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7 Surprising Pick-me-ups

A pick-me-up is something that makes you feel better instantly. It stimulates or restores, according to the dictionary. And this is something that we really need to counter the stress, challenges and even the ennui of our lives. 

Here are a few ways to take charge once again. 

1. Get Moving 


Exercise boosts the feel good hormones and a good workout stimulates both the body and the mind. Apart from the obvious and much touted benefits for your health, sweating it out helps build mental toughness and stimulate creative thinking. It could be your go-to option for overcoming that mental block or working around that niggling problem. 

2. Flow experiences 

Flow is the mental state of being completely immersed in an activity. The enhanced focus leads to a great degree of involvement, leading to a deep satisfaction and ultimately happiness. 

The activity could be playing a piece of music, being engrossed in gardening or climbing a mountain. What matters is that there is a complete involvement and the action seems nearly effortless. 

3. Create 
What we create is the output of our experiences and subconscious learnings. We read, watch and listen. These things provide the input. We write, analyze, play music, prepare a presentation. These activities are our output. Let the ratio be heavily in favour of the output. It would instantly make you feel better. 

4. Affirmations 


Affirmations are statements that help in practising positive thinking leading to a feeling of empowerment. They help focus your thoughts on what is good now and what can be good in the future. They also restructure your beliefs, especially the self damaging and self critical beliefs that pull you back from realizing your dreams. Affirmations help you feel better immediately by reminding you that you are in charge of your thoughts, mind and attitude. 

5. Be rhythmic 


Create a rhythm through dance steps, singing or playing the chorus, doodling the images and the words that rhyme. Create something with your hands, knit or crochet, sculpt or paint. Just get into the repetitive pattern of a beloved activity where you are at least mildly proficient. 

6. Breathe 
Breathe in, breath out. Just be. No doing, only being. In the moment. Sharpen all your senses and feel every little sensation. Bring your awareness to your body and watch your emotions. Accept. Every circumstance. And yourself. 

7. Accept the worst 



When stress bogs you down, think of the worst that could happen in a situation or in an interaction. Then accept it. Feel the disappointment and the fear. The dreaded consequences would not feel so fearful after all. From that position of no hope, think of ways you could move forward. It would bring you out of your paralysis and clear a way for your mind. 

What are the ways you use to reenergise yourself? Please share. 

Friday Listicles‘, are running into their second month. It is a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 

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Phoenixes Groomed as Genesis Doves : Review of a poetry collection 


Title
: Phoenixes Groomed as Genesis Doves 

Author : Jasmine Farrell 

Genre : Poetry 

Synopsis 

Phoenixes Groomed as Genesis Doves is a collection of poetry that draws the reader into the world of personal identity, inner growth and the complexity of human relationships. Ordinary and common images, especially ones found in nature, are used to card poems that appeal to the uncommon, the suppressed and the others. Filled with incredible grace and accessible wisdom, the poems explore a wide range of complex emotional themes. With unexpected metaphors and sparkling similes, the pieces varying in rhythm and theme, making each one like a foul wrapped candy : something to savour, enjoying each new bright colour on the tongue. 

Summary 
Phoenixes Groomed as Genesis Doves is the poet’s second collection of poems to be published. Jasmine Farrell is a writer and a blogger, living in Brooklyn, New York. 

The book chronicles a journey of personal transition over a span of two years, from unwanted dogmas to faith and peace. The angst gives way to questions and affirmations, seeking leads to finding and the various experiences touching upon love, racism, spiritual beliefs ultimately lead to an understanding in the poet’s heart. 

Review 

There are 80+ poems in this poetry collection. There are many themes, moods and emotions and the simpler wonderings in the poems at the beginning give way to complex issues such as love, spirituality and social inequality as we read on. 

This is a journey of the poet from self doubt and bitterness to faith and peace. It touches upon the search for identity, walking the true path and finding the life’s purpose to infatuation, love and betrayal moving on to feminism, racism and her personal idols. The difference in tone for the different themes is striking although there is a constant undertone of personification and of using metaphors and similes to her advantage. 

I’ve always wanted to be a Poet‘ sets out the reasons this volume came into being. She talks of the complete reasons of how an artist chooses the art, how poetry helps her to express her deepest emotions and how she can get others to relate to her experiences. 

Followed by ‘Letter to the Pretentious Poets ‘, the poet makes clear the ways she would not want her poetry to be. And thus follows a stream of poetry that is not bound to a structure. Some of the poems have a stream of consciousness feel and the others sound like affirmations. Many sound like narration, telling a story. 

