The Power of Knowing What You Want in Life and How to Get It.

Knowledge is said to be power especially when you apply it to improve your life and the lives of others. From a tender age, one of my young sisters has amazed me by how she clearly knew what she wanted in life and how to get it. Enid has always loved cooking and her fantasy was to cook and serve hearty meals at home, in hotels and at big functions. Before she sat for her Ordinary Level examinations, she had made up her mind to take up a course in Catering and Hotel Management. She did not stop there, she knew some of the best colleges in UK where she could pursue it.
She made it extremely easy for us to facilitate the realization of her dream. By the early 80’s, she was cheerfully studying that particular course in a college in South east London.

She pursued the 2 years course with determination and gave it her whole. With the innocence of a child, she was curious and developed that sense of being ready to explore. She approached each new experience with wonder and took it as an opportunity to learn. She trained her mind to persevere, she focused on the task and excelled.
She developed a sense of discipline and responsibility which enabled her to finish the course among the cream of the crop. We were all not surprised when she was immediately offered her first job in the Kitchen department of the prestigious Saint Thomas’ hospital in London. She worked with the team planning and preparing the patients’ meals.

She then set her mind to getting married by her twenty-fifth birthday. By her twenty -third birthday, I was in London with my eight months old son celebrating her marriage to a brilliant, diligent, focused and rational Ugandan student pursuing a PhD in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Leeds, West Yorkshire. Later as they grew old together , I found out that they shared common interest, values and purpose in life.
A few months later, the young engineer had completed his PhD and was offered a job as a lecturer in the Faculty of Engineering at the University Of Nairobi. Enid found no difficulty in getting a job at the Kenya Utalii College, Nairobi founded in 1975. It is now Africa’s leading Hospitality and Tourism training institution. She lectured there with a lot of enthusiasm until her return to Uganda with their first child in 1987.

She immediately went into self –employment. She started her own catering company and tapped into the fullness of her capacities. Since then, day after day she has served delicious meals across all levels from the state house to the ordinary men and women in their homes.
All these years, she tapped into her creativity, creating dishes which express who she is: passionate, positive, patient , energetic, tender-hearted, and fun-loving. She has never allowed herself to be controlled by fear; she often feels it but then goes on to do what is required of her. To many people’s surprise, she hardly misses the 7am Mass at her church!
She never forgets to allow herself to take it easy : enjoying her beer and dancing. This is what helps her to have inner peace and increase her productivity. After all it is the Magician in each one of us who helps us to be true to ourselves while the Fool in us allows us to express our childlike spontaneity and playful creativity gifting us with enjoyment, pleasure and aliveness.

It has not been plain sailing; she has faced many challenges like having to wake up every day at the crack of dawn to travel the thirty-two kilometers to Nakasero market in Kampala to buy the fresh food, fruits and vegetables.
With the support of the engineer, she has always been able to take it all into her stride.
Like any great teacher, she has inspired, mentored and encouraged many young women and men . She has used her unique talents to create a thriving community within the Hospitality industry.
I for one have watched with great joy and pride as she transformed herself into a sophisticated cook, wife, mother, and grandmother. She has earned the title of a celebrated cook.
She constantly renews herself as a cook and still creates mouth-watering dishes just for the joy of it.
Oprah Winfrey said: “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”
Enid, you are always full of life, energy and joy. This gift was truly yours nothing or no one can take it away from you.
I can never have enough of your version of Shredded Chicken with Vegetables and the Stuffed pumpkin- meat in the moon. I would say that you cook from the heart.
Maurice Young said: “To become a master at any skill, it takes the total effort of you: heart, mind, and soul working together in tandem.”
Young sister, I take off my hat to you. You are among the best of your time; I had to share you with the world.
Like ‘Johnnie Walker’ keep walking strong. They say that the hunt is never over until both your heart and your belly are full.

Thank you for reading this post. Kindly share it with family and friends especially the young ones to encourage them follow their dreams and live them. I would also love to hear of your experiences related to this topic.

