Jul 292016
 


_Outlander_ by Diana Gabaldon

For the past week or so I have been consumed by this 850-page novel. I came across it on the bookshelf where residents at PR leave unwanted books for others to take freely. Although I already have a long list of books I want to read, including ones I am still reading, I took a few more from the shelf. 

Most of the summer I have been needing a piece of work that would take me to another world and engage me fully. It helps release some stress temporarily and also gives me writing examples. While I have read almost a dozen books already since the end of May, I was still searching for a story to suck me in. 

Since my eldest step-daughter had been reading this last summer and the tv series has been popular, I thought I would move it up on my reading list. After all, there was obviously some reason I found it on the free bookshelf, right? 馃槢

Well from the first page to the last I was absolutely engrossed. Even when I started to doubt the main character a bit, my doubts were quickly resolved a few pages later. While I still have questions about some parts, these do not affect the story or, in fact, enhances it because I am still thinking about it!

When I did a search for how many others there are in the series I was quite surprised to find there are quite a few. Given the length of this one I am impressed that the series goes beyond a trilogy. 馃槈 

In any case, I will definitely put the tv series on the top of my “next watch” list and after I finish up some of my other already-started books, I just might not let too much time pass before delving into the next one.

~T 馃榾 

Jul 282016
 

david

_David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants_ by Malcolm Gladwell

Over three years ago, I posted upon hearing about this new title by Gladwell. No doubt, he already has another one out, but I do not yet know about it. 馃槈 I have really enjoyed just about everything聽he has written and this one did not disappoint.

Gladwell takes this well-known Biblical story and challenges us to reconsider just why David beat Goliath. Although we enjoy the story of the ‘underdog’ winning over all odds against him, Gladwell retells the story in a way that makes us rethink that perhaps it was not such an amazing feat that David accomplished. Using related stories from history and making social commentary, the writer takes us on a journey to learn how to give credit to circumstances for the winning of what seems impossible.

If nothing else, we can discover that no matter how impossible things may look, it is just a matter of perception and understanding of the situation. If we shift perspective, then even the biggest challenge can be made small.

Even though I read this quite some time ago and am just now getting to writing about it, I find that the message of the book is even more appropriate now than it was before. So, it is timely to finally get to writing about this Gladwell book now. 馃槢

~T 馃榾

Jul 272016
 

For most of my adult life I have steered clear of politics. I have brief moments in and out where I try to care, but for the most part I find that I get frustrated or depressed from the state of the world and generally am cynical about politicians and the world of politics.

Furthermore, I struggle to find anyone in politics to be someone worth respecting or admiring for their presence, words, behavior or general existence. In fact, I just ignore them altogether.

However, in the past year or so I have kept one eye and ear on Michelle Obama. Although I am sure she has been “public” and mainstream for the past seven years, I did not notice with my head in the sand and all. 馃槢 My head has come out briefly given the potential calamity of the US presidential elections.聽So, I must say that I am impressed and awed by this woman.

It is a shame that now, at the end of her husband’s presidency, she is shining; but I really hope this is only the beginning for Michelle Obama. She holds poise, grace, intellect, passion and beauty throughout this speech at the Democratic National Convention:

Meanwhile, she also shows her ‘let loose’ side with Carpool Karaoke.

The more that I see, the more I want to follow her next steps. While my cynical side that watches far too many TV shows of “Scandal”, “West Wing” or “House of Cards” might say this is a short-lived glimpse of someone we are dying to have faith in, my optimistic side says she might be the real deal. So, only time will tell, but I am willing to keep my head up for a while and see where this FLOTUS takes us before the changing of the guards. 馃榾

~T 馃榾

Jul 262016
 

My car has cruise control and I use it a lot to avoid getting speeding tickets in the city or on the long endless road from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. Even though I use the cruise control, I still try to stay聽alert to the cars around me as well as where the cameras are or where the speed limit changes. Therefore, despite having the amazing mechanism of ensuring I stay under the limit, I try to never fully turn off my awareness.

My husband’s car does not have a working cruise control system. Not only that, but he tends not to pay attention to where the cameras are nor where speed limits change. He is by no means a bad driver, but he has been known to rack up a hefty speeding ticket amount. If he drives my car, he does a bit better, but without the awareness it does not necessarily help much.

This has made me start to think about parallels in life where we are easily on cruise control, but may not be aware or active enough so that when changes happen we are caught off guard and given a wake up call.

