A touching letter from my mother: It’s fading ink got me to where I am now

Lucy graduated from the University of Nairobi in Kenya with a degree in Communications and Political Science with a lot of inspiration from her mother Miriam.

By Lucy Murunga

One of the things I am eternally grateful for is having such a strong female figure in my life. This would be none other than my mother. There are a ton of things I admire about my mother. For one, she brought me into this world, then she took care of me and nurtured me all the while doing things that inspired determination in me.

However the one I can still recall vividly that I have kept it to this date, was this letter she wrote me in 2006 when I was in my second year at the University of Nairobi in Kenya’s premier city. A letter that reflects the selfless and determined sprit of a loving mother – a precious letter I possess until today.

My mother Miriam was born 54 years ago and was formerly a primary school teacher. Teachers weren’t that well-paid but somehow she and my father, a school head teacher, were able to make ends meet pooling their income together. She now works as a girls’ boarding school principal and lives with the rest of our family in western part of Kenya.

In part here goes my mother’s letter to me, “Receive much greetings from home. The rain is too much, the weather is cold and I think causing malaria for people…I received your note, thanks. The children received the books and were grateful. I am really encouraging them to read. Otherwise, receive Kenyan Shillings (Kshs) 4,500 (USD 45) for now. I will send some more money next week let’s say latest 15th May…

This letter made me emotional as we were just about to do exams and there was some remaining balance in my tuition fee that need to be settled. As I waited for mother to send the amount – I was forced to reach out to my father’s elder brother Uncle Ole for Kshs10,000 (USD100) and I was able to sit my exams that year. He might not remember anymore but I will never forget his kindness.

The inspiration glowed into Lucy’s life until she found the humanitarian work she really loves.

My mom’s letter and this particular experience taught me these key lessons:

  • The faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory; I still have the letter with me, a constant reminder of how mother did the best she could to raise university fees
  • The joy of simple things; Nothing like my mother’s simple handwritten letter; the letter makes me have beautiful nostalgia
  • Sacrifice; I read that letter with tears filled in my eyes, I could taste the saltiness as the tears streamed into my mouth because I knew very well, there are lots of things and projects she had to put on hold, so that she could send me the money.
  • The virtue and joy of perseverance; My mother’s letter taught me that even a little of something can bring you reassurance that someone is always trying their best
  • Hanging on to a glimmer of hope is worth it; even from the faintest, there is a prize for the persistent.

The letter always gave me the strength I needed to work hard, if not for me then at least for my mother who saw a brighter future in me and invested all she had, not just money but also her consistent key advice of working hard and being determined. A very religious mother, she prayed things would work out someday, and yes, God answered her prayers!

To cut the long story short, when I completed university, just before my graduation, I was very privileged to get accepted to intern with one of the leading international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Kenya. My determination only got started and I worked extremely hard, never letting anyone or anything put me down.

I excelled in listening to other people’s stories, writing and sharing them with a much wider audience. Oh how I loved travelling the country, meeting new people, listening to their stories (some sad, others happy), and I could always relate with a character in my stories, because in one way or another I had been through what they were going through. 

Sharing people’s stories and advocating for better lives for children became Lucy’s lifelong goal.

I have worked there ever since 2008 and daily I continue to mature in my career, spiritual journey and even the social life.

My mother’s determination got me here. Her parting shot was always constant: “Hard work and determination will grant you success”. I strive to inspire determination in those God may put me into contact with in my life’s journey who might find themselves in similar circumstances because of what my mother instilled in me.

I recently was reading Oprah Winfrey’s book: ‘What I Know For Sure’ where she encourages readers to persist: “Wherever you are in your journey, I hope you too will keep encountering challenges. It is a blessing to be able to survive them, to be able to keep putting one foot in front of the other-to be in a position to make the climb up life’s mountain, knowing the summit still lies ahead. And every experience is a valuable teacher.” 

I salute you Mother for teaching me what it really means to be determined in life!

This quote reminds me of the circumstances in my family and how mother sacrificed a lot to ensure we had a decent life and a decent education, that’s for sure. However, we did not all achieve the kind of success she hoped and desired for us; my two brothers did not make it to university, they are grown ups now with no employment and college education. Mother is hopeful that one day, they will rise above their circumstances, because everyone can.

That competitive spirit! Lucy juggles her busy schedules from work and running marathons. This Kenyan lady knows how to live the life of a champion!

Lucy Murunga is a Nairobi-based Communications practitioner and currently pursuing her Masters Degree in International Relations from United States International University. She has written numerous blogs highlighting the plight of people in need of world’s care and attention. She loves reading, writing and blogging.

Traveling with a toddler makes an amazing family adventure; it doubles the fun!

