Category Archives: Reflection

Reading is such a great window to the world

Who else enjoys curling up with a good book while delving into other times and cultures? I do a whole lot of this now more than ever because weekends are for resting and resetting to navigate these pandemic times. This is one form of self-care for me.

I am an avid reader of all kinds of genres and have been since I was a young child. This is all thanks to modelling my mother.

I also get to explore a range of books with my students at my leisure and also contribute to those in the library at my school. Books are really great resources to learn more about different cultures, people, places and a range of topics. I also have a pile of books from the library at school to lose myself in and my Kindle is always near, for the times when I want something outside of my stack to enjoy.

Here are a few of the books that I have read this year that have allowed me to learn more about different topics and expand my knowledge:

  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi caused tears to spring to my eyes again and again at the happenings in early Ghana where the transatlantic slave trade is concerned.
  • Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid is one that has been on my list forever; it is filled with rich visual and emotional imagery in its setting of Antigua.
  • Hostage by Guy Delisle is a very captivating comic that shares quite a serious story that is so inspiring and reminds us to never give up hope.
  • Chasing Moonlight by Raven St. Pierre is such a captivating read and oh so realistic.
  • Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie is really very well written and filled with subplots in its rich historical contexts spanning past India and Pakistan.
  • So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo is a book for these times I tell ya.
  • The Mama B series by Michelle Stimpson is just a feel good series and I like that is is about a couple in love who are over 60.
  • From Harvey River by Lorna Goodison is a wonderful memoir about family and legacy in postcolonial Jamaica.
  • Redemption Ground by Lorna Goodison is a nice collection that showcases Goodison’s craft as a poet and storyteller.
  • Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyam is a rich literary piece that reminds us of God’s grace.
  • Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje reminded me of some of the sights and sounds of Sri Lanka when I visited.
  • The Hawaiian Archipelago by Isabella Bird is a great vintage travel log about a solo female traveller way back when. I admire her nerves of steel and sense of adventure.

Reading is such a calming activity for me, so it is nice to be able to do this on weekends when I stay home. I am excited to get to the next three books in my stack this weekend: Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah, Letter to my Daughter by Maya Angelou and Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison.

Blogging is a Labour of Love though it Takes Grit to Keep Going

Blogging is a hobby for me and I have been blogging on and off for over ten years. I find myself coming back to blog because it is something I enjoy doing. I mean, just sharing thoughts and ideas about the things I like talking about on the internet space: travelling (especially solo travelling), self-care, budgeting, living debt free and overall being smart with money.

I like the freedom of blogging as a hobby, so I can go at my own pace with no demands from sponsors or chasing numbers. It is very therapeutic. I have invested some money into my own domain, so there are no ads clogging up my blog but more and more I am thinking I should just go for the free domain and save those coins. After all, every bit adds up.

It does take grit to keep sharing and churning out posts though blogging is a hobby. I like taking some time to choose my cover photos and think of how to share topics, craft posts and such. There are times when I have all these ideas flying around in my head and want to create blog posts but have no time for blogging. Then, there are other times when I have time but just want to lie on the couch all day, with a book and not be typing stuff. For me, blogging is a labour of love, not so much labour because I don’t force myself to blog but go with the flow.

It is nice to look back at a post and see how it appears on the blog – the aesthetics of it. I also like to get alerts about comments and hear what people thing about my ramblings. These are always appreciated.

There are also days when I just don’t feel like blogging anymore and I think of just stopping. I have done this a time or three before. I, however, remind myself to leave this blog up as something I can look back at over the years and reminisce about what I share. It is great for sharing the places I have travelled to and for encouraging others in different ways, I hope.

There are many blog posts about blogging as a business, so I am writing this to share that blogging can still be a hobby. In a world where there is much talk about multiple streams of income, blogging sometimes is a stream of income for some people. This is perfectly fine. A blogger is a blogger whether he or she does it as a hobby and/or for business.

2020 is reminding me to take pleasure in the simple things

It’s summer break for me now and it was a long time in coming. The usual month of summer break was whittled down to two weeks. This was so we could make up time at school, for all the online classes we had at the start of the school year because other schools who were less organised, didn’t have classes for two months. Suffice it to say I was ready.

