Sunday, December 31, 2017

Dual Purpose Buddha

Buddha-Shaped Ceramic Air Freshener

Yesterday (Saturday), at the last monthly rosary prayer gathering for the year, my daughter and I received ceramic air fresheners as gifts from my friend.  Daughter's air freshener was shaped like a cat and I showed a picture of it in the previous post.  Mine is shaped like a seated Buddha.  It has a pearlized finish, with vent openings cut into the folds of the robe, and contains some vanilla scented air freshener inside.

It is said that the Buddha didn't want any images of himself.  For years after his death, the rock carvings and paintings that depicted the life stories and teachings of the Buddha in the caves and temples used symbols such as the leaf of the pipal tree (Ficus religiosa) which is a type of fig tree under which he is supposed to have sat during Enlightenment or attainment of Buddhahood, a lotus, which represents purity since the flowers bloom above the water, unsullied by the murky mud in which the plants grow, or by an eight-spoked wheel, which represents the wheel of Dhamma (Pali) or Dharma (Sanskrit), which was set in motion by his teachings (the eight spokes represent the  Eight-Fold Path or the Middle Way).

However, after several years, images of the Buddha began to appear.  Today, statues of the Buddha or pictures depicting him are quite common in the temples and in Buddhist homes, where such statues and images are considered as icons.

And, apparently, in non-Buddhist homes, too, because I am seeing more and more Buddha statues or figurines is the stores, these days.  Some of them appear to be garden ornaments (even the dollar store has them, in their garden section), some appear to be more decorative and found in the decor sections.  In fact, last Christmas, one of my cousins gave me a clear "crystal" (plastic) statue of the Buddha, that she found in a home decor section of a store, as my holiday gift.  Maybe some non-Buddhists buy them to give an Eastern-inspired, perhaps meditative, feel to a room?  I am highly amused by it, of course, because how many religious icons can be considered as decorative and evocative of a place? 

To be quite honest, when I first received my gift, I wasn't quite sure what to think of it.   Personally, I would never consider giving my Catholic friends air fresheners shaped like Jesus or Our Lady.  A statue, maybe, for their altar, but not something like an air freshener or the salt and pepper shakers  that I have seen pictures of online.  To me, that seems a bit profane. But, after talking it over with my daughter, I realize that I was being too sensitive.  I am sure my friend saw the air freshener (she gave air fresheners to all in the prayer group), saw that it was Buddha shaped and probably assumed that I would like it.

I appreciate my friend taking the time and effort to personalize our gifts - a cat for my daughter who loves cats, a Buddha for me who is a Buddhist.  I know the maker of the air freshener didn't intend for it to be a religious icon, but I placed my gift in an elevated place, on top of the tall bookcase in the family room, as I would any icon of the Buddha, where it will serve the dual purpose of freshening the air in the room while being a religious icon, as well.  Thanks to my friend, I'll have a good smelling Buddhist home! 

Would you give an object like a planter, or an air freshener, or salt and pepper shakers that are shaped like a religious icon?  If you received one, what would you think?

The Last Saturday of the Year

On the last Saturday of the year, I was expecting a visit from my aunt and cousin in the afternoon.  Aunt had called me on Thursday morning to say they wanted to visit on Saturday afternoon, around 1:30 p.m., and I was not to cook any lunch for them.  When I mentioned it to my daughter, the first thing she asked was, "What are you going to make for lunch?".  I said, "Nothing, Aunt told me not to make anything for lunch!".  When I mentioned it to one of my friends, in an email, she emailed back, saying, "But you will have some food for Aunt, just in case, won't you?"  LOL.  I assured her that I would probably cook a fish curry (I have plenty of beef-based items in the fridge, but my aunt and cousin don't eat beef) and there were vegetable curries leftover from the almsgiving in the freezer that could be reheated and served.

Saturday morning, I concentrated on cleaning up the family room.  Daughter had tidied up part of it and I had cleared the small dining table on Friday night.  Saturday morning, I tidied and cleaned the coffee table and vacuumed the family room, while daughter straightened up the sofa covers.  Then, I cooked a pot of rice and a fish curry with daughter's help - I had her add things to the curry while I washed the dishes and cleaned the sink.

Then, we waited.  We are used to Sri Lankan time.  You say 1:30 p.m., but that is just a general idea of a time frame.  It actually means anytime around that, but most probably 2:30 p.m.  So, I wasn't worried when 1:30 p.m. came and passed.  Or when 2:30 p.m. came and passed.

While waiting, I put away laundry, read blogs and posted comments, and began my month-end review of my monthly goals post.

My friend who was hosting the monthly prayer gathering called to ask if I was still coming, because, apparently, my cousin had called to say that she was not coming because she was still recovering from the flu.  I assured my friend that I was coming and my daughter, too.  I guess my friend thought I might not drive all that distance by myself, especially in the night, but, if that had been the case, then, I would have called her and ask to be excused.   

Then, I called my cousin to ask her how she was feeling and we chatted for a little bit.  Earlier, I had offered her a ride to the prayer gathering, but she said she didn't want to go because she was still coughing, although she was feeling much better.  I agreed with her that she should probably stay home and rest.

When 3:00 p.m. came and no aunt, I decided to have my lunch!  Finally, around 3:20 p.m., I gave aunt a call.  Apparently, she had got the dates mixed up!  Even though she said Saturday, in her mind, she meant Sunday!  Apparently, too, she had called me around 2:00 p.m., and left a message on my answering machine, but I hadn't received the message.   It might have been when I was on the phone with my cousin - usually, when I am on the phone and another call comes through, I hear a beeping to alert me to the fact.  Then, I can check my phone to see if there are any missed calls.  But, this time, I didn't hear the alert, and there were no missed calls showing aunt's phone number.

I do have a phantom answering machine, though, which is the weirdest thing!  It is the answering machine that I had before I got my current one.  That old machine had a voice mail recording with my daughter's voice (my present one has a generic male voice that came programmed into the answering machine).  Sometimes, people say they get that old recording when they call me.  How or why, I don't know, but it seems to happen when I am on the phone!  I have told all my friends and family, including aunt, that if they get an answering machine greeting with my daughter's voice, to disregard it, because I am unable to retrieve that message (the old answering machine was disposed of at least 3 years ago!)    

Anyway, the long and the short of it was, aunt was unable to visit on Saturday afternoon.  She apologized for the mishap and I assured her it was nothing to worry about (I didn't tell her I cooked; after all, she had told me not to cook and the food won't go to waste).  Aunt is in her 80s and she's allowed to get her dates mixed up!  Besides, it was the catalyst I needed to get the house tidied, so it was a good thing!  We agreed we'll visit sometime in the new year.

After that, daughter had her lunch - rice, fish curry, cashew curry, and tomato chutney.  Then, she suggested we go for a walk (she wanted to catch Pokemon as she finally has a phone that allows her to play Pokemon Go).  So, we went for a walk around the neighborhood and every now and then, we paused for her to catch Pokemon and for me to catch my breath!  I walked with her for about 30 minutes and then, came home (my left ankle started to hurt), while she went in the other direction for another 30 minutes, or so. 

After I came home, I did a load of laundry and, after daughter came back, we both had tea.  Then, it was time to get dressed to go to the prayer gathering.  We left the house at 6:30 p.m. and arrived at my friend's house at 7:30 p.m.  She had said to come between 7:00 and 7:30 p.m., so we were just in time and, in any case, we weren't the last to arrive.  We socialized for a bit, then the rosary was recited, and we all had dinner.  Daughter and I left soon after dinner, as I really didn't want to be on the road, too late at night, and, besides, practically everyone there was sneezing and coughing, and I didn't want us to catch anything and get sick!  I have had my flu shot, but daughter hasn't (not that I haven't told her to get one, several times).  I had taken my friend a gift and, just as we were leaving, she gave my daughter and me gifts and asked me if I could take my cousin's gift to her, as she had been unable to attend the gathering. 

