Naples- Bonus Trip

I have a love/hate relation with Florida weather- only reason the hate comes in is due to all the A/C problems that are associated with the heat. Thankfully, having to travel to see the repairs done also mean I get some extra time in the sun and salty waves.

Siesta key (Sarasota area) from above
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The one place you HAVE to try in Naples is the Old Naples Pub. It is set in a courtyard nestled in the middle of Third street shops. Ivy and live plants surround the building, and literally makes it feel as if you’re eating in a greenhouse. The pub is one of the first standing structures in the town, and has many historic items and photos. They are famous for their kosher pickles on every table, and go by the saying “Get pickled at the Old Naples Pub”.

The flowers around the shops at Third street south- the new shopping and dining area.
Yes I have to/love smelling every flower I come across.
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Another hidden gem of Naples is The Bad Ass Coffee shop, which is where the coffee cup above is from. It is a Hawaiian based company, with shops in a few U.S locations. They have premium Hawaiian coffee from Kauai, Waialua (Oahu), Maui, and 100% Kona coffee.

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The back of the cup with a short history.
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The homes off of gulf shore blvd are breathtaking, but so are the majority of the homes all across Naples. The home above is considered “smaller” for the area, but is one of my favourites. The immaculate clean cut, yet simple, gardens make it very Floridian to me- along with the light colour scheme on the outside of the home. The further south you go along Gulf Shore, the more fancy and secluded the homes get. Donald Trump, Judge Judy, governor Rick Scott, and even Keith Urban has places in Naples, mainly on the beach in the area called “Port Royal”. A lot of big pharmaceutical and electronic company CEO’s/founders make up the majority of the area.

Such a basic photo, but one of my favourites as it really represents Florida to me.

When in Naples, I always make sure we hit The Cheesecake factory and Olive garden as we don’t have them back at home.

sweet fav= Adam’s Peanut Butter Cheesecake
My FAV- asian lettuce tacos

The most famous part of Naples (is not the people in it) is the pier, where every night guaranteed you can catch a beautiful sunset. The pier was just totally re-done after being pretty much destroyed in hurricane Irma.

Last sunset pic I promise- until next time
The pier at 7:30am, which IMO is the best time to fish/walk, as it’s a comfy temp
Baby dolphin and it’s mom coming up for air. It is also manatee mating season, so we saw a couple of them swim by the shore. They can stay under water for up to 20 mins, so it is super hard to get a good pic of them.
A beach entrance off 13th street, which looks so tropical to me.
All the homes lit up at night are my fav to see
All the palms, planters, and buildings are always strung with beautiful lights every day of the year.
My fav ice cream shop in town- Kilwins’. They even will deliver straight to the beach- right to your lounge chair.

OK I lied sorry one more sunset picture. I find the best part of the sunsets are actually after the sun has set, and you see the after glow on the clouds above.

BONUS if you read my Ecuador posts- found my fav Juan Valdez cafe instant coffee at the grocery store in Naples.

WW Review: I Know Who You Are

Let’s talk about a thriller that actually thrilled me!

I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney

Four out of Five Stars!

My Completely Spoiler Free Goodreads Review:

WHAT A BOOK! This was a super quick read and a big page turner. I had to know what happened and why. Ultimately, I guessed everyone (including some farther fetched stuff than the actual answer) except the person it actually wound up being! Definitely my favourite thriller I’ve read in a long time. A few things I didn’t like were the very detailed accounts of child abuse and a little more than midway through where I lost a bit of interest at one reveal. But MAN that final twist was a good one.

My Completely Spoiler Ridden Review:

I had a lot of thoughts with this one. I thought of so many possible scenarios of who might be screwing with Aimee, our protagonist and narrator, and why they would be doing it and I wound up being totally and completely wrong.

So here’s a rundown of this thriller; Aimee is an up and coming actress with a hidden past. Now, whenever I see a thriller where a woman has a past secret, my mind always jumps to the old reliable thriller trope where the big secret was some sort of pregnancy (see, In A Dark, Dark Wood). But Aimee’s secret is that she ran away from her father and brother as a child and was sort of manipulated into being kidnapped. Her kidnappers, Maggie and John, had lost a child years before and used Aimee to fill that hole, even changed her name from Ciara to their former child’s name, Aimee. Now Maggie and John are not good people. They’re mixed up in gambling, are extremely abusive, and have weapons hidden around their house. Cool. So once Aimee finally escapes from them after their violent deaths, she starts her life again, becomes an actress, and finds love. That is, until someone knows who she is and her husband disappears. It’s a wild ride.

Aimee gets framed for her husband’s murder, but then we learn that her husband isn’t actually who he said he was. The man he was pretending to be died a year before he and Aimee started dating. The man he was pretending to be dug up a body just to pretend that Aimee had killed him. Wild, right?

The book is told switching between the past and present. So you get the secrets of her past revealed with the kidnapping, abuse, and her escape with her “killing” intruders who were trying to kill her “parents,” combined with her present where she’s being framed for murder and someone knows who she really is. A little more than halfway through the book the past chapters stop because that story ends with a bang and the present story gets a huge reveal in that Maggie didn’t did and is currently stalking Aimee.

This is the point where the book kind of lost my attention. I didn’t see much of a point if we already had a big reveal. But then I started to realize that this was WAY too soon for all the secrets of the book to be revealed and, probably, the woman who claims to be Maggie actually is not Maggie. And I was right about that. Rest assured, this was not an easy solve. However, I was not right about who Maggie was. I started to guess that maybe the original child hadn’t died and was the stalker. I also thought that it could be the rival actress, Alicia, screwing with her and maybe she was either the child OR a twin.

But I was wrong.

Whoops.

This book is so messed up, it’s ridiculous. But it was messed up in a really weird, satisfying way. So who was pretending to be Maggie, why did she look kind of like Aimee, and why this whole scenario with her husband?

In short, it’s her brother. Her brother was pretending to be Maggie to mess with her AND her brother stole an identity and became Aimee’s husband. So… incest. I had this great, disgusting “ah ha” moment when he was revealed to be her husband that never ever wanted kids. Ah. Ha. I guess your brother wouldn’t want kids when he knew he was your brother…

He went to this huge great length to trap her because 1. He missed her after she ran away and 2. It ruined them. Which is weird and gross and I kind of hate it, but man, it’s a satisfying reveal.

This was a very well thought out book. The pacing was excellent and kept me turning pages. It was incredibly descriptive, sometimes to the point of being uncomfortable with the graphic depiction of the child abuse. Even the unreliable narrator trope, which bugs me to no end in thrillers, was done really well. Because even at the end you have no idea if she’s actually a villain or not, but you still feel happy for her. Very weird but cool feeling. This book was an experience that I would 100% recommend to people who can stomach some dark topics.

Marked with an ‘M’

-Maddi

The Sense Of An Ending

THE SENSE OF AN ENDING

By Julian Barnes

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A Review

I remember falling in love with The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes when I’d read it a couple of years ago. I also remember realising as soon as I’d finished, that I needed to read it again (which I did for a book club), slowly, carefully, with more attention to every word, understanding and savouring the ideas that Barnes subtly, almost insidiously, puts across. Ideas and concepts that I had probably let slip by in my hungry pursuit of the narrative.
Well, the narrative is what it is and I’m a firm believer in all possible sorts. Your story can be anything. It’s how you tell it that matters. Convince me. Barnes did. Retired, well-settled and, perhaps, a tad placid Tony Webster receives a letter and a bequest of money from the departed mother of his ex-girlfriend from college, Veronica. And this triggers a chain of memories from his distant youth, each unfolding gradually in its interpretive shades and details as we read on. Memories of the prodigally gifted and deeply reflective Adrian. The somewhat unreadable Veronica and his weekend with her judging family. Her mostly reticent and yet once curiously chatty mother. And, of course, the suicides. The earlier one from school founding the basis of understanding and comparing with the one from later on. All characters, all turns and twists in the plot, all interpretations and re-interpretations of events, chains of causation, utterances, attitudes, expressions, all seem completely plausible. And through the remembering and recounting of them all is Tony’s sympathetic but pragmatic ex-wife, Margaret, listening to his ramblings, shrewdly pinning the source of his agitation and smartly moving on. And Tony continues to sift through his memories trying to fit them coherently with the reality he sees today.
We all know time to be malleable, sometimes treacherously so, as we are forced to learn during moments of huge emotional turmoil. We also know our memory to be fallible at best, patching together the snatches and snippets that filter through time’s subjective sieve, leading us to construe or misconstrue according to our own predispositions. We know that history is written differently by victors and the vanquished, and again by the survivors of any period of turbulence. We know that each experience of every relationship determines not merely the progress over time of that particular relationship, but of all others as well, for we are but the accumulation of all that we have experienced. We know that while we could fantasize about life imitating art, many of us let life simply happen to us, that our innate inertia leads us to choices that render us peaceable and comfortably settled.
But here is a writer that takes all of this and more and pushes the envelope further and further and even further, until we are gasping drenched in the power of his ideation.
Every word, every observation, every analogy, every metaphor is apt. Just so. And they all impel you to question yourself, to cross check against the parallels in your own personal history, in your own sets of predilections and prejudices, in your own dwelling over personal pettiness and thence missing the larger picture, your own shuffling and reshuffling of cards from your memory to come up with a hand that suits you best at that particular moment.
Barnes’ style of writing is deceptively simple, chatty, homely, but it packs in huge punches, especially when you’re not looking. There’s dry humour, recourse to satire, and an ability and willingness to look at people and things, ourselves included, square in the eye. To me, Barnes is like a wise old owl, nestled comfortably and seemingly stoically in his favourite tree, staring into the darkness around and deciphering nuances in the night as only owls can. He peels the darkness that we hide within us and then pierces right through. Illumination.
Well, this slim little book, more novella than novel, is packed with power and will probably prove to be timeless in its appeal.

 

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(Image Source : Google Images) 

 

I also watched Riteish Batra’s film adaptation of The Sense of an Ending. I was extremely sceptical as to how such a reflective and nuanced piece of writing could be faithfully translated to visual celluloid. But I was happily surprised. Batra has, of course, tweaked the storyline, ironed ambiguities into definitives and fleshed in a character more than in the original. Well directed, well scripted and well performed, it was a rewarding experience. Of course, less so than the book. But I’m not really complaining. Batra has impressed with Lunchbox and Our Souls at Night as well. And am happy that we have a young director who handles human sensitivities with such grace. And quiet confidence.

From Darkness to Light Day 29 by Alison Armstrong

From Shrinking to Shining

by Alison Armstrong of Adventures in Wonderland

 

Part one: Shrinking

I’m living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico for a while. There’s a writers’ conference and in one of the workshops I write this:

She was the best of mothers. She was the worst of mothers.

I was born shrinking inside. It seems as if I could feel her anger and fierceness even before I was born. Shrinking in the womb.

She only wanted two children. I was the fourth. Not only the fourth, but the fourth girl. She, a person of great intelligence, a person desperate for control, spent her days cooking and cleaning and trying to hold together the lives of five people. There was no time to hold together her own life.

There was only seven years between the oldest and the youngest. The next up from me was just sixteen months old when I was born. Oh was I ever an accident. Two in elementary school, one barely a toddler, and a new-born, with the toddler and new-born both still in diapers.

There was no such thing as disposable diapers. Heck, in her world there was no such thing as a washing machine. She washed all the clothes for six people, including the stinky diapers for two babies, by hand, at a washboard in the laundry tub.

She was angry. With her father who was a cruel man, but mostly with where her life had come to. I was yet another thing she had to deal with.

Control was the issue. If she could only control her life, if she could only control all of us maybe, just maybe she could stay sane.

The days and years rolled by. We all learned very young to do as we were told, to be tidy, to do our chores, to be good. I learned to be the goodest! I was known as Good Bear. Don’t make a noise. Be still. Be silent. Shrink. And that way maybe, just maybe I’d escape the volcanic burst of anger that would erupt without notice.

It didn’t work. We never knew what would trigger it. And each time I would shrink a little more.

At the same time I was told that I was too shy, too sensitive. I learned that who I am is of no value, and of no interest to others. My father, working full-time and studying part-time, was barely present. My two oldest sisters were living their own lives. The one closest in age, though now the one I’m most deeply connected with, was, as a child, the one I was most estranged from. She made it clear from my youngest memories that she wanted nothing to do with me. We were too different.

This I learned: no one is interested in who I am. I am of no value. The way I am is wrong. Shrinking seemed the only obvious thing to do.

I am fourteen years old. I am standing at the sink washing dishes. My mother is at the kitchen table cooking something. We are alone. I quietly mumble. I don’t know what prompts me. You’d think I would know by now that to reveal myself is not safe. I quietly mumble I’m in love with Peter.

There’s not even a second for this statement to hang in the air. Quick as a flash she snaps Oh what nonsense! It’s like a rifle shot across the room. I am dismissed. I shrink. I vow never again will I share with her who I really am.

She’s been gone fourteen years now. I used to weep for all the pain she caused me. Now I weep for all the pain her father caused her, and that she caused herself. And I weep for the pain that I caused her. I weep for the wasted suffering. I weep for love.

 

Part two: More therapy

In San Miguel de Allende I’m seeing a spiritual therapist a couple of times a week. We talk. She challenges me. A lot. She makes me face all the painful stuff, the ways in which I limit myself and hurt myself, the ways in which I create suffering and how it’s reflected in my body. She makes me look directly into the face of my denial. I hate it but I need it. Then I lie on her massage table and she moves the trapped energy.

All my adult life, since reading Seth Speaks in my early thirties, I’ve understood that physical pain is a reflection of unfelt emotional pain. I’m in a lot of pain. I’m working with the therapist (one of many over the years) to dislodge the buried emotional pain. It almost all comes down to my relationship with my mother.

San Miguel is a long dark tunnel. I swim around in the inner murky depths of my psyche for three months dealing with worthiness issues. I hardly sleep. Among other things I finally heal my fractured relationship with my dear mother fourteen years after her death.

I’m lying on a massage table. This time with a regular massage therapist. It’s a deep gentle massage and I’m drifting in and out of consciousness. Suddenly a vision! It is not an imagining, it is a vision. It is my mother’s face. She is about thirty years old. She is at peace. She looks beatific. Beautiful. Serene. The vision holds and then fades. It feels like freedom. For both of us.

 

Part three: Re writing the story

But it is still not over. Several years later I’m playing The Transformation Game with a group of friends. It’s a powerful game in which one comes face to face with inner truth, going as deeply as one desires or is able. My relationship with my mother comes up again. I thought it was healed but no, there is yet more. What becomes clear is that it is time for me to rewrite the story.