TAKING ON THE CHALLENGE

One of my favourite quote is by an American writer, Alvin Toffler (1928-2016). In his book entitled ‘Future Shock’ ( 1970) he says: “ The Illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write , but those who cannot learn , unlearn, and relearn.’’
In this digital era, things are changing constantly and fast. The solution is to wake up each morning ready to learn how to learn. To increase my adaptability wherever I am, I have to learn, unlearn and relearn. Learning is defined as the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience or being taught. It is a lifetime job.
In last week’s post I informed you that through repeated experiences I had acquired the habit of decluttering my physical space once a year. This habit would free my mind, heart and soul to engage fully with life. I was happy and productive. But since my return home, I had relaxed on this good habit of mine and found myself accumulating stuff faster than at any other time in my life. This attachment to things had started weighing me down emotionally and was decreasing my productivity. I had to save myself by ‘relearning’ the good old habit: Regularly let go of things, keep only what I needed at that moment in time, not keeping things that I might need in future.

The English writer and social critic, Charles Dickens, said: “My advice is to never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.’’
Not to stress myself, I decided to start on this task of organizing my physical space immediately by clearly defining what I needed to do and coming out with a plan of how to do it. I have planned to do a little at a time and to ensure that it is done and done right. Every Saturday morning, I shall clear one room at a time, taking one item at a time. I am determined to stick to this schedule for the next three months. I have to avoid distractions and I have given myself permission to ask for help when I need it.
Knowing that the best time to do something is usually ‘now’, last Saturday, I rolled up my sleeves and took on the challenge. I did not want to give myself time to think of procrastination.

I started in the spare bedroom which I had literary turned into a store. I had three labelled big plastic containers : one for items to be given away, another for items for the garage sale and the third one for items I needed at that moment and therefore could keep. I only kept items that I really needed; any holding some significance in my life and any that served a purpose in my life. I never kept anything that I hoped I would need one day.
As I combed through the accumulated stuff, the first three hours were tough on me due to the emotional attachment but as time went by, it became increasingly easy. Much to my surprise, I had started enjoying the childlike spontaneity and in the process, I became open to the experience.
By the end of the morning, I was thrilled that I had focused on the task and cleared one corner of the room. I felt in control and felt good about myself. I was doing the right thing to ‘relearn’ a good habit that served me well in the past.

I had no doubt that if I sustained this energy and zest and worked to schedule, I would meet my deadline of getting rid of clutter in the house in three months! I celebrated the little I had done right over a bottle of wine with one of my childhood friends. I am now looking forward to next Saturday to take bold steps towards my goal.
The experience has reminded me that with any big task, you start small and that the beginning of anything worthwhile is the most difficult part.
There is also a Spanish proverb that says : “ Tomorrow is the busiest day of the week.’’
We all have the tendency of putting off things until tomorrow and yet the best time to do them is now.
If there is something you want to do, do not let fear hold you back. Acknowledge your fear, allow yourself to feel it but then go on and do what you have to do. This is what courage is all about.
Napoleon Hill said: “ Do n’t wait. The time will never be just right.’’

The Chinese say that : ” The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

I am thrilled that I have taken my first steps.

Thank you for reading this post, I would be very grateful if you shared your experiences with me. Kindly leave a comment and feel free to share the post with family and friends.

ONE GOOD HABIT

Man is a creature of habit: doing and following a learned pattern of acting or thinking or feeling. We learn this pattern of responding to problems and challenges in life from those whom we closely associate with starting with our parents and following it through with our peers, friends and spouses. Some habits are good while others are bad. We develop these habits to fit in or gain approval of others and occasionally we develop habits to remain different. Good habits help to conserve human mental energy for more complex tasks and challenges while bad habits cost us by wasting energy and limiting human growth and development. It is the responsibility of parents to guide children into establishing good habits in the early years of their lives.

