A Ship in Port is Safe, But That is Not What Ships Are For – A Letter to My Friends, Family and Myself When We Think I am Crazy

“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” Grace Murray Hopper
US admiral & computer scientist (1906 – 1992)

I have this longing for the ocean… I like lakes, but something in me loves the salt water ocean.  I have never quite honored that.  My grandfather, Captain Reed Turney Roberts (Annapolis class of 1923), together with my mom’s “Uncle Arlie,” (family friend Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, last Chief of Naval Operations, the father of the modern Navy – cool, huh) gave my mom a deeper love and connection to the ocean, begun for her I think in her young years sailing with her Uncle John off the shores of Mt Desert Island in Maine.  What freedom that must have been.

I can smell the salt water now, remembering when Cassie and I watched in silence, except for the ocean sounds, as the regatta ships sailed past us on the Sea Wall all those years ago.  I have not been back in many years. 

Perhaps my DNA just has an inherent understanding of oceans and ships even though I know nothing about sailing.  You see, if you are a ship and you remain docked, you never accomplish your purpose in my mind.  Docking for ships is a short time of rejuvenation, drying sails, cleaning, painting, polishing brass and stocking the hold.  Important, but short-lived.  Docking is only a tool to make sure the ship can then fulfill its purpose of sailing.

But make no mistake….   the ocean storms batter and can be a cruel mate to a ship.

Does this mean a ship should not sail?

In the tempest of my understanding, I have to remember this when I feel like I am drowning.  The ship’s journey may be to a destination presumed, but that does not mean the reality will match the travel documents, and the condition of the ship on its arrival is not guaranteed.  For ships, we inherently know this and have accepted it.

I found a poem I thought I’d share for friends who, like me, feel the pull to journey out but know that they cannot carry expectations, even though some of our loved ones need us to have a better plan, and for the anchors who love us and struggle to be ok with us.  For both the anchors and the ships, not understanding one another’s purposes fully, just remember that if we were all made the same, most all of us would be unnecessary and there would be a great deficit.

I just had this fleeting moment of memory with my great grandmother as we sat out on the deck overlooking her dock, glancing left towards the home of the shipping magnate Mr. Homer and his new dock, seeing it “dry docked” because the builder/designer apparently did not understand that the ocean had tides (or as Tinka suggested, perhaps was nipping at the bottle in a crucial moment of his design process..something like that).   We had a good chuckle together.

Sometimes even the dock is wrong.  Wow.  This could have been written better, but the editing process will take away its passion so I respectfully decline.  Thank you Todd and Lydia for reminding me of who I am, though that was probably never your collective aim yesterday.

Ships Are Safe in the Harbour (author unknown)


All I live for is now
All I stand for is where and how
All I wish for are magic moments


As I sail through change
My resolve remains the same
What I chose are magic moments


Because ships are safe in the harbour
But that is not what ships are made for
The mind could stretch much further
But it seems that is not what our minds are trained for

We call for random order
You can’t control Mother nature’s daughter

Ships are safe in the harbour
But that is not what ships are built for


The witch hunter roams
The scary thing is that he’s not alone
He’s trying to down my magic moments


As we sail through change
Ride the wind of a silent rage
And sing laments of magic moments



The Title really sounds more like a children’s story, and perhaps in some way it is.  It is the story of Lady Lydweena and her push to conquer the plunge in the Land of Neder.

Long ago and far away back in early March of the year Two Thousand and Twelve, Lady Lyweena, known to a host of admirers across the land as Lady Lyd, announced that much to her chagrin, she had missed a number of Polar Plunge events in the realm and wished desperately to conquer one.  Oddly and with the timing of the gods, that very next day would be held in the Land of Neder the annual Frozen Dead Guy Daze/Days, replete with lords and ladies plunging into the polar waters of the kiddie pond at the lake in the town’s center, being supervised by the King’s Royal Fire Fighter Hotties.

Lady Lyd and I hooked up with friend Marla, packed up the kids and snow gear, and headed up the mountain in the trusty chariot (making some aweful front end screamage) to watch the festivities and perhaps, if she did not lose her chutzpah, Lady Lyd might jump.   Here are the down and dirty moments surrounding Lady Lydia’s jump and her coronation to Queen Lydweena! Queen Lydweena and the Polar Plunge

I’ve had Africa on the brain too much and missed completing some important memories, but selfishly I am so glad that it sat in dormancy until today and I could relive a bit and remember now!  I do not exactly or formally have Queen Lyd’s permission to post the video, but I’m hoping (fingers crossed) the Royals will allow it.