The story I carried for years was that I was unwanted, unloved, unworthy, uncelebrated, a burden. But what if it’s not true? For the first time I choose to believe that my mother wanted and loved me. It’s revelatory. I choose to imagine her holding me with love rather than out of necessity. I am undone by the idea. It brings tears to my eyes. Is it the truth? Is any of what I believed before or now the truth? Who knows? Who cares? What I know for sure is that I am free from the suffering caused by my beliefs about the past. I am here, and I am whole, and when I think of my mother my heart is filled with love.

What a beautiful dance we did together.

 

 

Alison Armstrong

I’m closer to seventy than sixty and have lived my life about as far outside the box as you can get. It’s been a lifetime of inner and outer journeying. From my early twenties I was concerned with and committed to inner healing. I just wanted to be happy damn it! And I knew it was up to me. What grace to be given that little piece of wisdom and not look for it outside of myself. I have also always had an equal passion for travelling and travelled a lot in my 20’s and 30’s. In our 60’s my husband and I sold or gave away all we owned and spent nearly six years as homeless nomads travelling the world. I’m still travelling – both inner and outer. I probably always will be.

My blog, Adventures in Wonderland, http://alisonanddon.com, is all about the journeys.

 

Written for the From Darkness to Light event.  If you’d like to be a part of the challenge, find more information Here.   But first, leave a comment and let Alison know what you think about her words, and be sure to visit her over at Adventures in Wonderland when you’re done.

 

 

Omega 3 Market – Global Industry Analysis and Forecast | 2025

Rising product usage in the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) market is among the major driving factors for the omega 3 market. Moreover, rising population in emerging regions, most notably in Asia Pacific, has complemented the growth of this market. In addition, technological advancements pertaining to the manufacturing of APIs among other highly potent active ingredients will drive the market further.

The Global Omega 3 Market size is projected to reach USD 3.77 billion by 2025 registering a CAGR of 7.4%, according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc.

Omega 3

In addition, rapid growth of the dietary supplements market is projected to bolster the product demand. Omega 3 is being increasingly used in the dietary supplements as it can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular and heart diseases. Moreover, it can also reduce the risk of arrhythmias or abnormal heartbeats.

Furthermore, it helps slow down the growth of atherosclerotic plaque while lowering the levels of blood pressure. In addition, rising disposable incomes, especially in middle class population in emerging economies of China and India, will augment the demand further.

North America emerged as the largest market in 2018 due increased focus on R&D activities for developing various grades of the product, especially pharma-grade omega 3 for enhanced medication to prevent chronic diseases. However, Asia Pacific is expected to witness the fastest CAGR over the forecast period. Ongoing advancements in the food industry and medical science coupled with demographic changes and high consumer demand are expected to provide impetus for the regional market growth.

To Know More About Omega 3 Market Please Visit Us @ https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/omega-3-market

Top Players of Omega 3 Market:

Some of these key market participants include Aker BioMarine, Axellus, BASF SE, DSM, Omega Protein Corp., GC Rieber Oils AS, Martek Biosciences Corp., and Lonza Group.

Market Segmentation of Omega 3 Market:

The Global Omega 3 Market segmented on the basis of Application and Region.

By Application:

  • Supplements & Functional Foods
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Infant Formulas
  • Pet & Animal Feed

By Region:

  • North America
  • Europe
  • Asia Pacific
  • Central & South America
  • Middle East & Africa

Inquire about Omega 3 Market with Our Experts @ https://www.grandviewresearch.com/inquiry/226/ibb

#ProjectNewDen2019 | Stage Five – Renovation | Let the work begins…

How fast! I am into the third week since the renovation started and at this present stage, it’s all about tracking timelines and managing the budget closely. Truly, this is one nerve-wrecking journey and especially when you have to juggle between work, packing and overseeing the renovation process, it can get a little overwhelming at times. Anyway, next month this time, I should (and hopefully) have settled in at the new place and probably be making one last trip back to my current, preparing for the official handover to the next owner who is going to take over my house of 20 years. So, here’s a quick look at the progress so far…

Friday | 10 May 2019
After a long day at work, I head down to the interior design firm to meet up with my designer to run through some final details – select and confirmed all the materials, design, colours and measurements. I should also mentioned that I was quite lucky to have won the 2nd prize in one of the promotional campaign run by the firm and that’s a whooping SGD1,088 off my final bill ??

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Sunday | 12 May 2019
I woke up bright and early. By 0840 hrs, I was down at the new place, facilitating the arrival of the movers to assist with the moving out works of the current owner. Well, as mentioned in the previous posts, there were miscommunications with the initial planned dates and hence, the only way for me to get back on schedule was to pay and arrange for the movers. Anyway, at 1114 hrs, I unlocked the doors for the very first time as the new owner for the house and rolled a pineapple in for good luck. That was the only customary thing I’ve done as I wasn’t familiar with the rest of practices. A couple of hours later, the two Peranakan basins that I’ve ordered also arrived on schedule.

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Monday | 13 May 2019
Yet another early morning for me, I head back to the unit to facilitate the commencement of the renovation work. The contractors arrived on time and they were swift in their preparation work, laying all the protective covers for the flooring and unpacking their equipment. By 0945 hrs, my appointed interior designer arrived and went on to brief the workers on the require works. A couple of minutes before 1100 hrs, the hacking work commences and dust and debris begin to fill the entire unit. That afternoon, workers from the town council that I’ve arranged prior also came by to clear away the last few pieces of furniture left by the previous owner.

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Sunday | 19 May 2019
All the required hacking work are now completed and a new layer of cement screed has also been laid for the kitchen and toilets. They have also touch up on the edges of all the hacked walls and my appointed air-con contractor have also begun laying the piping and case.

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Sunday | 26 May 2019
Mosr of the titling work for the both the kitchen and two toilets are completed. They have also begin to build that much anticipated feature wall using the chosen cinder blocks.

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Is A Seed Faith Offering Scriptural?

How Do We Know That A Seed Faith Offering Is Scriptural?

A few years ago if you had asked me this question, it would certainly be a different answer from the one you are about to read today. As Christians, when we spend time studying the word of God and depending on the Holy Spirit for understanding, we tend to see things in a new light. Prior to this blog post, another interesting article is written titled The Church in 2019 it will be an interesting read, check it out.

Is seed faith offering scriptural or is it man made doctrine to exploit believers? Well, let us take a look at what is going on in the church today. Many ministers of the gospel talk about seed faith offerings as the key to getting hundred-fold in return. In other words, a seed faith offering is money you give in order to open the windows of blessings. In addition, the more money you give, the more God will bless you. does this sound familiar? All right stay with me here.

Monetization of the gospel

These pastors or prosperity preachers as I have come to call them are good talkers… extremely good in soliciting gifts to their ministries by promising such in-kind returns. You will hear “motivational” words like give $40 and trust God to bless you with more money. They skillfully wrap these messages with spiritual embellishment like “God does not need your money, if He asks you to give something, just know He is testing you and He is preparing something bigger for you!” “Jesus Christ is bigger than your debt, trust Him with the little you have now.” “If it (seed) does not pain you, then it is not a sacrifice.”

All these will end with scriptures that they have misinterpreted such as Mark 4:8-12 “But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” And He said to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. And He said to them, “To you, it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables”

What they avoid explaining or teach is in verse 13-14 of Mark 4. “And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word.”

Here is the point I started questioning what we have been thought about giving the little you have so that God can bring more money. Romans 8:32 “32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

Please, I need you to open your mind, let the Word of God saturate. Romans 8:32 showed me how powerful the love of God is towards His Children. Imagine a God who freely gave His Son for people including the unborn to be saved, will be asking you to empty the bank or give what you have for Him to bless you? No! He can FREELY give you everything.

The gospel is not a get-rich-quick scheme

Jesus Christ explained to His disciples that the seeds, which the sower is sowing are the Word of God! Not money! Let me quickly drop this here “If God wants to enrich you, He does not need your money to do so, He is not a God of “get rich quick scheme”. Unfortunately, this is what some of our ministers, pastors, evangelists, etc. have turned our heavenly Father to.

They forget to teach Romans 14:17

“for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

You may ask “what about Luke 6:38?” – Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Well, let us read from verse 37 and then 38 37 “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Now you see the verse is not about money or financial gains– the scripture talks about FORGIVENESS! How much you forgive is the same forgiveness, even shaken together and running over! It was never about how much money you put in the offering box, or how much money you sow into the minister’s life or ministry. It talks about FORGIVENESS. The Kingdom of God is not a get-rich-quick scheme; we need to change that mindset.

Should we stop giving?

The answer to the above question is a big NO! This article is not trying to stop you from giving. It is showing you that there is a difference between “give, and” and “give so that”. The latter is rooted in a selfish motive. When you want to give, give for the right reasons; give for the sake of helping others and to the glory of God. Do not give so that something or some things will be given to you by God.

Do not get it wrong, God loves a cheerful giver, but the blessings He has in store us are not necessarily in the form of money. Besides 1 Timothy 6:6 “Now godliness with contentment is a great gain.

What preachers of the prosperity Gospel will not show you. 2 Corinthians 12:15 “15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.” The Apostles gave their all, they ensure everyone around them are comfortable, even though the act may not be reciprocated. They lived the life Jesus Christ showed them.

Let us be sincere, do you see teachers like the apostles today? Well, I will leave that for you to ponder. The Apostles had every opportunity to amass wealth for themselves, but they did not. They understood the true meaning of Love.

1 Corinthians 4:10–11
10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! 11 To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. So, what is the use of having a fleet of cars, jets, when your neighbor cannot afford a three-square meal?

Godliness with contentment is a great gain

1 Timothy 6:6-10
“6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, [a]and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

As followers of Christ, we should pray to be content with what we have, without the spirit of covetousness pulling us away from the Kingdom of God.

Encourage Yourself In the Lord

Is Seed Faith Offering Scriptural? Well, I will leave the question for you to answer. Let us know your thoughts via the comment box

In Order to Live – Yeonmi Park (2015)

Growing up in the West, there was always a bizarre mythology associated with North Korea, indeed one that at times seemed almost laughable. The tales we would hear of the breeding of unicorns, or that golf had been banned as, according to legend, Kim Jong Il had once invited his good buddy Tiger Woods to play a round and had therein scored a hole-in-one on every hole, thus negating the need for anyone to ever play again… It all seemed just so utterly ridiculous.

As I grew older, however, news stories would come in; the mass shooting of a group of people for merely owning bibles, the starvation and alleged cannibalism in the county’s poorest regions, the high-tech hospital opened to tourists to show off the country’s amazing technology, whilst at the same time lacking any actual patients. And then I began teaching Korean students, therein learning of their days in their mandatory military service and the horrors seen by those unfortunate enough to have been posted along the border. I became fascinated with North Korea in the same way one cannot help but be entranced by a car crash. I had to know more about this country that seemed trapped in an age where only the rich held any importance and life was a luxury with which only they were endowed.

As such, upon one of my journeys to Waterstones, I was instantly drawn to Yeonmi Park’s account of her escape from the regime, ‘In Order to Live’, a book which turned out to be one of the most harrowing two day’s reading of my life.

Having grown up in rural North Korea, Park tells of the extreme poverty of her countrymen; the cold and the starvation whilst all the while under the watchful eye of the all-seeing government. This is a government that teaches of the evils and horrors of the Western world, whilst at the same time enforcing such bizarre rules as ensuring each household provides a daily “donation” of human waste to fertilise the country’s farmland. Watching the lights twinkle across the river that separates them from China, Park and her family determine to cross the border to what the believe will be safety.

Enlisting the help of a series of”friends” and corrupt brokers, Park, along with her sister and mother, leaves her ailing father behind and begins the arduous escape, only to be met by China’s sordid underworld, a society that is happy to exploit the North Korean refugees in a life that will feed them and clothe them and yet subject them to equal amounts of emotional and mental torture as their former dictators. Of course, in China, they have no legal rights, and if discovered, it’s a short trip back to the country they have strived so hard to escape.

The only means of freedom is to take the dangerous trek through the desert and into Mongolia, where refugees are sent to “rehabilitation camps” in South Korea. And therein lies arguably the book’s most heart-wrenching passages. Park’s journey through the desert feels like an eternity; battling the elements whilst all the while living in fear of being caught. Were we not the all-knowing reader of a work of non-fiction, the chances of survival for our protagonists would be negatable.

And this is the true power of ‘In Order to Live’. This could easily read like some work of dystopian science-fiction; a world of abject terror and all-powerful leaders where impoverished heroes try to defeat their oppressors. In our comfortable homes in the West, it all seems too far-fetched to be real. And yet, it is. This is the story of thousands of people’s suffering whilst the world around them lives in the joyous oblivion of Snap Chat and social media.

‘In Order to Live’ is at times a difficult read, but, in its closing moments, it proves to be one of the greatest stories of hope that I have ever had the joy of reading. Knowing that Park has survived her ordeal and is now happily married and with a family proves that there is chance for the people of North Korea. It’s just a shame that those with the ability to help seem more concerned with armaments than the plight of the common man. Park escaped, whilst thousands still starve under heartless rule. But her voice speaks for an entire nation.

Classic Book Review: Moll Flanders

Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
Moll Flanders 
by Daniel Defoe

3 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


Moll Flanders tells the story of her life, from her infancy in Newgate Prison where her mother was convicted as a thief, to her young maidenhood and adulthood as a whore, conwoman, honest wife, mistress, mother, thief, and the worst kind of liar.

I just hated this book from start to finish. I hated the main character, Moll Flanders, for all her sneaky, conniving, selfish, evil ways. She is entirely self-centered. She is disgustingly promiscuous. She has several children by different men, and abandons them all. She lies to everyone about everything. She has no morals whatsoever, and shows no remorse for her heinous crimes. She schemes how she can trick people out of their money, and steals from innocent children. She is revolting in every particular.

I did not like the writing style either.

 The only other Defoe book that I have read was Robinson Crusoe, and the factual, pragmatic style worked for that kind of story. But this is a story full of emotional upheaval and violence and complicated family drama.

The story needed a finer touch and more deep explanations of what is going on within the characters’ hearts and minds. Moll’s motivations are rarely explained. She launches into relationships with men without any explanation of WHY they “fell in love”. The writing is so bare and plain.

There are also NO chapter breaks at all. There are NO breaks in the story. It’s just one long rambling narrative.

The story is much too long as well. There are at least 100 pages (I counted. From page 201- 309) that deal entirely with her escapades as a pick-pocket and thief. Just recounting different “jobs” that she did, and how she got away with it, and how she fooled people, and how much “loot” she stole. I mean, really. I didn’t need 100 pages of that. The plot doesn’t go anywhere. It just stagnates for 100 pages of thievery.

Ugh. Not happy with this book.

David and Goliath.. But Like, For Wine.

Have you heard of Stags Leap District AVA before?

It is located within the Napa Valley AVA and produces some
of the best wine in the world!

It’s climate is hot and dry but benefits from cooling
influences from the San Pablo Bay, including cool afternoon breezes and rolling
morning fogs. This climate is perfect for producing high quality Cabernet
Sauvignon which makes up roughly 90% of the plantings in this district.

