Sunday, 28 April 2013

W is for... Wednesday

W is for... Wednesday.

On Wednesday we are going to see a talk given by Dennis Prager. The talk will be based around his newest book, Still The Best Hope, which is about why the world needs American values to triumph. 

Here is a small summary of the book: 
Prager makes the case for the American value system as the most viable program ever devised to produce a good society.
Still the Best Hope deals with three huge themes: The first is perhaps the most persuasive explanation for why Leftism has been and will always be a moral failure, despite its acknowledged appeal to many people of goodwill. The second explains why fundamentalist Islam, despite its historic and growing appeal, cannot make a good society. But Prager holds out hope for an open and tolerant Islam and explains why it will emerge from faithful American Muslims. The third is a singularly persuasive defense and explanation of what Prager calls the "American Trinity": liberty, values rooted in the Creator, and the melting-pot ideal. These values are inscribed on every American coin as "Liberty," "In God We Trust," and "E Pluribus Unum," and they are the reasons for America's greatness. Without them, America will cease to be an exceptional nation, and therefore cease to be America. 

So far all I have read is the introduction. I thought that if I'm going to see him, I should at least try read some of his book, so I have even just a little understanding of what he's talking about.
I have to admit, I am very novice when it comes to the subjects he talks about. Whats more, I'm European, and Mr P isn't so common over there as he is here in America. It is a lot of new ideas for me, and therefore a lot of new learning to be done.
I have listened to some of Mr P's radio programs, and read one other of his books Happiness is a Serious Problem, and so I have a little understanding of his views and opinions, but just a little. He is one of those people who has a library of information, knowledge and experience stored away, and I don't know how he does it.
I am going to try and read all of the book, as I think it will be interesting and worthwhile to try gain an understanding in this subject area. I think it is a subject we should all at least open our eyes to, because I feel it touches everyone in one way or another. We all make up society, so we all contribute in one way or another.
I often like to hide behind an easy fiction book. It is relaxing, it's not taxing to read, and I can be whisked away into the world of the story. Non fiction, however, is nothing like that. It takes effort and motivation. We have to want to learn about the subject, and understand it better. It's not a relaxing read. Even so, I'm going to try.
Even though I have read some of his work, and listened to some of his shows, I still don't know where I stand on some of his topics. Some people have strong beliefs for either side, and others dither in the middle. I'm a ditherer in the middle.
Suppose I should get reading.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

V is for ... Vegetarian

V is for ... Vegetarian.

I've been a vegetarian since I was about 12 or 13. I suppose it was a sort of 'transition'. I remember starting to think "I'm eating a pig" and being particularly disturbed. I remember being disgusted by the sight of the meat and fish at the meat section of the supermarket. I remember hating the smell. I remember seeing a raw chicken with it's head chopped off and its legs tied together in the kitchen at home ready to be roasted and once again thinking how utterly disgusting. I started to hate the smell of meat being cooked. Most of you love the smell of bacon sizzling in the pan, or burgers on a barbeque, but to me it smelled more and more disgusting.
One of my close friends when I was growing up was vegetarian (I think actually semi-vegetarian; I think I remember she ate fish), and maybe she had an influence on my transition. I ate dinner on occasion at her house, and I remember their meals being quite simple yet yummy. Simple homemade soups, beans on toast or egg on toast, sandwiches, and salads. I loved the simplicity. One of my other friends during my teenage years was a vegetarian, and I remember her family being very into animal rights. They didn't wear leather, fur, went on animal rights protests, and were vegan. I suppose they influenced me somewhat, because even though I already had an interest in the subject of vegetarianism, my eyes were now opening to the world of animal rights.
There are many differing opinions when it comes to animal rights, and deciding on where you personally stand is sometimes tough. I don't agree with caged chickens and their often horrendous conditions, and I don't agree with the way that cows are forced to constantly produce milk, but I do think milk is a natural product to consume, which is why I'm not vegan. I understand that human consumption drives such high quantities of production, but I think we need to focus on more natural methods, rather than such industrious techniques. I don't wear fur and I'm really not a fan of leather, but I understand in cases where it may be useful; I just wish that the animal wasn't killed just to be eaten and worn. I prefer nature's process.
When it comes to testing on animals, the thought hurts me inside, yet a small part of me perks up and says we need to test all those medicines and chemicals somehow before using them on humans. Then another part of me says isn't there another way?
I think the issue of sustainability has become an important factor in vegetarianism for me. It wasn't why I became vegetarian, but it is a very powerful argument for a vegetarian diet. The amount of resources used to feed animals raised to produce meat greatly outweighs that used to produce plant based products, and also produces less food than if the land was used to produce plant based foods. Our planet prefers a vegetarian diet. 
I have always had an issue with eggs. It is an unfertilized baby chicken, and whether that counts to me as eating part of an animal is difficult. Plus, it is immensely difficult to avoid eating eggs; they are in so many foods. I tried to avoid them for a long time, not cooking with them myself and only eating them when in other foods, such as baked goods. Now I eat more of them because they contain vital nutrients, and because they are unavoidable. Gelatin on the other hand disgusts me and I do not ever want to eat it, but it's everywhere and often difficult to avoid. Another food which really disgusts me to eat is fish. I hate everything about it, and always have. Some vegetarians do eat fish and I have never understood why. I would rather go hungry. 
Whenever anyone asks my why I became a vegetarian, I never have one, direct answer. Just as I said before, it really was more of a transition. It was about me coming to realise that eating meat really isn't part of me. It was about understanding how meat is produced, and about discovering all of the issues involved in animal rights. It was about learning the issues involved with producing meat - ethical issues, sustainability issues, production issues and health issues.
It was about looking at all the parts, and concluding that they all play an important part as to why I am vegetarian.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

U is for ... Understanding

U is for ... Understanding.

