Monday, September 29, 2014

This feels like 36.

36 is that age.

That age where you are neither young nor old. You have the liberty of officially declaring yourself old when you clock 40, I think? Or maybe you don’t? Ever? Life begins at 40 anyway, right? Middle age is what this is; a tad confusing because you are neither here nor there. Neither hip nor extinct. You are in between being cool and being so outdated.

36 is that age where you are no longer content with status quo. It is that age where you grow tired of mere talk and yearn for more action. You want things to change. You want to leave a mark. This is the age where the bucket list is unleashed with zeal and thrown thunderously onto the table for serious consideration. POW!

If you don’t allow its liminality to get to you, this is the age where your dreams seem so reachable. You are vibrant and energetic enough to go for what you want. You have the confidence and the zeal to leap without fear of landing face first. You have sure steps. You know your strengths and you understand your weaknesses. You are ok with that. You are ok with all of you.

You feel attractive, still. Ironically, you don’t care much for physical attributes as you do the non-physical. You don’t walk into a room or stroll across the street and get an ego boost at the number of stares and catcalls that follow you. Or do you? You however find fulfillment in connecting intellectually. You are enthralled by a man’s mind as opposed to his abs and broad chest. You don’t judge books by their covers anymore. You delve deeper. Scratch beneath the surface. In the process, you lose respect for people you initially held in awe only to scratch beneath the surface and find nothing.

At 36, your patience wans. You become intolerant about hanging around pretenders. You appreciate people who are real. Those who don’t try to pretend that they have it all together – who does anyway? You are drawn to people who are clear on what they want out of life. You love the honest prostitute and abhor the promiscuous bible-wielding nun, so to speak.

You don’t waste time on arguments anymore. If at this age, they still don’t know what you stand for. What makes you tick. What ticks you off.  What your principles are. You cannot help them. Not at 36. Surely there are better, urgent, more productive, more important things to do than to make someone see your point. You either agree, or agree to disagree. Life goes on.

And we only live once. Get on with the living.

You learn to let go. Especially of the adults that you might have, sorta, in one way or another, ‘babied’ for a while. At some point, you might have conceitedly thought that you could solve all problems for those who came to you.  Thankfully, you grew up enough to realize that grownups have the capacity to take care of themselves. You offered unsolicited advice,  talked to them about this and that. The importance of doing this and living like this as opposed to the other way.  Then you got tired.  It took you a while but you managed to finally see that an adult will (and rightfully so) do whatever they damn well please. That is one of the perks that come with adulthood; freedom. Every one of them is entitled to their own mistakes. Your attitude, now that you're 36, towards adults who insist on making glaring mistakes is summed up in two words; your life.

Arrgh! But mediocrity  tires you. It really does! You strive for excellence. You want to explore more. Travel more. Feel more. Achieve more. Do more. Read more. Ultimately, write more.

You are not just a dilettante anymore. You are the real deal. The Da Vinci. The Elvis Presley. You have purpose and you are committed to it.

At 36, you grab your dreams with both hands and refuse to let anything, anyone take them away from you. You are going in. Full throttle. No holds barred.

Maybe it’s just me?

Yeah. This indeed feels like 36. The countdown begins; it is exactly one week since I turned 36. This will go down in history as the age at which I wrote my first book . The age at which dreams transitioned to reality; I bought my first car, I travelled the world. I made a mark.

I am grabbing these dreams.

Not letting go.

Not letting go.

Have a productive week!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Storymoja Festival: Reading is so cool!

I was washing the dishes in the kitchen one day when Hailey brought her plastic chair and sat behind me. She had her bible story books in her hands. She had; The Miracles of Jesus, Joseph and His Brothers, and The Birth of Jesus. I asked her what she was up to and she told me that she wanted to read. She started reading quietly. “Why don’t you read aloud?” I asked her. She read aloud and I listened as I did the dishes.