One good habit I have been practicing for the last twenty years is to organize my physical space regularly. At the end of each winter season, I would comb through my wardrobe for items that I did not need any more and give them to the children in  the SOS Children’s Village. I would also give some items to the helper in the house. At the end of the year, I would also clear the kitchen and my desk, leaving only what I needed at that moment in time. I had no attachment to things so I never even kept anything that I hoped to use in the future. By letting go of things that I did not need, I was freeing my mind, heart and soul to engage fully with life. As a result, my life was organized ; my self-esteem was high and I was more productive and creative in my work. I did not need a psychologist to teach me that there was an emotional connection between a disorganized physical space and attachment to things.
During the short time I have been home , I seem to be accumulating things more than I have ever done in my life ! I am worried that if I continue holding onto things, they will weigh me down. Both my mental and physical health will be damaged. I have had to pause and ponder.
I have had to ask myself what I was doing differently and why I had relaxed about committing without being attached to people or things.
Am I being affected by the disorganization floating all around me in the country? Is there something missing in my life to be a complete individual? Have I missed what is most important in my life at this moment in time ? Do I feel that I have a lot of free space in my home?

I have had to read extensively about Clutter and Declutter. The psychologists have helped me understand what I am experiencing in my life. The clutter in my life symbolizes some emotional baggage and unfinished business in my life.
I am one of those people who function best where there is order and functional systems. If I am to survive and thrive in this chaotic environment, I have to create some order of some sort. I have everything in me to function as a complete individual. I have to rely on myself once again and pursue things that inspire me and keep me busy. I should improve my life – physically, mentally and emotionally and the best way to start is to do what it takes to overcome this bad habit of allowing physical stuff to take up room in my life. I have to replace the bad habit I had picked up with the old good habit I had established years ago. I have to ‘relearn’ to organize my physical space by letting go of my attachment to things and people. It is the only way I can stop all my old boundaries from being blown apart. It is a gradual process. I have to go through all the clutter one item at a time. For each item I have to assess its value in my life and its association to what I want to achieve at this level of my life. The cardinal rule still holds: keep only what you need at that moment in time . I should not keep anything that does not bring anything positive in my life or anything that I hope to use in future.
I believe that my strong character will help me to break that bad habit I had picked up. I am so determined to improve my life that if I fail to overcome the habit, I will have to seek for professional help.
After all I know for sure that asking for help is a sign of courage and wisdom.
Oprah Winfrey says : “ You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.”
“ Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.’’ Author Unknown.

Thank you for visiting my Blog and reading this post. I would love to hear from anyone who could be going through a similar experience. Iron sharpens iron. Feel free to share this post with family and friends.

BACK TO THE CENTRE

In June I was like a Viking Age ship: the strong winds blew me off centre. It has taken me a while to get back on course.
It all started with that dreaded phone call from my young sister in London, United Kingdom. We had lost a close relative who had lived in London since his graduation in 1976. He had won himself an academic scholarship to the University College London and was awarded a doctorate in Science at a tender age of thirty two years. He went on to teach Mathematics, later added Computer Studies in several schools within London. He was recognized for his contribution to education for overt thirty years.
Long before our conversation ended, I knew for sure that the funeral would be in London.
“ Are you bringing Emmanuel home for burial?” I asked.
“ No, he had made United Kingdom his home and wished to be buried there.’’
Thereafter, I dropped everything and started on the arduous process of applying for a Visitors Visa to UK. I had to go and support my sister through this rough time.

Applying for the Visa online was not a problem but gathering the catalogue of supporting documents required in such a short time , was as daunting as crossing the first part of the Drakensberg mountain range of South Africa. The fact that I have recently returned home after being away for twenty one years, did not make things any easier. I even had no idea of where the Country’s Visa Application Centre was located. I had to move fast and learn fast too.
I have never been as grateful for the current easy communication by Mobile phone and the Internet as I was during that hectic week. Finally, everything fell in place and then began the waiting for the response from the Regional Office from Pretoria, South Africa. Amazingly, eight days later, I was on the Emirates flight from Entebbe Airport to London via Dubai. Having sheltered in the Southern African region for the last two decades, I had never travelled by Emirates or passed through that humongous Dubai International Airport. The four hours of waiting at Dubai turned out to be an advantage to me. It took me ages to get to terminal 3 where I was to board the flight to London. This proved to be child’s play after I had taken almost two hours to be cleared through Immigration at Heathrow Airport Terminal 3! A Sports watch showed that I had walked 1,723 steps during that time! No doubt Heathrow is Europe’s busiest airport. Next time I travel by Emirates I will definitely choose to land at Gatwick Airport.

