They Just Can’t Hear

They just can't hearR.J. clung to the dorm supervisor, shyly peeking around her skirt to look at Mama and Daddy. He made no move to go to them. This was the first time he had seen them in over a month, and he was unsure what to do.

“Mama, didn’t that break your heart?” I asked when she told me the story.

“It did in one way, Bev, but in another way it made me feel good because I figured if he clung to her like that, it meant they were being good to him.”

Mama had a unique way of seeing the big picture. She had wisdom beyond her years. She and Daddy both did. So instead of taking offense and being hurt, they took solace in the fact R.J. was fond of the dorm supervisor.

Their outlook always amazed me especially considering how young they were when they married. She was fifteen and he was eighteen.

I think this common sense approach was how she – and consequently all of us – dealt so well with having Deaf children.

I have already mentioned how she made up home signs to use with R.J. and Katrina. We all did.

We learned other ways to compensate for R.J.’s and Katrina’s deafness. If they were across the room, we learned to stomp on the floor to get their attention. Mama knew they would feel the vibration through the floor and look around.

We also learned to flash the lights to get their attention. Or wave our arms. If they were close enough, a gentle tap on the shoulder for them to look at us was all it took. We knew they had to be looking at us for communication to take place. Calling them, regardless of how loudly, was useless.

As R.J. learned signs, so did Mama and the rest of us. Mama was a whiz at finger-spelling. All of us learned to sign to one degree or another.

R.J. and Katrina were included in everything we did as a family. No difference was made between them and the rest of us kids. They were expected to follow the same rules as we were.

I think this contributed to R.J.’s and Katrina’s self-esteem and overall success.

In later years, when I was in the Interpreter Training Program, I learned that many parents feel guilty when their child is born deaf. I never sensed this in Mama but thought I would ask her just to be sure.

“Mama, did you ever feel guilty because R.J. and Katrina were born deaf?”

“I’d like to know what the dickens I had to feel guilty about,” she quipped. “I didn’t do anything to make them deaf!”

I chuckled to myself. What a truly healthy response. That was one reason why no overcompensating was done with them. They were just normal kids who happened not to be able to hear. And we treated them as such.

Remember, each day is a gift. Sometimes accepting people as they are is the best thing you can do for them.

©2019 Bev Brown – All rights reserved.

Penderitaan dan Pelepasan – Dedaunan yang Berguguran

Barangkali kematian yang paling sulit kita terima adalah kematian dari seorang anak. Pada beberapa kesempatan saya pernah diberi kehormatan untuk memimpin upacara pemakaman bagi seorang anak laki-laki atau perempuan, seseorang yang belum lama mengecap pahit manisnya kehidupan. Tugas saya adalah membantu menuntun orang tua yang sedang putus asa, dan juga anggota keluarga yang lainnya, mengatasi siksaan rasa bersalah dan tuntutan obsesif atas jawaban dari pertanyaan, Mengapa?

Saya sering menceritakan kisah perumpamaan berikut ini, yang dikisahkan kepada saya beberapa tahun silam di Thailand.

Seorang bhikkhu hutan yang sederhana tengah bermeditasi sendirian di sebuah pondok jerami di tengah hutan. Pada suatu larut malam, terjadilah badai musim hujan yang garang. Angin menderu-deru bagaikan suara mesin jet dan hujan yang deras menerpa pondoknya. Semakin malam beranjak pekat, badai makin bertambah liar. Mula-mula, dahandahan pohon terdengar tercerabut dari batangnya. Lalu seluruh bagian pohon terengut oleh angin ribut dan dihempaskan ke tanah dengan suara sekeras guntur.

Sang bhikkhu segera sadar bahwa pondok jeraminya tak akan sanggup melindunginya. Jika sebuah pohon tumbang menimpa pondoknya, atau meskipun cuma sebuah dahan besar, pondoknya akan rata dengan tanah dan meremukkannya sampai mati. Dia tidak tidur sepanjang malam. Seringkali sepanjang malam itu, dia seolah-olah mendengar para raksasa hutan mendobrak ke permukaan tanah dan hatinya berdegup untuk sesaat.

Beberapa jam sebelum fajar menyingsing, secepat datangnya, begitu pula badai itu berlalu. Di pagi hari, sang bhikkhu keluar dari pondoknya untuk memeriksa kerusakan yang terjadi. Banyak dahan besar dan dua pohon berukuran lumayan yang luput mengenai pondoknya. Dia merasa beruntung masih hidup. Apa yang tiba-tiba menarik perhatiannya bukanlah pohon-pohon yang tumbang dan dahan-dahan patah yang berserakan dimana-mana, tetapi dedaunan yang sekarang menyebar menutupi lantai hutan.

Seperti dugaannya, kebanyakan dedaunan yang berguguran adalah daundaun yang berwarna coklat tua, yang telah memenuhi umur kehidupannya. Di antara dedaunan yang berwarna coklat terdapat banyak daun yang kuning. Bahkan terdapat pula beberapa daun yang hijau. Dan daun-daun yang berwarna hijau itu masih segar dan cerah sehingga sang bhikkhu tahu bahwa dedaunan itu baru saja jatuh dari pucuknya. Pada saat itulah hati sang bhikkhu memahami sifat kematian sebagaimana adanya.

Dia ingin menguji kebenaran dari pengetahuan yang baru saja dia pahami itu, lalu dia mendongak ke arah dahan-dahan pohon itu. Cukup meyakinkan, hampir sebagian besar dedaunan yang tertinggal di pohonnya adalah dedaunan hijau yang sehat segar, pada kehidupan dininya. Namun, meskipun banyak dedaunan muda yang gugur di atas
tanah, ada sebagian daun berwarna coklat tua peot dan keriting yang tetap bertahan didahannya. Sang bhikkhu tersenyum, mulai hari itu, kematian dari seorang anak tak akan pernah lagi membingungkannya.

Ketika badai kematian datang menghempaskan keluarga kita, badai itu biasanya mengambil orang-orang yang sudah tua, dedaunan yang coklat burik . Badai itu juga mengambil orang-orang yang berusia paruh baya, seperti daun-daun kuning di pohon. Kadang, anak-anak belia pun meninggal juga, pada usia dini mereka, seperti halnya dedaunan yang berwarna hijau. Dan suatu kali kematian juga merenggut kehidupan dari anak-anak yang kita kasihi, seperti badai merenggut tunas yang masih hijau. Inilah sifat hakiki dari kematian dalam kehidupan kita, sebagaimana hakikat badai di sebuah hutan.

Tak seorang pun yang perlu disalahkan dan tak seorang pun yang harus merasa bersalah atas kematian dari seorang anak. Inilah sifat alami dari segala sesuatu. Siapa yang bisa menyalahkan badai? Hal ini dapat membantu kita untuk menjawab pertanyaan mengapa anak-anak meninggal. Jawabannya sama dengan mengapa sebagian daun yang masih hijau berguguran dalam sebuah badai.

 

Are We Nearly There Yet? Ten Tips for Holidays with Children

About now, there’s a plethora of advice on the best holiday destinations with children, from Aldeburgh to Zanzibar. While I haven’t taken my brood to all of these places, I’ve ratcheted up enough child miles to feel able to share some essential tips.

1 When it comes to earplugs, Boules Quies are the best bet. You might consider giving them to the passengers next to you as well. On his first transatlantic flight, one of my little darlings yelled “Not fleepy! Not fleepy!” for six and a half hours solid, before finally nodding off from exhaustion on landing.

2 Have two versions of whichever cuddle toy your child can’t live without. Otherwise, as sure as eggs is eggs, it will get lost as soon as you arrive, resulting in expensive daily journeys back to the airport to see if it’s been handed in.

3 Take plenty of footwear, just in case one child throws his sibling’s shoes into a stream. May as well take plenty of clothes too, in case it’s a whole child that gets shoved into the water.

4 Pack all the medicines you might possibly need and – this is the really vital bit – keep all of them out of reach of your children once you get to your accommodation.

5 Ditto take (and use) twice as much sunscreen as you think necessary.

6 If it’s a bucket-and-spade holiday, why not choose a sturdy spade? I wish I had when one of mine bellowed on a wide deserted beach “The poo’s come back into my bum again and this time it’s not going away!”

7 Keep a few coins handy. You never know when, or where, a milk tooth might fall out, and I don’t think the Tooth Fairy does MasterCard.

8 Allow your children to bring back the treasure they collect on holiday, be it seashells, driftwood, or empty crisp packets because there are special tokens on the back.

9 Some children like to write what they did on holiday, a lovely quiet activity that’s also useful preparation for the inevitable school assignment in September. Here’s my tip: make sure they jot down more than just Then Mummy had another bottle of wine.

10 Take plenty of photos before they grow up too much. In no time at all, these will be the good old days.

Bonnes vacances!

Making the best of an unplanned day – 5th June 2019

Daly was up early today. So not only have we been looking at a new car, my sister has just bought a new car. Daly was taking her and Oli to the dealership to pick it up this morning, so that’s why he was up early. He mnaged to wake me up, or should I say his stupid alarm woke me up. Rambling about the weather and the time. I was not impressed.

He disappeared off but I couldn’t get back to sleep so instead I got up and washed my hair. I went downstairs to do some tidying and just as I started tidying the kitchen I heard foot steps upstairs. Someone was awake.

I managed to get up stairs just before she panicked she was on her own. She was very excited to see me. For some reason though as I got to the top of the stairs she tried leading me into the bedroom. Now this is normal if she’s left something on the bed but she had her blanket, bottle and baby in her arms. So she had everything she needed.

We went downstairs and started our morning unplugged (without technology) no tv, no phone, no electronic games, it was lovely. It’s something I want to do more often. I always feel I’m far too reliant on technology even though we actually aren’t sat at home in front of the TV as often as I think. Bella wanted to do some colouring on her family table cloth we had got from McDonald’s yesterday. We both lead on the carpet colouring in different sections. I completed the dot to dot and Bella was colouring carrots.

We had got ourselves dressed and ready for Daly to get back as we had planned on going to look at another car today but also having a family day as is traditional on a Wednesday. I kept looking online for various things to do in Bexley – where we were viewing the car. I was struggling but I thought I had come up with a few options and we could decide as a family. I really didn’t want to go and see any animals today. Not feeling them today. I found a wood in Cobham though which has a Grufflo trail. Not very near Bexley but it had pulled it up while I was looking so even if we didn’t go today I’m thinking it’s a good option for another day. Especially when it’s nice.

When Daly got back we rang the garage about the car we wanted to view but sadly they were unable to do it today. That sucks but these things happen. It can’t be helped. At least we had driven all that way to be told there was no one available to show us the car. That put a little dampener on our day but oh well.

Daly disappeared upstairs, I guessed to put his phone on charge. When he didn’t reappear after a while I guessed he’d either fallen asleep or got bored of spending time with us. Bella and I played for a little bit longer. This time with her Paw Patrol skittles. Bella would pick up each skittle in turn and tell me who was on them. Her speech is getting so much clearer, it’s brilliant. After a while I decided to make us some lunch. Although our plans had fllen through I still wanted to do a family day but if we had lunch at home I wouldn’t have to buy it while we were out. Therefore saving my money.

Daly eventually appeared, especially as while I was making lunch I sent her off to find daddy. I convinced her daddy was hiding and she needed to go find him. On her way up to find Daly she decided to rearrange Nanna’s seagulls and meerkats. Once Daly appeared back downstairs we discussed what we were going to do with our afternoon. I wanted to go to the arcades. I had found Bell’s purse with all her 2p in that morning and I realised we hadn’t been to the arcades since probably our holiday in October. Daly was up to that and suggested getting hold of Oli and Rachel as that morning they weren’t sure what they were going to get up to. We hadn’t seen Rachel for a while so seemed like a good idea.

Off to the seaside we went ready to hit the arcades. Rachel and Oli were going to meet us there. We pulled up on the sea front and I got out and started taking photos looking out over the sea. There were huge grey clouds coming over the coast but it looked so pretty.

We went into the arcades and Bella chose her machine. She wanted to go on a 2p machine where she could win a little round teddy wearing sequins all over its body. Sadly that machine was broken so we moved over to the next machine with a panda covered in sequins.

Bella loves putting the pennies in the machine. She was standing on a stool so she wasn’t able to get distracted by the 2p falling down in to the little tray underneath as she couldn’t see it. She kept stealing my pennies though even though she had a Paw Patrol purse full of 2p. I now know how she manages to keep such a full purse.

While we were playing at the machines Rachel and Oli turned up. They disappeared off to play various games and I continued to try to win Bella a teddy out of the machine. In the end I had to settle for just a keyring.

We went off to find some more things to do. Bella found Daly in the zombie shooting game. She jumped him with him and gave it a go. It didn’t last long though. She quickly got bored and ran off to find something else. She first sat at Space Invaders and gave that a bit of a play then jumped in one of the Mario Kart seats. She happily sat there steering. I told her she could give one of these games ago but she needed to come with me to get some pound coins. We went and got some pound coins and then I let Bella choose which game she wanted to play.

She settled on Mario Kart. Bless her, she was too short to have her photo tken for the player picture. She tried hard with the steering. I was actually surprised with how well she did. She was actually turning the wheel along with how the track moved. Daly had to help her a little bit where her attention lapsed. But out of six players Bella came 4th. It was brilliant. I’m so proud of her.

Next up Daly and I took her to look at some of the ride on toys they had around the place. First she tried a western style horse and carriage. She happily sat shaking the reins. That was until I put the pound coin into the machine. She freaked. It was bouncing up and down and wobbling side to side. I’m guessing it was far too much for Bella. She jumped of it and ran to me. No encouraging was going to get her back on that carriage. So we moved on.

There was this kinda spinning tea cup ride. Bella had gone on it before when we were on holiday and really enjoyed it so I wondered if she’d like it again. We gave it ago. Bella was still a little unsure but she had Daddy there to hold her hand which seemed to calm her a little.

Then it was time for the adults to have some fun. Time for Dance Dance Revolution. First up Rachel and I. We both completed all our dances on the beginner level but I did alot better. Rachel’s scores were D, E and E and mine were B+, B and B. Not that I’m gloating at all. Hehe!