By Diane Marie Laguardia-Paquingan

Don’t leave out your baby from the fun! Bring them on your trips; it’s a great family-bonding opportunity.

On our 14th year together, we decided to bring a toddler on our trip to Taiwan. Even before we got married, my husband Sherman and I used to explore destinations we have not been to. It always begins with – I do the research where to go – and he pays. We actually tries to split the bill so the budget will not be too heavy for the hubby. He has to take care of other needs at home.

Top on our every trip plan is where and what to eat. That makes up a huge chunk of excitement in our trips – tasting new food! That meant raiding the night markets for cheap food thrills. If we have extra budget, we look up for Michellin-starred restaurants.

I am super-blessed Sherman is also a wanderlust. He completes the plan, budget, transport and daily itinerary. These all changed when we have Madison or Maddie, our one-year old child, joined us. I was excited and worried. They said it is easier to travel with a baby than with a toddler who is starting to have a mind of her own.

Maddie is at her most curious stage. She loves to explore, run around with kids. She even hugs strangers. She wants to try every food we eat. For the first time, it is just the three of us! We do not have an extra hand.

Maddie is naturally curious of things and people around her. Fortunately, she also adjusts easily on any weather.

We divide the chores – I am in charge of Maddie, Sherman will take care of the rest, luggage and all. Taiwan is just coming out of the tourism picks in Asia andI found less information from the internet. Lessons from our previous trips came in handy. Despite the flutters in my tummy, many what ifs, I am confident when Sherman takes the lead.

Armed with three luggage full of Maddie’s clothes and baby essentials, an ultralight stroller and our ever-reliable baby carrier my mom Cecil bought in Germany when I was still pregnant with Maddie, our adventure began. I knew beforehand that our baby would travel the world!

Here are some mommy tips for you to consider:

It is ok to worry. However, do not let it dampen the fun. Do a checklist. Make a research on the do’s and don’ts. Ask your pediatrician. Observe if your baby is healthy for the trip. Think positive and relax!

Bring extra nappies. When we traveled to Hong Kong, we ran out of diapers and I found out they only sell it in bulk. They were twice the price in the Philippines and if we buy, it would take a lot of space in our luggage going home. We bought, anyway. That’s the price we have to pay for forgetting.

Never forget your baby’s sunblock and moisturizer. Maddie’s skin gets dry at times when we are on the road and the weather is warm. I make sure to hydrate and moisturize her skin at least twice daily.

Take some baby detergent and bottle cleanser. They are hard to find abroad, believe me! I once misread an antiseptic for a bottle cleanser because they were in Japanese. Estimate how much you will need and include in your list of must-haves. It will save you a lot of trouble.

Our ultra-light Aprica stroller is such a perfect buddy!

Use an ultralight stroller. Or else you will break your or your husband’s neck and shoulders. We love our Aprica stroller! It has become Maddie’s reliable partner. Babywear your baby too, especially when raiding a crowded night market. It is easy to shop when your hands are free.

Paracetamols and antihistamines for babies are necessary. Consult your pediatrician and bring the baby’s medicines. Mark them on top of the list. This keeps you prepared for any discomfort or emergency.

Pack some cookies or biscuits. Loads of it! Maddie loves to eat and is a happy-peaceful baby when she is nibbling her favorite cookies. It is also good to have those she is used to eating.

Let the baby’s schedule reign! There is no other way but follow Maddie’s time. You want to go early but she is still fast asleep. When you get home tired, she is still hyperactive and wants to play. We took it as a nice chance to bond. Eyes drooping, we played with her. You can let the baby explore as much as she can, too. Then, she will tired and just go to sleep when the day is over.

Bring comfortable shoes or sneakers. You should not also miss on your own multi-vitamins. Keeping up with the baby’s hyper-activity, running around and carrying her at times, can take a huge slice from your energy.

When the most awaited day came, we were up and ready!

Luckily, I never had a hard time with Maddie on plane rides and long distance travels with a bus or a train. She sleeps through them! If she is awake, she connects with other children and is naturally curious. Our baby is born a jetsetter!

How did we enjoy and explore Taiwan with a toddler in tow? This is up next in our next blog!

“Motherhood is such a wonderful journey. It is an adventure of a lifetime – exactly how I have envisioned it. Traveling makes it even more meaningful. At an early age, we are beginning to see how strong and flexible our child is on life and adventure. I wish every mom to experience this.”

Sherman, Diane and Maddie in Taiwan, their third trip abroad.

Note: If you have some questions, I am happy to answer them in the blog’s message box below. We also want to hear about your experience traveling with your babies – please share.

Diane is a nurse by profession and currently a full-time wife and mom. She is also an online entrepreneur managing Kanami Fashion Shop based in Davao City, Philippines. She will join istoryya.com weekly for tips on motherhood and traveling with Sherman and Maddie.