A Stay at Home Mom’s Dilemma

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Time is a rare commodity these days since it’s exam time and trust me, all I want right now is a few hours to myself, with myself, ALONE!! I am getting the feels a wee bit more though, since it’s my 12-year-old daughter’s first go at exams. Normally schools in Lahore begin taking exams right from grade 1, but a few (very considerate) schools including the one my daughters go to, start end of term exams from 7th grade and above. I do like their approach better since it’s given me way more time to relax and chill compared to my friends who’d just go on quarantine as soon as exams would start.

No, I wouldn’t like to change anything about it. I also feel that this approach gives our daughters much more time to grow up, understand, evolve as an individual rather than get into the exam rut when they can hardly tie their shoelaces properly. When you’re taking children as young as 5 into an examination hall, asking them to sit still for an hour or so and concentrate, how do you expect them to perform? They are not supposed to, its time for them to play and be merry. Let them grow up first. Exam can wait. So yes, I’ve always maintained that my preference for this school is firmly rooted in their lenient exam policy above all.

That said, the fact remains; my whole day is spent being a driver for my girls who have very different schedules these days because of the elder one’s exams. Most of the time I’m on the roads and the fact that the school is at a 30-minute ride from my place adds much to the misery. There are days when I can hardly stop and catch my breath for a little while. But I don’t mind much. Hey, I do enjoy the driving (to some extent!)

But that also gives rise to this question that has always been lurking somewhere at the back of my mind. You see, I am an Accountant, I worked for some time but then eventually decided to quit work because I wanted to stay at home to raise my girls. It does unfortunately have a very negative connotation these days but I did not regret my decision once, back then. Now however, I feel that I am constantly being judged for this decision of mine. People don’t say it to my face, but I know they feel it’s odd for me not to be pursuing a career of some sort. They’ve somehow convinced themselves that just because I’ve decided to stay at home, I am “doing nothing” or am a loser of some sort who didn’t get the chance to get up the corporate ladder. I feel that this “doing nothing” phenomenon is what’s the most devastating of all. Only because I’m not adding much to the overall financial figure of my household, does not mean that I am “doing nothing”.

I read. A lot. I’ve taken it upon myself to further educate myself (trust me, there is life beyond organised education). In my commuting hours I usually listen to philosophy podcasts and am reading Camus these days. I also write; I contribute to a couple of literary journals on a freelance basis. So just because I don’t go out, sit in a cubicle nine hours a day to achieve someone else’s goals, doesn’t mean I am “doing nothing” and “wasting myself”. What is the exact definition of wasting yourself anyway? I am sorry if this sounded too harsh but trust me; I have been subjected to harsher verdicts only because I’ve decided not to join the rat race.

It’s just that my priorities right now are just different; or maybe my personality is, I don’t know. But I’m happy doing what I am; it’s as plain and as simple as that. I don’t understand why people have to underestimate or berate people who are doing something different from them. One of the things I shall never be able to understand I guess.

Anyway, bottom line is, just live and let live. You do your own thing and I’ll do mine. Why judge people when you don’t know their story? Be happy and contented with whatever you do/ whoever you are/ wherever you are in life and that’s what should matter the most. Even if that means playing with your cats or driving your kids to and from school; it’s the little things after all!

Maasi Wajo

Snuggling up with a book and knitting needles

By Maasi Saba

Blossom Street Series

My friend Zainab is an avid reader. I think she was the one who got me to start reading again. She is always recommending books to me, and I have enjoyed each and every one. Thanks Zainab! Last time we met, she recommended the author Debbie Macomber. She is a New York Times Bestselling Author and has written many novels and is a multiple award winner. The novels she recommended were from The Blossom Street Series. There are ten novels in this series from what I found on the internet. The first novel, “The Shop of Blossom Street,” is about a fictional little shop in Seattle, Washington, which is owned by a graceful and thoughtful woman named Lydia Hoffman. She owns a yarn shop, and teaches knitting to beginners. Each novel brings in new characters and some of the old characters occasionally show up and bring warmth to the story.

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These novels address problems that woman face everyday. Each character is at a different phase in life, and with each other’s help, they are able to resolve their issues. Lydia opened the yarn shop as a dedication to living everyday, especially when she has another cancer scare. Finally living on her own and living an adult healthy life, she is faced with problems about the shop and about love. In her first class, she is teaching three women who are complete opposites than one another. When these four women sit together every week to knit little did they know they would end up sharing their secrets and form a life long bond. Alix Townsend is a video store clerk who is ordered by the courts to knit the baby blanket as part of her community service. Jacqueline Donovon is a wealthy middle aged woman who takes the class to try to make amends with her daughter in law whom she hasn’t gotten off on the right foot with, but is carrying her first grandchild. And Carol Girard who is a successful business woman having infertility problems, but taking the class in good faith that it will help her to have a child.