The boys then had ago. Oli decided he was going to give difficult ago. It did not work out well for him. It was so funny watching him. He really struggled. He looked like an octopus being electrocuted. Daly however stuck to the beginner level and that seemed to pay off for him. However Oli did burn more calories. Apparently he burnt about 37. Not bad especially as I only burnt about 15.

We were going to make a move over to the pier. We had looked at using all our tickets to get some prizes but in the end we decided to save our tickets up and come back and try and collect some more so we can try and get some bigger prizes. While we walked over to the pier I spotted one of those grab machines where you play until you win. This machine had unicorns in it. I was so close to winning two for Bella but the claw lost grip on one of the unicorns. So we only won one. Bella was still happy though.

Bella spotted a ride on toy bus and she jumped in. Her and the unicorn were going off on a wonderful adventure. Everyone else eventually caught up with us and we carried on to the pier.

As we walked along the pier Oli and Bella jumped into one of those boards where you stick your heads through and then take a photo. Sadly Bella was too short to use any of the other boards lined up along the pier.

Sadly everything on the pier was closed. The carousel, the helter skelter, the funfair stalls, it sucked. So back along the pier to the cars we walked. Bella kept running up to the edge of the pier to look through the bars. Now I have a massive fear she’s going to fall through or drop something. She had just got her little unicorn so I didn’t want that to go over the edge into the sea. I ran along side her going ‘stay away from the edge!’ She found it so funny and was running along giggling, trying to get in front of me. It was funny.

We decided we were going to go to another beach and buy some fish and chips for dinner. We were going to go to Tankerton – mum’s favourite beach. We set off in our seperate cars and agreed to meet up at a chip shop we use to always go to with mum. Rachel and Oli got lost and ended up parking the complete other end of the sea front. I managed to get hold of them via text but I thought they were already on the beach.

Nope, a few minutes after I entered the chip shop they arrived as well. We ordered our dinner and then agreed to meet at the sea front. And this time we achieved it without anyone getting lost.

We walked down to the beach. Bella was hanging on to uncle Oli the whole time. It’s cute, they don’t see each other often but they have a lovely bond.

We set up our picnic dinner on the beach. All sitting on the blanket. We sat and chatted while we ate our chips. Bella and I were sharing a portion of chips and I had bought us 3 sausages to share. Bella was very thoughtful, everytime she ate a chip she handed one to me as we. The same thing with the sausages. She’d have a bite and then she’d offer me a bite.

After dinner, Bella headed down to the sea with Oli. I sent Daly down with them so he could take some photos. Their little photo shoot turned into the boys seeing who could throw stones the furthest or skim a pebble the most times. Bella was joining them. She was enjoying herself so much she actually ended up in the se. I mean we knew it was going to happen.

We enjoyed the rest of our evening. Taking it in turns to throw stones into the sea, the boys making up little games, Bella seeing how far she could walk into the sea without getting really wet. Her and Rachel kept seeing how wet they could get the feet. Thats fine when your Rachel and wearing trainers but Bella was wearing sandals.

Eventually we decided it was time to call it a day and we said goodbye to one another. Bella must have enjoyed her day as she was quickly asleep in the car. A much needed family day.

Anyways night all and lets see what adventures tomorrow holds for us

Love CiCi x

Changing Seasons: Part I

  “Winds in the east, mist coming in, like something is brewin’ and bout to begin…”

It all began at Half Price Books when I stumbled upon Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Webber. The description of a secular feminist English scholar converting to Christianity at Oxford intrigued me, but what really caught my eye was the reference to the liturgical calendar which guides Oxford University’s academic year. Fast forward six months or so… in September, I finally bought the book and dove in with the sole purpose of learning about that mysterious liturgical calendar. As it turned out, beyond a few pages in the preface, Caro (as the author calls herself) rarely referenced it. I, however, was in for my own surprise…

A bit of background- after finishing his six-year enlistment with the Navy in 2016, we moved to Lexington where my husband (S.P.D) began using the GI Bill to earn an undergraduate degree in Architecture at the University of Kentucky (UK). Throughout his time, God has astonished us with favor. Professors in a variety of fields including Philosophy, English, and Historic Preservation have urged S.P.D. to join their programs or pursue Master’s degrees in their fields with the possibility of full ride scholarships. Each time, S.P.D. received these comments as high compliments but prayerfully stayed focused on architecture. Our expectation was that, after graduation in May, he would pursue a Master’s degree in Architecture at UK.

I began my venture into Surprised by Oxford as a naïve pleasure reader. Caro’s descriptions of Oxford’s rich culture and multidisciplinary approach to education captivated me the way C.S. Lewis’s descriptions of Narnia dazzle readers- marvelous, but entirely unattainable. I progressed happily through Caro’s memoir until one fateful nap time. As I sat in bed reading with a cup of tea steaming beside me, a thought struck my brain like an arrow hitting a bull’s eye. Stephen should go to Oxford. Like a jumble of jigsaw pieces unexpectedly connecting to form an image, I was surprised to realize how Stephen’s gifting in philosophy, literature, and history, as well as architecture seemed to perfectly come together in one place.

Oxford.

But wasn’t that entirely unattainable?

My First Love

My first encounter with love was at the age of fourteen, so really, it was just a crush, but at the time it was a big deal. I was asked out on a date by a guy a little older than me, let’s call him Jake.
He was tall and handsome, long floppy hair hung over his green eyes. He was adventurous and outdoorsy – looking back we really had nothing in common.
So, of course, fourteen year old me, said yes and we went on a date. I was so excited, and had got changed out of about five different outfits before I decided on a pair of light blue jeans and a white top. This was my first ever date and I wanted it to be perfect.
We went to the beach, it was a sunny spring day in England, and we planned to make the most of it.
We sat on a bench up a hill which overlooked the bay, and watched the ocean foam white and come crashing down onto the pebbled shore. There was a light breeze that brushed against our skin, which sent goosebumps running up my bare arms.
Birds swooped in and out of the trees around us, each one singing their own song, yet it still sounded harmonic to my ears. Their melodic tunes were rudely interrupted by the occasional squawk from the seagulls that fought violently down on the shore, for the last of someones sandwich – but it was still peaceful.

Everything was going great.

At the age of fourteen I was a dancer, I hadn’t started my journey into creative writing or music yet, but even then, I was big on romance. I listened to James Blunt and watched every romance film I could at that age. I have always been a dreamer, and in that moment, looking out over the ocean, Jake’s hand in mine, I felt like I was in a movie.
Until a bird crapped on me.

I had seagull poop all down my jeans. I turned red with embarrassment as I frantically thought of how I could make this go away. I was not prepared.
Looking back now, I think it is pretty funny and I would probably react much differently now, but at the time it defiantly scared me.

That relationship didn’t last long, a couple of months maybe. I remember he broke up with me in a park near my house, for some made up reason about how it wasn’t working. I was upset, naturally I thought that this was going to be the love of my life. My first and last. I carried on with my life without him, going to my dance classes and watching films with my Mum. I was okay, and I knew deep down this was probably best for us both, but I still couldn’t hide the pain. My Mum was there for me, telling me I would be okay and there was someone out there who would treat me better. That was harder to believe at fourteen than it is now.

A few weeks after we broke up, I got a text from him. He was waiting outside my house and wanted to talk to me. His bright eyes shone with apologies, and longing – he wanted me back.
Our bodies started to move closer towards each other, sat on the floor of my living room, my heart racing in my chest and my mind spinning a thousand different emotions, questioning my decision to let him back into my life. But my lips never made it to back his.

We drew apart, hearing a loud bang outside, causing my heart to temporarily stop, and a feeling of disappointment washed over me.

My Dad had reversed straight into Jake’s motorbike on the driveway.

To this day, there is still a turquoise mark on the back of my Dad’s Mondeo. My Dad insists it was an accident, but that smile on his face suggests otherwise.

I experienced my first crush at the age of fourteen, but my first love, (other than my cat, Ziggy) was my parents, who have always been looking out for me and always will.

When meeting someone new, and falling in love, it is important to remember who was there for you before that person. Don’t loose sight of your true friends, more often than not they will stick around for longer than your love interest anyway. Having someone consume your mind and body can be an electric feeling it is addictive, but remember who you are. Learn to ground yourself and prioritise not only yourself, but your family and friends too. And if your love interest doesn’t understand…ditch them. It’s not worth loosing everyone around and yourself.

Now when I see that turquoise mark on my Dad’s car, I just laugh.

?

An Appreciation Of Sunsets

Sunsets smear across the sky. These melted crayon boxes ripple and shatter through the only true blue. She will always return by next morning.

Eyes have marveled at the vivid horizons and cameras by the millions have flashed across the sight, as famous as a landmark.

Sunsets conclude the day, a flashy hello and a shimmering goodbye enfolded all in one.

These twinkling twilights maintain the magnetic power to make the world of rotating billions to pause with praise. To stop with solitude. And enjoy the rhythmic sky that stretches in front of them.

A sunset tops off a night, concludes it with beauty, just like sprinkles would to an ice cream bowl. Or marshmallows to a campfire. And a kiss at the end of a romantic novel.

Perched and stitched inside the magnificence of sunsets, is an important teaching and reminder than can restore the light we need in our life and aid in peace of self and mind.

Each day is composed of twenty four hours. For more or less, we are awake for twelve of those and asleep for the remaining dozen. Though, our personal routines and daily to-dos cause our patterns of life and slumber to shift with each day.

Some days are lottery ticket happy. Everything feels right and perfectly aligned, as if this day, in particular, has your name emblazoned across it, over and over and over again. The day feels utterly devoted to you, the most epic of gifts.

Some days are wilted flower somber. Everything feels sad and it all appears to be unworthy. This day seems to be like your worst one yet, where everything tumbles quickly and falls fast. The swift downward-like movements barrel upon you, the light dwindling exponentially. Unlike the opposite, this is the most tragic of presents.

Sunsets come and go. They return and erase. They appear then vanish. Glow then extinguish.

Their arrival is always invited, the greeting extended. The offering of visitation remains constant. A sunset’s sparkle is like a train schedule, no matter what, it will come. On a good day or a bad day, the sunset will jet across the canvas that looms.

The light, the bright, the boldness, the burst of brilliance and magnificence, is a reminder. A gentle thought, a memorable lesson, an everlasting teaching. These intense swaths of color remind that the end is always worth it.

The end of a day, a congratulations of surviving, of moving onto the next moment in time.

In books, the end is often the best part, seeing and understanding the happy part where everything makes sense again and is the way it should be.

Sunsets act as a congratulations, a treat to celebrate the conclusion of the day.

Staring deep into the sunset, tracing the clouds and studying the blend of color and mix of atmosphere, can cause everything to slow. To nearly halt to a stop and simply just be. But nothing in life ever slows. But the feeling as if it truly has still exists.

The segments of life of allowing your body and mind to drift upward toward a sunset can make your worries float away, spiraling in the opposite direction. We often need those fragments of time where we can be still and forget, especially when the days are dark and challenging to tackle and conquer.

The sky, too, has days where its mood is violent and depressed, whether thick with clouds, full of rain, or packed with the fixings of lighting and thunder.

But a rainbow later shines and a sunset will appear, as if by magic. As if the sky, cloud, and sun have wands of their own.

This relates to people.

This relates to the hardest of days, the most tired of eyes, the most exhausted of minds.

Many hours must pass in order to find the light. Many hours must pass in order to heal and feel okay again. Many hours must pass until things feel aligned and truly golden. Many hours must pass until your worries and anxieties travel on a route opposite of yours. Many hours must pass until the darkness becomes zipped up, tossed away, and forgotten.

All of these hours must pass before something truly amazing, inspiring, and full of light is witnessed and experienced.

Like that of a sunset.

We must endure many hours of the day before we reach the point of solitude as we sit beneath the sunset of today.

We must appreciate sunsets. They give us what we want. They remind us of what we need and what is coming for us in the future.

Just search through and around the bends of color and you will find the truth of each sunset.

Romanian Recap

We took a side trip to Brasov, a former German stronghold, with architecture and people to match.  We took the train up there, 2.5 hours each way, and got to enjoy the countryside and mountains.  Brasov is a winter ski resort, and Bran Castle is the big year round attraction.
Our guide, Tudor is a ski instructor in Austria during the winter, and a custom tour guide in the remainder of the year.  He was quite insightful about the German occupation, and the distinction most Romanians strongly embrace:  they are derived from the Roman Empire, and not the Slavics!
Bran Castle was a nice visit, and we took the ski tram to the top for a great city view.  As I mentioned, the famous Romanian tennis player, Ion Tiriac is the richest man in Romania, with his imprint on many businesses, like auto, insurance, banking, and real estate.
But however large that shadows looms, the ghost of Nicolai Ceausescu overshadows all in this country.  They are recovering, but still are impeded by the remnants of Communist control.  That said, the city of Bucharest is emerging as a “Paris” of eastern Europe, but in my view, more interesting, and certainly more friendly.
We even went to his old mansion, kept intact despite his execution.  The Parliament building, the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon, remains about 80 % empty, and supposedly has ghosts.  Yet the city, particularly Old Town is most charming and inviting.
Yes, they still have problems, with corruption, like any government emerging from Soviet control, and the despotic Ceausescu.  Oh, and too many people smoke here!
Pat and his wife gave me such great insight into the people, city, and country here.  We even went to a Shakespeare play in Romanian, with Elvis music.  Pat and I went to Brasov, so we missed Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish on Sunday!
People here are proud of their heritage and country.  Hopefully, they are emerging from the giant twin shadows of the two “C’s”, communism and Ceaucescu.
We had a few interesting moments.  Pat got us kicked out of an Uber for closing his door too hard!  The Uber guy was just a real jerk.  Most were nice.  One was an old hockey player on the national team, another a former physicist, a student of Ceausescu’s son,  who drove us in a Mercedes.  Most are decent guys and also quite interesting.
The rather upscale restaurant directly below their apartment is supposedly up for a Michelin star.  We dined there my first night in the city.  It was as good as any place back home.  Better yet, we got to peruse the wine cellar.  And the manager greets us every time we arrive or leave!!
Old town is fairly well preserved, as are many historical sights.  But without ADA here, the four story walk up to their apartment was a chore (broken elevator).  Traffic is bad during rush hours, but they do have a good metro system, to go along with rather ruthless cab drivers.
I was sad to leave Dirty Pat and Renee’.  They really know their stuff, spend a good amount of time researching and understanding the culture.  Pat lectures on various law topics throughout the year, in English.  He is also invited to speak in many of the surrounding cities, where law schools, and legal eagles reside.
We took a walking tour of the city as well.  We met the most interesting young lady.  She is a translator of French and Italian into English.  She travels the world since she does not need an office.  She is a freelance translator with a great following.  She is from a small town outside of London, where her sister and their two dogs reside.  Can you imagine what I would do if I had a portable skill like that?  I would never be home!
Speaking of home, yes, home is the best place for me right now.  Summer will soon be here, and I need to recharge the proverbial batteries.

