Thursday, July 19, 2018

Confessions of a Southern Taoist - Gratitude of Grief

I’m currently working through a 31 day meditation that focuses on gratitude. Gratitude for your body, your mind, emotions, everything. Today’s topic was on grief. The meditation instructor read a quote about how grief is love that is left over. We still love those whom we’ve lost, or a dream we wanted so badly to happen and it didn’t. I’ve lost family members, friends who took different directions, and dreams I once had that never happened. Yet, in looking at what we’ve lost, we are also reminded as to what we still have. I’m grateful for the friends who are still in my life, the dreams that continue to unfold, and the ability to embrace it all. 


Monday, July 16, 2018

Confessions of a Southern Taoist - Monday

Monday is usually Do Nothing Day for me - I come in from work, put on my jamy jams, eat dinner, then play video games/read/watch movies as a way to relax and enjoy some down time. However, this Monday was more of my usual working time - after my glorious trip to NOLA, I felt myself recharged and energized. While at my corporate job, I collaborated with several women regarding a book idea and spoke with a contact for another venue for my tea blends contacted me. I felt my anxiety wanting to creep up, so I delved into my work instead and it dissipated. When I got home, I immediately began cleaning my place while creating the price list for the contact. I'm currently working on a serial for my Facebook page The House of Byzantium - a shrine to Decadence - and I felt inspired to put the latest episode up. Now that it's 9:30, I feel wired and ready to run around my neighbourhood several times. Instead, I will continue listening to music (currently listening to Lacuna Coil). I guess what I'm trying to say is that - Monday. It's a day we don't like because its our low from the weekend. We want to run from it while screaming, "I HATE Mondays!" Yet, what if we treated it like a day? Just a day. We know that soon, Friday will be knocking on our door but for now, Monday is here. What are your Mondays like? Do you repeatedly hit the SNOOZE button on your clock? Do you drink an extra cup of coffee or "fake it till you make it"? Or, do you do like me and treat it like a day? I wake up, I breathe, I am here. No matter what happens, I am here. On a Monday.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Confessions of a Southern Taoist - Strength

I've just returned from a lovely trip to New Orleans. Although it was a quick overnighter, it was filled with moments of laughter, art, Nature, and good food. It was also a good time to spend with friends - there are several women that I call Sisters. Although we have different stories, we are of similar mindsets. To outsiders, we may seem as Odd or Strange/Unusual but to us, at least to me, I see nothing but strength. Strength can come in many forms - mental, physical, emotional, spiritual. These women that I am lucky to know exhibit all of these strengths. We don't have perfect lives - shit will blow up in our faces on a regular basis. We will do/say the wrong thing at the really wrong time. We may want to scream, shake our fists at the sky and wonder why WE are going through this. I've done that many times. I've had my moments of crying in a pillow when it feels like the world just fell apart at my feet. However, once the crying is over and I suddenly get hungry, I get up, dust myself off, and keep moving forward. It sounds easier than it is and YES, it is. Sometimes, the desire to stay down and give up feels right. Give up trying and just exist. Resist everything and stay down. Yet, whenever I'm around my NOLA Sisters, I get a recharge of my life. In fact, I talked to myself halfway through my return trip - remembering who said what at dinner last night, remembering to return to Anne Rice's vampires (I loved Pandora - one of my favourites of her works), and remembering who and WHAT I am and my place within all of THIS. We get strength from a smile from a stranger, or a kind word, or even when a friend calls you up and wants to hang out with you. Sometimes, strength can come from when you finally decide that enough is ENOUGH and that today, you are taking back your life. When you flow, you ARE.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Confessions of a Southern Taoist - Pain

I love to move. Walk, run, bike, hike, anything - my body has to move. When I lived in Washington DC, I moved quickly: running to class, trying to catch the Metro, speeding up to be with friends. However, I am learning the delicate art of Resting. Because of me going and going only to crash, my body has "informed" me that, at age 44, I need to slow down and rest. In feeling the pain shoot through my back, I know that yes, I need to rest. However, I'm also learning how to rest on other levels. I now take time to look around me whenever I stop in my car at an intersection light. What am I normally missing by trying to get to work? Hmmm, never noticed that tree before. Check out that funky looking house. That's a new restaurant to try out. Taking five minutes out of my day to meditate helps my mind and soul tremendously as well. Eating baby carrots in the morning is quite nice too. When I slow down, I can feel myself coming together after being scattered. Whenever I remind myself that I am part of this and THIS is part of me, I rest. Time to stop allowing thoughts to run rampant in my mind and rest. Time to read a book or watch British or French period drama while sitting on my couch (although right now the movie about French gangster Jacques Mesrine is playing in my living room and that's NOT a relaxing movie! LOL)

