Fiona Grayson ~ Guest blogger from The Community of WE (@TCofWE)

My first guest blogger of the year is Fiona Grayson, a writer who lives in Brisbane, Australia. It’s also Fiona’s first time as a guest blogger, so be sure to say “Hi!” to her.

I had the pleasure of being interviewed on her blog last year. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, you can find it here.

Fiona has an interesting story to tell about her journey into the blogging life, and I’m happy to have her share it with you.

I can never meet enough interesting women, and Fiona’s personal story is one I think you will enjoy.

Please welcome her to my blog.

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Who is Fiona Grayson?

I was pleasantly surprised when Eden graciously accepted my invitation to feature on my site as an inspiration to other women, sharing her amazing story, entitled “Banker turned Author Extraordinaire”, which you can read hereEden’s story is truly inspiring and authentic, I love her frankness and wit.

So, because I’m not really a writer (am working on that), I will share a bit about my life and why I blog …

I started blogging early 2016 about manifesting dreams. I went on to develop a site that focuses on everyday women (real women, real stories), who have successfully followed and achieved their goals and dreams.

baby fiona grayson

I’m the eldest of four with three younger brothers.  I grew up all over Brisbane, in Queensland, Australia. I’ve lived in almost every south-side suburb of Brisbane (Australia) through to living in the bush (not literally). We actually lived in houses, not trees. My parents were restless people, moving every couple of years, which meant I changed schools a lot.

My youngest memories are from when I turned three, I received a pink teddy bear from my uncle for my third birthday. I remember we lived in a dead end street that backed onto a forest. I used to spend hours exploring the forest. I remember dad had bought me some real live bunny rabbits for pets, which I suspect now, were for cooking rabbit stew. I woke up one day to find they were gone, apparently taken by a fox, or so dad said. Dad also told us that sultanas are really rabbit’s poo!!!

Dad was always making up stories like that. It never stopped me from eating sultanas though (laughing). I should have been born a boy, given I liked playing with mud, playing “cow-boys and itchy bums (indians)” with the neighbourhood boys, and apparently as a baby eating my own ‘you know what’ as well as rabbits poo. I was such a gross tomboy.

fiona girl

Whenever I made a close friend, the family would up and move to a completely different end of town. For a few months, we would write letters to each other. My friend would then become a “pen-pal”, as mum called it back then. With each move I often felt lost and lonely, however, as I grew older, I got more and more used to change and began to view it as an adventure. Change for me became exciting (sometimes unsettling), but it only ever took a couple of days to adjust and adapt.

For me, change always means opportunity – When one door closes, another door opens”, that kind of thing.

Fast forward to thirteen, working at various different jobs after school. My first full-time job was working in a Real Estate office as a “Receptionist/Office assistant”. From there I worked at Kmart in the toys/confectionary section and various office jobs after that, until I decided to get into sales with the intention of earning more. I was pretty ambitious and had always wanted to become an entrepreneur or at least earn more than my parents.

My childhood was a roller-coaster ride of domestic violence, involving emotional, sexual and physical abuse. As you can imagine, stress and depression ruled my life. I understood why people committed suicide, however, that was never something I could possibly imagine doing.

I ended up marrying twice, experiencing varying degrees of domestic violence (however, I do have an absolutely wonderful son, which is what kept me going). That just goes to show how childhood experiences impact adult-hood. I am such a slow learner, dohhh!!!

fiona and son

From those experiences, I have become the strong, independent woman I am today. I think that adversity builds empathy, strength and determination. I survived and thrived because I had a best friend who was my rock, and because I became more self-aware, constantly questioning what I was doing, thinking and saying to the point that I finally realised, that thoughts and words attract more of what you say and think into your life. A self-fulfilling prophecy you might say.

The other thing I constantly reminded myself of, was, that there is always someone else worse off than you, that there are women and children living in war torn countries, and if they can survive, so can I. It is very sobering.brisbane, australia

These days my life is pretty freaking amazing, and I am so grateful that I live in this wonderful country where, if you really want to achieve anything, you can if you want it bad enough.

It might not sound like it, but I don’t dwell in the past, I continually focus on the here, the now and how FABULOUS my life is now. Marrying twice, I learned a lot about relationships, particularly the relationship with myself. I have learned that you have to love and honour yourself, be confident (or, fake it until you make it) and accept who you are. That means embracing and accepting the good, the bad and the ugly bits of yourself. Once you do that, your relationships with everyone (friends, family, work associates, acquaintances) are more authentic and happier, or at least mine are.

fiona colourful dress 2

My friends describe me as a positivity junky, vivacious, energetic ever-ready bunny, creative, driven, successful and a bit of a dreamer who “chases butterflies”. Yep, that’s me.

I’ve had a couple of businesses (spanning a period of 9 years – in promotional merchandise and beauty therapy). I’ll give anything a go. I tried, unsuccessfully to launch a mythological range of sterling silver charms. Clearly I was the only person interested in mythology and charms at the time.

I currently work full-time in the property space in state government – which is extremely interesting and diverse. It suits my inquisitive personality particularly because I love learning. I’m a bit of a sponge and working in property helps me understand and source potential future investment opportunities.

fiona colourful dress 1

I’m currently building an investment portfolio of properties, with the view of creating a comfortable lifestyle for myself for when I retire. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you should never rely on a man to look after you financially. You can never know if a relationship is forever, so always take care of your own financial future. No-one else will. My man supports that theory he’s a realist), although, he believes we will be together forever… such a sweety. Should the passage of time reveal that we are still together in old age, it just means we will have more as a couple. He definitely has more than me, so I figure I have the better end of the stick. That’s a win-win I say.

