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I don’t know God by Paulo Coelho

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Hi readers, here’s a post from Paulo Coelho’s blog.  He is one of my favorite authors; his book The Alchemist, is one of my top two books, and his blog is great as well.  Enjoy:

I don’t know God

by Paulo Coelho on December 28, 2011

Sometimes we criticize lack of faith in others.
We aren’t capable of understanding the circumstances in which this faith has been lost, nor do we try to alleviate our brother’s misery – and this causes revolt and incredulity in the divine power.

Humanist Robert Owen traveled all over England talking of God.
In the 19th century it was common to use child labor in heavy work, and one afternoon Owen stopped at a coal mine where an undernourished twelve-year-old boy was lugging a heavy sack of bricks.
‘I am here to help you talk to God’, said Owen.

Click here for Paulo Coelho’s blog and the rest of the story.

Have a joyful and blessed 2012!

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‘Tis the Season to be… Productive?

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Fall 2011:

 After reading some of Paul’s posts on  his blog, 101 things in 1001 days, I’ve come to realize it would be useful to slap some timelines on some of my goals.  Paul’s approach was to give himself 1001 days to conquer all of the items on his list, and he has a countdown to day zero in order to keep him on track.  I must say he’s accomplished some neat things, such as Bungee Jumping, Reading all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes Stories, Scubadiving, and Skinny Dipping in the Ocean.  This got me to thinking…. How could I make this timeline thing work in my favor?

I got it.  My timelines will be seasonal, meaning I will pick a handful of items on my list to tackle every season. So here you have it people, my bucket list items to tackle this fall:

#2 Taking Salsa Lessons – I have put the word out looking for suggestions on a good instructor. I will also look into local clubs that offer free lessons earlier in the night before their regular programming starts.

  • I would like to take lessons once a week
  • By the end of the season I would love to be confident enough to dance in public without loosing the rhythm 

#4 Raising Happy, Healthy, Confident, Cooperative, Responsible, and Faithful children – Of course this is one of my ongoing goals, and one in which I am involved every single day.  This season, I will concentrate my efforts towards this goal as follows:

  • By keeping up with our Special Dates
  • By working with each of my children to develop their own life lists
  • By providing more structure for them (see goal #23)

 # 5 Growing in Faith  – Another ongoing goal, my plan is to seek a deeper level of connection with God during my prayers.

  • I want to engage in a deep prayer and meditation session at least once per week

  #11 Completing my Bachelor’s Degree – Happy to report that my fall class has already begun, and it is very interesting; which is a great thing since this is a night class. 

  • By the end of December I should be 3 credits closer to getting that degree.
  • And enrolled for at lest 3 more credits for the Spring semester

 #14  Mastering a Few Signature Dishes  – So far I have mastered 1 dish: Chofán.  During the summer I cooked much more than my usual, and most of it was pretty good, but not as good as I would like it to be.  So I will be cooking some more, repeating dishes I cooked this summer until I have them down pat. 

  • The goal is to completely master 3 dishes during this fall.

 #20 Becoming an Accomplished Writer  –  This will be a long process that I plan to enjoy every step of the way, so no rush here. These steps are next:

  • Translating my first short story, Lo Mal Hecho (Bad Deeds), into English
  • Making improvements to my Blog

# 23 Leading an Organized Life  – You might recall me posting about how this is the goal I feel would make the biggest impact on the rest of my list, and my life.  Now, this is much more time and energy consuming than one might think, at least for me.  So far there’s been some progress in terms of decluttering certain areas of my apartment, and creating routines to help my kids, and myself, get through the day with a bit more ease.  Here’s what I want to do next:

  • Completely implement our household routines and tweak as necessary 
  • Create and start to follow a Budget

# 24 Exploring RI from A to Z – I made some progress on this one this Summer, and I plan to keep on discovering the nooks and crannies of my cozy state this season. 

  • I want to cross of 3 RI cities/towns from my Little Rhody list

 #34 Volunteering/Donating –  This one is a fairly recent addition to my list.  My efforts in this area will be concentrated on:

  • Making one blood donation
  • Finding a one time volunteering opportunity that I both care about and can fit into my schedule (easier typed than done)

 #35 Reading More  – Another fairly recent addition to the list.  I have committed to reading 10 books per year.