The struggle from the now to the new comes up again and again in her poems. In ‘There will be Days ‘, 

The war between old, new and true 

reigns heavily within my thoughts on these days. 

There is a joy gushing forth in ‘I’m livin’ (To Zora)’. 

Capturing peace with wild spins and heavy slides. 

I dip to the down beats ’cause joy is hidden there. 

Verdict 

There is a lack of structure in the poems. Sometimes the lines are short and sometimes they are long and complex. It feels like prose packed as a poetic form. 

The metaphors seem mixed up and the contrasts are put in the wrong places and for the wrong reasons. 
There are also a few grammatical errors and editorial slip ups. 

Incoherence shows up in some places. A poem starts on a premise and yet ends on a very different note. Some poems pull multiple threads from many other pieces, making it a mish mash of emotions. 

At the same time, the themes are good and the range of feeling is very broad. There is no pretention in her poetry. It is straight from the heart. 

The emotions are deep felt and come through in ‘black ink’, bleeding on paper. There are gems shining through. There is a marked maturity in the treatment of subjects and in her inner universe from the beginning to the end. From self doubt to celebrating the exuberance of life, it is a fruitful journey. 

Rating 

I rate the book 3 stars. 🌠🌠🌠 

I received an ebook of the poetry collection for an honest review. 

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6 different moods in poetry that I love 

There are so many emotions and moods that the poetic form expresses, bringing us closer to the deeper feelings within. Here are some of the poems that I love for the moods they evoke. 

1. Love, the emotion that makes the world go round. In How do I love thee, let me count the ways by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the poet talks of love in many different ways. This sonnet is about the quality of love, the sublime heights and the unfathomable depths of feeling. It is about the beloved and yet it transcends a person. The spectrum of love that the poem covers is amazing and is described so maturely. 

I love thee to the level of everyday’s Most quiet need, by sun and candle light. 

Read the complete love sonnet here

2. Transcience, as depicted by time, the great healer, the quicksilver entity, the unit that we use to measure our lives. Time can be fickle, it can be on our side and it can slip away while we wonder what happened. Dog Days by Derek Mahon examines the ways we live our lives, how days seem never ending and yet the years fly by. It hints at the regret men have as they dream and never get down to doing the things that they dream of. Simply, gently, the poet reminds us of the clock that is ticking away. 

When you stop to consider

The days spent dreaming of a future 

And say then, that was my life. 

Read the complete poem here

3. Pretension, the thing we do when we try to come up to others expectations and the norms set by society. In the little epigram, To Someone Who Insisted I look Up Someone by X. J. Kennedy, in just three lines, the poet talks of travel, friends and pomposity. Humour and brevity marry! 

Read the poem with another two epigrams here

4. Acceptance, what we as humans need the most. Love, appreciation and acceptance are what we crave for. This poem, Masks by Shel Silverstein, written for children, has a profound message for adults as well. It underscores acceptance; self acceptance, acceptance of others and knowledge that should be shared. 

5. Absurdity, the implausible and the incomprehensible. Much of poetry is like that to the readers especially when the verses are profound. And yet, written for children, The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Caroll, the absurd and the impossible happen through the story of a walrus, a carpenter and oysters. There is personification of these characters and the nonsense verses are fun. This narrative poem is recited by Tweedledee and Tweedledum to the protagonist Alice, in the book, Through the Looking Glass. 

The sea was wet as wet could be, 

The sands were dry as dry. 

You could not see a cloud, because 

No cloud was in the sky: 

No birds were flying overhead-

There were no birds to fly. 

Read this long poem here

6. Character as in Ethics, the principles that we live by. There is no comprehensive description of the guiding principles that a man ought to follow than in If by Rudyard Kipling. 

If you can keep your head when all about you 

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you 

Read this moving poem here

Which poems do you love the best? Do share your favourites! 

Friday Listicles‘, are running into their second month. It is a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 

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Orange Candy: A Short Story 

Image courtesy : kingofwallpapers.com

I look out through the bars, clutching the orange candy in my palm. Every Iittle while, it slips out and I drop it nearly, for my hand is wet. The bars are hot to touch and the sun is in my eyes. I look back at the squeaking swings where the children crowd about. I look for Dana’s yellow frock. She is behind the snotty kid in the red shirt. Dana always pushes the children in the queue. 
I shift the candy to my other hand and wipe it on my brown shorts. I have pockets but I hold it still. 

