Archive for June, 2010

June 26, 2010

He Cheated, She Stayed: Was That Weakness?

If you are Nigerian, you are probably thinking ‘he cheated, she stayed…ehen? Kini big deal?’ Well, IF you are Nigerian, there is probably no big deal. Men cheat most of the time (there are exceptions, of course) and their women stay. Life goes on. BUT if you are not Nigerian – or belong to this new generation of Nigerians with ‘funny’ ideas, it is a big deal.

The African expectations from marriage are a bit different from those of our western counterparts. When a woman gets married in Africa, she expects to build a home with her husband; she hopes that they will be happy and looks forward to being happy. She prays he will take care of her and believes without much hope, that he will stay faithful. (At least in the time of our mothers.)

In the US for example, it is a bit different. Most women when they get married, expect to build a home with their husbands and also that they will be happy in the marriage. They might not put much stock by his taking care of them BUT he had better stay faithful! And if he is not…see you later, Alligator!

Which is why when one woman decided to stay even after her husband cheated on her, it became headline news and was even on Oprah! (dot com) You can read it here.  You see, I think that most western women give up too easily when it comes to marriage. So this article definitely caught my attention. What held me though, was the verbal abuse that went on in the comments section. She was literally vilified for daring to stay, like she had violated some unwritten code. She was called several things including weak. The general opinion (from about-to-be-divorced and divorced commenters mostly) was that in staying, she was NOT being strong for her children and was enabling abusive behaviour.

OK. I was mystified. In my own opinion, deciding to forgive and remain with a partner who has cheated, in the USA is a VERY strong thing to do.  The society makes it easy to walk out. I mean, it is the only thing to do. You watch it in the movies, read it in novels and magazines…he is not allowed to make that kind of mistake. The decision was made the first time he took the conscious step to cheat.

Now I am not advocating for cheating men (heaven forbid!). I am just saying that a good marriage is not good because it is perfect. It is good because both parties (or maybe even just one party?) put in a whole lot of determination and perseverance liberally sprinkled with forgiveness. So maybe this does not work for everybody and some men are just serial cheaters. There is no need to put yourself through an endless emotional bashing. However, if one person has shown the strength of will and determination to make it work against the odds, and if she is rewarded for that by having a good marriage, she does need to be applauded. There is no need to take out our frustrations on her.

I do not believe all men cheat. Neither do I believe that most people who have good marriages in the western world, have them because no one ‘cheated’. Many people do not talk about the intimate details of their marriages so we really do not know what goes on. I admire this lady, not for ‘staying’ per se – really, it is not a big deal in Nigeria – but for being honest and coming out and letting other women who have decided to make their marriages work know that they are not foolish. There is life at the other side of cheating, and that life can be good.

Conversely, deciding to walk out in Nigeria might be a big deal because the society makes it difficult for a woman to walk out even when she is being abused. I admire a woman who can take her children and walk out of an abusive relationship – anywhere she is situated. It takes a strength of will to do that.

The trick is finding the balance. Do you stay and keep getting physically and emotionally abused or do you walk? Then again, are you willing to fight for what you have or do you walk out at the first sign of trouble? It is a question I really cannot answer honestly, because I have not quite been there. However, I will not presume to judge anyone who has either chosen to stay or to walk. And that is what I think those women-commenters in did. My own two cents! Or kobo, as the case might be.

June 12, 2010

Book Review: Shattered by Frank Pastore

Title: Shattered: Struck Down, But Not Destroyed

Author: Frank Pastore; Ellen Vaughn

Publishers: Tyndale House Publishers

Category: Christian/Autobiographical

ISBN: 978-1-58997-611-5

Shattered is an autobiography or a memoir of Frank Pastore, a former professional baseball pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds. Although it is a coming of age story, in so many ways it is also a great love story. A story of the enduring love between Frank and Gina, a story of how the love of baseball brought a sort of redemption and a greater love story of how the love of Christ can change the identity of a man.

Raised in an abusive home environment, Frank was the awkward geek-child in school. He suffered humiliation from his peers and neglect from his mother. Baseball was more than just a sport, it was the passion which gave him a sense of belonging and an identity. The identity was distorted, but not for long. Through a teacher, his intellect was awakened and his confidence grew. Baseball was a lifeline, bringing many good things to Frank’s life, including Gina.

The book traces Frank’s struggles as he attempts to play baseball and obtain an ivy league education. It details his struggles as a young man with a conflicting sense of self. It also takes us through his elopement with the 16 year old Gina in a way that is both touching and humorous.

