Thursday, August 23, 2012

38. Public libraries

Wow! I am surprised that I haven't blogged about my gratitude for libraries, given that I probably feel thankful for them at least once a month, aha! Oddly enough, I was never a big fan of libraries when I was a student - I would rarely study in a library, never liked the stench of old books, and generally thought that libraries were boring. I am still not a fan of that old-book smell, but love libraries now, and often make it a point to visit libraries when I'm travelling. My appreciation for libraries started with the Vancouver Public Library, in particular its Central Branch. The first time I laid eyes on the structure that houses this beautiful library, I thought of the Colosseum, even though I was yet to behold the ancient Roman structure in person, I thought 'Wow, what a cool library!' To my surprise, the library did not smell of old books, it was brightly lit, and generally had a feel good and open vibe, not a scholarly, snobbish vibe. It was love at first sight...and I have never looked back. I started studying at libraries, even the university ones, and made peace with the old book smell. I started appreciating how libraries were a quiet and free space to concentrate, read, study; about how it was an affordable, space-saving, and green way to read bestsellers and magazines; about how it was a great way to get introduced to new books. Now I get to appreciate the Children's section, and am thinking about audiobooks and downloading e-books from the library. My local library has been a wonderful support during my transition into parenthood, through their Tiny Tunes ( a song, rhyme and story time for babies and young children) program and other programs and services geared towards children. I hope libraries will always be something the government and public continue to invest in.

37. Love

As I was walking back home, I thought about how one can do so much, endure so much, get through so much, and tolerate/put up with so much, for love. My son teaches me every day to be more grateful, more compassionate, more patient, and more giving. He lets me be thankful for that precious fifteen minutes of being able to quietly eat lunch, or browse through a few pages. I picked up for a travel book, and a 'Destination Weddings' travel brochure during my stroll, and wondered, 'Either I must be crazy, or crazily in love to think about getting married' - to a person who'd record a voice mail with my screaming child because I went into a library for five minutes when I was only supposed to drop off books, a man who cannot console a crying child for five minutes, a parent who'd put a crying child next to my door, when I've spent thirteen hours looking after that same child, was tired and feeling low, and wanted to sleep, a father who finds it frustrating to console an infant for half an hour, when I spend hours, days, figuring ways to entertain my child, to make him smile, to console him when he's having a crying fit. Then I thought about love, about my unconditional love for my child, about doing what it takes in his best interests, about how Eric lights up when his dad comes home after work, about how I wanted to be a parent so badly, and now I am, and about how my partner sometimes does things that make me smile, and make me thankful to be with him. I thought about the friends who stayed beside me when I was sinking into an abysmal depression, about how I would want others to treat me if I were in someone else's shoes, about how life is still better with a spouse and father in my and my child's lives, about how there is always the possibility of things getting better, of being optimistic. I thank my child for teaching me to remain grounded and patient and loving every day, and to be thankful for the little joys in life, despite feeling increasingly overwhelmed and fearing the threat of falling back into that abyss. I am grateful for unconditional, nurturing love, that helps me weather the storm, and keeps me fighting for the good and blessings around me. Thank you.

36. World Humanitarian Day

So, a couple of days ago I was on Vevo, and noticed Beyonce's new music video for 'I Was Here.' Today, I finally got the chance to watch the video, and through that, found out about World Humanitarian Day. What a beautiful cause to be a part of! This year's World Humanitarian Day theme is about doing 'Something good somewhere for someone else.' On the 'I was here' website, a helping suggestion is to 'Cook a meal for a new mum' - brought a smile to my face. Even though my spouse and I heard from various people about freezing meals, and we did have frozen dinners in our freezer, it's almost impossible to understand the meaning of 'cooking meals' until one has a newborn...I think we needed help with cooking for at least eight weeks! It seems like such a short time now, but then felt like an eternity, with the chronic sleep deprivation, waking up every couple of hours around the clock, the daily and seemingly endless laundry, the hour after hour crying of a newborn, the complete upheaval and loss of control of one's daily life routine, the healing and pain from major abdominal surgery, the frustration of new, and confidence-lacking parents not knowing how to console a gassy was really the last thing on our minds, although an important part of being new parents, especially if a mother is breastfeeding. I remember feeling extremely grateful to my sister-in-law for sending us a fruit basket, probably one of the most meaningful gifts we received during that newborn turmoil of joy, exhaustion, and confusion.

