Aging · Caregiving · Dad · Daughters · Elderly · Family · Grief · Relationships · sad · Short story · Tribe

The One You’re With

I’ve heard it said that if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.

The two captivating desires of elderly residents I’ve cared for over the years have been to be in their own home and to have family visit everyday and care for them. They are almost obsessive desires. My job security rests on the fact that these two desires can’t be met. It’s fascinating to me that while they wish their loved ones were caring for them, I too have a secret desire: to be back home caring for my elderly father. Unfortunately today is not the day for that dream to come true.

The ironic flip side of that coin is that while these residents love their family members dearly, the majority of them, when it comes down to it, wouldn’t really want their family taking care of them. I’ve heard the lines: She’s so impatient… She’d rather die than wipe my butt… He’s always been so selfish… She’s so rough…. They are actually grateful that the family isn’t caring for them.

Well, there’s a flip side to my desire too. Dad is difficult. And demanding. And selfish. He has to be the boss and things have to go his way. He is loud and has the worst boundaries in the world. It’s a good thing he has a great sense of humor and can take a good jab when he goes too far.

AND he raised me. I don’t necessarily owe him, seeing as I didn’t ask to be born and raised, but I remember he put himself out repeatedly, faithfully, deeply (did I say loudly?), so that I had the best I possibly could. I remember all  that demonstrated consistently from the time I was knee high to that mountain of a man. He was on time for my appointments, present for my rehearsals and performances, involved in my education, drove me to college hours away so he’d see where I’d be.

And when I boarded a plane to fly across the world, he held me close and told me I was strong, and the Lord was with me, and that he’d be praying for me. And when I graduated he flew 10,000 miles to see for himself the first of his children to receive a university degree. He spent the whole time jet-lagging and trying to work out the cramps in his long legs from the long trip, and finally on the great graduation morning, he landed in the hospital with pneumonia. When he wasn’t kidding with and bossing the nurses, he was apologizing for missing my big day.

Two weeks later he walked me down the aisle and held me close again, and reminded me I was strong, and the Lord was with me, and he’d be praying for me. And that he was ever so proud of me.

We talk on the phone a couple times a month. I call him Daddy Blue. He calls me Mummy Blue. ( See the story behind the Blue Four years later he flew to my grad school graduation and was ever so proud. He wore his favorite blue shirt, strutted like a peacock, spoke louder than normal, and looked so handsome.


I think I’m his favorite and he doesn’t know he’s my favorite. He’s my first thought when I wake up in the night. I think of him throughout my day. So why am I not there checking his medications as he takes them, slowly massaging his stump, holding his barf bag when he needs it, and sitting in on his doctors appointments? Why am I not there trimming his nails, reading Psalms to him, soaking in his amazing wisdom, and laughing at his fabulous stories?

Why am I here instead, doing your mother’s pretty nails, massaging her stump, hearing her awesome stories for the hundredth time, making her favorite dessert, looking through her picture books, and tucking her in at night with the pink and purple blanket just the way she likes it, with the little pillow over the long pillow angled just so?

I can only pray that the one who’s caring for dad knows he likes the lighter sheet off to the side so he can pull it over him if it gets cold at night and water set close to but not blocking the clock. And that wherever you are, you are taking the time to help the lady get across the street, or telling the kids that little Teddy doesn’t want them pushing his wheelchair any more. Or that you’re checking books out diligently at the library where you work, and teaching class in a fun and engaging way. That you’re being extra humane as you pick up the garbage on your work route, raise your babies at home, and as you do brain surgery on your patients, or fill tanks with gas, do landscaping, or adjudicate cases.

All this while I am with the one who would rather be with you; while I can’t be with the one I would rather be with. That’s the way of the Global Tribe.

African · Anxiety · Autobiography · Childhood · Corporal punishment · Daughters · Family · Fear · horror · Kenyan · Kids · Parenting · Short story · Spanking

Panacea for Bashful Pupils

Image result for 1973 GTV FREE IMAGE

I bolted towards dad as soon as I saw his car in the parents’ parking line at Muthaiga Primary School. There weren’t any cars left. I hopped in beside him and settled into the edge of the seat with my massive orange rucksack still on my back. My feet barely touched the floor and my fingers braced my little body from slamming into the dashboard.

I was full of information and it was a while before I noticed he wasn’t talking much as he wound around the scenic road on the way home. “What’s this for?” I asked, making conversation, pointing to a straight green twig sitting on the dash.

It all started innocently enough. School got out at 3.15 pm and the huge mass of kids spilled out of classrooms. Those that were being picked up from school gathered behind the yellow line several meters from the main gate. Beyond that, parents were to park and walk through the gate to pick up their students. It was a great time to catch up with friends and always a little sad to watch them leave one by one. It was always best to be picked up somewhere in the middle. That way you had time to play but weren’t last to be picked up. The line monitor was a strict teacher with a huge belly. His belt seemed to hang on to the straining hem of his shirt for dear life.  He marched back and forth along the yellow line, looking for errant feet to whack back with his yard stick.

