Friday, June 28, 2013

Follow up 3: Why are You Smiling?

Why I'm smiling...
First, it’s Friday... I have this irrational love for Fridays, something about it being the end of the week maybe (cause I mean, is there anything better than Saturday?)?

Secondly, you know how you can have a streak of bad luck? I feel that my family has been having one of those since last year, but things are kinda looking up.... Our car spontaneously caught fire; nobody got hurt though. It has finally, with a lot of difficulty, been replaced. My diabetic grandpa had one failed kidney and one operating at 5%, which meant he needed a transplant. His last born daughter offered hers, which meant 2 family members going under the knife on Christmas Day ! Anyway, they both made it out and are doing awesome. There’s other stuff too, but the big stuff’s out of the way and we are getting back on our feet.

And last but definitely not least, my boyfriend is the reason for my first smile almost every morning thanks to his daily mushy good morning texts that make me feel like the awesomest thing to walk this earth J
That’s why...
-Michelle

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ah, the Crazy Friday Rolls Around Once Again

Guess what folks? Dramatic drumroll and all that, it's finally Friday.
Take five minutes, plug in your earphones, play a song. Jam in the office, let everyone know it's a Friday.
Yes, I have lots of energy right now. And I'm trying to spread it as far and wide.
Go ahead people, ask me why I'm smiling!

This weekend, I challenge you to do something to stretch yourself. A sort of  new experience weekend.
For Friday, strike up a conversation with a stranger, but with some limitations. For example, you're not allowed to use a certain word, phrase, or must incorporate some words like purple and cow. Or purple cow. You get the gist.

Saturday, let's create something shall we? A meal, a painting, a structure, whatever you want.
And on Sunday? We're going to relax in a new way. Now, I'm not going to suggest anything for this. Let's see how creative we can get.
Have a creative, stretchy Friday!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Good Old Extended Family

Before I start, I want to go ahead and stress that this post reflects my personal point of view. I'm in no way telling others what they should do, or judging them on how they live their lives.
Okay, maybe that last part isn't all the way true. Everyone judges others to some degree, and I'm certainly no exempt angel.

When I talk of the extended family, I'm talking about the type that is common in the Indian culture; in India, and in people of Indian origin in other countries who have managed to keep up with aspects of the culture. Also, I'm talking about this in terms of a wife living with her in-laws. The reason this came to mind is that recently, a friend and I had this discussion, and he challenged me to think about why I was so uncomfortable with the idea of moving into my 'husband's parents' home' (in the potential distant future).

When a couple is starting off on a new life together, they need privacy. Period. They need to be able to set their own rules, build their own house, have their fights, and set out on a life of their own. I think this is extremely difficult to do when you have to worry about the other relationships in the house. I'd find it hard to move into a house with pre-established rules and traditions, and be expected to follow them. Now, I know I'm a non-conformist (within reasonable bounds). I like challenging the status quo, and if I feel something is wrong, I'm not comfortable complying, no matter how uncomfortable the situation gets. And definitely, a pair of newlyweds in a house with others will not have as much freedom to pave their own path. I'm not saying that everyone wants to. But I do.

Another aspect of being newly married is the fights and disagreements that will inevitably arise; in any relationship, this is the case. However, the direction of such a disagreement can be heavily influenced by external (though well meant) forces.

What else has made me wary of such extended families? In a large proportion of the ones I've known or heard of, the problems they've had living together have outweighed the benefits. From disagreements on how to raise children, to inability to make decisions to outright abuse, I've heard of and seen a number of problems.

One of my reasons could be seen as petty; whey the husband's family, and not the wife's? (I don't think it's petty, but others could).

Yes, I know that it is extremely important to be around family, and I am really close to my own. I know that my ideal situation would be one where I had the privacy to live on my own with my (again, in the potential VERY distant future) husband, and yet lived in a place that had close enough access to both sides of the family.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cream of Carrot Soup

This is good. REALLY good. I don't remember where I got the recipe from, but definitely worth sharing.

