Zen and the art of domesticity

There’s so much happiness to be found in domesticity (for me at least).

Growing up I was never ambitious.  I never wanted to have a career, or study.  I just wanted to look after my family.  I had dreams of living in a country area, having lots of kids, and cooking/baking everything from scratch.  The whole cliché of bein g in a farmhouse kitchen, wearing an apron, making bread, collecting eggs from my own hens.

That life didn’t eventuate (although I still have dreams of it).

But my heartfelt desires still remain the same.

I’ve decided that every Sunday is going to be a housekeeping day for me.  A day of preparing for the week ahead.  Grocery shopping, cooking, washing, cleaning and general organisation.

Mr ISFS and I have dreams of owning our own house one day soon, so we are trying very hard to budget and live frugally.

Today I firstly put together a menu plan for the week, based largely on the fact I can now make my own noodles.

Then I went grocery shopping.  I went to our local “asian mecca” and bought lots of lovely quality asian greens, and bones to make broth.

Once I got home I started cooking for the week ahead.  I made 3 different batches of noodles.  I made beef chow mein for Mr ISFS’s lunch for the next few days.  I made a banana bread using up overripe bananas I had.  I made taco mince for Master ISFS who has very distinct ideas about what he will and won’t eat for dinner.  I cooked spicy pork mince ready for ramen I will make tomorrow night.

In a nutshell I cooked, I baked, I cleaned, and I washed clothes.

And it was one of the best days I have had in a long time.

I felt such a great sense of satisfaction – I achieved so much today for my little family.  I feel proud that we are well organised for the work week ahead.  And most importantly I have saved us lots of money by cooking everything from scratch – plus it’s much healthier!

It’s days like that that make me truly thankful ♥

The value of true friends

I’ve been having a little bit of a hard time lately with poor sleeping/nightmares etc so have been dragging myself through each day somewhat.

Regardless though of what is happening in my life, and how I am feeling, my friends always bring me the greatest joy.

I never for a moment take for granted the wonderful people in my life ♥

My friends cheer me up, make me smile, tell me the hard truths when I need it (and really you can’t put a value on that!).

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My friends are always there for me – to talk to, to vent to, to keep me company.

And something that I value more than I can say – I know that they have my back.  They believe me, they believe IN me, and they stand up for me.

I’ve never had the privilege of having friends that I call family, and I am blessed beyond belief ♥

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The search for hope

This may be one of the more contentious posts that I’ve ever written.  However the intention behind writing it is to spark discussion around depression, and for us to share our suffering and experiences.

And I would like to STRONGLY preface this post by stressing this is my personal experience and struggle only.   It may be confronting for some.

It’s also a long read.

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I was watching a documentary yesterday about a forest in Japan.  The documentary was voiced by the unfortunate gentleman who searches for the forest for the poor people that enter it with the intention of never coming back out.

He made mention of a sign that has been erected at the entrance of the forest, advising people to consider their family and friends, and to reach out and seek help for depression.  He said that we are never really on our own.

Having struggled my entire life with mental illness (including severe depression and anxiety) this is an emotive issue for me.

Hence my blog post today to talk about it.

My intention for this post is to share my experience, and encourage others to do the same.  In the hope that we can find hope and comfort.

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♥ Blended families ♥

Last night Mr ISFS and I were watching tv with my son, and he asked if he could take both of our photos on his iPad.

He went into his room, and was working away diligently on his iPad.

When he came back, he surprised us with this:

Meg and Dave

It’s only a picture he created, but it meant so much to Mr ISFS and I.

I had never realised the challenges (and blessings) of having a blended family before I met Mr ISFS.

In my experience there are a lot of extras to factor in when you have a non-birth parent sharing child raising with you.

You have brought this person into your child’s life.  You’ve taken a chance – you hope that they will get along well, and will maybe grow to even love each other.

You hope that you have done a good job of raising your child up until then so that they are well-mannered and tolerable.  You hope that things are blissful and calm in this new family.  And sometimes they are, and more often than not they aren’t.

I know personally I have struggled to let go of the guilt of “letting” Mr ISFS look after my son whilst I do something else (go out for a run, go grocery shopping etc).

And I know Mr ISFS struggles with disciplining, and the fear that he’ll be seen as the “cranky stepfather”.

With love and communication and openness though we deal with each issue as it comes along.

And there will always be issues to face – the same as for any family.

But it was very touchingto see this image my son created.

I love that he has grown to think of Mr ISFS as his dad as well.  I say “as well”, because Mr ISFS will never replace his own Dad.  But I love that my son has that affection for him, and thinks of him that way.

Maybe we are doing something right after all ♥

 

Use your thoughts for good and not evil

I saw this great post on FB this week, and it hit home for me, because it’s something I really believe in.Ordinary things

I think part of it is due to my mindfulness practice (which encourages noticing all the small things), but maybe more because I’ve found that it’s doing this that brings real happiness.

