What Is Dark Tourism?

Dark Tourism is a term that describes the act of visiting places that are associated with the macabre. It has become a world-wide trend through the popularity of the Netflix show Dark Tourist, although its roots date further back than the show’s premier in 2018. Dark Tourism is a type of global travel that is perceived as exotic, adventurous, disturbing, and dangerous.

Dark Tourism Examples

There are thousands of sites all over the world that could be considered locations for Dark Tourism and reach all corners of the globe. But there are a few places in particular which are widely regarded to be the “hottest spots” for Dark Tourism.

As some of you may have guessed, one of these places is the Nazi concentration camp in Poland, Auschwitz. More than 1 million people died here during its operation between 1940 to 1945. It is a structural reminder of some of the most horrific times in history.

Other dark tourism locations include Chernobyl, Ukraine; Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan; the Killing Fields in Cambodia; and the Kumsusan Memorial Palace of the Sun in North Korea. The majority of the sites are places of genocide, prisons, natural and man-made disastors, war zones, and tombs.

Radar Pripyat Nuclear Power Duga Chernobyl

My favorite place to find out about Dark Tourism locations (as well as fun, unique, and quirky places and experiences) is Atlas Obscura. It’s a great website to sift through to get a preview of some of the world’s hidden wonders. In fact, that’s where I found the creepy German museum, Designpanoptikum. Give it a look if you can.

Why Is Dark Tourism So Popular Today?

Dark Tourism attracts a wide variety of people of all backgrounds and ages. So-called thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies definitely find a lot of entertainment in this. I believe that that’s what attracts the majority of recent Dark Tourists, along with the obvious need for people to feel “in the loop.”

People interested in and passionate about history have long taken a liking to this unique form of travel. They claim that it allows them to have a deeper understanding of the tragedies of history and refuse the notion of turning a blind eye to certain events. Additionally, it’s the desire to see these places for yourself.

Kumsusan Memorial Palace of the Sun in North Korea

We may have grown up hearing about these places and seeing them on TV or social media. But, out of all of the popular travel locations, these are the ones that you need to really see for yourself to understand what it was really like. It’s extremely difficult to convey the feeling and emotions that one experiences when visiting places of devastation, tragedy, and death. This is why I, personally, have partaken in Dark Tourism, along with the historical aspect.

Negative Impacts Of Dark Tourism

One of the issues that one finds with Dark Tourism is the fact that, at times, it can be offensive for some people. For example, I’m going to Japan for two weeks in November and have heard a lot about Aokigahara Forest at the base of Mount Fuji, which is most commonly referred to as “Suicide Forest.” This is because it is the second most popular destination in the world for suicide, following the Golden Gate Bridge. When I told my friend, who was born and raised in Tokyo, that I wanted to visit the forest, she told me that it wasn’t the best idea. It’s a really sensitive subject in Japan and there is a lot of resentment around tourists who go and “gawk” at a place heavily associated with shame and devastation.

Aokigahara “Suicide” Forest in Japan

The act of gawking or ogling at sites of devastation and the misery of others is what many people find offensive. Some people also consider this travel trend to be a form of unethical voyeurism, as well as being exploitative and insensitive. Quite frankly, I feel the same way when I see people smiling at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin or giving thumbs up in their photos of Chernobyl devastation sites.

It should also be said that there can be significant health and safety risks associated with Dark Tourism, especially in places where one could be exposed to radiation or harmful bacteria.

Besides the obvious motivations of these behaviors, I believe that by practicing respect and honesty during these travels can make Dark Tourism less taboo. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can be a great way for people to have a more realistic understanding of history and that will always have positive impacts on both individuals and society as a whole.

Kingdom Day 3: Early loop then the Downhill Park

Day 3 of the trip arrives, and I wake up today tired, which is no surprise. Breakfast is the same as the day before, eggs and eggs and sausage and pancakes and coffee. I find it odd that we haven’t been here 48 hours yet and people are starting to line up to go home. That’s just not enough time here in this haven of awesome. The full day with everyone here is the best. Everyone is here, nobody is going home.

But for many of us, this is the meat in our Kingdom Trails sandwich. It will be a double day, with the morning an abbreviated tour of the usual stuff and the afternoon at the downhill park.

The house in mid-breakfast form.
Mark gobbles up some breakfast while we prepare for the morning ride.
D studies the map and Glenn takes a look at what’s in store.

We get ready to head out to do some of the good stuff, with a small change to the loop here & there. We can rinse & repeat this same loop 50 times and it never, ever gets old. Getting the crew going can be a bit of a process sometimes, and I’ve historically taken the role of camp counsellor over the years giving people direction and getting the crew moving.

Jim suited up and ready to roll.

Jason is the first to leave us, but before he does we do our best to take an Asian-inspired picture of the bunch of us in a field of flowers. I mean, this is the best we can do given what we have to work with. I say Asian-inspired because my former sister-in-law used to drag the family out to random fields in Taiwan to take pictures of then all hugging flowers. This seems to be a popular thing in Asia in general.

The middle-of-field dandelion group shot.

One of the different lines we took today is the bridge trail, Jaw. This is a series of bridges as noted in the sign below. Nothing crazy, but overall Kingdom is a beginner-accessible trail. As such, this may be over some people’s heads, though for our crew this isn’t anything crazy.

Alex & Mark roll out of Jaw while we regroup.
D follows, looking happy.

We wrap up the day and head back for lunch, and the main crew starts to disintegrate.

Bill & Donovan leave before we even go to the park, as do Dan & Glenn. Tim exits after the morning ride as well with the note that these last 2 days have been the 2 best days he has ever had on a bicycle. Camp Counsellor likes to hear that!

On the flip side, Brian shows up later in the day as does Jimmy.

But for now, it is time to hit the downhill park, which is another standard in our KT routine. This is always a blast because this is such a well-built park. It’s like Six Mile Run dirt, but downhill and amazingly well-built.

On the lift up to the top. Let the fun begin!

Everything we do, we do as a team. Like I said yesterday, we are family. Looks like we are 17 at the park, which is an impressive number.

All queued up for the first roll of the day. After this we would be all over the hill.
Regrouping at the end of the day, only a few of us kept going until the end.

I’ve been riding the Pivot this week, and it’s a great bike. I love this thing, and on the lift today I ask permission to buy one. This solves all of my problems with my bikes. I want this bike, like right now. It literally does everything well. Eventually I’ll put a review post up on the MTBNJ blog.

The red Pivot was a brilliant bike here, just like it was a brilliant bike on all the trails here.

Iggy & Bill H leave midway through the park tour, as do Kristine & Kai.

The first Strava ride link can be found here.

Uptown, Herbs, Beat Bog, Riverwood, then up & over to Wood N You
Tody’s Tour – just 1 T today
Eager Beaver, West Branch – to the other side
Hogback, Sidewinder, West Bench – because Sidewinder
Border, Jaw, Maxilla – some new stuff to shake it up
Over the big rock, Connector to Rim, East Branch
Kitchel home – always Kitchel home

The second Strava link can be found here.

In all, we’re now at 15 people in the house which seems a small number. Funny, in the past 17/18 is our biggest day. Now 15 seems like too few people.

Of the original crew, we have 13 remaining:
Jeremy, Karin, Capers, Utah, Magic, Ryan, Jim
Alex & Mark, D & myself, Steve & Joy

Plus the 2 new arrivals to make it 15:
Brian, Jimmy

Dinner is kielbasa and pierogies, courtesy of Magic with an assist from Joy. Plus potato salad from Jim. I have to say tonight’s dinner is on-point, and with the smaller number of people, we can all sit together at the dinner table.

Great Wolf Lodge in Cincinatti

This past weekend we loaded up and took a nice long ten hour drive out to Cincinatti for a memorial service for Steve’s grandmother. (More on that later). Since the weekend was filled with a lot of driving and dinners and grown-ups talking and church, we thought we’d make the weekend a little more kid friendly, and head down a day early to go to the Great Wolf Lodge! It was actually my mom’s idea, and it was a great one. We both ended up talking about how much FUN it was and how we were so glad we did it!

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We hit the road early (around 5am) on Thursday, and arrived about 5pm. Not too bad for a ten hour trip, plus quite a bit of North Carolina traffic, rain, and stops for kids. We checked in, and the kids were pretty pleased with their wolf ears. (Insert howling in unison for the next 24 hours). The pool was open until 9pm, so we spent about five minutes in our room before we were headed to the pool!

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The big kids got to do the Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City a few years ago, but it had been a long time and they are much better swimmers now. Seeing them excel in the water is such a gift, and I’m SO grateful for ISR (Infant Swimming Resource) lessons. EVERYONE should do it. Anyway. Mitchell did the biggest slide in the whole place and he and Steve came down with two big ol’ smiles on their raft. Aubrey did the biggest little kid slide about 75 times (literally). She went around and around and around and was so excited. I love babies and seeing them grow is so wonderfully hard but I must admit, she’s in a really, really cute stage right now.

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Mitchell did the obstacle course TWICE, without falling! That was so fun to watch his skill and coordination and determination!

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AND he beat me AND Steve (not going easy at all, seriously) in a race on these slides. We were laughing like little kids and he was laughing at how slow we were.

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We about closed the place down and finally stopped swimming at 8:45pm. I headed back to the room to get the kiddos changed into pajamas while Steve grabbed a couple pizzas, and we had a little pajama pizza party before everyone CRASHED.

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The next morning we were back at it. We swam for about three hours on Friday morning, before we dragged the kids out of the pool. If it weren’t for the family events starting, we probably would have swam all day! We opted to stay for one night before we switched hotels to stay with the rest of the family (all 36 of them!). The kids are already asking when we can go back to the Great Wolf Lodge and I’m already trying to figure out when we’ll be able to fit it on our calendar. We have some wrestling tournaments in Charlotte that are looking promising!

 

Robert Spencer Knows A Lot About Mislam… Not Islam

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What is the difference between Information and Misinformation?

INFORMATION: Facts provided or learned about something or someone.

  • Example: ‘a vital piece of information’

  • Synonyms: details, particulars, facts, figures, statistics, data

SOURCE

MISINFORMATION: False or inaccurate information, especially that which is deliberately intended to deceive.

  • Example: ‘nuclear matters are often entangled in a web of secrecy and misinformation’

  • Synonyms: disinformation, false information, misleading information, deception

SOURCE

A) Is Robert Spencer a Scholar? On Spencer’s Credentials and Methodology

By Danios from LoonWatch
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“Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) ranked Robert Spencer as the second leading Islamophobe in the country, losing out the number one position to his boss and financier David Horowitz.  Former Nixon advisor Robert Crane calls out Spencer as “the principal leader…in the new academic field of Islam-bashing.”  Even though Horowitz can be credited with funding the modern day online Crusade against Islam, it is Robert Spencer who fights on the online battlefield, attacking his Muslim foes and their liberal dhimmi allies.  In order to bolster his credibility, Spencer and his allies not only claim that he is a scholar, but his own website touts him as “the acclaimed scholar of Islam”.  Because these words are boldly emblazoned on his own site, we can only assume that he takes such claims seriously.  It is thus fair game to call him to task for this.

His claims notwithstanding, Robert Spencer simply does not possess any scholarly credentials. To be seriously considered a scholar in the academic world in this day and age, one must at minimum possess some rudimentary academic education in the field in which one is claiming scholarship. In order to be considered a scholar, one must have published numerous peer-reviewed articles in reputable journals, the articles being subjected to rigorous critique by established authorities before being accepted.  First year students in Ph.D. programs have published far more of such articles than Robert Spencer ever has.  There is good reason for that: Spencer has published no such articles, contenting  himself with reproducing work in non-academic and populist publications.  Spencer does not even possess a Master’s Degree in anything related to Islam, let alone a Ph.D. and post-doctoral fellowship.

Spencer does have in M.A. in the field of early Christian studies; does that make him a scholar of Christianity?  If not, then why is he considered a scholar of Islam without even an M.A. in Islamic studies?…”

***

B) An ‘expert’ without expertise

By Siena Fay from The Stanford Daily

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“Spencer is a blogger, author and director of the website Jihad Watch. He travels the country offering his “expertise” on Islam and jihad to universities, news channels and politicians. Except he is not an expert. He does not hold a Ph.D., master’s or bachelor’s degree in Islamic studies. He has not published any peer-reviewed academic papers, the most basic criterion to be a serious academic scholar. His opinion has been cited by numerous news outlets, but most of his work appears on his blog. That’s right: His blog. It’s true he has been featured on The New York Times bestseller list, but so has Snooki from MTV’s Jersey Shore. Popularity does not in itself make credibility…”

LEARN MORE >

***

C) Understanding Jihad w/ Robert Spencer

By Asad Ali Al-Andalusi from the Andalusian Project

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In order to avoid the criticism that this post is just a sereis of ad hominens against Robert Spencer, I’ve provided the links to two videos so far by Asad al-Andalusi about his work, ‘Understanding Jihad’, which serve to demonstrate the problem(s) he espouses.

And

QUOTE from 0:32:52:

“I think there’s another thing going on here… I think he’s very much aware of this information [i.e. the context of historical facts that he omits from his books] but he’s deliberately leaving it out. And promoting a false narrative… This has a number of implications…”

(Watch to find out.)

***

D) Other Rebuttals to Robert Spencer

CLICK HERE

***

E) Conclusion

So does Robert Spencer know a lot more about Islam than many (most?) Muslims? In terms of ‘knowing’ – there is a difference, between ‘knowing information’ (which can be spun, twisted) and ‘knowledge’ (wisdom, which is earnestly about Truth).

And since Islam is all about being on the side of Truth and not speaking lies…

And do not say that of which you have no knowledge.”

(Quran 17:36)

Narrated Sufyan ibn Asid al-Hadrami: I heard the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) say: “It is great treachery that you should tell your brother something and have him believe you when you are lying.”
(Sunan of Abu-Dawood – Book 41, Hadith 4953)

See hadiths on ‘lies’

And since Robert Spencer is all about spreading lies about Islam, all his ‘knowledge’ has left him in conflict with the purpose of knowledge, which renders what he preaches void.

“The likeness of the ones who were entrusted with the [original] Torah [READ here: ‘Knowledge’] [of which the extant Torah is a corruption] and then did not take it on, is as the likeness of an ASS carrying tomes. Miserable is the likeness of the people who have cried lies to the signs of Allah; and Allah does not guide the unjust/wicked people.”

(Qur’an, al-Jumu’ah 62:5)

‘No guidance’ means ‘no wisdom’ and, therefore, ‘no Islam’ despite the alleged ‘knowledge’ one possesses if it is not practiced. Robert Spencer is certainly an expert in spreading misinformation about Islam… By so doing, he entirely misses the point of Islam.

A Master of Mislam, certainly. But about Islam… ?

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Bali

Bali was truly a paradise… I am lost for words. I would go back any day of the week! The climate was just right, the nature was jawdropping, the prices were super low and the people were warm and kind. People would actually offer their help on the street and say hello even though you are a stranger. Check out our travel video including some awesome (and risky – my hands were shaking ??) drone shots taken on my new DJI Mavic Pro:

Our travel video including some awesome drone shots taken on my new DJI Mavic Pro

We were there for a week in the beginning of May 2019. We stayed in Ubud, Nusa Penida and Seminyak. Ubud was so rich in culture it was hard at first to take it all in: the offerings, the temples, the sacred monkey forest, the fire songs and dance… We also rented a scooter and visited waterfalls and temples further from the town. It was hard at first to get used to the left-hand traffic, but my boyfriend did a great job and got us around safely. Our hotel in Ubud was way more than what we expected for 20 € per night for two people including breakfast – I totally recommend Dewi Putri House. It was absolutely beautiful, clean, private and in the perfect location. I also want to recommend Widjane massage in Ubud – it was the best massage I have had in my life and for 8 € / 1 hour also the best value.

