Thursday, August 1, 2019

MY NEW VOCATION?

Confucius said, 'Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.' I agree with him totally. All the years that I was lecturing in the university, I enjoyed my seminar rooms and lecture halls filled with students. So now that the rooms have faded into very pleasant memories, I'm en route to a new vocation.


Today is Friendship Day and I suspect every day is some special day as well. Isn't it lovely to be surrounded by friends near and far who care for you? I don't want to be just a friend, I want to be a true friend.

And I am learning and I am simply amazed when I get lovely comments like: 'You are an amazing friend and I am so lucky that I have gotten to know you. ' <3<3<3

So what makes a true friend?

1) “An acquaintance merely enjoys your company, a fair-weather companion flatters when all is well, a true friend has your best interests at heart and the pluck to tell you what you need to hear.” 
― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly,

I think we all have our collection of acquaintances and fair-weather companions. People who say 'howya?' and 'See you later'. That's just being friendly but that doesn't make a true friend. Nobody wants to stick out and annoy you and  tell you things you don't want to hear about yourself that are so plain to everyone else. It takes a true friend out of love to do that. Not only does she tell you how you are destroying yourself but she also encourages you to be your potential and to taste the honey dripping from the honeycomb.

2.“There are still some wonderful people left in this world! They are diamonds in the rough, but they're around! You'll find them when you fall down– they're the ones who pick you up, who don't judge, and you had to fall down to see them! When you get up again, remember who your true friends are!” 
― C. JoyBell C.

i would say I have found such wonderful people. Usually people who do not judge are people who have walked a similar road like yourself. It is such a comfort when people listen and not hear. It is less annoying when people stop preaching or throwing out bible verses at you even though you have read the bible twice over.

3. Don't wait for people to be friendly. Show them how. - Unknown

The thing is, if you are looking for a wonderful friend, you must be prepared to be one yourself. And it takes effort and time and sincerity. You will need to remember things that are special to her - her birthday for instance, and not depend on facebook to remind you. You will need to have those coffee moments, when it's just the two of you having a cuppa and not staring at the television in the room or wondering who is that motley crowd that has walked in and do you know them?

4. A good friend is one who thinks you are a good egg even when she knows you are slightly cracked.

i think this is hilarious but it is true. No one's perfect and we all have our idiosyncrasies. We have good days and bad days. Days of raging hormones and days of no hormones, if you get what I mean. But it is accepting the person in totality and not to be too overly sensitive over some perceived indifference. 

5. True friendship is not about being separable. It is being separated and nothing changes.

Very true. We make new good friends but we must not neglect those that we have left behind. Inevitably space and time may pose as challenges but i can safely say I have true friends in Ireland and other parts of the world.


6. Be loyal in confidence and character (Peggy Turner Beatty)

What is told to you in confidence remains in confidence. 

7. Show up! (Sherri Levy)

Be there in person when possible, in sympathy and in joy.  True friends are rare. Treasure them and put effort into sustaining the friendship .

Busyness is a choice. Priorities are choices.

8. AND THIS IS TO ALL MY TRUE FRIENDS OUT THERE.....









Saturday, June 29, 2019

LETTING IT GO


I was reading Roald Dahl's Danny The Champion of the World again because I can never be bored by Roald Dahl's books and believe it or not each time I read it, I see something that I never saw before.

There's this episode where Danny and his father are letting off a 'fire balloon' on a lovely still evening.

Between us, we held the sides of the balloon out as much as possible to keep them away from the flame in the early stages...
'She's nearly ready!' my father said, 'Can you feel her floating?
' Yes,!' I said, 'Yes! Shall we let go?'
 'Not yet!...Wait a bit longer!...Wait until she's nagging to fly away!' 
'She's tugging now!' I said.
 'Right!' he cried. 'Let her go!'

There is this youtube video that is making its rounds about letting go of events or people that hurt us. The message is that we have no control over how others act or why they act that way. So to heal ourselves we should not repaint another's true colours nor waste our energy on those that weigh us down. It is not defeat when we have come to the end of trying and the person's attitude towards us doesn't change. It is not defeat when you have tried to be accepted but others continue to choose to exclude you. The problem is not us because we have tried. Most of all even if we do not find closure, we should not let anyone or anything that is not serving or growing us remain in our minds and hearts for free.

Eckhart Toile in A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose says, 'Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.'

For me, the secret of being free is not only to let go but to forgive.

Every morning when I wake up to pray and read the Bible, I will purpose in my heart to let go of events or people who weigh me down. Then I will say, 'I forgive.....(by name).' Unconditionally.

