Sunday, 29 May 2011

Bedtime Stories Across The Miles

By Ruth Ayers

I stood in the airport, my eyes so full of tears that I could barely see my six-month-old grandson's face as I bent to kiss him one last time. My son, an air force career man, was being sent to Turkey, and he was taking his wife and baby with him. "He won't know me when you get back to the States," I said brokenly.

"Now, Mom," my son tried to comfort me. "It won't take you long to get reacquainted."

"How?" I wailed. "He won't even be able to understand a thing I say." I was referring to my heavy southern accent, which would be almost like a foreign language to little Damon when they returned in three years.

As the weeks passed, my self-pity turned into fierce determination. I would find a way to make a bond between me and my little grandson, no matter how many miles or how many oceans might stand between us. I bought a children's picture book, a blank cassette tape and a disposable camera.

I popped the blank cassette into the recorder and read the picture book aloud, using the same tone of voice and accents I would use if reading to a child. When I finished the story, I spoke a few words to Damon, ending with, "Always remember that Grandma loves you very much."

I had some friends take some snapshots of me doing routine, grandmotherly things such as baking and working in my flower beds. It was a friend who came up with the brilliant idea of including a picture of me reading the book in front of the recorder. When the pictures were developed, I sent the best ones, along with the book and the cassette, to my son and his wife.

I asked them to play the recording to Damon while they turned the pages of the book for him. I also asked them to show him the pictures of Grandma whenever they read this particular book to him.

A couple of months later, I bought another book, another blank cassette, another disposable camera and repeated the process. Every few months Damon would receive a new story package from Grandma. By the time he was a toddler, my son reported, at bedtime he would often demand a story "from Grandma across the ocean."

It was an inexpensive way to keep Damon familiar with my face and my southern drawl. And it created a wondrous, strong bond between us even though there were many miles and months separating us.

Almost three years later, I stood nervously in the airport, waiting for my son and his family to disembark. Would Damon recognize his Grandma in the flesh and blood? Thus far, I had merely been a funny voice on a cassette tape and a face in a snapshot.

They came through the gate, Damon clutching his mother's hand. He saw me first. Breaking away from my daughter-in-law, he ran toward me, crying out exuberantly, "It's Grandma!" I stooped to catch him in my arms. He looked up at me, little face beaming. "You're my Grandma!" he exclaimed. He grabbed my hand and began to pull me toward his parents. "It's Grandma! Grandma! Grandma!"

The word tugged at my heart and warmed my soul. I would never, ever tire of hearing it.

Hug Of A Child

By Victoria Harnish Benson

As we drove across town, I prepared my two children for what they were about to see. A lady from our new church was dying of cancer, and I had volunteered to help her with the housework. "Annie has a tumor in her head, which has disfigured her face," I cautioned them.

Annie invited me to bring my children with me one day, as I had told her so much about them.

"Most children are frightened by my appearance," she said. "But I will understand if they don't want to meet me."

I struggled for the words to describe Annie's appearance to my son and daughter. Then I remembered a movie I'd seen two years earlier with my son, when he was ten. I wanted him to understand that disabled people are like anyone else - their feelings can be hurt, too.

"David, remember the movie Mask about the boy with the facial deformity?"

"Yes, Mom. I think I know what to expect." His tone told me it was time to stop mothering him so much.

"What does a tumor look like?" Diane asked me.

Answering my nine-year-old daughter would be tricky. In order to prevent Diane's revulsion when she met Annie, I needed to prepare her just enough but not too much. I didn't want to frighten the child.

"Her tumor looks like the skin on the inside of your mouth. It sticks out from under her tongue and makes it hard for her to talk. You'll see it as soon as you meet her, but there's nothing to be afraid of. Remember, don't stare. I know you'll want to look at it...that's all right...just don't stare." Diane nodded. I knew she was trying to picture a tumor in her mind.

"Are you kids ready for this?" I asked as we pulled up to the curb.

"Yes, Mom," David said, sighing as only a preteen can.

Diane nodded and tried to reassure me. "Don't worry, Mommy. I'm not scared."

We entered the living room, where Annie was sitting in her recliner, her lap covered with note cards for her friends. I stood across the room with my children, aware that anything could happen next.

At the sight of my children, Annie's face brightened. "Oh, I'm so glad you came to visit," she said, dabbing a tissue at the drops of saliva that escaped from her twisted mouth.

Then it happened. I watched David stride across the room to Annie's chair, wrap his arms around her shoulders and press his cheek to her misshapen face. Smiling, he looked into her eyes and said, "I'm happy to meet you."

Just when I didn't think I could be more proud, Diane copied her big brother and gave Annie the precious, accepting hug of a child.

My throat tightened with emotion as I saw Annie's eyes well up with grateful tears. I had nothing to worry about.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

The Day Hope Won

By Pandora Poikilos

*In conjunction with Memorial Day Weekend and 
Blog Tour De Troops, this post is in support of the brave men and women who fight so we can be free, who bear witness to the atrocities that we are ignorant to and who bear courage in so many ways that we cannot begin to comprehend. God Bless you and your families. 

There is a word tucked away in our vocabulary that has such immense power, it is always surprising us. It can have world leaders on their feet for hours in a day in the sun, it can have celebrities dipping their hands in oil or pushing their way through rubble, it has normal people like you and me giving someone else a smile, even a tired one no matter how rotten our day may seem and most of all, it has the power to make the difference between giving up and moving forward. What is this word? It is called, H-O-P-E.

I have made many posts on this, some my own and others that I have felt compelled to share. The following may be incidents that we have been very blessed and fortunate to have avoided in our lifetimes, but it doesn't make them less true. Some were started with the worst of intentions in mind but in the end has brought out of the best of people. There is a saying - There are three versions to every story. Mine, his and the truth. So, while I will not politically debate each incident in length, let's take it for the moment we will remember them for, when hope won.

Marching For Peace
In the heat of all that the Irish Republican Army did, one incident stands out even more than the rest. On 10 August 1976, an Irish Republican Army (IRA) getaway car was desperate to escape a British Army patrol car who was even more adamant that the IRA car will not succeed in making its getaway. Three children, Joanne Maguire (aged 9), John Maguire (aged 3) and Andrew Maguire (aged 6 weeks) died as a result of this exchange. Their mother Anne Maguire would never be able to overcome this incident and would later commit suicide.

Her sister Mairead Maguire alongside Betty Williams who witnessed the incident responded to this violent act by organising a peace march attended by 10,000 Protestant and Catholic women to the graves of the Maguire children. Members of the IRA disrupted the march and hurled insults at the participants accusing them of being influenced by the British.

They retaliated by organising another peace march the following week. This time 35,000 people marched with Mairead Maguire and Betty Williams demanding that violence be stopped at all costs in their country. This peace march would in turn be the spark for many other peace demonstrations and would also function as the turning point for both women being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976.

Men Do Not Think
Apparently, that is what Adolf Hitler was counting on as he set about his campaign of hate and said (in full), “How fortunate for leaders that men do not think.” In sparking a war that killed approximately 70 million people, Hitler has a strong foothold in the memories of many as the most hated man in the world. He used his 'leadership' to carry out crimes as heinous as starving people to death, using human skin to make lamp shades and making people feel that death of any kind would be a better option than to be alive within his reach.

As troops fought hard to stay alive and win a war that so few saw any point in there was a moment in time when all appeared to be lost. The German army had cut off troop movement towards France. Winston Churchill regarded this as one of the greatest military defeats of time. With very little maneuvering space available, between 26 May and 4 June 1940 Operation Dynamo fell into place. More than 338,000 British and French soldiers who were trapped on the beaches at Dunkirk, France would need to be rescued. While the army went all out to do their part it was the 700 private boats that sailed from Ramsgate in England to Dunkirk that created a sensation. They sailed back and forth, scooping up the wounded, dodging air bombs and braving night sails. The event would later be referred to as the Little Ships Of Dunkirk but carried it with it the very emblem of war, leave no man behind.

The much sought after surrender of Germany and the beginning of the end of World War 2 came from the surrender of Germany's Axis powers on 7 May 1945 to Western Allies and to the Soviet Union on 8 May 1945 about a week after Adolf Hitler committed suicide. In Asia, Japan managed to hold ground for a few more months resulting in yet another one of the deadliest events when nuclear bombs were ordered to be dropped on Hiroshima (6 August 1945) and Nagasaki (9 August 1945).On 2 September 1945, General Yoshijiro Umezu signed surrender documents aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. World War 2 was officially declared over by President Truman on 31 December 1946.