Here’s a local lady preparing offerings in our Ubud hotel

Nusa Penida was a world of it’s own… It’s a small island next to Bali with about 1000 residents. We got there on a speed boat, but unfortunately arrived in a completely wrong harbour – we had booked a bungalow right next to another harbour. Luckily a helpful local dropped us off. The bungalow was magical, right next to the beach. While sleeping was complicated due to farm animals, howling dogs and a nightly call for prayer, the island was well worth exploring. In spite of all warnings, we rented a scooter and drove to all the famous places on the west coast: Angel’s Billabong, Broken Beach, Kelingking Beach and Crystal Bay. Un-be-lievable. Check them out from the video if you didn’t already ?? The roads were quite non-existing at times and quite dangerous, but with a car we would have gone much slower and probably got stuck a few times!

Kelingking was the most amazing place I have seen so far

It was nice to come back to civilization when we returned to Bali, to move on to Seminyak, although nothing beats the starry sky we got to experience on Nusa Penida. We stayed in a funky hotel in the city center, but we still rented a scooter to visit Tanah Lot and Canggu. I did some local shopping and got my nails done while my boyfriend enjoyed surfing in Canggu. Already tired of exploring, we decided to spend our last day at the Potato Head Beach Club – the famous beach club in Seminyak, on the more expensive side. We must say it was totally worth it! The daybeds, infinity pool and cocktails were amazing ??????

At Kynd Community, Seminyak

The food in Bali is insanely good… I don’t know how they do it, but there is vegan food literally everywhere and it is delicious! Some of the cafés you have to visit when in Seminyak are Kynd for breakfast, The Honeybees for lunch and Ling-Ling’s for cocktails.

Vegan salted caramel popcorn milkshake

So needless to say, I would go back to Bali anytime, but there is so much more of this world to explore! We also visited Australia and Thailand on this trip so stay tuned for more videos and travel stories… ??

Pickett & Pogue (Melo-transcendentalism)

Do you ever get envious of some of the adventure pictures and stories you see on the web? I know I do. “What a life!” I always think. “Must be nice to do that for a living instead of being a slave to the establishment.” I can admittedly be a bit melo-transcendental at times (and yes, I did just make that word up). Oh, to travel – to experience and inspire!

“What if that was me?”

If you aren’t careful, seeing folks that have somehow managed to live that lifestyle can force you into a rut.

Don’t you let it.

Amanda and I have been hiking Tennessee trails since before we ever met. We’ve also been lucky enough to hike in some incredible places across the Southwest, and even across the world (though we haven’t been out of the country together, yet). We may not live in a van or a modified school bus featuring a composting commode or solar shower, but we do escape on occasion to sleep in a tent for a few months, as long as there’s a nearby bathhouse so we can still look presentable at work.

And even with all the time we’ve spent in the woods locally, we still come across treasures we couldn’t have imagined in this part of the country. We came across one such treasure yesterday, which this blog’s title eludes to.

Pickett State Park and Pogue Creek Canyon. Within an hour and a half of Knoxville, Oak Ridge, and Harriman, and yet we (as avid outdoors enthusiasts) had never even heard of it. In one place, you get the largest canyon I’ve ever seen in this state, natural arches and bridges, caves, and even waterfalls. The difficulty of the trails ranges from super flat and relaxing to walk on, to challenging even for the most experienced. It was a place with so many options to explore that we’d have had to camp there for a week to even put a dent in them. We fully intend to.

Our first trail (below) led us to Hazard Cave.

The trail was pretty mild most of the way, with a few steps and stones to traverse during the final descent.

Of course we had to play with silhouettes and lighting once we’d arrived.

And I never miss an opportunity to kiss my perfect wife.

The cave is to the left of this photograph. I tried to run and climb to join Amanda for the picture, but couldn’t do it in the ten seconds my phone would allow before snapping the shot. 
…It would have taken me at least 14 seconds. 

After the cave, we decided to head over to the park’s Natural Bridge. On the way, we saw the amazing root system below growing over a stone ledge.

And then we saw actual arches! In Tennessee! There are several throughout the park which we are intent on returning to find. Some of our favorite memories are at Arches National Park in Utah, where we cowboy camped and listened to a Native American man play a flute during a melancholic sunset. Arches are much more rare in our neck of the woods, and especially ones of this magnitude!

There was a staircase to the top of the bridge, which seemed to condone crossing it. In the Southwest, this is often a no-no.

Amanda wanted to blend in with all the trees, so she pulled this one out of her yoga-repertoire.

 

If you want to see us in our element, you’ll never get closer than the picture below. We walk our own individual trail in a lot of ways (I’m the idealist, she’s the rationalist; I’m emotional and empathetic and she’s a walking calculator who only shows her truest soul to yours truly). 

Hiking together is a great metaphor. Sometimes the trail is easy, sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s literally impossible to do alone. But you still hike the damned thing, no matter what. And more often than not, you’ll find us with honest smiles like the ones beneath this text.

As we continued our hike, I was so happy to see (but mostly to smell) so much pine, which is very nostalgic for me as a South GA native in my childhood years. If you want, Amanda has managed to capture the fragrance astoundingly with her Pine or Cedar scented candles, which you can learn more about at The Gypsy’s Store.

Pickett State Park featured super nice bathhouses and campsites, some of which were right on the water.

There was a bouncy bridge that, while well constructed, made me feel a bit odd.

Both Pickett and Pogue are participants in the International Dark-Sky Association, which you can read more about in the photographs below.

To help support the many efforts of the State Park, we purchased a couple of t-shirts from the clearance rack in the visitor’s center. I’m especially fond of mine, which features John Muir. If you haven’t heard of him, you should definitely do some research on the guy. He’s right up there with John Wesley Powell as an inspiration and a hero, but to be honest I need to do a lot more research myself as well. Essentially, all I know is that he had an amazing journey, advocated for the outdoors, and had one hell of a beard.

It was funny how it happened; While we were at Hazard Cave with no cell signal, our mutual best friend and hiking pal messaged us about an amazing place he’d found that he needed to show us. He sent a picture of one of the rock faces he was looking at, and Amanda and I had only seen one place like it in TN. The one we were at! No prior discussion, no planning at all, and we both selected the same park to hike on the same day, coming from different directions that were over an hour from Pickett. Once we returned to cell service, we managed to link up (it took all of five minutes – we actually found his car before any of the texts went through).

He then took us to Pogue, where I got the shot below.

She’s so stunning.

Background isn’t bad either.

Our buddy (Steven) said that the view paled in comparison to the final overlook, but we were sadly losing light and had a long drive home.

The point, though, is this. If you can find places like that on short day trips (which you always can), it makes returning to work the next week a lot easier. I still get disillusioned, no doubt. All we want is a few acres to ourselves. A log home, some chickens, and a garden. Rain water and solar power and a German Shepherd. Space. Peace and quiet, to truly focus on the things I need to write and the messages I need to leave the world. To just focus on each other.

Those things will all happen in time though, and being inspired by places like Pickett and Pogue will ensure that it does.

You know what’s funny? Sometimes, when I point people toward the blog they didn’t know we had, they ask me if hiking is my job. When I tell them it isn’t, they ask “How do you do it, with work and all?”

And that answer is one of the simplest of all.

I do it because I must.

Love ya’ll. More to come.

The Only Constant is Change

The first three months of 2019 found us in Indian Wells, California. It was an attempt to follow the sun only to have record breaking amounts of rain and flooding. It was all good – we gladly sacrificed the sun to save California from a drought. It was ultimately rewarding because when the sun finally came out so did the super bloom.

We managed to find a yoga studio 2.5 miles away so we walked to yoga and back, got in some golf, hiked and visited with numerous family members and friends. Rinse and repeat…

A quick stop in Nevada to add a bit of fabric softener then off to our home in Charleston, South Carolina for the spin cycle.  And boy what a spin…

As Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, was quoted “change is the only constant in life.”

He got that one right!

Bam….

Preston and Chloe announced they are having twins. Say what??? Twins!  Double the pleasure, double the fun. We’re super excited. So excited that we momentarily lost our minds and committed to babysitting three days a week for a year.

Bill and I have really settled into life in Charleston and managed to keep ourselves quite busy.

No wonder Travel and Leisure magazine lists Charleston as the number one destination in America. It’s rich with history.  There’s architecture dating back to 1694, lavish gardens, daily events to choose from and tasty restaurants. Being fortunate enough to live in the walkable historic district allows us the freedom to slowly soak in this city.  A feast for the soul.

Looking to take advantage of the culture, art, reading, music and parties – we joined the Charleston Library Society (the second oldest lending library in the country) and the Gibbes Museum.

Before the Gibbes Street party

The juxtaposition is our membership to the Middleton Place Plantation.  A car ride away and home to the oldest landscaped gardens in America. There are 110 acres to roam and drink in the beautiful grounds.  We particularly like the Stableyards where there is a menagerie of animals and craftspeople forging iron and making pottery. Top that off with fish & grits and a glass of red.

Hold onto your hats! I’ve become a Charleston Hat Lady. No, not a red hat or purple hat (those are worn only if they match the outfit). It’s about wearing hats, volunteering and meeting other ladies.

Spoleto is here. Per their website “it’s one of America’s major performing arts festivals. It was founded in 1977 by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti, who sought to establish a counterpart to the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy.”

The talent is over the top.  Folk music singers I’m with Her made us new fans. Check them out on YouTube. Wow.  “Path of Miracles” a theatric/musical about the Camino de Santiago was interesting to say the least. It was a minimalistic production where the singers (pilgrims) dressed in everyday street clothes (no walking sticks or backpacks – they must have used Camino Ways) sang music that sounded like a cross between Gregorian and Tibetan chanting in several different languages. Hmm. Think about the last time you went to a modern art museum and knew you were experiencing art but felt a bit confused… we wondered if those in the audience who hadn’t walked the Camino would understand. The standing ovations proved it was a success none the less.

Time to brag. Last month I had the honor of winning Charleston Magazine’s gate photo competition.  Historic Charleston is famous for their iron works. It’s a scrolling web of forged beauty.Best part of Charleston is we get to spend time with the family. Especially with this little princess – now 8 months.

It’s our last week here and we’re gearing up for our big fundraising event for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation this Saturday, June 8th.  If you’re in Charleston please stop by our Lemonade Stand at the corner of Meeting and Calhoun in Marion Square between 10 and 6 (bring your umbrella). Otherwise, if you want to miss the rain you may make a donation by clicking on this link or head over to paigeshaw.com use the code LemonadeDays (valid until June 9, 2019) and take 30% off your purchase (proceeds are donated to ALSF).

Known as Lemonade Days (from June 1st to 9th) 2,300 lemonade stands across the USA will raise funds to help ALSF change the lives of children with cancer through funding impactful research, raising awareness, supporting families, and empowering everyone to help cure childhood cancer.

My goal is to raise $8,000. which will pay for a month of research.  Any donation – big or small all add up.  Thanks!!!

I used to have a family

I continue to feel my mood drop when my girlfriend brings out her photo albums. Photos of her daughter, her family, events small and big, photos of her daughters father, and kindergarten photos. All that added to normal sentences like; «oh, do you remember when…» directed to her daughter for example. Photos shown to me alongside comments such as; «look at her hair, look how small she was, look how cute she was». Then the daughter can say things like; «look at my dad!»

I know she doesn’t mean anything by it. It’s just normal behavior. Being proud of her daughter you know. I would have done the same.

But inside me, another dialogue is forming when these things happen.

I want to say; “I used to have a family too! I used to have two lovely dogs that I cared so much for, and now I never really see them any longer. I miss them so much, and I am so sorry they don’t fit in with this households schedule. I used to have a wonderful wife with a knack for academics, a great sense of humour, and the ability to work her way around a computer like a pro. She had complete trust in me and my opinions, and if I said UFO’s really exist, she would nod and say ‘you know best’.”

“I used to have a life too, and it matters just as much as yours.”

That’s what I want to say. And she would say; “of course it does,” and mean it. But yet it’s not really enough.

I used to live in a new house that me and my ex-wife bought together. I used to take my two dogs for long walks in the weekends, and cuddle them at night. I used to spend hours writing books, and spending productive time in front of my computer (sometimes not so productive). It was my life. That is what I am. You can’t take that away from me.

“I used to have a life too! And now it’s all just tucked away in boxes in the attic like it doesn’t matter. My life matters too! Everything I used to do. Everything I was. It matters!”

I guess it’s like this?. People moving out of a home they share with someone else, and that other one estays behind, not having to change that much. It happened to my girlfriend, and it happened to my ex-wife. Their life sort of continued in the same way, just not with the guy involved. Just one less person to take into consideration. My girlfriend had her apartment, her daughter and all her routines when her ex moved out. Nothing changed in that aspect. My ex-wife have her dogs, her house, and her routines are the same whether I am there or not. It’s the same for them both. I guess they just did more of what makes them what they are when it happened.

It’s not the same for me. It’s not the same for those that move out.

Everyhing sort of changes.

And I used to have a family too.

Wrap-Up | May 2019

CUPCAKE (5) May was kind of a… sad reading month for me. I had these grand plans to read some of my backlist, my ARCs, and then my partnered copies but in the end I only ended up DNFing an audiobook and reading four books. I’m trying not to be discouraged by my reading pace, but I really feel like I need to pick it up.

The good news here is that I actually got to read the two ARCs I needed to this month and I got their reviews out in time, which I’m happy about. I think I read a little better on a deadline because I can get ARCs read and reviewed so quick but when I just read a book with no deadline I meander my way through the story lol Anyone relate?

Four books is better than no book, though, so let’s talk about what I did read in May instead of what I didn’t read!

300756621) Aurora Rising

4 Stars

One of my most anticipated of the year, Aurora Rising was an intergalactic romp with a fun cast of characters. I have to admit it didn’t live up to my expectations, but I am happy with the novel as a whole and will be reading the next books in the series. Also, I’m pumped I got to read it during the month it came out. Sometimes I get so caught up in other things I don’t read books when they release so that was a victory for me! Review is here!

Small_BrightBurning_HC_rgb_jkt_HR2) Bright Burning Stars

4 Stars

Another ARC courtesy of Algonquin Young Readers, Bright Burning Stars was an absolutely riveting YA Fiction piece. It was an incredibly well-done book for a debut author, and I can’t even explain how much I enjoyed this deep, dark dive into ballet. So good. And I got it read and reviewed in time, helllll yeah! Review is here!

 

Actual innocence3) Actual Innocence

5 Stars

As an avid true crime lover, I watch shows, listen to podcasts, and now I stepped into the books. This was such a wonderful and frustrating look at the justice system and how badly we get it wrong. Forced confessions and wrongful convictions are two subjects I am really interested in, and I thought this book discussed both in a real and raw way. Really interesting and insightful. Mini-review is here!

