Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Better Morning, A Proverb And A Mare's Snort!

Well, it's usually a good morning everyday for me, so I thought I should qualify that by a degree and add 'better' instead to the morning. Chilean mornings are different. The house is quiet, in fact the whole world around our block and a couple of blocks away too, are blissfully silent. Not even a squawk from the gulls...probably because there are no gulls anyway!

What a difference from the mornings in India. The world there woke up before daybreak. At least the moms or women in general did, I presume, as I didn't see many men hitting the kitchen to rustle up breakfast for the kids at that hour. I mean no offence, nor barb intended for the husbands. It's just how it usually is in India. And with the waking came the sound of a grand welcome, ushering in the new day...the kitchen band struck a few discordant sounds; clangs, bangs, whirs and whistles!

But here in my little room, where I'm all by myself, it is certainly a quiet morning. I am as quiet as a mouse. The only sound that you can hear is me shuffling about, the wooden floor squeaking under my weight, the click of the bathroom door shutting, running water and the occasional thud/clang of me or a pan falling! Otherwise as I said I'm as quiet as a mouse...Is my tongue actually in my cheek? In truth the former did not happen...I never fell with a thud...I never even fell. I hope I'm not speaking too soon! But in my haste to get my hot cup of ginger tea...well accidents do happen. You can't hold me for that, can you? I don't expect an answer, it's plain rhetoric!!

I got a verse from Proverbs this morning, for meditation. I was listening to the lesson: A Teachable Spirit. The verse says: "Rebuke is more effective for a wise man than a hundred blows on a fool." ~Proverbs 17:10~ (NKJV) Think about it. I had a lot on my plate as I mulled over the verse and attempted to plumb the depths of its meaning and the application in life. Do I have a teachable spirit? Do I walk in humility? In all honesty I'm not there yet, but I'm on the way, which tells me I'm not a lost case. For today that gives me hope and as I said, it's a better day...but my tea got cold!

I went down to buy some vegetables yesterday. I walked down to the store, not very far from our place. I was half-way there when I saw a group of women coming down the opposite side. One, in particular, caught my attention as she stared at me and tried to conceal a snicker. I'm not very observant but since I was getting a snicker, I gave her a look-over too and passed by. Nothing about her drew any thought; good, bad, funny or ugly, in my mind. Then we passed each other and I heard a loud snort of know the kind that goes haw-haw snort...haw-haw snort! And my mind went, "What a mare!" She reminded me of Sandra Bullock in one of her movies where she plays this character who snorted when she actually was laughing. I smiled and that lead to a silent tummy shaking laugh. I'm glad she gave me a funny moment rather than a nasty one. A spoonful of humour makes the medicine go down, if I may misquote a line from Julie Andrew's song in The Sound Of Music.

The sun has put his hat on, hip-hip-hip-hooray, the sun has put his hat on and is coming out today! On that kiddish note I sign out!


Friday, April 5, 2013

Where's The Zing?

