For You, Daddy!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Giving Up. And Taking On.

The essence of all religions is one. Only their approaches are different.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi


I was raised Catholic. Today, I would like to think of myself as a good human being who embraces certain Catholic practices.


Participating in a procession held on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.


 Catholics have Lent and Muslims have Ramadan. 40 days and roughly, 30 days long, respectively. Both periods are meant for increased prayer and reflection, and personal sacrifice. Are there any other religions or streams of thought that have similar periods marked specifically for this? Please share. I would like to learn. And maybe adopt some of those practices.

I left home for college at the age of 19. As I tend to in every new city or country that I live in, I try to get to know every possible facet of the place. It helps me understand the people better and it makes me appreciate the different life there so much more. That knowledge and experience then adds a little colourful piece to the big, resplendent jigsaw puzzle called ‘Life’.

Until I left home at 19, I was still considered a child, and therefore, was not expected to “give up” anything for Lent. I love eating. Which is why I was horrified when Big Bro would fast all day on Good Friday. The rest of us at home had very scaled down meals that day and I hated those! Hee hee! “Boring” food was torturous enough; not eating at all was simply unthinkable for me.

Then I left home and I very conveniently left all those practices at home, too. Until I moved to Saudi Arabia. By my mid 20s, my horror at the thought of starving to death fasting had turned to curiosity. I read more about why Muslims fasted during the month of Ramadan. I liked what I learned and I decided to give fasting a shot since my Muslim colleagues did it without a murmur.


This image is from


The first year, I fasted on Fridays alone, being the first day of the weekend in Saudi Arabia. Emboldened by my success, the next year, I fasted on Fridays and Saturdays i.e. the entire weekend. I finally worked my way to fasting every alternate day. I did not attempt the full, dawn-to-dusk-for-a-month fast like the Muslims because I had already gained the insight and experience I sought, and because I was concerned I would lose weight, something I can ill afford to date.  

During those years, I fasted only to see if I could will my mind to stay away from food. It was hard, but I did it. And I felt great!

After I left Saudi Arabia, I decided to apply my well honed, um, fasting skills during Lent. I pulled it off with ease every Friday. That is why I do not fast all day on Fridays any more. Not even on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday. Fasting all day is too easy for me now. The bigger challenge for me today is staying away from things I love eating.

During my second Lenten season after Saudi Arabia, I decided to jump in at the deep end. I gave up chocolate or some form of dessert that is the wonderful ending of my lunch and dinner every day. I suffered. I grumbled. I ranted. To everyone. And the whole purpose of abstaining that year for Lent was lost.

A few years of decreased wailing followed, and I am wiser today. As I got stronger i.e. I made less of a ‘woe is me’ scene, I gave up my absolute favourite food items – desserts, pork preparations and certain other favourite dishes i.e. steaks, grilled meats and biryani (a fragrant, South Asian pilaf).

This year, I have upped the ante the highest I can go. I have given up meat and fish as well. Avoiding meat and fish is not terribly hard for me, but I chose to give them up because I enjoy them very much. I also want my Lenten sacrifice to have a bit of a green lustre this year.   

Oh, there are two other things I gave up last year and now again, this year.

1. I have restricted my PC time to my e-mail and blogs of people I know personally, and those I have been following before Lent began.

2. I listen to Choral or Classical music all  day instead of my usual Pop and Rock during the week, and Country and Classical on Sundays.



So that’s the “giving up” bit of my Lenten practice this year again. Giving up then spurred me to take on something else now that I had a little more time on hand. So here’s what I took on last year, and again, this year.


1. More time in prayer. (Not doing a good job there. My motor mouth has nothing on my Duracell-bunny-brain.)


2. More time reading the Scriptures. (Not terribly exciting for me.)

That’s it. Those are the only two things I’ve taken on for Lent. I pretty much like the way I live my life the rest of the year.