School Story

Today was the day we probably committed to Nairobi in a real way – the day I committed to making things work somehow with no plan for failure.  It has been a rough few days.   I am far more involved in getting Guled hooked into things than I am getting myself hooked in.  Yes, that is in fact a preposition (or adverb) at the END of a sentence.  You have to know the rules to break them properly.   In any event……

There were three things that motivated me strongly to make this move out of my life and into the unknown, and two of those things were directly related to my son.  First, he needs to have access to and know his dad.  I can’t control that journey at all.   Second, he needs to get connected into his life and his education in a school.  THAT I have some control over.   I have great hope here. 

Guled has searched far and wide to find a school that feels like a good fit.   He has settled on Nairobi International School, a small international school north of us using the British curriculum.  He will wear a suit and tie Monday, Friday and all important outings like the UN Ambassador program (I am incidentally stupidly jealous about this one and would love to teach so I am able to do this with them!).  He can wear a polo/khaki combo the other days.  He will reportedly catch a bus in the morning at 6:00 – 6:30 am.   For homeschoolers, this routine is daunting and intimidating.  Well, ok, for a homeschool mom it is these things, but to a kid who has been ready to go to a “real boy’s school” for the last year, this can only be the most exciting of times, pregnant with possibilities.  He is ready for September 4th TODAY.  I love that.

His friend Will accompanied him to the initial school visit a few weeks ago, and both boys were captivated by the energy and vitality of the Senior School campus.  I was too.  The ½ Olympic swimming pool is crystal blue, the grounds well-kept and intimate with fruit trees producing edible fruit, the rooms airy and open, the science labs properly equipped at each table, the art room’s décor made of student-produced pieces with French doors leading out onto a balcony, the gym small but well equipped, and the music room with student designed and painted depictions of famous musicians worldwide from different eras and musical genres.  The staff and administrators were helpful, articulate and blissfully lacking in sugary sweet salesmanship.      

Guled took a placement exam the other day and we’ve decided that for his sake, he should only skip up one grade.  The British “maths” curriculum goes into Algebra II before geometry so Guled will have to do some careful catch up now and then be reviewing in 9th grade geometry.  He was shooting to be a senior this year so that he could go to senior Prom.  Ah my son, you will wait! 

Frankly, all of us adults are gravely concerned about something though.  His handwriting.  Yup.  He is a mess!  He cut his teeth on a computer keyboard and at age 4 or 5 gave me grief about having to learn handwriting when his generation had computers!  Yes, well son, now it will catch up with you… unless you can talk the entire school administration and the UK education system into seeing things your way. 

I was able to get the video linked to a youtube account I think.  http://youtu.be/fzeu3NSH86M 

But the uniform has him feeling super GQ about himself……and of course I’m a touch overwhelmed by it myself.    

Perseid, we MISS You!!!

Oh, the agony as we read that the Perseid meteor shower is happening NOW and even if we went outside at night, we could not see it.   Heartbroken is what we are because we have had some very cool times late into the night, on the trampoline in Colorado, with our telescope, watching meteor showers.

But alas, we cannot watch this one…. we are on the opposite side of the globe.  OUCH!  So, someone get out there right now and watch for us!!   ~Cyn & Guled

You Have so Many Dishes Because…..

My mom has historically been a MASH fan. I am remembering tonight a piece of a line, spoken by the character “Hot Lips” to one of the doctors who was married … but not Trapper. He was complaining about something and she told him in a bit of frustration something like, “You only have so much to loose because you’ve GOT so much,” referring to his wife and child back in the U.S. Something like that happened today here.

I had a mountain of dishes. I wasn’t really complaining this time because I’m getting over a bout of the African flu, but I made a comment about all the dishes. The response from someone was, “You have so many dishes because you have so many friends.” I could not translate that into Kiswahili just yet. I just washed every dish in the house and almost every pot. It is a most beautiful sign because it means we had people over today. That helps the disconnection quite a bit.