  • Will read 5 books in order to complete this year’s quota. 

How about you, care to share your upcoming plans?

The Buddhist Monk and The Smart Cell Phone: Who Would Have Thonk It!

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Mack is wearing the green shirt, to the left is Sochettra, the Head Monk, Talh (I know I butchered it) and Sochettra's brother

As many of you know, I visit a Nutrition Center where, in addition to having a healthy meal, I get to socialize with a group of friends.  This has become a part of my daily routine I happily look forward to, as it is a moment for me to unwind, and just enjoy mindless chit-chat. 

At the nutrition club I met my friend Mack, who is originally from Cambodia and has lived in the States for many, many years.  Recently, I was very surprised when one day after work I went to the club and found Mack seating at a table with two Buddhist Monks who were wrapped up in bright orange robes.  Being the curious creature I am, my rear end promptly found a seat right at their table, and after being introduced to the Monks by Mack, my brain started formulating all sorts of questions, which they kindly answered.  For your benefit, I am posting all my new found knowledge about Buddhist Monks right here (you can thank me later :).) 

Ok, so I didn’t gather all the profoundly spiritual information you might be expecting.  I went for the most basic stuff like:  You have a cell phone!!! Are you kidding me? A Buddhist Monk with a smart cell phone, which by the way is much smarter than mine???  Apparently, although they are required to make a vow of material detachment, these rules were made long ago, so naturally cell phones were not contemplated because they didn’t exist, thus cell phones are not against the rules – bet you didn’t know that! Other things I learned:

  • Monks should not touch females; although if they “resign” from being a Monk they can get married and will be accepted without being frowned upon. 
  • They can’t eat after noon; however, they are allowed to drink.  That is why Mack had the brilliant idea to invite them to the club for a protein shake.
  • More likely than not, someone from the community prepares meals for them  since their time is thought to be better spent in prayer and meditation rather than cooking.
  • They are encouraged to pursue lifelong learning.

I am of the Christian faith; and my curiosity in the Buddhist Monks was mostly cultural.  I believe in learning about, and taking an interest in, people in general, and I try to teach this to my kids as well.  Of course, you know once I found out that their temple was right in one of the nearby neighborhoods, a visit was promptly planned . 

 I had driven by the area many times without noticing that one of the houses was actually a Buddhist Temple!  My son came with; together,  along with other members of the community, we sat on the floor while the Monks had their lunch.  They kindly let us try some of the food, including some dry semi-sweet meat, and some ripe plantains in a light green sauce for dessert.  Mack was also at the temple on the day of my visit and he gave Aleck and I a mini tour of the place.    My boy was so curious about this whole new culture for him.  It was a good experience, he got to greet the head monk,  Sochettra, as well as sit on his special chair.  Also, my son was asked to join a Cambodian language class thought at the temple on weekends; Aleck is excited about the idea. Later that day, I received a text message from Sochettra thanking us for our visit.

Progresando

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Progress Report:

 On # 11 Completing my Bachelor’s Degree
Happy to report that I have completed my Summer course on Studies in Narrative with a final grade of B+, which puts my overall GPA at a 3.33.  I am very excited about the fact that completing this course contributed towards 3 of the items on my list: #11, #20, and #35.

On The List 

Ready, Set, Go

 I have recently added 3 new items to my list #33, #34, & #35, and I am up to a good start on each of those goals.  In addition, some of the other objectives on my list have been further defined, which has helped me in advancing on those areas as well, for example: #4, #14,  #20, and #24.

 

Facing Challenges:

On #5 Growing in Faith
From the 5 steps I had commited to in order to move towards this goal, I have found one of them especially challenging: Praying everyday.  Although I do it most days,am  finding myself still unable to reach a deeper level of connection with God.  My friend Michael recommended a book, which probably will be the next book that makes it to my Read 2011 list.   On the other 4 basic steps towards this goal, I am doing mostly good, but not 100%.

