Thatched Thoughts. Patched Work.


Sad and Deeply Happy (Do not have to be Mutually Exclusive.)

I recently finished reading One-Hundred Years of Solitude.  It took me almost 100 years (or rather, it took me one crazy year plus, finally, one week-long vacation on the ocean,) to get through it.  But speed of consumption should in no way be mistaken for a lack of engagement.  I was captivated, just busy.  Anyhow – the narrator at one point says something about how children must never know that, for us, their parents, every moment is a constant bereavement;  a moment grown out of, never to be lived again.  That their very growth, so much the goal, is a sort of dying a little, all the time.  And they must never know that we feel this way, because, of course, it would make them sad to know as much.  It was something like that.  It would have taken me 100 years to find the quote, and the internet was, just now, of no immediate help.  Point is – there is just a little bit of truth there.  
    I’m not sure how Monday will find me writing “Week 6” under the date on our little white-board, but somehow, we have put a first full month of school behind us, and then some.
  Have you ever gone somewhere SO lovely, with a view so inexpressably gorgeous, that it actually makes you sad?  
Or is that just me?  I have felt it many times.  It’s like it’s too big to make it yours, and too fleeting to trap.  You know you’ll have to go home eventually.  (It has made vacations just a wee bit melancholy all my life.  Most every walk in the woods, too.)
Watching my kids grow is just a bit like that.  You can feel that it wouldn’t be wise to sit in this one spot for the rest of all time… but that doesn’t make you stop wishing that, somehow, if you wanted to, you could. And the knowledge that there is absolutely no way, despite the wishing,  demands that some part of you (of me) pays the respect of bereavement.  A beauty passed, now only to be remembered.

But why dwell there?! I won’t.  While a small (let’s give me credit–) – MINISCULE part of my mind does it’s perpetual work of mourning, the remaining bulk of my brain is positively lit up with the joy of children growing tall and fine.  Even if I have a “tween” now, who stands in front of me, his nose to mine, several times a day to show me that he’s only an inch or two shorter than His Mother, and growing every nano-second, with mood-swings to match (ugh!)  I still will see each moment as part of a story that can’t be written without their passing.

We have continued to celebrate the end of each week with Fridayfunday  – golfing, rock climbing and riding horses.  We live on the sprawing Lake Naivasha, whose South Lake is a long string of hotels and restaurants we’ve never tried before, so we’ve decided that Fridays should include some restaurant reviews and a little taste-testing.  Mostly swings and misses so far, but it’s fun to know what (randomness!) our hometown has to offer beyond our few faves. 
  The Rocky Resort.  Good Pepper Steak and Reid enjoyed the Southlake Special Burger (complete with a fried egg, which I assume is what makes it so special:)  
  We finish school at 4:00pm almost every day, and if I don’t use the quiet hour thereafter to paint in my “studio” (eeee!) then I cook – because that can be gorgeous, too.  Even a bucket of plump berries from the neighbors can inspire of pang of longing, knowing they are too pretty to lose, but not for the keeping.  

Except as jam, dark as rubies, and jar upon jar to remember berries by.   
  Last week, after church, Reid and his dad took the kids down to the river to swim, and a hippo was in our swimming hole.  It drove the dogs wild, and now Cabo makes villains of even hippo-ish logs whenever we try to swim, ever since.  
  This moment? This you want to put in your pocket, but you can’t. Don’t blame me if the happiest moments are the ones that hurt.   
 My climbers will graduate from this training wall to Hells Gate soon.  Maybe we don’t have town league and flute lessons… but we have other things, and they are good.  
  Edit   Now donuts, on the other hand…. donuts are forever.  Pumpkin donuts, every Fall or every Saturday – or everytime you want to remember your littles just as they were and look forward to every way they will be.






I won’t mourn.  I will simply savor.  

Sad and deeeeeeply happy do not have to be mutually exclusive.  

Some thoughts from an Addict: ¬†Why I left Facebook.

I like to think that I’m a thoughtful person.  I like to probe my choices.  Prioritize.  Reshuffle.  I like to think I’m the type of person who does a thing because I’ve weighed it on the balances and found it worth the doing.  But not this time.  It didn’t really happen that way.

Even lending the hours it will take to compose an entire blog-post on the subject (The Subject: Quitting Facebook,) makes me cringe in awareness of how lame it is (It: Facebook.  Quitting Facebook.  Talking about Facebook.  Talking about quitting Facebook…) A classically Facebook way to introduce the topic would be to say something like, “A lot of people have asked me”(…why I left Facebook.)  So maybe I should do it that way.  But the truth would be, “A few people have asked me”(…why I left Facebook,) and so I gather my reasons here, post-facto.  But what’s even MORE true is that I was going to write this anyway.  Not before my decision (since these thoughts were probably, largely, subconsious at that point,) or during (when I was detoxing from needing a million, extra, tiny, distracting voices in my mind,) but after – since it seemed like I was being pinged with confirmation from every direction, in a way I am starting to find almost eerie, and certainly worth acknowledging, and finally, worth sharing.