The Wall That Come Tumbling Down
On the evening of 8 November 1989, after a much anticipated international press conference an announcement on television was made that East Germans would be allowed to travel abroad freely. No date was given of when this would come into effect but this served as enough confirmation that unification was much closer than ever before.

For 28 years, the Berlin Wall had become an international symbol not only of a divided country but one of divided families as well. Having stemmed from the defeat of the Nazis in World War 2, the Soviet control of East Berlin blocking out the West and the fleeing of approximately 3 million East Germans to the West in 1953, the Berlin Wall was built on a sentiment that can be likened to - this is mine, and no one else can have it.

Through the night of 8 November 1989, as continual throngs of people gathered at Unter den Linden in East Berlin, guards were at a loss of how to react. People were demanding that it had become their 'right' to go into West Berlin. Guards attempted crowd control with little rubber stamps on passports but soon gave up as the crowds intensified. As the crowd broke free, so did the wall's foundations. The Berlin Wall came tumbling down on the midnight of 9 November 1989 although it was officially demolished on 13 June 1990.

I Have A Dream
On 28 August 1963, on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, Martin Luther King Jr. said, "I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation." This would be the beginning of his renowned speech, "I Have A Dream". One of the most compelling statements in this speech is the line, "We cannot be satisfied as long as a colored person in Mississippi cannot vote and a colored person in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote."

This dream, one he would never live to see came to pass on 20 January 2009 when Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. The first African-American to be in such a position. What is the big deal? In a society that is now so culturally mixed, so culturally coloured and flourishes on diversity Barack Obama may have seemed to some as just another presidential candidate who had the right components to win his seat at the White House.

To many others, it was a representation of a fight for rights that started centuries ago. A fight that won a small step forward in 1865 with the abolition of slavery and an even bigger step forward when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed which bans discrimination because of a person's color, race, national origin, religion, or sex. The rights of this law includes a person's right to seek employment, vote and use hotels, parks, restaurants and other public places.

I Sat With God And The Devil
While the Chilean miners (from October 2010) who were trapped for 69 days need no introduction, I found their level of faith, a force to be reckoned with. It was obvious they believed in God when one rescued miner said, "I sat with God and the Devil. God won." But it was the inner strength they had in themselves, their strong belief in the people striving for their rescue and the love that they had for their families that will have you questioning if you have anything close to that amount?

Miners, the people we so often interpret in our heads as barely educated, low income people who do a task that we do not see as important. And yet, they have achieved a feat that has NASA talking about them. If this was a lesson to prove persistence it was even more of a lesson to teach humility. To show the world that everybody plays a role, big and small and no task is unimportant. It proved that you may have a nation's leader waiting to shake your hand but it'll be the embraces of your family that is the most important gesture to you.

It is easy to get caught up in the usual overload of information that news channels will insist on giving us when one particular issue is so heated up. But if you ever need to remember a lesson in humility and never giving up, then remember this - on 5 August 2010, 33 Chilean miners were trapped approximately 700 metres underground in a small copper-and-gold mine. It is only on 22 August 2010, when a drill attempting to locate the miners comes back with a note that says, "The 33 of us in the shelter are well." Remember that line for as long as you can. 17 days, trapped with no one knowing if they are alive or dead, with limited resources to food and water, they say - "we are well."

Hope may not be the ultimate answer to our problems and it may not even be the end of our journey. In some cases, it opens a door to yet another journey with even more questions and daunting tasks. But it is a sense of freedom that we can give ourselves to become free from worry, to become free of 'excess emotional baggage' and most of all to become free to keep moving forward in our lives. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr, "Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.

This post is also a chapter from Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out, my recent novel which is being given out in conjunction with Blog Tour De Troops (BTDT) organised by Indie Book Collective

What is Blog Tour De Troops? In the words of the organisers "when we have a blast blog hopping to dozens of authors sites where each is giving away not only an eBook to each commenter, but another one to a troop! The commenter can designate a specific soldier they would like their eBook to go to or allow BTDT to select one for them!"

In today's hop, the author featured before Peace from Pieces is Arshad Ahsanuddin. The author featured after Peace from Pieces is the captivating Eliza Gayle who can have you mesmerized with sultry shapeshifters and sexy hot vampires. 

Other participating authors include Amber ScottRachel Thompson, Fred Venturini, Stacey Kennedy,  Sharon Gerlach, Gary Ponzo, Billie Hilton

Should you like to receive a complimentary copy of Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out - feel free to leave me a comment with your email address or email me at 

Was It You?

Author Unknown

Someone started the whole day wrong
Was it you?
Someone robbed the day of its song
Was it you?

Early this morning someone frowned
Someone sulked until others scowled
And soon harsh words were passed around
Was it you?

Someone started the day aright
Was it you?
Someone made it happy and bright
Was it you?

Early this morning, we are told
Someone smiled and all through the day
This smile encouraged young and old
Was it you?

Friday, 27 May 2011

My Brick Wall

Author Unknown

Being unemployed use to be the worst nightmare I could imagine. In fact, twenty-five years ago I wrote it down at a self-development workshop as the one thing that worried me most in life. This is a brief story about a two-year long nightmare that I finally made it through.

At 55, armed with a Ph.D. in psychology, exposure to top-class business and professional training and 30 years of management experience in three different career fields, I couldn't even get an entry level job at a temporary employment agency. To say this was demeaning was just the beginning to a horror story that wouldn't seem to go away.

This nightmare went on for nearly two years. It was a state of frustration and desperation that was pushing me past any limits I thought I had. Every empty day spent waiting for a phone call or a letter that never came stretched my patience so thin that I could see through it. I felt like I was being ordered to idle my engine when all I wanted to do was screech my tires.

I did a count of all the letters, resumes and applications I sent off. I was supporting Wal-Mart and the U.S. Post office in supplies and postage with money I didn't have. I had a six-inch thick file of rejection letters, and they only constituted one third of all that I sent out. Yet I continued and had to wonder why?

There is not much I didn't try and that made things seem even worse. I networked, surfed the Internet daily, read all the want ads and called friends. I visited job fairs, scanned professional magazines, and sent impressive letters to target companies. I sought employment counseling services, made the rounds with all the veteran's organizations and pestered private employment agencies. I even hired a headhunter. Zero results. I got angry and wondered why I was being singled out with punishment that gouged my soul.

It is not that I was being too selective or that I kept trying the same thing over and over again expecting different results. I changed my resume a couple of hundred times, I customized it and my letters each time I sent them out and I was totally flexible about what I could do, where I could go and how much money I needed to make. I asked for feedback and looked for skeletons in my closet to remove. If I was any more flexible and adaptable I would be a pool of blubbering jelly.

I guess we all have our invincible brick walls that keep getting higher and higher in response to our increased effort to tear them down. This situation I was in was maddening. The more I tried, the worse it got. I know I did this all to myself but that self-revelation didn't make things better at all, only worse. And sitting back and accepting this sorry state of affairs was not something that was part of my nature. This vicious circle was making me dizzy.

Let's be honest here about how all this started. Not long ago I had what most people would be pleased to have an all-American family, a great job, nice house in a scenic part of the country, plenty of friends and even money in the bank. But I was missing the one thing I thought I wanted and needed most- to be with my true love. Thus began my journey to hell, which left me homeless, jobless and broke. But that is a story in itself.

I have at least made it back to the surface. I finally found my true love and I finally figured out how to eat a little of my cake and still have some left over to enjoy. The key was in closing the gap in my expectations as to what I deserved and what I could live with. The irony is that, after two years of getting nowhere, I finally got three great job offers all in one week, in three different occupations. I couldn't have asked for a better closing scenario.

In looking back, at least there has been a silver lining in my dark cloud. These last few years in darkness have lit some candles for me. I have always known that we usually learn more from mistakes. I made plenty of mistakes to help get myself to the state of joblessness I was in. And, the frustration of getting nowhere despite my perseverance has actually begun to teach me some important lessons. These lessons haven't come easy and although I have never given birth, I sort of have an idea of what that process feels like.

The first lesson I am still trying to learn is the importance of humility. No matter how much education, training, experience or skills I have, I am never too good to work as a security guard. That is if they would have hired me! Being over-educated and over-qualified was an excuse I quickly got tired of hearing. I felt that was my loss and their gain, but that rationalization didn't help either. Becoming humble is requiring me to shed my expectations and preferences- almost completely, and this isn't coming easy. Pride is a difficult thing to swallow.

The second lesson I am learning is becoming aware of the connection of things I did in the past that helped shape this miserable present state of unemployment in which I was stuck. These were the bad choices and irresponsible behavior I willfully participated in earlier without regard for the possible consequences. I had a good life. I just wanted more. I also had plenty of good jobs in my life but didn't respect employers well enough to give my full attention and effort to them. I took those jobs for granted. Now I will "worship" the job I was lucky enough to get. Karma is a hard thing to avoid or accept.