I love surprises, cute fluffy dogs – particularly the little white fluffy cavoodles, poodles or anything with an ‘oodle’ in it. From the age of four or five I discovered and fell in love with music and dancing and did ballet and jazz. As a grown up, I dabbled in a number of dance styles – ballroom, Latin, jazz and modern jive. I did really well with modern jive, coming third nationally in two categories (WOO WOO!).

riding
I’m adventurous, a bit of a nut-bag, I love meeting new people, trying new foods, cooking, travel and am a bit of an adrenalin junkie – I love the hairiest scariest theme park rides especially the ones at the annual exhibition. I ride a Kawasaki 390 Duke motorbike, grew up with horses, learned to water-ski, have jumped out of a perfectly safe aeroplane with a hunk strapped to my back (sky-diving). I love entertaining – hosting dinner parties, mountain bike riding, yoga, meditation, power walking, writing and food. You name it, I’ve probably tried it – I love keeping busy, challenging myself mentally and physically. I’m a bit of a daredevil, however, now that I’m getting older – I have a lot more self-preservation now-a-days.

Chocolate is my kryptonite!

I have been with my wonderful partner (Bruce) since 3 December 2006. He is my rock, my lover, best friend and mentor (although sometimes he makes me mental. ) 🙂

fiona horsebackMy life is FANTASTIC these days, especially since I manifested my man into my life. I have discovered the key to manifesting and I am continually manifesting more AMAZING things in my life!

So based on my life experiences, I developed a site I call The Community of WE (WE stands for ‘Women Evolved”), to assist women to become manifesters of dreams – read how I manifested my man into my lifeinspiring women to become Go-Getters, empowering them to reach and achieve whatever their hearts desire.

fiona grayson on bike

Telling your story is self-empowering, makes you realise how far you’ve come in life and what you’ve achieved so far. This, I believe, is very powerful, as well as inspirational. Reading stories has the potential to brighten someone’s day, discover new skills and ideas and motivate you to “GO FOR IT”.

Find out the 5 Mantras that Changed my Life.

When women feel valued and empowered, women can achieve amazing things for themselves, their families and communities”

Yeah babes, now that’s what I’m talking about!

Enough about me.

Thanks heaps Eden, for having me as your guest, I really appreciate it.

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You’re most welcome, Fiona! Thank you for sharing your story. Readers, feel free to connect with Fiona at her links below.

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Connect with Fiona

fiona g head shot

Website | Twitter @TCofWE | Facebook 

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Music Monday heats up with Sam Cooke

Continuing on my theme of songs that keep me warm, here’s one that also leads us into an historic week.

By this Friday, the USA will have a new president.

The president elect has been heating up Twitter and the news for months now.

The lyrics of this song by Sam Cooke allude to all the things the singer knows little about, and yet, thankfully, he does know about love.

My wish for the new president is he realizes what he does not know and takes the time to learn it.

We don’t have a perfect world because it’s made up of imperfect people. What we do have, however, is a wondrous place, and we must live in it together.

Please spread love and compassion for your fellow human beings, and let’s try our best to make this a wonderful world,

eden

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Music Monday heats up with @RealMeatLoaf

I tried hard to find a song about the cold, ice or snow. Basically, anything that could be associated with winter.

Though these songs do exist, I wasn’t in the mood for chilly tunes. Instead, I’m thinking about warmth and sun. For this reason, I’ll feature hot-themed songs until the weather warms up again. The connections may be convoluted, but then … so is my thought process of late.

In that vein, enjoy “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” from Meat Loaf. It’s from his Bat Out of Hell album, and hell is hot, right? 😉

If you’re a Meat Loaf fan, he released a new album a few months ago called Braver Than We Are, available now.

Stay warm and have a great week,

eden

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Music Monday flows with @The_xx

Happy New Year! Thanks so much for joining me for my first post of 2017.

If you don’t know by now, Mondays on my blog are reserved for music because music inspires so much of what I do. I’ve been featuring both old and new songs here since 2010, and it all started with this little post. I laughed when I read it again; it was long ago when I first started my blog. At the time, a regular music post seemed the perfect way to kick off the week. It still does.

Music has always been a constant in my life, so I hope you will continue to join me every Monday.

For 2017, I’m starting with an English band I first heard last summer.

The xx is a trio who’ve been around since 2005. They are releasing their third studio album in a couple of weeks, but this track, aptly called “Intro” came off their debut album.

I first heard “Intro” while in a hot yoga class with one of my favourite teachers, Erick.

I recall sweat dripping off my forehead as I held a painful plank pose. More than likely, I was cursing Erick under my breath too.

Then this song came on, and herein lies the power of music for me.

Suddenly, my energy changed. I forgot the pressure on my wrists and the trembling in my core. The first notes of this tune injected power into my arms and I lifted my sagging middle just a little bit higher.

Instead of being in agony, I was now Superwoman, (well, not really), but I knew I could hold that pose much longer than I had initially thought.

Have a listen to The xx, and let me know if you don’t feel a spring in your step afterward. 🙂 Crank it up!

Enjoy, and hope you have an energetic, super-charged, and powerful week,

~eden

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Merry Hanukkamas and Happy Christnukkah!

Hanukkah and Christmas overlap this year, and they won’t again until 2027, so let’s celebrate all that unites us.

 

I wish for you and your families a Merry Hanukkamas and a Happy Christnukkah!

 

merry christmas 2016

hanukkah 2016

 

 

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Music Monday honors Bob Dylan ~ Subterranean Homesick Blues

It’s the second last Monday of the year, and my final music post of 2016. Bob Dylan concludes it with “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”

In addition to his influence on music, this song was one of the first “modern” promotional film clips, long before the rise of MTV. The original clip was the opening segment of the film Don’t Look Back, a documentary on Dylan’s 1965 tour of England. In the film, Dylan, who came up with the idea, holds up cue cards with selected words and phrases from the lyrics.

