Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Another 2 Have Left Us.......

After that middle-aged gentleman landed in an ambulance that evening, everyone wondered about his fate, about whether he will pull through and continue living while on dialysis treatments like the rest of us. He was in hospital from that evening till now............

Until, Tuesday night, when he answered God's summons.

That's right, he has left us.

But then we (the rest of the dialysis patients in the center) kind of expected this because he was feeling poorly for the last few weeks he was undergoing treatment. In addition to that, his arm access has collapsed, that means he can't dialyse through neither of his arms anymore. His temporary neck access also got clogged up till his face was bloated.

Because of all that, he was dialysing through his thigh, which isn't very hygenic, especially for a man as it's near the organ where men urinate......

Needless to say, he was one unhappy man!

Like I said, we expected news of his death anytime, and the fact that he has hung on to life all this while is already some sort of a miracle, given his health complications.

But he is not the only one to leave us...... An elderly lady who is a paragon of fluid control, and was seemingly healthy left us on Monday evening. Just about a day before this man.

This lady's death was totally unexpected. Like I said, she's one of the better patients, someone who really watches her fluid intake (even I have trouble with that!), she usually extracts at most 1.8kgs, which is very good for a dialysis patient.

I usually extract more that 3kgs! (I'm so ashamed, compared to this Aunty!).

In addition, this old lady doesn't have any heart problem or any other problem, though she's above 80! Sure, she needs to be pushed in a wheel chair because she can't walk now and can stand only a short while but hey, she's above 80!

Her death was a big shock to us all!

Another old lady's arm access has also failed, so she has to go through Peritoneal Dialysis. A nasty form of dialysis, where you need a catheter inserted surgically into your stomach and you pump 2 litres of fluid every 6 hours for everyday of your life.

Some patients prefer that but for me, no, thank you, I'd rather stick to Hemodialysis!

So, in short 3 people have left us, 2 to go to Heaven,1 to home treatment on Peritoneal Dialysis. I hope I never leave this friendly center until it's time for me to meet my Maker.......

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Someone Landed Into An Ambulance Last Evening....

I was just having my dialysis treatment as usual yesterday evening.

Then, all of a sudden, someone's treatment ended, which just means he has completed his 4 hours of dialysis. But when the nurses went over to wake him (he appeared as if he were asleep), he just wouldn't wake up! Despite several nurses (they were all crowding around him by then!) shouting his name, and slapping his cheek, etc.

This middle-aged gentleman, usually goes home by cab as his children are all busy with their own lives. However, after unsuccessfully trying to wake him, everyone realized that he was in fact in a dialysis coma; which means he fell asleep during treatment and slipped into a coma without anyone being the wiser; in other words, he collapsed without anyone knowing it (including himself).

So, instead of a cab, he ended up on a stretcher in an ambulance. I will pray for him tonight. But if he doesn't make it, he will just join the rest of the people I know who's been called home by the Lord from the dialysis center.

Sure, I feel scared. If it can happen to him, why not me, I'm a dialysis patient too......

Author: eowyn

Why I'd rather be on dialysis than have a transplant

I'm a dialysis patient. I have been one for around 6 years. I am not a good candidate for a kidney transplant because the cause of my kidney failure is SLE. SLE patients aren't good candidates for a transplant, as the SLE that caused my kidney failure in the first place just might happen again. SLE is an autoimmune disease whereby my immune system produces mutant antibodies that attacks my own organs. That, my friends, in a nutshell explains what happened to my kidneys.

A bit more about SLE, in different SLE sufferers, different organs get attacked. For some, it's the kidneys, others, the heart (which can even be fatal), some others, the skin, and some, even the brain. I have been on the renal diet for a total of 13 years, which means I've managed to stall eventual dialysis for 7 years after I was first diagnosed with SLE.

What most people don't know is, even if a dialysis patient (for argument's sake, one that doesn't have SLE) does get a successful transplant, they will have to be on immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives, at the tune of USD1,000 (approximately) a month. Fine, if you're rich, but how many people are? A lot of people aren't rich enough to afford that, a lot of normal, healthy people. What more a dialysis patient who's just had a successful transplant?

The government will give aid to a person on dialysis but not a person who's had a successful transplant. That person will be treated like a normal healthy person. Hence, he/she will have to pay for the immunosuppressant drugs himself/herself. Month after month, for the rest of his/her life. Who can afford that? For the rest of his/her life? I don't know about them, but for me, I'd rather be on dialysis. It may be inconvenient but at least I can rest easy that I don't have to keep coughing up thousands and thousands of hard-earned money a year just to keep my transplanted kidneys alive!

And a lot of those drugs are steroids. They puff up the face horribly. I've been on steroids before for my SLE. And I say "No, thank you!", I've had enough of looking ugly for a long time! I'm not going to be on steroids for the rest of my life just to avoid the dialysis machine! It isn't worth it! Especially if I have to keep worrying about paying an exorbitant price month after month for the rest of my life!

Even if I wasn't an SLE patient, I would still choose NOT to get a transplant. For me, the added financial and physical stress just isn't worth it. Others in my position might think differently but this is my choice and this is my stand!

Author: eowyn

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

No Excuses!

My weight has always been on a yo-yo trip.

It goes up and down and up and down again. I have concrete proof in the form of my dialysis records. There was a time when my dry weight (weight after dialysis) was 54.5kgs! There was also a time when it was 68kgs! My dry weight is currently 56kgs and now I'm depressed! Why can't it be 50kgs?! (my goal weight).