With the same touching humour, he recounts getting into the Major Leagues and all that came with it. Frank and Gina were living the American Dream. However, like all dreams, it all ended one day. This book deals with how Frank handled the end of his Major League dreams and how God used that to draw him close. Frank who was an atheist, finally embraced God. But even that came with its own heart break. Putting back the broken pieces of his life took the healing hand of God and it came in a way that was totally unexpected.

Reading this memoir brought a lot of encouragement to me. It made me realise that despite our pig headedness, God still finds a way to work out his beautiful plans for our lives.

I had a bit of a problem with the almost-18 year old Frank kissing a 13 year old Gina; that was just wrong in my mind and it kept popping up as I read through the book. Nevertheless, theirs is a sweet love story.

Tyndale House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book and I enjoyed reading every aspect of it.

June 11, 2010

A Lover Or A What?

No, I do not mean the kissing type (that is the luh-vah); well, there’s that I guess and it has its advantages. But I am talking more about the state of heart which is usually possessed by the Lover. Fact: Not every one who is in love is a lover.

Lovers are those who find it easy to love and to open up their hearts and emotions to the object (or subject, whichever) or their love. They experience things on a higher emotional level and have a deeper connection with the right side of their brain.

Because of this emotional-ness of the lover, it is often thought, fallaciously, that women are generally lovers. I beg to differ. More and more men are getting in touch with their emotions these days and even those who were emotional in private are finally coming out of the closet. Besides, there are cynical women and those who tend to over-rationalize things.

What is the aim of this rambling? My Spiritual Profile. Yep. Two years ago I did a test on a site to find out what my spiritual profile was. According to the test results, I was a Lover. I blogged about it. So I went back again to see if somehow, maybe through a change in environment or a change in weather perhaps, I might have evolved to say, a Thinker? Nope…still a Lover. Which is OK I suppose, as I love being  one. They describe Lovers as

people who naturally connect with the Holy One through their emotions.They feel deeply that no matter what they do or do not do, they are held safely in the embrace of God’s love. They focus on the generosity, mercy, and compassion of God and believe that even when judgment or justice seems called for, God’s response is one of tenderness. They seek to relate with the Holy One through inner reflection. They tend to be more emotional in their prayer and in reading the signs of God’s presence. If they were to meet God face to face, they would want to open themselves completely to God’s intoxicating love and show their love in return.

All these from 10 questions. And they were right, I am an emotional person. True, I try my best to hide that aspect of myself from others (blame it on conditioning) but it is there. I find it hard to pray without crying…God’s love overwhelms me.

But that is just one aspect of the human character. Because I connect with God emotionally, I used to look at people who didn’t and wonder what was wrong with them. I knew rationally, that there is no right or wrong way of connecting with God but because I come from a family of Lovers (who are so emotional about God) I just naturally assumed that was how it was supposed to be.

However, the test reveals some other profiles such as Companions who they said naturally connect with the Holy One through their relationships with others. Or Thinkers who connect with God through the use of their intellect. Thinkers especially, find it hard to relate to God through emotions and affections. There are other profiles like the Mavericks (I like that one), who are not afraid to stand out. Whether they understand their faith or not, they are ready to act it out and take action regardless of the consequences. There are the Believers and the Seekers too.

The test does not seek to stereotype anyone. We are told to think of the questions as the first mark on a canvas, which traces the edges of our spiritual lives and how we relate to God. We are told that

…this quiz also reminds us that we are all works in progress, that portraits begun in black and white come alive when we add color. We need space to change and grow, and ways to help us fill out our lives and move ever closer to the Holy.

Thus, your responses are not simply conclusions, they are beginning points for new discoveries, brilliant adventures and fruitful growth. In answering these 10 Questions, you can both discern more clearly who you are, and discover new avenues for God’s creative spirit to work within you.

So, are you a lover or what? If you are interested, click here to take the test. Me, I am a Lover – Not a fighter.

June 10, 2010

Fighting Fair: The Rules of Engagement

Many people go into marriage (and relationships) expecting it to be conflict free. They have some utopian concept that love is some hazy, rose-coloured affair where both parties live in eternal euphoria. Without a doubt, they wake up sooner or later; sometimes much sooner than later.

Any sort of relationship involves conflict. As long as there are different kinds of people with different opinions and expectations about things, there is bound to be conflict. Now, conflict is not necessarily a bad thing. If it is handled well. Depending on how it is handled, a fight can either tear you apart or bring a closer level of intimacy. In the words of Dr. Phil

How you argue — especially how you end an argument — can determine the long-term success or failure of your relationship.

A primary requirement for any fight is to maintain control. You do not have the license to be childish, abusive or immature. If you have legitimate feelings, you are entitled to give a reasonable voice to those feelings in a constructive way. (That includes not being self-righteous or taking yourself too seriously.)