Oh, children. Such curious little things. Always asking questions. Always wanting to know who, what, where, how, or why. Always wondering. Everything is so new! Everything is a new story waiting to be uncovered. Everything is amazing.
As we grow older, we grow more accustomed to the world around us, to the mysteries, the questions, the easy bits, the complicated bits, and the interesting bits.
Yet some bits become boring. Some bits become boring because they don't appeal to us, or we find them too hard, too gruesome, too complex, or riddled with problems. We start to ignore them as we realise that really they're not that amazing to us anymore, or that they're not worth the investigation, or that they don't really affect us so much. We become content with what we know, what we want to focus on, and we lose our sense curiosity in all the other bits. Our sense of discovery fades.
But understanding is such a crucial part to our lives.
The more we understand, the more open we are to taking that extra step to discover something new.
The more we understand, the more problems we can resolve.
The more we understand, the more compassion and empathy we have for others.
The more we understand, the more connected we feel.
The more we understand, the more we want to understand.
Understanding takes effort. We have to try to understand. We have to think, research, listen, study, read, and put the pieces together. Maybe we also need a helping hand or a boost of inspiration to get us going; curiosity isn't always enough.
Understanding allows us to see the big picture, and comprehend the small details. Understanding gives us the tools and the knowledge to try to fix problems and to create solutions.
Before we can jump into anything, we need to understand. Understanding is the foundation on which everything else will grow. 
If we understand first, we can resolve after.
We need to keep our minds open and curious if we want to fix all those problems and create all those solutions.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

T is for .... True Colors

T is for ... True Colors.

Not long ago I spent some time with a lady with down syndrome. She also had mid-late stage dementia. Apparently it is normal for the onset of dementia to start earlier in people with down syndrome, as early as in the 50's. This lady was in about her mid 50's. I never knew her before the dementia developed, but apparently she was very high functioning, and was very independent in her routine. The onset of dementia changed everything. She could no longer work, and she needed constant attention to make sure she was safe. She had also developed scoliosis, which is an abnormal curving of the spine, and this made her unstable and likely to fall easily.
Some days were good days, and others were not so great. Some days she was very jovial and active, and other days she would be more reserved and quiet. Some days she would hug you, and others she would ignore you.
Some days I have good days, and some days I have bad days. Some days I want to be left alone, and some days I may just like some company. Some days I want attention, and other days I'm fine just by myself.
Sometimes, in fact, most of the time, we see a person's disability before we see the person. Sometimes we may even forget that this person has emotions and feelings just like all of us.
Sometimes we may forget that a person's disability is only part of the person.
My disabilities are numerous. I can hardly ride a bike. I can't do maths to save my life. I lack any kind of decision making skills. My sense of direction is non-existent. My short term memory is pretty bad, and remembering people's names doesn't come naturally. Who knows what else.
We all have some kind of disability. Some are more subtle, some are more prominent, but they all exist to some extent.
We are all unique individuals. Our disabilities are part of us, and should not be hidden away, like they are abnormal, like they should be hidden from society.
Showing your 'true colors' is about just this. It's about showing each and every part of you, because each bit makes up you. And it's also about looking beyond a disability, and seeing the rest of the person. It's not about perfect or imperfect, it's about each part making up a unique person. It's about all the bits that make up you and me and everyone else. It's about billions of unique people.

Monday, 22 April 2013

S is for .... Siblings

S is for .... Siblings

Today is my brother's birthday. Happy Birthday!
I feel sad. I do each time I think about this subject. My brother and I spent all of our childhood growing up together, going through all the childhood phases together. We played, laughed, argued, fought, screamed, cried, and giggled. And then did it all over again and again and again. We suffered through adolescence together, and entered young adulthood together. He was a big part of my younger years, as we grew together, developing and experiencing life together.
We spent all those years together, yet it was so easy for us to drift apart. Life takes hold, I go this way and he goes that way and suddenly who remembers the last time we spoke to each other, let alone talk. Just a phone call away, that's what they say. Then why don't we make them?
Relationships are complicated things. Some relationships require a great deal of effort and dedication, while other ones you can just pick up where you left off after years. I suppose I would put myself and my brother in the latter category. Even though I was never really close to my brother like some siblings, I know that we could just pick up where we left off last time - years ago - and fill in the gaps along the way. It would make some great catch up conversation.
Maybe our 'pick up and put down' relationship is because really we aren't so similar. Of course, we must share some similar traits, but we have always been quite different. Maybe our differences have determined our relationship style. How does this happen? How do two siblings turn out so different, with different personalities and different life paths? Who knows.
I'm sad because I haven't seen him in about four years. I haven't seen my nephews grow. But, the most important thing is they are all doing fine. They are living their lives and doing their things. I know that once I do get to see them again, we will pick up where we left off and it will be like we only saw each other yesterday.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

R is for ..... Reading Success Stories

R is for ... Reading Success Stories.