I'm not very tall, so the slightest weight gain turns me into a round beach ball! Okay, perhaps I'm exaggerating a little but that's how I feel whenever I see photos of myself now. My face especially is so round I feel like burying my face in the sand so no one can look at me!

My dad keeps telling me that as a dialysis patient, I cannot exercise as intensely as a normal person. Perhaps he's right but that's no excuse for me to weigh what I weigh and to look the way I look! No excuses! No Siree! From now on, it's exercise!, exercise! and consciously making wiser choices of the foods I eat and eating less of food in general. No more desserts! And no more 'special treats' like potato chips, fries, burgers, pizza and what not.

Maybe I'll give myself a small treat of not-so-healthy foods (aka, junk) once a month, not more than that and it has be a reasonably small portion. I may not be able to exercise as intensely as a normal healthy person but that doesn't mean that I'm exempted for exercise!

I'm a fairly young adult, so it's doubly important to me to look attractive. Not just to attract the opposite sex but to make me feel good about myself and to bolster my already flagging self-esteem. I'm already very self-conscious about the scars on my dialysis arm (I can't wear too revealing clothes like off- shoulder/spaghetti straps now), so being overweight is not helping matters much.

Just because I'm sick doesn't mean I have to look sick or unhealthy, I can still try my best to do whatever I can to look attractive and to be healthy! So, Day 1 starts today! Well, bye! I'm off for my jog!

Author: eowyn

Thursday, October 14, 2010

When Death Becomes More Real

I've been a dialysis patient for more than 5 years. And in these 5 years, I have experienced the death of many friends. Most of them, people above the age of 50.

You would experience a sense of detachment when you read of people dying in accidents or natural disasters in the newspapers or even if you have visuals from a TV news report. It's like a 'things that happen to others who has nothing to do with me' kind of feeling. You feel that it is not likely to happen to you and it's none of your concern, so these deaths that you read, watch or hear about takes on an unreal kind of feeling.

But when someone you personally know like a friend who undergoes dialysis with you passes away, then it brings it much close to home. It becomes too close for comfort when you think : "Oh my God, the next one could be me!". Death becomes a lot more real.

I, personally have been warned again and again : "Watch your fluid intake, you don't want to end up like Uncle A, who passed away because he was literally drowning in his lungs because he drank too much water each day!". Dialysis patients rely on their treatments to extract the extra fluids and to filter urea, creatinine and other waste products in their system as their own kidneys are no longer capable of doing that job. Trouble comes when you 'owe' the machine some body fluids per session over time. The fluids then have nowhere to go and get accumulated in the patients lungs, till he/she literally just drowns in their own body fluids, that's how Uncle A died.

I know, I have been warned again and again, not to make the mistake Uncle A and most of the countless others have done but then again, when you're thirsty, you're just thirsty, you know. You just have to drink. But I have decided to take up the challenge to weigh less each time before my dialysis treatments.

Unfortunately, I have been accustomed to drink as much ice-cold water as I want, so it's definitely going to be a challenge but if I want to live longer and not die prematurely like the uncles and aunties that have passed away, I'd better have more self-control when it comes to drinking water. No more chugging down as much cold water as I want. It's time to discipline myself! Wish me luck!
Author: eowyn

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Send Out Vibrant Energy Over The Phone

Some first-time conversations over the phone leave you feeling happy and upbeat, whilst others make you cringe. Which experience would you like your customers to have?

A few weeks ago, I had tried out for a voiceover (my first time ever!)

Whilst I put the huge headphones on, the technician moved a stand aside so that they could see my face clearly. That particular script needed a lot of emotion in it.

Whatever I felt as I read the short script would be reflected on my face. Which in turn, could be heard in my voice. The truth that we sometimes forget is that our voices can easily convey happiness, irritation, joy, hope, nervousness and more.

Half the time we are not even aware of how much our voices are telling the world about our emotions.

What does this mean for you as a businessperson?

It means that no matter how you feel deep down inside, you’ve got to pretend to be happy, energetic and excited when you speak over the phone (unless it’s a negative situation).

On a bad day, say when you are overwhelmed with bills, you need to hide the frowns and chase away the feelings of depression that hangs over you. Instead when the phone rings, be prepared to:

· Sit up straight & think of energy flowing through every one of your cells
· Put a big cheerful smile on your face
· Be ready to help the other person on the line

This is the first step towards communicating your enthusiasm and interest in doing business.

Try it now. It is such a simple method that allows you to be seen as a businessperson who is energetic, vibrant and upbeat. Put your acting hat on each time your phone rings.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Turning Small Profits Into Large Ones

Is it worthwhile spending your time with a customer who isn’t going to buy much from you? Is how you communicate with this small customer important?


We all know it but small business owners still break this golden rule, resulting in a loss of repeat customers who may bring in big business.

Here’s an example. Caught in an unexpected situation, I had to buy a new handphone. Since I only needed something very basic it automatically meant a lower end model that did not cost much.

At the first outlet, the owner looked disgusted when I told him what I was looking for. I fled from his sneering arrogant attitude.

The young “punk” seated at the next outlet made my heart sink. I should have remembered not to judge a book by its cover. He turned out to be a load of surprises.

Politely, the young lad me relevant models. Patiently, he explained the features of the different handphones. I was impressed.

Along the way, he did politely inquire why I didn’t go for a higher end model. But he never pushed it or mocked my choice. The young “punk” was always respectful and helpful.