Very strangely, more often than not, I will meet or hear about the person that I said I will let go and forgive.

The first instinct is to walk the other way and take a different path to avoid the person altogether. But with forgiveness comes action. I will calmly approach the person and instead of feeling the sting of  past memories, I am awash with a fresh sense of calm and peace.

The funny thing is if we hold on to the pain or the memory, the person who is hurt most is we ourselves. Sometimes the same person will hurt me again. Then I will repeat the whole process again and again so that I can be set free and I can move on.

Just like the fire balloon that flies up into the sky.

Slowly, majestically, and in absolute silence, our wonderful balloon began to rise up  into the night sky. 

'It flies! ' I shouted, clapping my hands and jumping about. 'It flies! It flies!' 

My father was nearly as excited as I was.

'It's a beauty ' he said. 'This one's a real beauty. You never know how they're going to turn out until you fly them....'






Monday, June 10, 2019

The Vet and the Terrarium

Pat the Vet comes over annually to give Hachi his booster jab. So he came over last month and after a general inspection gave Hachi the thumbs up and general instructions what to do and what not to do. It was when he was about to leave the house that he saw the terrarium by the door and was gobsmacked.



'Now this is a most amazing creation,' he said.

I went into lecture mode and gave him an oral detailed description of the procedure but being a very serious learner, he said, 'could we go back to the table and I'll write down the instructions?'

Hmm, a reversal of roles, I smiled.

I've always enjoyed looking at terrariums. A terrarium is a collection of small plants growing in a transparent, sealed container. A terrarium is a closed environment, and can actually be used to illustrate how an ecosystem works.

The terrarium water cycle works in miniature the same way the water cycle works on a large scale for our planet. The plants take up the water through their roots and release it through their leaves. (transpiration) The water molecules will condense on the glass (condensation) and run down the sides of the terrarium.

But so far I've seen only those with 'windows' which means that the glass container is not completely sealed. So I took to Youtube to learn how to grow plants in a bottle that is completely sealed. Sounds impossible, but it is actually possible.

What strikes me is the concept of balance and care.

1) We are what we eat. 

I always believe that having good health is not impossible. Staying off medication is not impossible. But everything requires discipline and work. It is so much easier to to scoff down bars of chocolates then to stop at one.

I had my annual medical and the best news is a clean bill of health. No high blood pressure, no high sugar level, no problems with kidneys, liver, lungs, heart, cholesterol, weight etc. The conclusion: no medication. The doctor was pleased and so was I. Whatever I have been doing for years must be working. And I hope to stay healthy for a long long time.

2) We are what we think we are.

Our thoughts influence the way we behave, the decisions we make and the feelings we experience. Why are most people so negative?  Why are there so many moaners and whiners and complainants? You just have to turn on the radio and people are always giving out about something or other. It is a society that is never satisfied and thinks that the fault lies in someone else, never themselves.

There are people who are always 'offering information' about how well others are doing or how badly they have fallen. This constant comparison with others: Is it insecurity?  If that is what you call small talk, I'm totally not into it.

Why?

Because I believe in making a life, living out the 18 waking hours daily and blessing myself and others. I don't like tittle tattle, I like friendship. I don't like passing on information for the sake of 'what's the story?', I like caring and being personal. I don't like people trying to 'fish information' from me. If you want to know, ask the person directly. Why ask me?  That's what I told one lady when she asked me about someone else. She was so shocked at my retort that she said, 'Oh...I don't want to land in hot water.' And so, she expects me to land in hot water? Even if I know, it is not in my place to tell her. That is not concern, that is gossip.

Most of all, what irks me is sarcasm. That has practically no added value whatsoever. Some may think it funny or cultural but to me it is a waste of time and I think it is rude when someone rolls up his eyes and says 'Thank You very much.' I have seen a teenager say that to the mother, and the mother did nothing. If she were my child.......

I think it is ridiculous when someone says, 'Your FRIEND Oscar has made his millions.....' when obviously Oscar is just an acquaintance, never a friend. Worse still, if I had fallen out with Oscar sometime in the past. I am plainly not interested in what Oscar has done. If I am, I will ask.

Then on the other extreme we have those who won't stop talking about what they have achieved.

I was watching a child who was cycling without the trainer wheels and she shouted to her father, 'Look at me, look at me...' . It sounded so sweet because it was a child who had achieved something and wanted to be recognised. But when it is an adult who is always concerned about me, my and I - it is no longer sweet.