An article, some questions, a discussion; all centering around one aspect in life: Zing! Everyone in the room had their say. Some were honest some were not about the status of their lives. Granted, they had the right to share or not to disclose. However all admitted it was often a case of found-lost-found-lost, with only some enlightened ones springing with sustained zing. Some of us have it and have sustained it, while some never got around to a toe-hold and others just let it fizzle out and die. So much has been written about it, so much spoken about it. So many well thumbed self-help books stand in the book shelves worn out and wearier than the hands that turned its pages. Where is the zing?
I speak from my own experience when I say that to have the zing and sustain it in life, one must first learn to 'be happy'; appreciate life and be grateful in the valley and on the mountain top. It's something that grows from the inside to the outside. Having said that zing can be acquired through organization and practical applications. These are some of the things I've followed, though at times I admit I did fall through, but that's how I learned that to have that inner joy, peace and zest for life some 'must haves' and 'musn't haves' have to be there or discarded as the case may be.
Quality Sleep:  Lack of sleep, a good night's sleep, is the No:1 enemy of zest and zing in life. Don't short change yourselves with short naps at odd hours, to make up for a good night's rest. It never really does. This practice is a short term benefit but a long term disaster. I learned it the hard way! With circumstances the way they were, getting the ideal eight hours of night sleep was difficult, or so I thought. But the hard way knocks some sense into you if you're looking for improvement and are willing to change for what's beneficial in the long run. I found going to sleep before the clock struck twelve (the magic hour) gave me a restful, rejuvenating sleep even if it was for only five and a half or six hours! I'm not recommending less hours of sleep only sharing what I found helpful in difficult situations.
Keep the Kid Alive: Observe little children. Have you noticed the zing in their lives? They wake up raring to go, full of energy and thoroughly excited about the day! Be a child as often as you Take up some games and if you aren't the sporty kind, there are indoor games. Play to enjoy not to compete. Do something simple or even silly perhaps. Anything that makes you laugh, share some joy. Let your hair down and just be you. Laugh at slapstick jokes, crack some corny ones if you may. Romp with the kids, go on picnics, have pillow fights even with your spouse!! Go ice-cream hopping to as many ice-cream places as you can. Just be a kid.
Set Goals: Dream your dreams; even the wildest ones, then separate the goals from the fantasies. If you haven't set some SMART goals, do so. If you have your goals drawn out, check them out to see how many are still relevant. How many can be replaced with goals that are more meaningful and achievable. Draw up a path with small steps to reach them. Keep it practical, and let your ideal be the North Star in your journey. Sometimes we confuse our dreams with our goals.
De-clutter: This is so, so important. Like our homes our lives get cluttered too, with unnecessary and unimportant things we store, refusing to throw it out even though we know we should. So clean out the drawers, cupboards, basement, attic in the house and in the mind, from time to time. Trust me, it will contribute to a lot more organisation and storing space for better things. Most importantly clear out the people who pose as friends or well wishers but add negativity to your life. They are unwanted baggage and drain you of energy and positive life force, thus weakening you in your will and resolve.
 Prioritise: You have to get your priorities right. Each of us has multiple roles in life; at home, at work and socially too. We have to work out a balance between our responsibilities and duties on all fronts. Prioritising sets things in the proper order. Quality time in the right proportions between home and work helps a great deal to tide over the unexpected situations when one encroaches on the other.
Mind set & Focus: Maintaining a positive attitude means being in control of your emotions and feelings. This is important for focus. Getting carried away by emotions shifts focus. A positive mind set keeps you in the right frame of mind to make better decisions; be more responsive; less aggressive; better able to handle conflicts and focus on the task in the now.
Humour: Humour they say is the best medicine. A panacea for all ills. Well, it does not literally cure all ills in society or in our bodies, but it does keep us in a lighter frame of mind, it acts as a valve to release all our pent-up pain and miseries, and emotions that do not contribute to our well-being. When we laugh we take our focus off the offense; off bitterness and resentment and so it contributes to a healthier mind and body. Joyce Meyer says, "Where the mind goes, the man follows." This is applicable to habits good or bad. So if one habitually moans, groans and harbours grouses the person is bound to go down the wrong path. I have found that being able to find something funny in a situation, even when the chips are down, eases things a lot. It applies even to the workplace. I found something humorous almost everyday at my place of work. So how did it help? I enjoyed what I was doing, I didn't endure it...and that goes for the times when the boss was a meanie and a grouch. You know what, humour keeps you young!
Trust In God: Hard for many, I suppose. But a wise thing to do. Your worst day with God is better than your best day without Him! That's my experience. At the most hopeless of times He gives you hope; when you are weak, He gives you strength; when you feel alone, He is your friend. People will fail you but He never fails; your family and friends might be fickle but He is loyal and true; He responds to all your needs and wants...sometimes the answer is 'NO' because He has other plans for you. If you don't get in the way you get what's best for you.  
If you have lost the true ZING in your life, reclaim it now. It could be easier said than done, but it's not an unconquerable mountain either!
Life is God's gift to you. It comes with an expiry date. Enjoy it while it lasts. Have a surprising, challenging, fulfilling day!

Monday, April 1, 2013

A prophecy & Butternut Squash Soup!