The more welldressed gentleman in the first outlet could have taken lessons from him. He had clearly demonstrated how you communicate and deal with your customers.

By taking the time to listen to my needs and see that they were all met, he had won over a new customer. I will go back there and, another point to note is that I will recommend his outlet to others.

A cheap product with a low profit margin can be turned into a high profit margin – in the long run. Just remember that:

· Every customer matters.
· A small deal can turn into a big one tomorrow.
· So, spend time communicating politely to ALL customers.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

European Welfare Systems and Changing Work Technologies

I attended eHomemakers’ Work-Life Balance Conference last week and listened to speakers from around the world discuss the tenets of work-life balance. 

In general, participants looked to European countries as models for the work-life balance they would hope to implement in Malaysia. 

They argued this is the future. 

This choice of an idol, however, made an easy target for critics, who claimed the European system was unproductive and inefficient.  As evidence, they pointed to the crises facing the European economies and threatening these half-century old social democracies.  

Both proponents and opponents were making a fundamental mistake, however, in equating the European-style social system with the fundamental changes that are occurring in the way people work.   Both of these subjects certainly affect work-life balance and alter people’s work environments. 

The European social system subject pertains to politics and decisions on how to distribute resources already created. 

These societies have already accrued a large amount of wealth or are producing more per individual than each needs. This excess stock of wealth is then used to support their welfare system, allowing people to work fewer hours.  

This system does not substantially affect productivity in these countries.  In fact, the causality runs in the opposite direction from what is supposed by critics of the European system.  It is really the productivity of the workers in Europe that has allowed them to maintain their welfare state.

The fundamental changes in work environment, however, are far more economic in nature and go beyond any specific governing policy. 

New technology is fundamentally changing the way people work.  Throughout the majority of human history, man (and woman) lived and worked close to home. It wasn’t until the late 18th century with the onset of the industrial revolution that humans began to travel substantial distances to work. Large factories necessitated the movement of labor for proper coordination to increase productivity.  

The advent of new computer systems and communications networks are changing the situation once again, allowing for work coordination across larger geographic distances. 

In a way, this is a very Marxian argument, much in line with the dialectical materialism, which claims the technology and capital we use to work defines our society. 

If the plow gives us the Feudalism, and the steam engine Capitalism, then the computer gives us the Home Based Capitalism (I could probably think of a better name).  This shift does not really directly affect the amount of time people work, but changes the location of work.  Considering that more business are adopting these employment structures, it also making workers more productive.

In recent years, the European social systems have come under increasing stress from both the changing demographic situation in Europe and globalization.  

Populations are growing older, and jobs are moving to cheaper geographies.  

These challenges and the resulting problems to the system are what people actually note, when they cite European productivity problems.  

The other issue focuses on how people work. If there is a connection it is that the very technological forces, which are driving globalization and hence destabilizing European welfare systems, are also driving the changes in the work environment. 

In both cases, geography is becoming of less and less importance, as jobs move to new locations.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

By Margaret Rickmann:

YB Dato’ Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil gave an inspiring address to the Work Life Balance Conference. The Malaysian government has a strong commitment to continuing the economic growth of the country and encouraging greater participation of women in the workforce is definitely a major factor in the development of a nation.

It was good to hear from many multinational companies working in Malaysia. 

They all stressed the benefits of implementing a programme of flexible working that helped give their employees the ability to develop a positive work life balance. 

The success of the companies like Microsoft, IBM, Ericsson and many others must surely encourage Malaysian companies to implement similar successful work life balance strategies and contribute positively to the growth of the nation.

Throughout the conference this theme was energetically and enthusiastically endorsed by Datul (Dr) Rafiah Salim Director of NAM Institute for the Empowerment of Women.
Thanks to Gorgeous Geeks and eHomemakers for their work in organising this interesting and ground breaking conference.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thinking About Microfinance

I'm a little embarrassed that until this past weekend, I hadn't read Muhammad Yunus' Banker to the Poor. It was one of those glaring gaps into my personal and professional development that, looking back, is completely inexplicable. I probably shouldn't even be admitting this in public but I suppose it's never too late to get with the program.

When I have a few moments to myself these days, I often find myself thinking about current aid structures and imagining how things might be different with the introduction of microfinance. Just this morning on my run, I was listening to a This American Life collaboration with Planet Money about NGOs in Haiti. They tell the story of a local mango farmer who has the land and the water for one hundred mango trees but needs a small canal to expand her business and the mango exporter who wants to distribute plastic crates to mango farmers because better packing methods would double his and the farmers' income.

The canal-building struck me as a great opportunity for a micro-loan since it sounded like the upfront investment in infrastructure was the main hurdle constraining growth. Meanwhile, the mango exporter with the crates first tried giving them away for free and then tried partnering with an NGO that later lost its funding after the earthquake. Neither scenario proved successful.

Part of the failure in the first approach was neglecting to take the time to demonstrate the economic value of fewer bruised mangoes to the farmers. Additionally, giving the crates away for free stunted any feeling of having a financial stake in the new packing method. If the farmers had first been convinced for themselves that changing their process could increase profits and then saved up or borrowed money in support of their business, they would have been more personally invested in the project. As it was, many crates ended up as chairs.

In the second scenario, bureaucracy, natural disaster, and fickle funding for NGOs delayed the project indefinitely. I have no way of knowing with certainty if microfinance opportunities could have changed the outcome for the mango farmer and the mango exporter but it seems like you'd be hard-pressed to do worse than the current system.

