Tuesday, 29 December 2015

#BringOn2016




2014 and 2015 have been years of internal growth for me. I have been truly stretched. And strangely enough, I find myself grateful. Maybe because I can now, somehow, see the wisdom behind the struggle, I have gratitude.

There has been some necessary maturing of Maria; in ways the Lord deemed critical for the journey that lies ahead….. so much so that I am looking forward to seeing what the years to come bring.

I have some ideas in my head!

Concepts churning in my brain, waiting to be released. 

Collaborations born in my dreams that must come to fruition.

Colorful Post-It Notes scattered across my bedroom wall

Sleepless nights of blissful creativity

If I am going to do this then I must give 100% and bypass the fear –filled voices in my head.

I’ll see you in 2016…. #BringOn2016 #ChooseToLive

What have you learnt in 2015, and where are you going in 2016? Please Share...I'd love to know.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

CHRISTMAS EVE: Finally I am feeling the Christmas Spirit!

My digital Christmas card! you like?




I am officially feeling the Christmas spirit! It's 9.13 am Christmas eve in Kampala, Uganda. So I feel like sharing the one story that makes it feel like Christmas for me. Let's not forget its all about Jesus, tomorrow, Christmas day.


The Birth of Jesus 

(Luke, Chapter 2 v1-21, International Version)
 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  
And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  
He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  
10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  
11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  
12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  
17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  
19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Breaking The BogeyMan’s Spell!





 
He became my real life bogeyman, always waiting in corners to frighten me, and cripple me. I know am not victim though, because I gave away my power out of fear.  I believed he was more important, and stronger than me.  But it was all an illusion.

When you're a child, no one believes you when you scream out in the night after another supposed sighting of the bogeyman, but they play along. They come in, switch on the lights, check the curtains, check under the bed. They give you a hug,  offer to bring you hot chocolate, and then they start to reassure you that there is nothing there. They assure you that you are safe,  and then calmly wait for you fall asleep.  My big brother used to tell me that monsters are just Plasticine  and really good makeup. With confident assurance, all my fears would be forgotten in the morning. Until of course, it was night time then the whole drama would play out again.  My real life bogeyman made me feel frightened during the day. I thought that I was making things up in my head, letting my fear get the best of me but this MAN used the technique of “gas-lighting”, so I constantly doubted myself . 

Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.

 
Pay attention ladies and gentlemen, this  technique is used by people who like to control others.  Unaware, this is exactly how you end up falling under the spell of your own bogeyman, and this is also how domestic violence begins. Lucky enough for me, there was no physical violence. Occasionally, I find myself  I thinking back through all the moments, and how easily I doubted myself. I spent sleepless nights wondering how he would mentally attack me. I would call friends early in morning complaining that I couldn’t sleep. 

 A #selflove path is something everyone takes alone.  I read somewhere that the imaginary creatures created in our childhood, are simply the worst parts of humanity manifesting in our folktales. I imagine the journey of #selflove being about conquering those elements in ourselves. Along the way, you meet all the creatures that you were frightened of, and face them head on. The gremlin, The dragon, The goblin, The ghosts, The werewolf, etc…  Nobody can fight this mental battle except you. Your trusted family and friends can encourage you along the way but they can’t fight with you, because while you are having alterations with dragons and exercising demons, the action is all taking place in your head.   

It was a constant mind battle for weeks, to remind myself that I deserved to be treated better. I had to look myself in the mirror and begrudgingly remind myself every day. Somewhere in my childhood, I taught myself I wasn’t worthy of a healthy relationship, and I had to admit it, and address  the issue.  He (the bogeyman) enjoyed every minute of my struggle. He unashamedly marveled in it. The very reason I call him the bogeyman, is because he loves to watch people suffer.  He feeds off fear.I dodged a bullet. I was able to dodge this particular bullet, because I had such a good support system of friends and family.  I was given the opportunity to slowly and reluctantly back away and look for greener meadows.  A healthy relationship. 