This Friday afternoon, a spectacle unfolded. A bright shiny red sports car sped past the parents’ line, revved its engine and squealed past the gate. Its driver impressively spun a tight U-turn  in the compact space, kicking up rocks and dust before coming to a screeching halt. The line monitor had to duck for his life but he composed himself and walked up to the car, obviously to tell the driver this was not the place to wait for kids. I watched with bated breath, expecting him to whack the fancy car with his yard stick. I noticed him talking to the driver who stepped out holding a rag and began to proudly buff the car. Pretty soon they were chatting it up and a small crowd gathered around the beauty to admire it, all thoughts of rules and yellow lines now out the window.

I swallowed hard and my eyes threatened to pop when I caught sight of the driver and realized it was my uncle Steve. This was terrible. He was beaming and showing off his new 1973 GTV. I wanted to die and must have shrunk to half my size with embarrassment. My heart was pounding in my ears and I feared I would faint. I swallowed hard and ducked behind a small group of taller kids when I saw him panning the crowd. I knew he was looking for me.

I was transfixed, cemented to the ground, the pounding in my ears getting louder and louder. This was the worst day of my life. What a terrible thing to do to a ten year old. What was I going to do? One thing was for sure, I couldn’t walk out there and very well get into that car. I tried, I stared at my dirty shoes, that just this morning I’d polished till they shone. I willed my tiny two-ton feet to move, but they were cemented to the ground. I looked bashfully around me and noticed with horror that, with time, the crowd was getting smaller and smaller as kids were picked up. I studied and memorized every crevice in every nail on my trembling fingers.

After what felt like an eternity, I jerked my head up in surprise as I heard the infamous engine roar to life. I mechanically tilted my head 2 degrees to the right and about screamed for joy as he peeled out, leaving his admirers in a cloud of dust. I breathed a full breath and my feet came to life, breaking into a happy dance. ‘Thank you Jesus!’ I muttered, ever so grateful, oblivious to  a small gang of boys beside me driving their imaginary sports cars, screeching as they shifted their gears.

After another eternity, just a handful of kids stood behind the line. No cars lined the parent parking line. I’d never been there that late. This couldn’t be good. I was hungry and very tired. ‘I hope I don’t have to sleep here,’ I thought to myself, looking around for where I might nest if I needed to. All of a sudden, my heart leaped when I saw dad pulling up. I’d never been happier. I grabbed my dusty cardigan off the ground and flew past the yellow line before he could get out of the car.

I hopped in beside him and settled into the edge of the seat with my massive orange rucksack still on my back. My feet barely touched the floor and my fingers braced my little body from slamming into the dashboard.

I was full of information and it was a while before I noticed he wasn’t talking much as he maneuvered the scenic road on the way home. “What’s this for?” I asked, making conversation, pointing to a straight green stick sitting on the dash.

“Did you see your uncle Steve at the school?” He asked quietly.

“Ya.” I answered quickly.

“Did you know he was there to pick you up?” He persisted.

“Ya,” I said less quickly.

“How long was he there?”

“A long time.” I murmered, going back to studying my nails.

“Why did you not go to him?” He was getting quieter and slower in his speech.

This was not going to be good. Needless to say, the stick was a switch, fresh-picked just for me. I jumped and screamed to the rhythm of a sound whipping, punctuated by, “This,” Whap! “Will,” Whap! “Teach you to hide,” Whap! “When-I-send-someone-to-get-you,” Whap! “And-waste-my-time” Whap! “Having-to-stop-what-I’m-doing-so-I-can-come-get-you-myself.” Whap, whap, whap!”

Anxiety · Authority · Christian · Cows · Daughters · Death · Faith · Farming · Fear · Health · horror · Humor · Maturity · Mishaps · mothers · Spiritual

If You Believe

black cow

If you know anything me, it’s my feelings about cows. You can find contributing factors here: And to think I am married to a man who calls himself a rancher. Very sad. I posted that blog a year ago and my feelings haven’t changed much.

Shortly after that, Emma who’d grown up on a dairy farm shared how she was washing dishes in the sink one sunny day while her kids played outside. She was watching them dreamily in the sand pit through the open kitchen window. She’d just picked up the last glass from the warm sudsy water when she heard a sickening bellow. She looked up to behold her 3 year old daughter sitting on the bottom rung of a gate to the field while one of their massive cows came running across the field. “Oh God,” she moaned gripping the side of the sink. There was no way she could even set that glass down before the cow got to her baby, let alone get out there to rescue her.

In slow motion, it seemed, little Layla hopped off the gate she was sitting on and authoritatively stuck a stubby little hand straight out in front of her and yelled, “You stop!”

The colossal brown cow skidded to a screeching halt not ten feet from Layla. The cow lowered her immense head and pounded the dry ground. She seemed to be reconsidering her actions and she mooed, projecting slime all over the place. “No! Bad cow!” commanded the little girl, hands akimbo and stomping her miniature pink cowboy boot in defiance. That cow sniffed at the dirt and slowly turned her head before walking away.

Emma barely heard the glass shatter, muffled by the soapy water, as she tore through the door.  She ran pell-mell to her baby in the field, tripping over broken branches while her apron fluttered like a flag in the wind. She grabbed her like she would never let go, sobbing fitfully.