The cue cards were written by Donovan, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Neuwirth and Dylan himself.

In 2004, Dylan said the song was taken from Chuck Berry, a bit of ‘Too Much Monkey Business” and some of the scat songs of the forties.

Dylan has also stated he fell under the influence of the Beat scene, and it was Jack Kerouac’s The Subterraneans, a novel published in 1958 about the Beats, that may have been the inspiration for the song’s title.

Great song and video. Wishing you a stress-free week as we head into Christmas and Hannukah. 😉

~eden

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New Release by #suspense author @JasonCMcintyre ~ DEATHBED

Recently, I had the pleasure of video-chatting with fellow Canadian, suspense author, and all-around great guy, Jason McIntyre.

Even though I’ve known Jason since 2011, this was the first time we spoke to one another.

Amongst other things, our conversation touched on writing, politics, and family. It was both fun and informative.

Two hours flew by!

Jason has appeared on my blog many times, and it’s always an honour to share good news about his writing.

He’s written another book in his Dovetail Cove series called DEATHBED, and it’s releasing TODAY! 

dovetail cove series

The beauty of Jason’s series is that his books are standalone and can be read independently. Each one comes with its own unique set of characters and do not have to be read in chronological order.

Having said this, if you are planning to get into the series, NOW is the time to do it!  

DEATHBED goes back to the very beginning in the Dovetail Cove saga.

Jason’s books are addictive, and there is no time like the present to get hooked. I’ve ordered my copy, and so should you.

Please help me in congratulating Jason on his latest book!

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death bed

Buy links: Amazon US | Smashwords | Apple

 

The Dovetail Cove saga begins here—in July, 1971. Farrah’s on summer break and she’s sure to tell you she’s NOT twelve, she’s TWELVE-AND-A-HALF, thank you very much. The tiny island-town of Dovetail Cove is the only home she’s known. And tonight, she’s sneaking out to visit her Gran and show her a ‘mystery box’ she’s stumbled across at the Main Street Summer Market, dead certain there’s a story hidden within. And she’s right. Events reach back to 1956 and a shadowy ‘incident’ that started the darkness on the island. Only a handful know the true details of the incident. And even fewer have witnessed this new darkness, but Farrah will catch a glimpse of it tonight…at the edge of her Gran’s DEATHBED.

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Connect to Jason

jason c mcintyre

Website | Twitter @jasoncmcintyre | Facebook | Goodreads

JASON MCINTYRE is the #1 Kindle Suspense author of THE NIGHT WALK MEN, bestsellers ON THE GATHERING STORM and SHED, plus the multi-layered literary suspense THALO BLUE. His short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and won several awards.

His current release is the full-length follow-up novel to THE NIGHT WALK MEN called THE DEVIL’S RIGHT HAND, available now.

Learn more and connect with the author at http://www.theFarthestReaches.com

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Music Monday honors Bob Dylan ~ A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall sung by Patti Smith

This past Saturday, Nobel laureates gathered on a stage in Stockholm to receive their awards. Bob Dylan, who won the prize for literature was absent. During the awards ceremony, singer Patti Smith performed Dylan’s song ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ in his place.

At one point during the performance, Smith falters, apologizes, and says she is nervous. The audience applauds and she continues.

Her humility shows her for the class act that she is. She is human and imperfect. Her rendition of the song is wrought with emotion, and for me, that is much more important than perfection.

Enjoy, and I hope your week is a great one,

~eden

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Music Monday honors Bob Dylan ~ I Want You

I’m continuing with Bob Dylan for the rest of 2016, and unlike the previous two weeks, I’ve chosen a different type of song. It’s neither political commentary nor an anthem of change.

Don’t get me wrong. This is Dylan. It’s still a complex song.

“I Want You” is lyrically rich, though I’ll admit I only ever remember the happy melody and repetitively longing chorus.

“… I want you, I want you
Yes, I want you so bad
Honey, I want you …”

These words take up space in my brain over the more intricate lines in the song. They stir me because of their passionate simplicity, as if to say: “Nothing else matters, and I’d give up everything to be with you.”

It’s madness, and yet, who would not want to hear these words spoken to them?

It’s coming to the end of the year, and it’s not been an easy one for many of us. Maybe it’s best to let rationality slip away for a while, if only for the time it takes to listen to this song.

Enjoy your week,

~eden

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Music Monday honors Bob Dylan ~ Things Have Changed

Following up on the same theme with Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin'” from last week, we move to this song, released in 2000.

“Things Have Changed” hailed from the soundtrack for Wonder Boys. It won the Academy Award and the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.

It’s another fitting song for the times. Here is the last verse.

” …  I hurt easy, I just don’t show it
You can hurt someone and not even know it
The next sixty seconds could be like an eternity
Gonna get lowdown, gonna fly high
All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie
I’m love with a woman who don’t even appeal to me

Mr. Jinx and Miss Lucy, they jumped in the lake
I’m not that eager to make a mistake

People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed.”

Have a good week,

~eden

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Music Monday honors Bob Dylan ~ The Times They Are A-Changin’

Since 1901, the Swedish Academy has annually awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in memory of donor, Alfred Nobel.

On October 13th, it honored Bob Dylan as its latest recipient. The last time an American received the prize was in 1993 with Toni Morrison.

The Academy cited Dylan’s work as “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

I have mixed feelings about his victory.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Bob Dylan is brilliant. I value his contributions to music, culture, poetry, and I love many of his songs. I would not dare downplay his talent.

No, my thoughts have to do with whether he should be given a prize that has been traditionally awarded to a writer of fiction and non-fiction.

It hardly seems like a level playing field to measure the song lyric against prose.

Prose presents itself naked on a page while the lyric is dressed up with voice or instrumentation or both.

As an author who struggles to create with only words, I know how difficult it is to produce a story, poem, or novel, and I empathize with writers because of this.

