Monday, February 28, 2011

Dealing with the C word

This morning, a student of mine told me, in tears, that her mother had cancer and that she found it extremely stressful and hard to deal with. It is not easy to cope with such a situation, especially at such a tender age. I am lucky enough not to have had the experience of watching my parents go through such an illness but I have witnessed both, my paternal and maternal, grandfathers and many dear relatives who suffered and passed away because of it while others have survived and are living perfectly normal lives now.
Watching my student cry her heart out broke my heart and made me hit the Internet to search for some tips on how to support loved ones as well as how to cope with it all…I wanted to help her but also thought about the many out there who are living it as well… I have read many articles and the below strategies are, I found, the most important.

How to cope with a loved one that has cancer:
1.      Learn as much as you can about the type of cancer that your loved ones have. This not only takes your mind away and focuses your attention on something useful but it also helps you learn what to expect and how to be prepared to support your loved ones.

2.      Go to the doctor’s clinic with your loved ones to hold their hands and also to remind them of what the doctor had said. It is overwhelming for your loved ones to take in every little detail of the meeting.

3.      Take good care of yourself as you are the rock that your loved ones would need for support. If you are healthy and strong then you will do a better job of handling the stress. So rest, eat well, get some exercise and a breath of fresh air from time to time.

4.      Accept help from family and friends. It is ok to ask them to cook a meal for you or help around the house. They can also help you emotionally so do not be ashamed of telling them your feelings. Cancer affects everyone and not just the person who is diagnosed with it.

5.      You can also seek professional help. Talking to a therapist is nothing to be ashamed of. They might have better strategies and tips on how to deal with such a difficult situation.

How to support a loved one that has cancer:
1.      Listen to your loved ones however uncomfortable it may be. Try not to offer suggestions or ways to fix things. Sometimes, your loved ones just want to talk to work out a way to deal with the illness or the possibility of dying. Listen to them, give them all your attention by looking at them and do not interrupt or judge them.

2.      Deal with your own feelings first before you tackle your loved ones’. You probably have a million questions on your mind such as; Will they live? Will they have pain? How will life change? Face your own fears first and then you will be able to listen and pay attention to your loved ones.

3.      Always tell them that you love them. Encourage them and praise their efforts. Let them know that they are special and valued. Let them know that you think the world of them and that you know they are strong.

4.      Do not wait for your loved ones to ask for help. Offer your assistance before they do. Offer to drive them to the hospital or cook a meal for them… offer to wash some clothes or sheets for them. BUT also respect their need to be alone sometimes. Monitor the visitors that come to check on your loved ones. If you feel that your loved ones have to entertain them, and does not want to offend them, you can simply ask your friends and family to come back another day and thank them for caring.

5.      Do not hide things from your loved ones or other family members. Your loved ones with cancer need an honest assessment of their condition to be able to make decisions that best fit their needs no matter how painful it may be. This also applies to telling your other members of the family about the situation. Sometimes we feel that we need to protect our children from the reality of the situation but if we did, then they would imagine the worse. So even if the prognosis is poor, sharing that with them will give them the opportunity to begin their grieving and express their love.

May you never have to deal with such a difficult situation… but if you are living it right now, then may you be strong physically and emotionally to be able to support yourself, your loved ones who have cancer and your other family members. May love and sunshine be with you wherever you may be.

Time Traveling

I watched the Time Traveler’s Wife last night and it was quite moving. I used to always dream about time traveling and visiting other eras as I love history and find it quite intriguing to look into Ancient Civilizations and ‘Earth Times’ like the Jurassic period. But I never thought of visiting my own life; going back and forth between certain stages on my life’s timeline. People are so interested in time travel that they have theories, books and movies, even cartoons, about it.
The idea of visiting special moments in my life would be appealing but revisiting sad moments where I lost someone dear to me would be agonizing. Imagine having to go through the pain several times in your life span. I know that they say “Whatever does not kill you, only makes you stronger” but still this is one thing that I would not want to experience again. Now if I had the power to change something, then that would be different… but wouldn’t that affect EVERYTHING else? It would be like a domino effect, wouldn’t it? You change one thing of the past, you change the future. However, if we had the power to do that wouldn’t it be great to change so much of the wars, occupation and hatred in History?
Another thing that I found quite sad in the movie was the idea that the main character was able to watch his own death. Now, why would I like to witness my own death before it actually happened? The main character kept going back to the scene where he died. Reliving such moments many times over would be agonizing unless of course I was able to visit my loved ones after I die to comfort them… but thinking about it now, would I really be comforting them or would I be opening old wounds?
This makes me wonder about the so many people out there who live their life in their past instead of looking towards the future and the horizon. I can understand that there are so many aspect of an “old life” that might be fun to experience for a second and third time but time moves forward and we just cannot keep back peddling or looking backwards. We should try not to look back too much at the people we lost or dream about the time we were with them, because we have not really lost them… they live in us and through us and the best thing we could do is show them that they meant a great deal to us by the way we live our lives.
We need to be looking to the future ahead of us and dream about what we can accomplish in this life, think about what we desire and plan how to obtain it. We need to think about how we can grow as individuals and affect the people around us, how to make a difference no matter how small it is.
 However, the most important stage in life is the PRESENT. We need to cherish each moment we have with our loved ones, ourselves and our pets (if we had some)… This is an advice that I need to live by as well as I spend my time thinking too much about the future that I forget my present. My husband always reminds me that I need to live my day as if it was the last day of my life… that is wise… maybe I should start with one minute a day and stop worrying about tomorrow.
Ok… so what about travelling back to correct our mistakes? If we had a time machine that could take us back in time to correct whichever mistake we made in life then wouldn't that be cool? However,  we would not become responsible individuals in the future. I mean, we would rely on the fact that we can travel back and fix the hurt we dished out to our loved ones to improve our Karma in the future. But that is not how life works. We always need to be careful about what we throw into this world and remember that whatever we put out there will come back to us… life is like a circle, isn’t it?
I remember telling some students of mine, who were bullying and calling each other names back in my days in Africa,  a story about a little boy who was angry and had a habit of saying things that he would regret afterwards. His father asked him to hammer a nail into a piece of wood every time he said or did anything that hurt someone. After the piece of wood was full of nails, the father asked his son to remove every single nail. The boy was confused and did not quite understand the purpose of the exercise but did as his father had asked. Later, his father asked him to look at the wood and notice the holes in it. He told him that every time he said or did something that hurt anyone it left a scar no matter how sorry he said he was afterwards or how guilty he felt.