Now, I’d like you to meet two bloggers I stalk I’ve RSSed. Take a bow,

MJ (


Chris (  

This past weekend, I read MJ’s post ‘My So-Called Simple Life‘)

and then, I read Chris’ post ‘love is a verb…‘ (

Somewhere along their respective posts, MJ said, “Amish” and Chris said, “Lent”. A couple of things clicked and clanged in my head and this post was born.


One of my Lent projects is to make sure I hug each of my children every day that I’m with them.    

The above line of Chris in particular, was what sent the ball rolling in the direction of MJ’s third question.

3. What changes have you made to simplify your life?

I am going to answer that here because these are changes I have made over the years and I follow them all year round. They involved giving up some things and taking on other things.

First and foremost, I have to say I have learned from watching my parents exemplify the ‘Non multa, sed multum’ way of life. In Latin, that means ‘Not many, much’ or ‘Not quantity, quality’. So it has never been too hard for me to give up or take on certain practices because among a few other things, Dad and Mum stressed these two thoughts about most choices we, three children at home, would make.

1. Will it make me happy?

2. Will it hurt anyone?

That said, here are some of the bigger changes I have made over the years. I practice these all year round now.   


1. Cyber Life: I do not have accounts on Facebook*, Twitter or any other social medium; just e-mail and this (4 month old) blog. My decision to not jump aboard the social media bandwagon is the same for not posting more frequently here. You can read those reasons on the ‘About My Blog’ page.  

*I have access to Big Sis’ Facebook account because I put up her photo albums and update her Profile picture. I like doing it for her. She likes me helping her out.


2. Television: I have slotted one hour a day for TV, except for certain events like award shows and significant live events around the world. One hour or less of telly time each day is easy for me because my beast is reading.


3. Diet: I used to eat meat and fish every day. For the past 4 years, I’ve still been eating fish every day, but I have reduced the meat portions to three, four times tops, a week in an effort to reduce my contribution to greenhouse gases. Not only has my carbon footprint reduced, my conscience is lighter, too. Although, my bragging about my green ways has more than doubled. I do not want to remedy that because bragging about it makes me feel good.  


4. Travel: For six years now, I have been using public transport as often as I can (which is 95% of the time) because it helps the environment and the forced commute on foot to bus stops or car pool spots doubles as exercise. Planning ahead is key when using public transport.  


5. Social Life:

a. When at home: I do not attend every social function I am invited to. Just belonging to the same social circle is not criterion enough for me to oblige anyone. I go only if the acquaintance has been kind to me, my family or my close friends. Traditions and social obligations mean jack little to me. This practice gets me into trouble, but I go to bed happy at night knowing that I did not force smiles or spew empty words at some meaningless-to-me fancy do.  


b. When away from home: I work all week and I play all weekend. Play includes one day at least, out of the house doing something I like. It can be as cheap as a reading and falling asleep on the grass in the local park or the most expensive choice (for me so far) of going for a play or concert. Almost every weekend includes friends coming over for the weekend or me going over to a friend’s for a sleepover.

And this is how I try to embrace some of the wholesomeness (in my opinion) and simplicity of the Amish life, not just during Lent, but the entire year. And from now on, I’m going to add Chris’ practice of hugging my relatives and friends even more. If that were even possible. 


Could I BE any more of a hugger?


Thank you, MJ and Chris, for generously letting me steal your ideas  share your posts which resulted in this mash-up post of mine.   

A slight change of pace now.

Today is Elvie Rose’s birthday. Who is Elvie Rose? I dunno. Personally, I mean.

This is Elvie Rose’s blog. ( I got in touch with her because I wanted to use one of her pictures for the post I had originally planned for today. (That post has been re-scheduled.) She gladly agreed and then she told me it is her birthday today. I love my birthday. She was nice to me. I decided to surprise her!

From the food hound in me to the doggie lover in you – Happy Birthday to you, Elvie Rose!


This image is from


I’m going to end on a green note. Chill. I am not going to bore you all with yet another strident verse of, “I love Mother Earth! Am I cool or what‽” This is a different kind of green, Emerald (Isle) green specifically.