As the responsible homebody that I am, who is a big fan of self isolating, my plan is to spend many hours stretched out on my couch reading. My little heart is oh so excited. I have no less than 8 books lined up from our library at school and my kindle at the ready, if I needed, to up that number. I just love escaping into the world of a book and learning all kinds of things. The time flies with a page turner I tell you, though the emotional roller coaster some of these books take you on is no joke.

Today a read the book Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It’s a rich text that sheds light on a perspective of slavery that is often not addressed. This is the fact that Africans were sold into slavery after being taken as captives by warring tribes. Her style is flawless and she grips your attention and makes you feel the characters, the setting and takes you from time period to time period through generations. It was really lovely, to delve into this masterful piece for a few hours and pass day one of summer break, self isolating all by myself, in my own space. It was truly therapeutic.

I am also loving being able to make all my meals at home. I enjoy cooking, sometimes twice a day, to get in some nice whole foods. Today I made a lovely veggie stew with boiled potatoes on the side. Adding balsamic vinegar to stews just takes them up a notch. Try it if you haven’t done so yet. It’s quite easy to eat and eat all day at home so, I bought healthy snacks to keep myself in check: watermelon, apples, kiwi and bananas. YUM!

It’s also nice to have time on a weekday to catch up with friends and family in different times zones. I mean everything from texting to having epic calls for hours. I love it. There is no time to feel lonely, though I live alone.

I see my apartment as my safe space that helps me to keep mentally well in these uncertain times. Like I do for weekends, I went shopping to get a range of things I wanted to have, so I wouldn’t be tempted to run to the supermarket nearby at the drop of a hat. This is actually a habit I have mastered over several years now. I like doing one big grocery shop on a Thursday of Friday for the week. I plan out my menu for the week so I know what to buy.

I also enjoy doing some dancing here and there throughout the day to get some exercise. I squat, do lounges, standing abs and random stuff to move throughout the day when I go to the bathroom. I don’t want to just be a couch potato.

So yeah, for a normal summer break I would be off somewhere exploring our beautiful world but this year I have to be still. I am not miserable and I am being intentional about enjoy this time. I am relaxing, resting and keeping my mind fresh and active. This is self-care and I am here for this. Thanks 2020 for forcing me to remember to enjoy the some of the simple things in life.

What am I Learning in these Uncertain Times?

Life teaches us lessons, it is good when we learn these lessons and use them to improve ourselves in some ways.

I am pausing to think about what I am learning and jotting them down, so I can come back and dwell on these at a later time.

Rest, Cultivate Peace and Live in the Now

I am as busy as ever working online from home. It is a pretty hectic time and my days fly by. I am finding that keeping to a schedule each day is helping me to get enough sleep and order my days. In addition, I dress for work in comfortable clothes, don different earrings each day and put myself together. After all, I do interface with my students and other members of staff throughout the days.

I have also taken to being offline for much of the time on Saturdays and Sundays. It is quite nice to curl up on my couch with a good book, getting lost in something I enjoy. I also reserve certain chores for the weekend, that I would do in the same way when I went out for work.

I am enjoying living in the now and being ok with this. I am not planning crazily for a few weeks or months down the line because things aren’t clear. Notwithstanding this, I still have my dreams and I am keeping hope alive.

Stay on a Budget and Build the Emergency Fund

It is quite tempting to be shopping online and using this to pass the time. For me, it is just so easy to shop on Amazon or iherb and get the stuff I like and others that draw me in. Nope, I am not doing that. I am still living on my budget for each month and focusing on saving what I can to go into my emergency fund. We live in uncertain times and I fully expect some hard times ahead. Even us with jobs may face a pay cut at some point in the near future. It is best to save what we can now to prepare.

I chuckle at the fact that over the last 8 weeks I have worn the same two pairs of shoes: my sneakers to go out and exercise and my chucks to go to the grocery store (the latter because there are no laces to tie). Do I really need a bunch of shoes? Mmmm…

Embrace Change and take more Chances

I don’t like change, though I know it’s necessary for growth and provides many benefits. I do give into changes but not as enthusiastically as I would like. This is something I am working on improving in order to be a better me. The ability to embrace change actually helps with having a healthy mental state. I have to roll with the changes happening, adjust and thrive. I can’t control everything, so as a lifelong learner, it is in my best interest to change my mindset in this regard. I am working on this.