 

405904224) The Printed Letter Bookshop

3 Stars

I literally don’t know how I wrote a review for this one. I have such conflicting feelings about this one… It was good, but also not good. The writing was good but weird. The plot was enjoyable but boring. It was such a weird read for me, that’s really all I can say lol Review is here!

Line

There you have it! The four books I read in May. Like I said, it wasn’t the biggest wrap-up I’ve done by far, but I still read some good books and I can’t complain about that. It wasn’t a bad month but it was a slow month.

I’m working on my June TBR plan and I can safely say I have an ARC and two review copies to read, but I think I’m going to start adjusting my TBR to only include the ones I need to get to and then I’ll sprinkle in what I feel like reading. I think my main issue is I set my goals high and then feel let down when I don’t get to them. It’s a struggle for me, that’s for sure.

Anyway, I hope you all had a great reading month and I can’t wait to see what ya’ll were up to in May! Let me know in the comments what you read and loved last month!

Happy reading

 

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American Humane Asks Animal Lovers to Be Friends to Felines

cat whiteThey may be called the country’s “most popular pets,” but right now they need our help. Each spring during “kitten season,” thousands of newborn kittens join the millions of cats already in shelters across the country. That means your local shelter or rescue has tons of cute, cuddly newborns, in addition to all the mellow, older cats and those of every age in between – just in time for American Humane’s 44th annual Adopt-a-Cat Month®.

American Humane will be sharing Adopt-A-Cat Month® tips and content on its website and across its social media platforms throughout the month, including cat adoption checklists, tips for pet owners dealing with unruly cat behavior, like scratching or marking, and humorous videos.

The popular annual campaign is part of a larger effort by American Humane to help these beautiful animals and focus on and help solve the unique challenges and issues they face. Although cats have often been referred to as America’s “Most Popular Pet,” with an estimated 94 million living in 47 million U.S. households, they receive less veterinary care, have less research dedicated to their unique health/behavioral issues, are more likely to be feral, and are more likely to be euthanized in shelters than dogs.

If you’re thinking about adopting, American Humane has put together a handy “Top 10” checklist:

TOP 10 CHECKLIST FOR ADOPTING A CAT

  1. If you’re thinking about adopting a cat, consider taking home two. Cats require exercise, mental stimulation and social interaction. Two cats can provide this for each other.
  2. Find a cat whose personality meshes with yours. Just as we each have our own personality, so do cats. In general, cats with long hair and round heads and bodies are more easygoing than lean cats with narrow heads and short hair, who are typically more active. Adoption counselors can offer advice to help you match the individual cat’s personality with your own.
  3. Pick out a veterinarian ahead of time and schedule a visit within the first few days following the adoption. You’ll want to take any medical records you received from the adoption center on your first visit. Due to their immaturity, kittens in particular should accompany you to make the appointment – even before the exam itself – so staff can pet the cat and the animal will have a positive association with the veterinarian’s office.
  4. Make sure everyone in the house is prepared to have a cat before your new pet comes home. Visiting the shelter, rescue group or animal control facility should be a family affair. When adopting a new cat with existing pets at home, discuss with the adoption facility how to make a proper introduction.
  5. Budget for the short- and long-term costs of a cat. Understand any pet is a responsibility and there’s a cost associated with it. A cat adopted from a shelter is a bargain; many facilities will have already provided spaying or neutering, initial vaccines, and a microchip for permanent identification. Plus, shelters and rescue groups are there to offer guidance and assistance as you acclimate your new family member.
  6. Stock up on supplies before the cat arrives. Be prepared so your new cat can start feeling at home right away. Your cat will need a litter box, a good-quality cat litter, food and water bowls, food, scratching posts, safe and stimulating toys, a cushy bed, a brush for grooming, a toothbrush and nail clippers.
  7. Cat-proof your home. A new cat will quickly teach you not to leave things lying out. Food left on the kitchen counter will serve to teach your new friend to jump on counters for a possible lunch. Get rid of loose items your cat might chew on, watch to ensure the kitten isn’t chewing on electric cords, and pick up random items like paper clips (which kittens may swallow).
  8. Go slowly when introducing your cat to new friends and family. It can take several weeks for a cat to relax in a new environment. It’s a great idea to keep the new addition secluded in a single room (with a litter box, food and water, toys and the cat carrier left out and open with bedding inside) until the cat is used to the new surroundings; this is particularly important if you have other pets. If you’ve adopted a kitten, socialization is very important. But remember – take it slow.
  9. Be sure to include your new pet in your family’s emergency plan. You probably have a plan in place for getting your family to safety in case of an emergency. Adjust this plan to include your pets. Add phone numbers for your veterinarian and closest 24-hour animal hospital to your “in-case-of-emergency” call list, and be sure to have a several-day supply of your pet’s food and medications on hand.
  10. If you’re considering giving a cat as a gift, make sure the recipient is an active participant in the adoption process. Though well-meaning, the surprise kitty gift doesn’t allow for a “get-to know-one-another” period. Remember, adopting a cat isn’t like purchasing a household appliance or a piece of jewelry – this is a real living, breathing, and emotional being. 

If you need any more inspiration about the heartwarming and rewarding benefits of bringing a cat into your life, check out Chicken Soup for the Soul’s new book, “Life Lessons from the Cat,” featuring 101 tales that range from the heroic to the hilarious and will leave you laughing and crying at the same time. In addition to giving you more than a hundred reasons to bring home a cat, royalties from the book support American Humane’s lifesaving work with animals.

“There are literally millions of reasons to rescue a cat in need during our Adopt-a-Cat Month….and at every other time of year,” says American Humane President and CEO Robin Ganzert, PhD. “You can find every one of them at your local shelter or rescue and, with time, each will give you a million reasons to be glad you did.”

Birthday boy an inspiration

Nothing like a birthday to set the emotions racing! Sweet jaysus it’s like a pinball machine between the ears. Slow it down. It’s small relief those flippers miss the metal sphere on this occasion

Wee man turned four this week. First thought, how in God’s name did we get here so quick?

Almost two years to the day since we returned to the mother sod from Scotland. The life we once had feels a lifetime away, yet it only feels like yesterday since this bundle of joy, a miracle, came into this world.

I’m sure it’s a common mental juxtaposition. The truth is we are all just looking through ageing eyes. All the more reason to grasp hold of the here and now. Time and tide…

We’ve had an action-packed party weekend. The sort his mum would have revelled in, the kind his dad dreads but knows it had to be done. Man up. No. Man and mum up – it’s not about you. These are memories, four-year-old memories, crucial memories. 

We’re fortunate to have special people around us, they know who they are. Family is everything but flesh and blood doesn’t always ensure a smooth road. What it does mean, however, is that they are always there for each other.

For whatever reason, I’ve never felt closer to family this weekend. It felt easy, it should always be this way, but life sometimes gets in the way.

Anyway, birthday boy! On this sort of weekend, Conor trades in presents only. That in itself is a challenge.

“Conor, whatever you do at Coco’s, remember your manners, say thank you for coming to my party…thank you for my presents. Truth is he just wants to fill the black bin bag – packed full of generosity – and get back to being a sweat box in socks in soft play areas with pals.

Nana has been a trooper this weekend. She felt rotten. And she’ll likely kill me when one of her friends reads and relays this: “What do you mean I’m on the internet?”

A true trojan, effortless swan on the surface, kicking like you know what below to simply keep moving forward. Inspirational. They simply don’t make them like they used to.

A fourth birthday, or any grandchild’s birthday for that matter, will not be missed by nana.

Another wee milestone for the memory banks. Wee guy keeps asking the questions. When told daddy (and mummy) love you, one of Conor’s last thoughts of the day as head hit the pillow was “Why could mummy not come down for my party?” “…because God needs mummy as one of his angels…” or fumbling words to that effect. Four-year-old’s quickly move on. “Daddy, can I bring my new dinosaur to nursery tomorrow?” “Night, night Conor!”  

There has been a sense of calm at Chez Gallagher in recent weeks. The waves still come and go but staying afloat is key.

And as for birthday boy, he remains the inspiration. Another year on the clock simply means more questions! Seriously…never-ending questions. But I’ll take those all day long from my wee pal. The pinball can wait.

Weeknote 10

Things are starting to heat up, what with getting ready to go on vacation, doing California house stuff, and herding cats I mean colleagues for work.

Work

I could just cut and paste from last week: admin, advising, etc.

I did get a book chapter sent off, though, so I can add something to the “my own damn work” side of the ledger.

Reading/Watching/Making

The biggest Reading/Watching event was the Champions League final between Tottenham and Liverpool, which Liverpool won comfortably. The score was 2-0 and Tottenham did press them, but a penalty to Liverpool 22 seconds in (inadvertent handball, but still a handball) meant the game took on a set cast very early. It wasn’t a pretty or exciting game, but I’ll take it, thank you very much. The team was fantastic this year and they deserved to come out with a major trophy at the end of it. Somewhere between 250k and 500k people jammed the streets of Liverpool for the victory parade, which is pretty impressive given the city population is 550k, and I’m pretty sure there are some Everton fans living there.

What does this have to do with reading, you might ask? Well, I’ve been reading David Peace’s wonderful novel about legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, Red or Dead, since it was published in 2013. I start it, get 100-300 pages in, put it down, come back to it, rinse and repeat. It’s a book for literary footie fans, which can’t be a huge demographic. But I find it wonderful and fascinating and I don’t want it to end. I picked it up again this spring and I’m more than halfway through (it’s over 700 pages of minute details about Shankly and the football seasons). The repetition makes it hypnotic and almost zen-like, and Shankly is the hero we wish we had these days. Far from perfect but utterly admirable. I think I’ve been unable to finish because I don’t want it to end, but now that we’ve won a trophy again and look like the team Shankly created, it might be time to finally read the whole thing. And I can always start over when I’m done, right?

20 Books of Summer began yesterday and I started my first read, A Month in the Country. It has a prologue by Michael Holroyd which is amusing and gives interesting insight into the author. The novel itself is quite short and written in a very English style. It’s widely praised and was shortlisted for the Booker, and I expect to love it but I’m not quite there yet.

The hockey and basketball championship finals continue. St. Louis was blown out by Boston in Game 3 but recovered to win at home in Game 4, so the series is tied at 2-2. The Warriors recovered from their very flat opening game (and Toronto was very good) and that series is tied 1-1. It was great to see a Finals opener in Canada. Go Canada! But not to the point of beating the Warriors. Sorry, Canada and Drake.

We watched the first two episodes of Good Omens on Amazon Prime. Most enjoyable. Witty and sometimes a bit too on-the-nose but definitely recommended.

Productivity

Lists as far as the eye can see. If I don’t write everything down I’ll never get it done, and a bunch of stuff has to get done before we leave.

Since we are doing a walking holiday, we thought it might be a good idea to actually prepare, as in … exercise. Which I haven’t been doing much of for the last few months. Luckily I’m still somewhat fit, and we have a canyon across the street that provides miles of hiking trails.

We are also carrying our stuff with us; we’re going minimal with large daybacks and planning to wash out stuff at night. We did a test run of packing and got our weight down to 15 lbs. Then we threw the loaded packs in the car and went out and walked for an hour on a local trail (some ups and downs but not too much). They feel comfortable and we should be OK. We’ll keep doing this until we leave next week. I’m feeling less apprehensive about walking for hours now.

One of the dilemmas we’ve been confronting is what kind of electronics to take. Needless to say, they add a lot to the weight. I’ve decided not to take a computer (I’m walking, not working!), but I am going to take a smartphone so that I’m not completely electronics-challenged. So the mostly dumbphone is being retired for a while. I fired up the smartphone and discovered a big Android update waiting for me. Oh yay. It’s weird to have a computer in my hand again, and I have to work to avoid looking at it too much.

This Week

Conference calls! Advising meetings via phone! Guests arriving in both houses! Socializing on the weekend! And Home Depot. Pray for me.

But also reading, exercising, and eating well. So all in all, a decent week ahead.

IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT

Image result for a bible behind bars

” I don’t have a lighter.I have never owned one and I don’t think I will ever.” He said looking away from the woman.

She stood by a pole. She looked like she stood a distance away from the pole but if you were keen enough you’d would know it’s because her left hip pushed the rest of her body away.She  had approached him in a bench asking for a lighter.She wanted to smoke.The night is a cold place to be in.It is even colder when your thighs and they acres of them, are all out there talking to that cold in French.Okay not really talking but making alliances with the cold because that is how you trade.Those are your wares.They are the window display that tells customers you sell thermos flasks or transistor radios and if they buy two flasks, you add them a nail clipper. Discount in trade is a confusing thing to clients.You never get to understand  how  they picked a nail clipper as your discount commodity for buying two flasks.

The street was empty-nay, it wasn’t. It was empty for people who knew nothing about it.But it was full of human life for those who knew.It was a hooker street after all.Not everyone gets to know stuff about a hooker street.Unless of course you are a hooker or you want one.She found a lighter and came back to where he was. A ciggy  planted between her lips.The kind of lips men lust for.The kind that make grown men wave at women on Facebook messenger. She stood against the pole that was just holding the bench they sat on by the shoulder.

“Are you a size 42?”  He asked her.

“How do you know sizes?” She dismounted her cigarette from her red lips as she spoke back.  I guess she was wearing what they now call Matte lipstick.It is was what women with access to Instagram use these days.

“I like my women big around the waist. ”

She seemed flattered by  his words. So much so she giggled and swung a little. He marveled at this.

“I am not size forty two. That is way too small for a girl my size.”

“So what size  are you?”

“I haven’t hugged a tape measure lately.When I do I will maybe leave you a text or call you but I have to warn you I only call late into the night.”

“No worries, I’d only want a woman as beautiful as you to call me those non-government hours.”

“Are you flirting with a hooker stranger?And, what hours are those?”

“Those are hours only you my lady are allowed to call me.”

“Ha-ha.Well played man.Well played.”

The air became thick, only in temperature maybe.She lit another stick.It smelled different. Paul had never smoked weed.Not with his left ventricle.He was brought up in church,he went for catechism classes in Nyeri. His mother insisted that those classes be attended in full and in a boarding facility during the school holiday. So, he would  close school and his mother would get him a small bag, a small tab of  vaseline and leg warmers and at times gloves.His kid friends used to tickle his soles by calling him “Pastor” and this always opened his can of nerves.This was not too much to expect from his mother, if she had her way, Paul would have joined a seminary right after his weaning. But we know the drill. Weaned babies cannot make good priests.Please don’t even doubt me.I know a good priest even in my sleep and weaned babies are not in my list. Okay let me fill you in.I have a small list of people that can become priests.I keep it in my wallet.It is really small.But doesn’t the good book also say that the path to paradise is thin? That list is thin also.He started wearing a rosary while in his mother’s belly.Okay that is me exaggerating shit but please walk with me. But also, I have a feeling if that was possible he would have come out holding one. After all he was named after a Pope. Turns out he did not come out with one.Sad.So his mother had to ensure that he wears one everyday of his life.

Paul was  frozen in his knuckles, they felt like they had been dipped in ice.Or like they had mowed a lawn on a chilly morning-bare hand. He was trembling.The cold kind of trembling. He was in a light shirt.This is not a place his mother would even dream finding him.If his mother knew he was there at that hour.She would have said a prayer to saint Peter and both Paul and the hooker would catch hernias and seizures at the same time.And they would  die in that cold of the night.And the hooker with her belt of a dress would die twice. They had come for a school trip.And his friends decided to walk in town.He was in Uni in Kisumu. His final year.He was pushing a course in economics.His family wanted him to clear his studies and send him to a seminary somewhere in Burundi. The plan  had been delayed earlier by some things he says were unavoidable.In about a decade he would be on an altar anointing and baptizing babies and kissing them on the forehead.This had seem like a plan.But in his third year, he had felt like his life was much more than telling delinquent humans ‘peace be with you’ he had felt a sharp conviction with his fingers that he wanted to experience a life outside the church setup. Only that this is something his mother would not have taken silently. She would have said several prayers and Paul would have been sent to the seminary either way.