I have frequently left Facebook.  I have taken breaks, and fully deactivated my account – always coming back (and definitely never publicly declaring that I was leaving for good – first, because that seems a bit narcissistic.  Me: “Well, all, I’m leaving!” All: “K, Bye! No one cares!” and second – because, who wants to eat the crow that one must eat when one caves and just comes back?  Not me.  And I knew I would… come back.)  I’ve also tried other ways of getting a handle on the issue.  I deleted my app so I wouldn’t have easy access on my phone.  I even deleted my browser when I found a way around that first app-deleting move.  Remember this post, from not too long ago?  

Anyway.  About 6 weeks ago, I deactivated my account for what I wholly determined would be the last time (here it is – in Pen and Ink.  Not that I believe you need to hear it, but I believe I need to declare it, because of that crow-eating part I have already mentioned.  I typically try not to eat crow, so this is going to have to be the real thing.)  I just deactivated it in a moment of “Ugh!”  It was not premeditated.  Just, in that moment, I decided I was done.

If you use Facebook you probably know “Ugh!” by many names.  I can’t remember the specific brand that day, honestly – because part of my departure was also going to encompass my need to share my thoughts and goings-on with 500 “friends.”  So I didn’t even think about how I would let those “friends” know I was out.  I just was – cold turkey –  And I thought about it later.  A lot.

Here are some “Ugh!”s that it might have been:

1) Did an hour of my life just vanish to the vortex of perusing the public broadcast of the lives of “friends” I haven’t seen in years, and in some cases, decades (or, worse, of people I’ve met once, or possibly, never.)  Then, later – Did I just lose ANOTHER hour?!

2)Did my child really just do something cute, after the occurance of which I spent the next 30 seconds thinking of how to susinctly phrase the retelling to maximize the humor of it when publicly consumed? 

3) Why don’t I talk to that really good friend for REAL any more (using the term “for REAL” loosely here, as I live in Africa, and talking “for REAL” can still include an email or even a text.)  Why?  Because their bulletin-board-style snippets on facebook, (meant to run the gammit anywhere from Grandma – to Person-I-met-once-somewhere,) somehow in the most surfacy way, satiate my need to “catch-up.”  So we never do anymore.  

4) There are people I love, doing things together without me.  Even though I live on another continent, I now feel irrationally left out.

 I have lived in Africa for 14 years.  There was a time when I had to put emails to my MOM on a floppy disk – put it in a mailbag – put it on a bush plane on a dirt airstrip two weeks later – hope it didn’t get wiped clean by the magnets in the security scanners at the airport on the other end.  Then wait another two-weeks for her reply to come back, through the shared account in Nairobi, then for it to be printed off in hard-copy to send, on the plane, in the mailbag, back to me.   That was a month turn-around for one email and one reply from my mama.  I would go away, come back a year later, and miss people (of COURSE) but never know how they’d spent those months I was away, until we sat down and plugged in.  And I mean plugged in to EACH OTHER.  

So, you may say, “it’s just nice to know what you’re up to.”  And maybe so – but it’s not better than the old way.  That is what I’ve decided.

Living so far away from most of my loved ones, my view has been that – if I can’t have the Real Thing – I would settle for this.  Eight years (of using Facebook) later, I think my view is becoming – If I can’t have the Real Thing – I’ll wait.  If I haven’t drifted so far from genuine human experience by now, and if memory serves, the Real Thing is totally worth waiting for.

5) Am I trying to make myself seem awesome? 

I hope not, but probably.

6) Those people are just trying to make themselves seem awesome.

How small I feel when I have a thought like that about people I value.  

I want to stop briefly to say that my thoughts here are in no way a high-horse from which I plan to peer down my nose on all the world’s social media users (Facebook recently celebrated 1,000,000,000 unique users within a 24-hour time period… so that would be an awful lot of people to judge!) -but I did want to try to understand my own reasons.  Or purely to understand MYSELF after eight years of incorporating so much noise into my sense of Me.

I recently listened to a Harvard Business Review on forming habits, and a psychologist named Gretchen Rubin described the difference between Abstainers and Moderators.

“Moderators like to do things like, have a cheat-day, or be healthy 80% of the time and unhealthy 20% of the time, and Abstainers are like, ‘I can’t do that. I can have NO Thin-Mints or I can have 10 Thin-Mints.  I can NOT have 1 Thin-Mint.’  So the Abstainer’s like, ‘ Please, we can’t have [Thin-Mints] in the house.  I can’t resist [them.] And the Abstainer is like ‘Why should I not have [Thin Mints] in the house.  YOU need to learn to manage yourself better.’  But for an Abstainer, that’s just very very difficult.”

I heard this explained to me well after making up my mind to leave Facebook (and not to replace it with anything else either,) and it helped me understand why I couldn’t really find the healthy middle ground I was looking for.  I had certainly tried.  Friends who stayed with us recently wanted to know why I’d left Facebook, and our friend suggested that I try using it like he does – more as a broadcasting forum to share their news, but without feeling the need to check in after that, or even to read the posts of others.  I’m a zero or 30 Thin-Mints kind of girl.  