To bring this back to Malaysia, I'd love to hear more about your personal experiences with microfinance projects since Yunus mentioned that Malaysia was one of the first countries to adapt Grameen's banking model outside of Bangladesh. If you have any stories that you'd like to share, just leave a comment on this blog. Thanks!

Part of this post originally appeared at aditkowsky.wordpress.com.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

5 minutes, 5 Easy Ways = Better English

Just 5 minutes to improve

Tips for improving your level of English. That’s what today’s piece is about.

It all came about during a session with an inspiring group of working adults in, what I would call a "prestigious" body in KL.

I shared some of the tips that I had successfully used over the years with students. At the end of it all, there was one request to have them written out. It shows how serious he is in improving himself, and I do admire him for it.

The better your level of English when you communicate with customers, the better the impression you leave on them. So, here are five simple tips that just needs an investment of five minutes per activity. Good luck!

1. Write for five minutes each day
Write on any topic that you like. It could be about what you did yesterday, your plans for the weekend, the colour blue, your ambitions, etc.

The sentences do not have to be perfect. The whole paragraph does not have to flow well. This is just a practice session to let the words flow onto the page. You can worry about grammar later.

2. Read for five minutes each day
Read a storybook / newspaper / magazine, etc.
Look up the meanings of a few new words. Guess the meanings of all the other words that you do not know – this is called predicting and you should practise it.

3. Note five new words and phrases.
Jot down new words and phrases that you find.
Write them down using lots of coloured pens or draw pictures to show what they mean. If you have the time, paste pictures next to the words. Have fun because that’s the best way to learn language.

4. Copy for five minutes
Writers and copywriters are advised to do this. They take an article or advertisement that they like and copy it out by hand. This way, they can easily remember the words and sentence structure used easily. Pick something that’s useful for yourself.

5. Speak in English for five minutes
When we first start on a new language, some friends or colleagues may not be very encouraging. Ignore them.
Instead, make it a point to speak for at least five minutes in English every single day.

The more you speak, the quicker you will become at forming sentences and you will also find it easier to pronounce words that you once found difficult.

If you can think of more easy ways that just take five minutes to do, let me know!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Rural Champion Moms Unite 2010

Singing, dancing, clapping, cheering, good food and above all inspiring stories made a terrific event celebrating rural moms.

Moms from all parts of Malaysia were nominated for the RURAL CHAMPION MOMS UNITE 2010 and the winners represented many different cultural groups all with one common aim: to make Malaysia a better place for the less fortunate.

The winners represented the many dedicated and inspiring moms who give not only to their families but also to their communities.

A snapshot of all the hardworking mom winners is here. Women with 8 children, who still had time to give to their community, women with very little education yet helping others to learn, highly educated women giving their time freely not only in Malaysia but also in less well developed countries such as Cambodia, women keeping crafts and cultures alive, women who trekked through deep almost impenetrable jungle to reach long houses and promote literacy and education.

Wow! Their stories were breathtaking.

When I heard the stories of these amazing moms, I realised that they really were special people, but I was also glad that I did not have to be on the judging panel to choose the winners.
I loved every minute I spent talking to the winners, sharing their pleasure, and hearing first hand about their work.

Thanks to eHomemakers for organising such a great event and to Nestle and many other sponsors who made it such a special day and a particular thanks to all these wonderful women who give so much to Malaysia. You can read all the stories of the winners here.

Author: Margaret Rickmann

Winners of Rural Champion Moms Unite 2010

1st Prize Winner - Raini Mapura
2nd Prize Winner - Maria William Peter
3rd Prize Winner - Anihar Ishak

Consolation Prize Winners (in no particular ranking order)
Gendoi Samah Seman
Lapu Sakai
Malina Soning
Regina Bruno
Rusnita Ngah
Dr. Lee Lee Loh Ludher
Selvarani Nadesan

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It All Depends On How You Look At It

You know the saying, two people can look at a glass of water, one will say the cup is half full while the other will see the cup as half empty? In other words, two people can look at the same thing but have different perceptions on the same thing. The optimist will see the good in things while the pessimist will see the bad in things.

Well, I choose to be an optimist. Even though I have SLE and am now undergoing dialysis three times a week, I choose to see myself as blessed. I may not be working full-time and I may not earn as much as some of my friends, but I have a pretty nice life. I live with my family and I earn enough for my own expenses. Right now, I'm trying to save as much money as possible, so I try to spend less most days.

Lot's of people will say someone is my situation has to be either depressed or suicidal but not me. I used to be depressed and negative about my situation but not anymore! What's the point of constantly comparing yourself with people more fortunate than you and whining and complaining all the time? You'll only drag yourself down and make yourself even more depressed.

I choose to be happy. I choose to be content with my lot in life. After all, this isn't our permanent home, Heaven is. I choose to live life the best I can, so I'll go the Heaven when I die. Because in Heaven, there is no Death, Sickness, Pain or Sadness. It's my choice.

Consider this:  I may be on dialysis but I still have the gift of sight, for which I thank God daily. I can still read, watch TV, cross-stitch, crochet, or other needlework. I still have two arms and two legs. I have three square meals a day and the occasional snack. There are people in this world who don't even have one meal a day.

Now, don't get me wrong : I'm not comparing myself the those less fortunate than me to make myself feel better. I'm just trying to put things into the proper perspective. In any situation you're in, you can choose to be miserable, or you can choose to be happy. I choose to be happy and full of joy despite everything! What about you?

Author: eowyn

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Communication Is The Big Secret

“She only ordered my products a year after I had met her,” explained the young entrepreneur.