Today was the London Marathon.  I know a couple of people who decided a few months ago to take on the challenge, and they have both been training hard, going through all of the effects of piling on the miles...sore legs, tired body, exhaustion, and probably more. Today, they completed their first marathons, and raised I don't know how much for charity.
They seem absolutely overjoyed to have achieved their goal. I know I would be. It seems the kind of emotion that you can only understand by experiencing it first hand. The emotion you experience when you achieve a goal you have been working towards for months and months had finally been reached. All the dedication and effort was worth it. It meant something. It achieved something.
I suppose I could call myself a runner. I'm not in any club and I don't follow any strict regime, but I enjoy running. I'm not great by any standards. The most I have ran is a half marathon, and I still have a dream to run a whole marathon one day. However, I just need to commit myself. I need to dedicate myself. I need to sign up. I need a plan of action and a goal. So, if I want to do it so much, then why don't I just do it!? Maybe I'm scared...or nervous. Maybe I think it's too hard. I'm not sure. I'll find some excuse not to sign up...not to dedicate myself 110%. It needs to stop. I need some of that positive mental attitude. I need to remind myself that I can do it if I put my mind to it. It is me and me only who will decide on if I will reach this goal or not.
That's when reading success stories is probably the best thing for gathering up some motivation, some inspiration, and some realisation that I can do it if I really want to. Other people's stories of success are a reminder of what we can do if we put our minds to it. If we commit. We all want to achieve a dream, work towards a goal, do something amazing. We all lack motivation on occasion. We all need some support to get where we want to go. We all want to believe that yes, I can do that too!
I am so so happy that people around the world are achieving their goals, are dedicating themselves to something great. I really think we should all do this. We should all have goals. We should all have something to work towards, because if we don't then aren't we just plodding along? Aren't we just wandering around without direction? We need something concrete to work towards, no matter how big or small.
I love reading success stories. It reminds me to refocus. It reminds me of what I want to achieve. It reminds me of what I can achieve. It reminds me that I need goals.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Q is for ... Quandry

Q is for ... Quandary

I never liked video games. I played Sonic The Hedgehog and Lemmings maybe once or twice as a child, and never got into it. Maybe it was because I thought these games were so superficial and unrelated to real life that they never interested me. I wasn't interested in the fighting games -  I was interested in developing relationships and building friendships, like most girls my age.
If you were to ask me if I think video games have influenced and shaped society into producing some of the violence we have witnessed in recent times, I would say yes, but I don't think it is the only factor. I think there are many many other influences out there, but I think video games have contributed somewhat.
But, I think there is still some hope. I don't think all video games have a negative effect on society. I found this website: which I have never played, or even know much about, but seems a great learning tool, rather than a fighting tool.
The makers say that "this game develops skills such as critical thinking, perspective-taking and decision-making. Quandary provides a framework for how to approach ethical decision-making without telling players what to think". And it apparently aligns with Common Core Standards.
Use it or lose it! Is what they say, and I think it is really important for children to develop the ability to think and analyse, as it is these skills which are critical in all aspects of life today. This, however, takes work, just like anything. And normally if it is hard, then kids probably don't want to do it. Maybe it is games like these which will help schoolchildren develop these necessary skills for their future.
I'm still not s huge fan of video games; I would rather interact with real people. However, there is a big portion of the population who are big fans, and maybe they would find games like these entertaining and hopefully even useful.

Friday, 19 April 2013

P is for .... Penguins

P is for ... Penguins

I was reading a news article which happened to mention that the hockey game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Boston Bruins had been postponed. I had to do a retake. Really? Penguins? Oh America, you and your silly team names.
This really is not my field to be delving into, and maybe I'm lacking a great deal of American sports knowledge, but you can look at it from all angles, and the names are still silly. Yes, silly. There. I said it.
I had a look on the internet at some more names, and just as I thought, there are more cute little animals playing several different sports. We have some Dolphins, Bobcats, and Cubs all practising their sporting skills.
Then conversely you have the ones that want to sound tough, like the Gladiators, Thunder, Predators, Thrashers, Jaguars, and Lions. At least these ones are trying to make themselves sound like a fierce team. Even so, in England it is the school sports teams who use animal names such as the Lions, or the Jaguars, not professional teams. So to me it still doesn't sound quite right.
Then there are the completely bizarre ones, such as Nuggets, Angels, VooDoo, or Jackets. I just don't understand these ones at all.
I can just imagine the guys in the bar asking if the Angels lost to the Pirates, or if the Ducks beat the Devils. Totally possible, and hysterical.
So why, then do you find FC Dallas and DC United? Why would an American team copy the European soccer naming style? I don't know. I don't think I'll be losing sleep over it though.
Apparently the names are often related to the location somehow, and I get that teams want to show their loyalty to their cities, but somehow I don't think these American team names convey well into the sporting world.
Actually I don't really care. I don't care what the team names are. If they are (in my opinion) silly names, then they will entertain me if nothing else. It's something to write about at least.

O is for.. Obstacles

O is for Obstacles.