It was MJ’s birthday two days ago i.e. 28 February. Happy Belated Birthday, One Of The Very Nice Bloggers I’ve, um, Met! True to your Irish roots, here’s a birthday (hangover) wish.


This image is from … egad! I did not save the URL of the e-card site when I saved this image and I cannot find that site now. 😦

What do you mean, “Kate, how could a nice young lady like you talk about MJ’s … underpants?” Do you think I started it? Nah uh.  He started it. Here.


Thank you, The Book of Terrible , orples and mj monaghan  for commenting on my last post. Thank you, Bucket List PublicationsThe Book of Terrible , orples and mj monaghan for liking my last post.


P.S.: Cheerful Monk adds a footnote to every post acknowledging those who comment on her previous post. She also links the commenters’ names back to their own blogs.

 I like both these practices of acknowledging the time and effort made to comment, and the free advertising! So I’m doing what I do well – being a copycat! 


Sunday, 1 January 2012

A New Step

Happy New Year, dear readers!

In my third career avatar, I was a teacher at an international school in Zhongshan, China. This post is about my New Year’s Eve celebration in Zhongshan a few years back.

I brought in that New Year at a watering hole that is popular with the expat crowd because of the live (Filipino) band and dance floor. I love dancing, so I roped in twenty other acquaintances and friends, and had reserved seats for us at the pub.  

Auld Lang Syne-ing with friends

My (capitalist style) Mao suit was designed exclusively for me by Mr.Haute Stuff, Marc Jacobs. If you believe that, then you will also believe that he surprised me by creeping down the chimney on Christmas Eve. Hmm, probably not because I think I had told anyone who cared to listen that Jon Bon Jovi was spending the holidays with me. Ai ai ai ai ai! It’s so hard keeping track of all these men in my life. Wait, I need to get one first – a life, that is. 😉

That night, I did something for the first time. Something I had thought of doing for a few years, but was too afraid until then. I bought gifts for the twenty people who had promised to attend … and I wrapped them in newspaper. (I know!) I  had read about this environmentally friendly tip for a few years, but only then did I finally pluck up the courage to do it. (Go, me!) I was not afraid of being thought a cheapskate because opinions I know aren’t true don’t matter to me.  

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” Dale Carnegie

I was afraid the recipients would think I did not care enough about them to get the customary wrapping paper. I do not like receiving gifts from people I don’t much care for, and I am the same when giving gifts, too. Expectations and traditions? Stuff that. I give a gift only if I like the person enough. Then, I try hard to get what I think is suitable. Now some of the twenty people I gave the gifts to that night did not fall into the category of ‘People I Really, Really Like’. So why the charade, you ask? Because of the place I bought the gifts at.

When deciding on gifts, initially, I looked for organic products. No luck. Then I searched for biodegradable or recycled items. Still no go. Next, products made by families or individuals. No, no, no. Finally, I went to an Australian acquaintance, Jeremy, the longtime Zhongshan resident. I would go to him with questions about all things Zhongshan. With that query, Jeremy came through yet again. He told me about ‘The Charity Shop’, so I bought my gifts there.

‘The Charity Shop’ in Zhongshan is a small supermarket and all profits go towards local charitable causes. Among their many deeds, I remember the surgeries to correct congenital heart defects of twin boys and food supplies to the farmers in the countryside.

That year, I wanted to do something different. Instead of merely donating money, I wanted to share a little awareness as well. I decided to give gifts from ‘The Charity Shop’ to make my local friends and acquaintances aware that they could get an extra feel-good bang for their buck with something as routine and regular as grocery shopping, and I wanted to use the wrapping (news)paper to pass on a green message, too.