“He didn’t need my services. But he did recommend them to his network of contacts,” declared another lady who had ventured out into the catering services on a small scale.

That’s what a couple of persons have told me over the past few months. You must be wondering what their secret to attracting customers is.

These are hardworking individuals who are passionate about their products and services. There is one other thing that I’ve noticed about them.

The way they communicate with people.

When they take up a booth at a small bazaar, they don’t just focus on a one-off sale. Its not just a “What is in it for me right now?” attitude.  

Instead they communicate well with buyers and those who are obviously just window-shopping for the day. These smart entrepreneurs ask the right questions, they offer suggestions and help, and take criticism with a smile.

Home entrepreneurs seem to be born with the skills to do all of these effortlessly. For others, they have to work hard at it. In reality, it is quite simple, if you follow a few basic steps.

In the past when I used to walk through Amcorp Mall during the weekends, I had often thought that some of the individuals taking care of the stalls could do with lessons on these basic steps. And that’s what I’m going to do next week. Start off with some basic steps that I know entrepreneurs will find useful.

See you next week! 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Read More About eHomemakers' Mobile Banking Projects

eHomemakers recently entered a competition called "Women | Tools | Technology: Building Opportunities & Economic Power" hosted by Ashoka's Changemakers (where I work).

The project they pitched involves expanding mobile-banking services to rural women, which addresses a number of issues that this group faces: finding work, getting paid, and supporting themselves.

Utilizing the specific mobile technology that eHomemakers describes in their entry, women will receive work orders from a coordinator and final payments for their work through their mobile phones.

The entry also outlines the positive impacts and potential challenges of the project and I strongly encourage you to check it out and leave a comment.

And, while you're on the site, take a moment to read a few of the 267 other great ideas sourced from all over the world about improving women's lives through technology.

But back to eHomemakers. I really enjoyed watching the videos they included in their entry. You can view all of them on their YouTube channel (including recent clips from Rural Champion Moms Unite Contest 2010) but I'm embedding one below for your viewing pleasure. (I love the weaving demo!)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Working From Home As A Facilitator In Healing Work

In the past, I would think deep with the companion of high stress levels building up within my decision to resign from a job, what I’d like to do in my career with a planned path, if there’s truly a passion behind the chosen path and earn enough for my keeps.

I had always thought being an Admin assistant/Secretary or a position along those line of work was “the right fit” and with the intention to work from home freelance as some people have been doing and making a modest income while they’re at it as well. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to take control of my time and have my power to channel into my passion to do something more meaningful, beautiful and helpful to others and make a modest income from there but didn’t found the courage or the career and path that “fit just right”.

At the end of much deliberation to leave a job and embark on my own was always filled with worries, fears with little happiness and wholeness.

I went through experiences of negative patterns with feeling lost, fear, worries and unhappiness in being employed for a many years further down the journey although I was making a modest income with yearly bonus.

I didn’t liked what I was going through for many years from working in positions that I had no passion for, having less wage than what I gave out, had to pretend there was a workload just for show (had a healthy control of my time), constantly dragging myself out of bed early in the morning to work and experiencing depressions like déjà vu either subtlely or strongly every few months.

So, I said to myself that enough is enough and I HAVE TO CHANGE my life AT 360° or at least 90° as “I was going crazy often” with not knowing what to do with my life. I even joked to others about having my brains re-engineered!

Anyway, I prayed to Divine Guidance to show me the way of my purpose living this life and also prayed for my brains to be re-engineered too.

I started to do deeper personal inner work slightly more than a year ago by experiencing and searching a few healing modalities “to get me out of myself” on answers to what my life purpose is and where do I start from there.

It was important for me to have a career with a path that I was passionate about/for which was also fulfilling, helpful and meaningful, mobility with flexibility of space to work from and also to build a relationship with the Creator at the same time.

I was led to seek healing through a program.

Thereafter, things started to move with change gradually by HIM as I found what I’d like to do with my life in this journey and where I could start from. I didn’t thought too deep or hard this time although earning a modest income to sustain my likelihood was. My calling was taking the “Leap of faith” as a Facilitator for the healing program and I did just that with also, I had the option to work at/from home. Double happiness!

Before I left the last employment, a colleague asked me these Qs - “Kim, are you happy? and Kim, are you honestly happy with your decision?” and my response was “I don’t know if I am happy but feel comforted and relieved in a way at that time.

Now, I feel happy as I am able to control my time, build my power to just be, no bosses to report to, no emotional trauma with wage being reduced without appropriate reasoning, no toll plazas to pay for (was working in Cyberjaya with travelling from DU!), have the flexibility of facilitating distance healing in either the dining area or in my bedroom, having the ambers of passion constantly burning without much effort, have a career and a path that “fits just right” and the luxury of sleeping as much as I can too and still earn a modest income with no regrets!:-)

What I hadn’t realized until I had joined the last employment was that I had given away the power of choice for my greater good to please loved ones with working in a conventional workplace, letting go of the freedom and comfort to work at/from home. It was with the last employment that I realize is a catalyst for my decision to finally be my own boss.

My prayers have also been answered by Divine Guidance with signs of HIS purpose for my living this life now and have had my brain cells re-structured! This is not a joke and it’s been very beneficial and helpful too! If anyone want to work from home – my suggestion is “Don’t plan too long ahead or wait too long but have good intentions with prayers on what is for your greater good and you’ll start to notice changes happening. It’s always in the NOW moment and never past or future in all that we do!