Going back to the theme of helping others, I think it's wonderful to celebrate a day of helping others, of unconditionally and unselfishly giving oneself to others. While I believe it is important to remember others who have fallen during war and other hate crimes, it is equally important to honour and be thankful for peace, for humanitarianism. So, thank you Beyonce, for this music video, that led me to this website.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

35. Music festivals

Tonight I am nurturing my gratitude for music festivals, in particular, the Roots and Blues Festival that we attended in Salmon Arm over the weekend. Despite the hot weather, it was great to be able to enjoy live music outdoors, finding a nice shaded spot to have lunch/dinner, and being able to sample different foods from various vendors. I appreciated the family-friendly nature of the event too, with tents set up for children's entertainment. Eric definitely enjoyed his first 'taste' of sand and the cool water mist, while I enjoyed watching his delight at being able to explore and play with sand. It's nice to be able to go to venues that bring communities and people together, and well, music festivals are definitely a big part of summer. Thank you, Roots and Blues Festival, for a great Saturday.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

34. Meditation

Meditation has been one of those wonderful discoveries along my life journey. I remember trying meditation years ago as a student at Cornell. At the time, I was still on the mend from severe depression, anxious about losing my grip on academics, and had heard that meditation helped with stress. That meditation session was a somewhat failed attempt, or maybe not, as I was probably in the contemplative stages of accepting meditation as a practice that would work for me. I was too restless to be still, and it was a very tense hour because of that. I clearly remember telling a friend how meditation had the opposite effect on me (now I know that when starting meditation, one becomes aware of all these seemingly exploding thoughts, which subside with practice :)

Then I came across meditation again as a student at Simon Fraser University. It was a fairly anxious time for me, as I had returned to school after a few years, and my fear of not being able to succeed academically based on my experiences at Cornell was still raw and felt very real. The Counselling Department was offering one hour Vipassana (or insightful) meditation classes/sessions every week, and I decided to give meditation another shot (actually I had forgotten about my first meditation experience, so it was more like starting meditation from scratch). This time, meditation clicked with me, and it was a wonderful experience. Partly because there was more guidance this time around, where the psychologist would explain the purpose of meditation, that there would be thoughts that arise, but it was about being mindful in the present, and letting thoughts go. With practice, I even had a few sessions where at times my mind felt blank, and at others, it felt like my mind was expanding. Ever since that wonderful discovery five years ago, I have been a fairly devout student of meditation, either listening to meditation mp3s in my spare time, or seeking out group meditation sessions in the community. Hopefully, the next step will be to incorporate five minutes of still meditation practice, by candlelight, either in the morning or evening.

Although nowadays I find it difficult to meditate with a blank mind, I still enjoy the sense of calm I feel immediately afterwards (yes, even with all those roaming thoughts!) I love the sense of peace and stillness that accompanies silent meditation, and I love the gong that signals the beginning or end of a session. I have done one retreat in Knutsford, and hope to do more in the future. Meditation is a great way to become more self-aware, and to ground oneself when things seem too overwhelming and it's difficult to anchor oneself. Thank you, meditation, for being a part of my life.

Monday, August 13, 2012

33. Cooking

As I was making lunch today, I thought of how nice it feels to be cooking again. Ever since I've been able to cook, it's been a creative process for me. Yes, I do have recipe books, but I rarely follow every step to the letter. There is simple pleasure and joy in cooking something aromatic, in playing with the colours of food to create something appetizing, delicious, nutritious, and healthy. I also find cooking oddly meditative, in that when I'm cooking, I'm solely focusing on my creation, and rarely think about anything else. Nowadays, I have very few occasions where I am just thinking about the task at hand - usually my mind is occupied with a multitude of thoughts.

During my pregnancy, I had a brief interlude during second trimester where I had enough energy to cook and bake. And since my child was born, it's been an adventure ride that's left little time for me to cook. Now that Eric is eating solids, I feel more of an imperative to cook again, and it feels great to be able to do so.

So here's to cooking, and the simple pleasures of life.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

32. The Mighty Salmon

While I'm rocking my salmon art T-shirt, I figured I might as well nurture my gratitude for the salmon. My admiration for this mighty fish came about three years ago, while on a cruise to Alaska. There I got to see hundreds of salmon going upstream, and what a sight it was to behold! I was completely transfixed by the tenacity of salmon, fighting currents, and jumping up in its journey to spawn. With every failed attempt, the fish would gather in a calmer spot, waiting, and trying again. I thought of what kind of genetic mechanism enabled the fish to remember where it originated, to continue to fight against such odds, sometimes even dying in the process of going upstream. Survival of the fittest in its amazing glory...

What was once a simple (albeit delicious ;-) fish took on new meaning for me. Sometimes in times of hardship, I think of the salmon fighting to go upstream, struggling to survive the current...I was and continue to be in such awe of the fish, that I bought a T-shirt with native salmon art at one of the souvenir stores, have considered buying salmon earrings (!), and hope to one day possess some salmon artwork for my wall. Two years ago, I enthusiastically went to see the Adams River Salmon Run and hope to return to Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park with my son this year. I hope he'll feel some of the same excitement and marvel I felt upon watching this mighty fish in action.