I was also a user.  I had to get ahold of a friend via email recently (caveman style) and let her know why I was using that method in stead of FB, and her response was, “YOU?!? Off Facebook?!?)  We can note here that responses like this have firmly solidified my resolve!  But the point is, I wasn’t someone who creeped on your lives and refrained from sharing mine.  I interacted and engaged, and internalized my relationships and experience there as a dialogue I started to weave, unconsciously, into my sense of SELF.  But it rarely made me feel good.

Gretchen Rubin from HBR’s Set Habits you can Keep, again:

“… The danger comes from thinking there’s One Magic Solution.  That there’s a one-size-fits-all answer, and so this is the right way.  There is no right way or wrong way to do it.  It’s whatever works for YOU.  So you really just have to take it back to yourself and say, ‘Well, what kind of person am I?  What are my values?  What are my interests?  What am I like?’  And to really work with THAT.  I think a lot of times, people fail because they are trying to do things in a way where they’re not setting themselves up for success, so then they feel discouraged when they don’t succeed… but if they had tried it in a different way, they might have had a different result.”

This has given me pause to really consider my personality and my tendancies.  I cannot even taste one KERNEL of the popcorn I make for the kids’ snack each day – or I might as well eat it with my HAIR!  (Envision my head, burried up to my neck in the bowl.) I had failed because I had only tried to moderate.  Maybe you can, but I can’t.  Facebook and platforms like it give a type of affirmation that feels really good.  Something addictive even.  I can see now that I’m an Abstainer, and the only way for ME (not for everyone,) to get control over something that was starting to take too much of my time, yes, and attention, yes,  but on some days, my HEART (which was probably when I knew I wanted to be through,) was to put it somewhere I couldn’t even reach it.  Eventually, the habit to interact with it (I’m not even compelled to say “interact with YOU,” but really, with IT) would be replaced by the habit not to.  It already has.

So if some of my “Ugh!”s struck a chord, maybe the reasons I told myself to stay will too.  Or maybe not, which is fine.

1) It’s so convenient.  It will be very hard to, easily, get ahold of people if I go off.

-This is a little bit true, but it’s not impossible.  I’ve already found that, apart from a special few people, most are friends with someone else close enough to have an email address for me, all are smart enough to figure that out, and the ones who care enough to stay in contact even though I’ve left FB will make the effort to find me.  I will do the same in return.  Also, if someone doesn’t have your phone number or email address, is it likely you were not super tight to begin with?

2) I have reconnected with people I hadn’t seen in years through Facebook!  I would never have reconnected with them otherwise!

-I did think about this one, but perhaps that part – “I would never have found them otherwise” is key.  I’m not sure that reconnecting with individuals from your distant past is natural to the way life works, short of bumping into them at the library and catching up briefly.  I know that, of the vast number of my 500 FB friends that were ‘OLD friends,’ I rarely engaged them, even on FB.  Just consumed what they put out there, for better or worse.

But far worse than the buffered, pseudo-interaction you tell yourself is a real connection with “old friends,” is what happens to the REAL realationships you have NOW.

On a TED talk from artist and author Abab Devaser, Devaser says:

“WE all know that the internet has shrunk space as well as time.  Far away over there is now here.  Your former friends lie on a flat plane with today’s friends, because the internet archives, and it warps the past.  With no distinction left between the Past the Present and the Future, and the here or there, we’re left with This Moment, Everywhere; this moment that I’ll call The Digital Now.  This “Now” bears very little physical or psycological reference to our own state.  It’s focus, instead is to distract us at every turn on the road… Not just is the digital now far from the ‘present,’ but it’s in direct competition with it.  At all times I can opperate at a different rhythm and pace from you while I sustain the illusion that I am tapped into you in real time.”

I think the lie that platforms like Facebook tell us is that we are really connecting.  The disconnection we feel though (or maybe I shouldn’t say “we.”  I can speak for myself at least,) is indicative of the problem that this isn’t the way nature intended for us to share our human experience.  This isn’t real relationship.  If you’ve ever come away from two hours spent with your Facebook “friends,” and felt completely lonely, then you must have sensed it too.

Reason number 3 that I told myself to stay:

How will I know what you are up to?  

Well, the honest truth is, maybe we will survive something like that!  I’ve had to  accept that knowing everything about everyone’s life is quite a heavy weight on my mind and my spirit.  Do you feel it, too?  I want to be available to those who are in my physical space.  I want to be mentally and emotionally free to love them in whatever way they need (especially my family!) I’ve felt so used up by what Facebook gave me. By rather, what it took.  So if I can’t listen to all of that noise, I shouldn’t expect someone to listen to mine either.

In another TED talk, Anthropologist Amber Case says:

“And (now) you have a Second Self. Whether you like it or not, you’re starting to show up online, and people are interacting with your Second Self when you’re not there…. and you have to now maintain that digital self. And when we bring all that into our social space, we end up checking our phones All The Time. So now we have this thing called Ambient Intimacy. It’s not that we’re ALWAYS connected with EVERYBODY, but at ANY time we can connect to ANYone we want. And there are some psychological effects that happen with this… People aren’t taking time for mental reflection any more and they aren’t slowing down or stopping being around all those people in the room all the time,. People that are trying to compete for their attention. They never just sit there. And it’s when you have no external input that you have the creation of Self; when you can figure out who you really are.”