By the 8th June, all those who mattered had gathered in London to fulfill our beloved’s dying wish.
Many friends; some of whom I had not seen in over twenty years, joined us to celebrate a life well-lived. One of Emmanuel’s favourite sayings kept playing in my head: “ A teacher affects Eternity. He can never tell where his influence stops.” As for the family, he had left us with too many happy memories to remember him by. By the end of the day I felt that it had been worth all the effort.

During the days that followed, I kept waking up in the middle of the night wondering where I was. This was the only trip to London that I had not planned for. It took me another week to wake up to what was going on around me. It was early Summer time and the days were crammed with activities. There was the five-day Royal Ascot horse racing in Berkshire, Flower shows, 2018 Wimbledon Tennis Championships from 2nd July, and the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. When England played against Sweden, my sister and I held on each other , sat through the match and cheered wildly after the 2-0 defeat. It went to show that life is for the living. Gradually we shall pull from within and get on with our lives. I am determined to get back to the centre and sail with the wind.

It is now a week since I returned, I have had time to reflect on what I have learned from this unexpected experience. Among them is that I may plan for the day but a Higher
power directs my steps, that the world would be an incredibly dull place without true friendship and that every complex situation presents me with an opportunity to learn and grow.
A quote from Martin Luther King Jr reminds me daily of how we are interrelated: “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.’’
As you run through the maze of life take moments to remind yourself that the most important people in your life is yourself , family and friends. They exist in your life and you exist in theirs and therefore need to be protected and respected.

Thank you for visiting my Blog and reading this post.I would be very grateful if you commented about it and shared it among your friends and family.

Being Truly In The Moment

Last Saturday, I attended a wedding of a niece in Mbarara town , western Uganda. Mbarara is  about two hundred and sixty five kilometres from Kampala, the capital city of Uganda.I have not been to this place in over two decades so as expected, it has changed beyond recognition. From Wikipedia I have learned that Mbarara is the fastest growing town in Uganda today and among the top five fastest growing towns in Africa! It was a relief to see a few of the old landmarks like: the Agip Motel, Mbarara, the Bank of Uganda offices and the Mbarara University of Science and Technology. They helped me to get my bearings once again.

The church service was held at Saint James Cathedral, Ruharo. We the elders dressed in our flowing traditional attires and the men in suits, mingled freely with the young dressed in the latest seasonal collection as we waited for the service to begin.
The young groom looked at his best in a grey suit, white shirt and pink tie, surrounded by his four groom’s men.

My heart skipped a beat as the proud father walked his angelic daughter to the aisle followed by two pretty flower girls in white and four bridesmaids in peach.
With child-like excitement, we all sang the wedding hymns with gusto. By the time the couple said “ I do,” with focused determination to each other, I could not help but get emotional. The Bishop’s sermon was short and to the point: putting God first in their marriage if they wanted it to last and then following it up with love, respect and open honest communication with each other.

Two hours later, the newlyweds , a picture of joy, enjoyed a relaxed lunch with their guests at Wagga Resort, Mbarara. They could not have chosen a better place. It is a magical place full of trees, shrubs, manicured lawns and uneven stone drives and walkways. There are orchards of oranges, guavas, tangerines, lemons, graviola(soursop) and a variety of palm trees. Tall, green trees mark the boundary of the place. Dotted among these are a number of red-tiled holiday cottages.
About seven snow-white medium –sized tents decorated with roses and carnations accommodated us while a live band played the most popular wedding songs of the time.
The trees, the shrubs, the stones and wooden fences reminded me of the farms of the well-to-do in Nyeri central Kenya in the early 90’s. I used to attend training and workshops in contraceptive technology in Nyeri and each evening the organisers would arrange for the group of doctors from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to be hosted by one family. I used to be mesmerized by the richly furnished homes , the big gardens and orchards!
Interestingly, I seemed to be at one such place that evening. Over time, I have learned that when I am in such an Alice in Wonderland place, I just relax and soak in all its beauty. I become part of the beauty and this helps to define my place in the universe.