Coming back, there was a detour to get on to the freeway.  I always get disorientated when there are detours, but daughter was able to help navigate and we got home, safely.   After we got home, daughter and I opened our gifts from my friend.  Daughter received this cat-shaped ceramic air freshener:

Cat Shaped Air Freshener
Isn't it cute?

I received a ceramic air freshener, too.  But I will do a separate post on that, I think.

On Saturday, I was grateful for:
- Aunt's non-visit wasn't due to any emergency or accident, just a mix up of the dates!
- It provided me with the incentive I needed to tidy and clean the house!
- An afternoon walk with my daughter
- Getting together to share a prayer with friends and family
- A safe drive to and from the prayer gathering

How was your last Saturday of the year?

Saturday, December 30, 2017

December Balanced Life Goals - Review

December was a busy month with a lot going on.  These were my goals to maintain a balanced life during this busy month:

Spiritual:  The goal is to live a spiritually meaningful life.
- Hold my year-end almsgiving  (scheduled for Sunday, December 17) - I was unable to hold it last year as I fainted in the bathroom the night before the almsgiving and knocked my head on the side of the bathtub (I still have an indentation on my forehead where I hit the railing for the shower door) - Accomplished!  The year end almsgiving went off very well and I feel very happy and blessed to have been able to accomplish it.

- Continue with daily prayers and gratitude - On going; daily prayers are part of my routine and I have had many things for which to be grateful throughout the month and year, as well.
- Take time for meditation- I've been taking a few minutes every morning and evening to meditate, as part of my daily devotions.
- Cultivate non-attachment through giving to others - Have done well in this area, this month, I feel.  Not only alms to the monks and gifts to family, friends, and neighbors; I have also giving of myself,  resources, time, and energy to various causes and people.
- Attend the monthly prayer gathering, if possible - it is scheduled for this evening and I am planning to go.  I offered a ride to my cousin, but she is recovering from the flu.

Environment:  The goal is a clean, tidy, uncluttered house and a well-maintained garden.
- Clean the house for the almsgiving - Accomplished!  House was cleaned both before and after.
- Maybe decorate for the winter holidays - Very minimally, but that's OK.
- Maintain - Being maintained.  It has been a very dry fall and winter, so far, so the garden is just limping along.
Daughter:  The goal is to continue to have a close relationship with her. 
- Daily texts, phone calls, emails , and video chatting - Accomplished!
- Enjoy her next trip home (for the holidays) - Enjoying it to the fullest!  

Family & Friends:  The goal is to keep in touch with various family members and friends.
- This is probably the best month for keeping in touch with family and friends as we send greeting cards and well wishes and visit over the holiday season.  I will be seeing several friends and family members throughout the month at the monthly prayer gathering, at my almsgiving, at Christmas, and, most probably, on New Year's Day - Have been keeping in touch and getting together with family and friends, throughout the month. 
- Call, email, and send greeting cards to family and friends - In process!  I still need to send my New Year greetings! 
- Invite family and friends to participate in the almsgiving - Invited all the family and the closest of friends.  Those who could, participated.
- Will be seeing several members of the family and friends at the monthly prayer gathering - Scheduled for tonight; I'll be seeing those who will be able to participate.
- Celebrate Christmas and New Year with family and friends - Christmas was celebrated with both good friends and with family.  Daughter and I have been invited to an aunt's house to her annual New Year's Day lunch and I know I'll be seeing family and friends there.
Career:  The goal is to continue to do work which I enjoy (for the most part) and which enables me to support myself.
- Continue to do my assignments in a timely manner -  On-going.  I got a little bit stressed towards the middle of the month, as I was trying to clear my desk of projects before I went on vacation, but, it seems I was just putting pressure on myself, because no one else seems to be in a hurry!
Finances:  The goal is financial security.
- Continue budgeting and spending mindfully, with purpose - I think I did well, both this month and throughout the year, overall.  I have no debts and I have savings in place.

Health & Well Being:  The goal is good health. 
- Attend the appointments with my various medical doctors - 3 scheduled, so far, in December: the primary care physician assistant, the radiation oncologist, and the podiatrist. All are for routine care and follow-up - Kept all my appointments; and the primary care PA reduced the dosage of one of my medications.
- Continue to go for additional screening tests, as needed- Did some blood tests when I went to the primary care PA.  I will find out the results in January.
- Continue to monitor blood pressure, sugar levels, and weight - monitoring the blood sugar levels, daily, since the PA reduced the dosage, yet again.  The blood pressure is OK, but the weight could come down a little bit!
- Continue to focus on a healthier diet (more vegetables!), drinking enough water, exercising regularly, and getting sufficient sleep- Work in progress!  Daughter played a Zumba workout video the other day and I joined her in a couple of the dances and the stretching, afterwards.  Today, she and I went for a walk in the evening, and, afterwards, we did some stretching.  I just need to keep it up when she's gone.

Time Management:  The goal is having enough time to do all what I want to do!
- Almsgiving and holiday preparations - The almsgiving preparations were completed on time and I am very happy about that.  The holiday preparations didn't go quite as smoothly, but it got done, eventually.  This month has been a bit hectic, with lots going on, but I can say that the important things got done.

Leisure/Crafts/Hobbies/Me-Time:  The goal is to relax doing something I enjoy doing for the pleasure of it.
- Knit more hats for the AHA - Knitted a few; I think I was too ambitious to take on this project during this time of the year.
- Knit my grey sweater - Started, but had to put aside because I needed to concentrate on getting other things done (almsgiving preparations, etc.)
- Make some holiday gifts!  - I made a few items, but not as many as I would have liked to have done. 

Those were my goals for a balanced life in December.  I think I made good progress on most of them.  I will continue to make these goals in January, too.  I think they help me to make sure that all the various aspects of my life get some attention throughout the month, so that I don't feel that all my time was spent on office work or I didn't get any time to socialize, etc.


Last Friday of 2017

How can it be that one week of my vacation has already gone?  Seems like that went by fast!

Once again, last night, daughter had another asthma attack - she's been having these several nights, now.  I plugged in the humidifier in her room and have it going every night, and that seems to help, a little.  She is also taking her asthma medications twice a day now (earlier, her doctor had told her to reduce the frequency to once a day or even, once every other day, as her asthma seemed to be under control).  I think she has become allergic to the cat fur and dander!  She's fine when she's up at Berkeley.  Anyway, she was up till late waiting for her medications to take effect and I was up with her and so, we both slept till late, this morning.  The best part of being on vacation is being able to sleep in, in the mornings!

I spent the rest of the morning relaxing, having coffee, responding to blog comments, reading other blogs, etc.

Later, in the afternoon, I went to pay my home owner's insurance and earthquake insurance ($1,178, due December 30; I budget $100 for it, in my monthly budget, throughout the year and pay it off in full, rather than in installments, when it comes due; as a result, I don't need to pay any interest which is built into the installments and I don't feel the need to tighten the belt towards the end of the year to find extra money in the budget for the big bill that is coming due at the end of December).    Daughter came with me and, afterwards, we picked up some Japanese food for lunch, which we ordered to go.

Came home and had lunch and chatted a bit.  Then, daughter put away her share of the laundry while I rested.  After that, I drove her to my friend A's house (the same friend who invited us to Christmas lunch); my daughter is good friends with A's daughters and they had planned to watch some movies, play with the new puppy, and have pizza for dinner.  After I came home, I watered the front garden, took out the kitchen trash, had a cup of coffee, put away my laundry, and did two more loads of laundry.  I am running short of clothes hangers, which I use to hang up the clothes to dry!  Time to either buy another set of hangers or go through the closet and get rid of a few items!

I also tidied my dining table, again!  I did all my gift wrapping there and the whole table was covered with tissue paper, gift boxes and bags I didn't use, boxes of ribbon, and a few extra gifts (I often pick up a couple of extras, just in case).  I put everything away, changed the table cloth, and finally set the table with the Christmas china that I had taken down about two weeks ago!

Dinner was some of the leftovers from lunch and grapes.

Then, it was time to go to pick up daughter.  We've been relaxing after we came home.  

