Friday, 25 July 2014

7QT Friday: Of Mice, Autotune Popes and Household Disasters


First of all, let me make your Friday awesome- Pope Saint John Paul II singing to us... "Perhaps I love you more!" Ahhhh!! Love it so much!


So you know how much I love mice? (Especially baked ones) Well, after two weeks away from my home, I came back to find that the house had been taken over by a mouse. Just a cute little one. I hardened my heart, tracked down a secret shop in town that sold mouse traps, and set the trap. It was the type that trapped the mouse, didn't kill it. So I caught it, and it squealed and banged at the door and I shuddered and handed it over to one of our guy friends to dispose of it. I forget how soft-hearted all our guy friends are, though. He let it loose and wished it well...

And then the next day, there was another one. Or the same one? I don't know! Operation Trap the Mouse was carried out again... and another guy was enlisted to FINISH IT OFF. Yet another failure a la the hunter in Snow White- the mouse looked up to him with big pleading eyes and his hard heart was softened, as he let it loose even further away from the house.

And guess what turned up in the bedroom AGAIN yesterday? Yes! Yet another mouse. Or the mouse that never died.

The main reason I think it's the same mouse- he's avoiding the mouse trap now (unlike the ants). So yeah. We live with a mouse. AAHHHH!!


Microcosm of conversations and attitudes and relationship between optimist R and pessimist me:

My room mate R: It could be worse.
Me: It could GET worse.
R: It could be bold and get into our beds. It could be malicious and chew up all our underwear. It could be revengeful and come back with its Super Rat friends.
Me: All these things could still happen.


To make our life even more fun and exciting, our fridge just died. It was warm and smelled and gross when we came home yesterday. This should not have surprised us at all, because the fridge was donated to us ten months ago. It had a broken freezer door, a tendency to leak and drench all our food with gross fridge water and the door didn't always completely shut. Still, it was disappointing.

However, a friend who is moving to the US in September told us he was donating his fridge to us when he leaves (or perhaps we begged it of him, I don't remember). That is seven weeks away. When R and I were in the Philippines we lived for three months without a fridge.

"If we did it once, we can do it again!" Plus our third room mate BA is all about solidarity with the poor and sacrifices and stuff like that, so I think she might be excited by the challenge. This is my technique for survival sans fridge:
1. Only cook as much as we need to eat for each day. (Which means more cooking)
2. Put milk container or leftovers in a dish of water overnight to prevent it from spoiling (the cool monsoon weather helps)

Yeah, that's all I got.


The monsoons are here! Can I even tell you how gorgeous the weather is after the oppressive heat of the summer? Sure everyone's complaining about getting wet all the time, getting splashed by rickshaws, mud everywhere, losing umbrellas... But it's cool! Everything's green! Sweaters! Hot tea! Hot showers AND sweaters AND hot tea after getting wet outside! Not to mention, crops growing, no drought, reservoirs filling up, all that good stuff.


Funny tweet I just saw from @Swag_Catholic:

Ah ha ha ha.


I've been writing a little more recently. (Not that much more, but still):

Let's Talk About Awkward Hugs

Judgmental People

In Which I Obsess About Books

The End

More Quick Takes at at Svellerella.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

In Which I Obsess About Books

Woman Reading on a Settee by William W. Churchill

Can you believe I've actually been reading books again? Wait, you didn't know that I had stopped. It was part of my struggling with anxiety, feeling overwhelmed with life, messing up on time management and never getting through my to do list (if I was organized to actually put it together) a few months ago.

But over the past month and a half I have been slowing down, allowing myself to relax, saying no to the many extra things that suck my time and mental energy, and making time for some of the things I really want to do -like read books. (Whenever my friend R saw me reading a book, she would be so relieved because it meant I was not struggling with anxiety or tense about my pending work.)

So with no further ado, here's a list of some AWESOME books I have been reading.

The Great Divorce by C.S.Lewis

SO good! Two friends promised me that this was an awesome book, it has been lying in my house for months, and I finally added it to my backpack as I left on a two week trip to the Philippines. I also took two other books, and seeing as this one wasn't a novel, and might have involved using my brain, I left it to the last leg of my return journey, the train back to my city. And then I started reading... and oh boy, it was GOOD. I startled my fellow passengers by laughing aloud, muttering "Oh my goodness, YES!" and mm-hmming as I read. (I'm not even kidding.) Read this book, everyone! 

C.S Lewis speaks TRUTH, and in such a subtle and insightful manner that you have to THINK... but in a good way. According to wikipedia, The Great Divorce is a work of theological fantasy by C. S. Lewis, in which he reflects on the Christian conception of Heaven and Hell. But it's so much more- it makes you think about motives, and excuses, and lies that we tell ourselves and start believing, and the evil that we so comfortably live with. AAHHH. Truth!!!