My belief is that you should have lots of things in your life that make you happy – all the small moments combined should bring you a sense of gratitude and satisfaction. And if they don’t then it’s probably time to look at why, and what you can do to change it.

Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows – actually from my experience it’s usually the opposite – but if you can focus on the small things that you love then it balances it all out.

For me personally the things that have made me happy this week are:

  • Going to the shops as a family and buying beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables for the week.  I’ve found a great fruit shop that sells the most beautiful fruit – it’s always such fantastic quality.  And things like that give me so much happiness.  I adore my fruit and vegetables and knowing I have a fridge full of the loveliest produce makes me really happy.
  • Nourishing my soul with classical music.  I work from home, so I have the freedom to listen to whatever I like to during the day.  And lately I’ve been listening to cello music.  It’s something Mr ISFS and I both have a passion for.  I just love having it on in the background as I work.
  • Books.  I’ve always been a huge bookworm since I could read.  Sometimes I find I get too busy with other things to read much, but it’s always such a joy to go back to it.  On Thursday during lunch I sat with my feet up, a cup of tea, my cello music playing, and a new book to read, and it was (to me) the idea of perfection.
  • Sharing my favourite takeout (noodles) with Mr ISFS.  This is something that we have always done – shared our favourite takeout together at least once a month.  We are trying to save for a house, so we are mostly budgeting very carefully, but once a month we splurge and get all our favourites – Kway Teow, Garlic Prawns, Special Fried Rice, and spring rolls.

and lastly

  • 12599343_960538727371424_1772379474_n(1)Valentine’s Day.  Today has a heightened meaning for me today, and it’s been a chance to realise how truly blessed I am.  I bought Mr ISFS a 1st edition copy of DeadPool (the comic), and he bought me a pair of amethyst earrings.  They have such special meaning for me as he picked them specially as they are my birthstone, and he knows how much I love them.  But the gifts are really only a very minor part of the day – the day is a reaffirmation for me of how much I love the life we have built together, and how much it means to me.

I am struggling with some personal issues at the moment (health related), but it’s focusing on these small things that makes my life full, and I realise how truly blessed I am.

Much love,
Meg

Just keep going

I just saw this great post by my blogging friend Jonathan Hilton:

Take some time today to make sure that you are better than you were yesterday. Don’t worry about being the best in the world at what you do. That is subjective anyway, who is to say what is greatest? Compared to yourself there is not debating that you are better or worse than you were yesterday. Physically, spiritually and mentally improve just a fraction of a percent and you are on your way to being the best you that you can be.

 

I love this a lot, and I really think it is the key to a happy and fulfilled life.  And by improving ourselves we improve the world around us.

The reality is that we will all make mistakes.  We will all stumble and fall.  All we can do though is try to do better.  And this is true in all aspects of life – friendships, relationships, work, society.

We can recognise where we have failed, or would do things differently, learn from it, and make an intention to do better next time.

I love that life is so full of opportunities to help people, and that includes helping ourselves first so we can better help those around us.

Much love,
Meg

 

Poetry and prose

I’ve been finding myself drawn to writing poetry more lately.  I’ve always had a passion for it – particularly when I was younger – but as my adult years approached my creativity was replaced by responsibilities.  I love that it’s coming back to me.

I was thinking yesterday about how I’ve changed in recent years.  Through life experiences (good, and very horrid) my expectations and desires have changed radically.

Particularly in what I thought I wanted in a relationship.

So many things have changed in relation to those expectations – as I realised what was important and what wasn’t.

One of the very small things was that I thought it would be lovely for my partner to also be on Facebook.  Mr ISFS used to be on Facebook a long time ago (in a galaxy far far away), but he had a bad experience and deactivated his account.   And there is next to no chance he will ever go back.

I actually admire him a lot for that. It’s something that I should do, but so much of my life is entwined with Facebook, including my work.

However I used to wistfully think though how nice it would be to have him on there to support me.  I would look at my friends whose partners would comment on their posts with something gushy and romantic, and think that would be so sweet to have that myself.

I realised yesterday though that it’s not something I desire any longer.

I would rather keep that side of my life private, and to tell Mr ISFS how much I love him face to face.

There’s something I have realised – how beautiful it is to have our love kept between us.  When broadcast it to the world – it seems (to me) to diminish it somehow.

And these words and this poem formed themselves in my mind:

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It also feels so much better to respect his privacy, and not overshare on social media as I have been guilty of myself in the past.

I am by nature a very open and sharing person.  And unfortunately that quite often has been my downfall at times.  But this time I am really loving being more private about my relationship – it makes it seem even more special and magical.

Much love,

Meg

 

 

How much do you care?

There are many beautiful emotions available to us, and available for us to share with others, and “care” is one of the most beneficial and needed in this world.

So many people are lonely, and craving the attention and genuine compassion of another human being.

So how can you show care to the people around you?

We can bring care into so many of our dealings with others in daily life.  The opportunities are really limitless.