Today, I am grateful for:
- Lovely weather (85F, today)
- Running errands with my daughter keeping me company
- Japanese food for lunch
- Two free tote bags from the insurance company (I'll add them to my reusable grocery shopping bags)
- Being able to accomplish all what I got done, today.

Tomorrow, I need to tidy the family room, with daughter's help.  In the afternoon, my aunt and cousin are supposed to visit.  In the evening, daughter and I will go to the monthly prayer gathering at my friend's house.  In between, I hope to do another load of laundry and water the back garden.

How was your day?  Are you looking forward to the weekend? 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Mall Rats!

That's what daughter and I are in danger of becoming!  LOL!

Thursday morning, I woke up to a phone call from one of my aunts; she and my cousin wanted to visit on Saturday afternoon.  I was told not to make any lunch, but we'll see how that goes.   I spent the morning relaxing and reading blogs.  
In the afternoon, daughter and I went shopping, again!  The store from which I bought all those lotions and shower gels were having a sale and the items I bought on 50% off were now on sale for 75% off.    These lotions and shower gels are regularly priced at $12.50, I bought them when they were priced at $6.25 and, today, they were on sale for $3.  I had given 16 of them as gifts on Christmas Day (a bottle of lotion and a bottle of shower gel per recipient), but I still had 14 bottles not given away, yet.  I checked the store's return policy which said 100% return for any reason.  So, I took them back to the store, explained the situation to one of the shop assistants, "returned" them, and bought them again, at the lower price!  My daughter was shaking her head and rolling her eyes at me, but I didn't mind.  I saved $48 by doing so!  I know it wasn't a good deal for the store, but I am happy that I was able to take advantage of their return policy and a good sale. 

Then, we went to the dollar store to buy some freeze dried fruit snacks and hair bands for daughter, a wall calendar and a small one to keep in my purse for me, and a book of sudoku and word puzzles for my aunt as part of her gift.  We were in a bit of a rush by then, because my daughter's friend was coming to pick her up to go on their escape room adventure and dinner.  So, I didn't finish my shopping, but came home.

After my daughter left with her friend, I went to the pharmacy to pick up my medication and one or two other items I needed from there, and to the other dollar store located next to the pharmacy for the rest of the items I had wanted.  I bought a bunch of bananas ($.49/lb), a head of Boston lettuce ($.99), a 3lb. bag of russet potatoes ($.99), 2 cans of mixed vegetables ($.50@), coffee filters, and a package of kitchen sponges. 
I had wanted to go to the grocery store, too, to buy a gift card and some bread, but I was tired by then and didn't want to push myself, too much. So, I came home, had a cup of coffee, cooked the ground beef I had bought earlier, put away the laundry from the day before, did another load of laundry, emptied the dishwasher, and finished wrapping up the majority of the rest of my gifts!
Crocheted Candles
These are candles I crocheted from yarn in my stash.  I crocheted them, last year, but I didn't add the flowers until today.  The fabric poinsettias are also from my stash.  Now that they are finished, I added them to the gifts I'll be giving, this year.

Today, I am grateful for:
- Being able to take advantage of good sales
- Generous return policies
- Getting most of my shopping done
- Daughter had a fun evening with her friends
- A warm (84F), sunny day in December.

How was your Thursday?  Would you have returned the lotions and shower gels to take advantage of the sale?  Or, would you have let it go?

Thursday, December 28, 2017

More Shopping on Wednesday

New Journal Cover
Wednesday was a sunny, warm day, with the highs in the mid-70s.  
Daughter spent the morning video chatting with her friend who is visiting her family in Hawaii.  I played on the computer a bit, read blogs, wrapped up a couple more gifts, and tried on the clothing I had bought on Tuesday and the ones I had received as gifts.  I am pleased with how everything looked on me.  I now have a few new blouses to wear to family gatherings and the office.  
When I went out to bring the trash cans in, I was annoyed to find that someone had moved my black trash can off the curb and on to the parkway in order to park his or her car by the curb.  As a result, the trash can had not been emptied and, what's more, someone had added more trash to my trash can!  I had to roll the trash can and the trash back and it will sit there for another week!  Daughter was telling me to calm down, that it wasn't the worst thing someone could have done to me, and it wasn't the end of the world, but I told her that I thought it was very rude of whoever it was.  I understand they'd want to move the trash can in order to park, but one would think they'd be courteous enough to move it back in place, later, so that the trash can be collected. 

In the afternoon, daughter and I went shopping again!  First, to the bookstore because daughter wanted to buy herself a planner, but she didn't like the planners they had there.  Then, we went to the mall, had lunch in their food court, and did a little more shopping.  I bought some journals to include in the gifts I am giving to a few people and daughter bought the one pictured above for me.  It has the inspirational quote that she liked.  
Then, we did a little more clothes shopping!  I bought a sweater for myself and a few more tops for daughter and we did some shoe shopping, as well.  Daughter also got her eyebrows threaded, while we were at the mall.  We were in the mall for about 2 1/2 hours.
After that, daughter was ready to come home, but I wanted to go to the crafts store, so we went there.  She found her planner, there, and I picked up another gift for one of my cousins.  We picked up something for dinner on the way home.  Daughter wanted a teriyaki chicken bowl and I just got a salad. 

I was tired when I came home.  I ate my salad and rested while daughter made me a cup of tea.  Later, I put away the laundry from Tuesday, did another load, renewed my library book online, took the recycling out, and ran the dishwasher.  It was a very productive day, I think. 

Tomorrow, I might do a little more shopping during the day.  I still haven't bought a wall calendar for the house and I want to get a couple of other gifts for one of my aunts.  Daughter is going out with friends in the evening, so I will do laundry and relax, then, and water the garden.
Today, I am grateful for:
- Being able to shop for longer periods of time before getting tired.
- Getting my walking exercises while shopping!
- Year-end clearance sales
- Being able to shop with daughter, getting her opinion on things, having her help with carrying our purchases, etc.
- New clothes.

How was your Wednesday?  Do you have to work this week or are you on vacation?  Are you able to take advantage of the year-end sales?  Years ago, I used to shop and buy next year's gifts and new decorations, etc., at half price.  Do you do so, too?

Dancer Likes the Empty Shopping Bags!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Christmas 2017

Dancer Checking Out the Gifts

On Sunday, daughter and I stayed home.  In the morning, I cooked a cashew curry to take to my cousin's house on Christmas day.  In the afternoon, I wrapped (or rather bagged) gifts.  I needed to have 15 gifts  ready for giving on Christmas day.  I reused bags I had in my stash and the new tissue paper I had bought.  Later in the evening, I took gifts over to my neighbor T and her daughter and, still later in the evening, I watched midnight mass from the Vatican, on TV.  In between, I stressed because I hadn't made my usual gifts of jam and other homemade decorations, etc.  

Christmas day was spent with good friends who invited us to lunch and with family who invited us to dinner.  One of my cousins stopped by in the morning and we exchanged gifts then, although we would be seeing each other again, in the evening, at our other cousin's house.   Then, daughter and I visited my friend A and her family.  We spent the afternoon there and then, went to my cousin's house for the family dinner and white elephant gift exchange with the extended family.  Later, my aunt, cousins, and I exchanged our family gifts.  My daughter and I received clothes for the most part, which is a blessing because we both needed new clothes.

This year, because I didn't make any of my homemade jams and decorations, I decided to supplement my usual holiday gifts budget with some of the money leftover in my prayer gathering and almsgiving budgets.    As a result, I went over my usual holiday gifts budget, but still stayed within my overall annual budget.  Nothing was put on credit cards and no debts were incurred on holiday gifts.

Today, I wrapped up a few more gifts, since I have another 18 or so people to whom gifts will be given.  I will see some of them later, this week, some at the monthly prayer gathering to be held next Saturday, and the rest will be New Year's gifts. 

Another thing I didn't do this year was decorate the house.  Usually, I enjoy decorating for the holidays, but this year, I didn't feel like doing it and neither did daughter.  She did observe that it didn't look very festive, though.