Have you heard of the Judgment of Paris??

This was a historic blind tasting done in Paris in 1976.  The purpose of this tasting was to compare classic French wines to new American wines in both the Cab Sav and Chardonnay varities. It was thought that no wine in the world could stand up to the classic French Bordeaux wines. But hey! At least this tasting could help America, particularly Napa, gain some exposure in the international market.

So they gathered 9 French highly qualified wine experts to
be the judges and the “Tasting of the Century” commenced!

This tasting pit California Chardonnay against the best of White Burgundy and California Cabernet Sauvignon against the best of Bordeaux, particularly the houses of Chateaux Haut Brion and Mouton Rothschild. In an astonishing feat David overtook Goliath and California came out on top in BOTH categories! (The wine that took the top ranking in the red category was from what would eventually become Stags Leap District AVA!)

This dramatically changed the course for the American wine industry! What had started off as a low profile tasting blossomed into a full-fledged media frenzy! This tasting peaked interest in California wines both internationally and domestically. And was the catalyst for allowing a free flowing exchange of best practices and ideas from either side of the pond.

I think it’s safe to say that without this tasting Napa
would still be producing unreal wines. But this coverage and media exposure
definitely sealed its place on the international wine map firmly and forever!

It helped to bring investments and new start up wineries into the area which helped it grow into the icon that Napa Valley is today! I guess you could say that little David grow up big and strong!

I hope you enjoyed this fun bit of history! I’m looking forward to the next time I get my hands on a bottle of wine from this region!

Have you had a chance to try anything from Stags Leap District? Let me know in the comments!

Love You Lots,

M.H. Alexandra

Singapore Food Festival 2019: The 50 Cents Fest is back, this time focusing on Hokkien cuisine

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With the return of the Singapore Food Festival this July, Select Group Pte Ltd and Chinatown Food Street’s ever popular 50 Cents Fest (???????) also comes back to Smith Street in its 4th edition, which, as its name suggests, allows visitors to purchase all manner of food at the low low price of just 50 cents (capping out at a maximum of $3)!

Following on from last year’s 1930s-themed edition, this year’s festival shines a spotlight on Hokkien heritage, taking visitors through a multi-sensory, gastronomical experience of all that the largest dialect group in Singapore has to offer. Over 40 stalls and mobile vendors will be featured, peddling an assortment of more than 50 different savouries and sweets. Participants include heritage restaurants such as Beng Hiang, an established Hokkien restaurant founded in 1978 well-known for its melt-in-the-mouth kong bak pau (braised pork belly bun), while there’ll even be a hidden Hokkien roadside stall presenting traditional dishes like hei zho (prawn rolls), fried Hokkien mee and ‘buddha jumps over the wall’ soup.

Says Ms Rae Ng, Senior Head of Marketing for Select Group: “The 50 Cents Fest has become a platform for diners to take a trip back to the good old days, and for the younger generation to learn more about Singapore’s colourful heritage and experience a day in their elders’ shoes through food. Hokkiens form about 40 per cent of the Chinese population in Singapore, and this year we want to showcase the best Hokkien dishes and eateries, and bring both locals and tourists the most authentic experience with curated Hokkien-centric entertainment and activities.”

Plenty of periphery activities will also be taking place throughout the festival, with programmes such as a bingo game and nostalgic arcade games. Visitors can also get their retail therapy on with a Mixed Goods Store retail lane with Hokkien-inspired merchandise from local brand Wetteeshirt, and more, made all the more easier with the convenience of cashless transactions via OCBC PayAnyone.

Mark your calendars this July, and make a date with Chinatown Food Street to experience true blue Hokkien food and fun!

The 50 Cents Food Fest 2019 runs from 28th to 29th July 2019 from 11am to 11pm at Chinatown Food Street, Smith Street, Chinatown. Admission is free. For more information, visit their website here

Words We Carry by D G Kaye For: Streets Ahead Book Promotion Club

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“I have been a great critic of myself for most of my life, and I was darned good at it, deflating my own ego without the help of anyone else.”

What do our shopping habits, high-heeled shoes, and big hair have to do with how we perceive ourselves? Do the slights we endured when we were young affect how we choose our relationships now?
D.G. takes us on a journey, unlocking the hurts of the past by identifying situations that hindered her own self-esteem. Her anecdotes and confessions demonstrate how the hurtful events in our lives linger and set the tone for how we value our own self-worth.
Words We Carry is a raw, personal accounting of how the author overcame the demons of low self-esteem with the determination to learn to love herself.

About the Author

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D.G. Kaye is a Canadian nonfiction/memoir author. She was born, raised, and resides in Toronto, Canada. Kaye writes about her life experiences, matters of the heart and women’s issues. At a young age, D.G. began keeping journals to take notes about her turbulent childhood while growing up as an emotionally neglected child. Tormented with guilt, as she grew older, D.G. was conflicted with the question of whether or not she was to remain obligated to being a faithful daughter, in debt to her narcissistic mother for giving birth to her. Her first book, Conflicted Hearts is a memoir, written about her journey to seek solace from living with guilt. D.G.’s writing relates to her experiences in life, and shares her lessons and ideas she acquired along the way. Kaye’s second book, Meno-What? A Memoir, was written based on her passage through menopause. In that book, she shares her humor and wisdom on what women can expect at that time, adding some of her helpful hints for relief. D.G.’s newest book, Words We Carry focuses around women’s self-esteem issues. She talks about how and why the issues evolve, how she recognized her own, and how she overcame her insecurities. Kaye writes for the woman of all ages. Her writing is easily relatable and her insights about the complexities of being a woman are expressed in her writing. Quotes: “Live Laugh Love . . . And Don’t Forget to Breathe!” “For every kindness, there should be kindness in return. Wouldn’t that just make the world right?”

 

S. G. Cronin

This book was gifted me by the author without expectation of review or recompense. The views are my own.

Words We Carry is packed with the accumulated knowledge, wisdom, survival tips and strategies from someone who went through difficult and unhappy childhood and teen years.

I think it is fair to say that most of us are less than confident about our body shape, and that is particularly tough when you can no longer use the excuse of puppy fat, and your friends are heading out in slinky black dresses and high-heeled shoes.

Unfortunately, not all mothers are born with the nurturing gene and as soon as you become competition, there is an opportunity to reinforce your lack of self-esteem with carefully chosen and cutting words. I would like to think that the experiences that D.G. Kaye describes were rare, but I am afraid that after counselling women on their health and weight for twenty years, the story is very familiar.

Those harmful words from those who are supposed to love us, are the ones we carry throughout our lifetime, unless we can find a way to dilute their power and replace them with affirmations of a much more positive nature.

D.G. Kaye describes her strategies to claim her own identity, build her self-esteem and evolve from the ugly duckling that she had been made to feel she was, into a swan. This involved a makeover in a number of departments, including wearing high heels at all times and over every terrain, and standing out from the crowd with her now signature titian hair colour. She also developed a healthy, outgoing personality and independence that led her to discover groups of people who accepted and embraced her as a friend.

In the second section of the book Kaye looks at the impact this early negative conditioning had on her relationships, including romances with older men whose different approach to dating and expectations provided a more secure environment. Unfortunately, having entered one serious and long-term relationship, echoes of the verbal abuse that she received as a child and teenager, threatened to undo all the hard work that she had accomplished. Thankfully she went on to find happiness and empowerment with someone who appreciates all that she has become.

Kaye looks at issues such as the difference between Alone vs. Lonely, Negativity and Self-Worth, Forming Healthier Relationships, and importantly Exposing our Personality Through the Internet. All the chapters provide commonsense strategies to overcome a lack of self-confidence, and I do think that women and men in their 50s and 60s, will definitely be able to draw parallels to Kaye’s own experiences.

Whilst I recommend this memoir/self-help book to men and women of my age, I also think that it should be read by all mothers whose daughters are heading into their teens and beyond. It might just remind them of how fragile their child is when about to face the outside world, and that there are enough external challenges to be overcome, without encountering them in the place they should feel safe.

It is also a book for young women who are struggling with weight issues and those who feel that they are not as attractive as their friends, or who feel that they are somehow going through something never experienced before.

There is no reason to reinvent the wheel. By reading this they might take strength in knowing that this is an age oldproblem, and that they can change the narrative and write their own story.

 

Admission: I Was More Scared Than He Was

My youngest son is home for the summer from his freshman college year. It went well. He enjoyed his nine months away and succeeded academically. He also played football (minor concussion, but recovered fully, thankfully) and rugby (scraped up just about every inch of his body, including his lovely face!), made a lot of new friends, and learned to live in a small space (in relative harmony) with two other young men. The whole college experience.

It’s been a year since he graduated from high school and I was faced with the fact that my last child would be leaving soon to go off on his own to start “adulting.” I worried about so much. Would he be homesick? Would he make friends? Have I done enough to prepare him for being on his own?

Yesterday, I came across a letter that I wrote to him after he graduated. Apparently, I was worried about a lot of things. I also realize, after rereading the letter, that I had nothing to worry about. He was prepared. I think I was worried more about myself than about him. I made this human–he’s my flesh and blood! Now he’s leaving? How will I cope? I’m being abandoned . . . again . . .

Of course, the abandonment part wasn’t true. My son was prepared and ready to go out on his own and live the college life. And I knew and supported it one hundred percent. But I must admit, I felt a little empty inside.

As it turns out, I had no reason to worry. I wasn’t abandoned (he’s back!). And I’ve discovered that life can be pretty good for empty-nesters. I finished some projects (my  book is finally finished and published–BTW: you can find it here), visited my bio-dad, Jonathan, again (and my husband, Guy, finally got to meet him), and even communed with some fellow-adoptees (loved meeting everyone at the Indiana Adoptee Network Conference).  The hubs recently retired, too, so we’re in the thick of it!

But if you’re getting ready to send of your kid out into the big bad world, and you’re as worried as I was, I share here my advice to my son:

 

April 26, 2018

Dear Son,

As your graduation day approaches, we want to say “Happy graduation.” Son, you are on the cusp of your adult life (you’re 18 now!) and we are so proud of you. Your Dad and I have so much love and respect for you—you are smart, talented, thoughtful and kind.

I’m writing this letter to you because sometimes it’s difficult for me to articulate what is in my heart. I always do better to write things down. I want to express to you my pride and my hopes for your life ahead. Also, one day I may not be here to help you deal with pain, to help you be strong, to give you comfort, and to see you win and succeed. I hope that you’ll keep this letter for future reference and think of me when you need encouragement and support.

I wrote this letter to pass on the best of what I am, and the best of what I have learned – even if like most parents, I haven’t always been able to follow all of this advice myself.

These words are from my heart and rooted in my firm belief that you will be better than I am, and that you will be successful in whatever you decide to pursue in your life ahead.

On Maturity

Age is not a measure of maturity, unfortunately. You have grown up, but you will continue to mature, for years and years to come.

Maturity means taking responsibility for your own life and the choices you make. Keep in mind that every choice you make from this point on can and will affect you for the rest of your life. Decisions like whether to get in the car with that friend that has had maybe too much to drink, or whether to ditch a lecture, whether to stay the night in someone else’s bed . . . there are so many decisions that may seem trivial at the time, but the consequences of even what seems like an insignificant choice may change your life forever. Be smart.

You will make mistakes. Know and understand that you don’t have all the answers. You should not feel shame or hesitate to ask for help or advice.

Don’t feel threatened when people disagree with you. And most importantly, be open to allowing people to change your mind. Sometimes another person’s way is the better way.

Appreciate when others compliment or praise you. Say “thank you” a lot. Manners and courtesy matter and go a long way in commanding respect.

On Humility

Don’t ever think that you’re superior to anyone. Or that you’re above rules or laws. It’s ugly to be arrogant. Apologize when you’re wrong, or when you’ve hurt someone. Remember that other people’s emotions and feelings are valid and important—even if you don’t agree or understand.

On Learning

Never stop being curious. Be adventurous. Try new things. Keep learning—it will make you a richer person. Pick up a good book once in a while. Read for pleasure. It will enlighten you. Life is large.

Challenge yourself—don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is one of the best ways to learn.

While you’re embracing adventure and new hobbies, remember to finish what you start. I’m know I’m guilty of not following this rule all the time. Remember that productivity and success are about finishing and a job well done. You won’t do everything perfectly, or even right, but finish it. Be proud of your work.
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On Emotions

In your short 18 years, I know that you’ve felt many emotions. Happiness, joy, contentment, impatience, sadness, anger, and frustration. These are all simple emotions and have and will continue to come easily to you. It’s how you deal with them that is important. You must give every emotion its due—feel it fully and let it sit. For example, sit with your anger before you react. Consider how your reaction will affect others. Sometimes the only reaction you will need is an internal one. That is not to say that you shouldn’t feel angry or react some of the time, but anger shouldn’t be the reaction that rules you. It shouldn’t be the emotion that others know you by.

On the other hand, don’t be afraid to express your emotions. Don’t let controlling people make you think you shouldn’t feel a certain way. Trust your emotions. Because you will have sat with and processed your emotions, you can, and should trust them. Fear and anger serve a purpose, and you should recognize that. Trust yourself.

I haven’t really talked to you about two of the biggest emotions—grief and love. I’ll talk about love later separately—it’s very complicated. But grief deserves a mention here.

I think, somehow, you know a little about grief—more than most boys your age. When you were a little boy, grief confused you and you were very sensitive to it. Your father and I were often at a loss on how to comfort you. When you were just a toddler, we often found you in tears inconsolable, thinking about grandpa or grandma, and what happened to them and why they were gone. You felt deeply also when you lost your pets—you were hysterical when we had to euthanize Hey Arnold (the rat) and when we lost Soxie (the cat). You wanted explanations that just didn’t exist.

So I believe you know grief—I witnessed it—and I trust that your maturity will allow you to process your grief, but understand that losing someone or something you love may never make sense. You must put logic aside when you’re dealing with grief and just let it flow. Don’t be afraid to cry. It shows that you are vulnerable and understand your emotions. In the end, it makes you stronger. Remember that your grief is about you, and not the person you lost. The person that is gone is no longer suffering, or in pain . . . your sorrow is about how you deal with your loss.

People and Relationships

Grandpa Hank told me once that if you open your eyes and your mind, you can learn something from every single person you meet in life. He was right. Be open. In your life you will meet people who inspire you to do well and to do the right thing. I hope that these are the people you keep close to you.

You will also meet people who are not such a good influence. I don’t want you to shun these people—learn from them. Help them if you can. Be generous with your kindness. Perhaps you can be an inspiration to them. I’ve seen you already be generous with your kindness and empathy. Continue this path.

Remember that your family is your “safe place.” Home is where ever you feel comfortable—where ever you have family and/or friends to comfort you.

