking for a school and he got a place at a national boarding secondary school.

Secondary school brought a new set of issues and frustrations to consider. He wouldn’t do his holiday homework despite the awareness of sure punishment and failure in the opener exam based on the homework.

I talked, ranted, and consulted my peers and other parents. And I lashed out at HRH. And the homework would still not get done.

I was relating to my son in only one way; that of BEING HIS FATHER. That his job description was to make me happy and look good, That when he has refused to accept my very wise – and rather frequent – counsel on the importance of doing his homework, house chores, I would get angry, read him the riot act, and yet the chores and homework would remain undone. I started avoiding him by coming home late so I may not act out on the violent feelings. And when I was at home, I became a grouch.

Despite the drama I was puzzled by the inexplicable sadness and emptiness when school reopened.

Reality Restored

I resolved to work on myself before the next holiday and obtain clarity of my actions and reactions. I figured perhaps, there could be a different way of relating with my son. I could have one of His Royal Highness BEING MY SON. The onus was now on me, rather than on him, to create a great relationship by being myself. He did not have to obedient, hard working or diligent for me to function as his father. I was now inspired to be the source of love in our relationship. I relaxed.

Heck, I also don’t like doing homework and house chores. Completing these, is now in service e of being a great dad.

It is now just over a year since HRH Roogz, my 14 year old son going on 30, and I moved in together, making me a full time parent, a part time entertainment buddy.

More than that, my son is truly a reason for me to go on. There are many ways of activating this relationship.

This adventure is certainly a work in progress, a working process.

It is not true that teens are the reason animals kill their young

 

Who’s laughing now? Ha ha ha ha¹

Last Sunday, I was at Juliani’s launch of his new album “Pulpit on the Street” at City Hall Way, on the Street.

The sound was just amazing, the crowd, electric and the music super super awesome.

Yes, it was an awesomenifying experience.

A couple of things stood out for me: three actually.

One, one of the MC’s, a well-known radio presenter who is a plus size – I forget the PC term for this – seemed very comfortable in her skin doing a jig up there on stage. She was more comfortable in her skin than I was in her skin. My feeling sorry for her was very very clearly a wasted effort. She came to have a good time and a good time was what she was all about.

Two, Juliani communicates in sheng. That’s his thing, his forte. And he gets his message across, with impact, power and relevance.  That delivery, however, I had expected yet he surpassed my expectations by far. It occurred to me that his ability to communicate in English is limited and it was comforting that he knows this. Like the MC, I was feeling sorry for him because of his ‘inability’ to communicate clearly in English. Yet another wasted effort. Now, when was I going to enjoy this show in the space of all the analysis, sympathy and playing God? I mean he was already so busy laughing at himself about using kilami and he has a song to his credit about this.

Third, Juliani, as a gospel musician, comes across as anything but gospel. Well, at least the way I have had it that gospel is; especially up to a couple of years ago when I made the amazing like no kidding discovery that Christians and indeed other ‘religious’ people were human. That they even talk like us.

Ever since my baptism experience, I have attempted with increasing misery to fit in to the ‘Christian’ mould. ‘Christian’ as I think it should be not as it really is. In one to one conversations with trusted pals I often share about this relationship that I have with God. I find the experience bordering on the weird especially of its intense personal and counterintuitive nature. A part of me has been weary of expressing it or even the marching orders that I receive and not heed during my quiet time and morning pages. The weariness comes from a fear of being judged, rejected. Yet, the stuff I am being asked to do is the only thing I can do; I ought to do. Otherwise, I am purposeless. It is driven by what I think others’ agenda is for me. And

Then I watched Juliani expressing his. It was uniquely Juliani. He acknowledged he is living his dream and quipped that should anyone meet him on the streets and he ignores them, it’d be because he was sleepwalking.

I got at that point that God is not asking me to play Christianity, not now anyway. That he wants to use me in my own way. That moment of realization was a most poignant one and I saw a personification of God hitting his forehead repeatedly with the palm of his hand, “That’s exactly what I have been trying to tell you.”

Who’s laughing now? Ha ha ha ha¹

¹a line from, ‘Exponential Potential’

 Album – Pulpit on the Street

Juliani