5 Ways to Spruce up a Student Room

Whether you’re in university halls or nestled in the depths of a student house, everyone knows that student bedrooms can be dismal at best. So without further ado, here are 5 ways to add a bit of life and colour back into your student living experience!

  1. Washi tape, washi tape, washi tape. Not only is it pretty, it is also extremely functional. Unlike normal sticky tape, washi will hold up your photographic treasures without ever marking your walls! Hurrah! Pro tip: create your own makeshift photo frame using four longer pieces on each edge.
  2. A cliché, but fairy lights. Especially the super-fine wire variety, so you don’t even notice the cable. Lighting in student accommodation always seems to teeter on the verge of flickery-blue-horror-film-lighting, which doesn’t exactly scream ‘hygge’ in those chilly winter months.
  3. Another cliché, but houseplants! Millennials rejoice! Not only are they very pleasing to the eye, but they will also fill your room with that sweet, sweet, air juice: oxygen. It’s also strangely fulfilling to look after these little green fellas; think of them as tiny green children for those of us not quite ready to have human babies of our own just yet.
  4. Fake candles. I decided to become a candle woman in my second year of university, only to discover that my beloved candles had created a giant soot mark on my white wall. The mark did not come off. This is a story for another day, but needless to say, I have avoided candles like the plague ever since. Instead, I have recently invested in some fake LED candles, which flicker very realistically with no risk of soot stains or of setting your house on fire! A nice warm glow for a fraction of the risk, these come highly recommended.
  5. Blankets. At some point in your student life, one housemate will become very angry about the heating bill. Pre-empt your ensuing sub-arctic existence by bringing lots of blankets with you. They’re also a great way to add a bit of colour to a white bed, and work well as a makeshift bed skirt (if your bed is as ugly as mine but you don’t want to pay money for a real one).

Penderitaan dan Pelepasan – Sisi atas daan Sisi Bawah Kematian

Barangkali momen yang paling mengharukan dalam upacara pemakaman adalah ketika peti jenazah diturunkan ke dalam lubang kubur atau, pada proses kremasi, saat tombol ditekan untuk menggerakan peti mati menuju bejana pembakaran. Saat saat itu seolah kenangan fisik terakhir atas orang yang dikasihi berlalu untuk selama-lamanya. Sering kali pada momen itu air mata tak terbendung lagi jatuh berderai.

Momen semacam itu, terutama menjadi sulit di sebuah krematorium di Perth. Di sana, ketika tombol ditekan, peti jenazah turun ke bagian bawah tanah tempat oven berada. Ini dimaksudkan agar bermakna sama dengan pemakaman. Bagaimanapun juga, orang mati yang pergi ke bawah menyiratkan lambang pergi ke neraka! Kehilangan orang-orang yang dikasihi saja sudah cukup berat rasanya; ditambah berat lagi, dengan isyarat kepergian ke dunia bawah.

Oleh karena itu, suatu kali saya pernah mengusulkan untuk membangun kapel krematorium, yang mana ketika pendeta menekan tombol untuk melepaskan kepergian almarhum, peti jenazah akan terangkat dengan anggunnya. Sebuah lift hidrolik sederhana sudah memadai untuk keperluan itu. Saat peti mati mendekati langit-langit, peti itu akan lenyap di tengah gumpalan awan buatan dari es kering, melewati pintu atap menuju rongga di atasnya, diiringi oleh musik-musik surgawi yang manis. Betapa akan menakjubkan sekali dampak psikologis yang ditimbulkannya terhadap orang-orang yang sedang berkabung!

Akan tetapi, seseorang yang mempelajari usulah saya itu menyarankan bahwa usulan ini bisa memupuskan intergritas suatu upacara, terutama pada kasus dimana setiap orang tahu bahwa orang yang berada di dalam peti mati adalah jenis orang yang “sulit pergi ke atas”.

Lalu saya menyumparnakan usulan saya, dengan menyarankan untuk menyediakan tiga buah tombol untuk mencakup semua kasus: sebuah tombol “naik” hanya untuk orang-orang yang baik, sebuah tombol “turun” untuk para bajingan, dan sebuah tombol “datar” untuk mayoritas orang yang biasa-biasa saja. Lantas, dalam rangka menerapkan prinsip – prinsip demokrasi Barat yang kita anut, serta untuk menambahkan gereget terhadap upacara pemakaman yang suram, saya daoat meminta orang-orang yang sedang berkabung untuk mengangkat tangan dan memilih tombol manakah yang akan ditekan! Ini akan membuat upacara pemakaman menjadi peristiwa yang paling dikenang, dan sayang dillewatkan begitu saja.

Choosing Life

I just had the privilege of listening to a podcast featuring Pam Tebow (Tim Tebow’s mother).  The podcast was hosted by Jamie Ivey, a woman who is such an incredibly strong Christian influencer.  I have listened to several of her podcasts through the years, but this one really pulled at my heartstrings.

 Yes, I am a huge Tebow fan.  I love the Gators, which inevitably made me love Tebow even more.  I have read most of his books and completed some of his bible studies.  And I even may get a bit goggly-eyed when he appears on TV. (But, that’s beside the point! LOL.)  I have heard his parents speak during many interviews over the years, but this interview just really broke down their life and shows just how powerful Jesus Christ has been. 

Mrs. Tebow so nonchalantly explained their marriage, their family, their faith, their struggles, their trials and the many blessings they have experienced as a family, through the years.  As they have gone through life they have followed every one of God’s callings, without a question or doubt in mind. They raised their 5 children to face their fears and to trust God in all situations.  They prayed, worshiped and studied scripture as a family for many years.  Even now continuing some of their practices with their grandchildren.

As I sat here listening to how God answered their prayers and how He brought them through every trial they faced, just brought tears to my eyes.  With the current controversy going on in society today, about life, hearing the Tebow’s story affirms my beliefs about this subject.  There is nothing in this world TOO powerful for God to handle.  And when they made their ultimate decision not to terminate the life of their baby Tim, they continued to put their complete trust in the Lord and followed through with the pregnancy.  They prayed constantly for Mrs. Tebow’s health along with the health of their unborn child.  Being fully committed to the Lord, as they were, God showed up and provided for them – proving just how powerful He really is.  Believing in God’s word and God’s truth is always more powerful than believing the words of humans.     

If you have any doubt about God, any doubt about life, any doubt about prayer you should take the time to listen to this podcast. I am a firm believer in Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I believe that He chose us to be placed on this earth and He is the only one who can remove us from it.  We are His vessels and we have no power in deciding who should live on His earth or who should die. Leave that decision up to God and not to man kind!

Now, before I say too much and start a social media war, I am going to order Pam Tebow’s book titled, The Ripple Effect.  

Be blessed!

Love,

 

 

Japanese office worker gets fired, retaliates by making sushi out of business suit and iPhone

Satisfying stop-motion video shows familiar sushi dishes made with some very unusual objects.

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. But if this stop-motion video from Japan is anything to go by, you can always make sushi instead.

Called “Crazy Office Worker’s Night Meal“, the video shows a salaryman arriving home after a long day to be met with a multitude of faxes (because we all know how Japan loves their fax machines) which read “You’re fired!!!” This sends him into a rage, prompting him to rip off parts of his suit and shirt in order to…make sushi out of them. They’re not the only items that get turned into sushi either, with the office worker using his shoe, sock, iPhone, calculator, and other bits and pieces to make an entire sushi meal.

Take a look at the clip below:

Created by Omozoc, a YouTuber who describes themselves as “a person who likes to make stop motion cooking videos”, this cleverly made clip strings together a whopping 3,257 individual photos, with no CG or Photoshop involved.

Not only is the stop-motion effect mesmerising to watch, the content of the video itself is immensely satisfying. After all, who wouldn’t want to rip off their tie and slice it up into pieces after a bad day at work?

The sushi ingredients are brilliantly thought out as well, with a green highlighter transformed into a stick of wasabi…

? And boot polish used as a soy glaze on the shoe sushi.

The end result is a sushi meal that looks surprisingly delicious, with everyday objects used to create (top to bottom, left to right): makizushi rolls, salmon roe gunkan maki, sea urchin gunkan maki, a pickled ginger rose garnish, tuna sushi, egg roll sushi, hikari mono (sushi topped with a silvery skinned fish), squid sushi, and eel sushi.

It’s strangely satisfying to have the meal fed to us through the camera too. Although we have to admit, that twist ending with the final fax leaves us with a mixed bag of emotions!

If you know someone who’s doing it tough at the office, this video is bound to put a smile on their face. So you’ll have to excuse us while we go back and press replay, because this is exactly what we need right now to keep us distracted from Mr Sato and his new fancy watch.

Source: Net Lab
Images: YouTube/omozoc 
? Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Bacon, Eggs and God

Bacon and Eggs and God. Come and Dine

Stars

Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;

Everybody wants to be a star.  As I thought about this post the words of a popular song came to my mind.  “I’m up in the spotlight and oh does it feel right.”  We are to be stars; Christian stars that shine as lights in the world.

What does the life of a Christian star look like?  Christian stardom is seen in those lives that are humble, gentle, peaceful, full of faith and love, esteeming others better than themselves, pursuing only God’s ambitions in Christ, not grumbling, not arguing, not angry or profane, blameless and harmless, working out their own salvation with fear and trembling.

The Christian star has a deep-rooted knowledge of Christ working in them.  They understand that Jesus is their salvation, their power, their narrow path and the focus of every thought and action.

Some will argue that we live in a much different world than the one in which Jesus lived.  Apparently they haven’t studied the Scriptures which clearly tell us, The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.  The world has not changed at all.  It is the same crooked and perverse place it’s always been since the fall of humankind in the Garden of Eden.

So be a star!  Be a star for Christ.  Shine on brightly.  Hold firmly to the Words of Life. That is how we become stars in God’s Kingdom.

Just remember that our purpose is not to bring attention to ourselves, but only to Jesus Christ.  We are to follow his example.

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Fighting for our Children: The Dangers of Youth E-Cigarette Use

juul advertisement

When I first talked to my high school senior about vaping, I told him likely 40% of his high school class would enter college or the work force addicted to nicotine. I thought he would be shocked, but he was not. He told me, “Oh mom, it’s much higher than that.” I walk in my neighborhood and find crushed Juul cartons and empty cartridges in the gutter. The high school parking lot is littered with the colorful caps of Juul pods. I am told almost every youth gathering, outside the purview of parents, involves vaping. Girls do it. Boys do it. Even educated college students do it. If you think your student is not doing it, you are probably wrong and the only way to know for sure is to administer a home nicotine test.

Parents are either unaware or desperate for help to deal with this new generation of nicotine addicts. “My daughter won’t even go to the bathroom during school hours because of the vaping.” “My son was offered a vape laced with THC and failed his drug test; now he can’t participate in his school activity.” “I found out my daughter is vaping, but I don’t know how to make her stop.”

Kids believe it is healthy. “It’s not like cigarettes–it makes me feel good and is fun.” “Not vaping teen advertisementeveryone gets addicted.” “It’s just vapor—it’s not smoke; besides, nicotine won’t hurt you.”  “Juuling is cool.” “The nicotine concentration is much less than tobacco.” Where do students get this information? I asked Google this question and found more vaping site responses than medical ones.

Vaping advocates and the industry tell our children lies. The ingredients are “natural.” Nicotine is performance-enhancing and makes you have more energy. “Studies show” there is nothing wrong with vaping. The juice comes in a variety of sweet or minty flavors and is packaged in boxes that look like candy–candy laced with nicotine. Juul ads show teens dressed in designer clothing and exhaling a plume of vapor that would impress a dragon. These are all just various ways of telling the lie that vaping is not harmful and that it is for kids.

The truth is that nicotine concentration in a Juul puff (one inhalation) is twice as concentrated as a draw on a cigarette. (You won’t find this information on the Juul website, by the way.) One Juul pod costs $4 and contains the equivalent of two packs of cigarettes. A high school principal told me students may go through as many as two pods a day. That is the equivalent of four packs of cigarettes (80+ mg of nicotine) every day. Juul upped the ante by raising the nicotine concentration and this has led to the nicotine wars, causing other manufacturers to increase their nicotine levels to compete. What are they competing for? They are jockeying to obtain the next generation of tobacco users—our children.

What do experts say? Former FDA Commissioner and Surgeon General have called youth e-cigarette use an epidemic. Studies show e-cigarettes are the most popular type of tobacco product among youth, and youth use is rising rapidly. Between 2017 and 2018, e-cigarette use increased by an alarming 78 percent among high school students and 48 percent among middle school students. Children as young as fifth grade have been known to experiment with this dangerous habit.

Medical experts warn there are unknown, but high-potential harms in the vapor ingredients, but the negative health effects of nicotine are well-documented. Is your high school daughter on birth control pills? Many doctors won’t even prescribe this method of birth control for patients who are using nicotine because the danger of heart attacks increase 30-fold for concurrent use. The Surgeon General said: “E-cigarette use poses a significant – and avoidable – health risk to young people in the United States. Besides increasing the possibility of addiction and long-term harm to brain development and respiratory health, e-cigarette use is associated with the use of other tobacco products that can do even more damage to the body.”