For example, how often do marriages start to fall apart because we each do our part in the marriage: 聽the husband goes off to work to earn a living to support the family; the wife takes care of the house and kids and/or also goes off to work to help support the family; they come home maybe have dinner together, maybe have a brief conversation together and maybe rarely share a kiss, or an “I love you” because they are both tired from cruising through their daily routine. Then, one day one of them wakes up a little, realizing that he or she wants something more but does not know how to approach it. Maybe he or she sees their partner seemingly happy on cruise control, so they have an affair or start to act up or pick fights or whatever it is in order to give some sort of signal that he or she wants to ‘brake out’ of their cruise control routine. Unfortunately, because people rarely talk openly and honestly with one another there is confusion, resentment and most of all fear in the idea of change – even the smallest amount. Then, life begins to fall apart. Looking back, people always wonder when they should have known that life was not going alright for them, but since they were in the false sense of security of cruise control, they generally cannot pinpoint the when.

These past two months have taught me many lessons and no doubt a lot more to come. However, one of the best lessons I have learned so far is the need for open and honest communication with my husband. Sometimes we think we are protecting the other person by not sharing our worries or stresses, but really we are lying to them when we pretend to take care of things ourselves or act as if we are okay with everything. We went through a period of almost daily yelling at each other for one thing or another. The fact was that it was because usually one of us felt too much pressure or alone in our situation. The key is that it is OUR situation – not just his or just mine. There may be some fear that the partner might get upset over what needs to be shared, but through the sharing there is a building of trust and respect that works through the moments of being upset. On the other side is a better understanding, a sense of companionship and a stronger team to get through it all.

So, while we might miss our time on cruise control, it has also been good to drive without it retraining ourselves to be aware of one another and to learn how to prepare for changes that will inevitably happen so that they are mere speed bumps rather than high-priced tickets. 馃槢

~T 馃榾

 

Jul 252016
 

Day 30: 聽What talent or skill do you have that you are grateful for?

When I first thought about the answer to this question, my mind came up with my ability to problem solve. Generally, I am the one who brainstorms ways to get out of a pickle and then takes action to make it happen once deemed the best choice in the moment. This is indeed a great skill to have especially during the past couple of months. However, when I consider the very moment what I am actually grateful for in my skills is that I can speak, read and write (sometimes) in Japanese. Why? Well, for some reason that I shall not question nor complain at all about, I have found tutoring opportunities in Japanese. That’s right, not English, but my second (err third?) language. It will be fairly lucrative if the lessons hold and the fact that I have experience learning the language, speak English well and can teach are highly in my favor to maintain these chances. So, while with all tutoring, nothing is ever for sure nor consistent, I can still say that I am grateful that I have this skill to give us a chance to make a few extra dirhams in our time of ‘need’. 馃槢

——

Well, today is the last day of the 30-day Gratitude challenge and I must say that the days went quickly. It was excellent for me to focus a bit each day on finding something to be thankful for as there were/are some days when I can easily choose to go the other way in my thinking.

However, the light is drawing closer at the end of our tunnel. We are starting to really see and feel hope for our lives to return to a sense of normal. It has not quite been the summer that we had planned on, but the truth is that if we needed to go through this period of our lives and marriage, now is definitely the time to have done it. There is much to be grateful for each and every day. The more that we focus on these positives the more it comes our way – it seems.

I have realized the importance of the words, tone and attitude I use as well. While I may say something positive, if my tone and attitude are a bit cynical or even a little sarcastic, then it diminishes the uplifting value of the good that is happening. Instead, I want to grow into the ideally graceful, generous and inspirational woman who emits love, compassion and happiness to those around me.

While I, like everyone, have many talents and skills to offer the world, what I truly desire is to offer an example of what it means to live life full of joy, love and contentment with the world doing my part to making it and others better. It may have taken me a while to get to this point of my life, I am here now. My new aspirations in life are to really live fully with these elements emanating from me wherever I go and with whomever I meet. 馃榾

~T 馃榾

Jul 242016
 

Day 29:  What friend/family member are you grateful for today?

This is hardly a fair question as someone is bound to be offended if I do not say I am grateful for them. It would be an easy cop out to say ALL of my family and friends, which would be true. However, I am going to risk the offense and focus on the TODAY part of the question. 

Today and for the last two months I have been beyond thankful for our friends D&E. If it were not for them we would be either homeless or sharing a space with others or paying out of our arses in hotel fees. 

