Category Archives: #Reflections / Мисли

Yuletide – Wednesday Wishes

Yule, Saturnalia, or just the Winter Solstice
It’s this time of the year again. The winter solstice marks the longest night and shortest day. It is the official start of the winter season and though the sun begins to come back to our days, the temperatures will get lower yet, because the real harsh cold weather is still to come. Both Yule and Saturnalia are similar to Christmas, and as you’ll see, they have influenced it a lot in different parts of the world.
Why is the winter solstice important to people? I think it’s because of nature and because of what it says about nature. Darkness is at its deepest. It seems the world will not come back to the sun, but just then, things turn and days start to get longer. It is a time for relaxation, enjoying the fruits of your work during the active seasons, giving gratitude to nature for her richness and celebrating the turn of seasons. The turn of seasons is what breathing and pulse are to the human life. All life consists of cycles. After darkness comes sunshine, after cold comes warmth. Nature, like life, will not stay in the same position forever. Evergreen trees are a natural choice for most of the rituals during Yule. They reflect the permanent character of life – even though most greenery is lost, it never goes away entirely. Besides that, the evergreen pines and firs make for a particularly cheerful view amidst the otherwise barren landscape.

If we turn to Saturnalia, we’ll see a slightly different picture. After all, ancient Rome didn’t know winter at its harshest. We can’t really speak of desolate darkness or cold, or even barrenness of the land. During these festivities, dedicated to Saturn – the god of agriculture, the highlight is on celebrating the fruits of the land, enjoying the results of the people’s work in the fields and the gratitude of the population for a good year without hunger and poverty. During the Saturnalia, which lasted for a week, the lower in status became the most honoured. Sometimes slaves would sit at the head of the table, while their masters served them. That time was by far the noisiest festival of the whole year.
Much like during the modern X-mas holidays, schools and businesses in ancient Rome would close inviting all the population to participate in the celebrations.
In all three winter-solstice-related traditions, a focus is put on giving: people would give small presents to their friends and family as well as complete strangers. The suffering of weaker members of the community is usually sought to be relieved by donations, charity or giving them a break as is the case of slaves in Rome.

When I hear strong opinions about the nature and origin of Christmas, I wonder if it is really wise to try and separate holidays and festive traditions between the various beliefs, when we know that people have been living together over all these centuries.
No matter which holiday you honour, do it according to your beliefs, eat and drink enjoying the work of your hands and hearts!

Daylight Saving Time – Time to End It

Today is time for a #ThoughtfulTuesday post. As we changed time again quite recently, I decided to write about this peculiar tradition and the idea that it will soon be discontinued.

The discussion has been on since the last time we changed to DST, a.k.a. summer time, in end-March. I strongly support the idea that we should stop switching back and fro, as the cost-efficiency of this process is not valid any longer. I doubt there’s any saving going on, and that was the main argument in favour of the switching between times. Yet, I understand that the majority of EU citizens would have the summer time stay constantly. How their vote was registered, I don’t know. I suppose there was some sort of survey which I missed. Let’s assume they represent a good enough sample to make the result valid. What does their choice show about them?

First of all, let me remind you what the DST is. It means darker mornings, lighter evenings. Or, in other words – it gets light later in the morning and it gets dark later in the evening. I have several acquaintances who support the same notion – that we should stick to summer time. Their reasoning: you have more light after work and school. You can go for walks and, generally, you will not feel so oppressed by the winter mood if that’s the case. Surely, 1 hour won’t make much of a difference. Yet, people speak of it with a lot of ardour.

Why don’t they argue for lighter mornings, when we have to get up and start our days? I feel particularly despondent if it’s still dark outside when I get up. I start my day with the feeling that getting off bed is a torture, a punishment – in general, something to loathe. And, as most of us would agree, getting up doesn’t need any more negative associations to go with. It’s pretty unpleasant as it is.