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In the second novel, “A Good Yarn,” Lydia is offering a class to knit socks.  This novel takes place a year after Lydia opens her shop, and we meet her sister Margaret who is also helping her with the shop. Courtney Pulanski is an overweight high school senior who is still struggling with the death of her mother four years ago. Her grandmother tries to help her settle in by making her take the knitting class and by making her swim in her senior citizen swimming sessions. Bethanne Hamlin is a recent divorcee whose children convince her to join the knitting class as a step towards starting over. Her classmates help her find her confidence and her talent that she so long ago pushed aside to support her husband. We also meet Elise Beaumont. She is a retired librarian who has lost her life savings and is living with her daughter, only to find out that her gambling ex-husband still loves her, and that she feels the same way.  All these women are there for different reasons, and bring their own stories which are unique and diverse, but come together in the end making lasting friendships. This series of books, are written with the direct perspective of each character.  Debbie really helps bring the reader into each life, their struggles, and their fears. I love reading these books.

I am one of those readers who get’s very sad at the end because I feel I’ve lost a friend. Reading these novels makes me want to go out and buy some yarn and start knitting. But right now, I’ll put it off because it’s just too hot to hold any yard in my hands. I also don’t remember how to knit anymore. The last time I knitted was when I was in the 2nd grade, and my cousin helped me knit a sweater and a skirt for my Barbie. I think almost every novel has the pattern for that particular project included as well.  In the stories, Lydia helps her customers knit socks, a baby blanket and prayer shawl. For anyone who enjoys knitting and reading, it’s the perfect match. As the series progresses, the reader really gets to know Lydia, as well as the other characters. The books offer an excellent overall story throughout and any of these books can be read on their own, separate from the rest of the series.

Here is a list of the books from this series.

The Blossom Street Series

The Shop on Blossom Street

A Good Yarn

Susannah’s Garden

Christmas Letters

Back on Blossom Street

Twenty Wishes

Summer on Blossom Street

Hannah’s List

A Turn in the Road

Starting Now

Blossom Street Brides

 P.S. Since books sometimes are printed with 2 titles due to different markets, make sure you read the back carefully so you don’t buy one twice. Because actually, I did that! I didn’t realize it until after I read “Wednesday’s at four,” which is also, “Back on Blossom Street.” One cost me Rs. 15 and the other newer version was much more.  Serves me right for just grabbing things off the bookshelf before my kids came back.

 P.P.S. Zainab and I were were discussing a new show at the bookshop, when she told me that the show was based on books by the same author, Debbie Macomber. The show is called Cedar Cove, and produced by the Hallmark Channel. It stars Andie MacDowell and Dylan Neal and it is a nice, decent show. Check it out. 

Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray

By Maasi Wajo

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Book: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Author: Oscar Wilde
Genre: Philosophical Fiction
Pages: 254
Rating: 4.5/5

Horror has never been a genre that has appealed to me much, perhaps with the exception of Dracula—That masterpiece. But The Picture of Dorian Gray has been one book that has stayed with me ever since I first got around to reading it.

This novel is loved by many for being one of the greatest studies in human shallowness, vanity, casual cruelty and hedonistic selfishness— though hated by perhaps as many for the very same characteristics. Wilde’s innumerable notorious remarks about women in it might also not sit well with the women of today. Case in point, “Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals.” !!

This is undoubtedly a very difficult piece of work to write a review about. And I really do not know how to satisfactorily summarise the experience of reading this extraordinary piece of Literature. So many things happen to you as you proceed through the pages, so many thoughts emerge, die down and then re-emerge.

It is touted as Wilde’s greatest work (though he only ever wrote one novel), and I now understand why. He has indubitably poured a lot of himself in it while writing it. In one interview Wilde famously went as far as regarding this book as his comparison of himself to the three main characters. He said, “Basil Hallward is what I think I am, Lord Henry is what the world thinks me, Dorian is what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.”

The dialogue, or shall I say, the monologue of Lord Harry does appear exceedingly monotonous at times, and the ending of the book seems a little rushed as well… but all in all, the subject matter of this book, which seems to be ‘influence’ (among other things) has been remarkably dealt with, in all its entirety. There’s Lord Harry who does not have the guts to go ahead and live all his philosophies about life himself. And then there’s Dorian Gray who gets so influenced by Harry’s philosophies that he ends up selling his soul for the eternal acquisition of beauty and youth…. incidentally the only two things worth having, according to Harry.