Similarly, my brain switched off everything else and was just in the moment. Being among family and friends in such a beautiful place, celebrating the union of a young couple whose eyes and body language exuded genuine love for one another; I remembered in piercing detail a day like this some thirty-seven years ago! We the parents and most of our friends had added thirty seven years to our lives. We had been changed by the years but we were still young at heart. Noticeably absent were our parents and in particular the grandmother of the bride who passed away a few months back. It was comforting to note that our continuity lay in our sons and daughters now dressed to the nines and accompanied by their well-groomed spouses and equally smart young children.

The bride later changed into a floor-length pink party dress and a silver tiara. She looked effortlessly beautiful holding on to her Prince Charming. In the brief speeches that followed, friend after friend and sibling after sibling talked of the groom’s steadfastness and dependability and the bride’s love and concern for others. No doubt each one had found ‘the Beloved of their Soul’. As they stood beside each other to give their speeches, they looked to be a winning team ready to face the world together. Relaxed, happy and confident, they took to the floor to dance the first dance and thereafter a lot of laughter and surprises followed.

By the time we the elders left at 9pm, my emotional battery had been recharged to the full. It would last me to the next family wedding in August. We left the young to dance the night away on this big day.
All in all, I was so glad that I had been part of this great celebration. My silent prayer was that the couple would live to share in all the blessings that marriage can bring.
Mignon McLaughlin says:“ A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.’’

Thank you for reading this post. Kindly leave a comment about it and feel free to share it with family and friends.

Writers Read

I am working extremely hard to live my dream of becoming an outstanding writer who writes great books that are read by many. I want to write the kind of books that change people’s lives for the better.
I am now as busy as a bee, writing, writing and reading and attending live webinars by the masters of the craft to learn how to write great books.
I have been warned by the American author Joseph Harold Bunting of The Write Practice that a writer never stops learning how to write so I have started on this journey of a lifetime.
This same author has come up with 10 steps that a writer should follow to become a great writer who writes great stories. You have guessed it , number four on this list is: to keep reading books; books you fully understand and others you do not understand. He advises that I keep reading those I do not understand until I do!

At one point in my life, I looked for the books I had enjoyed reading while growing up. These included: Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations , Oliver Twist
Jeffrey Archers’ As the Crow Flies, Honor Among Thieves, Sons of Fortune.
George Orwell’s Animal Farm
Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers
Peter Wright’s Spycatcher
To my amazement and delight I picked up more meaning and depth from each book and understood the stories better.

As I write articles to post on this blog, I read widely about each topic since I am writing to inform, educate and entertain the readers. The more I read, the easier it becomes for me to bring out the good and ugly about anything. Reading opens my mind to other people’s view and opinions and this helps me to understand the world better. It also stretches my imagination which in itself helps me find the significance and beauty in my life. Once my imagination is let loose then I can be more creative in my writing and my capacity to create stories in dreams and fantasies in enhanced. I keep learning new things then I change and grow. Reading makes my writing better, more detailed and more lifelike.
Joseph Harold Bunting advises a writer to learn about anything without becoming an expert. He is of the view that once you become an expert, you can no longer learn anything new and once you stop leaning anything new, you become stale and uninspired.  By sheer coincidence ,the theme for my blog is : Learning is a Lifetime job.
This same author believes that a writer never stops learning how to write.

The books I read influence my style of writing so if I read great books by great artists then my writing would get better over time.
In this respect, he quotes T.S Eliot, the great modernist poet: “Immature poets imitate, mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make into something better or at least something different.’’
It is normal to steal ideas from great artists. This is step number six on his list.
He also advises me to build my own community of people who inspire me and some of these should be writers for no one becomes a writer on their own. Creating great art requires maturity, skill and wisdom.

As a writer continues to read and write, he/she has to be a keen observer of her/his surroundings to draw attention to the injustice, evil and deaths and good things around.
The pain, loss and suffering in our own lives and in the lives of those around us shapes our lives and influences the stories we write.
The author Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten, even so, they have made me.’’
And author Madeleine L’ Engle said: “A book too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.”
Let us keep reading and writing to grow and develop at a deeper level. After all, learning is a lifetime job.