(Serves 6)

Ingredients:
2 pounds carrots
4 cups chicken broth
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
1tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cup half and half

Method:
                       Cut carrots into ½ inch slices
Put sliced carrots into a saucepan, and add the chicken broth.
Cook the carrots and broth over medium-high head. When the broth begins to boil, turn the heat down to medium low.
Cover the saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes or until the carrots are very soft.
Sieve the broth and carrots through the colander, and save the broth.
Put the drained carrots back into the saucepan
Mash until very soft and set the pan aside.
In a bigger saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and stir in the flour.
Cook the butter and flour for 1 minute over low heat stirring continuously
Add mashed carrots, salt, cayenne pepper, stir to mix
Slowly stir in the broth
Turn the heat up and cook for 10 mins stirring continuously
Add the half and half, stirring continuously, don’t let the soup boil
Serve!





Monday, June 10, 2013

Rift Valley Academy Visit

Last Thursday, I visited the Rift Valley Academy (RVA), a Christian boarding school in Kijabe, Kenya. I went to talk to some students about Sewanee, to try and get some prospective students interested in the university.
http://www.rva.org/

Interesting fact: The cornerstone for the school was laid by Teddy Roosevelt!

 Having a few friends who attended RVA, I've always wanted to visit but I must admit to being surprised by how beautiful the school is. Despite being located in an area where there is a lot of hardship, RVA managed to give off an aura of hope.

I met the college counsellor for RVA, Steve Peifer, at the Village Market in the morning, and rode with him to the school. Thank goodness, because I doubt I'd have been able to find the school otherwise.

Having recently been kind of frustrated with Kenya, largely due to the traffic issues and desperate inequality, it was refreshing and much needed for me to visit a place that reminded me of how much I love Kenya. Those who have lived in the country probably know what I'm talking about; that pull in your gut when you're in the Rift Valley surrounded by breathtaking views and people who are determined to come out on top of any circumstances that they may face.
The campus was gorgeous, and I found myself wishing I had visited sooner!


The students were amazing and had lots of questions about Sewanee. Hopefully, in a year or two, we may get some students from RVA to attend.
The person I interacted with most was Steve, and from the beginning he came across as a person who was passionate about the people he worked with and served. He gave me some great career advice, and managed to set me completely at ease at the RVA campus; I almost felt that I had been there before!

He gave me a copy of his book, 'A Dream So Big: Our Unlikely Journey to End the Tears of Hunger,' which I thoroughly enjoyed and will be doing a short review of below. I definitely recommend that all of you get yourselves a copy at http://www.amazon.com/Dream-So-Big-Unlikely-Journey/dp/0310326095

 Yes, I know that missionaries in Africa kind of seem to be overdone. However, reading this book, one walks away with feelings of hope and faith, as opposed to despair. Steve and his family moved to Kenya after losing an infant son about 14 years ago. What started out as an intended one year visit turned into a long stay that brought meaning to so many people's lives. Before moving to Kenya, Steve has a successful corporate career, which many would think one would have to be crazy to leave. Reading this book however, you realise that he is definitely not crazy, and may be one of the more sensible men of our time. Coming to RVA, Steve won numerous awards for his work, one of which was a CNN hero award.

Apart from his efforts with guiding the students of RVA, Steve managed to implement feeding programmes at some local schools, as well as computer centres at some of them. I don't want to spoil the book by giving away too much, so I won't give too many details about these.
This book has a great combination of humour and emotions, and the ability to move someone to laughter and to tears. We get to know Jessie the dog, the antics of twins Katie and Ben, the often touching kindness of JT and Matthew, and the strong love that Nancy and Steve share. By showing the stark reality of the people in the Rift Valley, along with their unwavering hope and courage, Steve definitely does justice to the topic of Kenyan poverty without being just another 'charity worker,' the likes of which often do more harm than good.

Anyway, I'll leave you to discover the rest of this for yourselves. Have a hopeful Monday!




Friday, June 7, 2013

Follow up 2: Why are You Smiling?