“Mama sad?” asked Layla quizzically placing dirty little hands on her mother’s tear-stained face.

“No, baby. Mama’s very happy.”


This week I have encountered many people who are going through various degrees of apprehension for one reason or another. It has astounded me, I don’t remember it being this unbridled, almost epidemic. Many posts I’ve visited have entailed details from anxiety ridden writers expressing hopelessness about the world’s plight and our leaders’ wanton disregard for us. Sitting in prayer groups, I’ve prayed for people dealing with fears of flying, fears they can’t put their fingers on, and fear of the future.

It seems we are being pummeled by angst and asphyxiated under its weight.

Are we paying too much attention to current events? More importantly are we basing all our trust and hope on the shifting sands of circumstances? Are we listening too closely to the primal internal voices that are gifts for our survival, but which we have amplified with the megaphone of attention?

The resulting degree of stress is ravaging our health, our wellness, and our souls. It exudes from our every pore so that we contaminate people around us. It’s affecting our children and grandchildren and shortchanging any chance for joy and a vibrant life. It grows like a cancer and stifles our very lives.

Can we, like little Layla stand up to these demons and gain control of ourselves and our reactions to our stressors. We can drop and allow them to trample us mercilessly and fling us up in the air. We can turn and run like lightning with the massive cows in hot pursuit. Or we can stick our little hands out in their face and scream “STOP!” This lion must find a heart.

See that day, Emma learned and then taught me about authority that is vested within us. It is the authority of a thirty pounder against a thousand pounder. Within me is mastery and dominion over my reactions to circumstances. But I must learn to wield it. It is a spiritual weapon that I can brandish to quell the enemies of my soul.

Jesus died that I might have life, and life abundantly. Peace and His presence are two things He has assured me He will never withdraw from me. Hope and joy are mine to enjoy despite the worst possible circumstances in life. Otherwise what is our faith for? I’ve tried many others and they are all sinking sands. He alone has seen me, and countless others over the ages, through thick and thin VALIANTLY. His are promises that we will not be shaken if we stand upon the Rock that He is.

If you don’t know Jesus, He is a simple invitation away. All you have to do is believe He is the son of God who died to save you and who came back to life so YOU might have life. His presence in your life is the authority to speak over your perspective on life’s circumstances and command your fears to be still.

Here’s a great truth: You can’t think two thoughts at the same time. And tough times call for soul talk.  In 1752, Katharina A. von Schlegel penned “Be still my soul, the Lord is on your side.” What a great mantra. It has amazing words. Enjoy Kari Jobe’s rendition of it.

Ages before, King David said, “Why so downcast oh my soul? Put your hope in God for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God,” Psalm 42:11. Sometimes I say, a thousand times, “I trust you Lord, I trust you Lord.” I’ll sing a song or meditate on and recount a piece of scripture. Scream it if you need to or just think it, though your knees are knocking.

And should the circumstances do you in, you have a blessed promised eternity awaiting you. One of complete rest and bliss in His presence. Death will be your final enemy and you WILL overcome it victoriously. You can’t lose!!

So put your hands on your little hips and stomp those sparkly cowgirl boots. Silence that bellowing cow and speak your truth.

Image retrieved from

on 10/9/17 7pm.

Aging · culture · Daughters · Family · Fathers · Grandchildren · Grandparents · Joy · Teasing · Uncategorized

Daddy Blue

My friend Faith sent me an email with a sweet story about a man who returned home for a neighbors funeral. The neighbor had greatly influenced the young man’s life in the absence of his father. Towards the end of the story was the statement: “every night someone thinks of you before they go so sleep.”

That brought immediate tears to my eyes and made me think of my dad. I call him Daddy Blue.

It all started with him calling my son James “Soldier Blue” based on a costume he was wearing. So James turned around and called him “Guka Blue, boooya!” (Guka is Kikuyu for grandpa.)

“James!” I chided him sharply for his disrespect.

Guka grabbed James by the wrists, turned around and said to me, “Mummy Blue arrest Soldier Blue.”

I said to him, “Daddy Blue, you started it.” James had the last laugh.


That was 5 years ago. We call each other across the world every couple of weeks.  As soon as he answers the phone, I say, in a singsong tone, “Daddy Blue.” He chuckles and says, “Aaaaaw, Mummy Blue.”

We chat about events and his health. “Have you been to therapy Dad?” I ask, knowing the answer.

“Not yet, Mummy Blue. I will.” It’s his lame attempt to placate me. I call him a naughty amputee and he says it’s no wonder Soldier Blue is so naughty. “His mother has no respect.”

He asks after my family and tells me how he thinks of me every day. How proud of and happy he is for me. We have a twelve hour time zone difference so when I’m getting up, he’s heading to bed and vice versa. He says, “Well, I’m getting off the day bus and getting on the night bus now. You enjoy the day bus. I’ll sleep happy because you called.”

_SJD1041 We sign off. “I love you Daddy Blue, over.”

“I love you Mummy Blue, over and out.”

Happy Father’s Day dad.