So, to go back to my original point of wondering: what their choice speaks about these people. Obviously, they care more about the time after work than about the start of the day. Perhaps they don’t get up very early, so it doesn’t matter to them if the sky is dark. They can get up a little before noon, work in the afternoon, go for a walk in the early evening, and then party until the small hours. This and repeat. What are they? Not farm workers, for sure. Not medical workers either. Neither do they work at school. I have just mentioned three of the important professional fields on whose experts we depend to a large extent during our entire lives. Excluding school, perhaps.

And before this turns into a criticising post, I’ll share my true reason to side with the standard time, a.k.a. “normal” or “winter” time. I want to stick to this time because it’s the correct one from a scientific point of view. It’s the normal time, and I deeply believe we must embrace our normalcy.

Does your country change between normal and summer time? Which time do you support?

Monday Mentions: Sojourner Truth

My #MondayMention post today is dedicated to an extraordinary lady.

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)
We celebrate her life and legacy on 26 November, the day of her death, only because we aren’t sure about the date of her birth. Not even about the year. No wonder, as we are speaking the 18th century.

Sojourner is not her real name, of course. She accepted is as a symbol and a message. But let me start at the beginning. She was born in slavery in the state of New York, her real name was Isabella Baumfree and her first language was Dutch. The region where she lived used to be the property of Dutch settlers, which is why that was the everyday language.

She was just 9 years old when she was sold after her owner’s death, and over the next 2 years, she changed hands twice more. Around that time, Bella started to learn the English language. In 1826, she escaped to freedom with her youngest daughter. Her master had promised to emancipate her but didn’t, so Bella ran away. She had two other children who stayed behind. That happened only a year before slavery was abolished in New York.
She learned that her 5-year son was sold in Alabama, which was illegal since he was to be emancipated in New York. Isabella had the courage to start a court suit. That case was the first one where a black woman got a victory over a white man. Then she converted to Christianity and worked as a housekeeper with two priests successively. Curiously, the latter one was accused of killing the first one in order to appropriate his fortune. Isabella Baumfree was implicated for the murder. This case also received huge public attention, and she was successful once again.

In 1843, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth by which she grew popular. She spent her life advocating abolition, women’s rights, and suffrage. Her views were radical even for her fellow-abolitionists. Sojourner Truth’s main concern was that freedom and equal rights are sought only for black men, but not women. She worried that after slavery is abolished, the movement and activists would decrease the pressure they put on political figures and law-makers and would be satisfied with the partial victory. That way, women would remain without basic rights still.
In truth, the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, the one regulating women’s right to vote, wasn’t voted until 40 years after Sojourner Truth’s death.
Still, she set the beat, right?

The Beauty of Being Prepared

On Having a Pre-Formulated Theme for Your Future Chapbook

Today’s Writerly Wednesday post started from my speculations whether or not having a theme for my chapbook helps. From there, my thoughts went to being prepared in general. Is creativity something you can direct?

I think not. But being prepared and having a direction in mind is really useful.

This year is my 9th in poeming for the November Poem-A-Day Chapbook Challenge. It is very similar to the April Poetry Month one, mainly in that you are supposed to write at least one poem every day. The differences start from there. In NovPAD you are also expected to follow specific prompts, while for April PAD, or NaPoWriMo, you can follow yourself and poem on whatever topic you like. Why is that so? Primarily because in November the goal is to use all or most of your resulting poems in a brand new chapbook which you might publish or submit to contests. Of course, no one stops you from doing that with your April-produced poems, yet that is not the explicit objective of the Poetry Month.
In 2010, when I first joined the magnificent community at Poetic Asides, I had no idea about chapbook or contests. I went there with the pure heart and enthusiasm for taking part in something new and wonderful – writing poetry with help and support from others who thought like me. Until that moment, I had never had a supporting community. I joined a couple of so-called “Poetry Clubs” at school and then at university, but honestly, they didn’t do much in the way of support or practical help. I don’t think those clubs sucked, I believe it wasn’t the right moment for me. Plus, let’s admit it, online is much easier. You may take your time, appear whenever it’s convenient for you and choose whether to write to a prompt or not.