So there you go... let us strive to live in the present, plan for the future and just be plain happy...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Family Cook

I just finished watching the film Julie and Julia which made cooking look like so much fun and so easy that it made me want to dive back into the kitchen after having just put my feet up on the coffee table to rest for a while. It made me want to whip up a beautiful stuffed chicken for my children who have just gone off to bed and left me some room to breathe.

I know that many women out there enjoy cooking and find a sense of satisfaction from it which  is probably because they are so good at it. I know my grandmother and mother have had their cooking sworn by... and they say the apple does not fall far from the tree... but that is debatable. I admit, I love cooking when I have a big bright kitchen, lots of help and above all the time and creativity.

Being a working mom simply makes the job of cooking healthy hearty meals for the family such a drag. I usually come back from work and delve into the task of peeling, chopping, frying, boiling, and...and...and...before the cooking process actually begins, when I would much rather spend that time playing with the kids or out on the porch watching them play. To be totally honest, I actually do not mind all the above tasks before cooking but it is deciding WHAT to cook that drives me bananas.... something easy to cook... I do not think that cooking stuffed chicken or lobster is a reasonable dish to cook for a family in 30-45 minutes. 

I tried asking my husband for suggestions on what to cook the next day and all I got was, "Whatever comes to your mind!" or "Anything!"... which means he is just as stuck for ideas as I am.  So what did I do? I started turning to the internet... trying to find recipes for easy quick dishes. And since I am a visual person who needs pictures to stimulate her brain and keep her focused, I quickly lost interest in the words. I need pictures... how to pictures... or videos... now I understand why those cooking shows are so popular and in demand.

A few years ago, I found help on an unusual site... a comic strip website. Yeah, I know... it sounds weird doesn't? Now I must confess that it does not ALWAYS suit my needs as I might not have the ingredients at that time but I could go back years and years searching for the right comic strip with the right ingredients and the right amount of time.

So now I will reveal this fun site... and hope that you enjoy searching through it to find the right recipe for you and your family... 


Friday, February 25, 2011

Beautiful Woman by Fion Lim

Beautiful woman,
come out and play,
reveal your inner treasures.
The sparkle in your eyes,
the natural swing in your walk,
you radiate excitement and enthusiasm.
You need no latest fashion,
No expensive hair cuts,
No blinding big accessories.
You glow in your passions,
passionate in your pursuits,
you know what you are made of.
You are not easily bothered,
by the mindless opinions of others,
you know very well where you want to go.
you are a joy to watch,
an inspiration to others,
your pure soul an endless marvel.
Beautiful woman,
let your brilliance shine through,
your eyes speak of true inner beauty.
Copyright © 2007 Fion Lim. All rights reserved.

The Sniper!

My husband and I were chatting last night and my thoughts swam back to the day I was called the Blond Iraqi Sniper. I know the nickname might sound a bit confusing so allow me to explain where it comes from.

I was attending a one month army camp in the summer. This camp brought many students from different parts of the country together to do some army training (more like fitness really, rock climbing, running, absailing, etc) as well as some social work where we painted poor government schools and built play areas for the students in different parts of the country. It was also a unique way to get to know our country better by visiting interesting and historic sites.

One part of the training was target shooting from a 100 meters. I should not be calling it training because we only had one session with 10 bullets using an M16. Our group had 16 guys and 4 girls. We had camped on a hill in a proper army platoon base and we were challenged to a competition between our group, the Sabella, and the army guys. During the practice session I hit the target 8 out of 10 times at a distance of 100m and therefore, the girls decided that I should go for the first round of the competition.