Friends, too, have a huge impact on your happiness. Good friends relieve stress, provide comfort and joy, prevent loneliness and isolation, and even strengthen your health. But close friendships don’t just happen. They take work and perseverance. Show interest in your friends when they are down, when they need help, and when they are struggling. Even if you just “stand there” next to them. It matters. Just show up.

Nurture and hold on to true friendships. Keep in touch with people that matter to you.

In a new place, like college or a new job, it may seem difficult to meet new people and develop quality connections. Be confident and open—you will attract the right people naturally with your warm personality and attitude if you let them see you for who you are.

Of course, technology has shifted the definition of friendship in recent years. With the click of a button, we can “add a friend” or make a new connection. But having hundreds of online friends is not the same as having a close friend you can be with in person. Online friends can’t hug you when a crisis hits, visit you when you’re sick, or celebrate a happy occasion with you. Remember that our most important and powerful connections happen when we’re face-to-face. So, make it a priority to really stay in touch with friends that are important to you.

On Love and Marriage

I’m not going to tell you much about falling in love or falling out of love. Love is something that you will figure out on your own, like everyone else. Love will sneak up on you and hit you when you least expect it. Sometimes, you will only think you’re in love, when in actuality, the emotion you are feeling is something different—lust, infatuation, admiration, extreme like. But when real love hits, you’ll know it. Maybe not right away, but you’ll figure it out. And that’s just it, my dear son, it is something that needs to be figured out. Again, it’s one of those emotions that you need to sit with and process. Don’t resist it, but please, oh please, take it slow.

You will get your heart broken, too. Maybe even more than once (probably more than once). Love is a risky thing, but it is the best feeling in the world when you are in it and the person you love loves you back. Remember that to be truly in love two people must also respect each other, trust each other and be kind to each other. If one element isn’t there, or if something doesn’t feel right, love isn’t there.

Now we come to the part about marriage. I’m no expert, but as far as I know, there is no such thing as the perfect marriage. Here’s my advice—don’t get married because your partner is pressuring you. Don’t get married because it seems like it’s the right time—you’ve been dating long enough and you feel like you’re the right age. Don’t get married because she seems like the perfect woman or she’d be the perfect wife or mother. Son, you’re probably going to want to get married for all the wrong reasons. We all do. In fact, the most common reason to get married also happens to be the most dangerous: we get married because we think it will make us happy. Getting married in order to be happy is the surest way to be unhappy and get divorced.

More simple advice:

Opposites may attract initially, but they don’t make great marriage partners. Marry someone who is more like you than not like you.

Pay attention to what your friends and family say. Consider that if nobody close to you seems to like your partner, there may be good reason for it.

Just know that you are worthy of real love. Wait for it and it will come to you. Know that you deserve a life of love, inspiration, and passion. Also know that there will be ups and downs and to expect and embrace them.

There are beautiful marriages. But marriages don’t become beautiful by seeking happiness; they become beautiful by seeking something else. Marry someone that you enjoy spending time with. Someone who truly loves you and makes an effort to make you happy.

One last word of advice—take time out once in a while to unplug and listen to the birds sing, watch a sunset, or go someplace quiet and beautiful to reset your mind and remember what is important. I know you love sunsets like your mama! That makes me happy.

What kind of man will you be? That’s up to you. Completely. Being a man, as I see it, is being your own man. It’s claiming your place in the world. Being your own man means not taking someone else’s path. I am proud of your journey so far and I know your path will lead to your own personal success and greatness.

We love you, Son.

Love,

Mom

P.S. You once asked me about how to live, be responsible, and have “fun” in college. I found this quote from the late, great Tom Petty about college that seems to sum it up. I hope you understand that it doesn’t mean that you should just forget responsibilities while at college, but it does mean that you should go easy on yourself once in a while.

“I’ve learned one thing, and that’s to quit worrying about stupid things. You have four years to be irresponsible here, relax. Work is for people with jobs. You’ll never remember class time, but you’ll remember the time you wasted hanging out with your friends. So stay out late. Go out with your friends on a Tuesday when you have a paper due on Wednesday. Spend money you don’t have. Drink ’til sunrise. The work never ends, but college does…”
? Tom Petty

Travel Guilt

If you’ve got a big trip planned for this year, should you cancel it?  Should you refrain from traveling at all, because of the impact that your share of carbon emissions from the plane flight may be having on Arctic sea ice, or rising sea levels?

edited-travel-guilt-770x515That’s the question posed by a curious New York Times article earlier this week.  The author wrings his hands about the issue, caught between a desire to broaden his horizons by seeing the world and his professed guilt that his travel interests are selfish and evil because they may be affecting global climate change.  After quoting lots of statistics about the potential impact of one person’s activities, and envisioning being glared at by a hungry polar bear while pondering his contribution toward disappearing Arctic ice, the author notes that he’s still going to take a trip to Greece and Paris, but only after he’s purchased enough “carbon offsets” to “capture the annual methane emanations of a dozen cows.”

The Times article notes that, in 2016, two climatologists published a paper that concluded that there is a direct relation between carbon emissions and the melting of Arctic sea ice, and “each additional metric ton of carbon dioxide or its equivalent — your share of the emissions on a cross-country flight one-way from New York to Los Angeles — shrinks the summer sea ice cover by 3 square meters, or 32 square feet.”  Taking a cruise isn’t the answer, either; the article says that cruise ships produce three or four times the pollution produced by jets.  Even worse, the article states that just by being an average American we’re harming and even killing fellow human beings, and quotes a determination somehow made by a University of Tennessee professor, who concluded: The average American causes through his/her greenhouse gas emissions the serious suffering and/or deaths of two future people.”

So, should we just stay huddled in our houses with the lights turned off, so as to minimize our personal contribution to potential global catastrophe?  I won’t be doing that.  I like leisure travel, and unlike the Times writer, I’m not wracked with guilt about it.  I’m quite skeptical of any calculation that purports to show that, in view of all of the huge, overarching factors, such as sunspot cycles, solar flares, ocean currents, and wind systems, that can affect the Earth’s climate, the activity of an “average American” can be isolated and found to have a direct, measurable impact on climate.  Science has endured a lot of black eyes lately, with research and calculations shown to be inaccurate and, in some instances, politically motivated, and I’m just not willing to accept unquestioningly that going to visit my sister-in-law in California will melt 32 square feet of Arctic sea ice.  I also question how the activities of an “average American” are calculated, or how a walk-to-work person like me compares to the carbon footprint of the “average.”

So, I guess you can call me selfish, because I do want to see more of the world and experience the wonders of faraway places.  But don’t just ask me — ask the places that travelers visit if they’d rather not receive the infusions of cash, and the jobs created, that come from being a tourist destination.  If we’re going to be doing impossibly complex calculations of benefits and harm, how about throwing in the economic and cultural benefits that flow from travel into the equation?

Blood and Power

We have a new chapter of Rum Cove everyday until the conclusion 7th June

Lot presents Odin with a hoop


London – 1844

‘A priest?’ Odin said, wrinkling his nose at the sight of Father Brennan’s church.

I leaned against the gate with my hands in my pockets and looked up at the tower I’d fallen off not all that long ago. ‘If you want to convince me you want your descendants to be part of your family you have to include him.’

He snorted. ‘I heard you don’t even like him.’

‘You heard?’

‘Always research anyone you let close.’

It was my turn to snort. ‘You’ve not let me close and I don’t plan to be. You can’t dazzle me with promises of godly heritage, I have no interest in that power.’

He came close. ‘Everyone is interested in power, some are just better at denying it.’

Josef stepped out of the shadows of the churchyard trees.

Odin considered him then shifted back. ‘Where’s the other one?’

‘Bran’s always best with some distance from a problem,’ I said.

He shook his head. ‘You could’ve done better than tying yourself to a coward.’

‘Bran’s the bravest man I’ve ever known.’ And sadly too morally upright to take pot shots at a twatbasket from his rooftop perch. I sighed. ‘As far as I see the only power you offer is the power to throw your name around. That’s not power, it’s an illusion, power by poxy. I gain nothing from it.’

‘You’ve just said you do.’

‘It only lasts as long as the power of your name does.’ My gaze shifted, the light inside him was ebbing quickly. I blinked and he was just a man again. ‘Far as I can see that’s not what it was.’

‘Freyja said you were impertinent.’

‘It’s the high point of my personality.’

He frowned at me as if he was looking for a way to peel back my layers and reveal my secrets like an onion. Josef came up close behind me and put his cane beside my leg.

I rested my hand on the pommel. ‘Brennan reckons family is important, I’m sure he’d be very pleased to have a grandfather.’ Not that he’d ever been interested in Merry, and Mary for years, one of the many things I was holding against him.

‘That’s a look,’ Odin said.

‘A look?’

‘A look that says there’s a lot of dubious water under the bridge.’

‘More dubious than The Thames.’ I swung my hand. My mental hand reached out and pushed the gate, it was heavy against my palm as if I was really touching it.

The gate groaned opened, scraping the path.

Odin tilted his head to the side. ‘Not bad.’

‘After you.’

He smiled. ‘Ladies first.’

‘I have a policy of not walking in front of someone who might stab me in the back.’ Unless it benefitted me for them to have a crack at it, I wasn’t sure I wanted a former god to try.

His expression was placid, the same expression I got when I was calculating. I wrinkled my nose at the thought of blood relatives trying to claim my loyalty based on blood alone like they were trying to capture me in invisible chains of obligation. I had no more obligation to a stranger who shared blood than I did any other stranger.

‘This can’t take long,’ he said. ‘I have a prior engagement.’

‘You can’t survive for long on this side.’

His eyes went wide for the briefest moment. ‘And how do you know that?’

I smiled.

He smiled back. ‘Very well.’ He tossed his cane into the air and caught it then strode towards the church. He stopped so abruptly I almost banged into him. ‘Have you considered what it’s a sign of?’

My breath hissed through my teeth. ‘That you’re really old.’

‘The world is changing, if we don’t change with it we’ll die.’

‘If you keep up this mysterious façade to try and intrigue me I’ll smother you and you won’t have to worry about it.’

He tapped my chest with his cane. ‘Supernaturals like you are the future, Charlotte.’

I brushed his cane away. ‘Lot.’

He looked me up and down. ‘You and your children are something new. Hybrids, changelings, there are more and will be more. The Morag might be dying but magic… Magic never dies.’

‘That’s deeply unsettling.’

He laughed.

‘Are we going to stand here all day?’ Josef said near my ear. ‘Even I get bored.’

‘He is quite boring.’

Odin shook his head. ‘You have my arrogance but you haven’t earned it.’ He stepped through the gate without getting struck by lightning.

I shut the gate without following. ‘I’m just getting started.’

Read More Rum Cove 1

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The Affiliate Link Database!

A few days ago, I wanted to gather some Bookdepository affiliate links from my mutuals and some blogger/book clubs as BD is my to-go bookstore and I love to support others. It became clear very quick that others were very interested in me sharing my list. In that moment, I decided to make my spreadsheet public, open for everyone and also include Amazon links. This way I started with the creation of..

The Affiliate Link Database spreadsheet!

What are affiliate links? An affiliate link is basically a regular links and act just like that for the customer. The difference is that these are linked to an affiliate-ID. This way the store can track any purchases made through them and reward the affiliate with a small commission for diverting traffic to the site.
The tracking software is smart, so it doesn’t matter if you got a link to the homepage and just go scrolling and purchase after or get a link to a specific book and buy another. Using an affiliate link doesn’t cost anything extra for the customer and neither changes it your shopping experience.

Besides the standard purchasing through an affiliate link, Amazon offers affiliates something called ‘bounties’. In short, this means that for every free trial sign-up through an affiliate link will grant the affiliate £3/€3 or more! It costs you absolutely nothing to start a trial and you don’t even have to complete the full trial for it to support the affiliate! Even if you don’t plan on actually using the trial, you can feel generous one day and start one. Affiliates can also generate direct links for those services, in case you want that. I also made a tab in the spreadsheet with specifics.


The goal to create a low-pressure support system. Bloggers often want to support eachother but the ‘how’ usually consists of Ko-Fi donations, wishlists or art commissions, but budgets always ruin the fun. Affiliate links offer a great ”two birds with one stone” option as now you can support someone while doing your personal or blog purchases and it doesn’t cost you any extra!
The whole idea of this spreadsheet is to encourage people to open up the spreadsheet and use one of the links the next time they plan to purchase something. It’s a tiny bit of extra effort that will make someone else’s day. In the meantime, someone else might do this for you if you are an affiliate yourself.

Everyone is free to add themselves or their friends to the list and use the links provided, even you aren’t part of the database. In fact, I even encourage you to do so and share the spreadsheet with your friends, followers and fellow bloggers. I will only ask you to not be an ass and leave your link if you aren’t planning on supporting others.

I can’t emphasize more on the fact that nobody should feel forced or pressured in any way to buy more than want or get their purchase of Bookdepository or Amazon just to support others. This spreadsheet isn’t meant to create a ‘buy to support’ mentality. It is to ignite a ‘if you buy, you can support’ mentality.

I really hope this spreadsheet will boost some support between bloggers and booklovers. Let me know if there are things that need to change or added!


Want to become an affiliate yourself?
Go to the Bookdepository Affiliate sign-up form or to the Amazon Associates page! (Make sure to select the right Amazon store region before clicking the sign-up button!)

Shadow Eyes #2: Luminous Spirits Review

Luminous Spirits (Shadow Eyes, #2)
Affiliate Link

Luminous Spirits is the second book in the Shadow Eyes trilogy
by Dusty Crabtree. Iris is finally coming into her powers and has started to go
on more difficult missions with Gregory, Patrick, and Kyra to save people from
the shadows that prey on them. But her best friend Lexi is being completely
left out of the picture. She isn’t a light warrior and can’t go on the missions
for safety reasons, but Iris is now spending all of her free time training.
Soon, the shadows start to come for Lexi, and Iris has to figure out how to save
her best friend. Her relationship with Patrick is also hurting because of a new
girl named Lila that won’t leave him alone, and her ex Josh has come back into
the picture and reminds Iris of how things could have been.

I am loving this trilogy so far! Iris has truly blossomed
since the last installment of this series and has finally started to become a
full-fledge light warrior, but she is still learning some important things. For
example, she has to learn how to tell shadows apart in order to figure out how
much strength will be needed to remove it, or if it can be removed at all. Some
shadows are so strong that they have already started to kill their human hosts,
but most can be removed before they get to that point. The shadow description in
this trilogy has been done so well, as the shadows aren’t simply random “villain”
encounters. The shadows have voices, the shadows can speak to their hosts, and Iris
has to intercept them. I felt as though the shadows were real as I read this,
and felt as if I wanted to be a light warrior to save people from the shadows
that plague them.