In 2012, I started, as usual, simply trying to follow the stream. The previous two years I was doing NaNoWriMo along with the poetry thing, so it was both easy and difficult to write every day. Easy, because you are in the writing mood anyway. Difficult, well, you’ve guessed already. In 2012, I was collecting and sorting papers and articles that would help me in writing my thesis which was due in June 2013. That was instead of a novel that year. Because I was online all the time, I was able to follow the poem-a-day challenge and around Day 7 I noticed that I consciously chose to bend every prompt into a poem about my Dad. At first, the prompts fitted naturally, but after I found the tendency, I started looking for a fit even if there wasn’t one.

Nothing happened after that. Despite some great advice I received from fellow-poets on Poetic Asides, I never got down to actually compiling the good pieces into a book. But they are there, so I may.

In February 2014, I was writing to a month-long creative challenge. I participated in it 2 years in succession. The first time I tried to be diverse, but it didn’t work well, so in 2014, I thought I’d stick to poetry, as this is my medium. I saw again that poems go one direction, and from Day 7 or so, I started leading them in the same direction on purpose. I already compiled the Devastation of the Soul chapbook. Not published yet. I haven’t made up my mind what I’d do with it. Let it rest for a while.

This November, I created my theme a long time before November even started. I even had time to forget it, so I had to look in my earlier Tweets to see how I announced it. So, here’s a take away: announce, because you are going to forget.

The advantage: I am greatly relieved when I see the daily prompt because I know where to take it. I suppose I am one for preparation. Being prepared means a lot to me. It spares me from the initial chaos of wallowing in the swamp of not knowing which way to turn. It saves me a lot of time, energy and I can hit to poeming right away.
I can see this advantage working for me in my blogging activity, too. Now that I plan my blog posts and prepare by research and schedule I am able to meet the time frame I’d set for myself. I mean, having an Editorial Calendar is good, but not enough.

Maybe you have some other tricks and means by which you help your creativity get active and efficient. Or maybe, having read this, you think you should try it. Try it and in a month come back and tell me what happened.

Wednesday Wishes – Samhain

Todays #WednesdayWishes falls on Samhain. So to say, this post comes in its own topic naturally.

Samhain, pronounced SA:WIN, closely related to Halloween, All Saints’ Day and Day of the Dead, is one of the four Wiccan/Pagan holidays that mark the change of a season. It falls between autumn equinox and winter solstice, celebrates the harvest and also welcomes the beginning of the dark half of the year. It is affiliated with other holidays that are popular around the world and that share similarities. A lot of Neo-Pagans celebrate it as their New Year, though Imbolc is also an option.

Because of the lack of written documents of the ancient period, we can’t be sure how it was celebrated. Most probably, the harvest would be collected and then a feast would follow. On a spiritual level, over those days the boundary between this world and the next thins, so a lot of creatures from beyond are able to appear in our world. Priests would make large bonfires: to cleanse both the landscape from the fallen leaves, and the areas from evil spirits and influences. The tradition of disguising in costumes and impersonating evil creatures from the beyond got mixed and transferred to modern times in today’s Halloween trick-or-treating. I can safely say that all parts of the world have this dressing-up in some form. It is used to scare the evil spirits back to the beyond.

runes for divinationDivination is a ritual typical of Samhain. In it, various magical objects and rites can be employed. One simple way of doing it is by means of a Tarrot card deck. Using Runes and various types of seeds or beans is also possible. Another way is by opening the Bible on a random page and reading the first verse that your eyes fall on. Read and think what that speaks to you. I remember reading about this in Tess of the D’Urbervilles and doing it right away. I was still an impressionable young girl back then. I remember the holiday for which Tess did it wasn’t Samhain, of course. She was a devout Christian, and it must have been Michaelmas or Candlemas. I promise I’ll look into the matter sooner than later. Wink.