Enjoy ‘the Great Outdoors’

Thankfully, here in Japan we never had a tight lockdown, so I could go out each day for walks to enjoy the beautiful spring weather. Of course, I was doing this while observing physical distance. There is just something about seeing the trees transition from blossoms to delicate green leaves, that remind you that you are alive. There is hope. Nature is doing its natural cycle even in the midst of the world grounding to a halt. I am always humbled and amazed.

I now go for long walks after dinner, all over the neighbourhood, to exercise, enjoy being out and about and take advantage of the freedom to move around in a way I had taken for granted. Also, sometimes I just stand on my balcony in the mornings and let the sun beam on my face. This is a simple pleasure.

Make Thankfulness a Daily Habit

I am thankful for all the precious people in my life, the moments we share, especially the everyday moments that shine brightest now. It’s nice to stop and write down things that I am thankful for each day. This gives me joy. This also helps me not to complain too much.

I am learning much more than the above but I am tired of typing, so I am going to run off to the supermarket to get my shopping for the week done. I am thankful to be able to do this oh so mundane task at this time. I am really thankful for all the people who work in the supply chains and the supermarket staff who show up to serve us in oh so many ways…

Taking a Break from Being Online to Unwind (Self-care)

I am grateful to be able to work online conducting my classes from Monday to Friday. This, however means that I am online looking at the computer screen far more than when I was teaching face-to-face. I go from scheduling classes on Webex/Zoom, to working on Google Classroom to doing live video lessons and meetings. Let’s not talk about the emails that flow like a river and inundate my gmail each day. It doesn’t help that I like to respond to them in a timely manner. This often produces a string of email threads…good times.

Two weeks in and I now know that it is absolutely essential for me to have a day of rest. One where I rest my eyes from this computer screen and one where I let the messages marinate for a while.

As a teacher working from home, who likes to go, go, go, I end up spending far too long each day, prepping, marking and doing all kind of stuff to make these lessons more engaging. Yep, it’s 10 pm and I just finished work for the day. Being single and living alone in this time of isolation is causing this. I have to be talking to myself to get offline. That’s why I am winding down by writing this post.

Yesterday, Sunday, I just kept the lid of my computer closed but I had to peek at my phone every now and then. It wasn’t work related though. I enjoyed a soothing day yesterday. It was rainy all day and not too hot or cold. I laid on my couch with a good book – ‘Pachinko’ and devoured it throughout the day. I also had music playing in the background ad enjoyed being in this shroud for the entire day. It was quite relaxing.

It was also perfect because I had leftovers, enough for two different meals plus fruits to snack on. I dived into the book, savoured my meals, basked in music and it was 10 pm and time for bed by the time I knew it.

Even though I am at home everyday now, I am still working on schedule as if I were in the classroom. The days fuse into one other and even weekends have become de facto working days, with all the work to be done before and after actual classes. I feel like teaching online requires more work before and after lessons. This is a topic for another post.

I will also give myself one or two nights to be offline to read and enjoy books in my stack. I had the foresight to borrow books from the library at school, so they are good old paperbacks. I have been making a dent in my stack and have just two books left of the 6 I started off with 3 weeks ago. I will move on to those on my Kindle after this. No, Kindle doesn’t technically have a screen because of how it is designed.

Let me go offline now because I have been on for far too long today.

Laughter is Always Good Medicine

Laugh a lot.

Laugh often and out loud, those nice belly laughs.

Find things that make you laugh and brings mirth in what feels like a mirthless time.

I enjoy scrolling on Twitter and seeing memes and just comments where people bring humour to all kinda things. I pause to laugh and let it feed my soul because it feels good and it’s important.

There are also some good videos going around on Facebook with parents lamenting about how hard it is to teach their kids and be with them all day. LOL! They are hilarious! I am glad that people can take their frustrating experiences and provide laughter for themselves and others.

Laughter is always good medicine.

Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself because that is needed sometimes.

Plug into some of these memes, GIFS and things of that sort that create a light atmosphere where you can laugh. Balance out the doom and gloom with some of this to keep your mind healthy.