So, on that stroll in town, his friends went drinking.Drinking things that Paul was not allowed to imagine.Things that make people speak like their tongues want to quit and start working elsewhere as  watchmen instead of working as  tongues to ungrateful humans.Paul knew he could never join them.So he offered to wait for them as the good brother and keeper he is. That is how he ended up on a bench next to a hooker standing next to a pole.She wasn’t there when  he came, she only found him and started the small chat above there.And now Paul was working his brain overtime to not look at her above her knees. She offered him a showl. And that is how a friendship began.

Paul sat there in that cold.The lady would get clients and come back there to find him.He was not leaving.He felt the urge to wait for his friends because he knew they would behave badly in their drunk selves and this would lead to trouble.So he wanted to be there for his friends.He has always been the one doing things for people.Either to please them or to help them.After all he was a priest in waiting and this was building his biceps for then task ahead.

“Do you smoke weed?”

“Weed?No.Not me.I don’t and I can never smoke anything.”

The woman laughs.

“Why?Are you afraid your mom will spunk your behind?”

“That is something she would do.I can’t rule it out.But it is more of choice of faith.”

“Tell me more man.”

“My body is the temple…..”

“Stop right there.I know how this goes.You are here to convert me to your stupid faith and your stupid judgmental system of belief.I have seen your loser types many times, none succeeded. So please,collect your misinformed self and leave my space.”

For the first time Paul wanted to look at the woman that had moved from being friendly to being a pregnant buffalo.Those ones are extremely irritable. If you breathe in twice, they charge at you.And they will kill you.And on judgment day as others narrate their sorrowful deaths, your will be tongue tied trying to explain to the whole of the chosen few how you were killed by a pregnant buffalo.Apostle Peter will be disturbed by your story.Not because it is a sorry story, but because it is a stupid way to die.

Where were we?

Ah, Paul looks at her in the eyes.He can’t see clearly because it is dark and people don’t see clearly in darkness-I know this something you know.

“I am sorry lady.I did not mean to offend you.I was just saying I can’t smoke and I have never smoked.I am soon joining a seminary to study theology and become a priest.So I have to remain pure.I am here because I could not join my friends in their drinking.I am set apart.”

“What does set apart mean?”

“Like I am chosen to be a priest.”

“Chosen by who?”

“By God madam.”

“And who talked to God ?”

“My mother.She talks to Him daily.Like they converse.All mothers talk to God”

“Wait, God talks to people?”

“Yes, He does.Especially mothers.If you are good enough, He can talk to you at least three times a week like my mother.”

“And has God ever talked to you?”

“No.He hasn’t. When He wants to talk to me, He sends my mother.”

“So, God wants you to be a priest and instead of talking to you He talks to your mother?”

“It is not that way madam.”

“Explain it to me then.”

“Madam it is hard to explain but….”

“Save the trouble I am coming back..”

The lady rushes across the street.A car has pulled over.A number of women surround the car.Three of them are allowed to get in.They drive off. Paul remains seated on the bench.He can’t leave now even if he wanted to.He has to wait for the lady to give back her showl and maybe  thank her for her kindness and also explain why God has to go through his mother and not him directly..It is something me and you will not do but a priest must do.She comes a little over an hour later. He only sees a silhouette and notices it’s her when she gets to the bench.

“You are still here?”

“Yes.I was waiting for you to come back.I did not want to leave with your showl and I also wanted to say thank you.”

“Ah, you are a good man.”

“My name is Paul.”

“My name in Melon.”

“Melon, like a fruit?”

“Yes, only that what you see is what you get.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that I don’t put up face like a water melon.My inside and out are an open book.You flip the pages as you want.”

“Oh.I get you.”

He checks his phone.He wants to call  his friends to tell them it is time they went back to their hotel.None of them picks his calls.He keeps trying.Eventually, Jaymo picks.He is talking like his tongue has just had a car accident and it is about to die. Very little makes sense.He asks them if he could come for them in the club.He says, they are all asleep in their hotel.What a waste.Paul is still a good human.He asks if all of them made it to their hotel. Jaymo says yes and falls asleep.

“Your friends left you?” she asks.

“Yes they did.”

“You are going to follow  after them?”

“Of course.That is what is expected of me.”

“Is that  what you want?”

He is taken aback by this question.

“What do you mean?”She asked him further.

“I am a priest in waiting.One day maybe, I’ll become a Pope.I don’t do what I want.I do what is expected of me. ”

“You don’t think that is a dangerous life you live?”

“I have never been harmed pursuing it.”

“That is not what I mean.What I mean is this, if you live your whole life ignoring what you want over what is expected of you,when will you live your life?”

“There is a reward in heaven.That is all I know.”

“I don’t know about your heaven.But I make mine here everyday.I have made bad choices,my kind of work requires that you have the nerve to make a series of those,but I am not waiting to experience freedom in the after life.I will live here and enjoy this life and  deal with the consequences later.That is reckless in some view.But if my choices do not hurt anyone and they don’t offend the law, that to me is heaven. ”

“Nice way of looking at it. ”

“So is that what you want?” she pestles him more.

“I don’t know. I have recently been feeling like this priesthood thing is not my type of thing.Like I am not cut for this kind of wool.I am not complaining about faith or venting about it.I am saying, I can’t trade my faith even for my own life, but I have been thinking it is not a must I  become a priest.So, I want to quit this whole thing.But My mother.That woman will kill me.I can explain to my father, he is more of pro-choice.But my mother will be hard.”

“I am no person to talk to you on anything about family relations and even choices.My life is a series of bad of both of those.My family left me the day they found out I work in the streets.I have not been to church now for six years. So, listening to me would be a bad thing to do.But I can say a thing or two about this thing of choice. I believe in choice and  living by their consequences.I believe in people living their best versions because they were bold enough to choose.They were bold enough to step up for those that thought  they shouldn’t have made those choices.At the end of it all even your faith seems to suggest that everyone will give an account of THEIR lives.Nobody will say they were twisted into the things they did. So, before you go,think about choice.Think about what consequence those choices will bring and then be bold enough to choose those you can live with.Life is more about boldness than it is about other things.Embrace this thing called boldness, you will never be confused about the choices you should make.”

“Well thank you.I only wish my mother would think like you.But I guess she chose to think the other way.”

Melon stands to leave.She is done for the night.She has made enough to warrant her some good sleep.The baby kind of sleep.On most nights, she works until darkness sheds off  the shyness and shows up to the office.People call that thing ‘morning’ Melon calls it the end of her day. She tells Paul that she needs to leave. Paul gives her her showl. She wraps it around her shoulders.

“So, how exactly do you love women with big behinds?You should be a priest man?”

“I chose to.”

A hearty laughter is heard.It echoes. It comes back to them like a bad memory.

“I should get a taxi, this is not a safe time to walk around, I suggest you also get one.”Melon tells him.

“I am not even sure those drunk men will open the door for me.We are sharing a triple.I might as well sleep on the floor, but I know it is safer there than it is here.”

They begin to walk towards a taxi bay. He is holding her by the shoulder, she is  holding  him by the small of his back. How fast some unions are made.Not long after a police lorry pulls over. Melon climbs down her high heels, runs for safety. Paul is left on a street he barely knows with a pair of red high heels. He is arrested and thrown into that lorry.Several drunk people are there.He is in company of the same drunk people he avoided earlier on the night.How interesting life can get.

The next morning,who brings him TEA? You guessed right. Melon.She only knows one name, and because she is a regular here she knows who to talk to to be allowed to go right into the cell to look for Paul herself. They have a small chat.

“How did you find me?” He asks her.

“I know these streets too well.I knew they’d bring you here.”

“And why did you leave me?”

“That was not the plan.But also, If I did not leave you who would come for you here in the  morning?”

“My mom.”

“What do you mean your mom?”

“I called her yesterday.I told her to come see me in the morning.They are on their way with my father.”

“Oh okay.” She resigns as she looks away.

“I am happy you came.But I was not sure you would.So I had to call someone responsible.”

“No qualms.I am okay with that.They are your parents you had to tell them.”

“I guess I should leave after you finish your TEA.”

“Is that what you want?” He asks her.

She smiles.The kind of smile that pegs affection to a face.The kind that says, I like you.He smiles back.

“I’d want to stay.But I have to catch some sleep.I work in the evening.So, I have to sleep.Plus this is a police station not a public park”

He gives  her his number.

The two are telling me this story as we sit of a grass patch. We had gone for a charity walk.And they were some of the organizers.They are married now and looking forward to getting their second born.

“So, how did you tell your mother about your choice of quiting this priestly call?” I ask him.

“That day at the station, she asked me why I had been arrested.I did not leave anything out.I even told her the part where Melon offered me weed.”

“Did she get shocked?”

“She had to sit down.I feared that her blood pressure would act up.They even left me at the station.She had to be taken to hospital to be checked.”

“Ha-ha.You almost killed your mother?”

“Not sure man.But if she died,I wouldn’t have forgiven myself.”

“You and Melon….?”

“Ah, she called.” They argue a bit about who called first and why.She doesn’t believe she called first.

“She called first.I did not even have her number.So, she called.We started talking.At times she did not even work so that we could talk.”

“What were you telling a hooker that was so interesting for her to leave work.”

“I was telling her I liked her.”

“Man, you liked a hooker knowing she was a hooker and she probably was in the streets waiting for business?”

“Ndugu, the thing about love is that it doesn’t choose.So, it would make me feel bad that she was there swinging those hips for other men to see.But I couldn’t do anything.”

“Did you ever get tempted to go to the street again to find her maybe?”

“All our dates were during the day and in open spaces.I kept myself for her.”

I burst our into a mirth.This is the mother of all mothers of Irony.That he was keeping himself waiting to get  married to a hooker.

“Are you  for real man?”

“Yes, ask her.I came into this relationship without experience like an intern..ha ha.”

She glances at him.The eyes spell affection and love in bold letters.You can even hear it.Loud.

“How did you tell your mother you wanted to marry a hooker?”

“After the incidence at the station,she began accepting that this priest thing was not going to be achieved through me.So she made peace with that and I am happy she did.My father also accepted though for him it was not a task.So, an year after campus, Melon quit the streets.”

“Did you ask her to?”

“I wanted to but I did not.”

“Melon, what made you quit?” I ask her.

“I think choice,and I was tired of that dark side.So one day I told him,I was going to start a small business.I had saved  some money.I only needed to start.He really helped me.He is the brains in our relationship.The smart ass.He will crack economy formulas and explain theories in Italian. I knew zilch about anything business.So, he helped me start and even register a company eventually.”

“And the weed?”

“What about the weed?”

“Do you still smoke  weed?”

“I quit smoking and drinking while in the streets.I arrived into this relationship clean.”

“Paul, did you ever think about her health?”

“Many times.Many many times. But we got tested in almost all hospitals in this city for all kinds of things.”

“Did she take that offensively?”

“At first yes, but I was willing to be in the relationship even if things went the other way.You see, she was like a soldier in a battle field,if she got injured, that could not mean she quit the force.The force in this case is our love.So we made arrangements and did a small wedding.Just family and a few friends.”

“And the trip?”

“Which trip Ndugu?”

“The trip that brought you together?”

“Ah, that one, my friends laughed at me a bad one.They said I was made a total man through that arrest.”

“Do you think all hookers have chances like yours?” I ask Melon.

“Everyone has a chance to become a better person,better their current self.They only need to choose.Not out of pressure. I go to the streets and talk to them.I have seen some leave the street and gone to do other things and that is a good thing.”

**********************************************************************************

See, I did not write last week. I was feeling like my fingers had been rained on.I was not feeling myself.I have been struggling with something.So I am sorry for  not giving you the powers to read.But we are back? Yes.Please share.Please tell your people to read.Please tell them your favorite writer is back with fingers that have basked in the sun.Happy holiday if you read this from Kenya.

 

3 Cool Ideas You Can Do with a Pittsburgh Limo for a Bachelorette Party

Hiring a Pittsburgh limo for a bachelorette party is exciting. It means there’s only going to be a few women celebrating this momentous occasion together. Of course, a Hummer limo, party bus, or even an executive bus can certainly be accommodating for more women for one of these events, but a limousine offers a more intimate atmosphere.

So, what can you do with a Pittsburgh limousine?

Enjoy some entertainment. That’s right, when women get together to celebrate upcoming nuptials, they can be either conservative or little bit rambunctious or rowdy. There’s nothing wrong with either one, and enjoying a little personal entertainment can be a great way to travel.

Go on a tour.

A quality Pittsburgh limo service should be able to offer an incredible tour of the city. This tour can take you to just about any site you want to visit and, when you hire the right company, they should be able to offer insight into some of the best places you’ve never thought to visit.

Just cruise around.

Just cruising around in a black car service in Pittsburgh is a great way to experience life. You will feel like VIPs no matter where you go. Of course, for a bachelorette celebration, heading to a local nightclub or other show, concert, sporting event, or whatever, can be exciting in its own right.

When you hire the right car service Pittsburgh has to offer, just about anything is on the table, and anything can be wonderfully exciting.

Call Us 24/7?—?(724) 737–8057

If You Have Also Query About the Prom Limo Like the Following, Please Go Through Our Website.

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Source: https://pittsburghlimoservice.blogspot.com/2019/06/3-cool-ideas-you-can-do-with-pittsburgh.html

Emotional Eating

Hello, my name is Allie and I’m an emotional eater. 

Seriously, I was once having a bad day at work and my friend
found me in my office, balling my eyes out and eating Bacon Dippers straight
from the box.  I tend to restrict food
when I’m experiencing life situations that make me feel like I’m losing
control. BUT being aware of these vices helps me keep it in check.

 Meal planning for work is key for me because if things get stressful and I don’t have a meal packed then I will either not eat or hit a fast food drive through.

When I do have a slip and crush a whole bag of plain Ruffles with Onion Dip followed by some M&M’s while watching Scandal on Netflix until 1 am (just a random example lol)… here is how I get back on track:

The night of:

Don’t feel guilty, one bad day will do absolutely nothing
in terms of long-term progress

Don’t use it as an excuse to give up and just keep bingeing

The next day:

Drink TONNES of water

EAT! Don’t restrict as punishment for the night before.  I actually recommend eating a large volume of food the next day… including lots and lots of green leafy vegetables mixed with protein, such as a large spinach salad with grilled chicken on top.  This will help with decrease cravings and increase digestion.

Have some carbs. If you binged on carbs then your body is going to want more.  Restricting carbs the next day will just make your cravings worse.  The key for me is to mix my carbs with protein.  Two eggs on a whole grain muffin is my carb/protein combo of choice. 

Work out! You will probably feel sluggish, almost hung over, but getting your body moving will help!  Pick something that you enjoy so it doesn’t feel like a punishment.  For me, this is a weight training session followed by a walk with my dog.  This workout isn’t for the “gains”, it is to get your blood pumping, endorphins up, anxiety down, and provides some feel-good energy that will help you move forward and not get stuck in a rut of guilt.