It also very clearly presents how the concept of Hell works with a loving God:
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”
“Good beats upon the damned incessantly as sound waves beat on the ears of the deaf, but they cannot receive it. Their fists are clenched, their teeth are clenched, their eyes fast shut. First they will not, in the end they cannot, open their hands for gifts, or their mouth for food, or their eyes to see.”
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

I think that when I write my book, I would like to write like this. It's REAL. The characters jump out at you. It makes it so much more obvious what bad writing is, when you read good writing. The main character, Lily is not a character, she's a PERSON. She doesn't do, say or think exactly what you expect her to. She's not just a victim, but a human being with faults and temptations and weaknesses, who does stupid or dishonest or hurtful things sometimes, but also does brave and kind and loving things too. She's honest.

The book is about a 14 year old white girl in the American South in the 60s and how to escape an abusive home, she and her black caregiver moves in with three African-American sisters who keep bees. A lot like To Kill a Mockingbird, and something like The Help.

What's interesting about the book for me is the Catholic influence- they're obsessed with a statue of a black Mary, who seems to be a source of strength for them. In many ways I feel like they explained well how Mary loves and helps her children even though she is not God... until the end when it became a new-agey 'Mary is within you'... YOU are the source of your own strength, or something of that sort.

Anyway, great book- read it!

Searching For and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace by Jacques Philippe

As soon as I started reading this tiny book, I wanted to buy a hundred copies and give them to everyone I know. (Wait, I know more than a hundred people.) I feel like this book answers a question that most Christians don't even know they have. I know SO MANY Christians who struggle with anxiety and fear, and think that that is normal. It isn't! God does not want us to be anxious! He GIVES us peace, and asks that we receive it.

There are so many little lies we believe that keep us from accepting that peace: "If this or that circumstance of my life changed, THEN I could be peaceful", "If only I stopped falling into sin", "If only that person wouldn't aggravate me", "Someone I love is suffering so of course I should be troubled"...

But they are lies. And Jacques Philippe explains why, simple and concisely. Tiny book, big impact. Get it- I promise you won't regret it. Everyone whom I've passed it on to has had exactly the same reaction.
"If I am still not able to remain at peace when faced with difficult situations, then it is better that I should begin to strive to keep this peace in the easier situations of everyday life: to quietly and without irritability do my daily chores, to commit myself to doing each thing well in the present moment without preoccupying myself with what follows, to speak peacefully and with gentleness to those around me, to avoid excessive hurry in my gestures and in the way I climb the stairs!"
Okay, that's enough for now. Go read a book!

Have any of you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Let's Talk About Awkward Hugs


Well, because Blimey Cow came out with another video:

And of course, because I am an expert on awkwardness. And hugs.

Can I just be honest and say that I have given my fair share of awkward hugs?

True story: I was playing 'What was your first impression?' with the Americans I work with (what, no one else plays that game?) and BOTH my male team mates said that they remember the awkward moment when they just met me and they didn't know whether they should hug the Indian girl... or what. I KNOW IT'S ME! I give off a 'Well maybe we could hug, but then again let's not, perhaps a side hug, I don't really know, let's go with an awkward 'Heyy!! Welcome to India!' in a warm tone to make up for the fact that I'm not hugging you' vibe.

But let's increase the general potential of hug awkwardness with the different cultural expectations. So Americans just hug. Two arms around you, usually angled with one over the shoulder, one under the opposite arm (just pretend this makes sense), variations allowed based on height, level of tightness and length of hug depending on how close you are.

Most Indians don't do general greeting/goodbye hugs. But Indian CATHOLICS now (Western/Portuguese influence variety). Things are different. You do the handshake plus kiss on both cheeks to other Catholics, especially older aunties and uncles. Or hands placed on shoulders/upper arms along with the kiss on both cheeks. Now the kiss itself isn't usually a real kiss- it's usually a cheek brush. Sometimes it's a cheek bump and then you could have bruises on your face.

In the Philippines, and with some Europeans, you do the kiss on one cheek greeting. Also in the Christian circles I hung out with in the Philippines, we did the one cheek kiss with girls, and wait for it...a SHOULDER PAT for guys. IT'S SO CONFUSING! After spending time with too many different cultures, and throwing in my own special social awkwardness, I mess it up ALL. THE. TIME. I go in for hugs when people aren't offering them, try to shake the hand of people who are trying to hug me, get my nose pressed against people's chests, almost kiss people when we both go for the same side or mess up the one cheek-two cheek thing (someone I know told me 'That's how I got my first kiss'), and get my nose buried in people's hair or ear (same person told me 'Some guy had his nose in my hair during a hug and said 'Garnier?' and I said 'no').