What has the vaping industry done to curb youth initiation of the nicotine habit? They have developed fruity and minty flavors to reduce the perceived harshness of tobacco products. As a result, flavored tobacco products are an appealing “starter” product for youth. An estimated 81 percent of 12-17 year olds who have ever used a tobacco product started with a flavored product and 80 percent of current youth tobacco users have used a flavored tobacco product in the past month. If e-cigarettes truly are an adult smoking cessation product, then why are the flavors even necessary? When I showed a state senator a picture of some of the e-liquids for sale, he said, as though realizing it for the first time, “Adults are not going to be attracted by flavors like gummy bear, cotton candy and fruit punch.” His eyes met mine, “These companies are not marketing to adults.”

It is time for parents, grandparents, communities and educators to join the fight if we are going to stop the tide of youth vaping. We are the only ones standing between Big Tobacco and our children. You can start by contacting the Appropriations Committee (Senator Shelby) and ask him to help parents and educators by increasing funding for the Office on Smoking and Health. Ask him to to reject any attempts by the Legislature to weaken the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) authority over tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Parents and students need correct information and an increase in funding would provide the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the resources to obtain and share information regarding the dangers of e-cigarette use and fund state efforts to fight youth vaping. We need to plug up the rat holes and stop the vaping industry’s campaign of misinformation and lies. We need to force them to quit marketing to our children.

5 Kawaii Fun Facts About Me + IG Stories Templates For Getting to Know YOU!

“Every Great Dream Begins
With a Dreamer …

 Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

– Harriet Tubman

Allow Me to (Re)Introduce Myself

??Hi!??

I’m Imani K. Brown, tattoo artist/ illustrator + kawaii creative, based in DC + Japan

All that jazz is easily covered in my About Me section. So I won’t bore you here.

Let’s jump right to the fun things! ^.^

As I return and get a bit more active I thought it’d be great for us to know each other.

Otherwise it’s REALLY obnoxious of me to want you to come hang out with me and I haven’t even introduced myself …

or taken time to get to know you (I’ve got something for that tho!)

5 Kawaii Fun Facts About Me

I’ll start this ‘getting to know each other’ party with some fun facts of why I’m inspired to do this in the first place ^.^ 

kawaii journaling with Imani K Brown

1. I LOVE connecting love Tattoo + Tattoo Talk

I’m an introvert to the n(th) degree. So trying to simply say ‘hi I think you’re cool’ or making small talk is kinda weird for me. BUT if we talk tattoo ideas or anything related to art, I light up like a light bulb and what seems like a dull personality suddenly comes to life ?

???

2. I work in Japan 2x per year

People love this fun fact so I thought I’d include it. The story of HOW I came to work there is pretty cool, I think. Maybe I’ll share it one day ^.^

???

3. I want to get to know more kawaii peeps and admirers

So often these days I meet people, especially on the internet who’ve wanted to connect in some way or another. But somehow I look either too busy or unapproachable. And for real … I’m neither! Just an introvert who stays in her own lane haha

But I  love to get to know new people. Even if it doesn’t appear so ~

???

4. #moshimoshi Tour is my 1st Solo Tour

I’ve been in the tattoo industry 16 years in August *gasp* And I’ve been on or included in tattoo tours with fellow artists. But I’ve never decided to legit venture out on my own. So many moving parts to make this successful … *hides in a corner*

???

5. About 25% of my income goes to building something awesome, DC Kawaii Style

I created a space and wasn’t sure what to do with it. Honestly I just wanted more JFashion and kawaii life in DC. There was no plans for the space. But the community has spoken and we’re on the road to making an honest business out of this baby ^.^

I don’t wanna disappoint and as mama-chan gotta have some kneading dough (get it! haha) So that’s why I work so hard at tattoos … beyond providing for myself.

???

Whew ~ that was painless! Now it’s your turn. puahahaha

Instagram Stories Templates

Of course I told you earlier that I’m up’ing my stories game. And since I’m there often, I thought maybe it’d be cool to make some kawaii tattoo templates so that we can get to know each other.

 We can continue this story, making at big as we want! ^.^ So I’ll make add-ons as often as I can or as often as you request them so we can converse and have fun!

And to engage is SUPER DUPER EASY!

1. Download the templates

2. Fill in the templates

(some with words and others with pictures or emoji but it’s outlined on each template) 

3. Post em up

and tag me or slide em direct to my DM’s

See! EASY!

And don’t worry! I did ’em too so you can get to know me as well.

Just like tattoo, this is a two way street!

Enjoy ~

3 Things You Can’t Live Without, Daily

I had fun with friends on IG on the humble the other day, sharing my 3 daily must haves.

So I thought I’d share here AND also share my shabby hand written template in case you want to play along too ~

Ready …

Your Turn!!!!!

I look forward to having fun and getting to know each other on Instagram.

If you want to know more about me, Imani K. Brown feel free to keep reading!

See you ?

My Professional Journey


Artist Electronic Press Kit


It Me! The Lifestyle Entrepreneur


Look Mama! I Got BIG Japan Dreams


Here’s a Quick Kawaii + Creative Snapshot


Oh the Places I’ve Been!

My Professional Services

I’m helpful by nature always asking “How Can I Help” – in hopes of becoming a magical force in your life ^.^


#INKPLAY Tattoos


Illustration / Branding


Creativity Coaching

Yup! That’s me in a nutshell ~

Still Got Questions?!

CLICK BELOW To Stop By And …

Ask Me Anything

It’s very nice to *e*meet you and hope we can become creative entrepreneur friends ~

Drop a “Let’s Be Friends” comment below

and let me know it’s real! ?

Gambare, minna
??????????
Imani (????)


Let’s keep in Touch!

hello

insta_icon  facebook_icon twitter_icon email_icon

5 Kawaii Fun Facts About Me + IG Stories Templates For Getting to Know YOU! was originally published on Kawaii Creative Corner

How I Read On A Budget

I’m going to be completely honest: books are super expensive. And being an avid reader is kind of hard when you’re a broke college student, or when you just want to save some money.

I’ve been trying to find ways to read without spending a million dollars on books, and here are the ways I’ve found to save money. Of course, you could find a PDF online, but that’s not fair to the people who worked so hard to make those books happen.

  • Invest in an eReader

I’m someone who absolutely loves the feeling of an actual book in my hand, and I love the feeling of turning the pages and smelling the book smell. However, I wish my mom had stopped me from buying books when I was younger. I spent all of my babysitting money and all of my birthday money on books, and although I am grateful to have all of those books on my shelves, it just isn’t worth it in the long run. When I left for college, I couldn’t take any of them with me, so they’ve been sitting in my childhood bedroom, collecting dust. I did, however, bring my Nook to college with me. eBooks are generally cheaper than physical books, and it’s way more portable, so you can get your money’s worth with your books by being able to bring your library anywhere.

  • Borrow books from the library

This one is kind of a no-brainer, but for a while when I was in high school, I refused to go to the library because I thought that I wasn’t a real book fan if my room wasn’t littered with them. Trust me, libraries are awesome. For exactly zero dollars, you can check out any book that they have, and you can even request books if they don’t have them yet! I could spend hours browsing for books, because that’s half the fun. And then you don’t feel guilty when you don’t like the book, because you didn’t actually spend any money on them.

  • Download the OverDrive or the Libby app

These are my absolute favorite apps on my phone. It’s basically connected to your library, so you first have to check if your library is on this app, but if it is, you have a whole collection of books in your pocket. All you have to do is put in your library card, and you can check out books to read on your phone any time. I was a little skeptical at first, but it was so nice to have the book I was reading in my pocket at all times, because, let’s be real, my phone is always in my pocket. This way I could read whatever book I want without spending any money (and they let you request books as well!). Overall, this free app is absolutely my favorite app.

  • Hang out in Barnes and Noble

This might sound a little weird, but my Barnes and Noble has a cute little Starbucks cafe on the inside of it. I can sit down, order some coffee, and read a book, without actually having to pay for it. As long as I return it before I leave, I can read it for free. You just have to remember to write down your page, because it’s not like you can stick a bookmark in a book that someone is about to buy. People in my town go to the Barnes and Noble to do homework or to meet with tutors, so why shouldn’t you be able to go and just read a book without having to buy it?

  • Borrow from a friend

My friends and I are all avid bookworms, so, chances are, one of us will have a book. This is especially true for me, since I have a twin sister, and it’s absolutely pointless for me and her to both buy the same book when we can just walk into each other’s bedrooms to borrow them. Even though you have to return them in the end, borrowing books from friends is a great way to read, because you don’t have to go all the way to a library, and you have an easy way to return it. My copy of Crazy Rich Asians was passed around to three of my friends, and two of my friends borrowed another friend’s copy of Becoming by Michelle Obama. It’s a great way to read without spending money.

  • Wait for it to come out in a paperback copy

If you’re someone who absolutely needs to own a book, and the library or other ways of borrowing books is not an option for you, you can just wait for it to come out in paperback. Hardcover books are so much more expensive, and unfortunately, most new releases are only available in hardcover (probably to make you spend more money, honestly). Even if it might be the hottest new release, you could always wait a few extra weeks to buy it in paperback form.

What are some ways you read while you’re on a budget? Let me know in the comments!

Photography: Peony Season

CS Sherin, June 6 2019

I have been posting a lot of my photography and art on Instagram lately. Peony season seems a good time to post some flower photography here for a change.

Photography is something that I do as an artist, yes, but also as a way to meditate on and appreciate overlooked beauty and wonder around us each day. It begins with taking the photos with an open mind, persistence, and patience. Then, through the editing process, I begin to appreciate what is captured on a whole new level. Editing photos is a part of what makes this practice an art for me. Most of all, photography draws me close to nature in a way that goes beyond the moments of being there.

I am not going out with a tripod and big expensive lenses. I am not a studio type photographer. I have always done this in a minimalist way. That is true to who I am and how I approach life. An acquaintance of mine who gets into photography, after looking at my photography, asked what I use. I revealed my little camera, and they were shocked and said it was miraculous that I get the photos I do “with just that”. The difference between me and a studio photographer is that my core is studio artist, not photographer. I want to create art in moments and in contemplation of what is, and what arises afterwards. Most of all, when I go out to photograph, it is therapeutic for my spirit and heart, and I am able to let go and be.

Peonies are a favorite of mine to photograph. Did you know that peonies have been cultivated for over 2,000 years and can live for 100 years or more? Not only are they simply gorgeous in full bloom, they represent the ability to thrive and bloom where you are planted. Once planted, it is not recommended to move a peony plant. They do best in full sun, but some put them in semi-shade to help the gorgeous blooms last just a bit longer. From my observances, they seem to do well with a subtle structure (like a tomato cage type thing) to hold up the plant when the heavy blooms come about. Also, planted in full sun they do, indeed, seem taller and happier than those in part-shade. Without further delay, here are my peony photos from yesterday.



Keep in mind, any of my art or photography that you like can be purchased, digitally, or as a print. Contact me with your request.

That’s all for today. Thanks for stopping by! Please check out all this site has to offer here.

Chargrill Charlie’s – famous food, for good reason!

Chargrill Charlie’s is a family owned business that has been operating for over 30 years. Beginning in Coogee, they’ve branched out and although no longer in Coogee, they’ve got 11 venues across Sydney and open 7 days a week. We visited our closest store, the Woollahra venue.

It is both a dine in and takeaway venue and they are always super busy. This is testament to just how good the food is. At first it might look like your typical charcoal chicken shop, but it is much more than that with amazing salads, veggies, burgers and desserts and it will have you salivating for more.

From the charcoal grill, their chickens do not have hormone injections and they are beautifully chargrilled, and seasoned with herbs and spices or marinated with Portuguese flavours.

Of course it wouldn’t be the perfect meal without fries. You can get their nicely seasoned French fries chips or their famous hand cut potato wedges or sweet potato wedges. We tried them all and can’t choose our favourite

They use the freshest of ingredients and seasonal produce to make their famous salads, made in house everyday. They will suit a range of crowds and we tried the poke salad, Buddha salad and roasted cauliflower. The Golden quinoa salad was also an absolute winner.

There’s a hot menu with a lot of choice – from baked salmon, chicken drumsticks, meatballs and curry to casseroles and Lentils. We had the amazing lamb shanks and mixed roasted vegetables and they were a great accompaniment.

As we were here for a huge spread, we both got a burger, the chicken and also a cheeseburger. Free range chicken and grass fed beef, fresh butter lettuce, sliced tomato, onion, secret sauce on a milk bun – these were delicious – and huge!

We tried the piri piri sauce and lemon and herb dressing which we also enjoyed.

They have sweets and desserts too, and although we didn’t try, because we were full; the home made apple pie looks like a winner.

Chargrill Charlie’s does catering as well if you’re keen to order a bunch of food for your office meeting, picnics or even private functions.

When you arrive it may appear slightly overwhelming with so many people trying to get the Chargrill Charlie’s fix. But don’t fret, the service is easy. Take a number and wait your turn, service is extremely fast.

They also have an app where you can earn store credit and even purchase Chargrill Charlie’s hoodies, hats and bags to feel like a part of the team.

Chargrill Charlie’s

Check out the website for your closest location

https://chargrillcharlies.com

Echo Murder; First Chapter

To celebrate the launch of Echo Murder, the thrilling continuation of Fallible Justice, today, I have shared below the first chapter of the book.


EM_FINAL(cover)

Yannia Wilde returns to the Wild Folk conclave where she grew up, and to the deathbed of her father, the conclave’s Elderman. She is soon drawn back into the Wild Folk way of life and into a turbulent relationship with Dearon, to whom she is betrothed.

Back in London, unassuming office worker Tim Wedgebury is surprised when police appear on his doorstep with a story about how he was stabbed in the West End. His body disappeared before the paramedics’ eyes. Given that Tim is alive and well, the police chalk the first death up to a Mage prank. But when Tim “dies” a second time, Detective Inspector Jamie Manning calls Yannia and, torn between returning to the life she has built in Old London and remaining loyal to the conclave and to Dearon, she strikes a compromise with the Elderman that allows her to return temporarily to the city.

There she sets about solving the mystery of Tim’s many deaths with the help of her apprentice, Karrion. They come to realise that with every death, more of the echo becomes reality, and Yannia and Karrion find themselves in increasing danger as they try to save Tim. Who is the echo murderer? What sinister game are they playing? And what do they truly want?