The only thing that I didn’t like in this novel was how quickly
Iris seemed to jump to conclusions. She seemed pretty indecisive about her relationship,
but the minute her boyfriend does something totally out of character for him,
she is willing to believe the worst. This could just be my bias against love
triangles coming out, but I don’t see a love triangle in the near future for
this series. This book focuses mostly on Patrick though, which made me glad.

My two absolute favorite parts about this book were learning
about Patrick’s past and the side story with Iris’ best friend Lexi. Patrick
wasn’t always a light warrior, and he starts to tell Iris more about his past self
in this book. I am a little confused as to the timeline with all of this, but I
understood what was happening when he was telling his stories. A lot of new
characters were introduced this way, and I enjoyed learning about the new people
in this world. It also really touched me to have Lexi not be forgotten, and for
Iris to realize how she was hurting her friend. In most books where a kid gets
powers and leaves their friends behind, the friends either turn out to be evil,
secretly have powers too, or just “don’t understand” so it is reasonable that
they are forgotten. Lexi tried to be a good friend, but she kept getting pushed
to the side, making her an easier target for the shadows that latch onto sad
emotions.

This was an amazing installment in this trilogy! I would
recommend the Shadow Eyes Trilogy to anyone looking for a new YA fantasy or
urban fantasy series.

I received a copy of this book and this is my voluntary review.

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5 books.

BBN_BOOKBBN_BOOKBBN_BOOKBBN_BOOKBBN_BOOK

Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman

Recently I have had more time to read since having a less hectic college schedule means more time for reading. I finally picked up the highly acclaimed Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman. I feel like this book has been talked about everywhere by everyone, so I wanted to pick it up to see what all the hype was about.

 

Book Synopsis:

The book is about Eleanor who leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work everyday, eats the same meal deals, buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink at the weekend. One simple act of kindness changes Eleanors life, whilst learning to navigate herself through life, she also learns how to face the dark corners of her past that she has avoided all her life.

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***Just as a trigger warning this book deals with mental illness and abuse.

I admit I wasn’t immediately hooked when first getting into this book. The book is completely told from Eleanor’s point of view so you get so see her thoughts and how her mind works. I think initially I struggled getting into this book because I found it hard to take a liking to Eleanor and her character. And I found the beginning a little slow paced. However, as I continued through the book I started to warm up to Eleanor and I loved all the other characters.

One aspect of this book I loved how honest this book was. And the way Eleanor battles with her demons of her past was written from such an honest account, it brought me to tears on how realistic it portrayed dealing with mental illness and any demons. The book also had some very sweet moments and I appreciated that there was no romance in this book, just pure friendship. I feel like this is something you don’t often see in books all the time.

This book makes you feel all the emotions and for me is one of the most honest books I’ve seen in a while that shows an honest view of dealing with mental illness and trauma. The writing was spectacular and this book became one of my favourite books.

I would highly recommend anyone to read this book. I gave this 5/5 stars.

What is a book you just finished? Let me know in the comments.

 

Remember to keep smiling

-Isobel

 

 

Pauri-Garhwal Trip – Kaudiyala

Much below the elevations of Lansdowne and Pauri which lie in the Pauri-Garhwal district of Uttarakhand, Kaudiyala at just 480m above mean sea-level lies in the Tehri-Garhwal district and is just about 40km downhill from Devprayag. It is located where the Ganga makes a 180degree turn in its path towards Rishikesh which is almost 40kms further downhill. The name Kaudiyala brings just one thing to mind – white-water rafting.

And that is one reason to make a stopover at GMVN Kaudiyala or for that matter at any of the numerous hotels, tented stays and campsites erected all along the Ganga from Kaudiyala to Rishikesh. This is to be in the vicinity of the numerous rafting trips that are organised all along the stretch. However, if you are not the rafting types, you can stay near the ever-flowing Ganga and enjoy the scenic beauty and be mesmerised by the constant burble and rippling made by the river as it flows over the rocks and boulders at the lower altitudes of the Himalayas before it leaves the mountain country at Rishikesh and definitely reaches the plains at Haridwar. You may spend time admiring the local flora and fauna and undertake one of the many trekking trips organised all along the stretch road.

Environmental concerns were raised in the recent past due to non-compliance to licensing terms and conditions and degradation of the riverine ecosystem due to rampant encroachment and disregard for waste disposal all along the river by the campsites became a real issue. Read about it here. I hope better sense prevails in keeping this wonderful river and its ecosystem intact. Same holds true for its spiritual environment.

To be noted that in the earliest years of the state’s formation, Uttarakhand was called Uttaranchal.

The GMVN Kaudiayala is a nice property on the right bank of the Ganga. It lies somewhere midway between Rishikesh and Devprayag and is at an hour’s drive from both. You will need to park your car on the roadside and go down the stairs to reach to the hotel reception. The property sits high on the rocks by the banks of the Ganga and comprises many huts priced according to number of beds and amenities. In the evenings, the people can even organise a campfire if asked to. The hotel has its own restaurant which serves decent food.

Stone and wood decorations

I found a small restaurant just across the road. Unique decorations on its front porch caught my eye – an odd collection of rocks and a small wooden boat. There were some small eateries around which serve tea, snacks and food, mostly frequented by the locals. One can try them out, as per the inclination of the tongue and sensitivity of the guts.

Looking upstream from The Kaudiyala Rafters’ Camp

The camp itself was perched high on the rocks by the bank and there was no way down to the river. I came to the road and just beside a roadside eatery, there was a narrow dusty trail going down. I soon realised that climbing downhill sometimes can be trickier than climbing up. While climbing up narrow uneven paths, you require the strength of your thighs and knees to haul yourself up whereas while climbing down, the less used calf and shin muscles are used to prevent your body from tumbling over. I waded my way over the river sands and made my way to the rocks by the bank. This was where a small stream also discharges into the Ganga as is visible on the map above. At places, where it was deep, the water looked tranquil and serene. At shallower depths, flowing over rocks and boulders, it made a lot of din.  

The Ganga upstream from our camp

On the banks, a little upstream from our camp

As Kaudiyala lies at a considerably low altitude, the April air felt warm just as in the plains. However, towards the evening, it became cooler. After a quick cold shower, we sat in the garden overlooking the river enjoying some hot tea and pakodas while the rumbling and gurgling continued endlessly. A dog was constantly keeping an eye on all activities while its cute little pup was busy making friends with everybody.

It was a little fascinating to realise that the sound of the water have been going on for ages and will go on forever in the future, perhaps. The span of a human lifetime seemed inconsequential.

“For Men may come and Men may go, but I go on for ever.”

-The Brook by Alfred Lord Tennyson

That evening itself, we enrolled at our camp for the rafting expedition scheduled for the next morning. I spent the time post-dinner by making myself snug on a chair with my feet up on a rock while admiring the mid-heavens full of scintillating stars.

Along with an early morning tea, I spent quite some time discovering life in its various moods and hues in the surrounding gardens. I wandered around the beautifully maintained gardens discovering birds in the bushes, bird’s nests and giant ants on their daily pursuits.

A plethora of garden plants, both flowering and otherwise made the place very cheerful.

The rafting team was to leave at around 9 o’clock. At the scheduled hour, we gathered near the hotel gates. Our plan was to raft till Rishikesh and from there go to Haridwar and board our train. So we loaded our backpacks on the transport that was to take us to the starting point, Marine Drive.

A brief description of the 5 out of 6 Rapid classifications that one would encounter in this stretch are as below:

  • Grade: 1 – Easy navigation across mild streams. Almost no risk involved
  • Grade: 2 – Holds notably apart obstacles or rocks and easily maneuverable
  • Grade: 3 – Reasonably adventurous rapids and requires good judgment
  • Grade: 4 – These rapids are strong enough to tumble the raft
  • Grade: 5 – Dangerous rapids. Strictly for experts.
A solitary raft in the morning

A solitary raft in the morning

The stretch of river from Kaudiyala to Marine Drive requires quite some rafting experience as it has a couple of Category 4 rapids like the Wall and Daniel’s Dip.

Marine Drive to Shivpuri is about 12 kms and is fairly good for experienced ones with quite a few category 3 rapids with the usual share of Grade 1s and 2s.

Shivpuri to Rishikesh is about 16kms and is more relaxing and can be tried by greenhorns who are perhaps trying rafting for the first time and for fun with family.  It has some Grade 3 rapids and more Grade 1s.  

The starting point at Marine Drive

The starting point at Marine Drive

It took us about 20 minutes or so to each Marine Drive. We were the only ones there. But soon a family of four joined us. With some preliminary directions issued by our experienced guide, we started out. It was almost 10 o’clock. The full rafting trip from Marine Drive to Rishikesh takes approximately 5 hours or so. We would be at Rishikesh by 3 in the afternoon. The time it took to pump the raft, I took the opportunity to do some sight-seeing and photography.

We encountered some pleasant Grade 1 rapids, one with an otherwise notorious name – Black Money. It was fun to negotiate the grade 3 rapids – Cross-Fire and The Three Blind Mice. One stretch was deep enough and hence safe enough, the water had a tranquil surface and we plunged into the river, floating on the water while holding the ropes so as not to stray away from the raft.

The midway halt at Shivpuri

The midway halt at Shivpuri

Shivpuri seemed like a great congress of rafters. People and rafts were everywhere. A family of parents and two kids who had joined us at Marine drive completed their trip and left while we were joined by four others. All four of them seemed to be students discovering their new-found freedom and messed up frequently by not following instructions. Team-work is really important else the raft may even capsize at the slightest rough waters.

Crowd of rafters at Shivpuri

The crowd of rafters at the Shivpuri

From Shivpuri onwards, we had more stretches of calm waters where we had more opportunities to swim in the cool waters and more grade 1s like Sweet Sixteen, Body Surfing and Hilton. Few Grade 3s do exist like Golf Course and Return to Sender. It was clear that the river was itself getting calmer and wider with fewer boulders and rocks making the rapids less dangerous. At one of the Grade 3 rapids, the four newbies got us into trouble and we were unable to get out of a pool of circulating water behind the rapid. We somehow made it. In the final stretch of our rafting, we landed on Nim Beach, a very wide beach of white sand near Rishikesh where we strolled for a while before jumping back into our raft to reach the final point on the other side. There at the banks, we found our transport waiting for us. That ended our 27 kms rafting expedition. Since we stayed at the GMVN at Kaudiyala, the one at Rishikesh was kind enough to allow us to use their shower rooms.

Destination, Rishikesh

The Destination, Rishikesh

We took a shared taxi from Rishikesh to Haridwar, barely 40 minutes away. The Dehradun Shatabdi was waiting for us to take us back home – back to our daily chores. That completed the trip of Pauri Garhwal that started at Kanvashram and ended at Rishikesh via Lansdowne, Pauri, Devprayag and Kaudiyala.

Rishikesh

Rishikesh resembled a busy habitation after having crossed the forested hills while floating on the Ganga. To float on the clear waters of the swiftly flowing Ganga, while looking up at the clear blue sky with the greenery of the vegetation all around was awesome. Rishikesh being a religious and spiritual town soon reminded us of the finality of our existence. We passed by a cremation ground, temple towers and ascetics deep in meditation. What a contrast to the pure exuberance in the lap of nature we experienced earlier. It was a succinct message that while we indulge in the intoxication that life brings us, in the end we all must pack up and leave.

Rishikesh would again call me on yet another trip in a few months’ time. It has also become a one-stop shop for those looking for quick spiritual enlightenment in this age where everything is a commodity. The preponderance of very economical yoga centers to costly ashrams at every nook and corner of this town says it all. But then it is also a place where multitudes throng even today as they did for centuries since time immemorial. Nothing can take away the sanctity of this holy place for the seeker.

More about Rishikesh and Haridwar in my future posts.


Some Related Stuff…

For rafting, a dry pouch can be very handy to keep mobile phones, wallets and camera.

Click here to buy on Amazon.in

Who can forget The Beatles? The Beatles came to Rishikesh to study Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. During this time they wrote most of the songs that were later to become the White Album.

Click here to buy on Amazon.in.


Pikiran dan Realita – Sang Pengusir Setan

Berikut adalah kisah nyata mengenai dunia gaib di Thailand, tentang kebijaksanaan adikodrati Ajahn Chah yang menakjubkan.

Pemuka kampung dari desa terdekat, disertai seorang teman, berjalan dengan tergesa-gesa untuk menemui Ajahn Chah di gubuknya, tempat beliau menerima tamu. Seorang perempuan desa telah kerasukan roh jahat dan beringas pada malam sebelumnya. Mereka tidak mampu menolongnya, maka mereka membawanya ke biksu sepuh ini. Sewaktu mereka berbicara dengan Ajahn Chah, dalam jarak yang tak terlalu jauh, terdengar jeritan perempuan.

Segera Ajahn Chah memerintahkan dua samanera muda untuk menyalakan api dan memasak air; lalu beliau memerintahkan dua samanera lain untuk menggali lubang besar di luar gubuknya. Tak seorang pun dari samanera-samanera itu yang tahu, untuk apa.

Empat lelaki desa yang kuat, petani berotot dari timur laut Thailand, nyaris tidak sanggup menahan rontaan si perempuan. Sewaktu mereka menyeretnya melalui salah satu bagian paling keramat di wihara, dia meneriakkan kata-kata kotor.

Ajahn Chah melihatnya dan menyuruh para samanera itu, “Gali lebih cepat! Didihkan airnya! Kita perlu lubang yang besar dan banyak-banyak air panas!” Tak seorang pun biksu dan penduduk dapat menerka, apa yang akan beliau lakukan.

Saat mereka menarik perempuan yang berteriak-teriak itu ke gubuk Ajahn Chah, mulutnya sudah berbusa-busa. Matanya yang berwarna merah darah terbelalak lebar penuh kegilaan. Wajahnya menggambarkan ekspresi kegilaan ditambah lontaran kata-kata kotor dan ludah ke Ajahn Chah. Makin banyak orang membantu memegangi perempuan ini.

“Sudah belum lubangnya? Cepat! Air panasnya sudah? Ayo cepat!” Ajahn Chah berteriak di tengah riuh teriak si perempuan. “Kita harus melempar dia ke dalam lubang! Siramkan air panas ke tubuhnya! Lalu kubur dia! Itu satu-satunya cara untuk mengusir roh jahat ini! Gali lebih cepat! Tambah lagi air panasnya!”

Kami telah belajar dari pengalaman bahwa tak seorang pun dapat menebak pasti apa yang akan dilakukan Ajahn Chah. Dia adalah “ketidakpastian” dalam wujud seorang biksu. Penduduk desa sudah yakin bahwa beliau akan melempar perempuan kerasukan itu ke dalam lubang, menyiramnya dengan air panas, dan menguburnya. Dan mereka akan membiarkannya saja. Si perempuan tampaknya juga berpikiran sama, karena dia mulai sedikit reda. Sebelum lubangnya selesai digali, dan sebelum airnya mendidih, si perempuan sudah bersimpuh tenang dalam kelelahan di hadapan Ajahn Chah, dengan penuh hormat menerima pemberkahan, sebelum akhirnya mereka menuntunnya pulang. Luar biasa.