It was an interesting dish-washing experience. I got to listen to my six year old daughter read and I was able to teach her how to pronounce difficult words in the process. I am happy to have a daughter who reads because reading is a good thing.

I remember my father buying us storybooks when we were young. Each one of us owned a book that we held onto for a long time. They included Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Charles Dicken’s Hard Times & David Copperfield, and Anthony Hope’s The Prisoner of Zenda.

Growing up, I saw my father grab a book and get immersed in it so dedicatedly. There was a shelf full of books (which exists to this day) from where we would once in a while make our own selection and share in the reading  experience. That experience was invaluable.

Since then, I have read books that left me shaking my head in disapproval or nodding my head furiously in approval. With every book, I have been able to learn. A lot. My emotions have been stirred by authors who made me cry and laugh. I have been angered, while on other occasions, I have been deeply impressed. Books have had me thinking about stuff. I have changed my opinion about stuff. I have made discoveries, travelled to different worlds with different people in different times. Reading has made me learn. It has made me write better. Speak better. It has helped shape my dreams. It has sharpened my mind.

I am glad to have had the chance to peep into the reading culture and entering deeper and deeper, to a point of no return. I am aware of the transformation that happens between the time one opens a book to begin reading from the first page, to the time one closes the same book having read it to the last page. I am privy of the fact that every book one reads does not leave one the same way it found them. That we learn from each reading experience. I want the same for my children.  

Reading is cool. I know that. Do you know that? The Storymoja Festival begins this Wednesday the 17th through to the 21st of September. During the festival, there are events that will be too important to miss. Case in point is the Reading is cool! Kusoma ni Poa!  event that will be held on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 8.30 to 9.15am. This reading anthem (click here to listen) will be sung by the Grace Children’s Centre choir. They will perform and launch their CD during the festival. Listen in. Dance to it. Teach it to your children- I intend to teach it to Hailey and Heidi too. Share it and let it become a powerful tool for spreading the reading culture in Nairobi and beyond.

If I will be anything, I will not be that mother who never taught her children the importance of reading. A reading child is a knowledgeable child. A knowledgeable child is a strong child. A strong child is a grounded child, a confident child. If my reading has anything to do with who I have become, then I can confidently say that a reading child is a fearless child. Unashamed to live their lives the best way they deem fit. A reading child grows to become a sage.

During these times when the reading culture in Nairobi has degenerated due to the attention given to video games and cartoons as the quintessential pastime for children, you need to introduce your children to the magical experience that comes with holding a book between their hands. Read for them. Read with them. Encourage them to read for you. Read together. Read.

Since you guys are dear to me, I will give one of you a complimentary ticket to the Storymoja Festival to be held at the Nairobi National Museum. If you are interested in attending the weekend events on the 20th or 21st Sept, all you need to do is to email me between now and Thursday at and share with me what your favourite book is to date and why.

The Storymoja Festival weekend events include a session with Dr. Kinyanjui Nganga on Parenting and Marriage, a children’s book launch of The Lizard and the Rock with author Joanne Ball-Burgess, a discussion with award winning Kenyan journalist Jeff Koinange as he talks about his memoir- Through My African Eyes, a Wangari Maathai Memorial Lecture delivered by Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka from Nigeria (I know!). There will be exhibitions, talks by Tony Mochama aka Smitta, Caine Prize winners - Okwiri Oduor and Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (I know!) There will be hot conversations, Poetry, storytelling, Mchongoano, film screening… Go on, hit my inbox and grab that ticket!

Oh, almost forgot - Sauti Sol will also be there. I Know! (sigh!) They together with Berry Heart of Botswana and Dizraeli from UK will steer the Jaza Matatu na vitabu concert to raise money for in order to stock libraries in schools. Storymoja Festival attendees will literally get to jaza matatu na vitabu. Reading is such serious business!

Do me a favor and let your children, your young nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters…this young generation, let them know that reading is cool. Reading is oh-so-cool!

Have a cool week!