She says we need to turn off the phone. Force yourself to be WITH yoursself… Experience real time, to be real again.
4) A fourth reason to stay when you know you should go… How will I let YOU know what I am up to?  I mean, I live in Africa, after all!

This may be where I expose my addiction, and the disfunction that such an addiction to something that takes so much and gives so little, points t

I have looked high and low, reread and relistened to a lot of articles and podcasts trying to remember where I heard this, but I couldn’t find it again.  I think it was an interview I was listening to, and the woman being interviewed said she wasn’t on Facebook.  The interviewer , if I remember right, then asked her why not, and she said something like: “Well, I was on for a long time, but I finally realized that it mostly just made me feel BAD.”  

I’ve noticed a character trait, specific to my personality, that feeds on affirmation  (as weirded out as I also am when someone gives me any actual attention or praise.) I have seen in myself, for some time, that dopamine rush when I get a hit of reinforcement.  Yet, I can identify with that woman’s words, that Facebook, even in it’s moments of affirmation, mostly just makes me feel bad.  I feel bad in a way that is hard to put a name on.  In a way that, even after gorging, makes you feel empty instead of full.  In a way that, even after “connecting,” leaves you lonely.  In a way that, having presented your precious of precious, to “share,” makes you feel robbed.  Going back, again and again, to a relationship that takes and rarely gives, is unhealthy.  It can take a self-confident, self-assured person and tell her a lie of neediness.

I’ve been reading a book by Macrina Wiederkehr with the title, Seasons of your Heart (don’t let the trite title fool you.) I only picked up this book AFTER deciding to take my time back from Facebook, but it has felt like it was written specifically FOR me, for THIS time.

She writes: “Who of us has not felt deeply the frustration of being trapped in addictive behaviors from which we would like to be delivered? Those behaviors that have become deep wounds in our spirits? Those that keep our true selves in bondage?”

I feel my heart humming to that. 

But then, from Wiederkehr again (some redemption, because I got lost for a while, but found myself again): “The scars in my life,” the ones I’ve exposed to you here, “have become my badges of victory and glory. Some healing has taken place, yet as I pray with these scars I am able to see that I will probably have to live with some of the pain I’ve inherited from my cluttered life.”

My cluttered life. I have phrased it just that way myself, but I’d probably add the word “curated” to that, too. May it be less cluttered and curated, both.  I will continue to blog… but I will continue to blog, as always, with honesty.

But my biggest reason for leaving social media behind for good was just to take my REAL time back from the virtual world.  Here’s a quote from Devaser from her TED talk again:

“Our own innate rhythm of time and the rhythm of (the internet) are not in synch. It explains why we can spend a long time on it, and the next thing, you look up and two hours have passed. It uses some very real parts of your body and your brain to hold you there.”

“Time-warping technology challenges our deepest core.  You and I know exactly what it means to be truly present in a moment… like looking into the eyes of someone we have known for a very long time. At such moments our Selves are complete. The Self that lives in the long, narrative arch, and the Self that experiences the moment become one…”

” Things happen in the time they take, and because it will pass and it will move, we owe the present moment our full attention.  Love is ATTENTION. The digital world canibalizes time, and in doing so, what it threatens is the completeness of ourselves. It threatens the flow of love. But WE DON’T NEED TO LET IT. We can choose otherwise, and in our lives and in our actions, we can choose those solutions and those innovations and those moments that restore the flow of time instead of fragmenting it… We can choose to TAKE TIME BACK.”

My number one reason for quitting for good is to Take Time Back.  I think I win a lot of other things back in the meantime, and already feel a slow, piecing-back-together of myself.  I’d almost missed her.

Guy, the moderator for the TED radio hour then asked, “How do we do it? How do we reconnect to our human reality.” 
What a question.  Does anyone else feel a bit helpless that such a question, from a sensitive individual, must even be asked now? It’s a sad state we’re in.

Habab replies that she thinks it’s for each one of us to ask what’s important, and whether we want this or not. “For me, the physicality of things, which is missing from the digital world, gives me something to hold on to.  We spend a lot of the time in the digital world, but if I think, say, about my year last year, the things I remember are not the hundreds…” (Ugh!) “of hours spent on the internet.  Who we are, and our sense of Self is the memories we’ve carried and the experiences we’ve had that shape us.  So the story we have of our own life, that we carry around in our heads, is that going to get emptier as a result of this?  Or what WILL fill it?  If real LIFE is not going to fill it?”

That bleak and deeply perplexing question would have been enough to make me quit if I hadn’t already. The millions of digital hours of human experience that are swirling down an every sucking drain and vanishing into a dark vacuum aren’t going to have mine numbered amongst them any more. I reclaim those parts of my story that are being lost in the exchange of Real for Not. And I hope that that never translates to anyone I love as my choice to love them less, but as my effort to love them more. It certainly has helped me love myself a little more. And my husband and children. And the small moments I had undoubtedly been missing in the vortex.
There have been so many excellent thinkers and scholars (I don’t watch much TV but if I find myself alone, it’s almost always to the soundtrack of a podcast,) that have spoken into my understanding of this decision over the past weeks, but I would especially urge you to look into Screens – Part I and Screens -Part II of the TED Radio Hour, which may just change the way you think of things too.  You won’t be sorry.