That is the crux. How well do you manage conflict, especially in your relationship? Do you have rules of engagement? One major thought bear to in mind would be to choose your fights. Not every fight is worth fighting. You might indeed have a legitimate case but you need to be clear about what your goal is when you go into a fight.

Are you fighting just to prove you are right? To score one? Or are you trying to foster understanding by setting clear boundaries and ironing out the relational wrinkles? Keep that at the back of your mind when next you are tempted to start (or participate in) a fight.

If you are in a long term relationship, it might be important to get together and set your rules of engagement. This will help when conflict arises. Below are 10 rules to get you started. They could be more (or less). . .choose what works for you.

1. Listen. Let the other person speak and really listen to what they’re saying.

Listening is not just an art, it is a mandatory skill in any relationship. Yet it is the one skill people often find difficult to implement. It takes a lot to quietly sit and listen to what another person has to say, especially in a conflict situation, and not get defensive. defines being defensive as being excessively concerned with guarding against the real or imagined threat of criticism, injury to one’s ego, or exposure of one’s shortcomings. That can most definitely stand in the way of actual listening.

Recently, I read an article about the different types of non-listeners. The article was written by Darren Hardy, the publisher of Success Magazine, and in describing the characteristics of people who do not listen, this particular description caught my attention:

The Blockheads. They spend the conversation thinking about what to say rather than listening at all. They will scan the conversation, lock onto a point they want to make and shut off hearing you at all so they don’t lose their mental point—making it obvious with their facial expressions and body language that they are impatiently waiting for you to (finally) take a breath or end your (dang) sentence. They then respond, and you realize they didn’t listen to you and missed the point completely.

He also mentioned the Offenders, the Intruders and the Egoists. Find out what sort of listener you are and if you fall into any of these categories, make a decision to really listen.

2. Acknowledge the other person’s hurt.

Sure, you are hurt too. But the other person is probably as (and in some cases much more) hurt than you are. Once you accept the fact that whoever you are in conflict with is also hurting, it becomes a little easier to know that it is the hurt that is speaking and not necessarily that person. We tend to say so many things, some of which we do not mean, when we are hurting.

3. Do not call names

Never, never, call names. As soon as that begins, what could have been a simple, resolvable disagreement quickly spirals out of control and goes downhill.

4. Don’t use abusive language;

Agreed, it might be somewhat difficult to be respectful while in a conflict situation but that is no excuse to use abusive language.

5. Do not walk out.

As much as possible, stay and see the fight to an amicable conclusion. I have heard advocates of the ‘walk out’ technique say it enables them calm down when the situation gets heated. Maybe. However what walking out usually tends to do is a) give you enough time to ruminate and then get madder or b) enable you to successfully suppress the anger, which is not healthy at all as suppressed anger generally has a way of rearing its head in the most unimaginable ways. What that serves to do is prolong the drama. What could probably have been resolved with 5 minutes of talking takes a whole day because one person walked out. When there is a fight, try not to prolong it. Talk it out.

6. Never use something told to you in confidence;

This is very important. The bedrock of any relationship is trust and using against a person, something told in confidence is a violation of that trust. In all relationships: lovers, parent/child, friends, teacher/pupil, the need for emotional security is paramount. You need to know that you can trust this person with your heart and your secrets. When that is absent, the relationship suffers and fights turn ugly.

7. Do not refer to a past fight which has already been settled. Don’t dig up old dirt!

If you keep bringing up issues which have already been resolved, you will not move forward.

8. Take responsibility for your feelings and your actions.

Sure, you cannot help how you feel about something or about what someone has said BUT you need to know that regardless of the catalyst, your feelings are yours and yours alone. You feel because you are alive, not because someone else is alive. Stop blaming others for how you feel or for the anger you feel deep inside. You can do something about it therefore you need to own it!

Instead of saying ‘you made me angry’ or ‘you hurt me’, say ‘I was angry because of ….’ or ‘I felt hurt by …..’. Stop the Blame Game!

9. Do not forget that it takes two to tango – therefore admit to yourself that you are partly responsible for the fight.

If you refuse to participate, there can be no fight. Of course, refusing to give expression to your feelings cannot be healthy either. The goal is to do so in a way that will minimize conflict. There might still be conflict but it does not have to be the bridge-burning type.

10. Have enough courage to apologise.

A lot of people have a problem with this. They know they are wrong and maybe they are even sorry. Saying it is like trying to swallow a huge horse; it just does not go down well. Some people are more comfortable showing that they are sorry, which is fine if you are dealing with someone who understands you. However just saying the words sometimes goes a long way to soothe and to heal a possible breach in the relationship. Try and practise it once in a while. It is not hard, look the person in the face and say I am sorry. And mean it.