There is the lady with the brown curls. The curls hang over her forehead. She looks through the bars too, from the other side and smile at me. She looks at the crowd of kids near the swings. Her head to one side and her hand on her cheek, she looks down. Her curls cover her face and her ring with the crystal, shines strong in the sun. 

I hear a shout from behind and someone pulls me by my shirt. Abe is pulling at me roughly. “Don’t you look at her! Don’t talk to her! She is a witch.” 

I lick my dry lips and turn away from the bars. I am sure she has heard him. I know that. I look back and she is still sitting on the bench across the flower beds, looking down, looking down. 

I touch the bars of the park gate one last time and then pull them back again. The bars are hot. 

I run behind Abe to where Dana is and hold her frock tight. She looks down at me in anger and then sees the candy in my hand. Dana pulls my cheeks and I hand it over to her. The candy with the wet cover. As if I had dropped it in a puddle and then fished it out. The way Dana and I do, sometimes, when there is rain and we put our coins in the paper boats to ride in. 

I get on the swing and she pushes, hard, so that I grab the chains with my hands, glad that the candy is gone and my hand is not wet and I can hold on tight. I go up and up and then I look across the big green park and I see her, the pretty lady once again, not looking down but at us, at me, her eyes small against the sun and her smile little and hard. 

Dana screams and a boy with long hair pushes her down in the dirt. No one pushes my swing any more and I want to hit that boy but the swing is still high and I cannot jump off. It slows down in a while and Dana is sitting in the dirt, her face has a dark brown blotch and tears down her cheeks . Dana has short black hair. 

———————————-

I look through the bars at the boy in the brown shorts, his hair wet with sweat and limp. He has eyes that glitter and he looks at me. 

Whenever I come and sit on this bench next to my little Arnie, now deep in the earth and the daisies and the grasses growing over him, I see the boy playing in the park next to the cemetery. There are a bunch of kids there, yelling and shoving and fighting. 

The children come on the weekends, towards the evening, when the sun is less fierce. I am always here, wanting to talk to Arnie, looking for him in that bunch of kids and my Arnie would have been taller than all of them. He never liked the swings but ran along all the paths. 

The forest beyond the park looks dark and inviting. I often walk there, listening to the sounds of the jungle. There are birds that sing and there are birds that bring a message. From the long gone. I listen. But Arnie never talks. 

Would he have liked to come here and play with them? With these children? Would he have liked my handing over the candies to little ones? Arnie would have shouted and snatched them from my hands first of all. That little boy always takes it from me so shyly. And then he holds it in his fist like treasure. Opens his hand every little while to look at it and sometimes giving it to another kid. 

I like his hair. Like a wet mop. Not like Arnie’s brown mane. Shy and quiet with eyes full of understanding. Would he come to me if I called? 

I see the children now, in a cluster around the swings. They yell so much that it makes me wince. But they could have been Arnie’s friends and perhaps Arnie could listen to them now, the noisy bunch. They are running and screaming and alive and Arnie was running in the street one last time as the blue car careened forward slow, slow and hit Arnie so slow. But he fell and bled and moaned. Is he moaning still, beneath the flowers and the warm, rather hot sun? 

I get up from the bench. My long white dress gets stuck in the bushes. I pull at it impatiently. The children are fighting and someone is down on the ground, crying and the little child is up in the swing, looking down at the girl with anxious eyes. 

I walk to the gate of the park and push it open. The bars are hot to touch in the fierce sun. It creaks on its hinges and the children look my way. Their faces form a perfect O, as they look in with rounded eyes and a frozen countenance. I mumble the spell under my breath as I walk towards them but I stumble and trip. The boy rushes forward to help me up, his eyes limpid pools of pity. But the spell breaks and the bunch runs back screaming in horror. I smile at the boy who hesitates and I hold out the candy. 

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6 Awesome Tips on Writing by Stephen King 

The American author Stephen King’s book ‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft’ is a memoir that documents his experiences as a writer and relays his advice for aspiring writers. 

Here are 6 tips from his book that you can start following right away for your writing to be better. 

1. Read a lot and Write a Lot 

Reading is as much an investment into writing as writing itself. Reading is for you to understand the art of writing even though it is not done consciously. Yet, it is a learning process and every reader picks his own lessons. 