The third lesson I am trying to learn is to want what I have fully without gazing enviously over at greener pastures. I have good health, true love, a meaningful job and a nice home. I even have an older daughter whom I walked out on when she was only six, to visit now. I secretly knew I wouldn't ever get a job so long as I couldn't be content without one. That was a tough paradox to figure out, but well worth the effort in the end.

The final lesson I am learning is more of a reality. We are all alone with our brick walls. This is a very private test that no one else can understand or help with. On the other hand, we all have our own brick walls. My unemployment frustration was just someone else's physical handicap and that handicap is someone else's loss of a loved one and so on. Maybe this critical life experience is a way we can all connect on common ground. At least we should start talking about our own brick walls and asking others about theirs. My two year tribulation had some other important lessons:

1. To defeat your brick wall, you must adopt a competitive strategy to win or die and never give up. The worse it gets, the more you try.

2. You have to be brutally honest with yourself as to the reasons behind your brick wall. You have done something wrong and it needs to be changed. You can't lie or rationalize your way out of this type of conflict.

3. You have to be completely open to what the solution can be, without putting any qualifications on it. You have to learn to take what you get, willfully and happily.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Dirt Roads

By Paul Harvey

What's mainly wrong with society today is that too many Dirt Roads have been paved.

There's not a problem in America today, crime, drugs, education, divorce, delinquency that wouldn't be remedied, if we just had more Dirt Roads, because Dirt Roads give character.

People that live at the end of Dirt Roads learn early on that life is a bumpy ride.

That it can jar you right down to your teeth sometimes, but it's worth it, if at the end is home...a loving spouse, happy kids and a dog.

We wouldn't have near the trouble with our educational system if our kids got their exercise walking a Dirt Road with other kids, from whom they learn how to get along.

There was less crime in our streets before they were paved.

Criminals didn't walk two dusty miles to rob or rape, if they knew they'd be welcomed by 5 barking dogs and a double barrel shotgun.

And there were no drive by shootings.

Our values were better when our roads were worse!

People did not worship their cars more than their kids, and motorists were more courteous, they didn't tailgate by riding the bumper or the guy in front would choke you with dust & bust your windshield with rocks.

Dirt Roads taught patience.

Dirt Roads were environmentally friendly, you didn't hop in your car for a quart of milk you walked to the barn for your milk.

For your mail, you walked to the mail box.

What if it rained and the Dirt Road got washed out? That was the best part, then you stayed home and had some family time, roasted marshmallows and popped popcorn and pony rode on Daddy's shoulders and learned how to make prettier quilts than anybody.

At the end of Dirt Roads, you soon learned that bad words tasted like soap.

Most paved roads lead to trouble, Dirt Roads more likely lead to a fishing creek or a swimming hole.

At the end of a Dirt Road, the only time we even locked our car was in August, because if we didn't some neighbor would fill it with too much zucchini.

At the end of a Dirt Road, there was always extra springtime income, from when city dudes would get stuck, you'd have to hitch up a team and pull them out.

Usually you got a dollar...always you got a new the end of a Dirt Road!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Just Enough

By Paula Renaye
Author of The Hardline Self Help Handbook

Shania Twain was on one of Oprah's last shows, talking about her book, From This Moment On. Growing up in poverty and with an abusive stepfather, Shania definitely had some surprising challenges to overcome that her iconic image did not betray.

One thing of the many things I found interesting was that even though she was quite wealthy, she was always careful to prepare only as much food as she thought they would eat—it was important that she only make "just enough." She and her siblings lived every day with being hungry, and parceling out the meager food they had was critical to their survival.

That way of thinking and behaving—literally a life or death belief strategy—stayed with her as an adult and controlled her. She didn't have to worry about starving—not by a long shot—but that subconscious programming was still calling the shots and she still behaved as though she did.

A few years ago, a very good friend of mine was in turmoil over money. She was working at a job that was physically and mentally difficult, and she was struggling financially. One day over lunch, she said to me—as she had many times—that she wasn't asking for much, all she wanted was "just enough" to pay her bills with a little left over. She was in pain and it was a plea—"please give me just enough so I can get by."

When I heard that, I finally said what she was ready to hear. I told her that if "just enough" was all she wanted then that was all she'd ever have—just enough to get by. Yes, she was taken aback and got a little angry—a lot of us do that when we hear truth and don't like it.

But I kept on, asking her why it would be bad to have more than just enough? Who would suffer because she had fewer worries about money? Who would suffer because she had the freedom to buy things that she wanted and would enjoy? Who had to have less so she could have more? Why did she only deserve "just enough"?

The answer, of course, comes from the same source that all our limiting beliefs generally do—the same place Shania's had. And the only way to get unhooked from an old subconscious belief is to own it—admit that you have it—and then reframe it. It can be helpful to understand how you came to have it, but it isn't essential. Just identifying the old belief, and why it creating limitations and lack in your life, makes it easy to consciously create a new belief that empowers you.

We talked for a while and my friend really got into the idea that it was okay to have more. She agreed that it didn't make her noble because she was struggling financially, and it didn't make her bad or greedy because she wanted to buy things for herself. She also realized that if she wanted to help others it would be a whole lot easier to do that if she weren't struggling herself.

When we finished our mini-coaching session, the words "just enough" were no longer in her vocabulary and she walked away feeling better than she had in months.

Within two weeks she had a new job, making double what she had been!

So often we are completely unaware of the limiting beliefs that are holding us back, keeping us stuck in a place we don't have to be—yes, ask me how I know. Limiting beliefs kept me stuck for more years—and in more ways—than I like to remember. In fact, that's why I wrote The Hardline Self Help Handbook—it's the book I needed that would have helped me see what I couldn't for myself.

So, if you find yourself in a situation that is not bringing you joy, remember, there is a way out. By discovering and rewiring the underlying limiting beliefs, you can free yourself from pain and change your whole world.

Start tracking down the old thinking that's keeping you stuck and starting living your joy!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Are You Busy?

By Stephen Covey

Once upon a time a very strong woodcutter asked for a job in a timber merchant, and he got it. The pay was really good and so were the work conditions.

For that reason, the woodcutter was determined to do his best. His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was supposed to work. The first day, the woodcutter brought 18 trees "Congratulations," the boss said. "Go on that way!"

Very motivated for the boss’ words, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he only could bring 15 trees. The third day he tried even harder, but he only could bring 10 trees. Day after day he was bringing fewer and fewer trees.

"I must be losing my strength", the woodcutter thought. He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on.

"When was the last time you sharpened your axe?" the boss asked. "Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been very busy trying to cut trees..."

What Does Failure Mean?

Author Unknown

Failure doesn't mean you are a failure
it does mean you haven't succeeded yet

Failure doesn't mean you have accomplished nothing
it does mean you have learned something

Failure doesn't mean you have been a fool
it does mean you had a lot of faith

Failure doesn't mean you have been disgraced
it does mean you were willing to try

Failure doesn't mean you don't have it
it does mean you have to do something in a different way

Failure doesn't mean you are inferior
it does mean you are not perfect

Failure doesn't mean you've wasted your life
it does mean you've got a reason to start afresh

Failure doesn't mean you should give up
it does mean you should try harder

Failure doesn't mean you'll never make it
it does mean it will take a little longer

Monday, 23 May 2011

What Is Life?

By Katherine Whellams

I may still be young and naïve but I believe that life is worth everything. For me, it's not just about having a relationship, companionship, good friends or maybe a job that you like, if you are lucky. Some people will settle for things like this because for them, it's by far the best it can get. For me, that's not all you get from this world.

I believe in harps and violin and thunders and lightning. I believe in being in love and not just a mere accord of comfort for two people. I believe in "being in love" with my partner, not just "loving" him.

Life is worth so much. Life is more than spending endless hours in the gym and eating carrot and celery sticks just to seek approval from others. It is not about basing my everyday existence an eternal word of wisdom of long-dead self proclaimed philosophers and saints. My life is not about living somebody else's dreams and beliefs but my own.

Life is so much more than merely pursuing the norms of the society but trying to be a good person in my own accord. It is not about wildly chasing dreams to be superior over others. It's more about long walks down serene green meadows drowned in my own thoughts. It's more about feeling the wind hit my face, as I traverse my bicycle down the lane.

Life is about passion, freedom and love. I will only walk this road once; I might as well make the most of it.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Friday, 20 May 2011

Can We Just KISS?!