3. We become the person that we mix with.

Friends are important as they mould our character. But I can surely say that if we continually mix with eagles, we will soar. Conversely, if we mix with turkeys, we'll just be content to peck off the ground. Iron sharpens iron. It is inevitable to be surrounded by all sorts of people. But it is our personal responsibility to be the person that others can emulate and to learn from those who have remarkable traits.

4. We need to share what we have

The foundation for the terrarium is also very important. There is a layer of stones for drainage because too much water will be a disaster. We too need to share what we have instead of grabbing all the time. It could be grabbing another person's things, time or attention.

There is no tributary that flows out of the Dead Sea. No creature can survive in it as massive levels of salt prevent the existence of all life forms.

If we want to be surrounded by good friends, we need to be a good friend first. And what does it take to be a good friend? Investment: a continual concern,  regular texts enquiring about the well being of another, time spent just for the person, prayers and thoughts for the person, words of encouragement, being fun to be with, sharing of knowledge, sharing of personal matters.....and the list goes on. Do not ask a person out for tea if your eyes are constantly looking at who is entering the cafe and wondering if you know them or hoping that you'll be seen.

5. We need a filtration system

There is a layer of charcoal in the terrarium which acts as a filter to absorb smells and impurities. There is also a layer of mesh to prevent the houseplant compost from falling onto the stones. How I wish more people would filter their minds, their hearts and their speech.

There is so much garbage over the media and if we are just passively sucking everything in, I feel sorry for the mind, soul and body. I am surrounded daily by people uttering four letter words, blasphemies and using Jesus's name in vain - from adults, teens and even children!. It is so common to use  expletives or crude utterances  that it doesn't shock anymore.

People send me all sorts of videos and expect me to watch them the moment they sent the videos. Like I said I have only 18 daily waking hours and I am selective of what I watch and when I watch. Most times, I delete the video after 2 seconds of viewing if it doesn't spark joy.

So the vet took down all the notes and he asked me: How much do you charge for sharing this vital information with me?

I laughed and wished him well in his new quest. When I see him next year, I'd be ready with all the questions about his terrarium.





Monday, April 15, 2019

PLEASURE IN BEING POLITE



When my children were babies, I used to read to them this book about a bear cub who has no manners. Mama bear decides to stamp four meaningful words on his paws so he will not forget them: Please, Excuse Me, Thank You and I’m Sorry.
Interestingly enough, I heard all four words being used on the same day itself.

PLEASE
I was doing grocery shopping and suddenly I heard an excited voice asking the sales person,
‘ Where can I find a packet of quinoa, please?’ he asked. The magic word ‘please’ shows respect and consideration. It is not only a social norm but it also reflects on your upbringing.
I couldn’t see him because his back was facing me. Then he repeated himself, this time speaking slowly and clearly, q-u-i-n-o-a.
It is not rocket science to know what the problem was. The sales person had no clue what quinoa was and to him it could be moon rock for all it mattered. The man was flustered and disappointed.

EXCUSE ME
Actually he was standing very close to the aisle where there were bags of Uncle Ben’s whole grain and quinoa.
I walked to the said aisle for the fun of it, correction, I couldn’t resist it. I took a bag of quinoa and headed towards his direction except to find that the disappointed man was gone. Since I never saw his face I had to depend on his voice. Then out of the blue the voice came, this time round he was searching for another ingredient for the great dish that he was going to cook.
I went up to him and said, ‘ Excuse me, were you looking for this?’
His face beamed as if he had won the lotto. ‘Look Mary (calling out to a lady further down the aisle) a good samaritan had found the quinoa’
Turning to me he asked, ‘Where did you find it?’
I said, ‘The rice aisle’
He said, ‘I was there but I didn’t see it’
I said, ‘You didn’t look hard enough’ and laughed.
I thought to myself, if the supermarket employed me as a salesperson, I would know exactly where everything is. I’ve met all sorts of salespeople: those who know everything and those who know very little.



I’M SORRY
Then I went to look for mussels and the fish monger said, ‘I’m sorry, I just sold the last bag.’ It is not uncommon to hear people apologising for almost anything. If I accidentally bump into someone, I may actually hear the other person saying they’re ‘sorry’ for standing in the way of my clumsy wandering. Other examples are  "Sorry can I just say?... oh sorry, you were saying, no sorry... sorry, sorry, don’t mind me….sorry, you go ahead...sorry".
The use of ‘sorry’ here has become more of a tag rather than a real heart felt apology which is a different thing altogether because the latter involves humility and overcoming pride.

THANK YOU
So after the grocery shopping, I went to buy a rolling pin.