Author: Kim YSW

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My Life So Far....

I'm a woman in her mid-30s who was diagnosed with SLE in 1997. In 2004, I started HD. I've now been a HD patient for more than five years! Whew! how time flies!

Now, how was it discovered I had SLE? Allow me to explain. I had just graduated at that time, I applied for a job in a big company and there was a compulsory health screening.

During the urine test, it was discovered that my urine had traces of kidney failure. Because the clinic would not proceed without payment, I shifted my investigation to a government hospital. And I was fortunate that I was diagnosed early without the usual running around departments in the hospital that some SLE patients face because SLE is known as the disease with many faces that is, its' symptoms are similar to many other conditions, so it's very difficult to pinpoint accurately.

Then came my next challenge : delaying dialysis for as long as possible. I was immediately advised to adopt the renal diet, which isn't as fun as the normal person's balanced diet. Which meant I had to watch my sodium, potassium & phosphate levels. I had to eat less salt, certain vegetables and fruits (potassium) and also less beans, nuts, soy products, dairy products and even mushrooms (phosphate). I was also advised to drink less fluids. I struggled with the diet for seven years but, even though I tried my best to be obedient to the renal diet, eventually my kidneys failed and I had to start HD (hemodialysis).

It has now been slightly more than five years, and the dialysis center I go to has become like a second home, all the nurses and staff there have become my close friends.

Before I started HD, people used to tell me that HD was 4 hours of suffering, but it isn't! There's the initial pain of the prick of two needles but after that, you don't feel a thing. Then there's also the initial stage of successfully creating a fistula or graft for the HD access. It involves waiting and certain complications but once that hurdle is over, HD can become a part of your weekly routine.

What I'm trying to say is, being a dialysis patient is not so bad once you've stopped complaining and accepted it. I thank God that he has opened my eyes and heart to realize how fortunate and blessed I am despite all this.

So, if you have been diagnosed with a major chronic illness, don't fret, it's just another doorway to another life, which may not be so bad after all. We are all sojourners in this world, our REAL life begins after we die. Yes, I am a Christian, and I believe our real home is in Heaven.......

Thank you for reading my blog. I will write more from time to time, watch this blog.....

Writer: eowyn

What do you think of being a Christian?

I was wondering why Christians make such a fuss about regular pop music. Sure, the lyrics aren't exactly what you would call holy, but I find that if you close one ear it's not too bad. I certainly don't believe that all Christians should shut their ears totally to secular music and just listen to praise & worship or hymns alone. To me, that would be boring and I, for one refuse to do that.

Of course, I don't listen to the really profane like heavy metal or (I don't know what they call it) music that has lyrics relating to satanic worship or the like.

I just think that we Christians should be set apart for Christ but don't forget, we're still living in this world for now. So, should we go through life with blinkers on our eyes or earmuffs on our ears? I don't know about you but I don't think so! While we're here on Earth, we might as well enjoy what it has to offer but of course, make sure that it doesn't lead to sin, remember, I'm Christian too, despite being a little liberal when it comes to pop!

Till the next blog! Stay healthy & happy!

Writer: eowyn

Happily Ever After?

Have you ever been in a relationship that ended and you were left wondering what went wrong? Or have you found yourself experiencing one failed relationship after another and you just couldn’t figure out what the problem was?

If you believe that relationships are anything like you see in the movies, all lovey-dovey and everything is perfect and romantic all the time, you need a serious reality check! There is a lot more to relationships that happiness and bliss and everything going your way all the time.

Relationships are no easy matter, and both parties need to work at it in order for it to work out. Lots of couples have long and happy relationships, and there is no magic formula there, just plain hard work. They’ve had their tough times and differences too, but the difference is that they managed to work it out despite the odds and that is what made the relationship last.

So do these happy couples have any tips for us on how we can make our relationship a long and happy one too? They certainly did! And after asking around a few happy couples that I know who have been in a relationship for what seems like ages, here’s what they have to say:

Secret #1 - Talk Things Over
When you get into an argument of disagreement, don’t immediately start shouting at one another and throwing accusations about. Or when one of you is upset, don’t keep it to yourself and expect your partner to perform some magic mind-reading act and figure it out. You’ll just make things worse. Instead, whenever there is a problem, both partners should sit down face to face and talk it over and reach a compromise.

Secret #2 – Trust and Respect
Trust and respect are essential to building a good relationship. You need to trust your partner, or you’re going to find you’ll get into a lot more unnecessary arguments and fights a lot more often. Keep the jealousy down to a minimum too, and remember to give your partner the benefit of the doubt before jumping to your own conclusions.

Secret #3 – Do Away With The Ego Issues
The days where men and women are stereotyped are long gone. Men and women have come so far since then, and on some levels they are even considered equal. So do away with the old fashion thinking and be more open minded about things. If you genuinely love your partner, you want the very best for them, right? So be genuinely happy for them. For example, if the woman gets promoted to a higher position, the man should genuinely be happy for her instead of holding a resentful grudge. So what if she is earning more than you? Instead of letting it bruise your male ego, use to help motivate yourself to do better and at the same time, be happy and encouraging towards your partner. Bitterness only eats you up inside sooner or later.

Secret #4 – Be Each Other’s Best Friend
Having your partner as your best friend is totally different from your best girl friends, or in the case of the guy, the best mates. Your partner should be the one person you can talk to about anything, be yourself no matter what and most importantly, someone who you know you can confide safely, knowing that they won’t use it against you.