This is arguably one of the most influential pieces of literature ever composed. Delightfully written, filled with some memorable characters and a story that WILL leave you thinking.

But it’s not for the faint hearted since this novel can and will shock you.

This 400 odd book review doesn’t really do justice to this beautiful piece of art but still read it if you can.
Highest possible recommendation!

Some of My Favourite Quotes

IMG_0826By Maasi Muna

Hi all! I have always been a great fan of all sorts of inspirational quotes. Some, were emailed to me by my father when I was residing in the US, some I read in books and the one that inspires me the most, is scribbled on my bookmark. Reading them always made me wonder how profound life is. And they so easily convey the simple principles of life in a manner, which actually makes you pay attention to things, which would make you a better human being. The things we tend to forget in our daily grind and hustle bustle. I’m sharing a couple with you, hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Life shrinks or Expands in proportion to one’s courage. IMG_0825

Life is froth and bubble

Two things stand like stone
Kindness in another’s trouble
Courage in your own

Explain your anger, don’t express it and you will immediately open the door to solutions instead of arguments.

Great minds discuss ideas
Average minds discuss events
Small minds discuss people.

This is all for tonight. But I’ll surely be back with more 🙂

“Wuthering Heights” : The book or the movie?

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By Maasi Maryam

A story of love and revenge,of passion and some haunting characters, Wuthering Heights is as dark and sombre as where it takes place, the Thrushcross Grange. If you like the fairy tale happy endings, it’s certainly not for you, yet once you start turning the pages it won’t let you come out of its vicious circle unless you’ve read it all.

Heathcliff’s suffering at the Earnshaws makes him cruel and threatening to say the least, and to top it up, his over vaulting pride turns him into a misconceived romantic. In spite all of that, he still is able to retain sympathy for certain characters and why, we won’t say as it would be a spoiler for those who’d like to read the book.

However mommies, if you feel too lazy to get your hands on the book, try watching one of the decent versions like Johnny Depp has, yup we’re talking about the legendary hero of The Pirates of the Caribbean. Here’s his take on it …

“Am I a romantic? I’ve seen Wuthering Heights ten times. I’m a romantic”.

Though no movie can do justice I’m afraid, let’s just say it’s the second best choice.

Wuthering Heights is an aesthetic perfection of love and revenge where the characters’ affections transcend above the material standards of intimacy. This masterwork by Bronte does not depend on heroes or heroines to charm the reader. It is a gripping and addictive thriller ride with all the highs and lows felt by the characters. Wuthering Heights is tangled, raging and wild, a literary work ahead of its time. The novel breaks the conventional barriers of a Classic and still considered as one…. and that is exactly why it should be read , if you still haven’t.

Book Review: Nights of Rain and Stars

images-4By Maasi Saba

Book: Nights of Rain and Stars
Author: Maeve Binchy
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 400
Rating: 3.5/5

One of my favorite writers is the Irish author, Maeve Binchy. She writes beautiful, clean novels that I wouldn’t be embarrassed if my daughter picked up and started reading. Most of her novels take place in Ireland. One can picture the loches, greenery, mountains and the small towns with great detail.

This particular novel is set in a small, fictitious village of Aghia Anna in Greece. Nights of Rain and Stars is about one summer and four strangers, with nothing in common but a need to escape.  These strangers from Ireland, America, Germany and England, have each left their homes and their old lives; each with a life in turmoil, when a shocking tragedy throws them unexpectedly together. Fiona is a young nurse, trying to make her family understand her need to follow her own path, even if it involves Shane the drug dealer. Thomas, a professor, can handle his divorce, but not the thought of sharing his son with another man. He misses his young son and fears that his ex-wife will come between them. Elsa abruptly left her career as a television presenter in Germany, but someone from her past refuses to let her go. And shy, quiet David is determined to make a stand against his overbearing father.

With these four is Andreas, the tavern owner, where they all first meet. He badly misses the son who left home nine years ago and has never returned. There is also Vonnie, a middle-aged Irish woman who lives in the village and is now a near native. With Vonnie’s help, the tourists gradually begin to realize how they must solve their problems, even though they may resent her at times. Though Vonnie helps them all understand their problems, she makes a mess of her own life.

As light rain falls on this village, strangers come together to become the closest of friends. This novel is beautifully written, and takes you away to a wonderful place. After turning the last page, I felt as if a good friend had moved away. I wanted to continue reading about these life long friends. Try and get a copy of this novel, you will truly enjoy it as much as I did.