‘So, how was it?’ Lizzie asked.

Tim rested his hand on the small of Lizzie’s back and steered her across the road among a crowd of people. A taxi honked, but the flow of people remained unaffected. All around them, their fellow theatre-goers were talking and laughing: the sound a murmur of joy and excitement.

‘You won. I had a good time.’

Lizzie twisted to look at him, a smile lighting her face as they headed up the hill. She seemed oblivious to the people jostling them.

‘I knew you were going to like it,’ she said.

‘The puppets were gorgeous.’ Tim wrapped an arm around Lizzie’s shoulder. ‘I’m really glad you dropped enough hints for me to get the message.’

‘By hints you mean anvils, don’t you?’

‘No wonder they worked,’ Tim said with a chuckle. ‘I’m not into musicals, but The Lion King might have changed my mind.’

‘Mission accomplished, then.’

They left the worst of the theatre crowds behind as they weaved through the narrow streets towards the bright lights of Covent Garden. The night air was cool and carried dampness that spoke of rain to come. Lizzie zipped up her coat and inched closer to Tim’s warmth.

‘Are you tired?’ he asked.

‘Not really. Do you have something in mind?’

‘There’s a nice pub near Tottenham Court Road. I thought we could stop there for a drink?’

‘Do you mind if we walk? After sitting down for so long, I’d like to stretch my legs.’

‘Good idea.’

A car blaring rap music approached them, and Tim switched to Lizzie’s other side to put himself between her and the car. She turned her head briefly to nuzzle his shoulder.

They walked through the covered section of Covent Garden and towards the tube station. The area was thick with tourists gawking at the street performers, and a steady stream of people passing in and out of the many pubs and restaurants. Through a restaurant window, they saw a huge birthday cake being set before an old woman while the staff formed a semi-circle around the table. A door opening to a pub allowed a wave of raucous laughter to roll out. Wherever they looked, the streets were filled with people who were happy and laughing and in love. Surrounded by so much joy, Lizzie reached up to press a kiss on Tim’s cheek.

A cluster of homeless people was stationed by the tube entrance, begging for change. Lizzie dropped some coins into their cups, while Tim watched her with a smile.

The streets beyond Covent Garden were quieter, the shops having closed hours ago. Street lights struggled against the darkness of the cloudy evening, and in places, puddles reflected a pale imitation of the real view.

‘I should warn you, I’m going to get lost,’ Tim said as he steered Lizzie across the road and turned left.

‘Why?’

‘Because I always get lost when I try to walk from Covent Garden to Charing Cross Road.’

‘Do you want me to get directions on my phone?’ Lizzie asked.

‘No, I just thought I ought to let you know.’

‘Thanks.’ Lizzie’s fingers found the hand resting on her shoulder. ‘Though getting lost with you doesn’t sound like a terrible thing.’

Tim watched her while they walked and he shook his head.

‘What is it?’ Lizzie asked.

‘You are something else, you know that, don’t you?’

At the sight of Lizzie’s cheeks heating, Tim stopped and kissed her. A whistle from a drunk man staggering in the opposite direction drew them apart, and they continued their walk, both smiling.

A few minutes later, Tim rounded the corner and paused.

‘Yep, this is definitely not Tottenham Court Road.’

‘Maybe we haven’t walked far enough yet,’ Lizzie said.

‘No, I got lost, just like I said I would.’

‘Where are we?’

Tim pointed to a street sign above them. ‘Shaftesbury Avenue, near Leicester Square. Somewhere along the way, we should have turned right instead of left.’

‘Do you know the way from here?’

‘Actually, I do.’

‘So all is well. And it’s been a nice walk.’

They crossed the road outside the dark windows of a fancy dress shop and continued walking. Tall trees cast shadows on the pavement and dry leaves floated along in the breeze. Behind them, a man stepped out from an alley and crossed the road.

‘How come you know this area of London so well, barring the inevitable confusion over those side streets?’ Lizzie asked. ‘Did you used to live nearby?’

‘No.  I enjoy exploring London. I quite often skip the rush hour train home in favour of finding a nice restaurant or pub to try. It’s more fun to walk to places because you never know what you’ll find along the way.’

Lizzie laughed. ‘Next you’re going to say that it’s the journey that matters and not the destination.’

‘As a matter of fact, it’s the journey–’ Tim got no further before a man stepped around them and stopped, pulling a knife from his pocket.

‘You two, get into the alley,’ he said, pointing to a gap between the buildings.

The man was barely out of his teens. He wore a black windbreaker a few sizes too large and he had patchy stubble growing on his chin. His large eyes were darting around, frightened, but determined.

‘Take it easy, mate.’ Tim put himself between the man and Lizzie. ‘We don’t want any trouble.’

‘Do as I say, and no one will get hurt. Now get in that alley.’ The man pointed again for added emphasis.

Still keeping himself between Lizzie and the mugger, Tim stepped into the shadows. The alley was narrow and lined on one side by red bins. The smell of urine mingled with the odours of rotting food and wet cardboard. An emergency exit sign cast a dim light, but Tim had to wait while his eyes adjusted.

‘You can take everything I have on me, but please don’t hurt her,’ he said. Next to him, Lizzie tried to choke back a sob.

‘I reckon you give me all your stuff and we’re cool.’

‘As I said, just take it easy.’ Tim removed his watch and handed it to the mugger with his wallet and his phone.

The mugger stuffed Tim’s belongings in his pocket. With the knife, he motioned towards Lizzie. ‘Now you.’

Lizzie passed him her handbag, but when it came to undoing the clasp of her watch, her fingers shook too much to get a purchase on the metal.

‘Hurry up.’ The mugger glanced towards the street, waving his knife for effect.

‘She’s doing her best,’ Tim said, trying to keep his voice steady.

‘Please,’ Lizzie turned to Tim, tears in her eyes. ‘I can’t do this.’

‘Can you leave her the watch? You got everything else.’

‘No, I want the watch and the bling. Hurry up.’

Lizzie began sobbing, her whole body quaking. Tim stepped towards her, hand stretched to clasp her elbow, but the mugger got between them.

‘Stay back.’

‘I’m trying to help her.’

‘I said, stay back.’ The mugger advanced, raising the knife.

‘Can you see she’s scared? I just want to help her give you the watch and the jewellery.’

The knife lowered a fraction, but before Tim could skirt around the mugger to Lizzie, she let out a low wail. The mugger whirled around, pointing the knife at Lizzie’s face.

‘Shut up,’ he said, voice rising. ‘Give me the stuff and shut up.’

Lizzie shrank back against the bin while Tim stepped around the mugger to stand between her and the knife.

‘You’re making it worse,’ he said, concern for her overtaking his fear.

The mugger scowled, anger twisting his face. He moved to step forward, and his foot landed on a bottle. Off balance, he collided with Tim, knife first. Lizzie screamed. The mugger stepped back, staring at the bloodied knife, while Tim’s hand rose to feel wetness spreading across his jacket. He staggered back.

At the sight of the blood, Lizzie screamed again. The mugger dropped his knife and ran deeper into the alley. Tim slid down to sit on the litter-strewn ground, his back against the bin. The left side of his torso was stained red.

‘Get help,’ he said to Lizzie, trying to sound calm. ‘Call an ambulance and the police.’

Lizzie only stared at him until Tim forced a smile.

‘It’s okay. I’m going to be fine.’

After a lingering look, Lizzie turned towards Shaftesbury Avenue. Her first steps were hesitant, as if she was uncertain of her balance, but soon concern overrode the shock. She ran. The street was empty of people and cars. Lizzie chose the direction they had been walking in, the heels of her shoes clicking on the pavement.

She was almost at the far end of the street when movement across the road caught her eye. In a small alcove, beneath theatre posters, a homeless man was huddled in a sleeping bag. A skinny dog was lying next to him on a grimy blanket. Lizzie ran across the road and came to a halt next to the alcove, a hand resting on the cool bricks. The dog wagged its tail.

‘Please help. We were mugged. My boyfriend’s been stabbed. I need to find a phone.’

When the man pushed aside his sleeping bag, a sharp tang of an unwashed body assaulted Lizzie’s nose. The man’s face was gaunt, his features all but obscured by an unkempt beard, but the eyes that met Lizzie’s were sharp and kind.

‘Where’s your boyfriend?’ he asked.

Lizzie pointed along the road, towards the darkness of the alley.

‘You find a phone. I’ll help him.’

‘Thank you,’ Lizzie said, her breathing erratic. She allowed herself a moment to watch the homeless man before continuing her search.

The homeless man found Tim still leaning against the bin. Where he was applying pressure to the wound, his hands were slick with blood. At the sound of footsteps, Tim opened his eyes.

‘Your girlfriend’s getting help. My name’s Bob.’ He crouched next to Tim.

‘Nice to— meet you— Bob,’ Tim said. His breathing was shallow and irregular.

‘Can you take off your jacket?’ Bob asked.

‘I can try.’

Tim tried to shrug off his jacket, but Bob had to help him. Folding the fabric so a dry section was on the top, Bob pressed it against the wound on Tim’s side.

‘What’s your name?’

‘Tim.’ He cleared his throat. ‘Timothy Wedgbury.’

‘Tim, help is on its way.’ Blood seeped through the fabric onto Bob’s hands.

‘How’s— Lizzie? Is she okay?’

‘Lizzie, your girlfriend?’

Tim nodded and closed his eyes.

‘She’s pretty shook up, but there isn’t a scratch on her. As soon as you’re on the mend, she’ll be right as rain.’ Cocking his head, Bob thought he heard approaching sirens. ‘Can you tell me what happened?’

‘We were mugged… Just a kid… I tried to— help Lizzie… Kid stumbled—  stabbed me… An accident…’

By now, Bob was certain he could hear sirens. He increased the pressure on the wound. Tim’s expression did not change.

‘Hang in there, Tim.’ When he got no response, he patted Tim’s cheek, leaving a smear of blood on it. ‘Open your eyes and look at me, Tim.’

The sirens grew loud enough to hurt Bob’s ears before they cut off. He heard running footsteps and called out, ‘Over here! Help!’

Paramedics rushed around the corner, carrying heavy bags. One of them took over the compression while Bob stepped back. A second paramedic felt Tim’s neck.

‘I can’t find a pulse.’

They manoeuvred Tim away from the bin so he was lying down. The first paramedic bent down to bring his cheek close to Tim’s mouth.

‘He’s not breathing.’

‘Start CPR.’

The second paramedic placed his hands on Tim’s sternum and then froze. ‘What the hell?’

Tim’s body was growing translucent, fading from view. Bob noticed that a bloodied knife on the ground was likewise turning insubstantial, and he stumbled back until he collided with the corner of the bin. He fell backwards. The paramedics leapt up and one reached for his radio, though he could form no words to describe the nature of the emergency. In front of the stunned witnesses, Tim, his bloodied jacket and the blood on the ground disappeared, as if they had never been.


Curious to know what happens to Tim? You can get signed copies of Echo Murder, with extra goodies, here,  and it’s available on paperback and ebook here. If you want to check out some reviews first, head over to Goodreads.

Kebebasan dan Kerendahan Hati – Dunia Bebas

Selama beberapa minggu, seorang rekan bhikkhu mengajar meditasi di sebuah penjara baru dengan tingkat pengamanan yang sangat ketat di dekat Perth. Sekelompok kecil narapidana telah mengenal baik dan menghormati sang bhikkhu. Di akhir sebuah sesi, mereka mulai bertanya mengenai rutinitas kesehariannya di vihara.

“Kami harus bangun jam 4 pagi setiap hari,” katanya. “Kadang-kadang terasa sangat dingin karena kamar kami yang kecil tidak memiliki penghangat ruangan. Kami hanya makan satu kali sehari, semuanya dicampur-aduk dalam satu mangkok. Selewat tengah hari dan pada malam hari kami tidak makan apa pun. Dan tentu saja, tidak boleh berhubungan seks atau minum minuman beralkohol. Kami juga tidak punya televisi, radio ataupun musik. Kami tidak pernah nonton film, juga tidak berolahraga untuk kesenangan. Kami berbicara sedikit, bekerja keras dan melewatkan waktu luang dengan duduk bersila mengamati napas. Kami tidur di atas lantai.”

Para napi tertegun mengetahui kesederhanaan kehidupan membiara kami. Kalau diperbandingkan, itu membuat penjara mereka seperti sebuah hotel berbintang lima. Bahkan, seorang napi begitu tergerak simpatinya atas merananya si bhikkhu sahabatnya ini sampai dia lupa di mana dia berada dan berkata: “Ngeri amat tinggal di viharamu. Kenapa kamu tidak pindah ke sini dan tinggal bersama kami saja?”

Si bhikkhu bercerita kepada saya, semua yang ada di ruangan tertawa terbahak-baha! k. Begitu pula saya ketika dia menceritakan kejadian itu. Lalu saya mulai merenungkannya dengan mendalam.

Memang benar vihara saya jauh lebih sederhana daripada penjara terketat untuk para terpidana, namun banyak yang datang dengan kemauan sendiri dan berbahagia di sini. Sementara begitu banyak yang mencoba kabur dari penjara yang lebih nyaman dan tidak berbahagia di sana. Mengapa?

Itu karena, di vihara saya, penghuninya ingin berada di sana; di penjara, penghuninya tidak ingin berada di sana. Itu bedanya.

Saat anda tidak ingin berada di suatu tempat, di manapun itu, senyaman apapun, itu adalah sebuah penjara bagi Anda. Inilah arti sesungguhnya dari kata “penjara” -situasi apa pun di mana anda tidak ingin berada. Jika Anda ada dalam pekerjaan yang tidak Anda inginkan, berarti Anda berada dalam penjara. Jika Anda ada dalam sebuah hubungan yang tidak Anda inginkan, Anda berada dalam penjara. Jika Anda sedang sakit dan terperangka! p di dalam tubuh menyakitkan yang tidak Anda inginkan, itu pun penjara buat Anda. Penjara adalah situasi apa pun di mana Anda tidak ingin berada di dalamnya.