There were two distances that we had to shoot at; 100m and 200m. Four guys including myself, went up against 5 army dudes... I felt that everyone had their eyes on me because I was taking a long time focusing on the target compared to the guys who finished in half the time. The Army officials walked to the targets and came back with the results. I nailed 9 out of the ten shot and the next best one was a 7. This was so exciting! Especially that I was the only female competing against males from my peer group and the soldiers.

The next target was at 200m. I asked the girls if they had wanted to go for it but they all decided that since I did so well the first round I should go for the second as well. I wore my glasses again and lay down on the sand, picked up my M16 and focused. The Army personnel, I think he was lieutenant, who had trained me when I held the weapon for the first time ever, stayed by my side. I took my time as well... taking care of each bullet, breathing and trying to relax before my finger pressed the trigger.... when the results came back; the lieutenant responsible for the army camp was beaming and smiling from ear to ear. He ran up to me and said that I got 10 out of 10 this time making my total 19/20. He also told me that I had beat the army score on an individual basis... as a group the army beat our camp but as an individual score, I was the one who received the highest score. I was ecstatic.

I do not like weapons and never have, but this was different. Where I come from guns and such weapons are considered men’s toys. Everyone was stunned because a woman beat a man at his own game.... not A man... but many men heehee!

The news hit the papers... it was just a small note mentioning the competition, my name, my score, and how I beat them all on an individual basis. My mom still has the clipping hidden somewhere. The fact that the news hit the papers did not please the platoons we visited after that, and they continued to challenge me calling me the Blond Iraqi Sniper.

Whatever you give a woman, she can do it 10 times better if she wanted to. It all depends on how badly she wants something and then nothing can stop in her way if she was determined to get it. Women just need to believe in themselves and their capabilities more often than they do!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Feeling of Emptiness

I am sure I am not alone when I say that sometimes I feel that the world has turned against me ... or  alone in just the feeling that I want to hide under the table or in a tree for a few hours just to clear my head or get away from the constant noise or constant vie for my attention be it from my students, own children, husband or maybe even myself.

I remember, years ago, reading this Malawian story about a tree that swallowed two little boys, kept them in her trunk and no one knew where they were for a day or two, and I thought to myself then, wouldn't it be nice to be embraced by a tree? Now how peaceful would that be? I did not have the number of responsibilities that I have 9 years later and so now the question has change to...wouldn't it be nice to disappear for a day into that same tree?

I wonder how many women go through that sometimes. How many women are truly happy with the way their life turned out? Truly in sinc with life? How many women are happy in their marriages? How many women just put on their mask everyday and walk through their daily routines like a machine?

And you know what? It is ok... totally normal for anyone to feel like that. It is not something to feel ashamed of... we are hormonal creatures affected by the change in our bodies... on top of having to juggle so many jobs.

How many women actually take a break and treat themselves? How many women go on a trip with their girlfriends and not worry about their husbands, children, fathers or mothers, willa il khaddameh?

SO now that we have established that we have the right to feel down once in a while, we too have the right to have some time to ourselves.. we have the right to feel good... it is not the end of the world if we left the dishes undone for a day, or did not cook a meal for our family for one day, or maybe even two days in a row. There are so many restaurants out there that can deliver... our husbands or even children can cook for one day if we could not afford to go out. It is not the end of the world if we want to close the door and spend some time in our rooms alone with no interruptions... It is all right to take a break. We need time to recharge, just like everyone else does. 

We women, mothers, daughters and wives, have loads upon loads of responsibilities towards our nuclear and extended families. We juggle different jobs and wear different hats. We are expected to conform to the society's traditions and values. We are expected to be prim and proper. We are expected to take care of the parents, the younger sisters, the brothers, the children, the husbands, the grandparents, the parents in law... and then after all this, we are expected to look good for our husbands and take care of our hair, clothes and looks. But can't we be taken care of as well? Can't we be pampered and appreciated for what we do?

The blame also lies upon us girls! Why can't we look at ourselves and see who we truly are? We are AMAZING beings. No one can take the burden we take. We are strong, loving, warm, creative, impressive, professional beings. We can be whom we want to be and be bloody GOOD at it. We are unique beings. We are women and Ilhamdullillah for that!!!

We should take matters into our own hands and demand that alone time or girl time. We should take charge of ourselves and tell our husbands or children that we need our own time and that they should take care of themselves for a few hours. We should not expect our partners or caregivers to GIVE us that time... We should be the ones to take it. We deserve that time but we should also be responsible for ourselves and take charge!

Here is a poem that I found beautiful and inspiring:

Mind is the master power that molds and makes,
And we are Mind, and evermore we take
The tool of thought, and shaping what we will,
Bring forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills,
We think in secret, and it comes to pass -
Our world is but our looking glass.
-- James Allen