Two weeks, flown.

 I guess it has been two weeks, but I don’t know where that time has flown to. I now have twin ten-year-olds, and am two weeks into our fresh school-year; second, fourth and sixth grade off to a beautiful start!  

First (ON the first) we celebrated Ian and Galilee – beginning the day with our now-traditional “Bacon in Bed.”  We are not always blessed with joint birthday theme selections that jive (remember pirates and butterflies?  Mermaids and rockets?) but this year was a fair match with birds and hot-air-balloons, if only that they both fly high.    
  The pinata was one of my better specimens, since I’ve quit Facebook for good and now have a calm and quiet mind, a steady creative fire, plus many free minutes for PRE-PLANNING for once.  This is the first year in many that hasn’t found me hair-drying the final wet-bits of birthday pinata the morning-of, and exclaiming sheepishly when goopy candy falls out of the busted bits from the slow currosion of a pinata that is filled with sweets, but not quite dry in the belly region.  

Gummy worms? Bird-food.  Obvi.    

Mimi sent a rocking package that showed up just in time, and provided the lego-fun that made waiting a WHOLE 8 HOURS for the party to start more bearable;)  


My favorite part about our labor-intensive birthday bashes is that my little friends spend quiet hours with me and my paintbrushes, adding their touches and dreaming of their day.


We had a wonderful time with many of the people we love (just missed a very dear few! And are missing you still…)


But, as always, all the hard work fell on the “Wholly Worth It” side, as two big grins made us certian that our ten-year-olds feel adored.  And are they ever.
I promptly lost Reid for seven days to some work in Kenya’s Wild West (albeit North,) but not before we had a posh night of fancy duds and good food, with many thanks to my inlaws  who make our promise to eachother to never spend a night apart that we don’t HAVE to, possible.



 In the mad scramble to get our library-shelf-construction project done in time to organize our books and curriculums for the year ahead, plus the (then, aforementioned) organizing, and the ACTUAL start of the (aforementioned) year (no longer ahead,) our week apart both dragged along and sped ahead, but we were, in the end, reunited, and in a great way:)  

Fancy restaurant, revisited in less-fancy duds and with kids, who gave their approval. Urban Eatery gets 12 thumbs up from the Arensen Family:)    

But, otherwise, you can find us here, and we are doing fine.  I have felt God’s true gift of delighting me with SURPRISE at smooth days of lose-yourself-literature, a cozy space to lounge as we learn, kids – keen, and with wonderful attitudes.  My clear mind and vacant minutes for taking my job seriously and without any sort of selfish rush have, no doubt, helped our positivity along… but still.  A great start to very longggg days? Looking at week two in the rear-view with only satisfaction and gratitude?  Okay, MOSTLY that, anyway.  I call that some kind of wonderful.    

They do things like play chess together on their breaks, with no prompting, and while I toast cheese sandwiches for lunch, and it warms me gooey too .  

We’ve selected four-day curriculums for all three grades, which makes our days about an hour longer at least, but has left us space for “FunFriday” in which we hope to play golf and ride horses and paddle kayacks and climb rocks (and rock walls – which we did yesterday! FunFriday!) Week one had us hit 500 balls between the 6 of us at Naivasha’s newly openned and quite nice driving-range.  When we were done Max asked (a bit nervously): “Do we have to bring back all the balls, Mom?”  Oh, thank-goodness, NO, dude.” No such thing as a machine for that out here either.  As soon as we hit the last ball, there was the ball-guy, getting to work picking up 500 golf balls.  Good thing the kids were just shy of terrible for their first time, and about 400 of the balls were littering the 20 yards right out front.

Check out the range of most of those drives.  Eeesh.  

On this Saturday – drinking coffee, good music on the speakers, a little dirt under the fingernails from a morning in the garden… I look back and forward!  There are sweet days ahead, and I am grateful to feel that way.   

Watamu. A Real, Live HOLIDAY.

 One week ago we came home from a feast-of-a-holiday to the coast.  
  We unplugged entirely.  



We let hair, wetly curl on damp necks and squinted in the sun.  




We rented a lovely home called King’s Landing in Mida Forest on Mida Creek, near Turtle Bay in Watamu. I’m not sure how the villa was named but by day three, I came to wonder if it was for the Kingfisher who Landed on the surface of the pool to clean his wings every evening at 5pm, beyond day three and all the days of our stay.  



It was all water and sun and card-games and books… And then more books and more water.  









My chicken-wings are fairly carefree little people, but seeing my busy and business-y husband enjoy naps in the shade, and a book cover-to-cover made my lover’s-heart so happy. He doesn’t often so-thoroughly unplug from work’s cares, so it was nice to witness the brief liberation afforded by a true holiday.  




There was a chef… And so, there were eggs and juice for breakfast. There were tempura prawns and calamari – tuna-steaks and breaded snapper. There were also NO dishes.  




Eat fish, or be one. A simple motto when on holiday on the Indian Ocean.  




There were no screens. Just board games and wet suits and sweet chai at tea-time.  