Lalu bagaimana caranya untuk dapat bebas dari berbagai penjara kehidupan?
Gampang. Ubah saja persepsi anda tentang situasi sekarang menjadi “ingin berada di sana”. Walaupun berada di San Quentin (Redaksi: sebuah penjara tempat hukuman mati), atau yang sedikit lebih lumayan, vihara saya, kalau anda ingin berada di sana, maka itu tidak lagi menjadi penjara bagi Anda.

Dengan mengubah persepsi Anda terhadap pekerjaan, hubungan, tubuh yang sakit, dan dengan menerima situasinya alih-alih menolaknya, maka itu tidak lagi terasa seperti sebuah penjara. Saat Anda menerima untuk berada di sana, Anda telah bebas.

Kebebasan adalah merasa puas di mana pun Anda berada. Penjara adalah menginginkan berada di tempat lain. Dunia yang bebas adalah sebuah dunia yang dialami orang seseorang! yang puas. Kebebasan sejati adalah kebebasan dari hasrat, bukannya kebebasan untuk berkeinginan.

Penderitaan dan Pelepasan – Pria Dengan Empat Istri

Seorang pria yang sukses hidupnya, memiliki empat orang istri. Ketika ajalnya menjelang tiba, dia memanggil istri keempatnya ke sisi ranjangnya, istrinya yang paling baru dan paling muda.

Jelitaku kata si pria, terpikat oleh sosoknya yang legendaries, dalam satu-dua hari lagi aku akan meninggal dunia. Setelah kematian, aku akan kesepian tanpa dirimu. Maukah engkau ikut bersamaku?

Tidak mau! jawab si gadis termasyhur itu. Aku akan tetap di sini. Aku akan berdoa saat pemakamanmu, tetapi tidak lebih dari itu. Dan dia bergegas keluar dari kamar suaminya.

Penolakan istrinya itu laksana tikaman di hati si pria. Dia telah mencurahkan begitu banyak perhatian kepada istri termudanya. Dia begitu bangga terhadapnya sehingga dia selalu memilihnya sebagai pendamping dalam setiap acara penting. Istri keempatnya telah memberi martabat bagi si pria pada usia tuanya. Mengejutkan sekali menemukan
kenyataan bahwa si istri ternyata tak mencintainya sebesar cinta yang dia berikan kepadanya.

Tetap saja, dia masih punya tiga istri lagi, jadi dia memanggil istri ketiganya yang dinikahinya saat dia separuh baya. Dia telah berjuang begitu keras untuk menggaet istri ketiganya. Dia sangat mencintai istri ketiga yang telah memberinya banyak kebahagiaan. Dia adalah seorang perempuan menarik yang didambakan oleh semua pria; dia pun adalah seorang perempuan yang sangat setia. Dia telah memberikan si pria rasa aman.

Manisku, kata si pria, tak lama lagi aku akan meninggal dunia. Setelah kematian, aku akan kesepian tanpa dirimu. Maukah engkau ikut bersamaku?

Sama sekali tidak! tukas si perempuan muda yang menggairahkan itu, dengan gaya bisnisnya. Mana bias seperti itu? Aku akan mengadakan upacara pemakaman yang mewah buatmu, tetapi setelah upacara selesai aku akan pergi bersama putramu.

Rencana ketidaksetiaan istri ketiga membuat si pria terguncang sampai ke sumsum tulang. Dia mengusir istri ketiga lalu memanggil istri keduanya. Dia telah hidup lama bersama istri keduanya. Dia tidak begitu nmenarik, tetapi dia selalu ada di sisi suaminya, untuk membantunya memecahkan masalah dan memberikan nasihat yang tak ternilai. Dia adalah sahabatnya yang paling terpercaya.

Kasihku, kata si pria sambil menatap ke sorot mata istrinya, sebentar lagi aku akan meninggal dunia. Setelah kematian, aku akan kesepian tanpa dirimu. Maukah engkau ikut bersamaku?

Maafkan aku, kata si istri kedua dengan penuh penyesalan, aku tak dapat pergi bersamamu. Aku akan menemanimu sampai di sisi liang kubur, tetapi tidak lebih dari itu.

Hati si orang tua remuk redam oleh penolakan yang bertubi-tubi. Dia memanggil istri pertamanya, yang agaknya selalu dia kenal selamanya. Dia telah mengabaikannya selama tahun-tahun terakhir ini, terutama setelah dia bertemu dengan istri ketiganya yang memikat dan istri keempatnya yang termasyhur itu. Tetapi istri pertamnya inilah yang benar-benar penting baginya, yang bekerja dengan diam dari balik layar. Dia merasa tidak enak hati saat melihatnya berpakaian lusuh dan begitu kurus.

Sayangku, katanya dengan nada memohon, sebentar lagi aku akan meniggal dunia. Setelah kematian, aku akan kesepian tanpa dirimu. Maukah engkau ikut bersamaku?

Tentu saja aku akan pergi bersamamu, jawab si istri pertama dengan mantap. Aku akan selalu bersamamu dari satu kehidupan ke kehidupan lainnya.

Istri pertama adalah karma. Istri kedua adalah keluarga. Istri ketiga adalah kekayaan. Istri keempat adalah kemasyhuran.

Bacalah sekali lagi cerita tersebut, sekarang Anda tahu tentang empat istri. Istri manakah yang paling berharga untuk dipelihara? Mana yang akan pergi bersama Anda meninggal?

Hidden History – Moswetuset Hummock (Quincy, MA)

Date Of Visit: March 39, 2019

Location: Moswetuset Hummock, 440 East Squantum St, Quincy, MA

Hours: open daily, dawn to dusk

Cost: Free

Parking: Free parking is available for about a dozen vehicles:

Universally Accessible: Because of the dirt and rocky surface and a few slight inclines it is not universally accessible

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: views of Quincy and the surrounding area, short trail, historic importance

Summary: A small, often overlooked park in Quincy, MA, has a special historical significance to Massachusetts

IMG_5884

Sometimes hidden history is in the wide open.  Such is the case with the small park located along the Wollaston Beach and Quincy Bay area.

The .4 mile loop (yes it is a very short trail) is easy.  Along the short trail you’ll see pretty views of the neighboring Wollaston Beach and Squantum (another name with a historical connection to the area).

While the trail at Moswetuset is short and easy, if you walk down the somewhat steep side of the trail, you can get some pretty views of Boston and the Quincy area.  These photos were taken from the rocky area off the main trail during twilight in March.

Moswetuset, which means “shaped like an arrowhead”, is often overlooked for the more popular Wollaston Beach which is located around the corner from Moswetuset.  Yet, the fact that it is overlooked gives it a special charm.   It also has an interesting historical background.

Moswetuset is said to have been the seat of the ruling Massachusetts Chief Chickatawbut.  It is also the place where Plymouth colony commander Myles Standish and his guide Tisquantum (Squanto) met with Chief Chicktawbut in 1621.

Named after the native tribe of Moswetuset, the name of this area would later become known as Massachusetts.

IMG_5888

As the sign below states, Chief Chickawawbut agreed to a treaty with then Governor Winthrop which neither side broke.  And, of course, there is a Dunkin’ Donuts across the street which you may see in the background.  It is Massachusetts after all.

IMG_5958

From Wollaston Beach the area looks simply like a wooded area without much to see.

Yet, hidden within that cluster of trees lies a true hidden treasure with a hidden history.

 

Thoughtful Thursday: “A Tale of People Feeding Off Others,” (Kino no Tabi)

(Note: No screenshots because of the low-quality rendering of my old Kino video files.)

Have you ever thought of what might be the ultimate cost of living? I believe it is taking from or feeding off the lives of others. This is the necessary sin we must all shoulder in order to live. In the end, maybe people inevitably die as payment for what we took. It’s a fascinating and poetic concept. But you may be wondering, what the bloody hell am I talking about? People feed off other people? And what does it have to do with anime? Well, I’m referencing a theme that is explored in a certain episode of the anime Kino no Tabi or Kino’s Journey.

I’m only talking about the 2003 version of Kino’s Journey, not the 2017 remake. I like the remake, of course; but of the two, I still prefer the original. There are several good reasons for that, and one of them is that there was no remake of the older anime’s episode 2, called “A Tale of Feeding Off Others.” That’s my favorite episode in the 13-episode series, and I’m here to tell you why it’s so interesting. It explores the theme of how all living things must feed off other living things (literally and figuratively) to stay alive. To begin, let’s review what happened in this episode.

(Note: I refer to Kino as “they,” because they object to being called young miss and young boy.)

The traveler Kino and their talking motorcycle Hermes happen upon a group of men starving to death in their wagon, isolated in a tundra in the middle of winter. The men are dying. Kino is an interesting character who stays emotionally detached from most people they encounter. However, even if they don’t care about the men, Kino’s general principle is to try to preserve life when they can. So the traveler shoots and kills a rabbit, bringing it back to the starving people and making soup out of it. Kino becomes invested in making sure the men survive because of an obligation. When Hermes asks “An obligation to whom?,” Kino answers, “To the rabbit.”

The men are still weak, so Kino does the same thing for the next two days: killing a rabbit and feeding the men. After three days of eating, the men recover their energy; but when they approach Kino, it isn’t in gratitude. They put the young traveler at gunpoint, saying they must become merchanise. Looking at the skeletons in the back of the wagon, and reading between the lines, Kino realizes the truth. These men are slavers. Because of the blizzards at the start of winter, they had to camp in their wagon until the next thaw. They killed and ate their “merchandise,” which was a living person, but then what? None of them were hunters. Now, they want to enslave Kino so they won’t have to return to their home city “empty-handed” for the festival.

The slavers try to force the traveler to surrender, but Kino kills them with her excellent gun skills, quick thinking, and fast movement. Kino isn’t an emotional person, but they hug their arms to their shoulders and say the experience was scary. Afterward, they return to their relatively emotionless self, but there’s a slight change. The young traveler sounds disappointed and a bit sad, especially when looking at the skins of the rabbits, who died for no reason. Hermes asks what they might do if they ever come across a similar situation. Kino refuses to answer, but says in regards to killing the men, “These situations happen sometimes. Because we’re only human.”

The three men were slavers who, for years, have “taken” the lives of slaves and sold them. They literally took the life of the latest slave, and ate her flesh. Kino had to kill three cute little rabbits, and based on their skill in doing so, Kino definitely hunts for themself on occasion. They take animal lives to further their own life. The young traveler also killed the three men; it was that or become a slave. Again, by taking other lives, Kino could continue living. The traveler’s last line in the episode suggests that even if it’s not literal, we’ll all run into “these situations,” meaning instances where we feed off the lives of others to keep living. Because we are human.

This is a profound and far-reaching theme. When we are born, we take time, energy, and resources from our mother. Our families, the supervisors in daycare, and the teachers in school all sacrifice some of themselves to take care of us as we grow. We eat the crops grown by others (in most cases, in first-world countries). When we get a job, it means someone else who applied didn’t succeed. When we get a pay raise, someone else has to pay for it. Emotionally, physically, and financially, people eat away at other people. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if there’s give-and-take. However, there isn’t always equal trade. Sometimes, a human must make the choice to take from others to keep living. So people do feed off other people, in a certain sense.

You may have detected the other main motif: that most humans feed off of nonhuman animals. Looking at the animal kingdom, we see the same thing; creatures eat other creatures to survive. It’s clear that humans are animals, too. However, we are animals capable of altruism, and valuing the lives of other feeling mammals (plus birds or reptiles in some cases). Note Kino’s perspective on this. The traveler dislikes having to kill the three rabbits in the same way they weren’t fond of having to kill the three men. Kino treats the lives of beasts and humans as more or less equal. That might be going a little far, but the point is Kino is one of those good humans who values animal life or at the very least dislikes taking animal lives when it’s not for their own survival.

This has been 7mononoke of Anime Rants. Thank you so much for reading! If you have any thoughts on this topic, or on Kino’s Journey, please leave a comment! Ja ne!

Weer-ed Tales From Wolfe

Alden Dennis Weer is alone, rattling about in a house built from his memories, with nobody living in any close proximity to him, the little town of Cassionville having fallen into terminal decline over his lifetime. At first we think he’s sick – he had a stroke recently – but as the recently-deceased Gene Wolfe’s Peace unfolds, one of the more obvious secrets it gives up is that Weer is in fact dead, his house being the sort of “memory palace” built from his experiences.

But with close attention and further readings – for what Wolfe story ever gave up all its treasures on a first pass? – the situation seems even more disturbing than that. Take the matter of little Bobby Black – who falls down the stairs at Weer’s fifth birthday party, eventually dying of his injuries, prompting a certain amount of social awkwardness which nudges Weer’s parents into an extended overseas excursion, with Weer left in the care of his aunt Olivia, who we can detect in the prose a certain incestuous affection for which might have been reciprocated. (If it were not, it’d be certainly odd for Olivia to have Weer as a teenage boy attend on her whilst she’s bathing.)

It’s very easy to miss it on a first reading, but Weer mentions struggling with Bobby at the top of the stairs – and mentions doing this because he knew that if Bobby were allowed into the upstairs room he’d throw an apple and spoil an old painting and Weer would take the blame for it. This is an astonishingly specific thing for a five year old boy to anticipate – but is, perhaps, the sort of thing you might expect someone looking back over the course of their life and gifted not just with the knowledge of how it went but how it might have gone to be aware of. And since Weer shows some capacity to step into and take control of his past selves – he uses this to try and get his favourite doctor’s advice on his stroke a decade or two before he has the stroke – the mind-boggling possibility arises that, far from resting in Peace, Weer is extraordinarily active, directing the course of his own life from his private afterlife to direct it to the end he desires.

But if that were the case, what are we to make of the terrible culmination of Weer’s life – as corporate overlord of an industry which is sucking the life out of the very soil around Cassionville, and (it is implied) ultimately makes the town vulnerable to a disaster which prompts everyone to leave? What are we to make of it that Weer is so frequently around death? If this is the life that Weer has chosen over all alternatives, is he really the sweet, charming Midwestern soul he presents himself as, or is he a silver-tongued devil, the entirety of Peace a bid to persuade the reader to overlook Weer’s crimes even as it also acts as a sideways confession?