Kids are pretty funny, so if you have them around I am sure you are laughing a lot and doing do often.

This is my PSA. Remember to laugh sometimes through the seemingly endless , heavy and uncertain times of 2020…so far.

Being Calm in Periods of Uncertainty

We live in uncertain times. Everywhere we turn, we hear news of the coronavirus. It feels unrelenting. If we are not careful we start living life on the edge and take on a cloak of fear. We can however, cultivate a sense of calmness even in these times. Our mental health and physical health require that we focus on this. It is a form of self-care.

I know, the word self-care is banded about and it may ironically cause people to become more stressed, if they think about the fact that they don’t have time to care for themselves. Practicing a healthy mind set costs nothing. It involves some discipline and effort to view things positively when everything in you wants to do the opposite.

I am a woman of faith. I choose to live by faith, especially in these times when it seems everything is out of control. We live on the earth, which is imperfect. Thus, trials, illnesses and hardships will come but we also know from experience that there are many great things we have, even in the midst of these negative elements. We have friends, family, sunshine, laughter, food, shelter, jobs, hospitals with medical professionals who are working for and with us, keep thinking and adding to the list.

It is important to remember that the bad times do not cause everything to be bad. It may feel like it but this doesn’t make it true.

It is important to focus on being calm among the heavy atmosphere of worry and fear, that permeates our world now. Does worrying actually help us to prepare for the worst? Does it rob us of enjoying the good things we have now? Does it help us mentally and emotionally?

How often are you following news about what is happening in China, South Korea, Italy, Japan and so on? Do you look at the maps to show how may people are infected everywhere? This is necessary but it can really rest on us if we do this over and over again each day. It is interesting that we don’t hear much about the number of people who get better. You have to dig to find this information.

Scale back on how often you read about the spread of the virus. Focus more on eating well, washing your hands and practicing good hygiene, as you do your part to care for your health. Also, focus on being calm in this storm. Make your home an oasis of peace and enjoy this often.

I know God isn’t somewhere surprised about what is happening now. I may sound naive, but I choose to believe and walk by faith, at all times. I pray everyone can find peace in these times and always. It is well.

The Grass isn’t Greener, Everywhere has its Quirks

How many of us choose to focus on an opportunity that seems oh so attractive, so that it clouds our view of the good things we have going right where we are now.

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side though. This cliche is sometimes true.

When we focus on something negative for too long, it could just be one negative thing, it grows and grows and causes a whole world of discontentment. It can be quite overwhelming to the point where we run off to supposed greener pastures and then discover that we left something good.

Spend some time reflecting and noting the positives against the negatives of a situation before making a decision to change path. This is applicable to a whole range of situations. It should also not be done hastily or when we are feeling low.

I am learning that everywhere has its quirks and sometimes it is worth pushing through some stormy seasons. I am learning to persevere and enjoy the positives as I learn, work on myself and grow amidst the negatives. A permanent decision ought not to be taken to address a temporary situation. Everything in life will not be fine all the time. Trials and struggles really do make us strong if we look at them as learning opportunities.

Now, if we are in a situation, whatever it is and know it is toxic and ruining our minds, then it’s good to walk away. Nothing is worth us compromising our mental health. This is far from simple but the effort to do so is worth it.

I have been blessed to be able to walk away from a toxic work environment before. I remember feeling uneasy about it even though it was the right thing to do. I am happy I took the plunge at the time and it was well worth it. I was able to do this with some confidence because I had saved up some money, to allow me to take what I thought, was a job with a lower salary. In time even that was sorted.

Moving from one job to another, for example, includes dedicated research and networking in some cases. It is always good to keep an eye on what is going on in different sectors of interest and also polishing our CVs from time to time. It’s nice to be content in a job but it is also good to be aware of what is happening in the industry. This means than, we can more accurately weigh an opportunity, to see if it is greener than where we are at. Regardless of this, it is good to remember everywhere has its quirks. When the novelty wears off there will always be something that may cause us some discomfort. I think its best to learn from this, grow and keep going. It often happens that not focusing on this lessens its impact. Choose to focus on the positives and remind yourself of them often.