Secret #5 – Support Each Other, Good Or Bad
A partner who is just there for the good times, but runs away or breaks up with you the minute times get tough is not someone you can build a lasting relationship with. It may not be easy, and sometimes it can really push your limits, but partners should stick together and support each other through the hard times as best they can. Even if you are there merely as moral support, it makes a world of difference, so be someone that your partner can count on when times get rough.

Author: Yet Mee

How to Spot Fakes?

We have finally decided to let go of our love for fakes. But what do we do about those fakes being disguised as the real thing? I have a friend who bid for a Prada clutch on eBay just to find out upon arrival that it was actually a ‘replica’. Yes, they use word like ‘replica’ these days. Maybe to make it sounds less obvious.

But not to worry because there are methods which can be used to spot the fakes.

1. The outrageously low prices. Like, hello?! You don’t get an original Fendi or D&G for 150 bucks for sure. The best thing to do is always check the price of the item from the official website of the brand. If the price offered to you is ridiculously low or lower than 30% of the original, it’s a surefire sign that you were about to add a counterfeit to your shopping cart.

2. Check the material and craftsmanship. If the leather feels like PVC instead of lambskin, then it’s not the real thing. Look closely at the stitching as well as the lining. Brands like Coach for instance, have serial numbers stamped on the inside of their bags, but the counterfeit normally will either leave out the serial number or just paint them onto the leather without creating an indentation into the fabric. Aside from that, if your Coach bag doesn’t have the microscopic letters “YKK,” embossed into the zipper, I hate to say this but it is counterfeit.

3. This one is a no brainer. Just be careful with where you buy the item. Street market? Come on! You don’t go to the street market to buy original watch, bag and shoes. Unless they’re used, most designer items are only available at their boutiques and official websites. And brands like Louis Vuitton for instance, never sell discounted items because they don’t do discount! So, if a friend came back from a holiday with her ‘discounted’ LV bag. You can be sure that it’s fake.

4. Most designer items come in proper packaging. Gucci shoes for instance, come with identification card, dust bag and original Gucci box. Counterfeit items on the other hand, always come in clear, cheap plastic bags.

5. And finally, always do your research. It’s best to go to websites like http://www.vogue.com/, http://www.style.com/ and the official websites of the designers themselves to check the details of the product that you’re planning to buy. Style for instance, always have detail shots of handbags, shoes, and whatever new items showcased on the runway. Check the lining, stitches, logos, handle, buckle…everything! Just make sure that the thousands that you forked out is worth it.

Author: Yet Mee

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tips On Creating Your Own Blog

Peniaga bertanya, "Bagaimana cara pertama saya dapat membuka blog sendiri?"

Blog dapat dihasilkan menggunakan Blogspot di blogger.com.

Kunci bagi memasuki sistem blog ini adalah dengan mempunyai akaun Google. Melalui akaun Google juga, kita dapat mengakses kepada aplikasi-aplikasi lain yang dapat digunakan bersama blog yang dihasilkan.

Akaun Google yang dimaksudkan menggunakan perkhidmatan emel yang disediakan dalam Gmail.

Gmail adalah kawalan kepada semua aplikasi yang ada. Kita andaikan ia sebagai kunci kepada pintu-pintu lain dalam Google. Tanpa kunci ini, kita dapat masuk ke dalam dan menggunakan apa-apa aplikasi yang disediakan Google secara efisien.

Membuka Gmail bermaksud kita mempunyai Google Account sendiri. Akses kepada aplikasi lain sangat bergantung kepada Google Account yang kita wujudkan.

Mendaftar akaun melalui Google

Langkah satu

Layari Gmail.com

Langkah dua

Klik pada Create an account bagi pengguna Gmail untuk pertama kali. Kita akan dibawa masuk ke paparan baru. Isikan setiap satu maklumat yang diingini. Iaitu

First name iaitu nama pertama

Last name: iaitu nama kedua

Desired Login Name iaitu nama yang digunakan pada emel

Choose a password iaitu kata laluan minima lapan aksara

Reenter password iaitu ulang semula kata laluan

Pilih soalan dalam senarai Security Question yang menyenaraikan beberapa soalan. Sertakan bersama jawapan pada soalan yang dipilih di ruangan Answer.

Fungsi Security Question ketika mana kita terlupa password yang digunakan. Kita juga boleh mencipta soalan sendiri menggunakan fungsi ini.

Isikan Secondary email iaitu emel yang sudah ada sebagai langkah persediaan bagi berhadapan situasi yang sama. Ruangan Secondary email hanya dibiarkan kosong jika ini adalah emel pertama kita.

Isikan Location, salin semula imej perkataan pada Word Verification dan klik I Accept. Create my account di bawah Terms of Service. Selesai semuanya, kita sudah mempunyai akaun Gmail untuk tujuan perniagaan.

Akaun Gmail telah berjaya didaftarkan.

Langkah ketiga

Layari blogger.com dan masukkan emel dan password Google yang dihasilkan bagi membuka blog shop yang pertama.

Author: zamrimohamad

Why Buying Fake Goods Is Bad?

Fake, knock-off, imitation, counterfeit… whatever you want to call it. I am the kinda person who would rather tot around an inexpensive bag and shoes from the high-street brands than wear something fake. Regardless of the price, at least I know for sure that they are originals.
It’s just sad to see how people would buy something that they call ‘high-quality fakes’ when they can get items from Guess, Aldo, Topshop, Promod etc for similar price. Does it feel good to have fake stuff on your body? And is there really such a thing as ‘high-quality fakes’?
Do you have any idea where those fake Fendi, Gucci and LV came from?