Ajahn Chah tahu, kerasukan atau sekadar gila, ada sesuatu yang sangat perkasa di dalam diri kita masing-masing, yang dinamakan pertahanan diri. Dengan piawai dan dramatis, Ajahn Chah menekan tombol pertahanan diri di dalam perempuan itu, dan membuat rasa takut sakit dan rasa takut matinya mengusir roh jahat yang merasukinya.

Itulah kebijaksanaan: muncul begitu saja, tak terencana, tak terulang.

Eating Healthy – Suggestions

Eating Helathy


Easy to say, not so easy to apply. 

But no worries!

Tips, advices and fun recipes are coming in this article.

Remember that to integrate new elements and change our usual “bad” habits takes time and it doesn’t happen from one day to another.

It takes time and patience, but the results are worth it.

Here we go:

-Eat regularly: following a rhythm and allowing your body to metabolize it is one of the most important things to keep in mind. Skipping entire meals to lose weight won’t change anything. We should always eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and also in during the morning and afternoon. Advised number: 5 meals a day.

-Water? Yes, yes, yes! It’s the element that we are most made of and it’s so important to have it a lot during the day. So many positive effects are connected to it, from being less hungry to increase our productivity and hydration. 1,5 to 2,5 liters are day are optimal for everyone, especially for those ones that do a lot of physical activity.

-Colors are your friends: each aliment, especially vegetables and fruits are very rich of minerals and other elements that are very important in our body. Each one of them have different properties and vitamins: be sure to integrate as many different varieties as you can. They will help your digestion, immune system and boost yourself up.

-Be various: carbs, proteins, fat and minerals are what we need in our nutrition. Alternate always one another and try to avoid eating twice a day the same aliment. A good combo could be for example carbs at lunch and proteins at night or viceversa always accompanied by vegetables and fruits.

Last but not least I suggest you guys to create a food diary where you registrate and write down what you eat during a certain period of time, a week, for example.

It will help you a lot to see what to keep and what to improve.

And It will make you more conscious about your daily assumptions.

Try it! ?

YOU’VE BEEN EXPEDITED!

Well, I’m back!  Back from a cruise on a big ol’ fancy ship to Northern Spain, Portugal, the Island of Majorca, Gibraltar, and Rome.  Went to celebrate 40 years of marriage with my man, “WW” (White and Wonderful) and my birthday of 71 years.  I had a blast ‘cause my man knows how to treat his woman—Oh yes, Jesus, he does!  He had been organizing this trip for two years, and it was outstanding—first class all the way!

Photo Credit: Eleanor Tomczyk/Bilboa, Spain

Talk about acting like a “balla”—for two weeks I was a committed hedonist.  (For the uninitiated, a “balla” [baller] is someone like a successful basketball or football player who lives like she is queen of everything—a Serena Williams or Beyoncé with so much money to burn that one’s lavish and outlandish lifestyle is de rigueur.) The way I acted over the course of those two weeks onboard the cruise, you would have never guessed that I was born a poor-Black-child in the inner-city of Cleveland because I took to being pampered like a pig to slop or a Trump. 

Everything was just perfect, and I can see why people prefer
being rich rather than poor.  For me,
this lifestyle was temporary, but if I could have stayed on an eternal cruise
on this particular ship, you bet your sweet tuckus, I would have. That’s
because humans—especially Americans—are prone to the seductive life of getting
our own way when everything is how you want it, when you want it, and where you
want it—a.k.a. easy.  In other words, my “idealized persona” (what
Carl Jung calls our mask, and what the author Mateo Sol of Loner Wolf describes as “…what
we would like to be and how we wish to be seen by the world”
) was livin’
the dream on this floating luxury resort. 
That is…until I boarded the plane in Rome to return home, and I got into
a rip-roaring fight with my “shadow self” which is still whimpering today as I
try to wean myself from all that rich food and pampering.

What is a “shadow
self,” you might ask?  First of all, we
all have one. 
Mateo Sol* describes
the “shadow self” as “an archetype that
forms part of the unconscious mind and is composed of repressed ideas,
instincts, impulses, weaknesses, desires, perversions and embarrassing fears.”

 Carl Jung furthers Sol’s definition from
his book: On the Psychology of the
Unconscious
:

It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses—and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism. The individual seldom knows anything of this; to him, as an individual, it is incredible that he should ever in any circumstances go beyond himself. But let these harmless creatures form a mass, and there emerges a raging monster.

Spoiled Brat meme/Sylvester me.me

***

BELOW IS THE TRANSCRIPT OF THE FIGHT WITH MY SHADOW SELF WHO HAD STOWED AWAY UNDERNEATH MY SOUL AND STAYED HIDDEN AND SILENT UNTIL MID-WAY DURING THE TRANSATLANTIC FLIGHT HOME AFTER THE CRUISE.

SHADOW SELF:  Psst! 
Wake up!  Wake up, Fool!! Why the
fuck are we in coach?  This is not what I
signed up for.

MY PERSONA:  Oh, my God—where did you come from?  I thought I left you locked in the closet at
home.

SHADOW SELF:  As if!  Where you go, I go.  Do you hear that nasty-ass old man hacking up loogies sitting just three seats from you?  He’s been doing it all night. We’re going to catch “p-new-moania” from this dude and be bedridden for weeks.  We’re almost 71 years old.  We can’t be putting ourselves in this kind of danger.  Now, on the other hand, do you hear anyone coughing and sneezing in First Class?  Did you notice their lovely hot meals (three choices—each with hot soup options) served on linen table clothes along with champagne and copious wine and hot fudge sundaes on trays in front of their lay-down beds and massive TV screens that tilt for maximum viewing? It’s a different world up there — a world where we definitely belong.  A world where people have been “expedited.”

What did we have for dinner?  A freezer-burned gluten-free cardboard chicken piece in a tin (half cooked) with unseasoned veggies (also freezer burned).  We are in a seat with a TV screen on the back of the seat in front of us which is the size of a postage stamp.  I tried to pee an hour or so ago and there were at least 250 people lined up to use the toilet.

MY PERSONA:  Listen, SS, we discussed this before I left.  We used all our Benjamins for the cruise and all our frequent flyer points for the flight to London.  You’ll survive this return flight from Rome. I know it’s like being in a can of sardines flying in coach, but unless you are Trump or a televangelist with a fleet of private planes, you’ll just have to suck it up.  Besides, this is why I thought I left you home.  I don’t want to hear any whining after such a fabulous vacation.

Used by permission: 212692_600 Jeff Koterba, Omaha World Herald, NE

SHADOW SELF:  There is always room for improvement, Chickadee.  The cruise line showed you the
blueprint.  I keep dreaming of that ship
and how this is the first time you’ve really treated me as I truly deserve.  The cruise ship had me at “hello!”  Remember the entry-way to the ship when one
of the stewards looked at your ticket and said, “Oh, you don’t belong in THIS
LINE, Mr. and Mrs. Tomczyk.  Come with me
to the VIP line because “you’ve been
expedited!” 
God, I love the sound of
those words:  “YOU’VE BEEN EXPEDITED!”  We were swiftly escorted onto the ship with
not another person ahead of us which meant no lines and no waiting.  (Bitch, you
know
how I hate waiting in lines!)  Then, before I could say, “Let’s locate the
martini bar,” a waitress gave us our choice between straight champagne or mimosas
as we toured the ship.  Didn’t even have
to pick up the keys to our suite…just told to go to our lodging at our leisure where
we’d find the keys in our mail slot. 

MY PERSONA:  I must say that was nice.  So easy. So expedient. Kind of makes you wish
all of life was like that, especially the DMV.

SHADOW SELF:  Exactly.  See…now you’re thinkin’ like me.  That cabin was just to die for, wasn’t it?  A bathroom that was big enough to throw a party in with a bathtub the size of a six-person Jacuzzi.  And remember what was waiting for you when you opened the door?  MORE CHAMPAGNE! And not the cheap-ass stuff either.  Slap me some Moët, Baby…Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary to me, Sister-Friend! 

Photo Credit: Eleanor Tomczyk

MY PERSONA:  Ummm…and the delicious chocolate-covered
strawberries—so sweet, they made my toes curl. 
And the flowers…weren’t they precious?

SHADOW SELF:  Yep, if only everyday could be like that, right?  Now my favorite was when we heard the knock on the door and in walks your own private butler.  Lawd, have mercy, I almost fainted!  I thought to myself: This po-black-chil’ done hit the lottery!  Remember what he said to you:  “Welcome Madam.  Do you find everything to your liking? I’m sorry that I didn’t have a chance to sprinkle the rose petals on the bed, but I can bring them later, if you’d like.  I’m on-call to serve you 24/7.  Also, would you like to be addressed as Mrs. Tomczyk, Eleanor, or Madam?” Sweet Jesus, I just knew we had died and gone to Heaven.  I was hoping you’d choose to be called “Madam” so I could pretend we were in an episode of Downton Abbey.  This would be the only time in my life that my Black-ass would be called “Madam” by a White butler.  BUT NOOOO…you went all egalitarian and shit on me, and said he could address you as “Eleanor.”  But I forgive you, because the butler was so hot.  Him with his silver-fox hair and Ukrainian accent—looking like a bleached Denzel Washington.  I knew right there, he would be just perfect for all my needs.

Stock Photo: Butler similar to one on cruise

MY PERSONA:  Would you cut that shit out, SS.  Did you forget I’m married?  I did not perceive the butler like that.  He was nice and attentive.  That’s all I noticed.  That and the fact he offered to do my laundry anytime I needed it done—for free.  I would have taken him home just for that.  Anyway, enough of this.  You know that the downside of any wonderful experience or gift is the sin of ingratitude. The worst part of the cruise were all the habitual cruisers (people who cruise every three months or so) who brought along their shadow selves and bitched and complained about everything under the sun (“it’s too hot, it’s too cold, this isn’t as nice as the other cruise, I don’t like the entertainment, why did they change the private bar area, why is the elevator so slow…”).  Get yourself together because if you think today is bad, wait until I get us back home and put us on a diet to take off all the pounds we gained over the past two weeks with a butler who would bring us any food and drink anytime we wanted it.

SHADOW SELF:  I loved that the first activity you did on the ship was get an 80 minute massage. I liked that almost as much as sampling the six different specialty restaurants with chocolate desserts that would make a grown man weep, and the premium drink package that could stock a neighborhood bar.  I figured if we started drinking at breakfast and kept going straight on to dawn, maybe we’d be able to use up all that drink package, but you wouldn’t even give it a try.  I kept nudging you to “go for it,” but after a while you kept choosing hot tea instead of pina coladas.  Where’s the fun in that, Girlfriend?

Photo Credit: Eleanor Tomczyk

MY PERSONA:  Because after the third day, my body was saturated.  I can only take so much rich food and alcoholic drinks.  Pretty soon the mojitos and creamed lobster artfully placed on a Sriracha aioli and partitioned by figs and fried marigold flowers have to be replaced by a juice cleanse and salad or I would have rolled back into town weighing 300 pounds. Besides, I wasn’t touring Spain, Portugal, and the like to just eat and drink.  I loved seeing the history of the towns (especially Sintra, Portugal).  I loved discovering their Jewish quarter and learning about Aristides de Sousa Mendes do Amaral e Abranches, a Portuguese man who issued thousands of visas for Jews to escape Nazi Germany against the wishes of his own king.  It was fascinating to learn how a large group of Jews appeared to assimilate into the Portuguese culture, pretending to be Christians (hidden in plain sight), and even inventing a sausage as proof of their conversion.  What the authorities didn’t know was that the sausage was made of cooked chicken, bread, spices, and tomatoes to give it a “bloody” look, but it was strictly kosher.  The sausage is still one of Portugal’s most sumptuous delicacies. 

And to top it all off, when I turned a corner after leaving the Old Jewish Quarter, I thought I saw Barack Obama waving to me from an apartment window as he stood with Chinese President Xi Jinping.  I almost fainted at the shock!  For a minute he looked eerily real, and another American tourist, an Australian and I teared up and waved back.  The White American from New Jersey said out loud to the other nationalities longingly gazing at the picture in the window: “We’re sorry we couldn’t give you another Barack Obama.  It’s not personally my fault, but we’re working on fixing it.  Please, please don’t give up on America. Ignore the clown masquerading as our President in the White House.”  That’s when I knew, this cruise was only a momentary fun event and brief respite; once I got back home, it was back to the grind of reality and into the resistance movement I had signed up for to help undo the national nightmare that had engulfed our country.

Photo Credit: Eleanor Tomczyk in Sintra, Portugal

SHADOW SELF:  Fine.  You went for the culture, history, and inspiration, I stowed away for the pampering and the spoiling.  I want you to figure out how the phrase “You’ve been expedited!” gets me rollin’ like a balla when we get home.  If you don’t, I’m gonna raise bloody hell!  I will be unable to be lived with—do you hear me, Bitch! ‘Cause once you go coddled and pampered, you never go back!  You tell WW, your trip to Africa next year has to at least be business class or I’m gonna throw a stage 4 temper tantrum in the terminal! 

MY PERSONNA:  Shut the fuck up and go to sleep!  You are officially on lock-down, Shadow self. I don’t want to hear another word from you!  Get yourself prepared to eat nothing but lettuce wraps, exercise incessantly, and attempt to write the next great American novel because my “idealized persona,” that I am a disciplined writer and in control of my flesh, is my modus operandi when I’m state side.

SELAH (MEDITATIVE THOUGHT FOR THE DAY)

***

WANT TO READ MORE?  CHECK OUT AUTHOR’S LATEST BOOKS:  “Monsters’ Throwdown,” Fleeing Oz,” and “The Fetus Chronicles:  Podcasts From my Miseducated Self”—on sale now at Amazon!

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR?  Check out her website at www.eleanortomczyk.com

***

REFERENCES:

https://lonerwolf.com/shadow-self/*

Unauthorized use
and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from
this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may
be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and
“How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to
the original content.

Everyone should meet Vivian! City Of Girls

Twitter1

I’m writing this review right after I picked up my signed copy from Waterstones, so I’m a happy soul ?? Just so you know, I LOVED this book and probably will re-read it from this beautiful hardcover. Thanks so much to Bloomsbury UK for my early e-copy. 

Before I start, I’d like to mention a few things Elizabeth Gilbert wrote at the beginning of the book, which attracted me to it, and also explains the book very well. She says:
“I’ve longed to write a novel about promiscuous girls whose lives are not destroyed by their sexual desires” , then she introduces Vivian Morris, who’s our narrator and the main character of this book.
And Gilbert says: “My goal was to write a book that would go down like a champagne cocktail- light and bright, crisp and fun.”
So she did ??