Good writing… teaches the learning writer about style, graceful narration, plot development, the creation of believable characters, and truth-telling.

Writing a lot, regularly and consistently, is what makes a writer confident and better. King, considered one of the most prolific writers of our time, says that he writes every day. 

2. Write simply 

Some writers have enormous vocabularies, says King, but it is alright to use simpler words. Simplicity communicates ideas better. So, you can chuck the big words and stop being pretentious… Umm that is, stop showing off. 

One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones.

3. Pay Attention to Grammar 

It would be rather obvious that a grammatically correct text is capable of putting the correct meaning across. Some writers may argue that they could never understand the complex rules of grammar. But sentences must make rational sense. So it is important to brush up on the grammar that we all learnt in High School. 

If you can remember all the accessories that go with your best outfit, the contents of your purse, the starting lineup of the New York Yankees or the Houston Oilers, or what label “Hang On Sloopy” by The McCoys was on, you are capable of remembering the difference between a gerund (verb form used as a noun) and a par-ticiple (verb form used as an adjective).

4. Use the Active Voice 

… and avoid the passive voice in your writing. King says that the passive voice is weak ;it puts forth information in a roundabout manner and is ‘tortuous’. 

I think timid writers like them for the same reason timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe. There is no troublesome action to contend with…

5. Don’t use Adverbs 

The words that modify verbs, adjectives and other adverbs and ending in -ly are the words that a writer should avoid. You might think that you are putting in a punch when you describe things and situations with adverbs. Paradoxically, the use of adverbs tells us that the writer is not expressing clearly what he wants to communicate. The writer has not put in enough context or a backstory. King also advises that adverbs should be be avoided like the plague, especially in dialogue attribution. 

With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid, he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.

6. Take care of the paragraphs 

King says that writing is refined thinking and paragraphs help organize the subject matter. A basic paragraph has a topic sentence followed by support and description sentences. 

Paragraphs structure the writing and the flow. 

…the paragraph, not the sentence, is the basic unit of writing—the place where coherence begins and words stand a chance of becoming more than mere words. 

 And lastly, to inspire you furthur, Stephen King says about Writing… 

I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever. 

Friday Listicles‘, are running into their second month. It is a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 

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Half Blood Blues – A Book Review 

Title : Half Blood Blues 

Author: Esi Edugyan

Genre: Fiction 

She forgot the definition of “jazz” as well and came to think of it as every beautiful thing she had ever failed to appreciate: the taste of warm rain; the smell of a baby; the din of a swollen river, rushing past her tree and onward to infinity.

– David Sedaris, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary 

Half Blood Blues won the prestigious Scotiabank Giller prize in 2011 and received shortlist honours for both the 2011 Man Booker Prize and the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction. These awards set the stage for high expectations from the book and the Afro-German story set in the World War II promised an extraordinary reading. 

Summary 

Half Blood Blues plays out in Nazi controlled Berlin and in occupied Paris before and during the Second World War. It follows the fortunes of a band of Afro American and an Afro German jazz players who continue to make music through the dread of the war and the debilitating personal feelings of failure and jealousy. 

Half Blood Blues has a jagged tone like the blues and the story drips with pathos. The storyline and the characters are deeply emotional as all art and artists are understood to be. We encounter mixed race, wild music and plenty of verbal idiosyncracy. 

The Story

The book begins with a lovely preface and is followed by an exciting setting. It mentions the legendary jazz musician, Hieronymous Falk or the Kid who disappears during the second world war. He is part of an Afro American jazz band which is trying to survive the Nazi persecution. The book then moves to America, fifty years on; it is suspected that the kid is alive and there is the promise of a meeting at the end of a journey, that his erstwhile band members Sidney Griffiths and Charles C. Jones undertake. 

Review 

Written as a first person narrative, Half Blood Blues is the voice of the old and the weary. And when the narrative turns back to the past, which seems more real than the present, Half Blood Blues is also the voice of the young and the energetic. The storyline flits between the now and the past. The now is in the early 1990s and the past was in 1939.

Somewhere along the middle of the book, repetition sets in. The pace goes slow and there are no sub plots to break the monotony. The narrator looks to be turning into an unreliable one. The descriptive scenes feel too long. There are hunches and feelings but nothing happens. The settings start to repeat themselves. The band members are stuck in a tiny place, hidden from the rest of the world too many times. The story moves forward in their minds and in the dirty, derelict studios and apartments they are forced to take refuge in. 