Salesperson: This is a lovely rolling pin. Value for money now that the sale is on.
Me: Yeah, I broke mine last night
Salesperson: I hope you didn’t hit anyone with it.
Me: I wish!
Salesperson: Thanks a million! (This ‘thanks a million’ phrase is really iconic here. )

In fact, according to the Irish journal, Dublin Bus research reveals that 90% of passengers always say thank you to their driver.

Being polite makes the world an easier place to live in. Videos of neighbours fighting over small matters have gone viral and there are many ugly instances where manners have just gone out of the window. Manners when instilled from young go a long way. 

In this respect, mama bear is doing the right thing.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

THE THINGS WE DO OR DON'T DO


I was sitting in the waiting room for my regular dental appointment. Truth be told it was one of those things that I didn’t look forward to. It must have been the childhood memories of the dental nurse coming into the classroom with a list of names which would strike terror into the heart of any impressionable child. If you were called you knew you were doomed to sit on that infamous chair, looking into a bright light and having an assortment of equipment probing your 20 milk teeth or whatever that was left.

So to take my mind off the situation at hand, I decided to think about different things.

1. Things that we need to do but we don’t like to do.



Besides the dental visit, I also do not like to see the doctor or to undergo any medical tests because you’ll never know what you may be told. I don’t like approaching the weighing scales either or being on a rabbit food (a.k.a tasteless) diet or going three times a week at least to the gym. But I do them anyway because that is what I need to do.

2. Things we wished we had done but we did not




I am not good at thinking of a quick answer on the spot because I’m one who mulls over what I should say before I actually do so. In most cases this is good as words said in a wrong way at the wrong time could spell trouble. But sometimes there is a need to speak up. Take for instance when I went to a shop that sold pretty things in Adare. The shop keeper asked if she could help me. I said, no, thank you, I was just looking. She was certainly in a bad mood that day and she made a very sarcastic and racist remark that threw me off-guard. I was too shocked to answer and left the shop immediately. On hind-sight, I should have retorted and given her a piece of my mind. Most shop keepers are lovely. She was an exception.

And what about the time when someone’s child was bawling away on a long flight and the parent did nothing? Or when you were trying to rest on a hospital bed and friends visiting the other patient next to you were behaving as if there was a party? I must certainly make learning how to speak out boldly when the situation demands it, my next year’s resolution.

3. Things that we do and we don’t know why we do them




When I enter a cafe by myself for a coffee, the first thing I would do is to whip up my phone and let my finger scroll the screen. A totally useless activity given that I had just looked at the screen before I entered the cafe. Or if I didn’t have my phone with me, I would grab any reading material and start reading. Then I also have the habit of pressing the crosswalk button many times even though it won’t make the ‘green man’ appear any faster. And how many times have I gone back to my parked car to double check whether I have locked it?

4. Things that we wish we could do but we can’t

We can’t solve another person’s problems. We can advise till we are blue in the face and none of the advice will be taken. Sometimes it can be very frustrating as the solution can be as clear as day to you and yet the person will not take any action and will tell you the same problem every time he sees you. The bottom line is he is not you and the fact that he keeps coming back to tell you his problem shows that you are a good listener and a trusted friend.

5. Things we love to do and would spend endless hours on them





This is my favourite because I can spend such joyful moments engaging in the things I like to do. A friend who saw my garden asked me whether I spent a few hours daily to till the land or a few days at one go? Another person when looking at my crafts asked whether I slept at all? When I’m engaged in a project it is on my brain from the beginning till the end. The whole process of coming up with an image right up to actually painting the image is not limited by time. That is why it is said you can’t put a price on art and you can’t say how many man hours you have committed to it.

So back to the dentist.

He had a good look at what’s left of the 32 teeth and probed here and there. Then he said, ‘I’ve never seen an Irish come in without any plaque! Whatever you have been doing, keep it up and your teeth will serve you well into your 90s even.’

So I waved goodbye to him and headed towards a cafe. Now, would I take out my phone to stare at the screen while I wait for the coffee?

Saturday, February 23, 2019

ALL HAIL MARIE KONDO



When Marie Kondo's book ' The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.' was published in 2014, i took to her instructions like fish to water. Why? Mainly because i like to be organised, focussed and disciplined in all that I do. So, while some may disagree with some of her methods, I welcome them like a breath of fresh air.




Her methods remind me very much of my mother's. My mother was so organised, nothing was ever out-of-place. I loved going into her bedroom to see everything neatly laid down. Every piece of clothing was ironed, folded or hung. Her wardrobe could have won a Blue Ribbon.

I never heard her asking us to tidy our rooms because she taught us well. A sty is only for pigs.


 


On 1 January 2019, Netflix released a series called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. I was hooked.