Strong northern winds causing, perpetually, that lovely noise that the fronds of a palm make as they agitate, one against the next and so on, hundreds of trees singing together in a ceaseless whisper that reminds you that, just for now, your only cares are drying off in sunshine and getting wet again.  





The Kaskazi wind also brought giant, thrilling waves to play in every day at high tide. The snorkeling was a bit cloudy  as a result but, after all, you can’t have it all.    
Our waswahili  babies remember well how to do sun and sand, and do it right.  

Our King’s Landing came with two houses on the property, should we have come with enough in our party to require them both. Come, loved ones! Let’s unplug together!  
   A REAL holiday was just what we required as we push towards the school-year ahead. Mmmmmm.

Thirty-five and a Love Story.

I wrote this ages ago, but here we go…

Last week (a little more than) I had a birthday.  I guess by 35 you stop being so shocked that you’re in your 30s, but I’m still not sure at what age one starts feeling like a grown-up.  Am I the only one?   

   I spent the day of and days surrounding my birthday (after Bacon in Bed. Priorities.) looking for and finding the little things that fan the flickering Africa flame that just never goes out.  We’ve been in Naivasha now for over a year.  A few weeks ago we sat watching a sun-set on the porch of our house, with friends, and someone asked about the stage at which the house was one year ago.  One year ago, our home was just a twinkle in our eye.  We hadn’t even broken ground.  The house was an empty space we had only begun to stack invisible hopes on, like brick upon brick.  Laying in my own bed, under moonlight from the windows high up on the wall, and hearing that bird-like bark of a zebra, excited by joy or fear, in the night.  Overlapping that, a hyena, long and looping.  Sometimes, hooves and paws; Buffalo chased by dogs.  Or just the silence, if there is such a thing in the bush, in the dark.  This is the first thing I love.  

 Our favorite place to eat is a short but dusty drive from home.  A place I’ve recently realized is called “Curry On,” according to the receipt, but written and referred-to as such nowhere else.  Florence was sometimes spelled “Frolence” in good Kikuyu fashion, and she was our always-server until the belly she was hiding took her away on maternity leave.  John is smilier but just as nice – our new guy, and knows our “usual,” with the only variation being, possibly, for Ian: fish fingers instead of chicken-lollipop (which doesn’t sound good to you, but is The Absolute Best, and would be my choice, too, if I was 9 instead of 35, and unconcerned with dropping 1500 calories on a single meal.)  But my favorite was when I went to use the choo [the restroom – a place in which you pay 10 shillings for toilet paper, or (presumably) drip-dry if you can’t spare the change,] and the lady who cleans the toilets invited me to share her chai, since I’d come just as she was sitting down to a thermos for tea-time.  This, I adore.   

 I love that Japanese/Lebanese fusion is not incongruous in Nairobi. I loved too the juxtaposition of a posh valet in an actual top-hat and laughing while the bellman tries to keep your woefully dusty car out of the picture he is taking; sexy heels and squealing belts on a rattly Subaru.

Having dental work done on your birthday is not always preferable, but making plans with your dentist to come out to your place for a swim or a picnic… that’s probably special.  But East Africa, as I’ve seen, is like that.   

     We took a trip to Lake Bogoria with the Adkins family a day after my birthday, and drove through and into so many reminders of why I love our life and home.  I love that a day-trip requires a full carafe of coffee, pinched between my feet (and that was just for me!) and a roll of toilet-paper crammed into the dash.  Stopping to use the toilet paper, we pulled over in what LOOKS like that middle of no-where.  It is never the middle of no-where.  Not a soul in sight, but even from behind my bush I could hear some man on foot produce himself from thin air, and procede to try to climb into the door I’d left ajar and into the seat I’d left vacant for a lift as far as we would take him!  I love it.  And we did take him, as we almost always do, and when he’d gone far enough he told us to let him out “at that gas station there.”  That Gas Station = A cage of rabbit wire under one sheet of corrogated metal, with a padlock… and inside, an ancient gas pump.  Otherwise – bushes and dust.  I love this too.


I love that using Google Maps for getting somewhere like Bogoria is a seriously back-road adventure – with a whole lot of trust involved.  “Shortest Route” usually is also “Most Scenic” (and Most-Full-of-Hazards.)

I love that there is almost no traffic on my home “street,” but that, when trading stories last week of trying to get through a particularly dense herd, between two thick walls of jerusalem thorn, a friend noted the distiction between sheep and goats, since one has to wait for goats to clear a path, but can usually bump sheep, gently,  with the bull-bar or the bumper (considering their fluffy outer shell, I guess.)  These are the thoughts of the day-to-day that make my mind smile.  

Bogoria is an alkeline lake with hot springs.  We had been to Lake Nakuru a few weeks before, the lake just next-door to Bogoria, also Alkeline, and usually teaming with flamingoes.  Nakuru was empty of birds when we went, but when we crested the hills down into Bogoria, the first view of the lake told us why; I’m not the best at estimating, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me there were a million flamingoes on the lake that day.  All the flamingoes, I’d guess, in Kenya!  I’m not sure I know what a million flimingoes look like, but I feel like they would look like THAT. Here are just a few:   


I love that any new body of water inspires casual queries as to crocs and hippoes therein.  Those are normal questions (and, as a parent, wise ones, too.)  There were no other people there when we stopped, but the hotsprings were adorned, everywhere you stepped, by broken egg shells!  So, this too I loved!  If you have boiling water just springing from the ground, of course you should bring eggs to boil!  Potatoes, too (yes, there were.)   