 

As Neil Gaiman notes in How To Read Gene WolfePeace really does come across as an essentially mainstream memoir of life in a quiet Midwestern town the first time you read it; it’s only when you look closer that the more disturbing implications lurking within really come out. As is often the case in Wolfe, he offers you the key to unravelling a lot of the story – or, at least, to work towards your own interpretation for it – hiding out there in plain sight.

You see, as well as offering the narrative of Weer’s life, Peace is positively loaded down with additional stories, which at first seem to be self-contained little tales which don’t seem to go anywhere. This, however, is not altogether the case: the stories are all going somewhere, each and every one of them, but Weer doesn’t tell us the ending.

Wolfe gives us a big fat hint to this early on, when Weer is discussing a fairytale he reads before going to bed and mentions that when he was young he felt it was somehow against the rules to pick up a story again midway through if he was interrupted reading it – you had to take it from the beginning or not at all – and when you look closely at the stories in question (and the anecdotes from Weer’s life), it’s apparent that almost all of them are missing the ending. Is this Weer reverting to a childish habit of his, or is that merely an excuse for him to stop narrating these stories as and when they come to subject matter Weer doesn’t want us to know about?

Either way, looking at the stories, working out what has been left unsaid, and considering how that might reflect on Weer’s life is a big help in perceiving the story behind the story in Peace. For instance, at one point Weer is told by his family’s Irish servant a yarn about a lad who must face down a banshee in order to win his beloved’s hand in marriage, and the story mentions that banshees are the unquiet spirits of midwives who murder newborns. Before the end of the story is broken off, the defeated banshee foretells that the hero will sire the Antichrist, and it’s mentioned in passing that the hero and his love interest live together childlessly, with the woman in question eventually coming to resemble the banshee as time went by. Why would that be the case? The obvious implication is that the couple did have a child – but that she murdered their baby immediately after birth because she was convinced by the banshee’s prophecy.

Are we, then, to believe that Weer is the Antichrist, or at least a metaphorical Antichrist, perhaps one whose coming past generations tried to prevent but couldn’t? That painting Bobby Black would have damaged is of a young boy from Weer’s parents generation, an uncle of his who died not long after the portrait was made, at about the same age as Weer was at the time of the Black incident; does little Weer’s discovery of the painting coincide with him being possessed, or at the very least influenced, by a spirit of evil which had already claimed at least one ancestor of his?

Further stories suggest a certain artificiality to Weer. Some fans have made much of the fact that Julius Smart, the pharmacist who discovers the chemical process crucial to the industrialisation of Cassionville which Smart initiates and Weer then directs in later life, can be seen as a sort of alchemist; the sole chapter in which he actually makes a major “onstage” appearance is entitled The Alchemist and it is unclear whether the chapter heading refers to Smart or Mr. Tilly, the mysterious pharmacist that Smart worked for once upon a time whose concoctions deliberately induced mutations in customers so that they could get work in circus freak shows.

Weer does, passingly, mention that Smart can be seen as the central character of the entire book, and in many respects Smart’s actions actually do more to resolve certain major plots than Weer’s do. It is Smart who, out of four suitors, wins the hand of Olivia – Weer, due to the familial connection, never having been in the running, and the courtship of Olivia having been a major theme of the first part of the book. It is Smart who has the curious adventure with Mr. Tilly which takes up much of the middle of the book, and which has resonances going forwards and backwards throughout it. It is Smart who invents a way to make a delicious orange-flavoured drink out of potatoes, which becomes the basis for the factory.

And it is through Smart that Weer inherits the factory – Weer being Olivia’s next of kin and Smart and Olivia’s marriage having been childless. One wonders whether that would have remained the case had Olivia not been run over and killed by a car… especially since Olivia, having rejected three suitors for Smart, ends up having a more energetic sexual relationship with at least two out of the three rejectees after the marriage than she ever did before. Smart, then, has built an empire of sorts – only for the venal Weer to eventually take control of it, by hook or by crook and perhaps with a little pinch of infernal patience, at which point Weer ends up having vast power over Cassionville, which has become dependent on the factory.

The Antichrist heralds the end of the world, but Weer is not a global Antichrist – he’s far too parochial. Cassionville is his stamping ground, he is Cassionville’s homegrown Antichrist, and it’s the little world of Cassionville that he brings to an end. One of the Irish stories related in the book is a yarn about the various evils of Ireland being transposed to the Americas, back before human settlement is believed to have taken place. As well as possibly hinting that there’s something fey about Weer, this is perhaps foreshadowing of how Weer’s factory establishes in Cassionville much the same conditions which existed prior to the great potato famine: all the fields grow nothing but potatoes, and increasingly they are vulnerable to disease.

It will take but one harsh blight for the town’s economy to disintegrate entirely. Just as some of the Irish characters Weer meets or their forebears had to travel to America to get away from the famine, anyone wanting a future would need to leave Cassionville at that point, and with the factory’s economic setup depending on a plentiful local supply of potatoes, it seems like Smart’s legacy is doomed by Weer’s hand. In what passes for the “present day”, Weer seems convinced that more or less everyone in Cassionville is dead except him. Was there an industrial accident – or have the living simply abandoned the place as a result of an agricultural, economic, and ecological slump of Weer’s own making? Yet again, we’re left hanging, Weer glossing over the end of the story.

If that were not enough, consider this: there is a real chance that this is a Cthulhu Mythos story. Consider the aforementioned story about an ancient race settling the Americas before humans made it there; consider Professor Peacock’s interest in the archaeology of the Cassionville region. And consider most of all Louis Gold, bookseller, who for a sufficient price will sell you a very rare edition of Cultes des Goules, or Morryster’s Marvells of Science (strictly speaking a tome invented by Ambrose Bierce, though incorporated into the Mythos via Lovecraft’s citation of it in The Festival), and is currently examining a copy of the Necronomicon

On the surface of it, Louis Gold’s little sideline in occult nightmare is a red herring; the books are fakes, forgeries produced by Gold as a nice little sideline. However, Wolfe doesn’t definitively show us Gold working on the Necronomicon he shows Weer when Weer confronts him over this, and it’s entirely possible that the Necronomicon was real even though the other books were fake.

Perhaps more significantly, if there is no reality to the Mythos at all in this world, then it’s an awfully big coincidence that poor Mr. Tilly in Julius Smart’s story is the victim of a serum which turns drinkers to stone… which is precisely what happens The Man of Stone, a collaboration between Lovecraft and Hazel Heald, and if my sense of the timeline is right then Smart even tells the story prior to Lovecraft and Heald’s version being published in October 1932.

Sure, Weer’s conversation with Gold reveals that Lovecraft was an extant individual in this world, but that means little in Cthulhu Mythos writing – particularly when Gold raises the possibility that somehow his fakes end up being true anyway, suggesting that he’s unconsciously channelling the work of dead authors much like Lovecraft is said to have unconsciously channelled warnings about the Old Ones in some Mythos stories (and in some sincerely-intended real-life occult texts, for that matter).

Perhaps even the fact that the first truly infamous mythos tome we encounter in Peace is Cultes de Goules – by the Comte d’Erlette – is significant: for the book was invented by August Derleth, whose Mythos pastiches regularly used Lovecraft as a character and played on the “accidental channeller” angle, though in that case I suspect that this was less to do with Derleth actually believing that nonsense and more to do with this plot point allowing him to plug Arkham House products in the middle of his stories. And of course, Wolfe would have been well aware of Derleth’s controversial habit of passing off his own work as more “lost Lovecraft stories” or “posthumous collaborations”, even when there wasn’t a shred of actual Lovecraft prose in the tales in question; in this respect, Derleth’s activities aren’t that far off from Louis Gold’s.

All this bleeds into a more overarching theme of fake texts supplanting the truth but becoming de facto true anyway; much of the future of the land around Cassionville hinges on a treaty between the local Native American tribe and the original settlers – a treaty which has in fact been lost, and a forged version of which is being prepared by Weer’s mother, Aunt Olivia, and other ladies at the start of the novel, simultaneously with Weer shoving Bobby Black down the stairs. (A life to seal the contract, perhaps?)

According to Blaine, when he dies under the terms of the original treaty all the land thereabouts reverts to the tribe that used to inhabit it; we can infer, perhaps, that Weer successfully used the forged version of the treaty to get a different outcome, since the tribe might have otherwise stood up to him as his factory blighted the land; indeed, if he were able to manipulate the outcome following Blaine’s death in this way, then the extent of the factory’s control of the region would have radically grown in comparison to how it was under Julius Smart, and Weer’s irresponsible wrecking of the local ecosystem would have been given a major boost.

Perhaps it’s notable that the story of Weer’s interactions with Louis Gold breaks off just after Weer has read an account of the art of raising and communicating with the dead from the Necronomicon. As well as having some relevance to Weer’s state as he narrates the novel to us, this might also suggest something about the reversal of Weer’s fortunes at this point in time – for in this point in his personal life he’s living in a cheap apartment, working an unrewarding job at Smart’s factory, and generally not doing well, only for his fortunes to turn around once Smart dies. Could Weer have indulged in a bit of necromancy of his own in his rise to power – a rise which, I would note, he more or less entirely skips over?

(It wouldn’t be the first span of his life he hops over; Weer seems to jump from being a horny teenager getting excited about seeing Olivia’s breasts when she’s bathing to being a skeevy middle-aged guy without much happening in between. Some have theorised that he murdered his parents and did time for it, though you’d think that someone would challenge him on that point; I’m more inclined to think that his parents had an “accident” and Weer went off on a wild tear with the inheritance, which ended up not being as much as he expected.)

For a slim-ish book (my copy is under 300 pages), Peace manages to pack in an awful lot of implications; the above is a cross-section of the impressions I got from it, but there’s as many directions you can stretch it in as there are rooms in Weer’s memory palace. “In my father’s house there are many mansions” and all that – and if Gene gets his own postmortem palace I can only imagine the rooms are luxurious, the maintenance is top-notch (Gene isn’t one to neglect the small details, after all), company is frequent, the time passes joyously and the room Gene wants to find is always right next door, unless it would in fact be more enjoyable or instructive to take a more meandering route. As much as I can’t find myself buying that as an objective truth of reality, it is a comforting way to imagine Gene, just as Alden’s dreary labyrinth which he can barely navigate and doesn’t really seem to enjoy is a worthy Hell for him.

Every journey has to start somewhere, right?

I’d say the hardest part of anything is beginning. I’m sure many others would share that same idea. So, I guess this would be no different.

I’d say this blog thingy is more so for me, than anyone else. But, at the same time, I always wonder how many other people are going through the exact same thing as me, but just don’t know it. Not that my life is anything amazing or worth highlighting – I just needed something to help put down into words… everything. And maybe someone, somewhere out there may have an opinion in the matter and can help? Or, perhaps I may be able to help them.

Well, the basics. My name is Nelia, right now I’m 29. I’m a halfsie (black/white) and I’m Pentecostal*. I’m a single mom, I’m working on completing my BA in English Language and Literature (and yes, I’m aware my grammar is atrocious – why do you think I’m still in school?) and I work full time as a medical secretary for a Rheumatologist.

The summary I gave before I started this is the exact guidelines for this blog. As a single mother, relationships are one of the most important factors in my life. My relationship with God, my parents, my sister, my friends, my church family; the list is long. I realized from day one that I could not raise this little boy alone. It isn’t very common for someone of my faith to be unmarried and have kids, but every decision has its set of repercussions and this one is no different. This is one aspect of why I wanted to do this. I’m sure I’m not the only Penny (short for Pentecostal) out there who was unmarried and had a baby. And yes, I’m vitally aware that there is nothing wrong with being unwed and having kids, blah blah blah. I know not everyone has the same views on life as I do. But, these are my views, and the views of many others, so just bare with us.

One of the other guidelines was ethnic hair care. Now, this is a huge, huge deal to me. The topic of “hair” is a big one as a Penny. Also, as a halfsie, I’ve noticed there is a smaller number of women to pool wisdom from on this topic. My Caucasian mother has long beautiful hair and my African-American father’s family doesn’t have such great hair. You’d imagine what side of the family my hair comes from. >.< I’ve recently decided that I want my hair to be strong and healthy and I’m going to find the recipe for my hair success. I’ve lived with damaged, course, fragile hair for 29 years and I have to figure out the secret to unlocking the boss level that I know exists.

And, finally, the most important guideline would be the raising of the tiny humans. Right now, my son is 3 and still very much a toddler. I only have one kid, but my niece and nephew will be mentioned quite often, and I really do consider them mine (as I’m sure my sister considers my son hers, too). As someone who never really wanted to have children, I find myself striving to be the absolute best mother I can be, and falling so terribly, terribly short of that goal. I have said it to many other mothers and it has been said to me, that we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves, as we are all just figuring it out as we go. I do know that’s true and I really believe we shouldn’t be so unfair to ourselves. But, at the same time, it’s important to have a goal and a standard, otherwise we become apathetic and lazy. I can NOT fail at this. WE can not fail at this. These children? They are all that is left once we’re gone, and there is no plan B, only plan A. We must succeed or die trying.

So, I really hope my journey (and possible ramblings) helps someone along the way. And if I’m the only one who reads this, that’s still ok. Journaling is always a great form of therapy. ^.^

*Disclaimer – God/religion/my relationship to these two subjects is a big part of my life, so it will be discussed? But more so in how it affects my life and my decisions. Nothing will ever be said to intentionally hurt or offend anyone.

Francophile Read-Joie de Vivre

I can’t believe this French lifestyle book hasn’t popped up on more Francophile book lists.

This book is like reading a day in the life of a French person and the day revolves around the importance of meal times. If you’re someone who is interested in what the French eat day to day, this is the book for you.

The author who is a French chef believes a happy life is found in the little things you do daily. So why not pause and make the little things a little special like the French do. I agree.

I bought this book electronically, but this is a book I see myself referencing often, especially since recipes are included. And as convenient as electronic books are, they do not compare with holding a real book in your hand and thumbing through the pages. It’s the little things.

Here are some takeaways from the book.