Thank you for reading this post. I would be extremely grateful if you left a comment about how  reading, reading and writing have transformed your life.

 

Reading to Remember

Many times I have watched my octogenarian mother walk to her bedroom only to come back empty- handed and bewildered. Then she would look me into the eye and ask,  “What was I looking for?”
Occasionally she forgets what she has forgotten. It is a frightening place to be.
This age-related forgetfulness has been creeping in slowly and her only consolation is that she is still mobile, independent and remembers the names of most the people around her. We both know what this is all about and that it will get worse as time goes by. I try to reassure her, encourage her to use her brain by reading some of the books she has collected over the years. Being a traditional Catholic, she has many books about the Church in Uganda and about the Uganda martyrs. I have been encouraging her to read all these books mainly to engage her brain and slow down the age-related memory loss. I know very well that just like any primary school child who assumes that the teacher knows everything, my mother would trust her physician more than me. So each time she visits her physician, he reminds her of the need to keep her brain active.

“We age differently. As we grow old, the brain function declines,’’ he has explained to her a number of times. “Like any muscle in your body, the brain cells need to be stimulated. The more you engage your brain, the slower it takes its function to decline.
She has taken this as a law so she will not allow anyone to help her find a contact in her phone. So far so good. She is concerned about the body aches but content that she can do many things for herself.
The physician advised her to spend at least thirty minutes exercising every day. Physical activity improves mood and sleep. Exercise stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain that affect the health of the brain cells. He advised her to eat the oily fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acid at least three times a week. The Fatty acid improves central blood flow and reduces inflammation. She also takes a supplement of Omega 3+6+9. He advised her to eat plenty of spinach and kale for Magnesium and Zinc necessary for good brain function.When the physician and his patient are discussing such important issues, I the attendant fall silent.
“What about prayer ?’’
“It relaxes your body and mind so it is good for you too.’’

Juan Rulfo said: “Nothing can last forever. There is n’t any memory, no matter how intense that does n’t fade out at last.’’
As we travel back home, my mother is scrolling through her phone contacts quietly. It gives me time to think of what I have taken from the whole experience. Twenty years from now, I could be where my mother is now. However, I could slow down the brain aging by keeping the brain as active as possible. I could take up some new skills or even learn a new language like Swahili. Thankfully, filling crosswords is one of my staples. “What about trying SUDOKU , the number puzzle video game?’’ I ask myself out loud.
I have been a voracious reader since the age of six and now I am doing a lot of writing. I believe my brain must have grown big enough to resist showing signs of memory loss for long.

Suddenly I remembered that my youngest son installed a Brain Workout CD from the HAPPY-neuron Website on my Desktop four years ago. I should even be ashamed to admit to you that I have never gone beyond “Warm Up” training exercises. From Warm Up, there are Coach exercises: chosen for me by my Brain Workout coach. These are followed by “Challenge” to test my skills. At the end I was to get a personalized analysis and feedback from the website.
I shook my head in disbelief, “Sure, I’ve never begun. I need to do more with my mind to slow down age-related memory loss and maintain mental function. It is my life and the choice is entirely mine.
As they say : Forewarned, forearmed.

Norman Doidge said: “Not all activities are equal in this regard. Those that involve genuine concentration- studying a musical instrument, playing board games, reading and dancing- are associated with lower risk for dementia. Dancing which requires learning new moves, is both physically and mentally challenging and requires much concentration. Less intense activities, such as bowling, babysitting and golfing are not associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s.’’
I would add that like learning a foreign language, the earlier you start the better.

Thank you for reading this post. Kindly leave a comment about it and feel free to share it with family and friends. The biological clock is ticking and demands that each one of us prepares for the future.

 

 

 

 

Writers Write,Write and Read.