Here's the only three possible options I have come up with to deal with awkward hugs:

1. Comment on the awkwardness: Preferably at the same time as the hug occurs. This will either defuse the awkwardness, or make the hugger plan to avoid you forever, so it's all good.

2. Practice: Embrace the awkwardness. (Ah ha ha ha. I crack me up.) Accept the fact that this happens and hug anyway. And maybe if you keep doing it, you'll come up with an smoother technique. It's like dancing, you know? You're going to look like a fool at the beginning, but eventually grace will take over. (For most people.)

3. Stay the heck away from all potential huggers: Exchange the awkwardness of the hugs with the awkwardness of being the non-hugger. Everybody else lovingly hugs each other goodbye, and you stand off at one side and smile and wave. Or let your arms hang awkwardly to the side and stare gloomily at people while they leave. Whichever. Just be that person.

I'll leave you with this fascinating fact: The word 'awkward' on the blog post draft page appears.. wait for it.. 15 times!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Judgmental People

Have you noticed how judgmental people can get? They know nothing about you, and they just put you in a box and label you. They've decided what you're like before they even say a word to you, and it usually isn't a very flattering analysis. I can't stand people like that.


Switch the word 'people' with 'I'. Or 'you and I' if we're being honest. We're ALL judgmental. (You see how I made a judgment there?) Fine, I don't know if EVERYBODY is, but a LOT of people are. Including me. (And apparently I CAN stand me.)

I noticed this twice a couple of days ago. I was doing a lot of travelling, and a lot of people watching. A fascinating pastime at airports.

On my last flight I was in a plane with a bunch of Indians (that's what happens when you head to Mumbai). In my head I was replaying a time I flew home, about two years ago. I had been away from home, in small towns in the US and the Philippines, for a year and a half, and I had gotten used to courtesy as a way of life. Coming back to a big city in India was a shock as government officials and shopkeepers and the man of the street were abrupt and often bad tempered.

On that flight home in 2011 I was struggling to get my overstuffed backpack out of the overhead compartment. Indian men passed me in the aisle and didn't give my predicament a second glance. In fact they made it even harder by squeezing past me in the narrow aisle. "Hmpphh," I thought, "Indian men." I remembered the extreme friendliness of the Filipinos who would go out of their way to help anyone regardless of whether they were actually in a position to offer any actual help (passersby stopping passersby to give me directions to a place neither of them knew) and the courtesy of many Americans that I had met (strangers waving at me from cars as I was running.. me: "Do I know you?"). Finally in a plane full of Indians, one foreigner stopped to help me with my bag.

This was running through my head as I once again was about to heave my backpack into the overhead bin a few days ago. "Indian men!" Before the thought was completed, two pairs of hands, one from in front of me, one behind, grabbed my bag, and placed it in the bin. Yes, both belonging to Indian men. Not even a moment's hesitation, or a pause to receive my gratitude or thanks, just like it was a normal part of life... which I guess it was.

The other incident was the next day in Mumbai. I was attending evening Mass alone. I was in the wealthier part of Mumbai, in an old church. As I 'prayed' I was looking at the backs of several middle aged and older men and women (mostly women) who were attending a weekday evening Mass. Fresh from a conversation with an aunt who attended that parish where she told me about people who judged her because she didn't wear a head covering in church, and people who walked barefoot to the tabernacle and refused to receive Communion from extraordinary lay ministers, "I would not want to know these people," I thought. So often in our wealthy Catholic parishes, people will not exchange a friendly glance, a stranger could come and go, and no one could care less. Wealthy, more concerned with tradition and rules than love of neighbour, old fashioned, boring. Yes, I got this all from the backs of a few hapless strangers in a church. (Even though none of them were wearing head coverings.)

And then came the time for the sign of peace. Expecting cold nods, straight faces and hurried head bobs, I was shocked out of my judgmental thoughts by not one but three different ladies sitting around me whose faces lit up in beautiful smiles as they folded their open palms and nodded toward me.

Take that, judgmental Sue.

Surprisingly enough, one of the best reminders for me to fight the judgmental streak in me came from Anne of Green Gables, where somewhere someone talks about 'being charitable'. Most of the time, I try to remember to make excuses for people, especially when I don't know the full story, and even when I do.

Maybe the bad tempered clerk is going home to an unhappy marriage. Maybe the guy who just cut the light is on his way to the hospital because his daughter had an accident. Maybe the girl who just refuses to smile back at me struggles with her own self worth and identity. Maybe the guy who makes cutting comments has faced cutting comments from his parents all his life. Broken people everywhere. Just like me.

It's not that people all have excuses and sin doesn't exist, it's just that *I* am not the one to have to figure out anyone's culpability or motives. And you know, when you believe the best about people, often the best comes out.