Thankfully, because of summer holidays and the generosity of these two (and L, of course), we have had a place to stay as comfortably as could be possible in a space that is not ours during our transition period. Of course, we have good friends all around who would open their homes to us, but it has been very fortuitous that it has worked out for us this way. 

Hopefully, we will be moving into our new space soon (sans electricity – another story for another post) and able to focus on repaying our friends for their open home and hearts. 馃檪

~T 馃榾

 Posted by at 16:34
Jul 232016
 

Day 28: 聽What small thing that happened today are you grateful for?

Well, my day has only just begun as it has been a relatively slow weekend morning start. 馃檪 However, I am already grateful for the fact that I woke up on my own – meaning my husband did not wake me up as he usually does – and could get right up. Since getting married I have had to change my morning routine a bit. There is always a compromise and adjustment period when you start to share your days with someone. 馃槓

Although we are both morning people and tend to wake up early, on the weekends, my honey likes to laze about the bed after making a cup of tea and snuggle whilst reading news on his phone or watching a film on the iPad – all while still in bed. On the other hand, I like to wake up whenever my body is ready, get up and put on some workout clothes, have a cup of tea or coffee and then workout (these days, on the mat, sometimes at the gym) or start the day. So, while I wake up for action, he wakes up for relaxation.

During the week, it is easier to have a compromise since he has to get ready for work, so we can generally do have a limited time lie-in and then we get up and ready. Now that I do not work anymore, I can do my workout once he has gone off to work for the day.

However, on the weekends, my main complaint is that I like to sleep in a bit later – 7:30/8 instead of 5:30/6 – without being woken up. I am easily affected by light, especially tech light. So, if hubby wakes up at the usual 5:30 time, he likes to switch on his phone to read the news or catch up on social media. Inevitably this wakes me up and then I feel a bit grumpy starting off my day as my mind and body are not ready to be in the world yet. 馃槢 Most of the time, I know this is my issue and so I try to go with it. Still, I do voice my preference that I be allowed to just sleep in.

We have agreed that once we are settled into our new place that the bedroom will be a tech-free zone. This means if he wants to read, he’ll have to get out of bed and go to the already designated TV room to catch up on Internet joys, which should leave me to blissful sleep. 馃槢 Also, he can get more snuggle time in without any distractions. 馃槈

In the meantime, I am very grateful for this morning’s chance to wake up “my way”! 馃榾

~T 馃榾

Jul 222016
 

shadow

_The Shadow of the Wind_ by Carlos Ruiz Zaf贸n

The Cemetery of Forgotten Books #1 was a book that a student recommended that I read. When she was reading it, I noticed that she was seemingly addicted to it as she was reading it whenever I walked into class or if there was extra time to work on something and she had finished. I noticed just a few days later that she was on to another book so I asked her what she was reading. So, she explained to me this series and said it was one of the most amazing books she had ever read.

Now, I have read a lot of books and while Zaf贸n’s name was not new to me, I had not yet found enough reason to pick up his book. So, with a recommendation like that, how can you not want to go out and give it a go?

I have to say that she was not too far off, though I have read other amazing books throughout my time. Still, this was a page turner and suspenseful. I believe it is considered for young adults, but I could be making that it up. 馃槢

It has a bit of mystery, a bit of suspense, a bit of history, a bit of love and a lot of story. As it was originally written in Spanish, the translation was done well to allow for the English reader to experience the story fully. I think all age of readers (within reason – there is talk of murder) would enjoy the story fully and no doubt that I will eventually be reading the others in the series. 馃榾

——

Day 27: 聽What small thing that you use daily are you grateful for?

Small thing…? Daily…? Hm…It would be a bit of a toss up between my pen and my toothbrush. Yes, that’s right, my toothbrush. Although my pen would be an obvious choice, I have already written enough about my writing preference, so today I will go with the toothbrush. So, I have a regular toothbrush and I have a wonderful electric one – Philips, I think. In the past, I had a Sonicare (still Philips, I guess) electric brush that was awesome, but every year the model series I used would have a different style and start to make the old heads obsolete forcing users to upgrade their models. This kind of thing annoys me (Yes coming from an Apple girl 馃槢 ). So, after doing some research, I decided on a different series, though still within the Philips family, which has maintained the same heads for a while and I can get replacements in the grocery store if I like. While sometimes I am too lazy to do the full 2minute cycle of the Sonic brush and use the regular one, when I do use the Sonic brush my teeth feel absolutely amazing. The dentist raves about my teeth whenever I go in and the truth is that I hardly ever floss. If I use the Sonic brush every day twice a day for at least a week or two, then it is like I floss every day! Shhhh don’t tell my dentist! 馃榾 Therefore, I am grateful for my electric toothbrush and am reminded to use it everyday instead of once every couple of days. It does make a difference.