I am grateful for:
- Family and friends who include daughter and me in their Christmas celebrations
- My daughter being home to celebrate with me
- Being able to supplement the gifts budget with funds leftover in other budget categories
- Not having the work involved in decorating and undecorating
- The gift of new clothes.

On Tuesday, one of daughter's friends came over to watch a movie with her, in the morning.  In the afternoon, we went shopping - first to the fabric store to buy some fabric that she liked to make two cushion covers for her.  Then, we went to one of our favorite discount clothing stores.  Daughter found lots of bargains, including an anime character T-shirt for $2 that is selling for $35 at another store in the mall.  She bought 15 items of clothing for $84 total and that included a long quilted jacket with a detachable hood for $20.00.  I, too, found a couple of items for myself - a blouse ($6) and a dress ($15).  

Plans for tomorrow (Wednesday) include going to the book store for a planner for daughter and maybe the dollar store for a couple of items, including more gift bags!  I ran short of small gift bags.

What are your plans for tomorrow? 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Love All (Pause in Advent #4)

Angela at Tracing Rainbows has posted her 4th Pause in Advent post for this year and it is about loving all and ways in which to show that love for all, or a sort of a divine wish list: food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, hospitality for strangers, clothes for those without, care for the sick, and company for the prisoner.

These are all very good wishes to have, I believe, no matter what our religion or belief systems may be, and not just at Christmas, but throughout the year, and without any conditions attached.  Ideally, we do it not because we feel obliged to do so or because we expect to be rewarded for doing so, but because we are human and it is an expression of our human nature to feel empathy for another being.

I am mindful of the fact that I have control over myself only - my own thoughts, my own words, my own actions.  So, I think good thoughts of loving-kindness ("metta" in Pali; "maitri" in Sanskrit) and say: "May all beings be well, happy, and peaceful; may no difficulties come to them, may no harm come to them, may all their needs be met, they be free from pain, sorrow, and suffering."

Blessings of the season to one and all.

Saturday: Learning to Dance in the Rain

I went to bed late, last night (or rather, early this morning), but woke up at 9:00 a.m. and went in time for the 10:00 a.m. car service appointment.  I was told that the car service might take 1 to 2 hours, but it was done in 45 minutes.  I sat in the waiting room, with another lady who was also waiting for her car.  I had taken my library book to read, but the TV was on and there was a show about the musical duo The Carpenters; the other lady started singing along and I joined her!  LOL!  Later, after she left and the show ended, I read the library book I had taken along with me.

On the way home, I put gas to the car.  My gardener friend was doing neighbor T's garden when I came home, so I chatted with him for a bit.

Later, in the afternoon, daughter and I went back to the mall to do more shopping!  I am having a really hard time finding gifts for my cousins' sons - one cousin's son is in his late 30s and a chef.  The other cousin's son is in his early 20s and a college student, but I don't know their interests, that well.
I bought two pairs of fleece lined leggings for myself (to wear under my pants at the office, because my legs feel cold).  I also found some other gifts for people I had already bought for and wanted to get them, as well, but the line at the check out was very long today and I was hungry, so I decided not to buy those gifts, after all.  Daughter and I had lunch in the mall food court (we treated ourselves to Japanese food), bought two small gifts, and left.

Daughter saw a journal with an inspiration quote on it:

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain"

Daughter thought it was very appropriate for me and wanted to buy it; but it was one of the items we didn't buy because the check out line was so long and I was hungry.  But I am going to keep those words in mind and, henceforth, learn to dance in the rain!
On the way home, we went to the Armenian grocery store to buy cashews to make a cashew curry to take to cousin's on Monday (price has gone up to $8.99/lb!), semolina for the love cake daughter wants to make ($.79/lb. from the bulk bin), 2 packets of curry powder ($1.99 each), bananas ($.49/lb), and 2 lbs. ground beef ($3.29/lb), as daughter wanted me to make curry puffs for her.  When we were at the Armenian store, we met friend R, who was doing her grocery shopping (she too, was buying ingredients to make her love cake!)  So, we invited her to come home and have a cup of tea with us, which she did.  On the way home, I stopped at the dollar store and asked daughter to run in and buy more tissue paper for me, which she did while R and I waited in the car.  
After we came home, I made us tea and we sat and chatted for awhile.  Friend R had been daughter's Montessori teacher and has seen daughter grow up since she was 4 years old; daughter calls her, her second mother.  She's one of the friends who came to help me with the almsgiving preparations.

Around 6:30 p.m., daughter's friend came to pick her up as they were going to meet up with a couple of the other friends and go to dinner and karaoke.  I took R home, had leftover Japanese teriyaki chicken and rice for dinner, and did a load of dishes.  I put the cashews to soak overnight.  I'll cook it tomorrow.  Most probably, I'll do the gift bags tomorrow - it will be less tempting for Dancer, who likes to shred tissue paper!
Today, I am grateful for:
- Car was serviced and there were no problems with it
- Spending time with my daughter
- Meeting my friend at the grocery store
- Enjoying a cup of tea together
- Daughter had a fun evening out with friends (and is home safely now!)  

Tomorrow, I plan to:
- Cook the cashew curry
- Wrap/bag up gifts
- Help daughter make love cake
- Take gifts to neighbors
- Clean the litter box
- Do a load of laundry

How was your day?  What are your plans for Christmas Eve?  Are you the type of person who waits for the storm to pass or are you someone who dances in the rain? 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Holiday Shopping on Friday

Friday morning, I finalized my holiday gift list.  I have 35 people on my list, but I have already given to four of them (three at the office and my gardener friend).  I have a couple of gifts bought or made already, and another two where the T-shirts have been bought and are waiting to be embroidered.  Today, I needed to get gifts for the friends and family I will be seeing on Christmas Day, basically 15 people.

In the afternoon, daughter and I went to one of the malls to shop.  We had three shops we wanted to go to for our gifts and daughter wanted to shop for some clothes for herself at one of them.  We spent about 2 1/2 hours shopping and that included the time daughter took to try out some clothes.  I was getting tired by the end of that time, so we decided to come home.  I bought gifts for almost all the people on my list; I just need to get a couple of gift cards and I'll be done. 

In the evening, daughter went out to dinner with some of her friends from middle school and high school for their annual holiday get together.  They started doing this when they were in high school - back then, it was a pot luck lunch at school, with each one bringing a dish.  Then, when they went to college, it was a pot luck lunch at our house.  In 2015, when I had started my chemo treatments, they decided to go out to dinner, instead, because they didn't want to disturb me, and they have continued to do the dinner, since then.

I rested in the evening, replied to blog comments, and caught up on a few blogs.  One of my cousins called and we chatted for a bit.  Later, my aunt called too, and we chatted. 

Today, I am grateful for:
- Going shopping with my daughter
- Getting the majority of my holiday shopping done
- Good sales
- Daughter being able to get together with her friends
- Family calling to check on me

Plans for tomorrow include taking the car for a service in the morning and maybe a bit more shopping in the afternoon?  I need to buy the gift cards and some tissue paper.  I know daughter has plans to go out with some of her friends tomorrow evening, too.  So maybe I'll start wrapping and bagging up gifts in the evening. 

Dancer modeling the hat I knitted for my friend's daughters' new puppy

Friday, December 22, 2017

Thursday: Winter Solstice

Happy Winter Solstice Day and Happy first day of Winter!

I went to the office today and had a productive day, finishing up what I could before taking two weeks of vacation!  Before I left for the day, I updated my projects list and emailed to my supervisors so they are aware of the current status of all my projects.

During my lunch break, I went to the farmers' market and bought myself a loaf of French bread.  I looked through a couple of other stalls to see if I could pick up any holiday gifts, but handmade soaps for $6 each ($5 each if you buy 4) and fabric ponchos priced at $35 and $45 are beyond my holiday gifts budget!  So I didn't buy anything other than my loaf of bread.  But the ponchos did give me an idea! 

My daughter's office let them get off work at 3:00 p.m., today, so she got to the airport early and was able to get an earlier flight!  Her flight arrived at 6:15 p.m., which was nice.  I picked her up from the airport and we came home.  Later, we went out and picked up Chinese food for dinner.  We spent the evening chatting, opening some gifts that we had received from my aunt and from one of my nieces, and discussing gift ideas for all the people on my list. 

Most years, I make a batch or two of jam and that's what I give as holiday gifts.  This year, I didn't make any jam and I am quite unprepared for gift giving!  So far, I have given gifts to three people (all colleagues at work) from gifts I had in my stash, but that stash is now more or less depleted.  Tomorrow, daughter and I will go shopping and I hope to find some good bargains!

My cousin who is hosting the family Christmas dinner called in the evening.  She sounded a bit stressed because the gathering she was trying to keep to just the immediate family seems to have grown to include extended family as well.  She was worrying about the menu; she wants to make roast beef and a couple of other items, but her daughter, who is home from Scotland, is vegetarian and there won't be a main dish for her.  I told her I will bring some of the leftover almsgiving food for her daughter, so cousin doesn't have to get too stressed. 

Thursday's to do list:
- Go to the office - DONE
- Go to the farmers' market, maybe? - DONE
- Go to the bank
- Pick up daughter from the airport! - DONE

Today, I am grateful for:
- My daughter is home for the holidays!
- She had a safe flight home
- I am on vacation for two weeks!
- Singing Christmas songs with my daughter while in the car
- A warm home in which to stay on a cold night

How was your day? Have you done all your Christmas shopping?  Or are you still looking for gifts?

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Cold Wednesday

This morning, when I stepped outside to go to my car (it is parked in the garage, but my garage is a detached garage), I realized that winter has arrived!  It was cold for us - about 50F.  
I went to the office and had a productive day.  In the afternoon, I received a text from the pharmacy that the medications my primary care PA had called in were ready for pick up.  So, I went to the pharmacy, again, after work.  Again, there was no problem getting my medications!  
After that, I went to the dollar store, next door to the pharmacy, to look around, but I didn't buy anything.  I want to buy a calendar for next year, but this store didn't have the kind I am looking for, with the large grid, where the spaces for each day are big enough to write in more than one appointment.  I'll keep looking.

It was drizzling a little when I came home.  We haven't had any rain in a long time, so I was glad there was some precipitation, although the roads were rather slick.

My cousin had called and left a message, inviting me again to Christmas lunch at her house.  She had invited me at Thanksgiving, but she was confirming it.  I called back and left a message confirming that we'll be there and asking what she'd like me to bring for the dinner.

My aunt called, too, to check on me and to tell me again that the almsgiving went off well. 
Today, I call the service garage and made an appointment for Saturday morning to have the car serviced.

I didn't need to water the back garden because it rained.
Thursday's to do list:
- Go to the office
- Go to the farmers' market, maybe?
- Go to the bank
- Pick up daughter from the airport!
Today, I am grateful for:
- Rain, even if it was just a little bit
- The pharmacy got it right, again!
- Safe driving, especially on rain slick roads
- Cousin calling to confirm invitation to Christmas dinner
- Aunt calling to check on me
 It's Winter Solstice, tomorrow!  Are you doing anything to celebrate?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tuesday's Update

I went to the office, this morning and had a fairly productive morning.

In the afternoon, I went to see my primary care Physician Assistant, for a routine follow-up appointment.  My weight had gone up since my last visit, but my B/P was good and my sugar level was low; apparently, a little too low.  The PA was concerned.  I had gone after breakfast, but before lunch.  The PA made some adjustments in my medication dosage, cutting it in half.  I am to take daily readings and see her in one month's time, in mid-January.  I also had a blood test; I should find out the results on my next visit. 

On my way home from the clinic, I stopped at the pharmacy to pick up a medication that was ready.  Then, I picked up some lunch from the nearby Chinese restaurant - noodles and stir-fried beef.  Came home around 3:45 p.m. and finally ate lunch! 

Then, relaxed a bit, brought in the trash can, put away the laundry from yesterday, did another load and hung it up to dry, and watched TV. 

Tuesday's To Do List:
- Go to the office - DONE
- Call the service garage
- Doctor's appointment - DONE
- Bring the trash can in - DONE
- Water the back garden
- Put away dried laundry - DONE
- Wash another load - DONE
- Buy bread

I guess I am procrastinating on calling the service garage and watering the back garden!

Wednesday's To Do List:
- Finish up Tuesday's list!

Today, I am grateful for:
- A good visit with the PA
- Time off from work to go to my medical appointments
- No difficulties at the pharmacy
- Safe commutes to the office, clinic, pharmacy, etc.
- A working heater

How was your Tuesday? 

Erasing the Evidence on Monday

Today, I decided to take it easy and rest all morning and afternoon!  Although I had been tired, last night, I didn't go to bed until 3:00 a.m. and was too keyed up to fall asleep!  But I slept in till 10:30 a.m., when the sound of Dancer throwing up next to my bed made me get up!  Not my favorite way to wake up!
After I cleaned up the mess, I had a cup of coffee and spent a relaxed morning, reading blogs and commenting on them, etc.  I put away my almsgiving preparations folder in the file cabinet for another year, pulled out my Christmas file folder, and wrote out my gift list.  Yes, Christmas is a week from today, I have about 35 people on my gift list, and I have bought exactly one gift and made a couple of others.  More on that, later! 

Later in the afternoon, I took a nap.  I slept for about an hour and dozed on and off for another half an hour, much to a certain kitty's distress!  He kept meowing at me to wake up and feed him his tuna treats!   Eventually, I got up, fed him and the garden cats, and had a cup of coffee.

After my nap, I felt energetic and was quite productive!  I emptied the waste baskets, took the trash out and took the big trash can to the curb, vacuumed the living room and dining area, put away the washed almsgiving dishes, washed a few other dishes that had been in the sink, took down some of the Christmas dishes, and cleaned daughter's bathroom which the guests used, yesterday.  Then, did a  load of laundry.  Once the load of laundry has dried and put away (table cloths and napkins used during the almsgiving), all evidence of the almsgiving would be erased.  I also called friend R to check on her and to thank her for all her help, yesterday.
Another friend of mine, A, called me in the evening to invite daughter and me to Christmas lunch.  One of my cousins, too, had invited us, but in the evening, to dinner.  So, we will go to my friend's place, first, and then to the family gathering, afterwards.     
Monday's To Do List:
- Call service garage to schedule car maintenance (tried to do this on Friday, but kept getting cut off!) - TUESDAY
- Put away washed dishes - DONE
- Water the back garden - TUESDAY
- Take the trash cans to the curb - DONE
- Do laundry - DONE
- Vacuum living room and dining area - DONE
- Clean daughter's bathroom - DONE
- Water the indoor plants - DONE
- Clean the litter box - DONE
Tuesday's To Do List:
- Go to the office
- Call the service garage
- Doctor's appointment
- Bring the trash can in
- Water the back garden
- Put away dried laundry
- Wash another load
- Buy bread 

Today, I am grateful for:
- A day off from work
- A relaxing morning
- Afternoon naps
- A productive evening
- Friend calling to invite us to Christmas lunch

How was your Monday?  Are you all done with Christmas shopping and making gifts?  Or, are you a last minute shopper, like me?  Yes, I've been known to go shopping on Christmas Eve!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Almsgiving on Sunday

Tying blessed thread on the wrists

Today, I held the almsgiving that I had been planning for the past several days, if not weeks. 

My day began at 7:00 a.m., when my alarm went off and my aunt called to say she was at my doorstep!  This is the aunt who had told me earlier that she wasn't sure if she'd be able to make it, but her daughter had been able to bring her, after all.  We were both glad she was able to attend.  She brought a pecan pie as her contribution to the almsgiving, so we had plenty of desserts!  I made us both a cup of tea and aunt helped me assemble the saucers of fruits and desserts, etc.

Later, around 9:00 a.m., my friend R came to help.  The three of us worked well together and went down my list of things to do until it was all done.  My goal had been to have everything ready by 10:30 a.m. and I almost met the goal!  I was done with all my work by 10:45 a.m., but my friend S who was bringing the green beans curry and the sauted kale hadn't arrived yet, although she came just before the monks arrived!  There was just enough time to add a spoon of her items to the plates of offering I had prepared.