Some days I just don't know what to write about. Some letters are easy, and I know exactly what I'm going to say. Some other letters, however, I really have to think about. That's probably one of the reasons I'm a few letters behind - that and some days I don't find the time.
So, this challenge has brought a little obstacle each day. I have to think of a topic, think of something worthwhile to write about, and try to create something well written which is worthy of your time to read. I don't want to write for the sake of writing, and I don't want it to be a waste of your time. I want to write something rich and meaningful.  There is so much literature out there in the form of books, blog posts, articles, news etc that it's impossible to read it all. You have to pick and choose which ones you want spend your time reading. You want to pick the ones which are interesting to you. There are many articles, books and blogs which I have just scanned through, trying to work out if I want to spend my time reading to the end. Others, I start and discontinue after a few pages or paragraphs. Others I read with intent the whole way through.

Back to obstacles.  I remember when I was a child doing those obstacle courses with some others, and even though I loved the team camaraderie, the thought of jumping and crawling and who remembers what else scared me. I remember the adult leaders saying you don't finish by yourself, you finish as a team. So, the strong must help the weak. If you leave one behind, when that person finishes, that's when your team finishes. Most of those doing this were boys, so me being the girl, I was probably one of the weak ones at the back. Of course they helped me along, they helped me get over the wall and under the nets and whatever else. And sometimes that help came from the one you hardly speak to, or hardly know. You develop team spirit, even if as a team you don't come first. You know that you as a team overcame all the obstacles and did the best you could.
You and your team, you're in this together, you are overcoming all the obstacles - together. You are stronger together than alone. Your team is always there for you - even the ones who may seem distant, the ones you don't know so well, or hardly speak to. They too may be searching for someone to lean on, for someone to give them a leg up, for support and encouragement or someone to just listen. Your team could be your family, work, soccer team, church, or even just you and a friend. The size and shape doesn't matter.
With regards to A-Z challenge, you guys are my team. We read each others' blogs, share our stories, gather ideas and inspiration, encourage each other, and then write some more.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

N is for.... New Stuff About Me...

N is for ..... New Stuff About Me.

Well, I was nominated for the Leibster Award twice, so maybe I should participate! Thank you Jodie
and Elayne

Here are the rules:
1. Anyone with less than 200 followers can be nominated for The Liebster.
2. Each nominee should post facts about herself or himself.
3. Each nominee should answer the questions that are asked by the person doing the nominating.
4. Choose new bloggers to nominate for the Award and link them in the post.
5. Create new questions for your nominees.
6. Go back to their pages and tell them they've been nominated.
7. No tag backs.

Now I'm going to try and answer their questions. Here goes.
 (Jodie's questions)
1. If you could experience anything again for the first time, what would it be?
  Riding my bike? I'm a terrible bike rider, so maybe I can teach myself again.
2. If you could change one thing in history, what would it be?
  World War 1&2
3. How do you think the world would change from your answer to #2?
  There would be less hatred!
4. What's your happy song?
  Probably anything off The Lion King. This is a tough question!
5. What scent are you wearing?
  None! I smell wonderful already:)
6. What's the most important thing you would tell your 16 self?
  Become a Social Worker!
7. Describe your town/country in one sentence.
  My native city probably hasn't changed much since the last time I was there.
8. Sweet or savoury?
9. What are the five best things about women?
  Communication, understanding, empathetic, multi taskers, mind readers,
10. What are the five best things about men?
  Not complicated, like to fix what is broken, courageous, optimistic, predictable.
11. Who would play you in a movie?
  Julia Roberts, because I've had comments that I look like her... :)

(Elayne's questions)
1. What is your favorite day of the week and why?
Friday! You get to do something fun after working all week, and a weekend ahead to rest:)
2. Did you set a goal for 2013 and what was it?
Nothing concrete, but it was something like 'do something worthwhile'. I hope I am getting there!:)
3 Do you have a pet? What is his/her name?
Yes! Maggie:) My cat.
4. What is your favorite form of exercise?
Aerobics and running
5.Why did you start a blog?
Because I wanted to share my thoughts.
6.Where would you live if you could live anywhere?
Tough question! Somewhere by a beach.
7. Prefer camping or hotel room?
Hotels - actually Bed and Breakfasts, because I like the hospitality.
8.Do you know how to swim?
Yes, but I'm not so good.
9.Besides writing what is another favorite hobby?
Reading, cooking, baking, (I want to learn something new!)
10.What is the title to your favorite book?
I don't have one favorite. I love Paulo Coelho...he is perhaps my favorite author.
11. What is the name of your favorite movie?
 Shawshank Redemption. 

Random facts about me:

I don't understand why Americans never use knives when eating
I want to 'save the world'!
I make a pretty darn good pizza from scratch
I'm also proud of my banana bread creations
I've been a vegetarian since I was about 12
I want to skydive for charity, but I'm so scared!
I have lived in 5 countries
I detest turnips
I cannot stand unmade beds
I've come to the conclusion that 'strep throat' is an American illness, as is does not exist in England.
Oh, I don't think I've ever had an ear infection, but I feel like all American kiddos get them constantly.