Delilah Brown, the singer and a close associate of the influential Jazz musician, Louis Armstrong, is their saviour, of all those men cooped up and tortured by their own talent and by a longing to express their dream of fine music. 

Delilah is the one holding the story together, pushing the action, making things happen, having contacts, having compassion, dispensing love and living with anger, stress and disappointment. And yet, everything about Delilah sounds unreal, from her sudden and unexplained appearances throughout tho book to her looks – slender, bird like, a turbaned head… toughness hidden behind a soft exterior. 

As we read on and when the book is three fourths through, the excitement comes via the unreliable narrator. By this point, there are too many threads and too much unravelling. You don’t wonder how would the ball of yarn be rolled again… It would be, for sure, for the book does have an ending . It is just that the threads seem tangled. At times, there is too much back and forth just to get the story going. Half a century sometimes feels like worlds apart. The words sometimes seem to have been strung together only with wild dreams and with hope.

Along Rue Pigalle and Rue Fontaine only our own echoing footsteps kept time. We grown lean as greyhounds, our bodies all hope and bone. 

The book follows the second world war. It follows the steps of the hallowed jazz musicians. It traces the passion of the artists. It is a story of those men who loved, found their passion, lost and saw suffering. In spite of the cramped, dark feel of the book, the jazz uplifts the soul and the story ends in the vastness of the Polish sky, in dereliction yet again, touching misery, suffering and the immutable hope and compassion. The ending of the book is redemptive of the motives of the players and of the narration that seems fractured and implausible in places. 

There is doubt ; there is failure; there is loss. And there is also a reconciliation to these emotions. 

Maybe I was just finally forgiving myself for it. For failing. Maybe that was the sound of forgiveness I heard in my old axe. Cause that night, swinging by candlelight in that cramped room, everything warring in me settled down.

Verdict 

Half Blood Blues touches your soul, in a mess of wild joyous music surviving passionately the personal misery and the fear that the war brought. 

 I teamed up with Bloggeray to read and review the book at the same time. Do check out his excellent review here. 

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5 ways a ‘Done List’ is better than a ‘To Do List’

What is a Done List, you might ask. To the people who swear by the usefulness of the To Do List to drive their productivity and to raise their efficiency, the mention of a Done List might come as a surprise. A Done List is the one that puts together the things you have accomplished. A To Do list helps in organization and in setting priorities and a Done List helps in inspiring and in driving productivity. 
A Done List might be considered the opposite of a To Do List in the way that it lists out the things that have been completed or the learnings that have come about in the course of a day or the brilliant ideas that have been brainstormed. But the fact is that these lists are not opposites but are complimentary. When used together, these can drive your productivity much higher. 

A To Do is Possibility and a Done is Results. Here are Five ways a Done List is the better half of a To Do List. 

1. Done Lists focus more on the things you have accomplished. This is the reason that a Done List is far more satisfying to create and behold. To Do Lists tend to be long and even when you tick off more than 70% of the items, the remaining ones point an invisible finger at you, making you feel guilty. To Do Lists generally stay incomplete. 

On the other hand, a Done List has the things, projects, goals that are all complete and it is for you to happily run down your eyes on the things that you have accomplished. 

2. Done Lists are a better tracking tool. Sure, To Do Lists put all the things that you need to accomplish in one place so that you don’t forget the little things with the larger projects but the Done List tracks what actually gets accomplished. It is a better way to know how many things really got through. This is especially required when there are a number of projects or tasks that need to be completed. Without a Done List, anything that has been finished may get buried in the deluge of tasks and you may not even realize that you are doing good and are on track for many things. 

3. Done Lists are great for productivity analysis. With the Done list you really know how much you have accomplished by looking at the things that have been completed. It helps to inspire and is useful for further planning. 

The Done Lists provide a different perspective of the Doing-game in helping with the review of the goals reached. They are motivating because the results are real. 

4. Done Lists are overwhelming in a positive way. For a To Do List, the sheer number of things that need to be done can be overwhelming. For a Done List, the number of things that have been accomplished could be positively overwhelming and boost self esteem and confidence. 

5. Done Lists complete the picture and provide a balance. The To Do List is about expectations. The Done List is about results. So, analysing the things done can lead to better planning through an evaluation of why some items don’t make it to the Done List. 

How do you manage your tasks and goals? Do you prefer making lists? 

This listicle is fourth in the series of ‘Friday Listicles‘, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend.