Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Love and Kindness

(Warning: emotional post that has absolutely nothing to do with Saudi Arabia)

When I saw the news a couple weeks ago about the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut which took the lives of 26 people, most of whom were 6 and 7-year old children, I was horrified and so saddened. I always feel bad when I hear of tragedy, but this event felt more personal to me. Newtown is not far away from our home in New York and the town is in our stake*. And in fact, one of the young victims was a member of our stake. My daughter is six years old and in first grade. My friend works as an ER nurse at the very hospital where victims of the shooting were taken. She has started to write about her experiences here. I have shed a lot of tears over this event.

When we are confronted with tragedies on this scale we rightly ponder how we can prevent future tragedies. Much has been said on a national level about what we can do with laws to change the future. But what can we do on a small scale or on a personal level? I think most of us feel helpless in this light.

I've been pondering this question for some time now. Today I have some ideas I wanted to share. While listening a podcast by Dave Ramsey, he talked about the shooting and shared his thoughts. He said that he believes in the power of displacement--that filling our lives with good and filling the world with good is probably the only way to overcome evil like this in the world.

I liked what he said and I think he is right. I couldn't have prevented this tragedy from occuring, but I do have the power to be better in my own life and to spread goodness and light in my corner of the world. I can and should respond to my children with more love and kindness. I can be kinder in internet discussions. I can be more patient and thoughtful with strangers. So that's my plan--to be better in my life and to consciously spread goodness.

What about you? How has this tragedy affected your life? What do you think you can do in your life to be better and to help spread more goodness and love?

* I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have wards which is our word for congregation, consisting of about 150 to 400 people. In a stake, there are 10 wards. Our stake in New York comprises wards in one area of New York and then many wards in Connecticut. We meet in wards every Sunday and typically have Stake meetings where everyone congregates at least twice a year with less formal events happening around the year.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Egypt Day 4: Shopping

I'm sure our guide had some kind of commission thing set up with a few shops because she took us to several shops during our tours. Our first day of touring, we went to a cotton shop where I bought t-shirts for the kids, a nice pink shirt for myself and a nice shirt for my husband.

We also bought Egyptian papyrus paintings.

On the second day of our tour, our guide took us a to perfume/essential oil shop and a jewelry shop. At the jewelry shop, we bought some car-touche necklaces for three of the kids with their names engraved in hieroglyphs. I bought a beautiful earring and necklace set made with lovely red stones.

 At the perfume shop, the manager demonstrated several different essential oil and perfumes they make. They don't put any alcohol in the perfumes and oils so I was actually able to smell and try them without becoming sick or nauseous. We tried some ancient perfumes that were amazing. I ended up buying a few essential oils that smell wonderful. My kids were each given a bottle of orange blossom essential oil which smells divine.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Rockhounding: Treasures in the Desert

The delights of the desert are endless. While some may define a beautiful landscape with words like lush, green, and colorful, I find the vastness and grand scale of the desert inspiring and beautiful. I'm glad to live in a world with a variety of interesting environments.

Driving away from the urban desert of Riyadh into long stretches of highway flanked by wide flat, rocky beige desert can either bore a person to tears or invoke a sense of isolation into an introspective person. Along the highway tent stands selling stacks of firewood, fuel, and water dot the way. This is the season for camping and it is a perfect time to explore the desert free from the scorching heat of the sun. Right now the sun is mercilessly bright, but the heat isn't intense and is lessened by a brisk wind which whips across my face.

We park our car off the road, on a hard desert track. The sand here isn't soft and red, but rather beige. A closer examination reveals the sand to be similar to a beach, with thousands and thousand of tiny grains of multi-colored sand. The sand is best viewed at eye-level, with your head close to the ground rather than at a standing view. Up close, you can see the individual grains of sand, the variety of colors, the smooth texture of the tiny balls, and the small fossils.

My two youngest children scoop up sand and rocks to make a desert in a bottle.

My boys discover that sadly the desert offers up more than just rocks and stones, but also yields a fair amount of garbage and tires. 

We found quite a few small fossils. Some of the fossils looked like they could be brain coral. I found a nice fossil with a shell on it, but lost it.

It was a lovely day and proved to us that the desert rockhounding is a fascinating exercise.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Health and Fitness

When we moved to Riyadh, I was excited to have a gym on the compound that offered free access to residents. I planned to exercise and utilize the facilities. Um. . . yeah. . . that worked out SO well. I discovered that I loathe, despise, and abominate treadmills even while listening to my iPod. I like walking, but I have little self-discipline in the area.

Then Celia moved onto our compound from the U.K. She is a trainer and runs a website called 4EvaFitness My friend offers fitness classes and a nutrition program. I finally decided to sign up and started her nutrition program. For a week, I kept a food diary. The second week, I did a 7-day detox where I ate a lot of vegetables and fruit and meat, but eliminated dairy, bread, and sugar. (I don't drink coffee or alcohol so I didn't have to eliminate either of those from my diet, but if you do drink those things, then you abstain for a week.) I thought the seven-day detox was very sensible and intelligent and didn't follow weird or dangerous fads. Then my friend wrote up a detailed summary of my food habits, made suggestions, and developed a plan for me to improve my nutrition. It was a great program and not too terribly difficult to follow.

During that time, I also went to the fitness classes twice a week. Celia made the classes fun and energetic. We do short, intense bursts of exercises. I never get bored in class and am always surprised at how fast they go by. Best of all, I loved the energy I had from going to the classes and the strength I am developing in my body.

I lost several inches in some flabby areas of my body and a few pounds. I wasn't so concerned about the pounds, but was glad about the inches. My jeans are fitting a lot better. I enjoyed a break over the holidays and am now looking forward to getting back into a fitness and nutrition routine. This is a big deal for me, the first I've ever done something like this. I'm just glad I found someone who is so supportive and helpful. Celia makes you feel like you really can change your eating habits. She offers fitness classes that are fun and interesting without judgment. Even though I get short of breath and lack coordination, I never feel stupid or ridiculous. She is encouraging and supportive without being judgmental or critical.

My friend offers the nutrition plan remotely so if you are looking to analyze your nutrition and improve your eating habits, I recommend checking out her website. The nutrition plan is very reasonably priced and offers great value for your money. Best of all, her nutrition plan really works and helps you change your eating habits in a sensible and intelligent way.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Egypt Day 4: On the Street

These kids were just as fascinated by our big group as we were with them. The little girl in the second picture had beautiful brown eyes. The boy spoke English, but the girl didn't.