Autumn DecorationOut of the other ways to celebrate, I chose to mention two more: decoration and renovation. Decoration is easy – put an autumn wreath on your door and decorate your house and yard with the fruits of nature characteristic of the season, keeping to the orange and black colour. Use pumpkin, yellow and red leaves, chestnuts, twigs and dry grass, in short what you can think of. Renovation captured my attention. Choose an area of your house, or life, and think of how you can improve it. Consider what state it is in right now, and try to imagine what it could be, what you’d like it to be. Discard items you no longer need and use. Make place for new items, or just leave some empty space to enjoy.

Happy Samhain! Get rid of all things dirty and live free! Share some photos of how you celebrated whatever holiday you chose to honour this year.

Thoughtful Thursday: Fathers Rock!

Today’s post is about … dads. I loved my dad, depended on him for everything in my young life, miss him a lot in my adult life, and I believe he deserves the honour of a post. My husband is a wonderful dad, so this post honours him also.

I collected some Fun Facts from here all of which seemed interesting to me.

“Approximately 52% of fathers say they are the primary grocery shoppers in the family, an increase of 10% from 1995. Additionally, 11% of moms research the products they buy compared to 24% of dads.”

Wow, I must admit, the “additional” fact surprised me. I’ve always thought mothers, and women in general, are more prone to research foods and nutrition. Is it the father-role that brings about this change in men? Or is my initial assumption wrong and twisted by the fact that men are usually quieter about their health habits?
The first fact – that fathers do the shopping more often than mothers, is true for both my families. My father was the primary shopper, and my husband is in the same role now. More patience for the supermarket queues, more physical power to carry heavy bags – just part of the advantages they have.

“A new study shows that fathers who share household chores with their wives tend to have more ambitious daughters as well as daughters with more broad definitions of gender roles.”

That definitely hits home with me. My dad took as much care of chores as my mom. They cooked together and did the dishes. That really taught me that women’s place is not in the kitchen. My father told me that a woman is not a cook, cleaner, washer and household utility. Whenever I visited a friend and saw fathers sitting in front of the TV, while mothers were cooking and serving food, I felt awkward. When I grew up to have boyfriends, I found out I hadn’t learned to behave in the “proper” way a girl should. I expected my boyfriend to share the chores with me.

“When fathers are involved in their child’s education, the children perform better in school, learn more, and exhibit healthier behavior.”

Hm, I don’t know. I was always very good at school and my father encouraged me in a meaningful way. On the other hand, my mother usually motivated me by threats and insults. Still, I don’t know if the statement above is true since my brother wasn’t very good at school. He is very intelligent, in fact, much smarter than me. Yet, school wasn’t his thing.

The world’s oldest “Father’s Day card” is a 4,000-year-old Babylonian tablet that a young boy named Elmesu carved to wish his father a long life and good health.

Well, this is just an interesting fact. I’m glad children thought lovingly of their fathers in those times, too.

We have to admit it: Fathers rock!

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 26 – Mindful Monday

Heavy is the root of light.
Stillness is the ruler of haste.

Therefore:
Although he travels all day,
The sage never loses sight of his luggage carts.
Only when he rests securely inside the walls,
He relaxes his attention.

Why would a ruler with ten thousand chariots
Look lightly on himself or his domain?

In lightness, the root is lost.
In haste, the ruler is lost.

This is one translation. The challenge with ancient texts written in remote languages is the plenitude of room for interpretation. In the second stanza, my translation says something in the meaning of: “Although he is the ruler of luxurious palaces and parks, / he remains humble and calm, above vanity.” Nothing about “relaxing his attention”. To be honest, the version I own on my bookshelves is closer and sounds more natural to me.

Another difference comes in the third stanza, the one with the 10000 chariots. My version reads “Would the ruler of ten thousand chariots / treat his kingdom lightly because of himself”. Online, I found yet another wording: “How, then, should a ruler of ten thousand chariots / Make light of his own person in the eyes of the empire?” See what I mean? Three different nuances. Moreover, they are so different, that I cannot see which one I prefer.