  1. Take a few moments and enjoy breakfast.
  2. Use cloth napkins.
  3. A French cafe au lait bowl almost requires you to take your time with two hands and enjoy the warmth and coziness of your morning beverage.
  4. Grow something you love to eat and share it with others.
  5. Grow an herb garden
  6. Set fruits and veggies that need to be used out in a pretty bowl or pedestal that as a reminder.
  7. A state of the art kitchen doesn’t mean good food. Alot of the kitchen aesthetics and tools aren’t needed. The author himself has a very humble kitchen.
  8. The kitchen is the heart of the home.
  9. Eat seasonally and go to farmers markets if you can.
  10. If you are pressed for time during weekday lunches, pre-pack your lunch; leave the office and relax while you enjoy your meal.
  11. Even if you do not leave your house to go to work, you should schedule time, sit down and have a nice lunch.
  12. An aperitif and a quick nibble before your lunch and dinner is a nice ritual prior to your meal.
  13. Picinics are wonderful, but eat at a bench, picnic table, pop up table. No one wants to eat food on the ground.
  14. Entertaining should be relaxing and pleasant for everybody. Doing alot of prep the day before will help.
  15. Set a pretty table. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Some table linens, candles, and flowers go a long way in presentation.
  16. Not confident about giving a big dinner party? Start small with a couple of people.
  17. Take a 30 minute nap after meals, guilt free!
  18. Sandwiches are great meals when you use the best ingredients. Don’t skimp.
  19. If your dinners begin later in the evening like the French, have a snack/treat around 5:00pm. (The French have ONLY one snack per day around 5:00pm called “goûter.) This snack is often a sweet treat, such as an eclair. Indulge!
  20. MY final takeaway from this book: Meal times are not only for eating, but to take pauses in your day either on your own, with others, or with family to appreciate good food, each other, and life.

Aboriginal Recognition and its Fallacy

For those that do not know, the Aboriginal Recognition Movement, that activists intend to instill into the Australian Constitution is set to create a parallel form of government for Aboriginals, by Aboriginals.

The so-called “Aboriginal Voice” intends to establish multiple representative bodies at a national, state and local level to advise the Australian Federal Parliament on issues relevant to Indigenous Australians. This is to create a representative government body entirely focused on the Aboriginal race.

Dangerously, this “Aboriginal Voice” would in practice exercise a veto over any policy passed by the Federal Parliament. Thus impede any real change, good or bad, in Australia. While a formal veto would not be written into the powers of the “Aboriginal Voice” body, the political risk associated with it would make it too costly for a government to go against the “Aboriginal Voice”.

The accusation of racism, rather than a formal written veto power, is in fact the power of the “Voice”.

Regardless of how the country votes in a referendum for constitutional ‘recognition’ or an ‘Aboriginal Voice,’ Australia as a whole will lose. Merely asking Australians to divide themselves by racial lines, be it Aboriginal, Chinese, Arabic, Italian, Sudanese, will balkanise Australia into various smaller countries like Yugoslavia.

Many activists who suggest that Aboriginals are not recognised in the Constitution, do not know about the Constitutional Referendum in 1967 which was to “Alter the Constitution so as to omit certain words relating to the People of the Aboriginal Race in any State and so that Aboriginals are to be counted in reckoning the Population”.  Thus, proving these activists wrong in their assumption that Aboriginals are not represented.

mayday1966_500x300

The 1967 referendum thus made Aboriginals equal to Australians. Even though, the truth of the matter was to centralise much of, and kick-start the massive growth of, the Indigenous Affairs bureaucracy in Canberra. However, the point of it still stands.

It may very well be true that many Aboriginal Australians face a range of challenges from unemployment, high rates of incarceration, drug and alcohol abuse. Addressing these challenges may very well require local solutions. Many conservatives are usually in favour of a broad-based political decentralisation and empowerment of local communities to solve local problems.

It doesn’t mean, at all, to affect the universality of the Australian constitution and thus wouldn’t be compromised. Nor would it make Australian and Aboriginal concerns and needs to be treated differently.

We mustn’t have an overarching centralised government to cater to local problems pertaining Aboriginal or Australian affairs. Each and every Australian are treated equally, be it Aboriginal or Australian since they are recognised in the Constitution as equals.

As well an additional serious problem with this parallel Aboriginal government body and that is – delay. It’s already difficult enough to get legislation passed in the National Parliament, due in part to the Gillard Government’s Human Rights Statement that must accompany each legislative proposal, but throwing Aboriginal consultation into the pot; plus given the acknowledged (including by Aboriginal Activists) difficulty of securing any type of agreement amongst Aborigines.

Thus will result in the legislative process at the national level could very well, grind to a halt and Australian Society in general will most likely suffer.

To which, both Australians and Aboriginals are represented in a common national body; the Australian Parliament.

DUi0JqCV4AAajzP

Aboriginal Activists

But, I urge a warning to those activists. The Pandora’s Box that they are willingly attempting to open will only cause more strive, division, hatred and even the destruction of both Australia and the Aboriginal people.

Because once these Aboriginals have their own special voice that appeals only to them, sooner or later, the Chinese would want their own, then the Arabic Muslims, then the Africans, then the Hispanics and the list will go on. Thus, dividing Australia; balkanising the country into many smaller ones, based purely on race, similar to what happened to Yugoslavia.

If these activists despise the dreaded ‘White Supremacist’ then why I ask, do they intend to push for Aboriginal Supremacy? To create a minority to have more power over the majority. That, isn’t equality.

DUi0OZvU8AEuJeB

North Conway ’18 – Day 1

“TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!!”  A huge smile spread across Zack’s face as the rest of the room broke out into gasps, screaming, and laughter.  Landing on Boardwalk is tough, landing on Boardwalk when a hotel is there, is a killer.  Zack owned it, and he relished having the power to destroy the dreams and the life’s work of anyone in the room at a moment’s notice.  A simple roll of the dice could spell doom for any one of us.

But Monopoly is full of surprises, and a person can be on top of the world and flush with cash at one moment, only to find themselves going bankrupt a short while later.  Tonight’s game was no exception, as later on Zack would go belly-up, succumbing to Emily’s Em-pire of Empires – a fate shared by everyone at the table.  Her only real competition was Sam, the Railroad Magnate, that lost everything except one dollar, but made immunity agreements with everyone left in the game.  To our surprise, Sam, a poor man’s poor man had out-witted us all – he was immune from paying any of us and could land on any space on the board with no worries (except chance, community chest, and luxury tax).  He had no deeds, and could only make money from passing Go, but his ultimate immunity would seem to guarantee him victory, or at least a stalemate, in the long run.  Until the group turned on him, and decided his immunity deals weren’t worth the paper that they weren’t printed on – and he too fell prey to Emily the Destroyer.

After three grueling hours, Emily ended up on top.  I think most of us were just relieved it was over, it was fun, but looooong.  Next time, we’ll play the quick version.

We took three cars to get here, with me, Sam, and Zack in one, Lucas drove his car with Kyle and Andrew, while Kristin drove with Emily and Amanda.  I think Kristin drew the short straw, as Emily and Amanda sang “Going to the Chapel of Love” over and over again for a large portion of the ride.  They continued to maintain this as the theme song of their vacation, and put it on the radio a number of times at the house, and sometimes accompanied it with their own singing.  Its all fun and games until you’re lying awake at night unable to sleep and “We’re goooo-ing to the chapel, and we’re gawwww-na get married” is playing over and over in your head.  Its actually quite maddening.  We all survived this, but we’ll never forgive Emily for visiting this torture upon us.

When we arrived at the house, we scouted out our new diggs, and the kids wanted to check out the pool, so I accidentally pointed in the exact opposite direction of where the pool was and off they went.  Oops.  They eventually found it and had a swim.  They returned to the house and scolded me for the poor directions.  I mixed up north and south, it could happen to anybody, and hey, those directions are totally arbitrary anyway.  Just turn the globe upside down, and I’m right.  Who decided on putting the globe the way it is anyway, it could just as easily be turned upside down and that all works too, you just have to spin it in the opposite direction.  Its all point-of-view, all of it, just point-of-view.

 

Quark dumpling with strawberry sauce

Knödel or Klöße are boiled dumplings, originated in Germany and commonly found in German, Central European and East European cuisine. Knödel are used in various dishes in Austrian, Hungarian, and Czech cuisine as well. From these regions, knödel spread throughout Europe.

At the turn of the 20th century, it was commonly said that a Czech girl is not prepared to marry until she can cook this dish. Central European countries in which their variant of Knödel is popular include Austria, Germany, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. They are also found in Scandinavian, Romanian, Northern eastern Italian cuisine, Ukrainian and Belarusian cuisines. Usually made from flour, bread or potatoes, they are often served as a side dish alongside meat, but can also be a dessert such as plum dumplings, or in soup. Many varieties and variations exist.

Dumplings made with quark cheese are very popular in Germany and in Hungary (in German: Topfenknödel, in Hungarian: túrógombóc). They are traditionally topped with cinnamon sugar and served with apple or other sauce (vanilla, strawberry, cherry) or with streusel bread crumble.

Plum dumpling is the second most popular over Central Europe, are large sweet dumplings made with flour and potato batter, by wrapping the potato dough around whole plums (or apricots), boiled and rolled in hot buttered caramelized bread crumbs.

Quark dumpling with strawberry

Ingredients for the dumplings: 600 gr quark or Greek yoghurt, 1 egg, 70 gr pastry flour, 70 gr semolina flour, 60 gr white bread crumbs, 2 tbsp sour cream, 4 tbsp sugar, lemon zest, salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 100 gr grated hazelnuts,

Ingredients for the stuffing and the sauce

500 gr fresh strawberries, 2 tbsp powdered sugar, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar or lemon juice

Directions: For the dumplings: drain quark well, squeeze if necessary. Combine with egg, flour, semolina, white breadcrumbs, sour cream, sugar and lemon zest, knead to a dough. Add more flour if needed. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

For the filling and sauce; rinse and clean strawberries, cut into small pieces and mix with sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes or until strawberries are soft and begin to disintegrate. Remove from heat and cool.

Remove about 1 tablespoon of mixture from dumpling dough, flatten and fill with about 1teaspoon of strawberry mixture, shape into a ball, enveloping strawberry mixture well. Prepare all dumplings in the same manner. Cook in boiling, slightly salted water for about 10 minutes.

Heat remaining strawberry sauce and puree, season to taste. Sprinkle nuts on plate and roll well-drained dumplings in them. Spread strawberry sauce on plates and top with dumplings. Serve immediately.

P1180500

The Word: My Balancing Act – Scheduled Chaos w/6 Tips

I’m a work-from-home mother. I have been for more than five years
now. I have been a writer in various forms, graphic artist, formatter, mentor,
blogger, and done whatever I had to do to help my family using my God-given
talents. I’m a survivor, love my family, and do what it takes to remain
anything but a burden. I’ve paid my taxes and continued to do the best with
what I got. With all that I do every day it certain has become a balancing act.
Years ago, I posted my schedule that I knew at that time with timeslots
included. Of course, this was a flexible schedule that always changed day to day
or even week to week.

I’ve been asked in the past how I handle everything. That was part of the inspiration for the original Facebook share of my schedule in truth. I’m always curious how other parents handle their schedules with working from home as well. I’m in awe of others making it work too. Some days it feels like I’m spinning too many plates waiting for them to crash down upon my head with a miracle they haven’t yet. I’m lucky to have a supportive husband and we’re a team. He understands I’m scheduling the chaos and I know he appreciates all my efforts. My Mother’s Day gift is usually a hug from my son and a ‘thank you for all you do’. Which means so much. It feels good to be appreciated.

I am my family’s secretary. I handle it all. I am the one answering
the phone calls, making the meetings, scheduling the appointments, and working.
I spend long hours at the computer and on phone handling calls. I am not sure
if my restless nights due from my insomnia help me, but it gives me something
to do when I can’t sleep. I take in consideration the dates and times of
everything. When things just simply cannot be done and when things simply need
to be handled. These help me in devising the scheduling.

The most important things to me for scheduling are that of what my family needs coming first. When things end, begin, when things are due. After knowing those things are handled, I start filling in the gaps with other things like my work hours. I take my working, graphics and writing, seriously so I schedule them as a any other job would. I give myself x-number of hours with breaks included. I am an agenda planner queen since high school.


An example of my schedule without insomnia

  • 6am – wake up
  • 6-7am – breakfast
  • 7-8am – check emails/phone calls/social media
  • 8-9am – cleaning/check social media/work begins
  • 9am-12pm – work/chores/answer any incoming emails/calls/social media
  • 12pm-12:30pm –lunch/chores
  • 12:30pm –2:50– handle more chores if any/work
  • 3pm – 3:30pm – finishing up anything that hasn’t been done earlier in the day
  • 3:30pm-4pm – another break/begin dinner arranging/finish up work for day
  • 4pm-5pm – catch up with spouse/check mail/deal with social media again
  • 6-10:30pm – family time

Coffee is happening throughout my day. If I have deadlines, I tend
to drink more coffee.

Now if my insomnia has flared up most of the chores, emails, and online things have been handled in the middle of the night. For example, my blogging happens most at night. I have even been known to get a lot of work done in these quiet hours as my family sleeps. Work can consist of anything from writing to graphics and anything in-between.

My advice is balancing what’s important. Schedule time for your writing when you can. I’m not saying you won’t be tired. I’m also not saying that you must follow in my footsteps the way I do things, it’s what works for me and may not work for you. I know may freelancers, like me, work a day job along with freelance. More power to you and you have me in awe. Freelancing is my day job, my night job, and my whenever I have time job.

Tips I recommend:

  1. Loyally keep a calendar or agenda book to write down everything and keep dates organized.
  2. Prioritize what’s have to, need to, and want to do’s.
  3. Stick to your schedule as best you can daily, but don’t restrict yourself so much if emergencies happen you can’t recover when you’re able to return to the schedule.
  4. Set goals. Make a word count or page count, whatever it is you can handle and meet it. Even if it’s as small as just a few sentences or words. Something is better than nothing and it all keeps moving forward.
  5. Don’t be hard on yourself if you drop one of the balls you’re juggling. It happens to everyone. Remember to pick yourself back up and keep juggling along.
  6. Do not burn yourself out. Schedule yourself breaks. Too much time at a computer is bad for you. Take a walk, read a book, or even take a nap.