I discovered two things in the past few days: The truth of a prophecy, that's such a biblical word, but then I guess it fits in this case, and the deliciousness of a butternut squash soup (a species of the 'Kaddu' family) I like kaddu as a vegetable, Indian style. I also liked the kaddu halwa my mother used to make. A laborious task which she used to undertake after I'd begged her almost on my knees! But when my daughter-in-law said she was going to make a butternut squash soup for dinner, I baulked. I  could imagine a kaddu mashed up in a soup, what I just couldn't imagine was me drinking it. She assured me it was yummmmmm...and she did stretch the yumminess though I thought it was simply to psych me into drooling. Only the night would tell.

But to come back to the 'prophecy.' Once upon a time, as stories go, or rather went when I was a kid, my mother-in-law told me about a lady who would visit the family home in Barmer, quite often out of the blue. She was a very religious woman, old but healthy and mobile, and she was gifted with the ability to predict things. These things she foretold were referred to as prophecies because she was strongly anchored in the faith. On one such unexpected visits, she told my MIL that she would die when one member of her family would go into the Lord's service.

Both mama and I contemplated the meaning of this. Not because it was hard to understand the prophecy, but simply because we couldn't find more than one promising candidate who qualified as a servant for the Lord's work. This person happened to be a teenager then, but quite keen on listening to my MIL's religious talks and definitely a regular church goer. In short totally religious unlike all the other youngsters around his age. But as time went by our hope in him diminished. I told my mom-in-law that the old lady must have been a wee bit off the mark this time. She refused to accept that. I shut up. Just my mouth, not the thoughts!

Then came the day when one of the grand-daughters, her daughter's child, decided to marry a boy who was all set to become a priest. Ah! The prophetic words resurfaced in our conversations with renewed strength. Mama told me, rather triumphantly, that the old girl was not off the mark. We were off the mark. We didn't think of the girls. Now, one was going into the Lord's service and the time for the prophecy to come true was drawing near.

It made me uncomfortable to discuss the demise of my mother-in-law, in the near future (she tended to make it nearer) with her in such an objective manner. So I tried to drill holes in her theory. For quite obvious reasons it was clear her enthusiasm to prove the old lady was right, had blinded her to the fact that her grandchild was not going into the Lord's service, she was only going to marry one who was going to serve in the church.

But Queen Victoria, as I and my hubby would refer to his mother in private, could not be influenced or side-tracked so easily.

"It's the same thing," she said with a finality that discouraged all arguments. Again I zipped my lip and only my lip!

My mother-in-law passed away some years later. The said grandchild's husband had changed direction. The priest moved out of pastoring a flock and became the head of a bible college instead, while she continued in her teaching job. My MIL had gone, but the prophecy and its veracity remained a point of thought. It didn't fit in, to my mind at least. The pieces just didn't fall into place so the picture wasn't complete. At least not in the way she had thought it was.

Many years later, I learned that the only other grand-daughter, her son's child, had become a pastor, the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. I will have to tell the story further to complete the picture.

This young grandchild, 'R,' was a simple girl, with no college education. She stayed at home and did all the domestic chores. She was lively, witty and childish. So to hear she was heading a church in a big city, came as a huge surprise. Anyway, this news soon got buried with so many other things piling up and it no longer held my attention. But not for long. For some unknown reason my thoughts meandered to the prophecy again, to my MIL and to all our many conversations we had had over the years. And I had a eureka moment! Stay with me a wee bit longer, even now I have to catch my breath by the revelation!

On the last night, before she died, Mama was talking to R. It was getting late so R told her to rest; go to sleep. Mama told her to put her hand in hers. She held R's hand and closed her eyes. After some time R too went off to sleep with her hand in her grandmother's hand. When R awoke, mama had passed away; and also passed on the prophecy to the most unlikely person in her family.

I had been off the mark, she had believed. Now I understand. It was a holds that holds that strength and holds that belief!

Phew! Talk about soup for the soul!

And here comes the kaddu soup. I peeked into the pan as M stirred the creamy, lovely, sunshine yellow broth around. I have to admit it was inviting! Not a reaction I had expected. Soon I was impatient to taste it. She took her time cooking it just right, pouring it into the cups, dropping in the croutons...and I took the first spoonful. Yummmmmmm....I went. Had I actually been psyched?!!!! here's a picture:

I am a new butternut squash soup nut! For my Indian friends: it's another kind of kaddu in a soup:)