3 Blog Turn Offs
By Pandora Poikilos

Right, so there's a title that is bound to have some raised eyebrows. But it's not what you think, KISS = Keep It Sweet & Simple. (Hmmm, pretty sure I heard Peas breathe a sigh of relief but back to this ...) A few weeks ago, a blogger wrote to me asking me to go visit his blog and give him feedback. He said he had been blogging for more than 3 months and only had 2 Google followers. His content featured celebrity gossip and fashion tips for men and women, in English.

That should have had people lining up to go visit his blog, something was definitely not right. So, I got myself fancied up and dropped by for a visit. The blog took SEVEN minutes to download. I kid you not, I had no other applications running, I made a cup of tea, wrapped a present and still all I saw was a funny cartoon of a girl holding on to a guy on a speeding bike. Cute but not something I'd want to stare at for seven minutes.

Needless, to say I wrote back to him and said if people could actually view his blog, he might just get a few more followers. As most of you know, I'm a big fan of blog hops. My own Blog-A-Licious Wednesdays is now past 800 blogs and I'm still having fun doing it. Yes I know, when you are recovering from a VP Shunt and have nothing better to do than to spend long hours tweaking your blog and writing a book, others might be a little short on time. Nevertheless, here is a quick list (non-biased and with no hard feelings whatsoever) about what turns me off when visiting a blog.

But It's So Pretty
Yes, we all like pretty things. We like to see them and we like to own them. We all want to show our creative abilities to the world and say "hey, that's mine". But you must remember, in the world we live in which becomes more mobile everyday, you have approximately three minutes or less to 'wow' a person. Something about your header or your title must have them want to stay a little longer and explore. If your fancy blog loads very, very fast with your connection ask a friend to help. Not everybody has a fast connection. These days more and more people are opting for USB modems or browsing from their phone which keeps them mobile but does not guarantee a fast connection. Once they've come once to your blog and they know you'll have something for when they come back a second or a third time, then you've got yourself a 'follower' which brings me to my next point ...

Be Consistent
I'm certain I have mentioned this before. Most bloggers get all enthusiastic in the beginning and dwindle when they realise that a successful blog does require some hard work. Again, if not repeatedly ask yourself, "Why do you blog?" Do you want attention? Do you have something to say? Do you want to meet people? Do you want a way to file your thoughts? Do you want an online diary? Ask yourself, when you have your answer, look at your blog. Does your blog match your answer? Most of us who blog want to meet people while sharpening our skills at craft, writing, cooking, art ... Keep a blogging timetable and stick to it. It can be an hour a day, 3 hours a week, 8 hours a day, it's your blog and it's your life. You know best how much effort you want to put into it. Be regular with updates. Don't disappear for months and come back wondering why people are not following your blog.

Pop Away
People visit your blog because they want to visit you. Not some pop up promising bigger boobs or a smaller tummy. Pop ups are very annoying. In some cases, when your blog has pop ups and the person has their pop up blocker turned on, your blog becomes nothing but a blank page and did I mention, pop ups can be very annoying? Which also brings me to your comment box. I cannot tell you how many times I've gotten all excited to leave a comment and then it's "can you link your Facebook account?" "No Facebook, do you want to link your Twitter account" ... question after question, pop up box after pop box and in the end it becomes such a long drawn out process, I leave minus leaving the comment. You want to keep spammers at bay and that's great but be careful you're not stopping genuine readers as well. Your blog appearance has to be something that makes it easy for a majority of people to read and react to. Just because you like yellow text on a pink background, your visitors may not think so. So, again - Why do you blog?

If you are blogging merely to satisfy your own interests and couldn't care a tuppence what other people say, then blog away my friend. But if you want readers and if you want your readers to keep coming back, then KISS you must.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Now, You Can Write Your Book

By Nido Qubein

Some of the greatest success stories of history have followed a word of encouragement or an act of confidence by a loved one or a trusting friend.

Had it not been for a confident wife, Sophia, we might not have listed among the great names of literature the name of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

When Nathaniel, a heartbroken man, went home to tell his wife that he was a failure and had been fired from his job in a customhouse, she surprised him with an exclamation of joy.

"Now," she said triumphantly, "you can write your book!"

"Yes," replied the man, with sagging confidence, "and what shall we live on while I am writing it?"

To his amazement, she opened a drawer and pulled out a substantial amount of money. "Where on earth did you get that?" he exclaimed.

"I have always known you were a man of genius," she told him. "I knew that someday you would write a masterpiece. So every week, out of the money you gave me for housekeeping, I saved a little bit. So here is enough to last us for one whole year."

From her trust and confidence came one of the greatest novels of American literature, The Scarlet Letter.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Isn't That Exactly What I'm Doing?

Author Unknown

A fisherman and an investment banker were at the pier of a small coastal village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The investment banker complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The fisherman replied, “Only a little while.”

The investment banker then asked, “Why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?”

The fisherman said, “With this I have more than enough to support my family’s needs.”

The investment banker then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening and spend time with my family, I have a full and busy life.”

The investment banker scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing; and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor; eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to a big town and eventually to the the city where you will run your ever-expanding enterprise.”

The fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the investment banker replied, “15 to 20 years.”

“But what then?” asked the fisherman.

The investment banker laughed and said that’s the best part. “When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”

“Millions?…Then what?”

The investment banker said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings and spend time with your family.”

The fisherman replied: “ Isn't that exactly what I am doing now?”

This Conspiracy's Not a Theory

I did not write the article below, but I read it today and it seems too important not to share in as many ways as possible. I don't know who the author is—it could have even been you. But that's how it goes with secret societies—they don't want to be recognized for what they're doing behind the scenes.

Throughout my own personal journey, I have read and studied quite a bit on a wide variety of topics. Most of them have changed the way I think and see the world on some level. Many have been uplifting and inspirational—some have not.

There are things in this world that go on behind the scenes that I will never know the whole truth about—and much of what I do know does not make my heart sing with joy. Worse yet, when I let myself fall into the loop of thinking about it, I feel helpless and hopeless. I feel there is nothing I can do to make a difference. With fear pushers on every corner, it's so easy to fall into that trap!

But that way of viewing the world is unproductive— not to mention depressing. And, it's also absolutely, positively and completely untrue. I am not helpless. There is something I can do. There is something we can all do!

Yes, as with all worthy revolutions, it is a call to arms. It is about forming an army of sorts to overthrow an establishment. It is about changing the status quo. And it is most definitely about doing our parts to create a better world.

After you read the article below, you'll know exactly how you can participate—how you probably already are. And never forget, just like that little pebble dropped in a calm lake, one little positive change creates a huge ripple of good.

Be a part of this conspiracy and live your joy!
Paula (Author of The Hardline Self Help Handbook)

A Spiritual Conspiracy
Author Unknown

On the surface of the world right now there is war and violence and things seem dark. But calmly and quietly, at the same time, something else is happening underground. An inner revolution is taking place and certain individuals are being called to a higher light.

It is a silent revolution. From the inside out and from the ground up. It is a Global operation; A Spiritual Conspiracy. There are sleeper cells in every nation on the planet.

You won't see us on TV, or hear about us on the radio or read about us in the newspaper. We don't seek any glory. We don't wear any uniform. We come in all shapes and sizes, colors and styles.

Most of us work anonymously. We are quietly working behind the scenes in every country and culture of the world; Cities big and small, mountains and valleys, in farms and villages, tribes and remote islands.

You could pass by one of us on the street and not even notice. We go under cover. We remain behind the scenes. It is of no concern to us who takes the final credit, but simply that the work gets done.

Occasionally we spot each other in the street. We give a quiet nod and continue on our way. During the day many of us pretend we have normal jobs, but behind the false storefront at night is where the real work takes a place.

Some call us the Conscious Army. We are slowly creating a new world with the power of our minds and hearts, which we follow with passion and joy. Our orders come from the Central Spiritual Intelligence.
We are dropping soft, secret love bombs when no one is looking… Poems ~ Hugs ~ Music ~ Photography ~ Movies ~ Kind words ~ Smiles ~ Meditation and prayer ~ Dance ~ Social activism ~Websites ~ Blogs ~ Random acts of kindness...

We each express ourselves in our own unique ways with our own unique gifts and talents. "Be the change you want to see in the world." That is the motto that fills our hearts. We know it is the only way real transformation takes place.

We know that quietly and humbly we have the power of all the oceans combined. Our work is slow and meticulous, like the formation of mountains. It is not even visible at first glance, and yet with it entire tectonic plates shall be moved in the centuries to come.