Rest. Slow down once in a while. And eat baby carrots.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Confessions of a Southern Taoist - Demons

I read yesterday how a famous actor that I admire had a meltdown in an airplane. The first thought that came into my head was, “But why? He’s so talented and good looking. Why again?” I then spoke with one of my best friends who advised that we all have demons. I couldn’t help but agree with her. I know so many talented and beautiful people and probably most of them have personal demons: I’m not pretty enough, I’m not talented enough, I feel like a freak. We are all here for a reason, as corny as that may sound. We are all here on this blue greenish ball and we are HERE. Do your thing and make it count. I know I am.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Confessions of a Southern Taoist - Lies

I recently learned that someone I considered to be a friend had lied. I wasn't offended - not even surprised. We all do it at one point or another in our lives. It's part of what makes us human. I've told lies in my life and will probably tell more before Death takes me by the hand and carries me away. If I ever saw this person again, I wouldn't even mention the fact of knowing about their lies. Does it really matter? Will it change how I feel about this person or will it just be another day in Paradise? Sometimes, I wonder if people are telling me the truth when they talk with me - does she really like me or is she just putting up with me? Is he really tied up in a meeting? When someone tells me that I'm attractive, do I want to yell at them to STOP LYING TO ME because I can't accept their words? I know I'm over thinking it all and yet . . . and yet. As a new day begins, I wake up with a smile on my face despite my anxiety whispering in my ear, knowing that what will happen will happen. A lie here, a side glance there - it all comes to the front. And that is the truth.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Chess is A Game of Death

I've always been a fan of chess, although I'm rather a bad player. I love the feeling of trying to outwit your opponent with one move, all the while wondering about their moves and how far they've thought it through. The Luneburg Variation by Paolo Maurensig gripped me from beginning to end with its deadly tale of all things chess. I'm so glad I located it in a used bookstore - sometimes, one can find the most wonderful of literary gems in used bookstores. As a side note - I always wonder if the person who previously owned the book enjoyed it as much as I did, or if they read several pages then decided that it was too much (or too little) for them.

The story is thus: a distinguished business man named Frisch was found murdered in a garden in Vienna. The only clue to the murder is a chessboard made of sewn together rags with buttons used as pieces. Seems like a "locked room" mystery, right? Wrong. From there, the tale unfolds as we sit with Frisch and an acquaintance on a train from Munich to Vienna and watch them play their usual game of chess. At one point, a young man named Mayer enters their car area and proceeds to watch them play. When Frisch begins to converse with the young man in an abrupt manner, we learn that Mayer used to be a rising star within the chess world. And that, my dear readers, is when the literary sh*t hits the fan.

Revenge - ah, what a lovely subject to read and write about in a fictional setting. If the subject of the revenge was a deceitful bastard, then we can take some measure of satisfaction that they got their just reward. This novel does that so well yet with a tragic tale behind it. Mayer informs Frisch of a teacher he once had, an older eccentric man by the name of Tabori, and how that man initiated him into the world of chess. We then learn about the background of the eccentric teacher and how his life was less than stellar, yet chess proved to be a way out for him. . . . until he met his nemesis in the form of a young German man. This young German wanted to not only beat the young Tabori but to also defeat him - Tabori was a Jew. Fast forward to the time of WWII, when many Jews were in fear for their lives in Europe - Tabori and his family were sent to one of the camps. He witnessed horrific things within the camps yet the worst (and most mysterious) came in the form of a summons to visit a Nazi officer in his office. . . .

That's all I'm going to say about this book. When the ending comes, you will probably do what I did and talk it out for five minutes. I truly hope that people will give this book a chance and read it - it's worth losing an afternoon. This book also reignited my love for chess, although I'll just stick with a simple game against my computer. I would never want to play a game in which the stakes were the ones in this book.