Athough I have lived in Sewanee for over two decades, I was always a smiler even before living here, in fact it has been one of my traits and I consider myself a professional at this. It is a complicated subject and there are multiple reasons behind why people are like this. 

I grew up in a low-income family with alcohol problems and lots of stress. Somewhere along the way I started dealing with my family and myself by using laughter as a coping and denial mechanism. As I matured and began dealing with myself in a healthy way, I kept my sense of humor and it developed into a communicative method with others, to convey a sense of hope and positivity. 

A lot of people in the world live mundane or difficult lives, life can be very hard and there is much tragedy. But if we use smiling as a way of conveying hope, and seeing the good in each person,  then it is not the pejorative Polyanna (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollyanna) optimism, but more of the Christian philosophy of seeing Christ in every person. This is not false "happiness" but the ideal of lifting people out of there own shameful mire. 

Blessings,
Dixon Myers

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

How to become rich: The story of a dead mouse

Reposted from www.streetdirectory.com/travel_guide/7739/self_improvement_and_motivation/how_you_can_become_rich_with_just_a_dead_mouse.html/

In the city of Varanasi, a young man was once on the lookout for a suitable job. It so happened that the King's Treasurer, accompanied by a friend, passed by.

'The King values your work. The treasury is overflowing with riches. What is the secret of your success?' asked the treasurer's friend.

'Initiative & Enterprise. I'll explain what I mean...' replied the wise treasurer and continued, pointing to a dead mouse on the street...

'Do you see that dead mouse?... Yes?... Even without any money, anyone with initiative could just pick up that mouse and start a business'

'A dead mouse as capital?!!!... Ha..Ha..Ha..' laughed the treasurer's friend and the duo went away.

The young man stopped and gazed at the dead mouse.

'It sounds like an absurd idea... But the treasurer must surely know what he is talking about!' thought the young man and hesitantly picked up the dead mouse.

'But what can I do with it? Who would want to buy a dead mouse?'

'Hey, pussy cat, come back! Ah! Now I know what has attracted him' yelled a man who was passing by with his pet cat.

The cat, attracted by the dead mouse, had jumped out of it's owner's arms.

'My friend, will you sell your mouse to me? I'll pay you one coin for it.' asked the cat owner.

'The mouse is yours!'

'The first coin I've earned!' the young man was excited.

'But what can I do with this small coin?... The wise treasurer has said one must have enterprise...Hmm'

'Oh! I've got it. I must find out if there is a demand for something and then arrange to supply it!' thought the young man and went into a grocery shop...

'Give me one coin's worth of jaggery (sugar) please...'

The next morning, the young man filled a pot with drinking water mixed with jaggery and went to the outskirts of the city.

'I'll wait here for the flower-gatherers to return from work'

In the forest, workers were busy collecting flowers. It was late in the afternoon when they finished their work and began returning to the city.

'It's so hot! and I'm so thirsty! There won't be any water to drink till we reach the city', the workers felt.

'Ah! here they come!...' stood up the young man.

'Brothers, you must be tired. Have some sweet-water...'

'Thank you, friend... May you live long... All we can give you is this bunch of flowers from each one of us. How refreshed we feel after drinking that water! May these flowers also make you happy...'

Each of the workers gulped some water and gave him a bunch of flowers in return. 'Bring us water tomorrow as well, my friend'--the workers left.

The young man took the flowers to the temple in the city. There he sold sold them for eight coins.

With the money he earned, the young man bought a bigger pot and larger quantity of jaggery (sugar).

The next day he went back to the forest to give drinking water to flower-gatherers and even further away, to the fields where grass-cutters were working.

'Is anybody thirsty?'

'You won't find anyone here who is not thirsty. Give me some water, son...' the grass-cutters gracefully drank the sweet-water.

'Brother, you are kind to us. What can we do for you in return?'

'Nothing at present' replied the young man.

'But... don't hesitate to ask us when you need our help'

A month passed by.

One evening, the young man was returning home when a storm broke out.

Everywhere the wind blew down leaves and dry branches.

'If there's money in a dead mouse, there should be money in these leaves and branches, too!'