Bob Dylan is an incredible songwriter—perhaps the best, but is he a writer of literature? I don’t believe so.

Regardless, I want to honor him and his music over the coming weeks, for the simple reason that his songs remain as relevant today as they were when he first wrote them. That is an amazing feat when you consider they span a career of more than fifty years.

I was surprised to discover that after writing nearly 300 music posts, I’ve blogged Bob Dylan only three times, and just once on his own with “Blowin’ in the Wind” as part of my Harmonica series.

The other two times were in a group with “My Back Pages” and “End of the Line” with the Traveling Wilburys.

In light of the recent American election results, this classic of Dylan’s is once again, prophetic of changing times.

Here we see him performing for President Obama at the White House (Feb. 2010) in celebration of music from the Civil Rights Movement.

Is it me, or do you feel a twinge of irony in this?

Wishing all a peaceful week,

~ eden

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Music Mondays remembers Leonard Cohen

leonard cohen 2

I started my Music(al) Mondays segment November 2010, and Leonard Cohen was the second blog in the series. It’s with great sadness that he is no longer with us.

Here’s a wonderful quote from him: (on his writing process).

“Well, I’ve never been intimidated by form … What we call a novel, that is, a book of prose where there are characters and developments and changes and situations, that’s always attracted me, because in a sense it is the heavyweight arena. I like it — it frightens me, from that point of view — because of the regime that is involved in novel-writing. I can’t be on the move, it needs a desk, it needs a room and a typewriter, a regime. And I like that very much.” 

Cohen had an innate love of the English language, and it’s revealed in every interview I’ve ever read of him. He was thoughtful in how he chose his words and phrased his responses. His economy of words was what made him both poetic and interesting.

The inspiration I took from him almost six years ago lives on.

It’s time for me to get writing, but not before I leave you with one of Leonard Cohen’s songs.

“Tower of Song” is both funny and self-depreciating. The song jokes about his voice (“I was born like this / I had no choice / I was born with the gift of a golden voice”). He ranks his songwriting skills “a hundred floors” below those of Hank Williams, and admits to the ravages of time with the line “I ache in the places where I used to play.”

Rest in peace, dear sweet man. May you forever sing to us from your tower of song.

Looking forward to a better week,

eden

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Toning my Mind, Body, and Time Travel (Part 2) #Bali #Ubud

Welcome to the fourth instalment of my Mind Body Series. If you missed the first three, you can start reading here. The series is about my efforts to unite mind, body, and spirit to inspire my writing.

I started writing this blog while in Indonesia. I have since returned home. What an amazing trip!

Here are some final thoughts on my time in Ubud, which encompasses changes I encountered in Bali from the last time I was there in 1988.

Postcards—The Internet of the Past

The Internet was in its infancy when I was traveling around Asia almost thirty years ago. For all intents and purposes, it didn’t exist. To stay in touch, one of the first things I did when I arrived at a new destination was pick up a stack of postcards and spend a couple of hours writing them. The process helped me acclimatize to my surroundings and lay down thoughts on my travels while planning next steps. I had a list of about twenty people to write, including family, friends, and acquaintances I had met along the way.

Writing postcards was not just a responsible travel ritual.

I did not pen: “Hi, I’m here in XYZ city. Alive and well!” on all my cards. No, each one was personalized.

Even though it was one-way communication, postcards helped me maintain friendships and forge new ones.

bali postcard

In my two years away, I must have sent close to 200 postcards. My only regret was that I didn’t send one to myself each time I posted them. Along with my photographs, they would’ve added another dimension to my scrapbook.

Fast forward to this trip and I can hardly remember when the Internet did not exist.

En route to Ubud, I connected with loved ones at each juncture—each time I landed at a different airport until arrival at my final destination. Media platforms like Facebook and Twitter made it easy. I no longer had to write a note to each person. I could provide an update of my whereabouts and what I was doing en masse.

It was quick and easy, but it did not have the personal investment of postcards. As much as I love the Internet and its ability for near instant communication, it lacks for something. Perhaps I’m a romantic. I still like writing letters and cards on occasion.

Even now, postcards are available if I want to buy and send them, but the process seems like more effort than it’s worth. For a short trip, coupled with slow postal service, postcards probably won’t make it to the addressee until I’m already home.

For most people (and me included) *sigh*, the Internet has replaced postcards as the touchpoint along one’s journey.

Hostels and Hotels

Hostels were a great place to meet other travelers especially when backpacking on my own. I never felt like I was alone and the normally small facilities meant I would make friends, usually over breakfast or while using shared facilities.

This type of accommodation was perfect for a twenty-something on a budget. I don’t remember exactly where I stayed in Ubud so long ago, but it couldn’t have been more than $4 a night.

This go-round, I didn’t exactly stay at the Ritz, but it was luxury by comparison. I had a large room, king-sized bed, and a washroom I didn’t have to share with anyone! Breakfast was included as was a pool, and housekeeping was excellent. Space and privacy was what I valued during my stay at Gana Restaurant and Villa.

If you’re thinking of going to Ubud, consider booking Gana, located centrally and within walking distance to many attractions. The best way to book is via Anita’s Airbnb Listings. She has multiple places listed with different price points.

gana staff 2

The friendly and helpful staff at Gana!

Monkeys—Then and Now

Below are pictures of me in the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary back in ’88.

bali me and monkey 1 I was feeding peanuts to the Balinese long-tailed macaques and recall them being quite timid. They didn’t mind sitting with me for a while before scampering off.
bali_monkey-2

For this trip, I brought with me a a bag of unshelled peanuts again. Unfortunately, visitors to the forest can no longer feed the monkeys certain foods—peanuts being one of them. The caretakers maintain a strict diet with the monkeys, which consists of sweet potato, bananas, coconut and other fruit. It’s understandable for the continued health of the monkeys.

monkey forest sign

Instead of feeding them nuts, I gave them bananas purchased inside the Forest. Several monkeys approached and snatched the fruit immediately. They were no longer willing to sit and have a chat. 😉

monkey forest 3

There are now more than 600 monkeys living in the area. This has more than doubled since I was last there. Along with the population growth, the monkeys now seem more brazen. I can’t help but think it’s due to the continued interaction with tourists.

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One of the guidelines states: Do not make eye contact with the monkeys. They see this as a sign of aggression.

And yes, there are stories of how monkeys bite, scratch, and jump on tourists.

The amount of interaction between humans and monkeys did seem too intimate at times. I saw tourists posing with monkeys using their selfie sticks, the monkeys on their heads and shoulders. I was only too happy to observe from afar.

monkey-forest-roots

A photo opportunity with a monkey did not interest me, as I wanted my presence to be as non intrusive as possible.

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Along with monkeys, there are 115 separate species of trees and three temples inside the Forest. With its moss-covered statues and hanging tree roots, the Forest is an amazing place to walk through.

monkey forest temple

Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal or the “Main Temple,” built around 1350

Toilets, Toilet Paper and Why the Hose? 

When I was first in Indonesia, I was terribly naive about many things. The first time I walked into a public toilet, I was shocked to find nothing more than a hole in the ground. No toilet paper.

Luckily for me, I always traveled with a small packet of tissues, so I was able to take care of myself that time. Later, I learned the lay of the land as far as toilets were concerned.

If you’re squeamish about bodily functions, this is a warning not to read further.

In Asia, travelers spoke incessantly of their bowel movements. Whether you were constipated or had diarrhea was a topic of conversation at breakfast. I quickly got over my shyness around the subject, and to this day, I have no issue talking about poo to anyone at anytime. (Not that too many of my friends want to talk about this anyway!).

There are several iterations of the Indonesian toilet. In the one I first experienced, a ceramic basin filled with water and a bucket stood next to the toilet. The idea was to use the bucket to scoop water from the basin and clean yourself—with your left hand only. (I’ll talk about this distinction of hands shortly). You would also use the water to flush contents down the bowl.

Below is a pretty fancy version of these toilets. The one I remember was simply a hole with no decorative ceramic tile. I’m not sure why the water is brown in this picture, but it should be clean water from the spigot.

squat toilet

With regards to cleaning yourself with your left hand only, I learned this when I was introduced to an Indonesian man and extended my left hand in greeting. He was polite but did not shake my hand.

As the left hand is used for cleaning yourself, you would never touch a stranger with it. Also, Indonesians eat traditional meals with their hands, and only the right hand is used to pick up food.

On this trip, my hotel had a Western-style toilet along with a handheld hose—a bidet, if you will. I saw more and more of these bidet hoses in public restrooms.

toilet with hose The hose is attached to the seat and activated by a button or knob, or in some toilets, it is mounted to the wall. In any case, it’s a step up from using the bucket. The idea is simple: After you finish your business, you would hose yourself while sitting on the toilet. Because I had good water pressure at my hotel, I didn’t need to clean myself with my hand.

The hotel also provided toilet paper, which I used sparingly to dab myself dry after applying the hose. A full roll of paper is only about a quarter of what you would get in the West.

Toilet paper is expensive, and the sewer system is not equipped for flushing copious amounts of it.

It takes some adjustment and coordination, but I like the idea of cleaning with water. It’s much more hygienic than just using toilet paper.

Food and Drink

I LOVE Indonesian food.

I had opportunity to eat at some fantastic warungs this trip. These small, family-owned businesses serve traditional food, and are usually housed in modest dwellings, though some can be quite large.

trad-food The food is normally a simple combination of rice, meat or fish, and a vegetable. Along with a drink and shrimp chips, you can have a filling meal for less than $3.00.

trad-food-2

What makes the meals delicious are the spices, usually a combination of chilli, turmeric, garlic, and ginger. Curries are also a big part of Indonesian cuisine.

curry

On one of my last days in Ubud, I was invited to a friend’s birthday party with many other women. It was a veritable feast that lasted over three hours. Thank you Ednawati!

I tried a shaved ice dessert made with fruit, grass jelly, and sweet and condensed milk called Es Campur.

me holding es campur

I never thought I would be able to eat the entire bowl, but I did. It was so delicious! I couldn’t finish the birthday cake though, but it was also very good.

dessert-and-drinkYoung coconuts were abundant, and since it’s a super food, I could not get enough of them. The juice from one coconut filled me for hours.

coconuts

Wine is expensive in Indonesia, given it is imported and there isn’t much variety. I’m also not much of a beer drinker. As such, I drank hot tea most days, particularly green tea, which I am addicted to! I found an amazing brand of it at Kakiang Bakery near my hotel and bought three bags to take home.

Now I have to find out how to replenish my supply once it’s finished! green-tea

On this trip, I tried something I’ve never had before—Kopi Luwak coffee. If you are unfamiliar with this coffee, it is the most expensive coffee in the world.

Why? The unusual production process.

The coffee beans (which are actually seeds) are digested by the Indonesian cat-like animal called the civet cat (known as luwaks in Indonesia). The feces of the cat/luwak are collected by farmers, processed, and then sold as Kopi Luwak.

Cat poo coffee.

civet-coffee

I told you I had no qualms talking about poo. Heh.

So, did I like it?

To frame my response, remember I’m a lover of green tea. I’ve also been off coffee for several months, so my taste for it is not discerning, by any stretch.

I drank the Kopi Luwak black, which is what you’re supposed to do in order to experience the unique flavour.

Truth is … I didn’t hate it, but that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement!

kopi luwak

Kopi Luwak is very rich, as you can see from the residue around the cup.