“Stillness is the ruler of haste.” I love this. Haste will always bow before stillness. Because stillness is persistent, it can go on for a long time without getting tired. It is equally intensive at its ending as it is at its beginning. Eventually, it should win. Well, there are situations in life when haste is preferable. Imagine you need to run away from danger or ruin. I can’t deny the usefulness of thinking and acting quickly. At the end of this Chapter, hastiness is mentioned once again to say that it is the ruin of the ruler. So, sages and rulers shouldn’t be hasty.

“Heavy is the root of light.” I have difficulties understanding that. I thought about it, looking at the sentence from several points of view, and I can’t say I reached any clarity. Maybe just like any plant needs roots and can’t survive without them, relying on the nurture and stability coming from them, in the same way, anything light cannot survive without taking energy, food and stability – its life, in short – from the heavy. The ending of the Chapter revisits the idea, stressing that if you have lightness only, the root is lost. That last idea made me think of a balloon. With nothing to hold it down, it flies away.

Let me know what you think, I’d love to read all your views and ideas in the comments.

When Your Teacher Doesn’t Believe in You

#SaturdaySatisfaction
Since my family is my best companion and environment, I decided to dedicate a separate topic and hashtag on my blog to family matters.

SupportToday’s is a bitter post.
I heard the worst possible thing a teacher can say about a student. Our daughter’s singing teacher doesn’t believe in her. What’s the deal? Our daughter, says the teacher, is very musical, and sings very well, being able to sing without getting influenced by others. In other words, she is very “stable”. Nice!

At the same time, the teacher decided to tell me and the other parents honestly what she thinks of our children’s chances of singing solo songs. She said things about how some children have the “charisma” and the “skill to overcome stage fright”. Then she told us who had those. The youngest ones and the beginners didn’t have them. The rest were OK. Our daughter was put in the beginners’ group. She doesn’t have what it takes. She gets nervous when she needs to sing on the stage. This is what the teacher said.

She saw I wasn’t too happy to hear that, so she went on to give us examples of two of her students with magnificent voices. One of them never won anything at contests, not because she wasn’t any good, but because, you know “some people just don’t have it, they are too slow, and things don’t happen well for them”. The other one never sang solo because she didn’t want to. The only time she did was at her graduation, and she did it just to please her mom. I didn’t feel these examples mattered really. I didn’t see how I can relate to them, especially the second one.

What I heard was that the teacher didn’t believe in our girl.

On the way from there, I started thinking about advice to give my daughter for the coming classes. Believe me, I don’t care for the singing group if my child is miserable. And last year, she showed on many occasions that she was miserable because she didn’t get enough stage time, because she didn’t get a mike and because others had solo songs. The truth is that this child burns for the stage.

Getting back to the advice, I thought, maybe she needs to put some extra efforts and show the teacher that she can sing solo, that she isn’t nervous etc. But then I thought again… I didn’t hear the teacher say that we can overcome the problem with more effort. She didn’t give any assurance like: “We’ll find a way out of this.” or “She will get there with time.” No. Her verdict was final. She doesn’t believe this child has it.

Before I ramble away, let me say one thing. Teachers who didn’t believe in me were just people who worked for the school where I went. I don’t remember them. Maybe they were good, maybe changed the life for some of my classmates. I don’t know. I remember the teachers who believed in me.

I think we’ll cancel singing there.

Savage Saturdays: Introversion, Part 1

In this hashtag, #Savage Saturdays, I plan to focus on things of the mind and soul, mental health, psychology, and self-help. First, I’ll draw your attention to one of my favourite topics: Introversion. To make it proper, I’d like to start by laying the foundation and take it from here. This post is the first of a series that will speak about What Is Introversion and Some Myths about Introversion.