# 5 (And It’s Not Chanel)

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Item #5 on my Bucket List Growing in Faith

This is one of my ongoing goals, and probably the one in which I am lacking at the most.  If you have read my post titled “Measuring Up” you know about my recent struggle to capture my progress on a few of my endeavors.  These fall into a category I have called perennial or ongoing.  I guess you could say these are qualitative items rather than quantitative.   Well, through some comments left by my readers it dawned on me that I need to break down such goals in a way that will make it easier to track my progress.  So here’s where I start.

I am a Christian, and congregate at a very warm Non-Denominational Christian church.  The group of people who go to this church is much more diverse that in mostly every other  congregation around this area.  I truly appreciate that.  It is a very welcoming and committed group of believers.  The pastor is very down to Earth and  non-judgemental. 

I didn’t grow up as a Christian.  Actually, my spiritual upbringing was very unstable and confusing.  I was raised by my mother and maternal grandmother.  Mami (my mom) is a non-believer.  My grandmother on the other hand was a true fanatic of the Jehovah Witnesses faith.  I can remember as far as being 4 years old or so and  going out with her knocking on strangers’ doors every Saturday to bring them the Word.  All of my cousins and I took Bible study with grandma.  She was pretty strict about it too.  My mom always wanted to give me the best education she could afford; that was very important to her.  Therefore, she sent me to a few private schools through my elementary, middle and highschool years, including one Catholic school ran by nuns, and an Evangelical school. Needless to say, I was confused.

For many years I became a non-believer as well.  It was about 5 years ago that, through good friends and family members, I found my way back to faith.  My first congregation was very warm, and very much on fire about the Lord, but very legalistic.  This turned me away as I want to bring my kids to a church where they feel welcomed, not judged, and where they are thought about the love of God and his Word, not about religion.  I’ve found a good place at my current congregation; my kids like it and are enthusiastic about attending “kids church”.  Most importantly they are getting to know God and his Word in an active way, not through endless sermons.

My challenge is remaining consistent (I have the same challenge in other areas of my life as well).  This one can be especially trying though.  In my defense, I am a single, working mom.  It’s not easy.  I feel like I’m constantly juggling and there are always a couple of balls that end up on the floor.  That said, I would like to grow in my spiritual life, as well as to guide my kids in their spiritual paths.  I’ve identified 3 basic steps I would like to take in order to begin the pursuit of this goal:

  1. Pray once a day: I usually pray with my kids.  My reference here is to praying on my own.
  2. Get to church once a week: I go through stages where I want to get there at least twice a week and be involved in different ministries, but I only end up burning myself up and dropping everything, then I don’t go at all.  It’s just too much on top of all the responsibilities I have.  So I finally decided to give myself permission to go once a week, and that will be ok for now.
  3. Read the Bible more: I just don’t do much of this one lately; which is absurd since when I do, it provides me with extra strength and wisdom for everyday life.

I know, this post is getting too long.  Sorry 😦  Now, as you might have already noticed, I tend to drive myself nuts with small details.  My thoughts at the moment are:  Should I be keeping track of these activities on a calendar or log or would that be too much and perhaps cause me more stress?  Any thoughts on this? Suggestions greatly appreciated!!!

P.S. Thank you for reading to the end 🙂

Measuring Up

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Cute BDay Card

Courtesy of MonsterMarketplace Products

On one of my previous posts, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past to be exact, I had talked about certain items on my bucket list that have a special  characteristic in common; they are perennial.  These goals are supposed to be ongoing undertakings rather than consummative tasks.  I am having trouble coming up with ways to measure my progress on this type of goal.   I have identified 4 such items on my list and will include them below with the hopes that you might give me helpful suggestions:

#4 Raising Happy, Healthy, Confident, Cooperative, Responsible, and Faithful children

#5 Growing in Faith

#16 Cultivating valuable friendships

#19 Fostering a close-knit family environment with my kids, parents, siblings and extended family members

I feel like I am already engaged in most of these goals on a daily basis, but how do I determine if I am on the right track?