I tried not to disturb the coffee as I drank it, but once I got near the bottom, it became too thick to continue.

My best analysis of the flavour is it’s a blend of dark chocolate and dark coffee with a smooth, nutty aftertaste. Given I usually take my coffee with a bit of cream, I expected it to be bitter. Surprisingly, it wasn’t bitter at all.

My recommendation is you try it once and make up your own mind. Indonesia is certainly the place to do it.

Travel with Purpose

When I traveled to Bali and Asia in the late eighties, the purpose was to explore the world. With an open ticket and no set timeline, I started in Hong Kong and meandered from there. I had a simple formula—when my funds ran out, I would return home.

Indonesia was not on my radar when I started my journey, but it manifested as I met other travelers along the way.

bali_Goa Gajah

Goa Gajah, 1988

The only purpose of that trip was to expand my realm of experience and my mind. The power of travel helped mould me into the person I am today.

festival banner

On this trip, I planned my stay around the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. The festival saw numerous speakers come together for a five-day event to discuss writing, books, and issues affecting the world today.

open-dance-for-fest

The festival began with a traditional Balinese welcome dance.

The theme – Tat Tvam Asi: ‘I am you, you are me’ – created a strong focus for the conversations.

eden at the festival

One of the most entertaining speakers I met was Delhi-based author, Mayank Austen Soofi. (You have to love a man who chooses his middle name after his favorite author!).

He writes a popular blog called The Delhi Walla. I attended a couple of his panels, one in which he shared the stage with three other authors.

His approach was decidedly different from the others.

How so?

He didn’t try to sell his books by obnoxiously mentioning them while answering questions from the moderator.

Indie authors like myself who do it all, including promote our work will understand why this is so important. Nobody wants to listen to someone who screams: “Buy my book!” at every turn. In the age of social media, over-selling is easy to do, but it won’t work. Seasoned authors know that selling a book does not mean flogging it to death.

Mr. Soofi’s responses, infused with enthusiasm, warmth, and wit sold his book.

nobody can love you moreFor this reason, I feel fortunate to have received a copy of Mr. Soofi’s book, Nobody Can Love You More. It is an account in words and photographs of life in Delhi’s red light district. He was gracious enough to sign the book for me, and I look forward to reading it.

mayank sign book

Writing, yoga, and sightseeing made up the other days of my stay in Ubud. Instead of telling you about it, I’ve attached a slideshow. You will see for yourself why Ubud, Bali is one of the most magical places on earth.

Thank you for reading. Now that I’ve returned from Bali, my Mind Body Series will tackle other areas of my life. I hope you continue to join me as I explore this curious time in my life.

~eden

Approximately 30 pictures

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

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Music Monday flows with Billy Joel

I’m back from Ubud, Bali. It was a wonderful trip and went by too quickly.

I felt very much at home there.

Yet, now that I’m back in Toronto, this song, “You’re My Home” reminds me that home is not a place, but where my heart belongs.

“When you look into my eyes
And you see the crazy gypsy in my soul
It always comes as a surprise
When I feel my withered roots begin to grow
Well I never had a place that I could call my very own
That’s all right, my love, ’cause you’re my home

When you touch my weary head
And you tell me everything will be all right
You say, “Use my body for your bed
And my love will keep you warm throughout the night”
Well I’ll never be a stranger and I’ll never be alone
Whenever we’re together, that’s my home

Home can be the Pennsylvania Turnpike
Indiana’s early morning dew
High up in the hills of California
Home is just another word for you

Well I never had a place that I could call my very own
That’s all right, my love, ’cause you’re my home

If I travel all my life
And I never get to stop and settle down
Long as I have you by my side
There’s a roof above and good walls all around
You’re my castle, you’re my cabin and my instant pleasure dome
I need you in my house ’cause you’re my home.
You’re my home.

If I travel all my life
And I never get to stop and settle down
Long as I have you by my side
There’s a roof above and good walls all around
You’re my castle, you’re my cabin and my instant pleasure dome
I need you in my house ’cause you’re my home.
You’re my home.”

Enjoy an oldie by Billy Joel and have a great week,

~eden

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Pieces of You in Ubud #poem #Bali

A poem for my husband on the occasion of his birthday.

* * *

John,

Thank you for being who you are, for granting me precious time and space … for Ubud.

In return, this is my gift to you,

eden
xox

* * *

Pieces of You in Ubud

 

I walk the streets of Ubud and discover pieces of you
In the cracks of broken tile pavements
Across ill-fitting, metal sewer grates
Your spirit rises to greet me like incense to the gods

Faded signs of cafés and hotels line a main road
Veering toward alleyways filled with unknown treasures
You pull me close for a moment or two
To breathe in the wonder of a new day

Appeasing and pleasing gods and demons
Begins a daily ritual in Bali
Devotional gifts of flower petals and frangipani
Adorn sidewalks, shrines, and statues

You walk with me in harmony
Careful not to step on the canangs
The day is young and the hustle has just begun
You hypnotize at every turn

 

I meander the streets of Ubud and find traces of you
In statues wrapped with black and white checkered cloth
In the sweet fragrance of incense permeating the air
You guide me through narrow walkways hand in hand

I sidestep a dog that is too hot or too tired to move
Or maybe he is just claiming his space
You escort me to the edge of shattered crossroads
Where I look right, then left, then right again

A rumble quickly escalates to a roar
In the tangle of vehicles that defines Ubud traffic
A chaotic racetrack unfurls from around the bend
Unleashing a blur of motorbikes and vans

“Wait …” you whisper in a cautionary voice
I feel the squeeze of your hand as you inch me forward
The dust and noise settle down, a fleeting calm
Just the break needed to run to the opposite side

 

I weave through the streets of Ubud and remember pieces of you
In the voices of young women offering a massage
In a bakery window filled with chocolates and sweets
Your essence surrounds me like a favorite sarong