Blogs I have nominated:

My questions:
1.What was your favourite childhood food?
2. If you could do one thing differently, what would it be?
3. What is your pet hate?
4. What is your weakness?
5. What is your strength?
6. What do you love best about yourself?
7. Do you believe in horoscopes?
8. What star sign are you?
9. Are you a lark or a night owl?
10. If you could change your career, what would you be?
11. Are you creative? If yes, how?

Thank you!!! :)

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

M is for ... Missing Tile

M is for... Missing Tile.

I don't think about tiles all too often. Recently, however, I've been giving them a little more thought.
My hubby showed me this video a while ago, and now and again I find myself thinking about it, and how it applies to me, and to others around me, for that matter.

The video talks about the 'missing tile syndrome'. Basically, we are always going to focus on the tile that is missing in the ceiling, because it is just so obvious. Prager then applies this to our lives, explaining that we are always going to focus on the part of our lives which just isn't perfect, even though really it probably isn't worth all the worry.
It makes sense. We really should take note of all of the other parts which are perfectly in place, and be grateful for them all.
Is it really that simple? What about if the tiles were all different sizes, and the one that was missing was the giant one right in the middle? The most important one!! How do we not focus on that tile?
What if we had missing tiles scattered all over the ceiling? What if we have more holes than tiles? How do we notice the tiles instead of the holes? Can we still be grateful for the tiles we do have, when there are so many empty spaces? Well, of course, we should be, but sometimes if the holes in the ceiling are so big, it is sometimes difficult to feel gratitude for just those few tiles left.
Sometimes it is easy to use a simple metaphor such as tiles on a ceiling to represent something as complex as life, but then again, what is as complex as life?
Prager has a selection of videos on several different topics, which are worth a watch, even if you don't think so right now.

Monday, 15 April 2013

L is for Love in Times of Distress

L is for Love in Times of Distress

What on earth happened? Why on earth would this happen? What is the world coming to? What was going through your heads? Why? Why? Why?
They train for months and months, dedicating time and effort, and push themselves to their limits so that they are at peak performance for the big day. They prepare themselves both physically and mentally for the event, so that they have the endurance to make it through to the end.
They work hard raising funds for charities, devoting themselves to supporting worthy causes, and they run in dedication of others.
And what do you do? Set off two explosions at the end of the race. You kill and injure people who have dedicated their themselves to doing making the world a better place, and to doing something amazing.
It takes months and months of organisation, of many many people making sure the day will be a success. It takes time, effort, organisation and dedication. Then you go and ruin it.
You create a catastrophe. And who picks up the pieces? The emergency services. Caring, dedicated, innocent people who devote everything to saving lives and helping others. They risk their lives and dedicate everything they can to helping the innocent victims.
Do you understand that everyone who suffers because of your actions is doing something great to help others? They are all caring, loving, dedicated, selfless people who really are doing something amazing in the world. Why would you want to create such destruction in these people's lives? Why?
Why is peace so impossible? Why would you intentionally create such damage and destruction instead of intentionally trying to create peace and love? How can you be so cruel? Where is your conscience, and your empathy for others?
Please, please, please realise that intentionally harming innocent people is not the answer to peace and love in the world. Violence and destruction breeds violence and destruction. Love and peace breeds love and peace. 

Sunday, 14 April 2013

K is for Keep Moving!

K is for Keep Moving!

I have recently spent some time with an elderly lady who fell and sprained her wrist a few days ago. It was badly swollen and bruised, and obviously hurt her a lot. This made her daily tasks incredibly difficult, as she now has one hand out of use (which is difficult enough in itself), and has to somehow manage to steady herself with her other hand. She has a walker, but pushing it along with just one hand is pretty difficult.
I feel terrible for her. If you know anything about growing old, you will know that a fall for an older person hits then harder than it would for a younger person. Growing old can mean loss of muscle, loss of balance, and brittle bones. Put these together and you get falls with broken bones.
When you are young and you have your whole life ahead of you, probably the last thing you are thinking of is your life into old age. But if you don't take time in your younger years to care for yourself, then the later ones just may be a lot more difficult.
Apparently, at around 40, people can lose around 8% of their muscle mass each decade. But, if people exercise through their 40's and continue on in later years, then this doesn't have to happen. You can remain strong, fit, and active.
How's your balance? How long can you stand on one foot? Balance deteriorates over the years, so practising activities which require balance strengthens your balance, reducing your risk of falling later in life.
I read recently that resistance training (using weights) also helps strengthen bones, as you put more tension on your muscles, it puts more pressure on your bones, which responds by creating new bone. So, resistance training not only strengthens muscles, but your bones too!! 
Then there are all the benefits of cardio exercise, which obviously has so many more benefits.
When you see the effects a sedentary lifestyle can have on a person's body, when you watch them become weaker, losing the balance and tiring easily, then it hits home that whether you exercise in your younger years will greatly affect your health and your daily life in your later years.
Getting up and doing it to me is like getting out of bed; it may take a bout of motivation to get to the gym, but once I'm there, I'm glad I did it. Just like getting up; once I'm up, I'm raring to go.
Sometimes all we need is a little push start.
Take a look at this lady's achievements:
I'm sure there are more like this fabulous lady. Including you and me!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

J is for ... Jigsaw

J is for ... Jigsaw.