At 10:00 a.m., there was a phone call from the temple; it was the senior monk, calling to confirm that they will be here at 11:00 a.m. and to tell me not to get too stressed with the preparations.  He also asked if I was aware of the fact that one of the monks who is attending is unable to eat curries as the spices upset his stomach!  Oops!  No, I hadn't been aware of that!  This monk is a newly ordained monk and isn't of Sri Lankan descent.  The only "non-spicy" dish I had prepared was the salad and even that had green chilies sliced and sprinkled on top!  The monk who called quickly assured me that it would be alright, not to worry, they will bring some non-spicy food from the temple for him!  So much so for my well-planned menu!  LOL!  But I quickly opened a can of garbanzo beans and warmed it up and prepared a plate of bread and butter, as well.  All the while, I was wondering if I had enough time to prepare some non-spicy dish for him, but I didn't.  I'll know, next time, to ask if there are any special dietary needs!

One of my cousins came over around 10:30 a.m. and she was able to help, as well.

The monks arrived at 11:00 a.m. and brought the reliquary which was placed on a tall side table.  Then, we began the almsgiving.  First, the tray of food offerings to the Buddha was passed around so everyone could participate in the offering and placed on the altar and I lit the candles and the incense stick.  Then, my aunt and I, who were the only Buddhists present, other than the monks, recited the five precepts that are meant to guide our daily lives:

- to abstain from harming living beings
- to abstain from taking what is not given
- to abstain from sexual misconduct
- to abstain from false speech 
- to abstain from taking intoxicating substances that lead to carelessness

Then, the monks chanted blessings.  By 11:30 a.m. the lunch was served to them.  The monks code of conduct limit them to eating two solid meals a day - breakfast and lunch.  They are not supposed to eat at "unseemly times" which is taken to mean after 12 noon.  This is part of their abstemious way of life.  Somehow, they always manage to end their meal exactly at noon.

After the dishes were cleared, one of the monks gave a brief sermon.  Today's sermon was on the topic of friends.  On the importance of good friends, who are there for you through the good times and the bad, who you can depend on for help, and who give you good counsel even if you don't like hearing what they say.  As opposed to friends who are there for the good times only, or who always seem to take and never give, or give once and remind you of it at every opportunity, or say "yes" in order to stay on your good graces, even if doing so might be harmful to you.   It was an especially appropriate sermon, I thought, given that I was supported today by some of my very good friends (as well as family members) who have always been there for me.  I also mentioned my blog to the monks and told them about all of you who read my blog and have been so interested in my almsgiving preparations and so supportive and encouraging throughout my health challenges.
After the sermon, there was more chanting of blessings and during this chanting, the water was blessed.  One end of a special strand of thread was dipped into the bottle of water and the thread was wrapped around the bottle three times and the spool of thread was passed along so that each monk and each person present at the almsgiving held the strand of thread in their hands with the last person holding the spool, itself.  During the chanting, we were all connected to each other by this thread and the thread absorbed the sound vibrations of the chanting. At the end of the chanting, the thread was rewound around the spool. 

After the chanting was over, the merit accrued during the almsgiving was transferred to departed relatives and loved ones, so that they, too, may benefit from the almsgiving.  To transfer the merit, water (representing the accrued merit) is poured from a full pot (representing ourselves who are full of the accrued merit) into an empty cup (representing the departed who are in need of the merit) while a stanza is recited and the monks chant, until the water in the pot is emptied and the cup overflows into a basin placed under it.  Is anyone else reminded of Psalm 23.5?  " cup runneth over."

At the end of the ceremony, a little bit of the blessed water was poured into the cupped palm of each participant (to be drunk) and the blessed thread from the spool was cut into lengths and tied around the right wrist of the participants.    It is a visual reminder of the blessings that were chanted. 

Finally, I gave the monks the donations I had prepared earlier, including food to take back to the temple.

Then, after they left, we all had lunch.  Then, my friend S had to leave as she was scheduled to work in the afternoon.  A short time later, my aunt left, too, as her son-in-law came to pick her up.  I served a plate of food for her to take to her daughter (cousin called me later, to thank me).

My cousin and friend R stayed and helped me put away the food and wash the dishes.  I did some in the dishwasher but the rest had to be washed by hand.  Cousin helped me put the furniture back in place, so that is done, too.  Cousin's daughter came over for a few minutes and had some dessert.  After cousin left, I drove my friend home.  Of course, I sent plates of food home with both of them.   

After I came home, I had a cup of tea and rested.  I made myself an egg salad sandwich with one of the leftover hard boiled eggs for dinner and am having a slice of pumpkin pie for dessert.  I am not doing anything more, this evening!  I have the day off from work, tomorrow, and I will put away the washed dishes, etc., then.

I am so happy I was able to hold the almsgiving, this year, unlike last year.  In fact, I mentioned it to the monks as they were leaving and I felt so overcome with emotion that I started to cry! 

Sunday, Dec. 17 (Day of Almsgiving):
- Cover chairs and tables/Keep Dancer away! - DONE
- Take out the dishes and plates in the dishwasher - DONE
- Fry the lentil wafers if time permits  - DIDN'T DO (nobody missed them)
- Clean the kitchen/clear the counters - DONE (did very late last night/very early this morning!)
- Pick and arrange flowers in vases - DONE - 2 red roses and 2 or 3 stems of paperwhites
- Cut up fruits and arrange in saucers; cover - DONE
- Arrange a variety of sweets (candy, cake, brownies, etc.) in saucers; cover - DONE
- Dish out yogurt into bowls; cover - DONE
- Pour palm treacle into sauce boat (to be served over yogurt) - DONE
- Cut up pies, arrange on saucers, cover - DONE
- Cook rice (2 types - white and red) - DONE
- Make salad - DONE
- Warm up curries; dish out into smaller serving dishes for serving to monks; bigger serving dishes for guests  - DONE
- Serve up offerings to the Buddha and offerings for the Order of Monks - DONE
- Boil water for those monks who prefer hot water - DONE
- Pour water and juice into glasses - DONE
- Sweep my bathroom and put down new bathmats - DONE
- Remove family room sofa covers - DONE
- Remove chair covers from living room sofas after the event - DONE
- Put new chair covers on family room sofas - DONE
- Wash dishes - DONE
- Put away leftovers - DONE
- Take friend home - DONE

Monday's To Do List:
- Call service garage to schedule car maintenance (tried to do this on Friday, but kept getting cut off!)
- Put away washed dishes
- Water the back garden
- Take the trash cans to the curb
- Do laundry

Today, I am grateful for:
- I was able to hold my almsgiving!
- It went off well, even with the one hiccup of not realizing that one monk had a different diet
- The monks provided for the one monk who needed a different diet
- My family and friends who helped me with the preparations and the clean up afterwards
- All of you, my blog friends who have been so supportive of me

The only picture I remembered to take of the food - after the fact!
I hope you all enjoyed a lovely day.  May you all be well, happy, and peaceful.  May you have no problems or difficulties.  May no harm come to you.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Productive Saturday

It has been a productive day.  I woke up around 9:30 a.m. and spent a quiet hour or so, having a cup of coffee and responding to blog comments.  Then, I started on my list of things to do.  The most important things got done - I did the grocery shopping and most of the cooking.  I stopped for the day around 8:00 p.m. because I was getting tired.  Although I took several breaks, my legs are hurting from being on my feet so much.

I went to the Armenian grocery store, first, to buy the fresh fruits, vegetables, yogurt, etc.  Although I had a list, I made a few changes as I shopped, buying honeydew melon instead of the papaya on my list (the papaya they had weren't ripe enough), blackberries instead of apples, etc.  Tomatoes were $2.49/lb.  Normally, I would have skipped buying them, but I need them for the salad I'll make.  Strawberries were $2.99/lb. and, again, while I wouldn't buy them at that price, regularly, the almsgiving is one of the few times when I buy what I want, no matter the price.

This store also had drinking glasses!  They weren't the small (6 or 8 oz.) glasses I was looking for, but, rather, they were 16 oz., glasses, but a set of 4 were priced at $2.99!  Even the cashier was surprised.  I bought two sets.  I will serve water in these glasses and the juice in the gold striped glasses. 

New Drinking Glasses
I spent $31.74 at the Armenian store.

Then, I went to the "no frills" Kroger affiliate store.  I went there to buy another bag of cat food, bananas (the bananas at the other store didn't look good), milk, tomatoes (I was hoping they'd be cheaper there than at the other store, but they were the same price) and juice.  While I was at the store, I decided to buy two pumpkin pies ($2.99 each) instead of making the flan as I had planned (I was already starting to get tired).  When I checked out, the pies scanned at $3.99!  Fortunately, this time, I checked the receipt while I was still at the check out stand, before I bagged the groceries and pointed it out to the cashier who refunded me the difference without any comment!   

I spent $17.79 for groceries at this store (doesn't include the price of cat food $9.99 and the tax on it).

Today's Groceries (didn't include the milk, juice, and yogurt in the picture)

I took a break after I came home and had brunch (the leftovers from the Mexican take out food from earlier in the week and grapes).  Then, I put away some dishes, washed some other dishes and the new glasses I bought.  After that, I started cooking - cooked the lentils and the cashew curry.  Hard boiled the eggs (I was going to make an omelette curry, but decided to just hard boil the eggs and add to the salad because I was too tired to make omelettes and make the curry gravy).  And baked the brownies. 

In between, I watered the front garden, put away the dried laundry, took out the chair covers and table cloths.  I covered the two coffee tables and Dancer came to help:

Dancer "helping"!

 Saturday's To Do List:
✓- Take out chair covers, table cloths, napkins, etc. - DONE
- cover chairs, tables (DO ON SUNDAY)
- Buy flowers/pick from garden (if picking from garden, do on Sunday)
✓- Grocery shop - fruits, vegetables, milk, juice, yogurt, etc. - DONE
✓- Buy a set of small drinking glasses! - DONE
✓- COOK!  Cashew curry, lentils, eggs curry, fry lentil wafers (pappadum) (decided to skip the lentil wafers - too tired)

- Clean the kitchen/clear the counters
✓- Bake brownies, cookies, make flan - DONE (decided against making cookies and flan)
✓- Take out serving dishes, basins used for washing hands, serving spoons, etc. - DONE
✓- Take out plates, bowls, etc. for guests - DONE

✓- Set out items for washing hands: fresh cake of soap, hand towels, jugs & basins - DONE
✓- Any other  undone items leftover from Friday - DONE
✓- Put away laundry - DONE
✓- Water the garden - DONE

Sunday, Dec. 17 (Day of Almsgiving):
- Cover chairs and tables/Keep Dancer away!
- Take out the dishes and plates in the dishwasher
- Fry the lentil wafers if time permits
- Clean the kitchen/clear the counters
- Pick and arrange flowers in vases
- Cut up fruits and arrange in saucers; cover
- Arrange a variety of sweets (candy, cake, brownies, etc.) in saucers; cover
- Dish out yogurt into bowls; cover
- Pour palm treacle into sauce boat (to be served over yogurt)
- Cut up pie, arrange on saucers, cover
- Cook rice (2 types - white and red)
- Make salad
- Warm up curries; dish out into smaller serving dishes for serving to monks; bigger serving dishes for guests
- Serve up offerings to the Buddha and offerings for the Order of Monks
- Boil water for those monks who prefer hot water
- Pour water and juice into glasses
- Sweep my bathroom and put down new bathmats
- Remove family room sofa covers

One of my cousins called to say she and her mother will not be able to attend the almsgiving.  Hopefully, my other cousins will be able to make it. 

My friend has promised to come as early as she can in the morning to help me.  If she can't come, I will simply do what I have to do.

Today, I am grateful for:
- All what I was able to accomplish, today
- No cramps, so far!  *knock on wood*!
- No major mishaps (just dropped one of the boxes of blackberries and stepped on some of them and got sprayed with water when I started to water the garden because the spray head at the end of the hose had come loose!)
- Everything has gone smoothly, so far.
- Dancer's help!  *smile*

How was your day?  Did you have a productive day, too?

Friday, December 15, 2017

Friday Update

I was up until 4:00 a.m. last night, then, when the alarm went off at 9:00 a.m. (I had taken the day off from work, so I had set the alarm for later than usual), I turned it off and slept till 10:00 a.m.  By the time I had fed the cats, had a cup of coffee, checked my emails, etc. it was already past 11:00 a.m. and half the day was gone! 

In the next couple of hours, I tidied the family room, dusted the tables, put away the 10 bags of sugar and 5 cans of condensed milk I bought, put away the washed dishes and washed more dishes, and made several phone calls. 

My gardener friend M came over in the afternoon and I had him help me with housework!  He took down the almsgiving dishes, dusted the upper areas I can't reach easily, replaced the dead battery in my wall clock (he's tall enough to reach it without any difficulty whereas I need to climb up the 2-tier step stool), vacuumed the main rooms, and moved the furniture.  He reminisced about helping my mother with almsgiving preparations and left after admonishing me not to overdo things!

He also brought me a combination belated birthday/early Christmas gift of a coir door mat painted with a cat's face!  He said, the minute he saw it, it shouted my name to him! 
My New Door Mat
I washed the almsgiving dishes in the dishwasher, this time (last year, it was while I was washing them by hand that my hands started cramping).  The only things I hand washed were the gold striped drinking glasses I use for serving water during the almsgiving.
That's when I discovered that I have exactly 3 (one of them mismatched) small drinking glasses for juice!  That's not going to work, with 5 monks!  I had M take down my stem glasses, but there are only 4 matching!  It's OK to use mismatched glasses, but I am not sure about using stem glasses (aren't they usually for wine?) to serve juice to the monks, who, like most practicing Buddhists, make a daily commitment to avoid intoxicating substances!  I ran the idea by my daughter who said it would be weird to use the stem glasses for juice!
Either, I must buy a set of 6 small glasses, tomorrow, or, serve the juice in the gold striped glasses and serve the water in my holiday glasses (they have reindeer and snowflakes on them and say Happy Holidays).   
Choice of Glasses
I have 6 of the holiday glasses (bought on a clearance sale for $.25 a glass, I believe), 5 of the gold striped ones (from a set given to me as a gift from my sister), and 4 each of the two different types of stem glasses.  I know that the monks won't mind which glasses I use, but daughter says the holiday glasses are too Christmas-y to use during an almsgiving.  I guess I had better buy some smaller drinking glasses, tomorrow!
I managed to get most of the items crossed off my to do list.  Friend M vacuumed the living room, dining room, and family room.  I vacuumed the hallway, kitchen, bathrooms, and the bedrooms.  I have a load of laundry washing while I type this and I need to do the litter box before I go to bed.  But that is all I am going to do, today. 
The rest of the items that were on the list for today and didn't get done are being postponed for tomorrow.  Some of them, such as taking out the serving dishes, I didn't want to do too early, because a certain kitty cat (who shall remain unnamed), likes to jump up on the table to see what I've put there and I really don't want kitty nose prints all over my serving dishes!  The rest, I didn't do because I was getting tired and I don't want to get too tired.