 I know I wouldn’t have started this journey without  the bogeyman’s actions. If we were still dating, I would have happily continued my self-destructive pattern of being nice to people who were horrible to me. I would have continued to let him and others pull me a part piece by piece, all the while thinking there was something wrong with me, that I needed to fix. I would have given and given, and never demanded my share in return.  I didn’t believe I was worth anything. Somewhere inside something erupted, and I had to fight the urge to repeat the pattern. Shockingly, painful experiences, after much refection, can be weird and wonderful. They break you apart , and cause all the negative energy to rise up in you, and it refuses to go away until you’ve dealt with it. I was forced to look inside myself. I was forced to look at the parts of me that I hated. I was forced to be alone with myself. I forced to get comfortable with the things I thought were wrong with me.Alone by myself,  I learnt to be extremely honest with God. Let’s just say our conversations got more real and candid. The  #selflove journey forces you to look at all the above negative thoughts that pop into you head and ask yourself “why?.... why are you here in my head? …..How did you get here?.... Who brought you here?”. One by one, I had to figure out their origin, and then I had ask myself  really cliche questions…





I didn’t love myself. I told people that I did but I didn’t. I have invited a lot of odd people into my life and I have accepted a lot of odd behavior towards myself. I could no longer willingly engage in such behavior without correcting myself

My nieces and nephews are officially my favourite people.  Once my nephew tried to explain to me that he was bullied for being himself, he didn’t like it and he was upset. He wished he was someone other than himself.  He disliked the fact that he couldn’t change it. He was upset that he could not fix this situation or make it perfect.   I told him that I loved him,  that he was special, and that when people were hurting  they hurt other people.  I realized months later that I could be compassionate with my nephew but I could not be compassionate with myself. 

 I now listen like a beloved aunt to my internal conversations, in the same way I watch my nephew interact with the world. There is a way to correct yourself without hating yourself. I have slowly started putting up boundaries, and I found the strength to speak up against bad behavior. To even walk away from people who will not address their  negative actions.  On this #selflove  journey you take responsibility for yourself, and though it sounds cliché, it’s no longer what happens to you, but what you allow to happen to you. How do you see yourself? How do you allow people to treat you? I had to learn to be a real friend to myself, which in turn made me question the friendships I have made in the past, and also the type of friend I was in the past.


I know there are many people who appear to have their lives together, who have never been on the #selflove journey before, and because of that they struggle to enjoy their achievements because the approval of others is too important. They especially hate those who are happy with nothing because they just can’t understand. Something happened the other day though… I looked in mirror smiled and winked, I made a joke with myself. You thinking this is extremely weird, right?… but to me it’s somehow special. Only those on this journey can understand it. I can take care of myself.  I’ll stick to that for now, until God decides otherwise.

Here's a lovely video for those of you that would like to officially start the journey

Monday, 14 December 2015

MY FIRST MEMORY (OF LIBRARIANS)

by Nikki Giovanni

This is my first memory:
A big room with heavy wooden tables that sat on a creaky
wood floor
A line of green shades—bankers’ lights—down the center
Heavy oak chairs that were too low or maybe I was simply
too short
For me to sit in and read
So my first book was always big

In the foyer up four steps a semi-circle desk presided
To the left side the card catalogue
On the right newspapers draped over what looked like
a quilt rack
Magazines face out from the wall
The welcoming smile of my librarian
The anticipation in my heart
All those books — another world — just waiting
At my fingertips.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