Buying edibles at ‘The Charity Shop’ was a great option, I thought, because I could give people I did not know very well things they’d actually use; consume, more precisely. So I got each a box of tea or coffee sachets (the ‘Just add water’ kind), a packet of digestive biscuits (they seemed to be popular) and a bar of dark chocolate (my fave). I made all the gift tags myself using the plain side of printed sheets from the school office. I attempted fancy frilly edges with little drawings, calligraphy-style name inscription and stapled a little strip of swirl ribbon on them. Big Sis is great at this artsy stuff.  I’m not, but I tried.

The gift tags opened up like a book with the name of the recipient on the cover. When opened, on the left hand page, I had drawn a map of ‘The Charity Shop’ area and included the name of the shop, the address, telephone number and hours of operation. On the other page, I had the landmarks legend. I did all that with the hope that all who received those gifts would do their groceries at ‘The Charity Shop’ in future. I did. It was a trip into the heart of town for me, so I combined it with my lunch/dinner meetings with the downtown-ers.

BFF Two holding the gifts of the no-shows of the previous night. The newspaper wrapping doesn't look too shabby, eh?

I must add that everyone was quite puzzled when I pulled out the newspaper wrapped gifts from my travel bag. After I explained the whole thing to them, they kinda believed that it was not a prank. Their expressions were simply precious! When I picked up a gift and called out their names, the first three or four recipients bravely, but very suspiciously accepted my gift. All eyes were on them as each of them turned the odd item over and finally opened it. The look that flickered across their faces was a mix of surprise, relief and a feeling that could easily be read as, “This Kate is nuttier than I thought a pecan, pistachio, peanut butter sammy!” The perv that I am, I derive immense satisfaction from bedevilling the heck out of people. 🙂

In the end, everyone was happy with their goodies and thanked me for being (as opposed to merely thinking or talking about something) a Jill-Out-Of-The-Box* yet again.

*People who know me well are now familiar with my outside the box thoughts and practices. I twisted ‘jack-in-the-box’ because I sometimes, quite literally, spring surprises at the people I like.

I’ve always been very mindful about electricity and water use. (Thank you, Daddy and Mummy!) I felt good about kicking off that year on a green note. Ever since, I have rarely wrapped a gift in regular gift paper. The few instances I reverted to regular gift paper have been for more traditional folk; only because they would just not get the green bent and I did not want to hurt their sentiments.

In addition to the common practices around the house, here are some of the other environmentally conscious changes I made a few years ago:
– Avoid travelling by cab if I’m on my own. (I allot extra time for travel by public transport.)
– Carry my own set of plastic and fabric bags when I go shopping – groceries and otherwise.
– Use bus ticket stubs to make my grocery lists or brief ‘To Do’ lists.
– Use the blank side of unwanted printed material to jot down notes at the initial stages of my work. I get these sheets from the office. I used such sheets from my school office to make the name tags for the gifts that night.
– Carry my own Tupperware (and carry plastic bags) to restaurants for take-aways. (Styrofoam is toxic.)

I’m quite a tree hugger, and would love to get some more ideas from you about your practices to add to my list above.

I do not make New Year’s resolutions. But a few years ago, sometime in the middle of that year, after months of mulling and planning and nail-biting, I made a drastic about-turn in life and headed off into a brand new direction.

Shortly before I went to China, I began listening to my own thoughts and tried doing what I felt made me happy. Not that anyone forcefully dictated my actions before. But, I used to pursue what was deemed important by society – brand name clothes, expensive restaurants, regular holidays away from the home state or country, higher positions at work, an exclusive neighourhood to set up home. I enjoyed all of that, nay, I revelled in it all like a pig in mud, but after a while, it left me feeling empty. When I finally tuned in to my inner voice and began pursuing things that engaged me at a deeper level, I began to feel a certain calmness and peace. Ever since I switched careers and became a teacher in China and a social worker in the different country that I am currently in, my savings account tells me that I am (comparatively) poor now, but my happiness bank? Doth overfloweth.

“Ordinary riches can be lost, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.” Oscar Wilde

I am content with my life today because I heeded Tim McGraw a few years ago. And I finally began to

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