   I love that it felt like it was about 110 degrees out and that we ate our lunch stomping millions (I guess, I don’t know) of ants off of any briefly-stagnant limb, and that the kids ended up eating on the roof of the land-rover (a reminder we had later as we dumped plates off the roof-rack on a particularly bumpy bit of the road home.) I even love that a sandwich turns to toast in under 60 seconds.  At least, I love it if I can eat fast enough.

I love that, when we stopped for some coffee midway home (the dregs of the carafe long-gone-cold) that Ang had to change Emelia’s entire outfit.  I love it because it reminds me of my own babies-as-babies, and how long, hot, dusty trips + drool = a slow, straight-up mud-bath, face to feet.  And buying tangerines on the street through an open car window.  That too.     

 I don’t always do it, but if I do, stopping to tell the anecdotal bits that bunch together to tell this odd story makes me realize it’s a pretty incredible tale.  I love the bright and curious details.   

 So, happy birthday to me, I guess!  It’s good to have the sun coming up and going down on these days in this place.  And as for feeling like a grown-up? Bah.  Who needs it.

Less goat, more gazelle…

 When we lived in South Sudan, we stayed on a compound, surrounded by a fence – made of sticks – full of animals that we’d gathered or rescued.  We had a (grouchy) bush-pig, some hedge-hogs, a few duikers… We had a monkey and for a while I had a gorgeous bush-buck named Diggory.    


  Warren had the cutest little porcupine for a time, that stomped its tiny foot to seem fierce, and spiked Warren in the ankle one night in the dark.

  My favorite was a spirited little gazelle called an orabi, or a steinbok. She had a long slender neck, and long dark lashes framing up large, dark-rimmed eyes. She was the equivalent of a knock-out, and would sometimes get spooked or spirited, and dance in long leaps around our small compound. 

We also had a goat.  

 I can’t remember why the goat was brought in.  We’d often receive gifts in exchange for helping patients or neighbors, so maybe that was why… or a trade for cash, which also happened often enough, in a civil-war economy where there were few jobs but no end to wants and needs (though, usually, plenty of animals about.)

 Goats aren’t solitary creatures.  In fact, they are super social, which I’ve read since then.  In the absence of a buddy, our goat made friends with the orabi.  She seemed gracefully indifferent to his clumsy presence – but after months together, the goat started to believe he too was an orabi (or so it seemed to us.)  
    There is distinction to the way a gazelle moves – especially to the way they run; strides sprinkled with something called “pronking” in which every few bounds, they give an especially high, powerful, arched-backed leap.    

  That goat tried his best! When the orabi would suddenly take off from one corner of the compound to the other, front legs and back legs moving in tandem, the goat’s usual ambling gait would visibly pull (however oafishly) into syncronization – noticibly odd on a goat, but heart-warming to see him SO wish for a little grace.  
  It seems there are a lot of Christians tripping over their hooves these days.  Heavy footed. Graceless.  Can I say ugly, even?  Goats = spend time with goats = look like goats.  Maybe we need to spend more time in the company of The Gazelle.  
    When I spend time rubbing shoulders with The Gazelle, The Gazelle rubs off on me.  I’m still a goat after all, bumbling in my way (sometimes full-on hoof-in-the-mouth,) but I hope you can see how I’m drawn to mimic his light step – the beauty of the way he moves.  Maybe your heart is warmed by the way something so clumsy can try so hard for a little grace.  
  I read recently about a guy who was trying to spend more time in the presence of Jesus. He had immersed himself in the book of Psalms, at marked times throughout the day.  I’ve also been (slowly!) reading a book called the Seven Sacred Pauses (by Macrina Wiederkehr) in which she explores the thoughtfulness of “honoring ‘the hours’ through conscious pausing for prayer at specific times of the day.”  

These photos, while non sequiturs, do show that the summer I had ear-marked for so many little projects, a gradual checking-off of items on a long list, has filled up thus far with long days and late nights;  filled with people, new friends and old.  It’s been scented with roasted meat and wood smoke.  It’s held a soundtrack of laughter, which I love.  It’s been perfect.

After thinking on it a bit, I set the alarm on my phone for a morning, afternoon and evening reminder to take a moment to read and contemplate a Psalm, moving through the book as, not only a daily, but something of a rolling invitation into Jesus’ presence.   All the relationships around me will hinge their joy and health on This One.

May I look like the company I keep!

Sand River and Almost Missing the Migration.