This is a coming of age story of Vivian, a very likeable and vivid character. She’s 19 when we start following her, a college drop out coming from a wealthy family. She moves to New York to live with her eccentric aunt Peg, who owns a theatre, and then, her adventures begin. We follow Vivian until she’s very old.
I can easily say, Vivian is a character you’d want to follow, you’d want to listen to her stories because she’s very energetic, sassy, free and fun. I had a good laugh several times.

“I promise that I will try my best in these pages not to go on and on about how much better everything was back in my day. I always hated hearing old people yammering on like this when I was young. (Nobody cares! Nobody cares about your Golden Age, you blathering goat!) And I do want to assure you: I’m aware that many things were not better in the 1940s. Underarm deodorants, air-conditioning were woefully inadequate, for instance, so everybody stank like crazy, especially in the summer, and also we had Hitler.”

The book started very strong, I loved Gilbert’s heartfelt note, I loved Vivian right away. She was so ready to throw herself out in the world and welcome all the experiences that was thrown back at her. I think her attitude for life was a good reminder of ‘life is short’ and we mustn’t forget to live it while we can.
Gilbert gave so much life and energy to her characters that it really impressed me so much. They were all different than each other, all flawed, but amazing. Peg, uncle Billy, Edna, and many more. It was a parade of interesting people that we got to know so well. I just could picture all of them in front of my eyes, and I wished so badly I could transfer there to meet them.
For me, the highlight of this book is definitely how real and vivid Gilbert writes. It could easily be mistaken for a real memoir.
E5F19B83-B8D2-4565-992B-FAFCB054E59F“I was long and tall, that’s all there was to it. And if it sounds like I’m about to tell you the story of an ugly duckling who goes to the city and finds out that she’s pretty, after all-don’t worry, that is not that story. I was always pretty, Angela. What’s more, I always knew it.”

Another thing is the historical time Vivian was in, 1940s. It wasn’t an easy period, when there was the war. Again, I felt like I was transferred to those times to New York. The amount of detail Gilbert put in her descriptions were so imaginative. The way she described the dresses, the society, the theatres, the effects of war on people, was just impressive. I loved it!

I wanted Vivian to be real so badly, I wanted her to be on TV so I could watch her telling her stories, even better, a friend so I could have coffee with her. It was also fascinating to watch her to get older and more mature. But, in any part of her life, she was interesting.

I had some time to think about this book since I read it. I find myself every day thinking about it. It doesn’t happen with a book often that you find something else to love as time goes on. I usually find myself memories disappearing oh so quickly, but this one is the opposite. All the goodness, details, richness Gilbert crammed in these pages come to my mind occasionally and I feel so happy every time I remember.

All in all, this book was fantastically written with a parade of the most interesting characters ever. Such vivid descriptions, a lot of energy, wit and wisdom poured down the pages. A surprise would pop out of the pages every now and then.

Lastly, I appreciate Gilbert’s portrayal of different types of women free from society rules and morals, and showing us what really matters.

I don’t know if I need to say I RECOMMEND this book with all my heart ??

Also, here’s what others say and I couldn’t agree more:

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COG_Twitter_PressQuote_card1

So, that’s it for today. I hope it was useful and as usual, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Thanks so much for stopping by and happy reading!

Umut

 

One Child Nation: The consequences of a lost generation

Documentary (China)
Duration: 89 minutes

One Child Nation is a documentary by Gary Maddox (Amazon Studios) that sheds new light on one of international history’s most controversial family planning policies ever written into a national constitution.  It delves deeply into an upsetting period of China’s past,  taking us through the rationale of the one child policy’s genesis, the reverberations of its propaganda and post-trauma that now begins to surface across the grief-stricken generations since it ended four years ago. 

The opening scenes are a display of national pride in great showmanship staged by Government officials and we don’t fully understand the breadth of this sentiment or its purpose until later in the film.

It confronts the officials directly in charge of enforcing the policy, it illustrates a bewildering sense of helplessness felt by the citizens of this communist state and it uncovers some of the most chilling consequences in which opportunities for human trafficking that emerged. 

We follow Nanfu, who now lives in the US and retraces her rural Chinese history with her inner circle of family and locals of her village uncovering fraud, corruption and kidnapping of some of the 130,000 babies sold to international adoption agencies.

An interpersonal journey of reckoning, Nanfu began her quest after the birth of her first child and questions whether the thoughts she had on family were her own or if they were learned.  We’re given access to a family who describe the embedding of propaganda in commodities, school literature, entertainment, essentially conditioning a generation into an abnormality of thought on families with more than one child.  Nanfu describes how she was surrounded by messages praising the one child policy including the children’s programming she watched and the street theatre performances in her village.  Processing this as an adult she tries to reconcile that with her interviews of the people charged with demolishing the homes of women who refused forced sterilization, the midwives whose job it was to conduct abortions and induce labor of ‘illegal’ babies.

Themes of gender inequality resonate throughout as patriarchs of the older generation blatantly describe the disappointment of being born a daughter.    Poverty plays a role and in Nanfu’s case, her younger brother was chosen to be the one to go to school while she was sent to work at a young age to contribute financially to the household.  While rural communities like the one Nanfu was from were allowed two children, she recounts a sense of embarrassment growing up when faced with city children due to the stigma of having more than one child per family as a result of the indoctrination of propaganda that immersed communities.

It’s a chilling account on the systematic installment of medical teams nationwide whose soul purpose was to enforce the one child policy.   There’s an emotional distress throughout the film with confronting images of 8 month old fetuses in medical waste bags in garbage heaps as a result of forced abortions and we’re told about the dire situation of hunger and scarce resources of Nanfu’s father’s generation and her grandfather before him in an attempt to justify it.  Had it not been for the One Child Policy we’re told  this would have been worse for Nanfu’s generation. Unless there is a real genuine understanding of poverty for the viewer, we wrestle with the real essence of the film and the differences in socio-economies and culture.   Pro one child defenders explain that their life at that time was about survival not about fulfillment.  The difference between those two things to put the national interest before personal feelings is equated to war. 

Babies were dumped on the roadside, abandoned in streets and marketplaces out of fear of going against the status quo and this opened the door for China to join the International Adoption program and profit from those children.   Recruiting networks of doctors, midwives, public transport drivers and ordinary people were established,  paid anywhere between US$100-$200 to procure abandoned babies for orphanages who would profit between US$10000-$20000 per adoption.   This lucrative business led to the kidnapping of children in defenseless poverty stricken rural towns.  More than 130,000 babies have been put up for adoption internationally with many that were not actually abandoned during the period of the one child policy completely unaware of their history and lineage.

It’s a devastating story that now sees China with not enough young workers to contribute to the economy and care for the elders.  Their new policy now encourages multiple births.  There is a strong sense of denial from enforcers and victims and this documentary preserves the memory of a generation lost and who were denied their dignity merely being discarded. 

The One Child policy lasted for 35 years (1979-2015), the questions that are now being asked by the people weren’t asked by their parents and while it does answer many, we are still left wondering why! 

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See our SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL FEATURE  to see what’s on here.

 

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CLIPPED Music Video Festival is pleased to announce its first taster of this year’s program. Australia’s only uniquely dedicated inaugural Music Video Festival continues its partnership with Vivid Sydney and welcomes acclaimed British music video director and Creative Director for Mamag Studios, Sing. J. Lee, who will be sharing insights into his creative approach on Saturday, June 15 at SUNSTUDIOS. Lee is best known for his work with Donald Glover, Halsey, Migos and Zayn and he was recently nominated for the 2018 iHeartradio Music Video Awards for Halsey’s “Bad at Love.” . . . CLIPPED MUSIC VIDEO FESTIVAL – Vivid Sydney Saturday June 15th SUNSTUDIOS 42 Maddox Street, Alexandria, NSW vividsydney.com . . . #singjlee #clippedmusic #clippedmusicvideofestival #sunstuiods #mamagstudios #sydneylocal #sydney #vividsydney #sydneyfilmfestival #wasamedia #bbpr #gaysydney #sydneyfitness #fashion #art #theatre #movie #aladdin #disney #dindinsvideo #fourseasonssydney #modekitchenandbar #sydneyeats #sydneyfoodie #sydneyfoodshare #vividsydney2019

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ColdHearted Boss by R.S. Grey Release Day & Review

R.S. Grey’s next romantic comedy, COLDHEARTED BOSS, is available now – be sure to grab your copy today!

About COLDHEARTED BOSS

I’m desperate and destitute when Lockwood Construction rolls into my small town with an offer too good to pass up: high wages to any able-bodied man willing to join their crew.

Say no more. I throw on baggy clothes, tuck my long hair under a baseball hat, and apply for a job. Unfortunately, my half-baked idea of disguising myself as a guy is flawed from the beginning. As Shakira says, these hips don’t lie.

Still, I like to think I might have pulled the whole thing off save for one thing:

I know my boss.

Last month, we met at a bar, and after a fiery first encounter, it seems we’re destined to be sworn enemies.

Ethan Stone is ruthless and arrogant, a man I never would have crossed had I known how much he likes to toy with his prey.

He should just fire me and be done with it. Instead, he decides to make me his personal slave. Oh right, I think they’re calling it personal “assistant” these days.

It’s torture, all of it—his bad attitude, his ruggedly chiseled face, his desire to grind me into dust.

Every one of our friction-filled battles burns hotter than the last.

A girl can only hold out for so long. Soon, I’m bound to go up in flames.

My objective? Survive the heat long enough to send home a paycheck.

My real objective? Stop having X-rated fantasies about my coldhearted boss.

 

Grab your copy of COLDHEARTED BOSS today: https://amzn.to/2ESQUQX

Add COLDHEARTED BOSS to Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2EMEuKr

 

 

About R.S. Grey

R.S. Grey is the USA Today bestselling author of thirteen novels, including THE FOXE & THE HOUND. She lives in Texas with her husband and two dogs, and can be found reading, binge-watching reality TV, or practicing yoga! Visit her at rsgrey.com

Website | Twitter | Facebook | R.S. Grey’s Little Reds Facebook Group | Newsletter | Instagram

 

review

 

[I received a digital arc for an honest review]

ColdHearted Boss by R.S. Grey is her most recent rom-com about a down on her luck woman Taylor. Her family is struggling financially and her dead end job isn’t helping. She meets a man in a bar and in a moment of weakness takes the wallet of a stranger she kisses. She returns the wallet but when a job opportunity arises nearby at a construction site she comes face to face with the man from the bar, Ethan, who is also the manager of the project and her new boss. He instantly recognizes her and she is hired on as his assistant. She tries to prove her worth being on the site while struggling with her continued attraction to Ethan. Ethan struggles trusting her but keeps putting himself in situations where he gets to know her more and can’t deny his feelings changing.
Taylor is struggling to make ends meet and a little rough around the edges for it. Don’t get me wrong I like a woman who can stand on her own two feet and get things done but for someone who seems to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders she could be very immature when it came to Ethan. She tries to make him see her as a helpful member of the team at the site but then at night does all the flirty stuff  to get under his skin.
“Taylor is elusive and wild, a clever little cat. I couldn’t predict her next move if there were a million dollars on the line.” 
Ethan on the other hand should have been more mature from the beginning at 31 years old and running a very successful business. Don’t hire someone you don’t trust to be on your job site. If you do trust her stop throwing the night you met back in her face. Either hold her to it or move on, stop bringing it back up over and over again. He played it so hot and cold that I was not all that interested by the time he put the past behind him. He didn’t make me swoon and this author’s characters usually make me happy with all the feels. All I felt for Ethan was annoyance.
“I’m barely there for a moment before his hand slides around my back and he brings me in for a hug. A hug. An embrace that crushes me against him so tightly I think his toned arms might break me in two.”
The pacing of this story did not work for me at all. It felt slow and drawn out in all the wrong ways. We dealt with the characters being immature children for more than half the book. By the time they started acting like the adults they are I didn’t care. The intimate moments were well written as they always are but when you have no investment in the characters it doesn’t get the job done. Also it didn’t make me laugh, I wanted a rom-com and I didn’t get it.
R.S. Grey is usually an instant favorite for a good romantic comedy with likable characters, steamy moments and a few good laughs. Unfortunately ColdHearted Boss did not fulfill my expectations in any of the categories.
3-stars

 

HOW TO MEAL PREP (As a Picky Eater)

Meal prepping can be really intimidating! Portion sizes, how long does it last, how do I not get bored? I got you!
But Victoria, I’m just starting to get on this healthy wholesome food wellness lifestyle and I don’t like green things.

Don’t worry, I’ve created a little pep talk to get you started.

HOW THE HECK DO I PREP?

1. Figure out what works best for your lifestyle
– Hot meals (microwave)
– Cold meals (fridge)
– On the go (pre portioned),
– How long you’re out of the house, if you need to be full or recovery foods.

2. Invest in good containers! Keeps food fresh, safe, and hey get some pretty ones. You’ll be more inclined to eat your lunch or dinner out of a proportional cute glass Tupperware or trendy mason jar.

3. Start small. Make a list of what foods you like that provide nutrients- nope, chicken tenders don’t count (I wish they did)
We’re talking the golden circle of complex carbs, – Quinoa
– Potatoes
– Brown and Wild Rice
– Whole wheat breads, pasta, flour

Healthy Fats,
– Avocado
– Nuts
– Extra virgin olive oil
– Coconuts and coconut oil

And lean protein,
– Skinless chicken and turkey
– Beans and lentils (Honestly my LEAST favourite but hey, lets give ’em a try!)
– Fish and shellfish
– Eggs

Find what will keep you full for at least 3 hours and thats a great combination. Snacks are an easy way to sneak in extra protein of fibre.
Choose lunch or dinner, breakfast can be added eventually (refer to step 1)

LETS GET COOKING!

4. Add some colour- We’ve been conditioned since children to fear green: leaves, beans and broccoli oh my! when really its the most important part of our diet! Add some bright yellow peppers to add some flavour to your chicken, or bold red tomatoes as a savoury side.

Thinking hey this might not be so bad, maybe I’ll like something new? A bright sweet potato!? Your body will thank you for some diversity to an otherwise beige plate.

5. Mix it up! The same thing every day is boring and won’t help to expand your food choices. The same exact thing everyday will cause a plateau faster than your food expires in the fridge.

“Yeah bro, I eat plain chicken breast with broccoli every day” That must suck by at least day 3, bro.

Routines are great for the mind and body, but tastebuds? Here’s how you can change it up

– Use your chicken to top a fresh salad
– Marinades make a world of difference
– You’d be surprised how far some olive oil, salt and pepper can change your meal

Sick of rice? Try veggie rice!- Seriously not that bad…

– Cauliflower with a bit of hot sauce is my favourite!

OKAY THIS SOUNDS GOOD, BUT IS IT WORTH IT?