You either love them or hate them.
Recently I have been trying to fit the pieces together of a 2000 piece Ravensburger puzzle. The picture is of an Italian coastline, looking in at the little Mediterranean style houses painted beautiful red, yellow, and salmon colors. Then nearly half of the picture is of the ocean, creating a mound of little ocean blue coloured jigsaw pieces, waiting to be fit together. This part is tough. So tough.
I'm no superstar when it comes to jigsaw puzzles. I often get frustrated, tired, and overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of pieces which lie scattered on the table. Especially when it is a 2000 piece puzzle.
But then, as I have done different puzzles with different people, I have learned the secrets to jigsaw puzzle success. And that is: a strategy. You can't just start looking for pieces and expect to connect the pieces; this would be just luck.
The first step is to find the edge pieces. Get these together, and you can make the boarder.
Then, separate the colors. Put all the ocean blue pieces together and deal with that last.
Identify an easy part of the picture to start with, something which has colors which are vibrant, detailed, or which there are only a few of. You can find these pieces easily and put them together.
You can do several little sections like this, and eventually they will connect.
Then comes the big blue ocean. I admit I don't have a strategy for that. Suggestions?
Strategy is pretty important in jigsaw puzzles, otherwise we just become impatient, frustrated, and demotivated. Then we categorically determine "I don't like jigsaw puzzles".
To me jigsaw puzzles are an example of real life. We need strategies for probably everything we do in our little lives. We need to follow a plan of action for everything; learning a new hobby, writing an essay, working through a problem, completing a degree, getting fit, planning an event, cooking a meal. If we have a plan, and we follow it, we should get the results we want.
If you get frustrated at jigsaws, step back and think about how you are approaching it. Are you just searching randomly for pieces, or do you have a method, and a plan?
The same goes for so many aspects of our lives. I still need to work out how I'm going to approach all that blue. I don't want to just pick up random blue pieces and hope they fit. The chances are it's not going to work.

Friday, 12 April 2013

I is for....Idealist

I is for Idealist.

I stumbled upon a pretty renowned online test through The Myers and Briggs Foundation to identify your personality type. It was quick to do, so I thought I would give it a go. I didn't think it would come up with anything surprising, as I obviously have a pretty good idea of my own personality.
The test determined I am idealistic - basically an Idealist. No surprises there for me.
Idealists hope for a perfect world, with no wars or hunger, and with peace love all around.
But can we really have one without the other? Can we have love without hate?
So I thought, does Newtons Law of every action has an equal and opposite reaction apply to everything? Our feelings included? If we have love, then does that mean there must be hate? If we have joy, does this mean we get pain too?
If this is true them Idealism is impossible.
Maybe then, then the world is just naturally in balance with itself already; we just don't notice it because it is on such a large scale. Maybe then, if someone feels joy, then this means that someone else must feel pain. Equal and opposite reactions.
How is it decided whether you should get joy or pain?
Who knows.
All I know is, that if you want one, you have to take the other too. No joy without sadness and no peace without war.
Idealism doesn't work. Damn.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

H is for....House Rules

H is for House Rules

I've caught myself thinking about it when I'm daydreaming; taking a shower, cleaning the house, cooking dinner... and even when I really should be concentrating on something a little more important. That's when you know it's a fabulous book. I'm amazed at how caught up I am in Jodi Picoult's works; she draws you into the story as if you are standing in the middle of it all, witnessing everything first hand.
I'm not done yet, I have about a hundred pages to go, and I can't wait to delve into it once again. I've been trying to predict how it will all turn out since about a quarter of the way through, and as I draw close to the end, each page I turn I feel like this page is the one where everything will revealed, but then she feeds you just a little bit, just enough for you to want more.
I would love to write a book. But what I would love even more is the ability to write a great book. As I have been reading, I have paid a little more attention than usual to her writing style. I have noted how she develops the plot, the characters, and how she develops each scene so that if you closed your eyes you could have a vision of the scene itself, and see how the characters are basically real people.
I thought about how much work it must take for the writer, about how many hours are dedicated to research so that the story is rich in content, and so that the characters are as alive as you and me.
I wonder if I would be able to do this one day.
There is a picture of Jodi on the back of her book, and every time I see it, I feel her eyes staring at me. Maybe she is telling me "You can do it too!". I like to think so, but then, doesn't everyone? I look back at her and think, "I wish I could write like you. I wish I had your skills...and your imagination and creativity".
Maybe I do have it, maybe I just need to work really really hard to find it, just like she did.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

G is for .... Green Soup

G is for .... Green Soup

Most guys would probably turn their nose up, stomp in the opposite direction, and say "No way, it's green".  Well, he didn't.