Exactly this time last year (I know, because both last and this had me searching for cell signal to send birthday wishes to my sister, Krista,) we were surrounded by animals everywhere you looked, and as far as the eye could see.  There was a perpetual sound of grunts and snorts of a sort impossible to describe.  The experience was so incredible that I knew I’d want to make an annual pilgrimage to recreate it for us,  again and again.  
So, we made our plans – and set up camp, but this time the silence was isolating as we stared out at mile upon mile of – NOTHING.  
The herd had not reached the Mara.  Presumably there were a MILLION wildebeest kicking up dust and rumbling incessantly somewhere in Tanzania still, but Kenya was quiet and the grass was eye-ball high.    
Our campsite was magic, as always, without a human soul in sight… A small, burbling waterfall to rush sand into your shorts (Max was all tears the first hour, wishing he’d never fallen, wishing he’d never broken his arm, feeling downright sorry for himself – until we figured how to wrap it up tight with knots and rubberbands so he could splash with the un-broken.)  There were signs, for sure, that the River would be bringing us lots to look at and be afraid of – prints and droppings big(ger than your head, by three times!) and small.    


But Not A Single Wildebeest. 

 Well, ONE, we discovered – about a half kilometer from our site, just bones and a few folds of skin. Eyeballs gone, but with the smell a half-day of sunshine away, yet.   Teasing us in all its freshness.  

So, we were just too early – and the migration was running late.    
    It was still perfect in every way, with the added delight of happening upon hidden things in such tall grasses – a trophy to the keenest eyes.

And there were so many elephants, which did our hearts good (worrying about Kenya’s elephants as so many of us do these days.)  It seemed that every mama had a newborn.  The buffaloes, the antelopes, the hippoes, the elephants.  The kids cooed at every single one.    
We saw a lot of lovely birds, too.  The lilac-breasted rollers actually played chicken with us in the tire tracks we’d made in the tall grass.  We watched the king-fishers hover, flapping wings, beak and eyes trained down on some tiny swimming thing, directly in front and above us as we sat at our evening fire with chai.  This woodland kingfisher was a first for our book.  But the vultures – that would have been a circling, tell-tale sign of wildebeest, weak and strong – were noticably absent.   

The kids were happy – sleeping bags, tea, hot chili, s’mores.  Lion calls rolling back and forth in the dark while the wind blew the flaps of the tent.  But I was sort of pining for about a million wildebeest, having come for that (after all.)   



I have to say though, that when it comes to safari, there are very few hotels that I would ever tradeour camping experiences for.   

Boys doing dishes with river water…   
Someone yelling “I found a tooth!” THAT would actually be disconcerting in a hotel setting.    
Children with long sharp knives for firewood or marshmallow sticks… or anything else (let’s be honest.)    
 You’d either have to offer me mind-blowing luxury or the absolute most unique experience to get me to trade that feeling I get when I whisper to Reid in the dark, What’s That? And he says, “A leopard?”  

Turns out, a family of elephants was passing through our site down to the river to play and drink, with our tent between them, and were sending back and forth a subsonic rumbling that shook the air and our bones in a way we couldn’t place.  So much better than a leopard, which would have had no reason to be circling our tents that way.  No good reason, at all. 

The elephants (or another group) were still there in the morning, but so quiet that Reid had no idea they were steps away when he came out of the tent for a morning leak (sorry) and the mama gave one short, high blast to her babe to get-along.  That got Reid’s heart pumping pretty good.  
There is no hotel fare that can beat blackened bbq ckicken fireside, flickering. No bed that I’d prefer to having a thin layer of canvas between me and this.  

We’d been watching a small group of wildebeest that were gathering.

And when I noticed that the herd that had been a few hundred was now a few thousand on the Tanzania side of Sand River, I got out for a closer look.  It felt like I personally willed that first one to make the first move, because seconds after getting out of the car, it was all dust and pounding hooves.  Reid gave me a hand to get down the bank to the river’s edge, and I got these, not-great photos, but a super thrill and a memory the I will never forget.  The kids were leaning way out above my head, and Ian was watching for where they’d come out on our side.  
  We saw that another group (with a mass of zebras at the front, who had made the long migration intermingled with the wildebeest, but had since resegregated themselves from the others for the crossing) were headed down the river a few hundred yards to cross at another spot, so we hopped in and raced over.  
And as we pulled up, a group of about 50 zebra, venturing to quickly cross ahead of many others, went from skittish to fully panicked, from fast to faster, and in an instant we saw why, as a hunting lioness came hurtling out from behind the bank and got her claws on the last, striped rump.  She missed her kill, who managed to writhe away in the mayhem, but we realized we’d wait a lifetime to see this… but just had.

Here she is playing non-chalantly after a swing and a miss.


We were up at dawn our last morning to see how things had progressed, and our herd of thousands was now tens of thousands, still mostly milling on the Tanzania side but for the small group we’d been lucky enough to see make the crossing.  They were a swarm on the hills, and more kept pouring in from behind as we watched.  But we were satisfied to leave them to wait, coveting the long grass on the other side, held back but urged forward, conflicted as they must be every year at this point in the journey.  We had to turn home. [Blurry photo of me included because I rarely get in our trip photos, with a broken auto-focus (still!) requiring careful eyes and manipulative fingers for every decent shot.  I take what I can get!]


A few more lions to round out our final morning’s drive, and giraffe to replace the elephants we’d left back at camp at dawn.  
You can see them there, on the oposite bank, just over Maxwell’s shoulder.   
Watching quietly and attentively as we packed up to head out… a last reminder of how great this was and is until next time.


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