6. Make it Fun! Enjoy cooking, make it a self date, set time aside to cook and listen to a new playlist or audiobook, or let this be a detox and let the great kitchen aromas relax you. Knowing that YOU made this will be a contributing factor to enjoying your plate tomorrow…and the day after that…and the day after that. Think about how wonderful, easy, and cost effective this will be and it’s no longer a chore

7. Keep it simple, don’t get overwhelmed, stick to a basic principle of protein, carbs, good fats. Understand what portions you need and deserve. This isn’t a restaurant with 22 options; stay within your comfort zone and be accepting with change. The Croc pot, oven and stove top are your new friends- trust me.

8. Enjoy! Meal prepping can seem so daunting but I believe its well worth any and all effort put into it.

Feel like trying something new? Let me know what your new favourite food is!

The Handmaid’s Tale – A feminist novel

Margaret Atwood is a Canadian writer, critic and essayist. Margaret-Atwood-Feature.jpgShe was born in Ottawa in 1939 into a wealthy family. In 1957 she enrolled at university and graduated with honours. Later, she graduated from Radcliffe College, Harvard, with a master’s degree. Her career as a writer will officially begin with the publication of the poetry collection The Circle Game. At the end of the ’60s she published her first novel, The Edible Woman, which was a huge success and was rated by critics as the best novel of the year. In the ’70s Atwood publishes numerous works including novels, collections of poems and all sorts of other books, establishing herself as a writer. In 1985 she published her most famous work, the Handmaid’s Tale, with which she won several awards. About ten years later, she published a historical novel, Alias Grace, inspired by a true story. Finally, with the novel The Blind Assassin, Atwood makes her mastery of being able to manage the most diverse literary genres very clear: the book, in fact, has the characteristics of the Gothic novel, detective story, science fiction and news report.

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The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel. In the aftermath of a nuclear war that had devastating effects on the population because of the radiation released, the United States became a totalitarian theocratic regime, the Republic of Gilead. As a result of the war, a large number of women have become infertile and, therefore, the birth rate has fallen dramatically. The aim of the regime is to tackle this problem, by enslaving the few remaining fertile women for reproductive purposes, and by re-establishing order through strict rules and inhumane punishments.

Society in the Republic of Gilead is divided as follows: the Commanders detain power and set the rules; they have the right to their legitimate wife, often infertile, and to a Handmaid; immediately after the Commanders there are the Angels, namely the soldiers of the regime, followed by the Eyes, namely the members of the Secret Police. Finally, there are the Guardians, who are drivers and waiters. Among the women there are the wives of the Commanders. They are sterile and become mothers through the Handmaids; the Aunts, severe and unscrupulous nuns, are in charge of educating and punishing the Handmaids; then there are the Marthas, or waitresses of the Commanders.

3a2747w52n4z.jpgThe Handmaids, true protagonists of this story, are the fertile women who are enslaved and assigned to the Commanders for purely reproductive purposes, according to the Genesis passage on which the Republic of Gilead is founded:

Rachel saw that she could not have children for Jacob, and she became jealous of her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”

Jacob became angry with Rachel and asked, “Can I take the place of God, who has kept you from having children?”

 She said, “Here’s my servant Bilhah. Sleep with her. She can have children for me, and I can build a family for myself through her.” (Genesis 30; 1-3).

The Handmaids study in the Red Centers and are supervised by the Aunts. They are not allowed to keep their first names but are given a new name consisting of the preposition of and the name of the Commander to whom they have been assigned. Finally, there are the Unwomen, namely all those women who are useless for the purposes of procreation, who are deported to the colonies, where they are destined to die.

The story is told by the protagonist herself, the Handmaid Offred. She was captured and taken to the Red Center while trying to escape with her partner Luke and their daughter. The Commander to whom she has been assigned, however, is sterile, and his wife knows it, so, one day, she proposes that Offred have an affair with Nick the guardian and pretend that the baby is Fred’s son. Meanwhile, Fred and Offred start seeing each other in secret, even beyond the set hours, and when the wife finds out about it, she threatens the Handmaid to punish her. In the final part of the story, an Eye Truck will pick her up at the Commander’s house, but it is not revealed whether to take her to the colonies with the Unwomen or to save her.

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The novel inspired works of various kinds, including a film in 1990 and a TV series in 2017. The latter, according to critics, is the most successful version: the narrative has remained very faithful to the original work, albeit with some changes due to the time lag between the publication of the novel and the TV series. In the series, for example, technology is very present, just to emphasize that the episodes described by Margaret Atwood could occur even today. Another substantial difference is that the real name of Offred in the book will never be revealed, while in the series, the Handmaid says she’s called June in the first episode; this is both for reasons related to narrative fluidity, and to emphasize the differences between the two “Offred” characters: the book character is a passive woman, subject to the regime, whereas the one in the series is full of anger, nonconformist, rebellious. Even the society is described differently: in the book the protagonists are only white and heterosexual, while the series wanted to portray a more heterogeneous population in order to represent the modern world. In short, everything in the series is more vivid: the characters are angrier, the emotions are stronger, the punishments are harder, and the themes denounced are more explicit.

The Handmaid’s Tale is considered by many to be a feminist novel because of the themes it addresses. Although the genre of the novel is defined as dystopian, unfortunately sometimes a comparison between some aspects of the Republic of Gilead with recent events in the news might be quite accurate. One of the main themes is the political exploitation of women’s bodies: as already mentioned, the Republic of Gilead has a single objective, namely the control of reproduction. To do this, it uses an iron fist, brutally subjecting women and depriving them of their rights all at once: their jobs, their right to read, and to identify themselves with their own names, all in order to prevent them from being independent, and to rebel and boycott the regime. The only aspect worthy of attention and respect is the reproductive apparatus. There are only two types of women in Gilead: women and Unwomen. This latter category includes all those who dare to fight for their identity against the regime, but also women considered “useless” for reproduction, namely homosexuals, sterile, nuns.  Although The Handmaid’s Tale is an open criticism of a clearly patriarchal and sexist government, Atwood also points out the similarities between Gilead’s supporters and radical feminists, such as Offred’s mother. Both groups claim to protect women from sexual violence, and both are willing to limit freedom of thought to achieve this goal. Offred at one point in the story, remembers when her mother and other feminists burned pornographic magazines. Just like the founders of Gilead, these feminists forbid certain expressions of sexuality, reminding the reader that there is a dark side to even the most well-meaning feminist rhetoric.

real life.jpgOver the last few years, the work has been used several times as a symbol of the feminist movement: in Texas, Ohio, Argentina, but also in Aosta, Milan and Ferrara, dozens of women have dressed up as handmaids to demonstrate in favour of the law on abortion.

Personally, I find that The Handmaid’s Tale is certainly a feminist work, but not only that. The crimes reported, unfortunately, do not tell anything that has not yet happened, just think of the women made slaves by the Isis, the child brides, Apartheid, the deportation of Jews during Nazism. Therefore, I deemed the work to be overwhelmingly current, and I believe that it is a formidable tool to support the historical memory of all readers.

Changing Frat Parties into Something Else

This article is quite interesting, although not for the reasons why many people will think so. I find it interesting because of the comments of the people who criticized the photographer. The money bit is here:

White wrote that she objected to this portrayal of women as “enablers” of fraternity houses, which on some campuses are the centers of social life for men and women alike.

White writes that women should not be denied the right to go to parties. “Rather, we need to make men more attentive to their own actions. Grown men should not need the removal of women to prevent them from assaulting, harassing or objectifying them — they should know well enough to never act that way in the first place.”

White wants to make frat parties into something else. I don’t know how she escaped knowing this, but everyone knows (or quickly learns) what a frat party is about and the kind of people who go there. She wants to party with frat boys without the consequences of so doing. I don’t have any sympathy for her. You don’t get to redefine things to be something else that you like. Get the freak over it.

If it’s her conception of frat parties being the epicenter of college social life that the article is stating up above, that’s another problem. That’s not true and I doubt it has ever been true except at really small schools two generations ago.

If she wants frat boys to behave better, what remedy does she have? Nothing more than the usual feminist wordmongering which guys tune out faster than you can say “ombre”.

The reason why she has no solutions? The only working solution rests upon constraining the behavior of the men as well as the women, and she doesn’t want to reduce her right to party, which if I’m to go on a limb, means be promiscuous. She just doesn’t want men to be promiscuous or sexually forward in the way that men are.

The photographer was right. If women disliked frat parties so much, they wouldn’t go, and the whole problem would dry up. Women do enable the bad behavior of men by putting up with it. To really put a bow on it, White is merely complaining that the men she didn’t find attractive were being forward with her.

It’s the same ol’ same ol’.

The day I became a mom ??

June 5, 2018, our whole world changed. Chris had just left for work and I was getting ready for work. I had mentioned briefly while he was showering I was two days late. Didn’t think anything else about. Right before work I decided to just take a test since I had one at home. I wasn’t expecting to see a bright line show up so quickly. I just sat there in amazement like what am I looking at?!? Then I cried. I cried not because I was sad, I cried because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It’s almost like an instant switch that flips in your body when you see that positive test. It’s not just “your” body anymore. You are growing something inside of you. My whole body instantly changed. My whole thought process changed. I changed. I immediately text Chris as I sitting there on the toilet haha. I couldn’t resist. I have no idea how these women hold it in to tell there partners in a really cute way. I could barely hold it in! As soon as he answered I said.. umm I’m pregnant. He didn’t say anything. I actually heard him choke or something. He said what did you just say? I repeated it again, I’m pregnant. Still in disbelief he hasn’t said a word. I really don’t know if he said anything about it I just remembered him being like okay well I’ve gotta go lol. So I drove in to see him at work before my shift since we work across the street and his face was just like WTF is happening haha. It still hadn’t set in for either one of us. We didn’t really communicate throughout the day lol. We both just went radio silent. I had to work all day that day. Holding in this secret was crazy! At my job we take X-rays so when it was time for an X-ray I had to step out. It’s so hard to keep a pregnancy secret at work because when you step out that’s the first thing people think of. So of course my nurse who is currently pregnant as well steps out with me and she just looked at me and said Are you pregnant? I just smile, that’s all I can do. I said I literally just found out about an hour ago lol. I ended up working until about 1am that day so by the time I got home Chris and I still hadn’t had a chance to even talk about it lol. The next day I worked late again meaning we still haven’t got a chance to talk about it. We were both in our thoughts freaking out! Lol. It was a Tuesday when I found out and I think we were both radio silent until the weekend came around and we were finally able to have a conversation about it. But I’ll never forget how silent we both got. It’s so funny how people react to news. We were trying to have a baby so it wasn’t that big of a shock but once it happened it seemed like the biggest shock of our lives. Looking back it was the best day for the both of us. ??

Fast forward to last night I told Chris tomorrow is the day that changed our lives forever last year. He looked at me puzzled. I said June 5th was the day we found out we were having a baby and we went radio silent for 48 hours lol. He’s like how in the heck do you remember the date. I said I’ll always remember the day I found out I was going to be a mom ??

Lost hearts on the radio

Two nights ago, I found myself craving something sweet. I’ve removed sweets from my fridge for healthy (eating) reasons, so I had to go down to the nearest 7-11. I was waiting in line at the cashier and this radio show was on.

A woman was trying to laugh at the DJ’s jokes, but it was obvious she was going through a difficult time. Her voice cracked as she struggled to speak and there was something about her pain that moved me. I listened closely.

“Ellen, if he was listening right now, what would you say to him?”

Silence.

“Ellen?”

“I…I am going to thank him for everything and..and for coming into my life, for making me happy when we were together. But I suppose he never really loved me. Why did –”

At this point, Ellen sobbed, but she soldiered on. “Why did he ever make me fall for him? Why did he even let me fall in the first place? I wish he hadn’t if he was going to leave me anyway? He just hurt me and for what? If only –”

“You know, Ellen,” the DJ interrupted gently. “Forget about blaming him or anyone. I think maybe it’s best that you remember only the good times. Regrets will only cause more bitterness, and no matter how much you go back and think about things, you can’t change the past. If I were you, I’d focus only on the good times. There’s a time for you to think things over, and then there’s also a time for you to let go.”

Before I could catch myself, I found myself nodding. “Amen to that, Mr. DJ,” I thought.

Ah, to love and then lose. To give so much of yourself to someone, and then be betrayed. To love like crazy and then realize in the end that it was all for nothing. I’m sure many of us know how this feels like. We’ve all loved and lost at some point in our lives.

The question is, have you let go and moved on? If so, how did you do it? Were you broken into a million little pieces but somehow got yourself whole again? Or… are you one of those souls still full of regret?

If you’re full of regrets, then maybe it’s time to empty your cup of bitterness because all that, my friend, causes only so much pain. You already lost in love, would you really allow yourself to lose at life, too? Surely, no one is ever worth that much?

There are those who cling to a lost love for a very long time so much so that sorrow has become their comfort zone. Perhaps you know people like that. They’re the ones who moan about their situation every day, the ones who continue to hurt themselves even when they have a choice to end all the suffering. But they can’t because sorrow has become an old friend.

Don’t be that person. It isn’t easy, I know, but like everything else in this world, we always have a choice. It may look like you don’t but you do. Oh, you really, really do.

Choosing happiness is a conscious choice. You may never feel like it but it’s always something you have to force yourself into doing.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Well, Annamaria, that’s easy for you to say! You’ve been in the same relationship for so many years now so who are you to say that? Have you even had your heart broken, like ever??”

Of course. Before I met my boyfriend, I had my moments, too. I was that girl that loved falling in love, mistakenly believing that it was romantic to wallow in pain for the sake of love. I wanted to be the suffering artist, too.

Damn, right? Looking back, I realize how crazy that kind of life was. You get your heart broken too many times and you begin believing that pain equals love. It was an addiction.

I remember it all like it was yesterday. But without going into detail, let me say that freedom starts from within. You dictate how you feel, what you think. It’s a lie to continue believing that our emotions and thoughts enslave us. They don’t. It all depends on the strength of your own willpower. You have to decide what you want, and then follow through.

We all want to have what we want. But the law of life dictates that we can’t always have it all. Deal with that. Accept that it’s all over. As cliche as it sounds, there really is a reason why it had to happen. With time, you’ll know why it never worked out. Why it had to work out the way it did. The reason will reveal itself to you tomorrow, in 3 months, in 10 years, who knows? But you WILL know. Sooner or later.

Remember this: somewhere in between his first hello and his final goodbye is a lesson that life wanted you to learn.

Be like that tree by the ocean. It looks lonely, no doubt battered by the elements. Typhoons may come and go; the tides smother its branches every single day but look how it has stayed strong through the years. Gnarly, sure, but its roots hold fast.

Painful lessons are the very things that make us stronger.

So to Ellen on the radio who loved and lost, and to hearts from all over the world that have been broken, I wish you well. Papa Jack, the DJ, was right: Focus on the good times.

And then let go.