I threw some veggies in a pan, sauteed them, added some veggie broth, and a handful of spices, and let it simmer. Just playing around with some flavours, and cautiously awaiting the results. I have a general idea of what works well when it comes to cooking, but there is always a risk of it all quickly heading south. I smelled the aromas as they simmered away; whiffs of spice with hints of garlic. But what about the taste? I have to wait some more.
Time to blend. I create a mini tornado in my pan, blasting the vegetables into a smooth soup. Now it is green. Green like grass, green like the colour of Green Machine, yet with a drastically different taste. I take a little slurp. The sharp spices mixed with the powerful garlic awaken my taste buds. Whoa....! I think, that's pretty spicy. The curry flavours rest in my mouth as I wonder if he will like it. Spicy green soup, with garlic and curry mixed in. That's the exciting part about these little random dishes; you never know what you're going to end up with until the last minute. "I hope he's in the mood to try something new", I think to myself.
When he comes home, simmering on the hob, and the bread is in the oven. "It smells good", he comments. I pause. "It's green", I state, with a little smirk. He looks at me, annd returns the smile. "Nooo way....not green. Not green soup...that's not good". I look at him, I know him; his tone, his gestures, his character. He's playing along. I know he will at least try it, because he's that kind of guy.
He thinks he doesn't like certain vegetables, for instance, cauliflower, broccoli and celery. Yet I've fed him cauliflower soup before and he liked it. He just thinks he doesn't like them raw, alone, with nothing to compliment the flavors. I think just think he's scared of some vegetables.
Anyway, we try my spicy green soup with curry and garlic creation, and break into the piping hot bread straight from the oven. "Oh, it's spicy!" is comments, almost surprised. I know he likes spicy food, but that doesn't mean to say he's going to like this. We exchange chit chat, and I prompt him once again for his opinion on my random creation. "Oh, it's good" he remarks. Phew. I sigh, with some relief. I hate it when my creations - even the random ones - are not pleasing to someone's palate.
So, I like to think have trained him well. I like to think that through my random creations, he is not afraid to try something a little different, and to not be scared when something is green. Maybe he already had this in him!
We probably all go through the childhood phase of not eating our veggies, because at that point in time we just don't like them, our palates aren't ready for them, or maybe they just weren't cooked well. But, as we grow, we develop a taste for new foods, and we can then venture into new flavours, and try once more the veggies we oh so detested as a child. 

Monday, 8 April 2013

F is for Friends

F is for Friends.

I thought I would write this post about an old friend of mine from school. A week or so ago I happened to be glancing through Facebook and clicked on her profile, as I had not spoken to her in a long time, and wondered what she was doing these days.
I was sad so discover that she passed away at the end of 2010 from epilepsy. Apparently it was from something called SUDEP, which I had never heard of before.

We were good friends all through school, and I went on holiday to Cornwall in England with her family one year. I remember we went to the beach on the first day and spent the whole day there, in and out of the water. We didn't think to reapply the sun cream and got totally sunburnt! We spent the next couple of days lying on our beds trying not to move too much because we were so sore!
I remember she was so creative; she was an awesome artist and always used to win the art competitions held at school, yet she was always so modest about her talents.
Once at her house I remember we made up a dance to U2 song 'Desire'. I still remember bits of it! She also made up funny songs to the tune of some other hit, and boy did they get stuck in your head!
We sang along to The Cranberries all the time, and now I can't listen to their tracks without thinking about us pouring out our lungs.
We studied A level French together, and she also studied art and English; she loved literature and was always reading something. I remember getting her to read some kind of murder mystery book; not her usual style but she loved it.
After university she went on to do a masters in journalism, and was working as a journalist in London, living with some friends. She was so talented and it's such a great sadness to think that she isn't around anymore.
Even though I hadn't spoken to her in years, it's really weird to think that she's gone. She was such a character, and had the ability to make anyone laugh, no matter how sad they were. She was loved by so many, and, of course, she always will be.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

E is for Empathy

E is for Empathy.

I thought I would share a website which I found called 'Daily Good'. It features real inspirational news articles from all different fields, run by volunteers and is completely free.
It is a great read when you feel like you need a boost of positive and uplifting news in your day, to remind you that the presence of good is still in the world! I love their philosophy of "Be the change that you wish to see in the world," and I think this is a great thought to keep in your mind while we go about our daily lives. 
Here is the website:
I wanted to mention an article I read about empathy. The article is called 'The Wisdom of Babies'  and talks about a project developed called 'Roots for Empathy', with the goal of raising empathy levels in children. The founder of the project worked parents who were abusive to their children, and found that the parents had a lack of empathy for the feelings of the child.
The project works in classrooms, helping strengthen the the attachment relationship in children as they watch the child grow and bond with its parent.
There are so many other great stories on this website, and I encourage you to visit and read about the good in the world! :)

Friday, 5 April 2013

D is for Dangerous Minds.

D is for Dangerous Minds.

I heard the news about the two district attorneys in Texas who were recently shot, and how maybe it was related to another district attorney who was shot a couple of months ago. I thought How strange, I'm sure there is some long history going on there. 
Oh yes.
I read the news article on the BBC about the case, and found out that it is maybe linked to the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. I read about them, and found out that they are a gang which formed in Texan jails. What? Gangs form in jails? I would never have thought of such a thing!! Well, I must be naive or something, because I never thought this would be possible. Well, this one is apparently a white supremacist group, which formed in 1979 when Texas desegregated its jails.
I never knew they were segregated in the first place! I suppose they would have had to have been segregated back in the day. Well, now we are seeing the immense repercussions.
I read some more and found out that they even have a constitution, which amazed me no end. Locked up in prison, and they still manage to build a gang with a constitution. Apparently it is tightly structured, with each region headed by a general. It's like the army but behind bars. Apparently it has around 2,000 members.
The original Aryan Brotherhood started through the same means in California in the late 60's, but that's not the end of it. There are other prison gangs, such as the Nazi Lowriders and the European Kindred.
Seems like I need to brush up on my gang knowledge:) It's amazing what slips you by then you have no attachment whatsoever to something.
Most of all it saddens me to think that people who were trying to make the world a better place lost their lives for doing what they believed in. Gah.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

C is for Caregivers

C is for Caregivers.