The next morning he went to the palace garden and spoke to the gardener.

'You look worried, uncle. Can I help you?'

'How can you? The garden is littered with branches... And the King is expected any moment now... I don't know how to clean the mess before he comes' wailed the gardener.

'I'll help you if I can keep the fallen branches' offered the young man.

'Take them, son... Only take them away soon'

'I'll be back in a minute' the young man left the messy garden.

He didn't have to go far to find a group of playing kids.

'Would you like to have some sugar candies?'

'Candies? Oh, certainly!' the kids shouted.

'Then come on, boys. I'll give you some. Everyone will get his share... '

The little kids were happy.

'Would you like to have some more? But you must earn it'

'Tell us what we should do! We are ready!' shouted the excited kids.

'Then come with me. You must collect all the fallen branches in the garden and heap them outside. That's easy! and fun too!'

Quickly they gathered up the fallen branches and heaped them outside the garden. The garden now looked clean and fresh.

'Ah! you have finished! here's your reward, delicious sugar candies! Thank you friends'

Just as the young man was wondering what he should do next... a potter came by and stopped his cart.

'Is that heap of firewood for sale?...'

'Yes of course...'

'Here are sixteen coins. Please help me load my cart. Now I have all the wood I need to fire the pots specially ordered by the King'

The young man then went with the potter to the market.

'Have you heard? The horse dealer will be coming tomorrow' the young man overheard a conversation in the market.

'Yes, yes, I hear he will be bringing five hundred horses to sell'

The young man thought for a minute...

'Aha! that's useful information...'

Hurriedly he went to the grass-cutters and said 'Friends, I seek a favor from you'

'At last! tell us what we should do' replied the grass-cutters.

'I want a bundle of grass from each of you' told the young man.

'We are five hundred in all. So, as many bundles of grass will be delivered to you tonight' the grass-cutters happily agreed.

The young man continued...

'And I want you to promise that till tomorrow afternoon you will not sell anyone any grass at all'

The grass-cutters replied, 'You are our friend. You have given us sweet, flavored water when we were thirsty without getting anything in return. We will do what you ask without question'

The next morning the horse dealer arrived with five hundred horses at the outskirts of the city.

'Strange! no one has come yet to sell me grass for my horses'

He went to the market.

'No grass in a city like Varanasi?'

'Where have all the grass-cutters gone?'

Just then the horse dealer came across the young man's house and saw a big heap of grass bundles.

'Grass! At last! Young man, will you sell all this grass to me? I'll pay you well for it' enquired the horse dealer.

The young man said, 'The grass is yours, Sir'

'Good! then help my man load the cart'

'Here you are Sir, five hundred bundles of grass'

'And here's your payment--one thousand coins'

The young man was excited.

'One thousand coins! I can put these to good use'

A day later...

'Why is it so quiet here today? Is anything the matter?' enquired the young man, while strolling in the city market.

'Everyone is away making preparations to receive the boats that will be arriving tomorrow' replied a passer by.

'Boats... arriving tomorrow?'

An idea flashed like lightning. He bought new clothes and then went to hire a carriage.

'Send the carriage to my house early tomorrow morning. Here's some money as advance'

Very early the next morning, the young man rode in style to the river harbor with his two friends and waited to receive the visiting merchant.

He was, naturally, the first to greet the visiting merchant.

'Welcome to Varanasi'

'I'm happy to meet you, Sir'

The young man continued, 'I want to buy all the merchandise you have brought'

'Right. It's a pleasure to do business with you' replied the merchant.

The merchant quoted a price to which the young man readily agreed and said, 'I need time to arrange the payment. Meanwhile, here's my signet ring as a token of advance and security'

Then the young man set up a small tent and said to his friends, 'When the city merchants come, bring them in with due courtesy'

At day break, a hundred city merchants came to the harbor and met the visiting merchant.

'My friend, we have come to do business with you!'

'I'm sorry, Sir. I've already sold everything' said the visiting merchant.

The city merchants were taken aback, 'When?? To whom??'

'To that young merchant over there' came back the reply.