31. Facebook

Tonight I'm nurturing my gratitude for Facebook. I've been feeling pretty ambiguous about Facebook for the past week or so, especially after learning that my profile would change to the new timeline feature by default. With the current profile, it was already difficult to control my privacy settings, without making it only visible to myself, which kinda defeats the purpose of Facebook, as the privacy features are based on an 'opt-out' idea, where one has to manually edit features for every single 'friend.' I viewed the whole timeline feature with skepticism, thinking it as a way to make my profile even more public in an attempt to perhaps generate greater revenue and recover some of the momentum that the company had lost during its initial public offering.

Then I started thinking of some of the great things about Facebook, about how it has reconnected me with people from my past that I had completely lost touch with, and who are thousands of miles away, enabling me to get a glimpse of their current lives through their posts and pictures. I thought of how easy it is to post pictures and share news with everyone simultaneously, and the joy I feel when others are able to share in my joys, or offer me suggestions when I'm in a tough spot. The concern with privacy still remains - however, I also recognize I live in an era and amongst a generation where publicizing through social media is the norm. Many years ago, people were very concerned about email privacy, when email was still relatively new, and now it has become ubiquitous. Perhaps, in a few years, social media will be viewed in the same light, with privacy being less of an issue. So, I am thankful for the connections that Facebook has enabled, and for being able to share joyous events and passionate causes instantaneously.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

30. Picnics

When one thinks of a picnic, images of a picnic basket, a comfortable blanket, a green park, perhaps a book, and a nice breeze comes to mind. It's the perfect image of relaxation and bliss. And yet, in the past six years or so, I've gone picnicking maybe once a year? Despite living about 10 minutes from a park...

So nowadays I'm kinda forced to do impromptu picnics because of a little one; I find it's the best way to have a nice dinner/lunch, and catch up with friends without having to worry about my son having to behave in a restaurant, for instance. Eric loves being outdoors, with lots of space and greenery to keep him distracted; I as a parent love the downtime I get, where I either play with Eric without having to worry about what needs to be done at home, or just relax with a book, or get to eat in peace. The more picnics we have, the more I wonder why and how I never got to do more of this before Eric - it's free, affordable, and nourishes the soul.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

29. Competition

As I nurture my gratitude for competition, I realize this has probably been a long time coming, although it took me the London 2012 Olympics and a great athlete like Michael Phelps to do so (Congratulations on your 22th medal, wow!) Growing up, I've had quite a negative experience with competition, not in an athletic context, but more in an academic context. I got to see how adults would sometimes act worse than children, perhaps out of resentment, jealousy, ego...I've experienced friends sabotaging me, and not knowing who to trust in the name of competition. And of course, to be at the top of one's game,  one has to sacrifice and make lots of compromises, which is probably harder to do in one's childhood and teens than as an adult.

Watching athletes compete in the Olympics has made me realize how competition can be a great motivator, despite all the challenges, struggles, sacrifices, and ugliness that might come with it. I can't help but wonder how many athletes Michael Phelps, the great swimmer and Olympian, inspired to be stronger, faster, better at what they do, in particular swimming. When the training got tough for these world-class swimmers, they probably thought of this great champion for inspiration. Those swimmers who wanted Olympic gold knew they had to beat Michael's record, and in order to do that, they had to swim harder, faster. Plus, imagine how these swimmers are feeling now, as they're winning gold at the London  Olympics. Maybe there is some truth to victory being that much sweeter when it's harder to accomplish. For me, it's nice to think of competition in a positive light, especially after so many years of seeing it as something negative...and it's also nice to gain some inspiration to make physical activity a priority in my life. After all, if athletes can train for five hours a day, six days a week, then surely the average person can chip in an hour a day (or every other day) in the name of physical and emotional health.

28. Pedicures

Tonight I am nurturing my gratitude for pedicures, as I probably had the best pedicure this evening! I had booked the pedicure because there was a promotion going on, figuring that I haven't had a pedicure this year, and my feet could use some pampering. Turns out the pedicure came at the right time, because it help to pamper my soul too. This has been such a roller coaster year for me, with great happiness, great sorrow, great stress, and great worries. I was wondering today as to how much I can continue to cope with this year, because it seems like every time I feel like I am emotionally strong again, something happens that crushes me and tries to pull me under. And yet I know I have to somehow stay strong and continue to hope for the best, and to pray for courage and resilience to get through this, not just for me, but for others who are counting on me to do so. Today's pedicure was a one-hour oasis where I could forget about my worries, stress, sadness and just let go. I don't think I have ever appreciated a pedicure as much as I have today, and the esthetician who did such a fabulous job. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

27. Funny movies

There's nothing like a good laugh to relieve stress and feel good, and it's even better when that laugh comes right before bedtime. Yesterday, I happened to watch a great comedy on TV called 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,' a light-hearted, feel good movie that's perfect for ending the day on a high note. Watching the movie made me realize that I definitely can use more laughter in my life - sometimes it's so easy to get caught up in everything that needs to be done, and lately I've been feeling a lot of pressure to establish more routine and structure in my life, especially with a little one in the family. Perhaps being able to let go and have a hearty laugh is just as important as routine in my life right now :)