When I was a child I wanted to do so many different things; fly planes, helicopters, fight fires, teach African kids to read, nurse starving children to health,  ... and who remembers what else. I think my underlying goal was to save the world! Don't we all?! Then real life started to take hold and my childhood dreams faded away. Now I think about what my life would have been like if I happened to pursue one of these dreams. These are the people I admire so much! They dedicate -and often risk- their daily lives to help and save others. They are our everyday heroes.
They are the most notable of our heroes, anyway. We often miss the ones who go unnoticed, hidden behind closed doors, the ones who are busily going about their daily lives, working, running a household, sacrificing and caring for others. Of course, parents spring to mind. They double-multi-task the kiddos, the job, the house, the gym, and more all day, leaving about a nano-second spare to look after themselves. Another everyday hero. But then what about the ones who have an extra priority to add to the list? Those who have an older dependent to look after are some of our society's forgotten heroes. We humans are not going to last forever, and as we age, we may once again need some support as we grow old gracefully. These caregivers often make many sacrifices in order to help their loved ones live their lives in comfort to the best of their ability.
Child-rearing is demanding, of course, but parents rejoice as they watch their child grow and develop, whereas looking after an elder as they progress into old age can be painful, which can make it all the more difficult to cope with on a daily basis. Yet a caregiver is patient and loving, and will do all they can to make the lives of their loved one as wonderful as possible. They too are everyday heroes.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

B is for Band of Gold

B is for Band of Gold.

It doesn't have to be gold. It doesn't have to be silver. It can be a plastic kiddie ring. It can be some foil wrapped in a ring shape. It can be some paper twizzled around your finger. Or, it could be nothing at all. After all, it's just a symbol. And often a far too expensive one at that.
Of course, it symbolises your marriage to your spouse. It symbolises your commitment to each other for the rest of your lives. It symbolises your life together in unity.
Does the symbol matter? Does it help remind you on a daily basis that you are married? Is it worth the expense, just for something to wrap around your finger to represent your unity? Is it to deter others from thinking you may be a single?  Isn't the piece of paper you signed or the words you spoke enough? Do you have to wear it? Forever?

What about that wedding? Oh my, it's that day. Almost all women dream of that day. They day you wear the white dress, and throw the bouquet over your shoulder. I've been dreaming of that day since I was about 10 years old! She thinks.
How much will it cost?? How much planning? How much work? Oh, but it will be so worth it! She thinks. And probably so. I really hope she will be married for the rest of her life. But, sadly, we know that sometimes, that doesn't happen.

It's not all rings and wedding days. It's not all about fancy dresses, fancy flowers, and fancy wedding cake. In fact, this is what starts out as your biggest concern, but then as life takes over, it becomes just some cake, just a dress and just a ring when all said and done.

Before I even had marriage on my mind, someone said to me "You know, it is who you marry which determines your life's path more than anything". For me, it rings true.

The band doesn't determine anything, it just sits on my finger and looks pretty. 

Monday, 1 April 2013

A is for .... All About Me.

 April is the month of A-Z!

It's April, which is the month of the 'Blogging from A-Z Challenge', which means I need to get my brain into gear and think of something to write about each day. Last year unfortunately I didn't manage to complete it, but I hope I succeed this year! Now, to dust off of my imagination, my creativity, and those writing skills.. eeek!

A is for All About Me.

I thought I would start with a little introduction to me. Well, instead of the usual stuff, I thought I would write about some of the useless bits of info which you would probably never know unless you had lived with me my entire life... then you still wouldn't know some bits... anyway, here goes...

- My favouite chocolate bars (UK) are Crunchie and Double Decker. Boost is not far behind.
- I detest cilantro with a passion.
- I have always wanted to do a skydive, but I'm getting less brave as I get older.
- I hate hate hate to sleep with ticking clocks.
- I love inventing recipes. I just made a delicious dessert pretty much by invention.
- I hate the way the American pronunciation of route and algae. It's like the word is being tortured each time someone says it. Sorry.
- I also hate how Americans say write me, instead of write to me. You can't just take out a preposition and expect it to make sense. Sorry, once again.
 - As a child I wanted to be a Sea King helicopter pilot, which, incidentally, is Prince William's job in the Royal Air Force. If I had done that (very unlikely!) then maybe I would have been buddies with a prince!
- I am a recycling nut. It physically pains me when I see something which could be recycled, thrown away.
- I moisturise my hands a gazillion times a day and they are still dry and cracked.
- I am one of the most indecisive people I know.  I have a magnet with a picture of a bear with his hands over his eyes, with the quote "I used to be decisive, but now I'm not sure".
- I feel at least 10 years younger than I actually am.
- My favourite writing pens are the cheap bic pens which nobody else likes. And the blue is definitely better than the black. The purple is my all-time favourite.
- I love the take off and landing parts of flying. The speeds and the bumps make it fun times. Turbulants scare me, but are also kinda cool.

That's enough random information for now. Hope that was half interesting at least! :)