Katab, age 7, got fidgety and brought out Guled’s stuffed animals so they could enjoy the evening. 

The younglings helped make brownies, which we will enjoy tomorrow. The Teenlings took one of their own to a “make up” birthday movie and were conspicuously absent. The younglings (10 and under) are tempted to not share their brownies with the teenlings, but I feel confident that at the end of the day, the younglings’ pride will get the better of them, and they will want to savor the moment when the teenlings tell them what an amazing, fabulous, superior, tastey, savory job they did on the brownies!

Just another Saturday in the ‘hood.

Children in Afrika update and the collection of business cards

MISSION:  meet with the law school admissions folks to formally evaluate my credentials, and then go to Joseph’s friend’s children’s home.

REALITY:   The law school admissions people had no idea what to do with me, and by degrees I ended up in Ms. Margaret W. Muigai’s office, the Deputy Director.  What a learned and encouraging woman.  She supports strongly The CRADLE organization and has given me a list of options for work currently (while being evaluated) with the judiciary and the Kenyan Law Reports organization to get both a paycheck and experience in Kenyan law. 

The Children’s Home –  called I. Afrika, or Immanuel Afrika, is fairly new, has a strong Australian link, and serves street boys.  The facility is quite nice and built in the north west rolling hills, with land for farming and a school being built as I type.  I was so engaged in hearing from Peter Nduati, the Executive Director, that I took virtually no pictures.   I plan to take an entourage out either this Saturday or next to see what it is I and others can do to contribute to their mission.  Some of the younger street boys, as young as 6, were virtually dead from advanced AIDS, drug and alcohol abuse, and starvation when they came to the facility.  Now, they smile and go to school, but the repatterning in their minds from street child to law-abiding citizen is no easy task.  Mr. Nduati tells me sometimes they return to the streets.   Check it out for fun :  http://www.immanuelafrika.org/     The bank called, so we went there. 

It was NOT allergies to Maasai cow dung that had me sniffling.  I have a full fledged African cold!   Joseph brought me home worn out.  These are the only 4 pictures I took, and they are from the neighborhoods by the law school:   

Children in Africa

Joseph, Eunice’s family friend, agreed yesterday to take me to a foundation so that I could personally pitch my candidacy for one or more advocate positions. The foundation, called The CRADLE, is an international child advocacy and policy formation group, with work following the UN conventions on the Rights of the Child I believe. I inadvertently met the lead attorney of the foundation when I chose to walk in and tout my legal wares. Shout out to my high school friend Bruce Lesley, a child advocate himself as President of First Focus, who has agreed to keep his eyes and ears open for any information on The CRADLE there on the east coast.

So, today, with the help of Joseph and his unending list of business acquaintences and friends, I will go to the law school to begin the formal process of being evaluated to practice law here, and then off to an orphange outside of Karen.

It is here at the orphanage where I think I will meet with my second greatest emotional experience; not viewing Hakim’s latest ekg or mri, but the faces of numerous young children with HIV, left abandoned on a continent floating somewhere between the Indian and Atlantic oceans. When it comes to kids, I kind of get mouthy and political. Perhaps I will be the next great international child rights advocate and community builder. Or, perhaps, I will just do the difficult work in the field with little media attention. Most likely, the golden mean will be somewhere along that continuum. Stay tuned.

A Simple 24 Hours

The things we have done and accomplished this last 24 hours or so:

The kids came over AGAIN to paint pots.  I decided to take a number of the girls to the pottery showroom near here and let them pick one to paint. 





African Pho!!!!!! 






Ripped my jeans on the jagged metal edge of a Matatu door (cheap Nairobi minibus taxi that Guled demanded we ride)! 


Got a new table that will be multi-use since we have NO table!

Guled talked to his friends via Skype and the new table.

Did I mention Pho?  Yeah, the best stuff on the planet.  I miss my “Pho Phriends” Brandilynn, Lydweena, Heather, Vikki, Jessica….. you guys gotta come over for dinner soon!



The African Moon

This full moon greeted me as I awoke this morning.  More like it screamed, “Notice me.” I did notice, and tried to take a photo as it was descending behind Lenana Road… but let’s face it, for this kind of photography I need both a good camera and a skill base!