The grass is sometimes greener indeed but how devastating is it when we jump without proper preparation. We may find that the new grass is filled with even more weeds than where we ran from. Everywhere has it quirks, expect these and resolve to be content despite them but know when to move on to other opportunities.

Flowers from Kirstenbosch Gardens, Cape Town

This is a beautiful place with exquisite flora and fauna. As we close this decade, I pray and hope that we all will have many days filled with beauty like these flowers.

This is a lovely place to enjoy a day in Cape Town. There is something about being in nature and seeing all the sea of kaleidoscopic hues going on and on because the garden is so vast and huge. Wear comfy shoes to walk and take it all in. It is one of the stops on the City Sightseeing Tour bus, so hop off and explore.

Life, like these picturesque flowers is delicate and fade away so fast. I always try to remember this and it is something I am reflecting on as I anticipate a new year. I am grateful for a good 2019, for family, friends, good health and financial freedom among other things.

What makes your life beautiful? Continue to nurture and water those things.

How do you make the lives of others beautiful? Be intentional about this.

Let’s remember to stop and smell the proverbial roses, count our blessings and be thankful for all we have. Also, let us remember to share with those who are in need.

Balance this because, of course ‘we can’t pour from an empty cup.’

Enjoy the beauty in the simple things and wonderful people around.

Life, is indeed what we make of it. Focus on being proactive and not reactive.

Try to expect any and everything in life, good and bad.

Even with its ups and downs, we can enjoy life and find beauty in many simple things around us. I am always in awe of the beautiful colours in nature, they often lift my mood.

This garden is one that reminded me of the beauty of nature and when I think back on it I feel a sense of peace.

How are you Working on yourself to be your Best you?

Working on yourself to be your best you doesn’t only pertain to academic pursuits. It is wonderful to get different certifications and equip oneself for different opportunities. Here I am talking about focusing on the intangibles that pay you an a deeper level.

Do you love yourself? Do you also like yourself? Being the best you requires that you answer to these questions in the affirmative. If this isn’t the case then you should do the work needed to get to the place where you state an emphatic “yes!” to these questions.

So, you are in love with who you are and you like yourself, lovely. I do too, as we all should.

Do you like how you communicate with others? Do you walk away from an encounter feeling frustrated that you couldn’t get your point across? Do you know how sometimes, it is only after having a conversation that you know what you should have said? Listen to really hear what is being said, do not rush to answer, give yourself a few seconds to frame your thoughts and deliver them appropriately. With practice this becomes easier to do. It is quite a task to control our emotions especially in heated moments. Explaining yourself clearly in different settings is something worth mastering.

Do you find it hard to say no to others? If you do, take some time to assess who you find it particularly hard to say no to. Be honest with yourself and try to get to the bottom of why this is the case. Often this stems from a fear of disappointing someone who you think will form a negative impression of you. The people in our lives who care for us will understand when we tell them no sometimes. If you only say yes to someone every time because you feel pressured, that is something you need to work on. Every time you say yes to doing something in your free time, you may be saying no to yourself. Therefore, the things you say yes to should interest you.

I know exercising and being active is of vital importance for me to be my best self. Since, I enjoy being a couch potato after being on my feet most of the day, I walk the 1.3km to and from the train station everyday instead of taking the bus. I also take the stairs in the station and forego the escalator. Every little bit helps. In the same way, I try not to eat too much crap and eat light in the evenings. Fruits, veggies, nuts, beans and water are staples. Chicken makes a cameo appearance once in a while and fish has its time to shine. I really like grilled salmon. My body feels good fuelled by these things. When I cheat and eat some other stuff my body sure protests.

Are you an empathetic person? Do you try to help others as needed? I know we can’t help everyone. It is easy for some people to give others money to help them but not their time. Everybody is busy in this fast paced world. Being your best you may mean giving more of your time to others. Meet friends and talk without distractions. Set aside 30 mins to call up someone, schedule it if needed. In certain places where people have all their material needs met, the gift of someone’s time can be precious.

How are you working on yourself to be your best you? No one is perfect. Each day is an opportunity to improve in some way. Something as simple as deciding to change your outlook on some things in your life is a step closer to being your best you

We are all works in progress and by being intentional we can become who we want to be day by day.