Saturday, June 16, 2018

Tea Review - Mandela by NYA TEA

I had the pleasure of meeting Kai Oredugba of NYA TEA at the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas last week and I have to say - he is one cool dude. I then turned my attention to their teas and instantly fell in love with many of them, one of them being DUBA The Mandela. This rooibos blend smelled divine and I knew I had to have some; thankfully, Kai gave me a sample of  the blend. I told him that I wanted to marry the blend and asked if that was crazy to say. He said no. While preparing it today, I could instantly smell orange and cloves as the hot water came in contact with it. When I finally tried my first cup, I was completely blown away by the simple yet complex taste. This rooibos blend is the BEST I've ever tried - a smashing blend of rooibos, orange peel, clove, cardamom, coconut, pink pepper, and flavour. The tea blend before preparation smells heady, exotic, and full of fruit flavour. The taste of the tea is fruity with a hint of a caramel like aftertaste. All of the ingredients blend so well that it comes at you all at once without being overpowering, almost like in layers that you don't even know are there. The mouth feel is inviting, cozy, and year long satisfaction. Since rooibos has no caffeine, you can enjoy this blend all day. You don't need to add any kind of sweetener to this blend - just prepare and enjoy. I look forward to ordering more of their teas - these guys know what they're doing when it comes to tea!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Tea Review - Twinings New Zealand Breakfast Blend

Leave it to me to order a tea straight from New Zealand.

As much as I do enjoy several teas from Twinings, I had no idea that they created a blend just for the country of New Zealand. When I did locate it, however, I immediately whipped out my credit card and placed my order, all the while wondering if I would actually receive it. After weeks of patiently waiting, my box arrived and several hours later, I had my first cup of Twinings New Zealand Breakfast - much thanks to Products from New Zealand!

Don't let the name fool you - this tea can be enjoyed all day long without worrying if the caffeine will keep you awake. I enjoyed this tea two hours before bed and when I did go to sleep, there were no caffeinated problems. This tea is subtle and delicious with every sip and thank goodness I ordered an 80 bag box - I've been drinking at least a bag or two every day. The tea has a smoky start, much like a Lapsang Souchong, then finishes with a bit of Earl Grey, leaving your palate refreshed and quite happy. The tea "rolls" well with a soft mouthfeel - no harshness in the mouth or in your stomach. If you add honey to the tea, it only gets better as honey enhances a tea's flavour (IMHO). Although I do enjoy drinking it with honey, this tea is quite good by itself. This tea also goes well with Biscoff cookies!

If you order this tea through Products from New Zealand, be advised that it will take between 8 to 20 business days before it reaches you, unless if you live in New Zealand or nearby. If you enjoy a good hardy tea that can be consumed all hours of the day, New Zealand Breakfast is the one for you!

Side Note:

I'm six day away from attending my first World Tea Expo - two days of networking with other tea companies, enjoying panels regarding tea, and being around other tea lovers and enthusiasts. I never thought I would ever go, yet next week that dream will become a reality. I am going to write several blog posts regarding my experience there  - who knows what that will lead to?

Join the Leaf!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Tale of Two Women

The Door by Magda Szabo, printed through NYRB, was a challenging read for me. Not so much of the intellectual depth or the story itself, but rather the "relationship" between the two main women. Magda is a successful writer who is married and lives an affluent lifestyle. Due to the pressures of her and her husband's lives, they decide to hire Emerence, an older woman living in their village, as their housekeeper. Right from the beginning, Emerence comes across as a brash, unapologetic, and illiterate woman who could care less about the world. She has her small number of friends, her house filled with cats that no one may enter, and her housekeeping duties. Whenever someone tries to show compassion toward her, she lashes out with vitriolic words or she suddenly turns to stone and refuses to speak as punishment to the one who offended her. Yet, even with her bristling manner, Emerence shows her form of love toward Magda and Magda feels honoured to be the recipient of such a rare emotion.

I won't give all of the story away but like I said earlier, this was a challenging read for me. Although everyone seemed to eventually forgive Emerence for her ways, I found myself wondering about her power. Even when Magda tells her off and walks away, she is later wracked with guilt over what's she said to Emerence and then later feels that she deserved it. Everyone in the town knows of Emerence and willingly give her power to remain the same and never change. In all honesty, I wanted to stop reading the book several times yet I felt compelled to read it to see how it would end. I had to see how far the relationship between the two women would go. She refused care when people discovered that she had had a stroke and was living in filth. When someone tried to visit her, she yelled at them to go away and leave her alone. When Magda and her husband finally accepted Emerence's gift of a little dog statue, Emerence dusted it then threw it to the ground, causing it to shatter - this act later lead to peace in the household for quite some time. When a friend of hers committed suicide, Emerence advised Magda that she wouldn't have stopped her - if her friend was still lonely after being cared for and fed, then apparently she wanted to die. Sometimes, those who have nothing to lose can become the mirror of the world - they show the weakness of humanity in a truthful light with no apologies. Perhaps that was Emerence's job but then again, I know she wouldn't have cared less.