~T 馃榾

Jul 212016
 

madaddam

_MaddAddam_ by Margaret Atwood

The last of the trilogy following_Oryx and Crake_ and聽_The Year of the Flood_, this one was very disappointing to me. I finished reading it a while ago and am just now trying to remember more than the fact that I was not happy with the ending of this trilogy given how good the first two were. It felt more like Atwood was just trying to come to a quick end of the story line, but if an author gets to this point, then why write it at all?

The dystopic world attempts to be further explained by tracing back to the original Adam One and the narration of Zeb to tell the creation story. While the story tries to end where it began, I struggled to buy into it all. Not sure why, but I felt that there could have been more. Or, maybe that was the intent…dissatisfaction is the theme of the whole trilogy after all….

In any case, if you’ve read the first two, you cannot really not read the last of the series. However, if you have yet to start, I think it would be enough to enjoy fully the first and then leave it at that. 馃榾

——-

Day 26: 聽What form of expression are you most grateful for?

This makes me think of Gary Chapman’s _The Five Languages of Love_ book that I read years ago when my first marriage was falling apart. It is an excellent book to read, even if you are not a Christian, as it really helps to understand how and why we get disappointed with our partner’s or friends’ actions when they seem to fall short of our expectations. We have different ways of expressing love and generally do so through our actions to others. However, these expressions are based on our preferred way of expressing, not necessarily on the receiver’s desired way of expressing love.

In my case, I express with the written form and by doing things. Between the two of these, I am most grateful for the written word as a form of expression. Words can be taken in so many ways depending on culture, background, experience and so on. We carry meaning about these words and when spoken so much more can be misconstrued by eyes, body language, tone, facial expressions, etc. However, with the written word, the only way that words can be misunderstood is by the reader. If the reader is in a bad mood or the wrong emotional space, then the words are understood differently. In this way, it is not the author’s fault for the words written, but puts the onus back on the reader to try to interpret and understand based on their understanding of the author OR themselves.

I think writing is a beautiful art that not everyone can master well. Sure, we can all write, just like we can all speak. Yet, to weave words and to use them in a way that can be complexly understood is an art. I dream of mastering this. Whether or not I am ever successful depends on my readers, but I will continue to try and am ever grateful for the written word to express!

~T 馃榾

Jul 202016
 

Day 25: 聽What moment this week are you most grateful for?

Well, the week is not over, but so far this week the moment I am most grateful for was during our day trip. In Oman’s airport, we had Dairy Queen where I introduced M to an Oreo Blizzard. It was a moment when we laughed and I recalled happy memories stopping to get blizzards in my youth. So, amidst all the chaos going on around us, we had a moment of stillness to laugh and be silly.

——

Life brings ups and downs. Sometimes we know how to deal with the downs better than others. When we struggle with the downs it can be overwhelming to the point that we lose sight of any hope of there being ups again. Yet, if we find a way to change our perspectives, to remember the good parts of who we are, to look for solutions instead of seeing only obstacles, to believe in ourselves to get through anything, then we find the strength and confidence to ride the wave.

It is true that our greatest moments and versions of ourselves are revealed in how we deal with the downs in life. It is easy to be whatever we need to be when we are high on life, but who we become in our struggles really defines us.

The past two months have been challenging, though not truly overwhelmingly so. Life has been harder before, but it has been a difficult transition for the adult version of me. The period has not fully ended, but what is shifting is my perspective. When I talk to others who are struggling with their own lives, I realize that I am doing alright in comparison. Or when I see the news and consider the plight of the world, I realize my bubble is not so bad. There are so many positives happening in this ‘challenging’ time. In opening my eyes to them, I find that everything is just fine. I am just fine and we are going to be more than fine if we just ride the wave.

Just as surfers swim toward the swell, it is the crashing down of the wave that gives them the ride, joy and moments of bliss. Ultimately, it is just about the perspective we take that gets us through the days.

~T 馃榾