Love is the new religion of the 21st century. You don't have to be a highly educated person or have any exceptional knowledge to understand it. It comes from the intelligence of the heart, embedded in the timeless evolutionary pulse of all human beings.

Be the change you want to see in the world. Nobody else can do it for you.

We are now recruiting. Perhaps you will join us, or already have. All are welcome. The door is open.…


Author Unknown

In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock.

Some of the king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the big stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. On approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded.

As the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway.

The peasant learned what many others never understand. Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve one's condition.

Table For Two?

By Kirsten Burgess

He sits by himself at a table for two. The uniformed waiter returns to his side and asks, “Would you like to go ahead and order, sir?” The man has, after all, been waiting since seven o´clock -- almost half an hour. “No, thank you,” the man smiles. “I´ll wait for her a while longer. How about some more coffee?” “Certainly, sir.”

The man sits, his clear blue eyes gazing straight through the flowered centerpiece. He fingers his napkin, allowing the sounds of light chatter, tinkling silverware, and mellow music to fill his mind. He is dressed in a sports coat and tie. His dark brown hair is neatly combed, but one stray lock insists on dropping to his forehead. The scent of his cologne adds to his clean cut image. He is dressed up enough to make a companion feel important, respected, loved. Yet he is not so formal as to make on uncomfortable.

It seems that he has taken every precaution to make others feel at ease with him. Still, he sits alone. The waiter returns to fill the man's coffee cup. “Is there anything else I can get for you, sir?” “No, thank you.” The waiter remains standing at the table. Something tugs at his curiosity. “I don´t mean to pry, but...” His voice trails off.

This line of conversation could jeopardize his tip. “Go ahead,” the man encourages. He is strong, yet sensitive, inviting conversation. “Why do you bother waiting for her?” the waiter finally blurts out. This man has been at the restaurant other evenings, always patiently alone.

Says the man quietly, “Because she needs me.” “Are you sure?” “Yes.” “Well, sir, no offense, but assuming that she needs you, she sure isn´t acting much like it. She´s stood you up three times just this week.” The man winces, and looks down at the table. “Yes, I know.” “Then why do you still come here and wait?” “Cassie said that she would be here.” “She´s said that before,” the waiter protests. “I wouldn´t put up with it. Why do you?” Now the man looks up, smiles at the waiter, and says simply, “Because I love her.”

The waiter walks away, wondering how one could love a girl who stands him up three times a week. The man must be crazy, he decides. Across the room, he turns to look at the man again. The man slowly pours cream into his coffee. He twirls his spoon between his fingers a few times before stirring sweetener into his cup. After staring for a moment into the liquid, the man brings the cup to his mouth and sips, silently watching those around him.

He doesn´t look crazy, the waiter admits. Maybe the girl has some qualities that I don´t know about. Or maybe the man´s love is stronger than most. The waiter shakes himself out of his musings to take an order from a party of five. The man watches the waiter, wonders if he´s ever been stood up. The man has, many times. But he still can´t get used to it. Each time, it hurts.

He´s looked forward to this evening all day. He has many things, exciting things to tell Cassie. But, more importantly, he wants to hear Cassie´s voice. He wants her to tell him all about her day, her triumphs, her defeats...anything, really. He has tried so many times to show Cassie how much he loves her. He´d just like to know that she cares for him, too. He sips sporadically at the coffee, and loses himself in though, knowing that Cassie is late, but still hoping that she will arrive.

The clock says nine-thirty when the waiter returns to the man´s table. “Is there anything I can get for you?” The still empty chair stabs at the man. “No, I think that will be all for tonight. May I have the check please?” “Yes, sir.” When the waiter leaves, the man picks up the check. He pulls out his wallet and sighs. He has enough money to have given Cassie a feast. But he takes out only enough to pay for his five cups of coffee and the tip.

Why do you do this, Cassie, his mind cries as he gets up from the table. “Good-bye,” the waiter says, as the man walks towards the door. “Good-night. Thank you for your service.” “You´re welcome, sir,” says the waiter softly, for he sees the pain in the man´s eyes that his smile doesn´t hide.

The man passes a laughing young couple on his way out, and his eyes glisten as he thinks of the good time he and Cassie could have had. He stops at the front and makes reservations for tomorrow. Maybe Cassie will be able to make it, he thinks. “Seven o´clock tomorrow for party of two?” the hostess confirms. “That´s right,” the man replies. “Do you think she´ll come?” asks the hostess. She doesn´t mean to be rude, but she has watched the man many times alone at his table for two. “Someday, yes. And I will be waiting for her.”

The man buttons his overcoat and walks out of the restaurant, alone. His shoulders are hunched, but through the windows the hostess can only guess whether they are hunched against the wind or against the man´s hurt. As the man turns toward home, Cassie turns into bed. She is tired after an evening out with friends. As she reaches toward her night stand to set the alarm, she sees the note that she scribbled to herself last night. ‘7:00,´ it says. ‘Spend some time in prayer.´

Darn, she thinks. She forgot again. She feels a twinge of guilt, but quickly pushes it aside. She needed that time with her friends. And now she needs her sleep. She can pray tomorrow night. Jesus will forgive her. And she´s sure he doesn´t mind.

Where Is Jesus In Your House?

Author Unknown

Once there was a very wealthy young man. He lived in a great, elaborate house with dozens of rooms. Each room was more comfortable and more beautiful than the one before it. There were paintings and sculptures. Crystal chandeliers, golden, ornate railings on the stairs. More beauty than most have ever seen.

One day he decided to invite the Lord to come home and stay with him. When the Lord arrived, this young man offered him the very best room in the house. The room was upstairs and at the end of the hall. "This room is yours,Jesus! Stay as long as you like and you can do whatever you want to in this room, remember Jesus, its all yours." "Thank you" the Lord replied, and with that the man shut the door and went about his daily business.

That evening after he had retired for the night there came a loud knocking at the front door. The young man pulled on his robe and made his way downstairs. When he opened the door he found that the devil had sent three of his demons to attack the man. He quickly tried to close the door but one of the demons kept sticking his foot in.

Sometime later, after a great struggle, he managed to slam the door shut and returned to his room totally exhausted. Can you believe that! The man thought. Jesus is upstairs in my very best room sleeping while I am down here battling demons. Oh, well, maybe he just didn't hear. He slept fitfully that night.

The next day things went along as normal and, being tired as he was, the young man retired early that evening. Along about midnight, there came such a terrible ruckus at the front door that the young man was sure that whatever it was would tear the door down. He stumbled down the stairs once again and opened the door to find that there were dozens of demons now trying to get into his beautiful home.

For more than three hours he fought and struggled against the demons from hell and finally overtook them enough to shut the door against their attack. All energy seemed to fail him. He really didn't understand this at all. Why won't the Lord come to my rescue? Why does he allow me to fight all by myself? I feel so alone. Troubled, he found his way to the sofa and fell into a restless sleep.

The next morning he decided to inquire of the Lord about the happenings of the last two evenings. Quietly he made his way to the elegant bedroom where he had left Jesus. "Jesus," he called as he tapped at the door. "Lord, I don't understand what is happening. For the last two nights I have had to fight the demons away from my door while you laid up here sleeping. Don't you care about me? Did I not give you the very best room in the house?

He could see the tears building in Jesus' eyes but continued on, "I just don't understand. I really thought that once I invited you in to live with me that you would take care of me and I gave you the best room in my house and everything. What more can I do?"

"My precious child," Jesus spoke so softly. "I do love and care for you. I protect all that you have released into my care. But when you invited me to come here and stay, you brought me to this lovely room and you shut the door to the rest of your house. I am Lord of this room but I am not Master of this house. I have protected this room and no demon may enter here."

"Oh, Lord, please forgive me. Take all of my house - it is yours. I am so sorry that I never offered you all to begin with. I want you to have control of everything." With this he flung open the bedroom door and knelt at Jesus' feet. "Please forgive me Lord for being so selfish."

Jesus smiled and told him that He had already forgiven him and that He would take care of things from now on. That night as the young man prepared for bed he thought, "I wonder if those demons will return. I am so tired of fighting them each and every night." But he knew that Jesus said that he would take care of things from now on. Along about midnight the banging on the door was frightening. The young man slipped out of his room in time to see Jesus going down the stairs.

He watched in awe as Jesus swung open the door, no need to be afraid. Satan stood at the door this time demanding to be let in. "What do you want, Satan?" the Lord asked. The devil bowed low in the presence of the Lord, "So sorry, I seem to have gotten the wrong address." And with that, he and the demons all ran away.