I hope these tips help you and let you know that you are not
alone!  If there’s something that helps
you, let me know in the comments ??  

Love,

Allie

@allie.fit.ma

https://www.instagram.com/allie.fit.ma/

The Fabric of Tombstones

by B F Jones

She forever births and kills her baby.

He appears to her in fragments, memories splashing her brain, vivid images of him: a boy, a groom, a toddler, a boy, a teen, a groom, a baby, a man, a baby.

Sometimes she forgets he exists altogether, suddenly no longer aware of him, engulfed in the black hole that is her memory, and only a feeling of loss remains, an inexplicable grief clutching her heart.

Then he comes back, with a phone call, a trigger — the toddler she walks past with the old-fashioned gingham overalls. “My little boy used to have an outfit just like that, I sewed it for him,” she hears herself saying to no one.

Some days, her little boy is here. Alive. Palpable. Grown up. Cooking her Sunday lunch and with it, with his touch, his arms around her frail body, the memories of him are reborn, deliciously fresh.

She sews a patchwork with his old clothes. Every time her mind lets her remember him, with each rebirth of him, she adds another small square of fabric to her patchwork.

But she forgets him again.

The needles prick her fingers. Her fading son stabs at her soul.

A boy, a groom, a toddler, a boy, a groom, a baby, a man, a baby.

Hundreds of squares nestled together. Fragments of memories whirl-pooling away. Little gingham, and tartan, tombstones, a fabric mausoleum to his fading substance.

He calls her one evening, slowly resurfacing, rebirthed once again. She knows he won’t be there for long. He will be gone soon, forgotten by her faulty brain, and her heart will break over and over again with each one of his deaths.

Don’t call me again, son.

Don’t come over anymore.

And she hangs up the phone, killing him, one last time.


B F Jones is French and lives in Surrey with her husband, three children and cat. She works as a web consultant and writes book reviews for STORGY. She has flash fictions published in Cabinet of Heed, Idle Ink, The Fiction Pool, Soft Cartel and Bending Genres

My Experience at BookCon 2019 + My Weekend Trip to NYC

Hey, y’all! Happy June. This past weekend I was in New York City for BookCon! It was my first time in NYC and my first time at BookCon. I had a really great time at the convention and in New York in general. I wanted to share some of my experience during this weekend getaway since I know I read tons of blog post about BookCon before I decided to attend. Because this weekend doubled as a mother-daughter trip, I’m also going to talk about my overall experience being a tourist in New York City for a few days. I hope you enjoy ??

The Convention

First and foremost, the reason most of you are reading, and the reason behind my trip: the convention. BookCon is INSANE. The Javits Center is huge so of course this event was massive, and is definitely the largest book event I’ve ever attended. I went in with a jam-packed schedule of all the things I was interested in just so I wouldn’t be wandering around aimlessly and this worked out really well for me. Of course a lot of things are going on simultaneously, so I had a few things to choose from which helped keep my options open.

On the first day I attended the Fierce Reads Author Breakfast after winning a ticket for it (score!) and it was a great way to kick off my first BookCon. We basically sat and chatted with Fierce Reads authors in small groups, and just rotated until we had visited all of the tables. I had only looked at the author list briefly so I was so surprised when I was sat down at tables with Marie Lu, Katie McGarry, and Christine Riccio. We got to ask them questions about their writing process, their new releases, and everything in between. It was a truly amazing experience and I learned about so many upcoming releases from the authors themselves that I’m really excited to hit shelves later this year. They gifted us swag bags and we were able to choose an ARC from the galleys they had available and buy some of the other books. Loved every minute of it and it got me pumped for the rest of day one.

I met two amazing bookstagrammers in person on the first day (Zakiya @toborroworbuy an Zyra @bookhoarderproblems), got some free stuff, then went one ARC drop which is where I saw the chaotic side of BookCon. The other booth events I’d stood in line for where pretty organized with their lines and even had cut offs to avoid mobs. The ARC Drop for The Merciful Crow was pretty crazy, and I’m so grateful to my mom who braved the worst of the line for me. We left day one a little early to go do some sightseeing and visit The Strand Bookstore (ironically).

On day two, I was in general admission with my mom since there were no other special events like the breakfast going on in the morning. We arrived pretty early (around 7:45am) mostly because I really wanted to meet Cassandra Clare, and also get tickets for some of the ticketed booth events that were happening that afternoon.

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Meeting Cassandra Clare

To my surprise, I scored a ticket for Cassandra Clare and I finally got to meet her after almost six years! It made my entire day and honestly if I had nothing else to show for day two except my Cassie Clare signature, that would have been enough.
Though, I did score three more ARCs on day two and I went to an inspiring panel about the online book community (I’ll insert a link to a video about it when I see that one is posted!). And on top of all of that, I went to the Booktube/Bookstgram meet up which was a meet and greet with book influencers. I was a little worried about the weather and couldn’t stay to meet a lot of the people on the panel (there were also tons of people), but I did get to meet my friend Alexandra @twirlingpages after about four years of being friends through Bookstagram (ahhhhh!). It was great way to end off BookCon and it really made to look forward to hopefully going again in the future.

I had a really great time at my first BookCon and it really did ignite my love for reading all over again (I really struggled with this during  my first year of college since I couldn’t read as much). BookCon made me feel completely in place and among people who were just as passionate about books as I am, and that’s really what the convention is all about. Hopefully I can go again next year!

My New York Adventure

New York City has always been a dream place for me. Paris was first on the first, and I was lucky enough to visit three summers ago, so NYC had been the next stop on my travel bucket list. I’m so grateful I was able to visit and attend BookCon this year! I’m also glad that I shared the experience with my mother for the first time (especially since I might have to go alone in the future). All of my favorite romantic comedies are set in New York (see: 5 Feel Good Rom-Coms for a Night In) and I am a huge fan of Gossip Girl (see: I Can’t Stop Rewatching Gossip Girl and Here’s Why and Timeless TV Shows). So, I tried to get in as many touristy things as I could in short time in NYC. I took enough photos to scatter them out during the summer but I did post a few already on my Instagram:

And here are a few more touristy shots:

Hamilton Sign

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Grand Central Terminal

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Joe’s Pizza

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Time’s Square

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Flatiron Building

 

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The MET Steps

I had a really great time in New York and I understand why people visit this place and never want to leave. I hope I can go back soon! I’m so grateful that I was able to make BookCon this year and now I have these memories (and lots of books) to cherish.

XOXO,

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FROM THE OUTBACK TO THE COAST AND HOME

 

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Our last leg before home and quite a few kilometres to put in front of us yet but the roads are straight and there is little traffic compared to the coast road, so it is easier driving. We take breaks very couple of hours and at Coonamble stopped for a picnic by the (dry) river which was one of our favourite meals – sushi and sashimi from a sushi bar in Dubbo.

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Country folk are proud of their towns and so many in this area have large, ugly wheat or grain silos by the side of the road.  One way to brighten up the vista is to engage an artist to create “Painted Silos”.  One very good example is at Weethalle where the art beckons you almost from the horizon!

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It would be worthwhile doing a road trip just checking out all the painted silos!

On the Queensland border we found a typical outback pub – corrugated iron and hitching rails but with so much character.  This one is at Hebel and there were several old timers contemplating the world problems over the never ending glasses of beer!

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Soon it became dark and this always poses a problem whilst driving in the country as the kangaroos, wallabies, goats and sometimes pigs wander onto the sealed road or are attracted by the car lights.  There is always road kill at the side of the road so the message is “don’t drive at night” .  Nevertheless the sunsets in the outback are glorious and this one was no different.

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The clouds seemed to set the horizon alight, everything was still and it was total magic watching the colours change quite quickly before the sun dipped over the horizon altogether.

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We spent the night in St George and had dinner at the local pub where the message was very clear to all and sundry

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The next day we had a short break at Surat – a small rural town on the Balonne river and which has become known for its fishing and its park along the banks of the river.

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The area around is scenic and there are vast reserves of oil in the Surat Basin – as the website states: “Hydrocarbons in this part of the Surat Basin are generated in the underlying Bowen Basin Permian sequence and are liquids rich.  Oil is also trapped in the Triassic age Showgrounds Sandstone and in the Jurassic Age Evergreen Formation. It is estimated that the “potential recoverable resources” are between 200,000 and 300,000 barrels.” 

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Our final stop just before we reached home was in the historic town of Charters Towers.  Beautiful heritage buildings line the main street and this is where the first stock exchange in Australia was built in 1888 and is indicative of the rise and fall of fortunes in the Charters Towers goldfields.  Today it is an Arcade of shops and cafes and is a perfect spot for a light lunch before resuming one’s journey.

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It has been a wonderful trip and an eye opening insight to the vastness of Australia.  We covered 17,500kms in just 7 weeks and yet there is more to see and experience.  What will remain foremost in our minds are the long, straight roads, the vast open country, rolling hills and fertile farmlands, cotton balls by the side of the road in the cotton growing area, the never ending sunsets both on the coast and in the outback, the Nullarbor cliffs and coastline, oysters and seafood, road trains and fabulous Kakadu  as well as all the Aboriginal history throughout the whole country. There are termite mounds by the thousands, millions of sheep and lambs, wallabies and wildlife and, of course, the fabulous little country towns and the welcoming people in every place.  This is Australia!

I can’t wait to go again!

 

When is an icon not an icon?

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Yet another change in location, this time to Florence for a wedding, but with some time set aside to gorge myself on early Renaissance painting.   That means traipsing around a lot of churches (because much of the best Italian art remains in situ) and a long queue to get into the Ufizzi gallery (because some of it doesn’t), emerging at the end footsore and with more questions than answers.

Having immersed myself in Eastern Orthodox imagery earlier this year (see “Secular icons?”) my first response on looking at the earliest works by Giotto and Cimabue was “those are icons”.  Stylistically and in subject matter, there is nothing to distinguish them from contemporary Eastern Orthodox icons: the flat, gilded backgrounds, the poses of the Madonna and child, and the saints, are all identical.  That made me wonder if the Medieval believers had approached these images in the same way that an Orthodox Christian would have done, in which case we need to think of the Renaissance not just in the conventional art-historical terms (epitomised by Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation) but also in terms of a change in belief.    This is important because, in most cases the artists would have been working to strict instructions from their clerical paymasters and would not have had much latitude to experiment with new designs.

A case in point is Giotto’s Madonna and Child with four saints, which looks very much like a row of icons on an Orthodox iconostasis. Except that this was originally altarpiece and that, itself, tells a story.   The Orthodox iconostasis stands between the priest who conducts the eucharist and the congregation whereas a Catholic altarpiece sits behind the altar, so that the congregation (that part beyond the rood screen at least) can see the ceremony and, in particular, the part when the priest elevates the host.   Theological developments in the 13thcentury, therefore, drove changes in the arrangement of church furniture and, in turn, led to some of the changes that we see in art during this period.

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Giotto: Madonna and Child with St Nicholas, St John the Evangelist, St Peter and St Benedict the Redeemer.  Tempera on wood, 1337.   Ufizzi Gallery, Florence.

It is not just the position of the image that changed in Catholic churches during Medieval times: subject matter also changes from schematic images painted to prescribed formulae to styles that demanded more mental engagement by the viewer.  Look at Gentile da Fabriano’s altarpiece depicting the Adoration of the Magi, painted about a century after Giotto’s Madonna and Child.   The Madonna and child are still present but are now set in a context that would allow the viewers to imagine that they were participants at the original event.   Note, too, how the subjects in the picture are dressed in contemporary attire and original audiences might also have recognised the patron and members of his family painted into the front of the crowd.   At one level, these altarpieces function as a “poor man’s bible”, bringing elements of the Gospel to the largely illiterate congregations but, at the same time, they are also drawing the viewers into the story, ensuring that they are not just passive observers and, in turn, demanding a response.

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Gentile da Fabriano’s Adoration of the Magi.  Tempera on wood, 1420. Ufizzi Gallery, Florence.

As the fifteenth century progresses, we see the influence of the Renaissance in the images growing. In particular, a better understanding of linear perspective allowed artists to place the characters in their paintings in more plausible settings, drawing the viewer into the pictorial space.   Fra. Angelico’s Annunciation is painted onto a wall at the top of a staircase leading to monk’s cells in the Convent of San Marco, so the engagement with the viewer would be brief: no more than a short pause and a prayer before moving on.   The quiet scene depicted here is, perhaps, better suited to a monastery’s cloisters than the busy-ness that we saw in the Adoration of the Magi but, by focussing on just two people, pictures of the Annunciation create spaces that need to be filled if the illusion of pictorial depth is to be maintained.   And so we see, in the background of both Fra. Angelico’s and Leonardo’s Annunciations, the first tentative steps at depicting landscapes.

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Fra. Angelico’s Annunciation at the Convent of San Marco, Florence.  Fresco, 1437-1446.

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Leonardo da Vinci’s Annunciation. Oil and tempera on wood, 1472-1474.  Ufizzi Gallery, Florence.

The painting style may have developed through the early Renaissance but one feature that all these pictures still share with their Gothic predecessors, and with Byzantine icons, is that they are still “applied art”: each was painted with a particular purpose in mind, whether for a church or a monastery, and 21stcentury notions of aesthetics have to bear this in mind.   On our trip to Florence this aspect was exemplified by Ghirlandaio’s The Last Supper, also at the Convent of San Marco.  This is in rather better condition than Leonardo’s depiction of the same scene in Milan (which is about a decade younger) but is similar in other ways (some think that Leonardo may have been inspired by Ghirlandaio’s treatment of the subject) and, significantly, was also painted life-size onto the wall of a refectory.   Once again, we can see clever use of linear perspective to create an illusion of depth and, in the background, trees that suggest that, instead of looking at a flat wall we are, in fact, looking into an extension of the room that we are in which, in turn, has windows that look out onto a garden.   That gives us an important clue to unlocking the meaning of the image.

The Refectory where we find The Last Supper is now the gift shop for the San Marco museum, but there are wooden benches along two of the walls where you can sit down and try and put yourself into the place of the monks and their visitors who would have eaten their meals here.   The painting creates the illusion that they were eating in a room that seemed bigger than it really is, and where there were a dozen or so extra guests whose presence was a constant reminder of one of the most important events in the Gospels.  This is the acme of Renaissance thinking: scientific and mathematical principles being utilised to create a work of art that, in turn, synergised man’s relationship with God.   C.P. Snow described what he saw as a profound gulf between arts and sciences in the Two Cultures, written in 1959.  Even then he could conceivably have extended this observation to three cultures by including religion too.  That would have been an anathema in the fifteenth century, when the boundaries between art, science and spirituality were much more fluid.  We’ve learned a lot in the intervening five hundred years but, at the same time, there is much that we have forgotten to remember.

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Domenico Ghirlandaio’s The Last Supper in the Small Refectory at the Convent of San Marco, Florence.  Fresco, 1486.

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The church of Santa Croce rising above the rooftops of central Florence in May 2019.    The photograph at the top of the post shows a view of Florence from Fiesole.

The Best Party And Food Spots In Detroit, According To DJ Claude VonStroke


House and techno pioneer Claude VonStroke knows Detroit. The DJ/Producer may have been born in Ohio, but he spent his formative years in Detroit, cutting his teeth on hip-hop and early electronic music, and to this day he regularly makes passes through the Motor City on tour. Though the DJ is currently based in Los Angeles — and his influential Dirtybird label based in San Francisco — he never passes up on a chance to shoutout the city that formed both his taste and the very core of techno music itself.