If you are introverted, you probably know it. Extroverted people, on the other hand, often mistake shyness and the lack of social skills for introversion. We need to set the definitions straight, not only because we owe it to introverted people, but also because they make nearly half of the population on Earth. There is no way to count them precisely; there is no “census” for this, and there is no place where you can go and declare yourself by voting or signing up for a list. It seems extroverts are more numerous. That is because they are outgoing, express themselves with ease and are normally quite noticeable. Introverts are simply not there. And yet, we may safely say that at least one-third of the population are introverted, another third are extroverted and there is yet another third – those people whom we call “ambiverts”. Ambiverts alternate acting like extro– or introverts in different areas of life, thus making it hard to put them in one pure category.

“It takes all sorts to make a world.” When we want to share valid opinions and expect others to listen and take our ideas into account, we need to be prepared. That means knowing and understanding.

Introverts and Energy:

  • Extroverts charge through socialising: they like noisy environments and the sensory stimulation of sound, colour, temperature, vibration and people touch.
  • Introverts can do on a lot less of the above. They, like every human being, like company and interaction, but their energy drains fast and they charge through spending time alone and in silence.

Introverts and Shyness:
A frequent mistake is to use “introverted” and “shy” interchangeably. These are not synonyms and as an introvert who is not shy, I remember this was a major difficulty in my self-analysis. Extroverts can also be shy, for all we know. Shy people get nervous and self-conscious when they need to socialise and be part of some social interaction. They blush, stammer, don’t know what to do with their hands, and more often than not, forget what they know. Oral exams at school show the shy boys and girls pretty clearly. Think about it for a moment: Do you remember an outgoing classmate who was very noisy during breaks but couldn’t say a word when examined in front of the blackboard, even when she knows the answer? Do you also remember that no one believed this classmate was nervous, and most people thought she was faking it? That is a good example of a shy extrovert.

Do you know any untypical extroverts or introverts? Tell me in the comments below.
Next time, I’ll go on to the popular myths about introversion and help busting them. In the meantime, be well and have a nice weekend!

Writerly Wednesday: Punctuation

My mother tongue has very strict rules as to the use of comma, quite unlike the English language. They are so numerous that I often wonder at complicated cases if I should use one and where to position it. I have a deep respect to all colleagues who have graduated Bulgarian because they know what to do. All I know I have learned at school, and it’s just the basics. Moreover, I’m sure I have forgotten plenty of that over the years.

The moment I went to university to study English, I dived into happy ignorance and indifference as to the vague rules of using commas. A semester in, however, I started to resent this vagueness. After graduation, it upset me a lot, and I felt it could ruin my reputation of a language professional. Imagine, a student asks if she should use a comma in front of “if” or “when” and then, on top of that, also ask for an explanation. Imagine she would continue to explain the Bulgarian rule to me.
Most importantly, my ignorance threatened my writer’s life. I chose to write with no commas at all, for fear I might use some incorrectly. Have you noticed I haven’t even mentioned the semicolon? I’m not planning to involve that thing in this piece.

How I Got By?
I read carefully stories by other writers, always natives, and took mental notes how they use their commas. The terror, everybody was doing it their own way. That was awful, for sure, but in the same time, relaxing, as it was very likely that no one would notice I had no idea. Shooting in the dark is how I got by.

The time of MOOCs came, and I attended several very interesting ones in a variety of topics. I passed a course in history, called “The Matters of War and Peace”, for example, even though I’m not a fan of the science. I also took a course in Nutrition which was an eye-opener. I haven’t migrated to healthy eating, but I know a thing or two. General Philosophy, Chinese Humanities, Plato’s Dialogues, Fantasy and Sci-Fi in Literature…, you name it, but I shunned the Writing courses. Until one day I saw the Grammar 101: Punctuation, and I thought “That’s it”.

Needless to mention, all my classmates were graduate students. It didn’t matter as I had a goal. What I appreciated most about this course was the simplicity to which things were brought. How come no one had told me before that there WERE actual rules, and it was possible to follow them? Was it too simple to be true? Perhaps it was, but now I am at peace with my commas.

It’s time to start looking into the semicolon. That course DID say a lot on that topic, but who can learn so much in one time? I need to brace myself and shoot for another take of this MOOC, I suppose.
What’s your experience with the comma rules?