Friday, Dec. 15:
✓- Rearrange furniture - sofas, coffee tables, tall round side table (for reliquary), trolley (for plates of offerings), remove blue & white vases near fireplace (so I can set the small sofa in front of the fireplace)* - DONE
✓- Take down dishes used only for almsgiving and wash them* - DONE
- Take out serving dishes, basins used for washing hands, serving spoons, etc.
- Take out plates, bowls, etc. for guests
✓- Final cleaning - dust, vacuum, etc. - living room, dining room, family room*, bedrooms - DONE
- Kitchen - counters
✓- Clean bathrooms/set out guest towels, etc. - DONE
✓- Put cashews and garbanzo beans to thaw - DONE
✓- Set out items needed for the transfer of merit: teapot, cup, and water basin; fill teapot with water - DONE
✓- Candles/incense sticks & holder; lighter/matches - DONE
✓- New bottle of water for blessing; bowl to catch drips when blessed water is poured out- DONE
- Set out items for washing hands: fresh cake of soap, hand towels, jugs & basins

* My gardener friend helped with these tasks

 Saturday's To Do List:
- Take out chair covers, table cloths, napkins, etc.; cover chairs, tables
- Buy flowers/pick from garden (if picking from garden, do on Sunday)
- Grocery shop - fruits, vegetables, milk, juice, yogurt, etc.
- Buy a set of small drinking glasses!
- COOK!  Cashew curry, lentils, egg curry, fry lentil wafers (pappadum)
- Clean the kitchen/clear the counters
- Bake brownies, cookies, make flan
- Take out serving dishes, basins used for washing hands, serving spoons, etc.
- Take out plates, bowls, etc. for guests

- Set out items for washing hands: fresh cake of soap, hand towels, jugs & basins
- Any other  undone items leftover from Friday
- Put away laundry

Today, I am grateful for:
- Friend M helping me and the cute door mat he gave me
- Lists and schedules
- Being able to accomplishing all what I did today
- Video chatting with my daughter
- Being able to take the day off from work

How was your Friday?  What are your plans for the weekend?

Almsgiving Preparations - Schedule

I have an almsgiving preparations schedule/to do list that I put together several years ago.  Every year, I print out a copy of it, make any adjustments, and check things off as I go along.  I first posted it here

This is the schedule for this year:

2017 Almsgiving Checklist & Schedule:

Week 1 (Dec. 1-7):
- Set date/invite monks/invite participants - DONE
- Decide on donations/get them ready - DONE
- Make menu/check supplies/make grocery list - DONE
- Check supplies (non-grocery)/make shopping list - DONE
- Check table linen, chair covers, etc., wash if needed, iron, etc. - DONE
- Shop for non-perishables - DONE

Week 2 (Dec. 8-14):
- Cook ahead and freeze: cashews, garbanzos - DONE
- Confirm date with monks - DONE
- Remind invitees; share menu/assign dishes - DONE
- Start cleaning the house (Dust/vacuum/tidy living room, dining area, family room, kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms) - STARTED

Friday, Dec. 15:
- Rearrange furniture - sofas, coffee tables, tall round side table (for reliquary), trolley (for plates of offerings), remove blue & white vases near fireplace (so I can set the small sofa in front of the fireplace)*
- Take down dishes used only for almsgiving and wash them*
- Take out serving dishes, basins used for washing hands, serving spoons, etc.
- Take out plates, bowls, etc. for guests
- Final cleaning - dust, vacuum, etc. - living room, dining room, family room*
- Kitchen - counters
- Clean bathrooms/set out guest towels, etc.
- Put cashews and garbanzo beans to thaw
- Set out items needed for the transfer of merit: teapot, cup, and water basin; fill teapot with water
- Candles/incense sticks & holder; lighter/matches
- New bottle of water for blessing; bowl to catch drips when blessed water is poured out
- Set out items for washing hands: fresh cake of soap, hand towels, jugs & basins

* My gardener friend will help with these tasks

Saturday's To Do List:
- Take out chair covers, table cloths, napkins, etc.; cover chairs, tables
- Buy flowers/pick from garden
- Grocery shop - fruits, vegetables, yogurt, etc.
- COOK!  Cashew curry, lentils, egg curry, fry lentil wafers (pappadum)
- Clean the kitchen
- Bake brownies, cookies, make flan
- Any undone items leftover from Friday

Sunday, Dec. 17 (Day of Almsgiving):
- Arrange flowers in vases
- Cut up fruits and arrange in saucers; cover
- Arrange a variety of sweets (candy, cookies, brownies, etc.) in saucers; cover
- Dish out yogurt into bowls; cover
- Pour palm treacle into sauce boat (to be served over yogurt)
- Dish out flan/pudding, cover
- Cook rice (2 types - white and red)
- Make salad
- Warm up curries; dish out into smaller serving dishes for serving to monks; bigger serving dishes for guests
- Serve up offerings to the Buddha and offerings for the Order of Monks
- Boil water and keep in thermos for those monks who prefer hot water
- Pour water and juice into glasses

10:30 a.m. - Everything should be done and ready; guests arrive and their contributions added to offerings to the Buddha and the Order of Monks

11:00 a.m. - Monks arrive; Offerings to Buddha, Order of Monks, etc. take place and service begins with devotions being recited.

11:30 a.m. - Lunch is served to the monks

12:00 noon - Monks finish their lunch, plates are cleared, a sermon is said, blessings are chanted, merit gained from almsgiving is transferred to departed loved ones, donations are offered to the monks.

1:00 p.m. - the monks leave, the religious ceremonies are concluded, lunch is served to all those who participated.

Followed by washing up and cleaning and putting things away until the next time!   My family and friends usually help me with the washing up and putting away the food and putting the furniture back in place.

It's a lot of work, I know, but I will try to pace myself.  I will have help on Sunday morning, with the almsgiving, itself.  I have taken Monday off from work, in addition to Friday, so I have a day in which to rest before going to the office, next week.

Busy Days

On Wednesday, I woke up feeling very tired.  Fatigued, like how I used to get when I was undergoing treatments.  I wanted to take the day off from work and stay home, but I knew I was taking Friday off, so I didn't want to take Wednesday off, too.  Anyway, I made myself go to the office and, guess what?  Once I was at the office, I was fine!  Didn't feel tired, at all, and I had a productive day!

We had the office gift exchange on Wednesday, after our staff meeting.  There were 15 of us participating, so 15 gifts.  We each drew a number and that number indicated our turn to choose a gift.  There was an interesting assortment of gifts and lots of laughter as each gift was opened and people "stole" some of the gifts (each gift could be stolen twice).  I had contributed a glass candle holder which had a silver painted design on it and the colleague who picked it liked it a lot (we gave the gifts anonymously, so no one knew who gave what).  I received an assortment of gifts:

Office Gift Exchange Gifts
A mug (I had, actually, been hoping to get a new mug), a $5 Starbucks gift card (which I will give to my daughter since she loves their coffees), and a bacon-flavored chocolate!  I am most curious about that - I like chocolate and I like bacon, so, I guess I'll like bacon chocolate?  It is chocolate with bits of bacon in it, according to the label.  I am waiting until daughter comes home to try it!

Wednesday evening, after I came home, I took it easy and didn't do any cleaning or almsgiving preparations.  I had some leftover angel hair pasta with meatball curry for dinner, exchanged emails with a friend, and video chatted with my daughter.

Today, Thursday, I woke up feeling well.  I went to the office and had a fairly productive day.  My new supervisor took me and one other colleague who is also under her supervision out to lunch, today, as her holiday gift to us.  We went to a Japanese fusion restaurant near the office.  I had been there once before with my previous supervisor.  I had one of their bento lunches, which included miso soup, green salad, chicken skewers, edamame, potato salad, rice, and cut up fruit.  I couldn't finish it all, so brought home half of it for my dinner.  I enjoyed their food and want to take daughter there one day, when she's down for the holidays. 

Again, after I came home, I spent the evening relaxing.  My sister had called and left a message saying she won't be able to attend the almsgiving; I'm glad she let me know (now I won't have to rush to get her gift ready by Sunday!)  One of my friends called, too, and we chatted for a bit.  Later, I video chatted with my daughter.

I have taken the day off from work, tomorrow, to prepare for the almsgiving.  I am a bit behind with my schedule of cleaning, but I think I will be able to catch up, tomorrow.  If not, I still have most of Saturday, as well, although I need to grocery shop on Saturday.  The important thing, I am telling myself, is not to get too tired, or dehydrated, or stressed.  We do NOT want a repeat of what happened last year!

I shall post my To Do list as a separate post.

Today, I am grateful for:
- Being treated to lunch by my supervisor
- A nice walk to the restaurant and back
- A productive day at the office
- A relaxed evening at home
- Phone calls, emails, and video chatting

How is your week going?  Are you having busy days, too?