Most recently, VonStroke has released an original mix titled “My Love Check” that appears on Carl Craig’s Detroit Love Vol. 2 mix and a live album chronicling his set at last year’s Movement festival. Last week, VonStroke performed a new set at Movement 2019 in Detroit with fellow DJ/producer Green Velvet as the act Get Real. Voted America’s Best DJ in 2018 by DJ Mag, with Dirtybird scoring Label of the Decade in Mixmag, we thought he’d be a natural pick to key us into all of the best insider spots, clubs, and under the radar spaces in Detroit.

Here is the best Detroit has to offer according to Claude VonStroke.

The Schvitz

This is kind of locals-only type spot. I even have a t-shirt on my website of me laying down on a couch in front of a naked lady painting in here. You go here for the sauna. it’s like an old men’s club from a mafia movie. I actually found out this used to be owned by mobsters and swingers, and at one point it was even a Jewish community center. There is a lot of history to this building which makes it really interesting and kind of seedy in a good way.

Lafayette Coney Island

The classic, the original. Lafayette is one of the oldest businesses in Detroit. Two brothers started rival hot dog shops next door to each other in the 1920s. But clearly, Lafayette is better than American Coney (which went on to serve chicken nuggets, pizza slices and a bunch of crap). Lafayette has one of the greatest hot dogs you could ever eat covered in delicious chili. This would be the first place I would go late at night with my friends. I’m always good for two with everything right around 3 am.

SheWolf Pastificio & Bar

My favorite thing on the menu is the ribeye. They also make pretty great handmade pasta but I don’t usually order pasta. They have all the regular shit you would want from a nice place to eat BUT they are normally booked way in advance, so plan to make a reservation.

If you ever need some good comfort food, atmosphere, and drinks, this is the place to be.

El Barzon

Italian and Mexican food — the combination seems obvious but I cannot think of another place that does it this well. I haven’t been here in a while but they have a tasty Strawberry Jalapeno drink that I remember enjoying. One of my friends who shoots a lot of my music videos is both Italian and Mexican and took me here about 10 years ago for the first time. I take my friends and family here when they can’t make up their mind on what to eat.

Cafe D’Mongos Speakeasy

Everything here is very vintage. Lots of electric guitars on the walls and all the drinks are served in one-off cups. So you get your iced tea in a local Wildcats middle school cup or a Hanukkah goblet. They have live music, drinks, and the best grilled cheese sandwiches in Detroit. I love Jazz, so I go here when that is on the program — because Detroit has some of the best musicians in the world.

The Orange Room At The Urban Bean

This is a secret DJ room underneath the Urban Bean. I still haven’t had a chance to play in here but I love this space. Perfect for your crazy after hours. We used to do our clothing shop for Movement inside the coffee shop upstairs. Eventually, we had to move our operation inside the festival but someday I’ll end up in this crazy little room playing a set at 5 am.

TV Lounge

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Kevin Saunderson always puts on a great show! ??

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A lot of the best parties are here. Some great music. It’s not too big and not too small. You can get a great view of Detroit from the patio. I’ve seen everyone from LTJ Bukem to Terrence Parker to Newclues play on the outdoor patio here. This is where you can usually find me at 7 am on Monday morning of Movement. It’s also one of the only outdoor venues that I can think of now that the Old Miami (a classic haunt) is shut down to electronic music.

Second Best

Second Best is a place where you can play arcade games in the lounge. This is a 90s-inspired location and I love to play a few rounds of Galaga before sitting down for a refreshment. This is one of the places I really vibe with and is a go-to when I’m in Detroit. I used to play a lot of video games when I was a kid — making this something of a personal paradise.

PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN! A LEGAL NATURAL BORN OR LEGAL LOYAL NATURALIZED ASSIMILATED AMERICAN!

posted by Rose Colombo. I am not the author of this American Truth! American author unknown….reposted 10/2018, 6/5/2019 (C) of American author unknown – sharing

Rose Colombo says, “America is a nation of natural-born Americans.” America is not a nation of immigrants. America became a Nation of Natural-Born Americans when the Framers, God-fearing men, created, wrote, approved and signed the Constitution of the United States and Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence. A baby born to two legal Americans on U.S. soil is a natural-born American. A baby born to illegals and non-citizens on U.S. soil is a natural-born citizen of their parent’s Homeland in reality, but the Democrats ignore the reality of truth. All legal immigrants are “naturalized U.S. citizens.”

Only a U.S. Natural-Born American born to 2 legal American parents on U.S. soil or U.S. protected soil are eligible to be nominated and elected as the President of the United States of America. All legal “naturalized Americans have constitutional rights, but can never be eligible to be a legally constitutionally and lawful U.S. President unless they commit a fraud and or a coup on America and Americans.

All immigrants, legal or illegal, who violate the laws on U.S. soil or commit crimes against the United States of America or during war time can be rounded up and deported from the United States of America. Only the Natural-Born Americans can never be deported.

I THINK THIS GUY HAS IT ALL COVERED.  I COULDN’T SPOT ANYTHING HE LEFT OU [although I’ve added my opinion, Rose Colombo, along the way]-

I am the Democratic, Republican Liberal-Progressive’s Worst Nightmare.  I am a White, Conservative, Tax-Paying, American Veteran, Gun Owning Biker.  That’s me! (However, legal Americans are made up of a many ethnicities and races. Legal Immigrants who are 2 legal U.S. Citizens and as legal Naturalized Americans who give birth to a baby on U.S. soil makes their babies U.S. Natural-Born Citizens of the USA.)

I work hard and long hours with my hands to earn a living.

I believe in God and the freedom of religion, but I don’t push it on others. (added: And, no foreign immigrants should be allowed in the USA to push their propaganda on Americans or call the police on legal natural-born and legal loyal naturalized Americans who have assimilated as proud Americans for exercising their culture, constitutional rights which includes Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion on our Homeland. Foreigners who aren’t here to assimilate but dominate our nation and steal it for their own civilizations and call the police or complain to mall owners on Americans, who are legally passing out their religious literature on public sidewalks or public places or talking about their religious beliefs on public U.S. soil or private U.S. soil with permission should be informed that they are violating the civil rights of legal natural-born Americans, not cater to foreign enemies of the USA.)

I ride Harley Davidson Motorcycles.

I believe in American products and buy them whenever I can.

I believe the money I make belongs to me and not some liberal governmental functionary, Democrat or Republican, who wants to share it with others who don’t work! (Added: it is unconstitutional to force Americans to pay for the lifetime living expenses of fake Refugees, fake Asylum seekers, who didn’t flee tyrannical laws but came to impose them which under constitutional law is treason and requires arrest and/or deportation back to their Homelands. And, illegals from any foreign nation, who violates U.S. constitutional law as well as a complicit congress, should be held accountable.)

I’m in touch with my feelings and I like it that way! (Added: Democrats and Liberals and the government and public schools should stop indoctrinating little children into same-sex, drag queen book readings and transgender sexual preferences under the guise of education against the objections of their biological parents or legal guardians in the USA no more than Americans should push heterosexuality on those who oppose it.)

I think owning a gun doesn’t make you a killer; it makes you a smart American. (added: And the Second Amendment establishes for an armed militia to protect the borders if the POTUS calls upon them)

I think being a minority does not make you noble or a victim, and does not entitle you to anything for free [added because all legal Americans have equal rights to work towards their goals no matter how difficult or long it may take).  We all need to work for it! (added: it also doesn’t make any Americans who are healthy and comfortable remaining on welfare for years the right to remain as victims, either)

I believe that if you are selling me a Big Mac or any other item, you should do it in English. (Added: English is the primary language of the United States of America and if you come to our country learn to speak English so you can communicate and move up as a legal immigrant There are classes online and classes at free public schools and community centers).

I believe there should be no other language option.

I believe everyone has a right to pray to his or her God when and where they want to (added: And, the government shouldn’t allow any foreigners from foreign enemy nations who entered the USA to invade, infiltrate, overpopulate in order to dominate and conquer the USA by numbers should be allowed to remain in the USA. America must adhere to quotas so that no nation or religion or ideology dominates in the USA. Anyone who attempts to impose their foreign laws on America are a fraud and must be deported)

My heroes are Malcolm Forbes, Bill Gates, John Wayne, Babe Ruth, Roy Rogers, and Willie G. Davidson, who makes the awesome Harley Davidson Motorcycles. (added: President Reagan, President Kennedy, President Trump, President Eisenhower, and Princess Diana and the wise and gracious Queen of England and ally of the USA as well as P.M. Netanyahu, long time ally of the USA).

I don’t hate the rich.  I don’t pity the poor. (Added: I believe Americans must keep their country exception by maintaining God of the Bible, Bible, Christian Churches and Crosses, Classical American books and U.S. History and Historical books, movies, songs, and the American way of life. We The People are the government and the elected and appointed are temporary volunteer public servants elected to serve their country and fellow Americans and sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, civilization, and secure borders, and to call upon the armed militia to protect Americans from foreign invasions).

I know wrestling is fake, and I don’t waste my time watching or arguing about it. (added: I know wars are real and our family members, friends, colleagues, and fellow American heroes served our country in Good Faith and thousands have been injured or paid the ultimate price so American could remain America and remain Free!)

I’ve never owned a slave, nor was I a slave.  I haven’t burned any witches or been persecuted by the Turks, and hopefully, neither have you! (added” Today, America, Israel, and Europe’s citizens must fight back legally against their leaders foreign invasions as they refuse to detain and deport those who come to steal our lands).

I believe if you don’t like the way things are here, you can choose to go back to where you came from and change your own country!  This is AMERICA …We like it the way it is and even more so – the way it was…so stop trying to change it to look like Russia or China, or some other socialist [or Middle East] country (added: or foreign enemy nation).

If you were born here and don’t like it…you are free to move to any Socialist country that will have you.  I believe it is time to really clean house, starting with the Congress and all those who oppose the POTUS. (added and are in violation of their sworn oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, secure the borders, and enforce legal immigration, legal ID, legal citizenship requiring assimilation and allegiance to the U.S. Flag and U.S. Constitution otherwise, please return to the Homeland you were born and love).

I want to know which church is it, exactly, where the Reverend Jesse Jackson preaches, where he gets his money, and why he is always part of the problem and not the solution?  Can I get an AMEN on that one?

I also think the cops have the right to pull you over if you’re breaking the law, regardless of what color you are, but not just because you happen to ride a bike.

And, no, I don’t mind having my face shown on my driver’s license.  I think it’s good….

And I’m proud that ‘God’ is written on my money! (added: The God of the Bible who Blessed this land for His children to protect and secure and keep safe from foreign enemies of the God of the Bible and the Universe) since America’s founding and the creation and approval and signed Constitution of the United States of America.)

I think if you can’t take the time to do the research as to who is the best person to “serve” America on the ballot, I don’t want you deciding who should be running the most powerful nation in the world for the next four years.

I dislike people standing in the intersections trying to sell me stuff.  Get a job, and do your part to support yourself and your family!

Those I would consider asking me to make ‘donations’ to their causes would be Girl Scouts and other such non-profits.

I believe that it doesn’t take a village to raise a child, it takes a man and woman.

I believe ‘illegal’ is illegal no matter what the lawyers think!

I believe the American flag should be the only one allowed in AMERICA!  If this makes me a BAD American, then yes, I’m a BAD American.  If you are a BAD American too, please forward this to everyone you know…

We want to return our country to the values it was founded upon, and prospered under for over 200 years!

“My” Country…all aliens MUST follow America’s Constitution and Laws, and ENTER “legally” through our American Embassies or Consulates!

My great, great, great, great grandfather watched and bled as his friends died in the American Revolution and the War of 1812.

My great, great, great grandfather watched as his friends died in the Mexican-American War.

My great, great grandfather watched as his friends and brothers died in the Civil War.

My great grandfather watched as his friends died in the Spanish-American War.

My grandfather watched as his friends died in WW I.

My father watched as his friends died in W.W. II and the Korean War.

I watched as my friends died in Vietnam , Panama and Desert Storm.

My son watched and bled as his friends died in Afghanistan and Iraq.

None of them died for the Mexican flag or any other country’s flag.(added: Americans of all races and nationalities in the military didn’t die on the battlefields for the Palestinian Flag, Communist Chinese Flag, Russian Flag, Central American Flags, ISIS or HAMAS flags, etc. and etc. and etc.) This is not those countries and never will be so stand up and respect the U.S. Flag or you may be in the wrong country)

Every one of them died for the American flag.

Texas high school students raised a Mexican flag on a school flag pole, other students took it down. Guess who was expelled…the students who took it down. (added: Christians passed out literature at the Mall of Irvine, Ca. and foreign immigrants complained from foreign enemy nations of a different foreign ideology and then set up a table and passed out their foreign religious literature and recruiters)

California high school students were sent home on Cinco de Mayo because they wore T-shirts with the American flag printed on them.

Enough is enough!

This message needs to be viewed by every American; and every American needs to stand up for America.

We’ve bent over to appease the America-haters long enough.

I’m taking a stand.

I’m standing up because of the hundreds of thousands who died fighting in wars for this country, and for the American flag.

If you agree, stand up with me.

And shame on anyone who tries to make this a racist message.

AMERICANS, stop giving away Your RIGHTS!  Let me make this clear!  THIS IS MY COUNTRY!

This statement DOES NOT mean I’m against immigration!

YOU “ARE” WELCOME HERE, IN MY COUNTRY, welcome to come LEGALLY:
      1. Get a sponsor.
      2. Learn our LANGUAGE, as immigrants have in the past!
      3. Live by OUR rules!
      4. Get a job!
      5. Pay YOUR Taxes!
      6. No Social Security until you have earned it and “paid” for it!
      7. NOW find a place to lay your head!

If you don’t want to forward this for fear of offending someone, then YOU’RE PART OF THE PROBLEM!

We’ve gone so far the other way . . . bent over backwards not to offend anyone.
Only AMERICANS seems to care when American Citizens are being offended!
WAKE UP America!!!  If you do not pass this on, may your conscience bother you!
I MISS MY COUNTRY!

IN GOD WE STILL TRUST!

GOD BLESS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!

Rose Colombo, award-winning author, 5 star Reviews of “Fight Back Legal Abuse” and political satire on the redistribution of wealth, “Obamacare, Dinosaurs, RedNecks and Radicals.”

Radio Podcast worldwide on Wednesdays from 12 noon to 1:00 p.m., pst-usa – Colombo Chronicles with host, Rose Colombo welcoming experts and authors from around the globe sharing their stories and expertise – all shows archived – http://www.blogtalkradio.com/colombochronicles

Good Company: My-story-is-better-than-yours parasitism

Someone is telling a story and as it reaches the climax, someone else is interrupting to tell their own story. What’s wrong with that?

Some people are so eager they always seem about to piss their pants. Nothing wrong in that. But in a social context it isn’t always okay. It isn’t okay for the one who cannot calmly tell their story to the end, who never receives feedback or is lauded for their effort.

It’s one of many social situations that happen all the time and therefore apparently is okay. Yet it doesn’t feel right. The next story may be a natural continuation, and there’s no doubt that a better story trumps a lesser one, but it still doesn’t feel right.