There is a moral to this tale. Jesus wants all of you, not just a part. He will take all that you give Him but nothing more. How much of your heart have you given to the Lord? Are you keeping a portion of it away from Him? Perhaps the attacks are coming more and more each day. Why not let the Lord fight the battles for you? He is always victorious. I have found that God made man simple, all of man's complexities are of his own devising.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

What Goes Around ...

Author Unknown

His name was Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day, while trying to make a living for his family, he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog. He dropped his tools and ran to the bog. There, mired to his waist in black muck, was a terrified boy, screaming and struggling to free himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a slow and terrifying death.

The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman's sparse surroundings. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy Farmer Fleming had saved. "I want to repay you," said the nobleman. "You saved my son's life." "No, I can't accept payment for what I did," the Scottish farmer replied, waving off the offer.

At that moment, the farmer's own son came to the door of the family hovel. "Is that your son?" the nobleman asked. "Yes," the farmer replied proudly. "I'll make you a deal. Let me provide him with the level of education my own son will enjoy. If the lad is anything like his father, he'll no doubt grow to be a man we both will be proud of." And that he did.

Farmer Fleming's son attended the very best schools and in time, he graduated from St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London, and went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin.

Years afterward, the same nobleman's son who was saved from the bog was stricken with pneumonia. What saved his life this time? Penicillin. The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill.

His son's name? Sir Winston Churchill.

Malaysia – Cameron Highlands

By Rough Guy’d

My last full day in Penang so I took the time to enjoy as much as I could. One bit of free advertising that I will do is for the famous Penang coconut jelly. This was introduced to me by my cousins and it was simply delicious. The basic product is a young coconut with plenty of coconut water inside. The water is poured out and pasteurised in some way without adding any additional ingredients.

This is then poured back into the coconut and chilled and in the process the liquid turns into a natural jelly. Once bought, it can be stored in a fridge and when you eat it, you need only a spoon to scoop out the jelly and flesh. It’s relatively healthy (as coconut water is very nourishing) and very refreshing, which is great for the hot weather.

With that my time in Penang was over and the next day, I was off to the Cameron Highlands with a large gaggle of my family, including some of the relations who came up from Singapore. With three carloads of us, we made our way up to the natural cool mountain ranges.

While strawberries are quite a normal summertime fruit back home for me, over in tropical Malaysia, they are impossible to grow due to the heat, however the one exception is in the highlands where they grow all year round and many of the places up here grow and sell it all around the country. On our way up to my Uncle’s weekend holiday home/farm, we stopped off at a strawberry cafe.

Although I was happy to meet so many relatives and have free food and accommodation, having such a large group was not without its problems. With the ages of us varying from the teens up until the seventies, not everyone wanted to go out and do something and even though the following day saw us up very early, we didn’t get to leave until ages after lunch and by 3pm, most places were starting to close up. So while it was still a relatively fun trip, I missed most of the sights.

Another late the following day but for those of us with a more adventurous side (one carload of us), we learned our lesson from the previous day and we managed to see most of what we had intended to see including a strawberry farm, a cactus farm, what I described as Malaysia’s Lord of the Rings and we managed to climb a mountain in the car, going around crazy one lane roads around blind corners with a sheer drop facing those unlucky or unskilful enough.

Come Monday 6th of July, it was time to head down the mountain range and at this point, I parted with my relatives from Penang . Though there were plenty of other relatives with me, as I was to learn, it was going to be nowhere near as much fun.

Monday, 16 May 2011

It Smells Like God

Author Unknown

A cold March wind danced around the dead of night in Dallas as the doctor walked into the small hospital room of Diana Blessing. Still groggy from surgery, her husband David held her hand as they braced themselves for the latest news.

That afternoon of March 10, 1991, complications had forced Diana, only 24-weeks pregnant, to undergo an emergency cesarean to deliver the couple's new daughter, Danae Lu Blessing. At 12 inches long and weighing only one pound and nine ounces, they already knew she was perilously premature. Still, the doctor's soft words dropped like bombs.

"I don't think she's going to make it," he said, as kindly as he could. "There's only a 10-percent chance she will live through the night, and even then, if by some slim chance she does make it, her future could be a very cruel one."

Numb with disbelief, David and Diana listened as the doctor described the devastating problems Danae would likely face if she survived. She would never walk. She would never talk. She would probably be blind. She would certainly be prone to other catastrophic conditions from cerebral palsy to complete mental retardation. And on and on.

"No! No!" was all Diana could say. She and David, with their 5-year-old son Dustin, had long dreamed of the day they would have a daughter to become a family of four. Now, within a matter of hours, that dream was slipping away.

Through the dark hours of morning as Danae held onto life by the thinnest thread, Diana slipped in and out of drugged sleep, growing more and more determined that their tiny daughter would live and live to be a healthy, happy young girl. But David, fully awake and listening to additional dire details of their daughter's chances of ever leaving the hospital alive, much less healthy, knew he must confront his wife with the inevitable.

"David walked in and said that we needed to talk about making funeral arrangements," Diana remembers "I felt so bad for him because he was doing everything, trying to include me in what was going on, but I just wouldn't listen, I couldn't listen. I said, "No, that is not going to happen, no way! I don't care what the doctors say Danae is not going to die! One day she will be just fine, and she will be coming home with us!"

As if willed to live by Diana's determination, Danae clung to life hour after hour, with the help of every medical machine and marvel her miniature body could endure But as those first days passed, a new agony set in for David and Diana. Because Danae's underdeveloped nervous system was sentially "raw," every lightest kiss or caress only intensified her discomfort- so they couldn't even cradle their tiny baby girl against their chests to offer the strength of their love. All they could do, as Danae struggled alone beneath the ultra-violet light in the tangle of tubes and wires, was to pray that God would stay close to their precious little girl.

There was never a moment when Danae suddenly grew stronger. But as weeks went by, she did slowly gain an ounce of weight here and an ounce of strength there.

At last, when Danae turned two months old, her parents were able to hold her in their arms for the very first time. And two months later-though doctors continued to gently but grimly warn that her chances of surviving,much less living any kind of normal life, were next to zero - Danae went home from the hospital, just as her mother had predicted.

Today, five years later, Danae is a petite but feisty young girl with glittering gray eyes and an unquenchable zest for life. She shows no signs, whatsoever, of any mental or physical impairments. Simply, she is everything a little girl can be and more-but that happy ending is far from the end of her story.

One blistering afternoon in the summer of 1996 near her home in Irving, Texas, Danae was sitting in her mother's lap in the bleachers of a local ball park where her brother Dustin's baseball team was practicing. As always, Danae was chattering non-stop with her mother and several other adults sitting nearby when she suddenly fell silent.

Hugging her arms across her chest, Danae asked, "Do you smell that?". Smelling the air and detecting the approach of a thunderstorm, Diana replied, "Yes, it smells like rain." Danae closed her eyes and again asked, "Do you smell that?" Once again, her mother replied, "Yes, I think we're about to get wet. It smells like rain."

Still caught in the moment, Danae shook her head, patted her thin shoulders with her small hands and loudly announced, "No, it smells like Him. It smells like God when you lay your head on His chest."

Tears blurred Diana's eyes as Danae then happily hopped down to play with the other children. Before the rains came her daughter's words confirmed what Diana and all the members of the extended Blessing family had known, at least in their hearts, all along.

During those long days and nights of her first two months of her life when her nerves were too sensitive for them to touch her, God was holding Danaeon His chest- and it is His loving scent that she remembers so well.

Sunday, 15 May 2011


By Ralph Waldo Emerson

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities
no doubt have crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.

Tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely
and with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with
your old nonsense.

This day is all that is
good and fair.
It is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on yesterdays.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Work To Live Not Live To Work

Author Unknown

It's 5:00 o'clock in the morning; the alarm sets off. You get out of bed. You take a bath. You have your breakfast. You leave the house. You're ready to face another working day. Or are you?

When I was a kid, I would ask my mom why she and my father had to work. She would always tell me that they had to, so we could have the money to buy food, to pay for the bills, to pay for our schooling (we come from a middle income family). Both my parents worked but I'm really grateful to God; that in spite of that, we were never lacking in love, time, nor care from our parents.

As a matter of fact, my brothers and I grew up to be responsible individuals because our parents really took care of us. Although they were at the office 5 days a week from 8:00am to 5:00pm, they still found time to look after us, and teach us our lessons in the evening.

They made sure that we did our homework. They didn't pressure us to aspire for honors, but we were motivated enough to study hard so we'd get good grades. It was our way of repaying our parents who never complained about working. I guess fate has been really good to my brothers and me because, modesty aside, all of us managed to land in the top of our respective classes.