#InvestInUGchildren Media Tour: A Special Space Just for Children

 There has been a lot of talk about #refugees in the media lately, so it shouldn't really come as a big surprise to learn that we visited a refugee settlement during the #InvestInUGchildren media tour. #Uganda hosts over 130,000 refugees in the districts of #Adjumani, #Arua, #Koboko, #Yumbe and #Kiryandongo. 85% are women and children, and it is well known that these are the most vulnerable groups when it comes to conflict and war. The  #Kiryandongo refugee settlement has 45,000 refugees from South Sudan, Kenya and Rwanda. We spent some time at Panyadoli child friendly space, and although, it was pouring with rain the community showed up, excited to meet these visitors from UNICEF and share their stories with key media houses. 1215 children can access this one space. In fact some of these children learn how to read and write for the first time in this special space. It's actually the perfect place for staff to carry out psych-social assessments of the children and see whether they require any additional needs, as result of the trauma they have experienced. My favorite part was when one boy proudly stood up to show our Chief of Communications how well he could read, and all the women around him cheered him on as though all of them were his mothers. No matter what is happening in life, Children should always be allowed to be children, and it's great that spaces like this remind children to play, have fun and be curious. #InvestInUGchildren
(Photo Credit: UNICEF Uganda)

Monday, 7 December 2015

#InvestInUGchildren Media Tour: Teenage Pregnancy in Arua District

I wrote this on the 5th December 2015 during the UNICEF Uganda Media Tour

It's a humid Saturday morning when we arrive at Bondo Health center in our air-conditioned land rovers to have a meeting with health workers, teenage mothers and community members. I enter the stuffy metal tin roofed meeting room a little late, and find everyone settled on concrete benches. All eyes are on a young pregnant woman in the corner, I realise as the discussion is going on that she is not really a full grown adult woman, she is a pregnant teenage girl. Her hands are shaking she can barely get a word out of her mouth. Her eyes keep darting around the room looking for help. Anyone would feel nervous too, imagine sitting in a room full of strangers while they ask you, "How could you allow yourself to get pregnant?" "Will you be returning to school once you've had the baby?" It must be too overwhelming for a young girl like her, I doubt she ever considered the consequences of her pregnancy. We continue to ask our questions as though we understand (with our NGO jargon) what it means to be a girl like her. We ask our questions as though opportunities in this area are growing and falling off trees like unwanted over-ripe mangoes. At first she refuses to answer the questions and others decide to answer for her, They say "Her father died, Her mother went mad, there is nobody to guide her....." Finally my boss asks, " What happened to the man who made her pregnant?" There is some mumbling among the participants which dies down immediately and then the question is forgotten, and silence returns. Again my boss insists, "What happened to the man who made her pregnant?" To which there is silence until one brave middle-aged man stands up and says, "You see if she lived closer to me I would have advised her like a daughter to stay away from men, but the children of these days they are different. What can we do?" He shrugs his shoulders and sits down. He seems proud of himself thinking he has said what the NGOs want him to say. But they have still failed to answer the question. This man who impregnated her has quite simply and quickly been absolved of all responsibility. By now the young girl has already made her way to the back the room. Now unrecognizable among the crowd, she can relax and let them talk as though she isn't there. Eventually my boss asks another question, "What would the women in this community like to see happen so that girls are better protected from defilement?" He kindly gestures towards the women in the room as he talks to the translator. First there is silence, except for the children playing outside. My boss asks his question again and some smiles appear on the women's faces. Can you imagine a man actually ignoring what the men have said and now seeking their opinion? Then finally one among many is brave enough to stand up and say, "Here we have no voice. In our community it is the men who make all the decisions. Even if it is our hardwork that brings in the income, it makes no difference, for it is the men who decide how to spend the money, some days you can even fight with your husband to pay school fees for your children." ‪#‎Arua‬ ‪#‎InvestInUGchildren‬




#InvestInUGchildren Media Tour: 'Courtship Rape' in Moroto, Karamoja


I wrote this on the 4th December 2015, during UNICEF Uganda Media Tour

Yesterday I learnt that people can use courtship, rape and girl child in the same sentence and not flinch. Courtship rape is when a girl as young as 12 years old is chased down by a group of men and raped by the one who wants to marry her. I learnt that a girl's very own family can shame her for not being strong enough to fight off these men. A lot of good work is being done to change harmful practices against women and girls in ‪#‎Uganda‬. Through this, I hope we can be the generation that leaves a legacy of protecting the girl child. Rape should never equal marriage. No girl should ever feel ashamed for something she had no control over. ‪#‎EndChildMarriage‬ ‪#‎InvestInUGchildren‬