The best way to become a good writer is to keep writing, writing and reading. The more you read, the better you become at writing. The more you write, the better you will get. Reading grows your mind while writing expands your soul. I am a regular reader of books, magazines and newspapers for pleasure and empowerment but at the same time I do a lot of reading about the topic I am writing about for the blog. Good writing comes from good reading. Each article I write helps me to grow mentally, emotionally and spiritually. As I read, ideas come to me and that is how I get to choose what topic I should write about. It is not surprising that when I am not sure what to write about I just pick up a book or magazine to read and this usually starts my creative juices flowing. A notebook and a pen are my handy writing tools. Writing things down in my own handwriting tends to clarify them for me.

As I read, all my senses including imagination are stimulated and my mind comes up with new ideas. I get immersed into the author’s thoughts and feelings. Reading makes me empathetic and this makes me understand others’ thoughts and feelings better. It improves my vocabulary and refreshes my memory. I gain greater knowledge of literature, science and practical knowledge.
I tend to feel exciting new experiences; others force me to revisit my childhood while others help me to see things as though I had never seen them before.
Vera Nazarian an Armenian-Russian writer said: “ Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.”
Proverb 15:23 of the Book of Proverbs of the Bible says: What a joy it is to find just the right word for the right occasion.
Sometimes what I am looking for is a simple word or phrases to slot in my post and on most occasions I find it in a book, magazine or newspaper that I am reading. You may not be able to imagine the smile on my face under such circumstances.

Studies done in USA and Europe have shown that a lifetime of reading preserves mental ability, preserves memory and slows down the signs of dementia.
To fully enjoy the benefits of consistent reading, one must start early in childhood. Maya Angelou’s advice still holds true. She said that : “ Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.’’
For any avid reader, it is exciting to be alive during the Digital era. The Digital books can be easily downloaded using your e-reader, smart phone or a mobile tablet. The biggest challenge now is finding the time to read all those books.
The writers will continue to write the best books they can and we the readers will go out there to buy them and read them for knowledge, entertainment, adventure and fun.

Thank you for reading this post. I would love to hear how consistent reading has influenced your life. Feel free to share this post with family and friends.

 

Obsession With the Written Word

Reading books has been an integral part of me as far as I can remember. I started off with the simple, timeless Lady Bird books and before I knew it , I was reading newspapers daily then graduated to the African Writers series. I can never thank my late father enough for giving me this great gift. Each morning he would buy the London’s Daily Mirror, Kenya’s Daily Nation, Uganda Argus and the local Daily. We read for pleasure but as well as to understand and late in the evening to discuss the main issues with him. The Missionary school I attended for all my years of formal education had one of the biggest school libraries in the country and this boosted my obsession. I was introduced to classical literature, poetry, biographies and fiction novels. These books captured my curiosity and imagination and I cannot remember how many times I was found hiding in the pantry literary on my knees and immersed in a book after the 10:00pm Lights Out siren. I always served the punishment in silence. Since then I have read books on public buses, trains, planes, in washrooms, in a clinic while waiting for the next patient to enter.

As a teenager, I experienced wonder as I read the books and over time, I was touched by them. I learned much about life, was changed by what I read and was greatly empowered. They say that: Knowledge is power; I have always acted on the knowledge I had acquired to improve my life.
Reading has helped me to keep abreast with scientific breakthroughs, literature and global events. Through the books I have visited almost all the countries in the world. For the price of a novel, I had become a global citizen long before the Internet came along. At one time I was a self-appointed tracker of the Cambridge Five. These were British intelligence members led by Kim Philby who worked as double agents .Then I followed the Nazi War Criminals who fled to South America. The capture of Adolf Eichmann the Holocaust mastermind and the trial of 94 years old of Oskar Groening, the Book keeper of Auschwitz are among the most captivating reads. A few other war criminals now in their nineties are still alive and I am still following them in print. Currently I am following up a number of other historical events locally and globally to make sense of them.

Then, in come the Internet and this changes how we read, write and share information forever. I can now follow anything, any writer or artist that I am interested in. The e-books offer a steady supply of books to read on your fingertips. I am a member of Scribd, a digital library, e-book and audiobook subscription service. On many occasions it offers me to read free a number of novels of my taste for 30 days. My biggest problem is finding the time to read even two of the Top Picks for me. Having said that, it has never been as exciting as it is today to be a voracious reader. I am really spoilt for choice. As I get older, my preferences change, I now read more biographies than fiction to learn from real experiences and attain more wisdom. What I know for sure is that I am now an unstoppable reader.