Telling a story exposes the storyteller. It also takes some effort to drum up the ambience that the story needs. You have to put yourself out there. You have to get the attention of people, and keep it. This is really a piece of work.

Once someone has done that and focussed the attention of the people present, I think it is parasitical to latch on to someone else’s story, to use a word or an element of the story as a clue to begin your own. Would the interrupter have told his story if not for the one focussing the attention in the first place? In many cases not, I think.

Even when the interrupter’s story seems to be more interesting, I think a competitive aspect has no place in good company.  My story is better that yours seems to say that my experience is greater than yours, or even that I am a better person than you.

Maybe I am more experienced, maybe I am not, but isn’t that beside the point? To be good company we have to make space for one another, be considerate, be interested.

Europeans and Americans are very crude in this context. We aren’t very sensitive – or perhaps we are just used to ignoring the sentiments. The idea that the winner can take it all is still very dominating. It’s a pretty stupid alternative to being considerate. We’re still in it together.

 

Limited time offer: Vancouver events you won’t want to miss

Don’t miss out on spot prawns, a craft beer festival and a unique bike tour at North Van craft breweries

Get ‘em while you can: Spot prawns

[Handout photo/Fairmont Pacific Rim]

One of the West Coast’s most prized and unique seasons is when spot prawns are available during a small window of about six to eight weeks in spring.

Spot prawns are a local delicacy with their delicate and sweet, moist flavour that carries none of the chewiness that can be found with other prawns. The spot prawn season is so popular, there are typically lineups to purchase these little morsels at fish docks and seafood markets.

“Vancouver’s beloved spot prawn season is very unique to this city and locals and visitors go wild for these delicious B.C. prawns that are available during the harvest season,” says Fairmont Pacific Rim’s executive chef, Glenn Thompson. “With a short season, these Ocean Wise prawns pop up all over the city with chefs featuring them for as long as they can, from sushi bars to fine dining.”

The Fairmont Pacific Rim has put a new twist on spot prawns by creating a longboard — much like its popular sushi longboard — to showcase spot prawns for lunch. The longboard is a limited edition available on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and while supplies last. The cost is $65 per person for lunch at the Lobby Lounge and Raw Bar that starts with a Spot Prawn Miso Soup with West Coast oysters, followed by several signature dishes such as poached spot prawns, Nigiri, Aburi rolls, Oshizushi, ceviche, poké and Kampachi Tataki. The dishes are as tasty as they are beautiful — all served on a crafted driftwood longboard by Raven Timberworks.

At the Fairmont’s Botanist bar, chef Hector Laguna has created a six-course tasting menu designed to be shared. Butter-poached spot prawns are the stars, but be sure to make reservations and get your fill before the season ends. Available nightly for $118 each. The bonus: Botanist has just been named as one of the 50 best bars in Canada. Reservations for lunch and evening tastings can be made at 604-695-5557 or online.

Vancouver Craft Beer Festival

Vancouver Craft Beer Week 2018 Festival at the PNE Fairgrounds. [Claudia Wyler]

It’s been 10 years of craft beer and cider in Western Canada with the annual festival scheduled for June 8 and 9, 2019 at the PNE Fairgrounds in Vancouver. The two-day festival is the grand finale of a 10-day celebration and will feature live music, food, art and, of course, craft beer and cider.

You won’t want to miss dozens of craft breweries, as well as new products such as Nude Vodka Soda, Coco Frio and Odd Society Spirits Ginger. The 10th anniversary is the culmination of an idea that blossomed into a full-on festival that began after the 2010 Winter Olympics when a few craft enthusiasts gathered to try to showcase the burgeoning craft brew industry. Online info here.

Bike and brew tour

A specialty 14-seat bike for brew tours in Lower Lonsdale, North Vancouver. [Lynn Mitges]

We suggest you try out Canadian Craft Tour’s Vancouver Beer Bike this spring or summer on a sunny day. The North Vancouver-based Craft Cycle Tour features a pre-booked cycling tour of some of the favourite venues in Lower Lonsdale on a 14-seat bike with a guide who’ll give you the ultimate “beer geek” tour. Lower Lonsdale is a hub for craft breweries with new venues opening up seemingly every month. Cost is $45 each and the cost of beer is not included in the tour. Different tour times are available, book online. 

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Land of the Thousand Lakes

Finland has about 188,000 lakes and 179,500 islands which gave rise to its nickname “Land of the Thousand Lakes”.

Finland is beautiful all year round, and it is breathtaking in the spring (end of May/ Early June), as flowers are in bloom, the weather isn’t gloom, and tourism is in boom… Haha sometimes I silly rhyme but hey, silly is my thing.

Temperatures are around 13 degrees Celsius with highs of 16 and lows of 9. It is a bit chilly and windy so a wind breaker and sweater are still necessary. Keep an umbrella close by in case it rains too as this is often the case especially in May.

Visiting Helsinki is much better than I expected. There’s an amazing display of cultural diversity and people look really happy. Helsinki is clean, loads of healthy food, excellent transportation system and a good variety of things to do.

I am spending 3 days in Helsinki and to help me get around, I have purchased the 72 hours Helsinki card. Trust me, this option is way more reasonable and expense friendly as it gives you access to all public transportation as well as free entry into a lot of the tourist attractions including The Suomenlinna ferry, the boat canal tour, the hop on hop off buses and a lot of museums.

Something I notice in Helsinki is the tap water. It is the best tasting tap water I have drank in the 25 European countries I have been to and it is very refreshing.

Getting around Helsinki is real easy, like I said, the transportation system is efficient and google map helps you with locating bus stops, tram platforms and stations if you are terrible with paper maps just like me. For about €4.90 you will get a single ticket from the airport to the city center.

Today I am sharing picture stories of some of the places I visited in Helsinki and what I enjoyed most.

One and maybe the only downside to Helsinki is that it is expensive. A bottle of water cost about €2.50 and a sandwich will set you back around €6. A decent lunch cost around €12-€30 depending on what you decide to settle for and accommodation in the hotels are about €100 in the city center. This could also be due to the season as spring/summer months have really good weather and more visitors.

I am staying at the Holiday Inn city center and it is a great choice. The staff are friendly and I have the option of purchasing a Helsinki card from the reception. The rooms are nice as well, very functional and the Internet works perfectly. Of course there are other hotels around the city center but the holiday inn is beside the central railway station and right outside are the local buses, the metro and tram. There is also a 24h supermarket as well as a number of restaurants.

Central Railway Station

The city center mall is 3 minutes walk from the Holiday inn hotel and in there you have a variety of restaurants to choose from. One of my favorites is the Ramen House Mokotoko. The Donburi is amazing and the staff are really friendly and the service is quick.

The city center is a great location because it is a walking distance to a lot of tourist attractions and it’s also nice to just walk around the vicinity and take in the city, the people and the food.

1. The Market Square

The Market Square is a central square and adjacent to it is the Presidential palace and the Helsinki city hall. At the market square you can find Finnish street food, souvenir vendors, cafes and ferries taking tours around the city and into various Islands around Helsinki. You will also have a swarm of seagulls trying to snatch your food if possible so beware of this if you are afraid of birds.

Market Square

South Harbor

The HSL provides a ferry link from Market Square to Suomenlinna all year round and it is also free with the Helsinki card.

2. Temppeliaukio Church

Opened in 1969, this Lutheran church is an architectural work of art, built directly into solid rock. It is also known as the Rock church.

3. The Helsinki Cathedral and the Senate Square.

Also known as St Nicholas Church, it was first built in the 1800’s as a tribute to then Grand duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia.

The senate square and its surroundings make up the oldest part of central Helsinki.

4. Sibelius Monument at Sibelius Park.

The Sibelius monument is a master sculpture by the Finnish artist Eila Hiltunen, titled Passio Musicae dedicated to the Finnish composer Jéan Sibelius. It consists of more than 600 steel pipes forming a wave-like shape in the representation of music. Legend has it that when it is very windy, the pipes howl a sad melodious sound.

Sibelius park is a seaside park with benches, walking path and a pond. It is lovely to sit out here, watch the sun and the peaceful scenery while reading a book or just listening to soft music.

5. Espoo

Espoo is easily reached by train from the central station in Helsinki and is the second largest city in Finland. Two very interesting things I am seeing in Espoo are the Nuuksio park and the Haltia.

Haltia is the Finnish nature exhibition center where you can find all information about nature from all over Finland including animals, weather, seasons, etc.

The Nuuksio park has me getting my fitness on as I am hiking 3km around lovely tall green trees and lakes. This national park is pine filled and the air is very fresh. I hike up to the reindeer park as well where you can feed reindeer with Lichen and roast bread on a stick over open fire. Along the trails you will find other hikers and joggers so it is pretty safe.

6. Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna is an 18th century sea fortress and a UNESCO world heritage site. There are many activities to do on this island including seeing the Submarine Vesikko, the church, the library, the Kings Gate, drydock shipyard, etc.

Tours of Suomenlinna are available at the information center on the Island. The Helsinki pass also gives you a free ride and tour of Suomenlinna.

7. Ekberg

Ekberg is the oldest bakery, cafe and patisserie in Finland. They have been in existence since 1852 and are still baking amazing dessert till date. It is a 10 minutes walk from the hotel and only 3 mins on the tram.

8. Helsinki Art Museum

The HAM has over 9,000 art collections belonging to the people of Helsinki. Most of these works of art are on display in the streets, health centers, schools, etc and they are said to draw attention to modern art.

9. Food

There are a variety of cuisines in Helsinki and you will be spoiled for choice. From Finnish, to Asian, to American and other European dishes, I doubt you will be hungry and not find something yum to fill you up. If you are into eating healthy, you have nothing to worry about, Helsinki serves healthy salads in delis, cafes and restaurants. There are also vegetarian choices, Indian cuisine, Thai, Korean, etc and everyone will certainly find something they are used to.

10. Countries around Finland

You can take a 2 hour ferry from Helsinki to Tallin, Estonia for either a day trip or you can stay over at Tallin.

You can also take the cruise ferry from Helsinki to St Peterburg and if you are staying less than 72 hours, it is visa free provided you do not exceed 72 hours. It is a good opportunity to explore St Petersburg for 48 hours.

There are also cruises available from Helsinki to Stockholm on the Silja Lines and it is about 17.5 hours. I am taking one of the ferries to Stockholm in a few days. The cruise leaves Helsinki at 17:00 and arrives Stockholm at 09:30 am. There are loads of activities on the ship and you can find shops, bars, cafes and restaurants or you can book a cabin and sleep all night. Make sure to download movies on your mobile devices if you do not have company as some cabins may not come with TV or satellite.

Well I hope you have enjoyed reading about my trip to Helsinki. There’s a lot more to do if you are staying longer and I recommend you check out google or get your guide online to see what tours are available and more tips on enjoying Helsinki.

See you in Tallin, until next time.

california roadtrippin’

so for two weeks I was off to Los Angeles to visit my sister who’s currently studying in UCLA!

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we spent most of our time in westwood, near the university campus. the movie theatre in westwood village (where we watched endgame) was super big and majestic, and gives discounted rates for students hehe. my sister showed me around the campus and her room, and I even managed to sneak in for a couple of her lectures for fun hahahha

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back to my favourite place in LA – Santa Monica Pier! it was spring but it still gets pretty cold (at least to me) when the wind blows; I even turned up to the beach in a turtleneck and jeans and my sister (who was in a crop top and shorts) was laughing at me lmao

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we also spent a day at knott’s berry farm over at anaheim. the rides never fail to disappoint!! somebody needs to bring these kinda rides over to singapore – human & cylon are lameeee

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US outlet malls are the best. also, look at those cloudless blue skies.

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the famous pink wall at melrose avenue! the epitome of touristy places

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more pretty walls

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I know I should be eating american food in america, but this okonomiyaki was so good and so authentic… for a moment I really felt like I was in japan! this is from chinchikurin at little tokyo (basically the chinatown for japanese) and the takoyaki was amazing too

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and my absolute favourite part of the trip – roadtripping on the californian roads alongside the pacific ocean!! the views were to die for

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here’s the gorgeous malibu beach

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the view from the palm spring aerial tramway (something like a mega cable car, and what’s cool is that it rotates 360 degrees, so we get the full view of the entire place!)

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up in the mountains where it was 8 degrees, a far cry from the 25 (i think) degrees at the bottom of the aerial tramway. altitude certainly does magic.
also, I loved this place because it reminded me of yosemite hahahah

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more views along our roadtrip

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our next stop was salvation mountain! really such a gorgeous place, I’m in awe :”)

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we spent a night at anza-borrego desert state park, and we arrived just in time to watch the full moon rise (that was pretty cool). I loved the chill vibes of this desert – a great escape from the hectic city life! being immersed in nature was really mesmerising and I hadn’t felt this happy in a while hehehhe

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dragged myself out of bed at 5.30am to catch the sunrise! the sun was hiding behind the clouds throughout, but it was still a pretty sight. plus we even managed to see some wild bunnies! they’re adorable but oh, so fast.


2 weeks in california passed by so quickly, but I’m grateful to have been able to visit so many new places! I really love the countryside vibes – or anywhere with nature away from city life, really.

will be back one day, hopefully roadtripping to another place :~)

also, uni is starting real soon – how did time pass so quickly?? I will miss having so much free time sigh seems like just yesterday that we were done with A levels. but new starts, I guess. long 5-year journey ahead, but big G’s got my back!

Wild Idea Buffalo Recipe of the Week – KOFTA KEBABS

This week’s Wild Idea Buffalo Recipe of the Week is – KOFTA KEBABS. Perfect Appetizer or that Main Dish for Dinner. Made using Wild Idea Buffalo Ground Chuck along with Spices, and Shallot. Also they’ve included the recipe for the Tzatziki Sauce with ingredients of; Cucumber, fresh Dill, Cilantro, Garlic, Yogurt, and Lemon Juice. You can find this recipe or purchase the Wild Idea Buffalo Ground Chuck along with all the other Wild Idea Products at the Wild Idea Buffalo website. Enjoy and Make 2019 a Healthy One! https://wildideabuffalo.com/

 

 

 

KOFTA KEBABS
Aromatic herbs and the slightly sweet, clean goodness of Wild Idea’s grass-fed/finished Ground Chuck makes for a winning combination. This recipe makes a wonderful appetizer or could also be served as an entrée.

Ingredients:

3 – tablespoons olive oil
1 – pound ground chuck
½ – cup minced shallot
1 – cup chopped parsley
1 – teaspoon salt
1 – teaspoon black pepper
½ – teaspoon allspice
1 – teaspoon chili flake
1 – teaspoon cardamom
1 – teaspoon cumin
pinch – paprika
zest – of one lemon
skewers soaked in water

Preparation:

1 – Add two tablespoons olive oil to a bowl and crumble in Ground Chuck and remaining ingredients.
2 – Mix together until well incorporated.
3 – Divide between 16 skewers and form meat around skewer.
4 – Place in the freezer for 1 hour or refrigerate for two plus hours.
In a large skillet over medium high heat add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.
5 – Add kebob skewers and brown on each side for 1minute or until meat is browned. Turn and repeat on other side.
6 – Turn kabobs on their edges, leaning first up to edge of pan and lightly brown for 30 seconds. Repeat and do other edge.
7 – Remove from heat and serve.
Accompany Kofta Kebobs with pita bread, sugar snap peas, cucumbers, baby arugula and Tzatziki Sauce.