The city merchants were shocked...

'He's not one of us! We can't let any new persons into our trade or we'll be ruined! We'll lose our precious customers! let's buy him out! We'll make him an offer he can't refuse!' discussed the city merchants.

'All right, let's go to him' they decided.

'Welcome gentlemen! Welcome! Well, gentlemen, have you a proposal to offer?' the young man asked courteously.

'Sir, we would like to buy a share each of the total merchandise. We'll pay you handsomely... thousand gold coins each... That will make it a hundred thousand gold pieces since there are hundred merchants here. But we need all the merchandise--all of it'

Having agreed to the deal, the young man returned home. 'I still have a big amount left after paying the visiting merchant. And I owe it all to the treasurer's wisdom!'

To express his gratitude, the young man went to call on the treasurer, taking half of his profits with him.

'Sir, permit me to present you with these coins as my humble tuition fee for the lesson I learned from you'

'But, I haven't seen you before! Haven't taught you anything!' said the surprised treasurer.

'Yes, you have! I came by all my wealth in four short months, simply by following your teachings' said the young man.

Then he narrated the treasurer the whole story, starting with the dead mouse.

The wise treasurer listened carefully and thought, 'This young man is extraordinarily clever. Just the person I'd choose for my lovely daughter'

So, he married the young man to his daughter and gave him all his family estates and happily said, 'The goddess of success smiles on those who show INITIATIVE and ENTERPRISE. May you always be so fortunate, my son!'

Follow up: Why are You Smiling?

I asked a couple of people to send me their stories, and this is one of the ones I got:

I'm smiling because I got an email from my best friend, who is so unbelievably corny and sappy. I wasn't smiling before this email; in fact I was rather upset that I had lost my page on a book I was reading and because my sister made the worst chocolate chip pancakes ever and then yelled at me for eating only the chocolate pieces, but then I read this email and just had to smile. My friend would do this. She's always doing things like this. She loves this sappy stuff like birthday cards and pictures of puppies and text messages of inspirational quotes from famous people. She is so very strange and abnormally fond of things that most people aren't comfortable with, like showing affection in a public manner (or hugging a male professor), but this is yet another reminder of why she is my best friend and one of the greatest influences in my life. Life isn't always happy and loving (in fact, it's usually not happy or loving at all), so it's important to remember the sappy, romantic moments. It's important to show people that you care and to hold on to the happy moments as much as possible. And, yes, it is important to ask why someone is smiling. 
-AG

'Rosh' Pasta

While doing recipes is not usually my thing, I felt that I should post a few of the simpler ones that even people like me can understand! Yes, I haven't named this pasta, but feel free to call it whatever you like. I did have  a picture somewhere, and will try dig it up. Also, do not strictly go by the quantities here; they are a guideline that you may want to play around with.

Ingredients:
2 packets boiled pasta (whatever kind you like)
Red wine (preferably Merlot... a cup should do it)
1 kg tomatoes chopped finely
1/2 kg onions sliced thinly
Minced garlic (To taste)
Olive oil (or butter if you prefer)
Mixed herbs: I used thyme, basil, rosemary and oregano
Salt
Paprika powder to taste
Red chilli powder (if you want it spicier)
1 can of corn off the cob
750 grammes of grated cheese. Preferably parmesan, though I used mozzarella.

Steps:
1) Cook the minced garlic, about four and a half teaspoons, in the olive oil.
2) Next, add the onions and cook until they are a nice light brown.
3) Add the tomatoes, herbs, paprika, salt and chilli powder.
4) Cook these until you can see them being done (not being a professional chef, I don't know exactly how to describe this, but I'm sure you'll figure it out).
5) Next, add a little bit of the red wine! Save most of it for the end. Stir the mixture until you get a nice red wine aroma in the air.
6) Now, add the boiled pasta and mix it all together very well.
7) Add the corn, and mix again.
8) Now, add the grated cheese and mix really well. Feel free to add more if you want.
9) This is when you add the rest of the red wine. Mix well, and serve hot.
10) Enjoy!



Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Shall We Please them All?

I don't know about the majority of you, but I live in a society where everyone is concerned with following the rules, and fitting the mold, so much so that sometimes they forget to be their own person. Yes, I'm being judgmental, but I feel that I can be since I'm sometimes guilty of this myself (although, dear God, I hope this is less often than most).

Now, when I talk of this society, I mean the one in Nairobi. Yes, people in Sewanee do this to a certain extent, but I think that's a whole different ball game.

Yes, rules, traditions and beliefs are important. We hold onto our past because it gives us a base. We repeat the same things because they give us a sense of security. However, times are changing and it's important to realise that so many of these customs and traditions are simply not relevant; some on a societal level, and some on a more individual level.

At the risk of incurring the loving wrath of my fellow people, I'll give a few examples.
One young man I know who is around my age was lounging around as his mother laboured in the kitchen. I wondered why he wasn't helping, and being me, I asked. His mother was quick to reassure me that he did not need to; once he got married, his wife would take care of the 'household stuff.' It took all I had to stay quiet and not look mortally offended (pats herself on back). I'm not even going to bother going into the details of just how undervalued women are most of the time. Now, by no means do I consider myself a staunch feminist. However, I do know that there are many things that they are equal in, and it's time that society realised this.

There's a group I know that is comprised of people of many different ages and generations. These people meet on a regular basis, being well acquainted family friends, and naturally, discuss a variety of topics as people are apt to do. I was rather miffed though, by the ease at which the wisdom and opinions of the younger ones was discounted. The common perception seems to be that in a family, older people are the only ones with things worth saying or listening to, and that there is only one proper 'head' of the family.
There's also a common social stigma against those who dare to be different, in some groups more than others. This can be against homosexuals, women who dare to be independent, people who do not strictly conform to religion's rules or youth who decide to be 'artsy.'

Unfortunately (or fortunately) for me, I'm someone who likes to look above and beyond. I like to recognise, appreciate, and bring out the potential in groups and individuals, and facing those who are determined to stick to their good old tried-and-tested is more than a little frustrating. This being said, allow me to preach just a little bit. Let's challenge our perceptions, views and beliefs, and recognise what is around us. If we dogmatically stick to how we've always been, we won't be able to get anywhere at all.
Have a great day!

Liked this post? Don't forget to post a comment, reach out to me via Twitter @roshwalia or follow this blog!

Mind Tools

A great resource I came across this morning is www.mindtools.com
It's got tests, exercises and various other resources that can be used to become a more efficient worker, leader, creator; it kind of covers it all! Take a look when you have some time, it's well worth it.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Solution

Over the years, there have been a number of self-help books published. How to live, how to eat, how to think, how to invest. You name it, there's probably a book that tells you the best way to do it.
We've all read that one book that 'changed our lives' when we read it, but did we follow through?
Speaking personally, I know I'm a pretty lazy person. Yes, it's a fault but I like to think it adds to me somehow. I'm a lazy person, but I love escaping into books. I'll read anything and everything, and will even devour those self-help books. Their application on the other hand? Yeah, I'm not so good at that.

Even beyond books that are obviously intended to be self-help, there's so much we can learn from any kind of literature. Any author worth their weight in salt will be able to paint a picture of characters that we can aspire to be like. I know that many a time I've read a book, and noticed and appreciated the qualities of the main character. Here, I like to think that I've been more successful in application.
Sorry, I seem to have meandered into my love of literature. What's my point here?

Why hasn't anyone come up with a foolproof life manual? I mean, what with all the text out there, and the people who swear by some of these methods, we should have some clear tried and tested methods that should be condensed into one volume, right?

If only it were that simple. Anyone who has ever read one of these knows that depending on what one is looking for, the book that they hold at any particular moment IS the foolproof life manual. God knows I've felt that way often enough.
People aren't meant to be put in a mold; we all fit such different categories that I daresay it would be impossible to find a one-size fits all winning formula. Maybe that's the formula in itself; dare to be different! Break the mold. Make your own manual. 

Popular Posts