While researching material for this post, I looked up the benefits of reading consistently. I was not surprised by what I found for I have known them since my junior school days.
Reading keeps the brain active and engaged and slows down the progress of Alzheimer’s and dementia. It opens you up to new ideas; renewing your mind and heart.
Losing yourself in a great story reduces stress and relaxes you.
It improves focus and concentration. This is important in this digital era where we all tend to be multitasking.
It equips us with analytical thinking skills. As you read you have to weave things together.
It gives us knowledge which we can use to overcome challenges in life. The earlier you start to read consistently the greater the benefit. You just keep growing and no one can take that knowledgeaway from you. On the other hand, reading is a form of free entertainment.
For emerging writers like me, reading teaches us better writing skills: you hone your skills by learning from the masters of the craft. The more you read, the better you write.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o ( formerly )James Ngugi , East Africa’s most prominent writer said:
“Stories, like food, lose their flavor if cooked in a hurry.”

I conclude by inviting the young and old who have not yet developed the habit of reading consistently to start after reading this post. It is never too late to pick up a good habit. You are missing out greatly on acquiring knowledge of literature, science and practical knowledge.
Victor Hugo said: “ To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled is a spark.”

Thank you for visiting my Blog and reading this post. May it inspire you to continue reading consistently. I would loveto read your comments on how developing a reading habit has transformed your life. Please feel free to share the post with family and friends.

 

 

A Catalogue of Names

A few years back , I stood in a queue with my daughter at the Zambian border. It was a warm, sunny day with clear blue skies. Both of us were dressed in blue jeans, T-shirts, sneakers and baseball caps.
Call it perfect timing, there were not more than ten travellers in the queue and before long, we were handing in our two passports to the immigration officer. He greeted us with a smile then combed through our passports one at a time.
As he handed my daughter her passport he said, “ Young lady, with this catalogue of names; you’re either the only girl in the family or the eldest child or the youngest .”
My daughter smiled, “I’m the only girl and the youngest of the three children.’’

Before setting off, I checked my daughter’s passport. She had six names in all compared to four in mine!
I even do not know how they had managed to copy all the names on the birth certificate straight into the passport. Instantly I remembered how we had arrived at these six names; her father had given her his maternal grandmother’s name, one of his aunt’s name and I had given her my mother’s name and one other name I had always admired. A week after she was born, one of the paternal grandmothers had come to welcome her into the family. She had taken one look at her and said, “Oh! She looks like my third sister. She should take her name.”
On seeing their interest and amusement , I accepted. For the aunt, a child symbolized the future while a grandchild symbolized continuity and conveyed permanence.
Names give us identity, roots and a sense of belonging. Each one starts off as an individual belonging to a family, community and a country. Belonging is being accepted as a member or part. The psychologists tell us that a sense of belonging increases meaningfulness of life. You go through life without feeling alone and this boosts your intellectual level, social skills, mental health and physical health.

I for one was the eldest girl in the family and I was named after my paternal grandmother, my only paternal aunt and my mother’s best friend in the Nursing and Midwifery Training School. The aunt also ended up as one of my godparents. She took her responsibility seriously and as I grew up, she became my friend, mentor and sponsor. She made sure that I grew into a well behaved, disciplined and helpful young woman. I admired her relative independence in the home and her kindness. I learned a lot of good things from her like sharing the little you have with others, putting your family first and using your talents and skills to lift others up. Looking back now, I have to admit that she influenced my life positively.

The names we are given give us multiple dimensions of our identity. The surname or family name links you to your family and lineage. This has been going on for generations and in the Bible when the boy who later grew up to become ‘John the Baptist’ was given the name John, the friends and neighbours were surprised. They raised their concern, “But you have no relatives with that name!’’
Marcus T. Cicero( 106BC-43BC) said: “ The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.’’
The living has to pay attention to the names he/she is given and grow into them without losing her/his identity. Indeed you belong somewhere and it should make sense to you.

Thank you for reading this post. I would like to hear the story behind your names. Please feel free to share this post among family and friends.