It was so much nicer seeing her KonMari method on screen than reading about it. In the series, Kondo visits various American family homes full of clutter and guides the families in tidying up their houses through her KonMari method.



At least now in Ireland, when I talk about her method of organising, I no longer get the quizzical look of 'Marie who?' Even charity shops are happy that they are getting more donations because of her mantra, 'if it no longer sparks joy, pass it on'.



It is interesting to note that the act of decluttering and organising brings about a whole host of really positive effects that are totally unrelated to material possessions.

When we decide that we have what we need, we are no longer swayed by that sale or that bargain. We can walk away from temptation. We are not bothered if the Smiths have a bigger car, a bigger house or a swimming pool. 

When we fold our clothes neatly in a visible way or put our things in boxes, we know exactly what we have and there is no fear of buying something that we already have. 

It is about putting our house in order. 

Strangely enough Marie has received letters from her clients that they have decided to give their marriage a second chance or have the guts to walk out of a bad relationship. On the surface, such decisions seem to be so far removed from just folding clothes or discarding. 

The way I see it,  the basic principles are the same.

It is all about choices and decision making. We choose to keep what sparks joy and we choose to let go what don't. We make the decision to discard stuff that we have not used for a long time or have become obsolete. Sentimental things are the hardest to let go, but it gets easier through practice.

i have so much fun organising my stuff and the best part is looking at all things arranged neatly. Not just for a day, but for the next day and the next. Because tidying is a habit and once it is formed you just cannot stand mess. An extra bonus is you know exactly where everything is kept and you make it a habit to return anything that you have taken back to its original station. 

Decluttering and organising frees up the spirit. Strange but true. 

Because everything is spick and span, there is calm and a sense of rest. 

There is a feeling of emancipation.

Friday, January 25, 2019

BEATING THE WINTER BLUES

I love all the four seasons. Correction…I love all the four seasons but truth be told getting through winter is a wee bit more difficult. Slippery footpaths, falls, frozen windscreens, thick bulky jumpers, cough and cold make great whining starters. So I learn to fortify the mind and make a conscious decision to enjoy winter. Yes, enjoy winter amidst the frost and blustery winds.

I think most of us spend every day tending to the needs of others first, ourselves last….whether you are a young mother or someone older, as long as there is someone around for us to mind. So for a change, how about minding ourselves , body, soul and spirit, during winter?

Caring for the body is actually the easiest of the three. I can write a book about it but will limit myself to three examples here.

First if there is a bathtub, then a good warm soak is a very kind thing to do for the brow beaten body that has been on its toes 24/7. Creating a relaxing ambience is very important. A tealight, soft french music from the phone (make sure it is far away from water), a homemade lavender bath bomb and a handful of epsom salts can do wonders. I have learnt to shut the noises out of the mind and actually do nothing for minutes on end. And after that is done, nourishing the skin with lots of body lotion is a must. Not just any lotion (like the complimentary leftovers from some hotel) but the one that I chose and bought for myself. Fragrance is a very personal thing.

The winter bug is very prevalent and I believe in prevention. The importance of a nutritious diet rich in vitamins that boost the immune system coupled with regular exercise cannot be understated.

The winter damp also exacerbates the aches and pains that I had acquired from physical injuries at the gym or otherwise. I am not a fan of pills and painkillers so I root towards external herbal remedies, which take time to be effective but are less intrusive. My beloved calls such remedies, curry paste rubs and potions.

I would like to think of the soul as that part which consists of feelings and emotions. For me, feeding the soul with the things that I like to do, makes me happy.

 I find myself indoors most during the winter so it is a great time to paint, sew and to craft. It is the time to catch up with my reading and writing.



Like Marie Kondo, decluttering, organising and giving away to charity brings me much joy. Drawers are filled with neatly folded socks, kitchen cabinets are lined with attractive containers to house the utensils and even the eggs look very pretty when they sit in perspex egg boxes. 

Even my labrador knows he has to wipe his paws before he enters the house. When he hears the command, ‘Paw wipe’ he’ll lift his paw one by one for me to wipe his paws with a clean towel.

And then there is spiritual care.

Hibernating polar bears do not eat. So I find that as I use less energy during the winter, fasting off food is much easier. January is one of my fasting months, more so because it is the beginning of the year and I would like to get things in order for the year by seeking the Lord and trusting Him as I lay my plans and the plans/desires of my family and friends before Him. And He does not disappoint. Strongholds are broken miraculously and I know  the LORD God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The LORD will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. (Psalms 84:11)

So, the verdict is I love winter just the same. I may not feel the heat from the sun but the beloved is with me and that is what matters.