Tzatziki Sauce

My version of this Middle Eastern favorite dipping sauce. Adjust ingredients to your preference.

½ – cucumber, half peeled, chopped
2 – tablespoons fresh dill
½ – cup cilantro
1 or 2 – cloves garlic
1½ – cups whole fat yogurt
2 – tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preparation:

*Process cucumber, dill, cilantro and garlic in food processor. *Pour cucumber mixture through cheesecloth lined strainer to remove water. *Transfer solid cucumber mixture to a bowl and add yogurt and lemon juice. Stir to incorporate. *Season to taste. Chill to set.
https://wildideabuffalo.com/blogs/recipes/kofta-kebabs

Free Public Transport For Women is An Excellent Step By Delhi Govt Through a Feminist Lens. Here’s Why:

So, the AAP government in New Delhi, India recently announced that they would like to make public transport (metro rail and buses) FREE for women.

One might assume this would be celebrated by people, right?

Shockingly, NO. People are pissed. Or let’s say, ignorant ones at least are. And they are making arguments to protest against this move. Below, I write about the arguments and why they are absolute garbage.

1- This is not FEMINISM or EQUALITY if only women get free rides.

If you think about equality in such binary terms, you have no clue what feminism is. The picture most commonly circulated on the internet to explain the issue is this one, which illustrates what I mean.

eq

Equality is the ideal goal but to give people equality, we have to ensure all people have the same starting point in the race. Which is not. We have all sorts of social and economic inequalities within gender inequality. So, if you have read anything on FEMINISM, you would know that things like reservations for the disabled or women or any special privileges given to women are because historically women were marginalized and to CORRECT THAT IMBALANCE some sort of measures will be needed.

2- Don’t bring FEMINISM into this.

Of course, the existence of women and them reclaiming public spaces is very much a feminist issue and if anyone claims to be a feminist for real, they would very much approve and celebrate this move by Kejriwal.

3- Women care about safety and not free rides.

This one too is an ignorant statement from someone coming from a privileged background. Maybe you don’t care about saving roughly 2500 INR per month because your bank account has 50,000. But for someone who barely makes 10,000 or less a month, this 2500 would mean a lot to them.

So, please don’t pretend that all Indian women living in Delhi are so financially well off that they don’t care about saving that money. Secondly, safety is a larger picture, the elements of which are divided into a thousand smaller pieces.

Safety for women is NOT an ice cream that you GIVE women.

Because if that is the case, women suffer the most harassment and abuse in their own homes through their husbands, fathers, brothers, and relatives. Can we isolate all women from their families or place CCTVs inside their homes?

Women’s safety is a very large project and women RECLAIMING PUBLIC SPACES is a tiny element or a building block that would contribute to that larger picture. The key here is for women TO BE SEEN in public spaces, changes the age-old mindset of men that women must stay indoors or only travel at certain times a day.

You may not think it has any impact but research suggests otherwise. Just speak with Mumbaikers. Women in Mumbai may also face harassment in public from time to time but they travel at any time day or night and are not looked at weirdly because the working class women do travel and men have gotten used to the idea of seeing them in public spaces.

I cannot emphasize how important it is for women to BE SEEN IN PUBLIC SPACES, living their lives, doing their thing or just loitering.

4- This is only a political bait thrown by the AAP.

To people who say this, my question is “name one political party in India that has not offered some kind of pre-election treat to people?”

And if those pre-election promises are religious divisions and persecution of minorities, then I think AAP IS NOT ONLY RIGHT BUT also should be CELEBRATED for at least making the bait non-religious, and something that would help the working class women from economically backward society.

5- The metros will be overcrowded and uncomfortable and all sorts of poor people would make it ghetto.

This, of course, is an argument coming from an elitist or upper-middle-class person who wants equality and democracy only above their level, not below.

The people making the policy are not fools. Kejriwal explained how this has been budgeted and taking into account the daily commuters stats, there is not going to be overcrowding as is in Mumbai.

Yeah, the only thing is, wearing your expensive Gucci dress you might have to sit or stand next to a happy maid wearing a 200 Rupee saree, who just might be too busy to notice your fancy presence because her focus might be not on your Prada bag but her monthly wage.

So, if this pisses you off that a poor woman might make a living while you cannot call the metro fancy and a means that caters to rich people any more, then I would say- STAY PISSED, NO ONE CARES.

This is what all of it actually comes down to.

Women from poorer backgrounds might be able to travel far for economic opportunities and in general, the reclaiming of public spaces by women is GOOD and a welcome move.

Kejriwal has got this one thing right and may have a hundred more to go.

But at least its a good start.

Something is better than nothing.

Gy?za: Saying “Hell Yeah!” To This Eastern Delicacy

Gy?za - dumplings that have been fried

Yes.

Gy?za may hail from China originally, but it’s a popular dish amongst the Japanese, too. And as big fans of food from that there Nippon, we have a big thing for these tasty little dumplings.

Gy?za

Although hailing from China (where they’re called jiaozi), the Japanese have added a distinctive spin to them – a hint of garlic. That’s the main difference between the nations take on it – but chopsticks are always there.

Technically, gy?za is a type of dumpling. But it’s so light it’s more of an indulgent treat (as it’s fried) that won’t hit your waistline like drinking four litres of Coca-Cola a day will.

Although looking rather nifty once cooked, they’re easy to make. It’s a mish-mash of vegetable fillings wrapped in thin dough. It’s sealed up and fried, boiled, or steamed.

You’ll usually come across gy?za in pan-fried form. It’s served with a black vinegar and sesame seed oil dip.

And, cripes, that’s making us hungry right now thinking about it.

History of Gy?za

It’s believed the Eastern Han dynasty created the dish circa AD 25-220. It’s specifically attributed to Zhang Zhongjing, who was a physician and writer.

But then that’s a folk story against several others. What’s clear is the fried dumpling concept is now incredibly old. This recipe has past through the ages – make no mistake.

It’s thought the Chinese name came from the horn look the dumplings have. “Jiao” means “horn”, you see.

In the Ming dynasty, some chefs thought the dumplings were like pieces of silver. As a result, it became a tradition for some of them to sporadically hide a coin within a jiaozi.

A lucky diner would then either happen upon it in delight, or choke to death in horror.

Either way, you’re not getting away with that now. It’s what you’d class as a serious breach of health and safety protocol, alongside other food preparation standards. Bloody PC, loony lefties ruin everything, don’t they?

Make Your Own

If you want to get deep down and funky, then why not have a go at making some? It’s easy enough, check out the above video.

Have we tried it? No. But then we’re stuck with an electric hob, which is about as effective for cooking as using a pavement on an unusually hot day.

You can also get readymade ones, like we did from the excellent Itsu brand (it also does some exceptional seaweed snacks – oh yes).

Either way, whether you want Itsu to do it for you, or you’re off to a restaurant, or you’re cooking away at home, take your pick.

It’s difficult to go wrong with gy?za. They’re light, tasty, and adaptable for all – whether you’re vegan, a meat-eating bastard, or vegetarian.

My Perspective, Musically Inspired By India.Arie

Worthy concert. Me with India.Arie 2019

Last week I had the great honor and privilege of attending a meet and greet for an India Arie’s concert. Here are a couple of the lessons/reminders that fed my soul.

The privilege of being able to say “thank you”.

Back in 2006, we moved from our first home (me, my husband, and two children) and moved into Wallace’s parents duplex. I was grateful for the home, but I was in the early stages of a depression, but didn’t realize it. I was also only a few months prior I had started at United Health Care and I HATED the team I was working for. Monday through Friday I drove the 45 minutes to work and would be on the verge of tears. I would pop in India Arie’s Testimony: Vol I Life & Relationship and her track “There’s Hope” would be on repeat until I went from self pity to being able to clearly see my blessings.

Being able to tell India Arie thank you, was a blessing and an experience up there with meeting Maya Angelou.

There’s hope 
It doesn’t cost a thing to smile 
You don’t have to pay to laugh 
You better thank God for that
There’s hope 
It doesn’t cost a thing to smile 
You don’t have to pay to laugh 
You better thank God for that
There’s hope

 

You are entitled to your perspective

As some of our followers, family, and friends know, I have been having trouble authentically tell my story. I worry about hurting feelings and not honoring the sacrifices that were made. So let me say this here and maybe I will repeat again if needed. I love and respect my mother and wouldn’t change a second of my childhood. Those experiences is a collective of who I am. They shaped and molded me into the woman, mother, wife I am today. Not perfect, but capable of loving fully and completely. With all of that said I am entitled to my perspective. I am allowed to tell my story from my perspective.

One shot to your heart without breaking skin

No one has the power to hurt you like your kin

Kept it inside, didn’t feel no one else

Didn’t even wanna admit it to yourself

 

Everyone has an agenda, and so should you.

I will say this, I’m hoping that sharing my story will help me feel free and fly.

 

Gratitude is a Great Attitude

affection appreciation decoration design

Photo by Carl Attard on Pexels.com

Cinere, 4 Juni 2019 – Malam Takbiran

Hi, lama tidak bersua.

Bersyukur adalah sikap yang luar biasa (gratitude is great attitude). Bersyukur tidak mengenal tingkatan sosial, ia bisa dilakukan oleh siapa saja, dan yang membuat itu semakin luar biasa adalah, bersyukur itu berkorelasi positif dengan kebahagiaan. Bersyukur sama sekali bukan soal materi (baca : uang / harta atau apapun) yang kita dapatkan, yes itu salah satu bentuk, tapi bersyukur itu jauh lebih luas lagi. Bersyukur adalah mengenai cara kita memandang hidup ini.

Berikut saya ingin berbagi sebuah tulisan yang inspiratif dari salah satu penulis yang cukup saya kagumi, saya nggak pernah ketemu beliau, cuma baca tulisan – tulisan beliau yang dibukukan dan kebetulan dibeli istri saya pada sebuah seminar parenting yang pernah dia hadiri dan si penulis ini jadi speaker nya, beliau adalah Mba Ida S. Widayanti. Mudah – mudahan satu waktu Allah pertemukan saya dan istri (lagi) dengan beliau untuk bisa ngobrol dan diskusi lebih jauh soal parenting dan family life (ini emang bidangnya beliau sepertinya). Kami perlu banyak belajar untuk menjadi good parents. Enjoy her writing ya. ??

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“Senyum Tukang Sampah”

Ridhalah dengan apa yang Allah Berikan kepadamu, niscaya engkau menjadi manusia paling kaya. (Riwayat Bukhari)

Suatu pagi seorang ibu baru saja menggenggam setumpuk uang untuk SPP anak – anaknya dan kebutuhan bulanan yang diterima dari suaminya. Terbayang pos – pos yang harus diisi dalam waktu singkat. Betapa sulit baginya untuk memastikan bahwa uang itu akan dapat memenuhi semua keperluan rumah tangganya, terutama karena biaya sekolah anak – anak mereka tergolong tinggi.

Tiba – tiba melintaslah tukang sampah dengan gerobaknya yang sudah hampir penuh. Seperti biasanya, dia berhenti di ujung rumah, mengambil tong sampah yang terbuat dari kaleng, menumpahkan semua isinya, dan menutup kembali tong itu dengan tegel keramik.

Menyadari bahwa hari itu adalah tanggal 1, dan sudah saatnya membayar iuran bulanan sampah, suaminya tergesa – gesa keluar untuk menyerahkan selembar uang sepuluh ribu. Tukang sampah bersegera menghampiri suami tersebut yang berdiri di ujung teras. Dari balik tirai jendela si istri menyaksikan sesungging senyum bahagia dan ucapan terima kasih dari sang tukang sampah. Betapa tulusnya … betapa bahagianya … betapa penuh syukurnya.

Ia terhenyak, di tangannya masih tergenggam beratus kali lipat uang pemberian suaminya, tapi ia merasakan senyumnya tak dipenuhi syukur seperti halnya si pengumpul sampah.

Berapa pendapatan tukang sampah per bulan? Ia pun mengira – ngira. dengan ukuran gerobak sampah dan volume sampah rata – rata per rumah – seperti yang dikeluarkan dari rumahnya setiap hari  – rasanya tak mungkin ia mampu menarik sampah lebih dari 50 rumah. Berarti penghasilannya kurang lebih Rp 500 ribu per bulan untuk tugas tiap hari tanpa waktu libur.

“Mengapa ia begitu bahagia dengan hanya menerima selembar uang sepuluh ribu untuk satu bulan?” tanya perempuan itu pada suaminya yang saat itu sudah berada di hadapannya lagi.

“Bulan lalu, ibu warung sebelah minta diberi keringanan untuk membayarnya bulan depan, makanya ia sangat senang kalau ada yang membayar tepat di tanggal satu.”

Betapa hati perempuan itu makin teriris. Seorang tukang sampah yang pekerjaan tiap harinya bergelut dengan kotoran, dengan pekerjaan berat dan penghasilan tak seberapa, begitu penuh syukurnya. “Pendidikanmu tentu tak tinggi, tapi betapa pandainya kau bersyukur,” ujar perempuan  itu dalam hatinya.

Bapak setengah baya dengan pakaian, topi, dan sepatu khasnya, telah berlalu dari pandangannya, namun ekspresi rasa syukurnya masih mengendap di sanubari perempuan tersebut.

Dalam pernikahan, seringkali yang menjadi sumber masalah adalah faktor ekonomi. Banyak suami yang merasa istrinya tak mampu mensyukuri penghasilan yang diterimanya. Banyak istri juga yang merasa suaminya tidak adil, karena menuntut pembiayaan rumah tangga fifty – fifty (50%-50%) namun dalam hal pekerjaan rumah tangga sepenuhnya menyerahkan pada sang istri. karena itulah dalam kasus perceraian, masalah ekonomi menjadi nomor dua sumber perceraian setelah adanya orang ketiga.

Di dalam Firman-Nya Allah berkata bahwa, “Barangsiapa bersyukur, maka akan aku tambah nikmatmu.” (Q.S Ibrahim 14:7) Ini adalah janji Sang Pencipta pada makhluk ciptaannya. Maka sesungguhnya siapa lagi yang Maha Menepati Janji? Jika suami – istri dpaat senantiasa bersyukur terhadap rezeki yang mereka terima, maka sesungguhnya hak itu akan melapangkan limpahan rezeki pada mereka.

Dalam setiap peristiwa senantiasa tersimpan hikmah. Orang yang senantiasa belajar mengamati sesuatu, mempelajarinya, dan mengambil butiran hikmahnya, maka akan mendapatkan keberuntungan, seperti halnya perempuan tersebut yang merasakan kesadaran baru dan meningkat rasa syukurnya setelah melihat senyum si tukang sampah.


Pengalaman saya pribadi, saya sering bertemu tukang sampah di dekat tempat tinggal saya sepulang dari Shalat Subuh di Masjid. Saya sering menegur “Berangkat Pak? Dan beliau selalu yang menegur saya duluan “dari masjid ?” atau “pulang shalat?” sambil tersenyum. Yang berbeda adalah, saya dapat merasakan ketulusan senyuman dan tegurannya kepada saya. Ketulusan itu kadang membuat saya malu dengan diri saya sendiri yang banyak manyunnya. Begitu membaca tulisan Mba Ida diatas, tetiba saya teringat Bapak itu.

Ada yang punya pengalaman sama atau mirip – mirip? Apa yang teman – teman rasakan? Kuy share di comment.