My parents taught me that one has to work in order for him to live a good life. They stressed, however, that this should not be taken as having to live just to work! They said that work should only be a part of life and it should not occupy one's whole existence.

And they lived this philosophy. At the end of the work day, they would leave all their work-related problems in the office so that at home they could be devoted to us 100%, no less.

I must say that agree with them. To this day, I still hear their message that work should be just a part of life and not life itself. I pity those people who have their way in this game called life. They have forgotten how to really live because they work too hard.

There' nothing wrong with striving at work, but people must watch out for signs that they have begun to work themselves to death. Remember that anything in excess is bad. Maybe, they want to achieve something badly, that's why they work so hard. But I believe that success in the workplace doesn't always bring happiness.

To be successful means that you have to sacrifice some things and sometimes, you end up sacrificing your family, your friends, your life; you achieve your professional goals, but you lose yourself. Then you wonder if the loss is worth the gain.

Everybody's wish, in this world, is happiness and there are many ways to be happy. But when we work too hard or worry too much, we often forget that the simple things in life are those that make us happy…. a call from a friend, a smile from a stranger, the sight of a lovely flower, a surprise gift, a filling meal, a pat on the back, etc. It doesn't require much to get these gifts. These gifts are for free, but they provide immeasurable happiness.

Work to live and not live to work. Find time for yourself, for your family, for your friends. Keep in mind that your priority is your loved ones, and not your work. Everybody deserves to be happy and I hope that everyone grows old without any regret in life.

I hope each of us will have a smile on our faces when we reminisce the old times, I hope that everyone finds living exciting, wonderful. It is my wish that we would all find the time to do the things that really matter most.

Let us work hard, not purely for our professional goals, but for a better life.

They Eat When There Is Food

By Rachel Thien, The Brunei Times

2 May 2011 - "If there is food, then I will cook. If not, then everyone will take care of themselves," says a mother of nine children in Kg Lorong Tiga in Seria.

Four of 47-year-old Suryati Ayat's children, aged 7, 9, 15 and 17, are juveniles, as defined by the Children and Young Persons Order 2006. The order defines "juveniles" as people who are between 7 and 17 years old.

"I can endure the hunger pangs, but I worry for my children," the mother said, adding she was sad to see her young children hungry at times.

Eight of her children live with her in a two-bedroom unit in Kg Lorong Tiga. The Belait District Office relocated her family to this unit in October last year. Four, aged 19, 20, 21, and 22, are adults and unemployed.

"My eldest son is now married and has his own family," says Suryati. "Although he does not live with us, he provides us with food supplies when he can."

One more child, an 11-year-old girl, recently died of electrocution.

One of her daughters is now married to 41-year-old Alfian Junaidi. He has two toddlers and the wife is expecting her third child. They all live with Suryati in the two-bedroom affair. He is also unemployed.

When The Brunei Times paid a visit to the residence recently, the house smelled stale, like a closet that has not been opened for years. Two of Suryati's children were sleeping on a mattress on the floor. There were no bed sheets.

After one of her sons opened the door to let the party in, he sat himself down and continued watching television. None of his other siblings seemed curious to know why they had visitors over, and no one offered seats.

Suryati was not home, so one of her sons called her to come home from her friend's house.

When she arrived, she began to speak of their plight. She said although they do not have to pay rent, they had to pay for water and electricity. However, she said she has not paid any of the bills yet because they did not have the finances to do so.

"I have not been working for a long time, and have been divorced for 10 years now. I do not want to work because it is difficult for my two young children if I do as they will always look for me," she said.

She also said that being away from the workforce for a long time made it difficult for her to find a job.

Suryati said her family did not eat regularly, and hardly sat down to dine together because they barely cooked.

Their gas stove was not working, she said, and they did not want to use electricity to cook.

"We are scared it will take up electricity," she said.

"There are days when we do not have any food," she said.

Suryati said it was "distressful" living in such conditions, and would welcome anyone would would help them by providing financial aid and food supplies.

"Last time, we used to have help from the Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB), where they provided my family $1,080 a month, but we stopped receiving it last year," she said.

"I already applied for financial help from them again last year and I already went for the interview at the Religious Office here. I also applied to the Community Development Department (Japem) but have not been called for an interview yet," she added.

She said two of her children used to receive $60 a month from Japem for buying school supplies. They stopped receiving the money last October.

Suryati also said she needed money to support her two younger children, aged 7 and 9, at school.

"I also need money for them to buy food at their school canteen."

Her son-in-law Alfian said he is currently looking for a job. "I have already applied to Baitul Mal and we just received $365 from them last month."

Alfian said when they received the money, he immediately bought food supplies and powdered milk for his children.

"The money is not enough and I am thinking of my children, and that is why I am looking for a job now."

Meanwhile, Suryati's two sons, aged 15 and 22, said they dropped out of school years ago.

The Compulsory Education Order 2007, under the constitution of Brunei Darussalam (order Under Article 83(3) which has been enforced since November 27, 2007, provides a nine-year compulsory education for a child of compulsory age a child above the age of six and who has not yet attained the age of 15 with primary and lower secondary education in Brunei.

Sufrizan Sufri, Suryati's 15-year-old son, said he dropped out of school after completing Primary Six.

Asked whether he intended to go back to school, he said, "I want to go to technical or vocational school."

Currently, he said he spends his days "gallivanting and lazing around".

His brother, Sufrizal Sufri, 22, said he stopped school at Primary 4. "We had family problems so I stopped going to school. I also want to study at a Technical or Vocational School, but not at a normal school."

Asked whether he has ever worked before, he said, "Yes. I used to work at a restaurant in Bandar as a helper in 2009, but they did not pay me the full $300 every month so I decided to quit".

He added he recently applied for another job, but has not heard back since. "If I need money, I just ask from my mum," he said.

Social volunteer Walter Boyd, who heads a volunteer group, accompanied The Brunei Times during the visit, to see what he could do to help the family.

After gathering information, he said he would return and have a meeting with his group to see what kind of food supplies he could provide them with.

In February, the family suffered the loss of their 11-year-old sister, who passed away after being electrocuted on her way home from Pasarneka Seria.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

The Price Of Children

Author Unknown

The government recently calculated the cost of raising a child from birth to 18 and came up with $160,140 for a middle income family. Talk about sticker shock! That doesn't even touch college tuition. But $160,140 isn't so bad if you break it down.

It translates into:
- $8,896.66 a year,
- $741.3 month, or
- $171.08 a week.
- That's a mere $24.24 a day!
- Just over a dollar an hour.

Still, you might think the best financial advice is don't have children if you want to be "rich." Actually, it is just the opposite.

What do you get for your $160,140?
- Naming rights. First, middle, and last!
- Glimpses of God every day.
- Giggles under the covers every night.
- More love than your heart can hold.
- Butterfly kisses and Velcro hugs.
- Endless wonder over rocks, ants, clouds, and warm cookies.
- A hand to hold, usually covered with jelly or chocolate.
- A partner for blowing bubbles, flying kites
- Someone to laugh yourself silly with, no matter what the boss said or how your stocks performed that day.

For $160,140 - you never have to grow up. You get to:
- finger-paint,
- carve pumpkins,
- play hide-and-seek,
- catch lightning bugs, and
- never stop believing in Santa Claus.

You have an excuse to:
- keep reading the Adventures of Piglet and Pooh,
- watch Saturday morning cartoons,
- go to Disney movies, and
- wish on stars.

You get to frame rainbows, hearts, and flowers under refrigerator magnets and collect spray painted noodle wreaths for Christmas, hand prints set in clay for Mother's Day, and cards with backward letters for Father's Day.

For $160,140, there is no greater bang for your buck. You get to be a hero just for:
- retrieving a Frisbee off the garage roof,
- taking the training wheels off a bike,
- removing a splinter,
- filling a wading pool,
- coaxing a wad of gum out of bangs, and coaching a baseball team that never wins but always gets treated to ice cream regardless.

You get a front row seat to history to witness the:
- first step,
- first word,
- first bra,
- first date, and
- first time behind the wheel.

You get to be immortal. You get another branch added to your family tree, and if you're lucky, a long list of limbs in your obituary called grandchildren and great grandchildren. You get an education in psychology, nursing, criminal justice, communications, and human sexuality that no college can match.

In the eyes of a child, you rank right up there under God. You have all the power to heal a boo-boo, scare away the monsters under the bed, patch a broken heart, police a slumber party, ground them forever, and love them without limits.

So that one day they will - like you - love without counting the cost. That is quite a deal for the price!

I'm A Lighthouse

Author Unknown

This is a story of a battleship cruising the Atlantic off the northern coast of Maine one stormy evening.