If you have any more tips for successful conflict resolution in relationships, please leave a comment. I would love to hear from you.

This was originally posted on this blog on May 27th, 2008 as Tuesday Tips: How to Fight Fair. This is a re-worked version.
June 8, 2010

My Green Soul

Developing a Green Soul

I deeply believe that deep down in me somewhere, lives a gardener with a green thumb. Many things might account for this belief one of them being the fact that I was brought up under the shadow of a very green thumb; my mum grew everything from Cauliflower to Okra and we ate most of our veggies from her little garden. Of course this is Africa we are talking about and almost everyone’s mother (or Grandmother) had a little farm/garden.

That leads me to the second reason; I am African. I should at least know how to plant corn. Right? Wrong. Though I had a farm of about 6 ridges in which I planted corn and groundnuts when I was about 8 years old. But I digress. The question is why I thought I might have green fingers. Sure I love flowers and plants in general, but does that make one a gardener? Apparently not.

The Experiment

Nevertheless, I have entertained this head trip that I might be a green soul, if there is such a term. The first plant I tried my hands on when I came to Malaysia was the Lucky Bamboo. I have always loved that plant; the way it twists and turns and combines the hardness and solidness of the stalk with the softer more flimsy (yet substantial) elegance of the leaves – kind or like a marriage.

Anyway, after three months the plant seemed to flourish under my inexpert care which consisted primarily of dumping water in the container every other day or so. Encouraged, I ventured into the vast unknown and bought more plants; two Bachelors Buttons, an Evergreen (which we knew as a Christmas tree, growing up) and another plant which name I cannot quite remember.

Not-so-Lucky Bamboo

The first two days, I almost lost the plant with the forgotten name. This was because I had forgotten to replant it so it just sat, miserably in my sitting room. When I noticed the sadly drooping leaves (actually my mum who was visiting at the time was the one who noticed), I was finally spurred to replant the whole lot of them. The Bachelors Buttons flowered once to let me know how they can look then refused to flower again, until this morning. The Lucky Bamboo however, has not been so lucky. It is dying. I think from lack of light – at least we learned photosynthesis in school. This is really sad because the Lucky Bamboo plant is said to be almost impossible to kill.

I guess more than the water dumping, this plant (like every other plant) needs the warmth of the sun to flourish. I suppose love might be the same way.

Love and Nurture

I am doing the Love Dares and it focuses mainly on unconditional love, that is loving the other person whether or not you are loved in return. I definitely subscribe to that because it is what Jesus showed us by going to the Cross. But it is an unnatural state.

If I were asked the colour of love, I guess I would say green. Green is the colour of life and what is life without love? Like every living thing, love needs constant care and nourishment. Loves thrives where its needs are being met, where it is being watered. But more than that, love does best in the warmth of appreciation and care. Love taken for granted does not do well.

Like a plant, you do not get to a point where you can say Alright. I have cared for you for so and so years, it is now time for me to relax. You need to keep nourishing. Remember to say ‘thank you, I appreciate you.’ Do not forget to also say ‘I love you.’ These are the things that keep love going. And just as plants respond to touch, so also does love. That personal touch, the devotion to doing what is best for the loved one, is what in my opinion, makes a soul green.

Despite the yellowing Lucky Bamboo (which by the way is not even a bamboo at all), I am not giving up. I sincerely believe that somewhere in my green soul, resides a green thumb.

June 7, 2010

Making it Work at Home

I received the magazine of the Association of Work at Home Women (AWHW); Making It Work At Home a few days ago and I have read it cover-to-cover several times already. Although it is just 32 pages, it is 32 pages of rich content.

Living in a foreign country in which I am not allowed to take a job, I have had to be creative about earning an income. I decided to work at home. In pursuing advice and coaching from a distance (especially as I do not have the means to invest in coaching ), I have browsed many sources on the internet ranging from blogs to websites to ebooks. Some have been useful. Others not so useful. The AWHW magazine definitely falls into the former category.

It covers a wide range of topics for work at home women such as time management, using social networking to promote your business, and useful online materials. The whole magazine is written by women who are actually making it work at home; it is all first hand experience. And there is a wealth of experience between the covers of this magazine.

The only down part is that this is published in America and I live in Malaysia. How do I get further copies? This maiden copy was provided free by AWHW as a review copy. I am grateful to have this resource in my hands. For that is what it is, a resource I will be referring to over and over for a long while.

For more information, visit the AWHW site.