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Reward

We are doing breakfast, my sisters and I. My dad did something interesting with our names. He named his first two daughter names beginning with (I), the last two he gave names starting with (V) then for the middle daughter, who sits smack in the middle of the I’s and the V’s he distinguishingly gave a name starting with ‘R’. Granted, this must have been a coincidence since there is no way he could have known beforehand that he would have five girls in succession. But still, the coincidence is uncanny.

Breakfast it is, at my sister’s place. Now such gatherings are normally very interesting because there is laughter, there is madness then there are the arguments. Part of the fun of having siblings is for the fights right?

I see how Hailey and Heidi do it. One day they are the best of buddies, throwing in the ‘sister’ word here and there in their sentences. “Mum, sister yangu anataka maji ya kunywa” Heidi says as she comes to fetch drinking water for Hailey. Or Hailey insists on giving Heidi a piggyback ride, and when I try to warn her that they might both fall down, Hailey reminds me “Si Heidi ni sister yangu?” – Like that has anything to do with anything. On other days however, the sisterhood is thrown out the window and they scratch each other’s faces, and a stern “Hauna miguu?” is shot when one asks the other to bring her something. That is what siblingry (if such a word exists) is all about: Fighting with love.

Ever watched the series Brothers and Sisters? You get to witness typical sibling behavior in this series; the gossiping of a sibling by the others to a point that it finally reaches the gossipee and all hell breaks loose; the formation of alliances against one common ‘enemy’; the silent treatment of yet another sibling for a reason they have no clue about, and so on. I seriously need to catch up on this series from season 4 onwards.

This post is going somewhere, I promise.

Breakfast at my sister’s. I am charged with preparing Sandwiches.  All five of us have a thing about well cooked, adequately spiced (masala) tea that has enough milk. I therefore steered away from tea preparation because the pressure my friend. The pressure! No, sandwiches were much safer. Every time we visit each other, we  prepare tea with precision. We just don’t take kindly to mediocre tea. You will be forgiven for forgetting to add the key ingredient to your recipe; say, pilau masala to your pilau, but not for serving ill-brewed tea. Be forewarned.

I swear this post is not about tea. Nor is it about food.

So, breakfast. Me, sandwiches. Others prepare sausages. A brave soul takes on the tea while my older sister is busy attending to her 7month old baby. We are chatting about the most recent series. In between this flurry of activities, we mention the series Scandal. Most of us agree that it ain’t all that.  Olivia pope? Meh! There is absolutely nothing phenomenal about Olivia pope. We decide.

“Which series is that again?” my eldest sister asks

“Scandal” all of us reply

She shrugs “I don’t know about movies or series anymore. I don’t watch them”

We all nod in understanding. We all assumed that her little boy is taking most of her time. I remember how it took a while with Hailey and Heidi for my life to become ‘normal’ again. It took months to finally get some alone time or even manage a trip to the hairdresser’s. Between her job and taking care of the baby, we understood how hard it was to squeeze in a few hours of TV.

“But you need to grab some ‘me’ time whenever you get the chance.”  we offered our advice.

To which she said “No. I wouldn’t do that”

“Why?” we were curious.

“Not now. Maybe a year from now. I don’t know… I consider it as rewarding myself for a task I haven’t even completed yet. ” she replied.

 “Wow!” “Deep!” “Aaaw!” we all said in unison.

 “See, I look forward to his first birthday. In fact, his first birthday will not be about him. His first birthday will be about me. I will then reward myself. But not now” she continued

I had a tear in my eye which I swiftly wiped away.

That was the most beautiful thing I heard someone saying that day.

That was a mother putting a part of her life on hold to deliberately focus on her young son. I found that utterly profound. I Still do.

He is a beautiful boy, my nephew. He is a happy child. When he grows up, I will rat on her mother. I will tell him what his mother did for him. How she took care of him meticulously.

Make no mistake; Mothers. Are. Awesome!

Have an Awesome Week?