The commander of the battleship was notified. "Sir, there's a light ahead. Oncoming vessel."

"Signal oncoming vessel, 'Change your course ten degrees to the west.'"

The message was sent, but a light flashed back, "Change your course ten degrees to the east."

The commander barked, "Signal again, 'Change your course ten degrees to the west. I am an admiral."

The light flashed back. "Change your course ten degrees to the east. I'm a seaman third class."

By this time the admiral was incensed as he thundered, "Signal again. 'Change your course ten degrees to the west. I am a battleship."

And the message came back, "Change your course ten degrees to the east. I am a lighthouse."

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Are You Authentic?

By Paula Renaye
Author of The Hardline Self Help Handbook

A few days ago, Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts were on Oprah, promoting their new movie, Larry Crowne, which looks fun and will probably be inspiring too.

Anyway, Oprah was talking about how she and her staff can tell when celebrities are "real"—being their authentic selves rather than who they think they have to be.

It's a great question to ask yourself. Are you being real? Are you being your authentic self?

The truth is, we know when we are and when we're not. We all slip on a mask from time to time. There's the job interview mask, the go-see-the-parents mask, the first-date mask, etc. But what if we chose not to put those on? Well, maybe a better question is: Why do we?

There really is only one answer: it's because we don't think being our real authentic selves is good enough for the situation.

Yep. You can put whatever twist on it you want to for each scenario you can think of, but that's really it.

Let's go with the job interview and first date, which are really kind of the same. We hold back who we really are so we can try to figure out what the other person wants then adapt ourselves to it. That way, at least temporarily, we get what we think we want—a second date or a job.

When the "real you" comes out—and it will, about six months in to a relationship or sooner—things will go awry. So save yourself the grief and just be you from the beginning! If they don't like you, great! You've saved yourself a lot of trouble. And, you can find someone who really does like, and is compatible with, who you really are.

You'll be amazed at the insights you'll get if you'll just start asking yourself why you do what you do. In fact, that's what compelled me to write The Hardline Self Help Handbook. Helping people isn't about telling them what to do—yes, I have to remind myself of that frequently!—it's about asking the right questions.

So, when you feel yourself slipping on a mask, stop and ask yourself: Why can't I just be me?

That's right, you can!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

God Speaks

Author Unknown

Some new billboards are getting attention in Cleveland. Some reported seeing one or two messages, but the newspaper listed all of them. Here's a list of all variations of the "God Speaks" billboards.

The billboards are a simple black background with white text. No fine print or sponsoring organization is included. Here they are:

Let's meet at my house Sunday before the game.-God

C'mon over and bring the kids.-God

What part of "Thou Shalt Not ..." didn't you understand?-God

We need to talk.-God

Keep using my name in vain, I'll make rush hour longer.-God

Loved the wedding, invite me to the marriage.-God

That "Love Thy Neighbor" thing ... I meant it.-God

I love you and you and you and you and ...-God

Will the road you're on get you to my place?-God

Follow me.-God

Big bang theory, you've got to be kidding.-God

My way is the highway.-God

Need directions?-God

You think it's hot here?-God

Have you read my #1 best seller? There will be a test.-God

Do you have any idea where you're going?-God

Don't make me come down there.-God

Monday, 9 May 2011

Until Our Plans Change - Again

By Joseph Walker

Please excuse me if I'm a little pensive today.

Mark is leaving, and I'm feeling kind of sad.

You probably don't know Mark, but you might be lucky enough to know someone just like him. He's been the heart and soul of the office for a couple of years, combining exemplary professional skills with a sweet nature and gentle disposition. He's never been all that interested in getting credit for the terrific work he does. He just wants to do his job, and to do it superbly well.

And now he's moving on to an exciting new professional opportunity. It sounds like it could be the chance of a lifetime, and we're genuinely, sincerely pleased for him. But that doesn't make it any easier to say goodbye to a dear friend and trusted colleague.

Life has a way of throwing these curve balls at us. Just when we start to get comfortable with a person, a place or a situation, something comes along to alter the recipe. A terrific neighbor moves away. Someone in the family graduates. A child finds new love and loyalties through marriage. The family's principle bread-winner is laid off.

Our ability to cope with change and disruption determines, to a great degree, our peace, happiness and contentment in life.

But how do we do that? Philosophers have considered the question for centuries, and their responses have been varied. According to the author of the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes, comfort can be found in remembering that "to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven." Kahlil Gibran urged his listeners to "let today embrace the past with remembrance, and the future with longing."

A friend of mine who works for the government is fond of reminding his fellow bureaucrats that "survivability depends upon adaptability. "And then there's Chris, the California surf-rat, who once told me that the answer to life's problems can be summed up in four words: "Go with the flow."

"It's like surfing," Chris explained. "You can't organize the ocean. Waves just happen. You ride 'em where they take you, then you paddle back out there and catch the next one. Sure, you're always hoping for the perfect wave where you can get, like, you know, totally tubular. But mostly you just take 'em the way they come. It's not like you're trying to nail Jell-O to a tree, you know?"

I'm not exactly sure, but I think Chris was saying that life is a series of events -- both good and bad. No matter how deft your organizational skills, there will always be life-influencing factors over which you have no control. The truly successful person expects the unexpected, and is prepared to make adjustments should the need arise -- as it almost always does.

That doesn't mean you don't keep trying to make all your dreams come true. It just means that when things come up that aren't exactly in your plan, you work around them -- and then you move on. Of course, some bumps along the road of life are easier to take than others. A rained-out picnic, for example, is easier to cope with than the sudden death of a loved one. But the principle is the same.

"Change, indeed, is painful, yet ever needful," said philosopher Thomas Carlyle. "And if memory have its force and worth, so also has hope."

We're going to miss Mark, just like you'll miss that graduate, that neighbor or that newlywed. But rather than dwell on the sadness of our parting, we'll focus on our hopes for a brighter future - for him, and for us. And then we'll go out and do everything we can to make that future happen.

Until our plans change - again.
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Books Sold - 6 Nov 2011 to 31 May 2012

Some of you have asked me for my total number of books sold to evaluate KDP Select so here it is. Bear in mind, that results will vary based on genre and author. Good luck and remember, Keep Moving Forward.

Total - 120,836

1. Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out
Amazon Kindle - 42,559
Paperback -
Smashwords -

2. Frequent Traveller
Amazon Kindle - 35277
Paperback -
Smashwords -

3. Dora's Essentials - Books, Blogs & Smiles 1
Amazon Kindle - 462
Smashwords -

4. Mirror Me Martha (Short Story)
Amazon Kindle - 281
Smashwords -

5. Drive On Hope (Short Story)
Amazon Kindle - 190
Smashwords -

6. Blog-A-Licious Directory 2012
Amazon Kindle - 1
Smashwords -

7. Pandora's Reading Room 1
Amazon Kindle -
Paperback - N/A

8. The Cat That Barked (Short Story)
Amazon Kindle -

9. Dora's Essentials - Examining Anxiety
Amazon Kindle -

10. Dora's Essentials - Books, Blogs & Smiles 2
Amazon Kindle -

11. Elevenses from Around the World
Amazon Kindle -

12. Genetically Modified Foods vs. Sustainability
Amazon Kindle -

Blog-A-Licius - Sherbet Blossom



Dealightfully Frugal

Blog-A-Licious - The Few, The Proud, The Wife


My Soul Slippers

Blog-A-Licous - Textbook Mommy

Blog-A-Licious - Blue Frogs Legs

Blog-A-Licious - Pretty All True

Pretty All True

Blog-A-Licious - tbaoo



Powered by

Blog-A-Licious - The Invisible Art

Blog-A-Licious - Rediscovering Domesticity

Rediscovering Domesticity

Blog-A-Licious - Quiver Full

Blog-A-Licious - Cori's Big Mouth

Blog-A-Licious - Great Fun


Blog-A-Licious - Busy Wife

Blog-A-Licious - Steps To Happiness

Powered by

Blog-A-Licious - Toby & Max

Blog-A-Licious - Amelie

Raising Amelie

Blog-A-Licious - Peas In A Pod

Blog-A-Licious - Riley

Blognostics - Poetry


My Awards - September 2010

My Awards - September 2010
Awarded By Jo Frances

My Awards - May 2011

My Awards - May 2011
Awarded By Alejandro Guzman

My Awards - May 2011

My Awards - May 2011
Awarded by Kriti Mukherjee

My Awards - April 2011

My Awards - April 2011
Awarded By Roy Durham

My Awards - June 2011

My Awards - June 2011
Awarded By Sulekha Rawat

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