For instance even asking someone “how are you?”.  And really being interested in the answer, and attentive, is a wonderful form of caring.  It can make such a difference to someone – to feel like someone truly cares about them and their well-being.

There is so much that we can do to care for others….

Read aloud to someone who has trouble seeing

Bring a hot meal to someone who is sick or going through a rough time

Give a bunch of flowers to brighten someone’s day

Tell someone you appreciate them

If you are going to the shops, ask a neighbour if they would like anything

Leave a kind note in someone’s letterbox

Share your umbrella with someone who doesn’t have one

Showing someone that you care is the greatest type of kindness, friendship, blessing and connection.

 

“Kind words cost little but accomplish much.” …Hal Urba

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Love is all you need

Special thanks to derekcheyyim for the suggestion for today’s post 🙂

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared” ~ The Buddha

Among all the helpful emotions developed on the Buddhist path, love is perhaps one of the most important.

It helps to ensure that a person’s spiritual life is based on healthy and open relationships with the people around them, and with other forms of life.

It also creates the right inner conditions for the heart to relax and be at peace.

It is usually easy to have kind and loving feels towards those people that we love – our friends and family.  Focusing on developing those feelings towards the people you care about is an important basis for developing a loving kindness practice.

The stronger the foundation of our loving-kindness practice is, the easier it is to expand our loving-kindness practice to those people towards whom we would not normally feel kindness.   The ultimate goal in developing a loving-kindness practice is to feel the same level of goodwill, love, friendliness, and acceptance towards everyone – friends and strangers alike.

The sense of “self” and “other” will fall away, and be replaced by an extensive feeling of open heartedness.

Here are some of my favourite tips for strengthening loving-kindness:

  • Practice loving=kindness meditation.  Here is a great resource to find out more
  • Be a good listener.  Listen fully and openly without thinking about what you are going to say next, or trying to offer advice or a solution
  • Smile at everyone
  • Practice random acts of kindness (RAOK’s)
  • Cook a meal for family of friends
  • Call or visit someone who is sick
  • Tell someone you appreciate them
  • Pass on feedback if you receive good customer service – let the person’s manager know
  • Be generous with compliments
  • Be positive
  • Share inspirational quotes
  • Be grateful for what you have
  • Treat everyone equally and with respect
And my favourite:
  • Act on feelings of warmth and compassion.  Don’t be afraid to express feelings of kindness and goodwill.

I am really excited about developing my own loving-kindness practice.

I have only recently started focusing on it intensively, and practising loving kindness-meditation as well.  However I can already feel a huge difference.

A real sense of an opening and softening of my heart, and a very deep desire to help people, and to ease their suffering.

It’s such a beautiful feeling ♥

May you be happy

May you be safe

May you be healthy

May you be peaceful

A Buddhist path through divorce

The breakdown of my marriage, and the subsequent time afterwards, was by far the most difficult thing I have ever experienced.  It was easily the worst time of my life so far, but it was also the best.

I am enormously grateful for the experience  – because it lead to huge personal and spiritual growth.

I’m not the same person that I was beforehand.  I have been through hell, but feel like I have come out the other side with a much greater capacity for love and compassion.

I now truly understand suffering.  And I am a much better person for it.

Just after my husband left, I was lucky enough to be given a copy of “Storms Can’t Hurt the Sky” by Gabriel Cohen.  The book was fantastic, but for me, the main benefit was getting me to really look at the situation.  And make a conscious choice as to how I was going to handle it.

It would have been easy to become bitter, and nasty.

That’s not the person I am though, nor the person I wish to become.

I made the conscious decision to approach the situation with as much grace and dignity (and even love and compassion) as possible.

For the benefit of our 5 year old autistic son.  As an example to him, also he was really suffering as well, and didn’t need any extra stress to make the situation more difficult than it was.

Also out of respect to my husband, and the relationship we once had.

Those months following were a time of enormous revelations.

I feel enormously grateful for the time spent really analysing myself, and my role in the relationship.  I spent many weeks and months thinking through everything – the good and the bad.  And I made a heartfelt apology to my husband for the things I had done wrong.  It was unfortunate, but it was only through actually splitting up that I was able to see the situation, and my part in it clearly.

It’s now been 12 months (on Valentine’s Day) since my husband left.

Life is starting to return to normal – but it’s a new kind of normal.  It’s a future filled with love, and kindness and hope.

 

 

Who ya gonna call???

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded– Ralph Waldo Emerson –

 

Our Kindness Tip for Today:

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Several times a day, spend a minute or two thinking about your friends, family, neighbours – anyone with whom you have contact.

Is there anyone who is suffering? Who is going through a rough time? Or is perhaps just lonely?

Anyone you can think of who would love some support?

Reach out to people

Let them know you are thinking of them. Ring, text, or email them, just to say hi and ask how they are.

Let them know that you care.

 

In a world full of people who couldn’t care less, be someone who couldn’t care more.  ~Author Unknown


Who ya gonna call??

Be someone’s hero