A gentle rain falls in the early evening
Merchants pull in their wares and clapboard signs
Backpackers scurry to find shelter
I seek refuge under my latest possession

A monsoon hits, third one in a less than a week
The downpour floods the streets within seconds
I skip over puddles with unsteady footing
My flip-flops are soaked, yet again

You navigate me around a minefield of gaping holes
Loose rocks and debris float toward overflowing gutters
I squelch my way toward my hotel
And silently thank you for my umbrella

 

I travel the town of Ubud and conjure up images of you
In the faces of men who call out “Taxi?” as I walk by
In swathes of brilliant green rice fields as far as the eye can see
You tug at my heart until I choke with tears

Ubud …

You cast your spell on mortals and spiritual beings
Lay bare the knowledge of your ancient wisdom
You tempt
Like the graceful sway of a Balinese woman
You inspire
With the mystery of the Sacred Monkey Forest
You arouse passions and fulfillment of passions
Pieces of you live inside of me
And they always will

* * *


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Music Monday flows with Pink Floyd #Bali

Hello from Ubud, Bali.

The past week has been incredible in so many ways. To find inspiration for my writing is one of the reasons I took this trip, and I am so happy I did.

If for no other reason, I’ve confirmed that the sights, sounds, and smells of Bali have to be experienced. There is no possible way I could have breathed the magic of Ubud without being here.

Last night, I went to the Laughing Buddha Bar to decompress after a day of writing, sightseeing, and dinner. It’s a small, live music venue located on Monkey Forest Road, one of the few main arteries in Ubud. An Indonesian band called the Cooltones played rock cover tunes.

They were very good musicians.

Along with Clapton, Hendrix, and Muddy Waters, they also played this song by Pink Floyd.

Oh …. how I wish you were here.

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New Release by @TammyLGrace ~ DEADLY CONNECTION #mystery

Author Tammy L. Grace writes in multiple genres and has a new release due out November 1st. It’s her sixth book and the second in a series.

Find out more about Tammy’s latest creation, DEADLY CONNECTION: A COOPER HARRINGTON DETECTIVE NOVEL.

You can pick it up now on pre-order! Also, don’t forget to connect to Tammy at all her virtual homes.

* * * *

deadly connection

Available for pre-order now! 

Amazon US | Amazon UK 

Coop’s case takes an unexpected twist when he discovers the dead body of his latest client.

A newcomer to Nashville with a troublesome problem requests an emergency meeting with private detective Cooper “Coop” Harrington.  When she fails to keep her appointment, Coop and Annabelle, his faithful friend and assistant, become worried and go in search of their new client.  Their hopes for a quiet Sunday are dashed when they discover her dead body.

Coop and Annabelle find themselves immersed in the investigation, uncovering tenuous links to a handful of suspects. With the help of his loyal golden retriever, Gus, and meddling but well-meaning Aunt Camille, Coop works to untangle the web of connections to expose the motive and identity of the killer before anyone else is murdered.

* * * *

Connect to Tammy

tammy grace

Blog | Twitter @TammyLGrace

Facebook | Google +

Amazon Author page

Tammy L. Grace is an award-winning fiction author who brings readers entertaining stories that take them on an emotional journey, filled with complex relationships of friendship and family in her Hometown Harbor Series. Set in the picturesque San Juan Islands in Washington, escape with a close-knit group of friends and their interwoven lives filled with both challenges and joys that resonate with women. Each book in the series focuses on a different woman and her journey of self discovery.

Tammy creates compelling characters who readers love or love to hate. In her Cooper Harrington Detective Novels, readers will delight in the fast paced whodunits, featuring Coop and his loyal golden retriever, Gus. Set in Nashville, Coop, a snarky t-shirt wearing lawyer turned private detective, with the help of his dog and faithful friend and assistant, Annabelle, work to solve murder mysteries with plenty of twists.

Born and raised in Nevada, Tammy loved reading at a young age. With the help of her middle school teacher, she discovered the joy of writing. After spending a career in local and state government service, she retired and finally has the time to dedicate to writing.

When Tammy isn’t working on ideas for a novel, she’s spending time with family and friends or supporting her addiction to books and chocolate. She and her husband have one grown son and a spoiled golden retriever.

Her new releases in 2015 include Pieces of Home, Book 4 in The Hometown Harbor Series and Killer Music, the first book in the Cooper Harrington Detective Novels. Tammy enjoys connecting with readers. Visit her website at http://www.tammylgrace.com or connect with her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tammylgrace.books.

* * * *

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Toning my Mind, Body, and Time Travel (Part 1)

Welcome to the third instalment of my Mind Body Series. If you missed the first two, you can start reading here. The series is about my efforts to unite both mind and body to inspire my writing.

I’m currently in Bali, Indonesia. Travel is a passion for me, and I haven’t been to Asia since 1988. It was time to return.

For this post, I’ll highlight a few things that have changed since my last trip.

Checking Luggage

My flights to Bali were without incident … but for one issue—I’ll get to that in a minute. I originally booked to fly to Denpasar via Beijing and Singapore. With connection times, it would’ve taken me over 33 hours. I found a better route a few days before the trip. It cut my travel time to less than 29 hours, flying Toronto—Houston—Taipei—Denpasar.

I never fly Air Canada because it’s too expensive, but I was traveling on points and it was worth making the change. Air Canada would fly me to Houston and EVA Airways (the Hello Kitty airline based in Taiwan) would take me to Taipei and my final destination.

eva airways

The AC flight was uneventful, and I slept part of the way. When I got off the plane to catch my connecting flight, I thought I heard my name over the intercom. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Houston is an enormous airport with multiple terminals. I only had 75 minutes to catch the next flight. As I waited for the airport train to take me from Terminal A to D, my name sounded over the speaker again.

I couldn’t catch the garbled message. A slight panic set in. Who was calling me and why?

At that moment, the airport train arrived. There was nothing I could do but go forward.

When I arrived at Terminal D, I immediately went to the EVA Airways counter and asked if they had paged me. The attendant confirmed she had. The reason? She wanted to give me EVA’s official boarding passes and vouchers for the lounge.

I didn’t even know I had the privilege of a lounge. Bonus … and relief!

It was past midnight, and there was a giant buffet in the lounge. People were piling food on their plates, but I couldn’t eat. I watched CNN’s ongoing recap of the last Presidential debate. An announcement for pre-boarding sounded shortly thereafter. I was anxious to board the 16-hour flight to Taipei.

Queued up for the gate, I felt pretty good until the attendant scanned my boarding pass and asked me to step aside.

Now what?

Another attendant’s worried look told me it was not good news. She asked me to sign a form absolving EVA Airways of any fault. Apparently, they could not find my one piece of checked luggage. It was supposed to be delivered to them by Air Canada, but they never received it.

luggage

I would have to fly to Bali without it.

There was no time to think, even less time to be upset. While in the air, I tried not to fret, but I did use the plane’s WIFI to send a note to a friend. Perhaps he could do some investigative work for me before I landed.

Long story short, my luggage never made it out of Toronto. I thought it was misplaced in the transfer, but Air Canada had not even loaded it on to the their own plane! Several e-mail exchanges with my friend revealed my suitcase was en route to Houston. It was leaving 24 hours after I did.

In the two years I traveled around Asia back in 1988, no airline ever lost my luggage, and I took a lot of flights back then.

Time has not improved the transport of luggage.

Indonesian Currency

I’m a millionaire here in Indonesia!

Back in 1988, the exchange rate was 1 USD = 1,665 Rupiahs.

Today, 1 USD is approximately 13,000 Rupiahs. it means $500 US equals $6,507,493 Rupiahs. That’s a lot of zeros.

The currency has devalued over the years, with the 100,000 note now worth about $8 USD or $10 Canadian dollars.

idr currency

An interesting note: I was told that Indonesia changes its money every five years. That could mean a change in denominations, removing old notes, adding new ones, or other changes.idr currencies

Recording my trip

It’s hard to believe I carried around 50 rolls of film and a camera the size of a small appliance when I was last in Bali. I still have my old 35mm Minolta with its zoom lens.

camera

Film camera vs camera i-Phone

The camera served me well and took some great pictures, but it weighed a ton. I was always self-conscious of its size in countries where photography was not always welcome. The Balinese are a modest people and do not always want their picture snapped.

Today, convenience is key. I take pictures with both my phone and a small digital camera.

Music

Remember this?

walkman

It’s a Walkman, akin to today’s MP3 players such as iPods, except that it plays cassettes.

Today, I don’t travel with an MP3 player. I no longer consider it a necessity to be constantly plugged in. I listen to music on my laptop when I’m working (not writing).

I haven’t thrown away my Walkman. Maybe I should donate it to a museum, along with all my cassettes?

Travel Information

I love books and that goes for travel books too. One of the great pleasures for me was always in the planning of the trip. Travel books were excellent guides to help with the process. Well … no more.

travel-books

Now, with the Internet, I can book a hotel online and research anything I care to know about a destination before I get there. For instance, I’m staying at a terrific hotel called Gana Restaurant and Villa, which I found on AirBnB.

gana

Since the Internet allows for so much available information, I am able to customize my searches and create the holiday I want. No longer is it necessary to carry maps and books to locate landmarks and other places of interest, though I still keep a blank notebook for recording interesting facts.

Thank you for reading. I hope you will join me for Part 2 of this Time Travel instalment for Mind Body Series. I’ll be writing it this coming week.

 

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Music Monday flows with The Traveling Wilburys

Hello from Indonesia!

Here’s my view of coconut trees and rice fields as I write this blog.

rice fields

This is a departure from my previous music series that highlighted songs from my yoga classes.

I’m in Bali for a writers’ festival, yoga, and research for my next book—A Fragile Truce.

While on my recent flight from Toronto to Houston, I scanned the albums available to help me sleep  for the 3 1/2 hour flight. It was night time and the first leg of what was to be a thirty-plus hour journey to Bali.

The only album of interest to me was The Traveling Wilburys, a band which included Bob Dylan. He recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature (in case you didn’t know). I’ll be featuring the music of Mr. Dylan in a future month.

As I sat on that plane leaving the country, these three verses of “End of the Line” spoke to me , even above the roar of the airplane’s engines.

” …Well it’s all right, even when push comes to shove
Well it’s all right, if you got someone to love
Well it’s all right, everything’ll work out fine
Well it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line

Don’t have to be ashamed of the car I drive (End of the Line)
I’m just glad to be here, happy to be alive (End of the Line)
It don’t matter if you’re by my side (End of the Line)
I’m satisfied

Well it’s all right, even if you’re old and gray
Well it’s all right, you still got something to say
Well it’s all right, remember to live and let live
Well it’s all right, the best you can do is forgive …”

I hope you find your own meaning in these lyrics. My next blog will be Toning my Mind, Body and Time Travel, which continues my Mind Body series.

Have a wonderful week. I know I will.

~eden

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Music Monday flows with @LadyGaga #yoga

As I continue to highlight music from my classes at Union Yoga studio, here is a great song from my Body Tone class.

When it’s playing, we are usually on our backs doing sit-ups, crunches, and working on abdominals.

It’s a motivating tune, and so long as I keep breathing, I really feel like I’m on the edge of glory.

Enjoy the inimitable Lady Gaga.

I’m traveling shortly, and I’ll be in transit to Bali the next time I blog.

Have a super week!

~eden

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