Most counterfeit merchandise is linked closely to crime rings, child labor, and human trafficking. These handbags and shoes are made in secluded sweatshops by workers who are working long hours in poor conditions. And the most upsetting part is these workers are young children who are being forced to work hours after hours on the old, rusty sewing machine just to produce some fake Ferragamo, Chanel and Hermes. How sad is that?

According to the book ‘Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster’, the writer, Dana Thomas shares her experiences in Thailand, witnessing what these poor little children have to endure. When she walked into a small sweatshop, she saw these child labors all under ten were sitting on the floor assembling counterfeit leather handbags. An investigator told her that ‘the owners had broken the children’s leg and tied their lower legs to the thigh so the bones wouldn’t mend. [They] did it because the children said they wanted to go outside and play’.
Don’t tell me you don’t die a little bit in the inside reading that?

The law has been tightened and changes are currently taking place. LVMH for instance has succeeded in their battle against eBay for fake goods from their brands which were being sold on the website throughout the years. According to LVMH, 9 out of 10 Vuitton and Dior items displayed on eBay were counterfeits.

But the still not all of these changes are positives. The counterfeit industry is still rapidly growing and they are getting better at covering their trail of crime. But the good news is people (particularly consumers) are more aware of what’s going on behind closed door and this ‘fake habit’ has starting to decline.

So just ditch the habit and try to be original. Stop buying from these criminals and when that happen, the industry will collapse and there will be no more children, sewing in the dark with their legs broken.

Author: Yet Mee

Monday, April 12, 2010

Reading and the Stay-at-Home Writer by Avantika

Reading has become a big issue in Malaysia. We even have a reading ambassador: Michelle Yeoh. The Star newspaper reports that she has been appointed ambassador for the Information, Communication and Culture Ministry’s “Come and Read 1Malaysia” campaign.

Daphne Lee has commented on this issue with her own piece, Pretty faces aren’t enough. She says, amongst other things, that the libraries of Malaysia – be it in the schools or elsewhere – are not properly stocked and we should have teachers and librarians who are, themselves, enthusiastic readers. It is the last sentence in her piece that interests me: Instead, give us knowledge, passion, personal commitment and long-term action.

With that in mind, I thought that in this piece, I share with you some of the knowledge I’ve collected about useful books for writers.

Essential Guides for those who would like to write anything at all.
1. Usage and Abusage of the English Language; new edition edited by Janet Whitcut.
At first glance, this book is like a dictionary and can seem like tedious reading. However, as you look through the text, you’ll find yourself pleased that you’ve made the effort. The book provides explanations of when certain words should be used and when they should not. For instance, do you know when to use ‘brief’ and when to use ‘short’? Or, should you write ‘altogether’ or ‘all together’? What words are in vogue right now? What words should be avoided at all costs? This book will certainly help you discover how not to abuse the English language.

2. The Complete Plain Words by Sir Ernest Gowers
In the Introduction, Joseph Epstein writes that ‘THE COMPLETE PLAIN WORDS teaches that careful writing is arrived at by a combination of courtesy and good sense and taking pains with the small details.’ The story goes that Sir Gowers wrote the book, initially, as a guide for Civil Servants and how to write properly in English. It has become a very useful guide for writers of all genre. Very simply put, Sir Ernest Gowers has a set of rules to follow when trying to communicate your thoughts to others. They are as follows:
• Be sure that you know what your correspondent is asking before you begin to answer him.
• Begin by answering his question.
• So far as possible, confine yourself to the facts of the case you are writing about and avoid and general statement about the law.
• Avoid formal framework if you can.
• Be careful to say nothing that might give your correspondents the impression, however mistakenly, that you think it right that they should be put to trouble in order to save you from it.
• Use not more words than necessary to do the job.
• Keep your sentences short.
• Be compact; do not put a strain on your reader’s memory by widely separating parts of a sentence that are closely related to one another.

3. The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr.
E. B. White, in the Introduction, writes that he treasures the book ‘for its sharp advice, but I treasure it even more for the audacity and self-confidence or its author.’ This little book – at some 100 pages, it certainly is little – is a gem of a book for any serious writer. If you need to know when to refer to Tan Twan Eng’s novel as The Gift of Rain of Gift of Rain, this is the book for you. The language is simple, the rules easily explained and, all in all, this book is a saving grace for many a writer.

To help you write better fiction.
Write Great Fiction – Plot and Structure – techniques and exercises for creating a plot that grips readers from start to finish by James Scott Bell.
Have you ever watched a movie that had all the elements of a story but you could not follow it well? Well, this is one book that will make sure that any story you choose to tell, especially in written form, will be presented in a proper structure. You’ll learn where each element of a story must be placed to make your tale a sound one.

When you need some comfort.
Creative Visualization for Beginners by Richard Webster.
This is a book for when you’re stuck with a story and can’t move forward. It shows you how other creative people overcame their problems – be they financial, spiritual or even physical adversities – and energised their creative juices to succeed beyond their wildest dreams.

A Cup of Comfort for Writers – edited by Colleen Sell.
This is a collection of short stories and essays from writers all over the world. Some of the stories are sad, some are funny, some poignant and some motivational. Reading them makes you understand that you’re not alone as a writer and that there is hope.

There we are. That’s the list of books I can suggest you read. If you’d like to add to them, by all means, please do so.

Chadian Women and Food as Enterprise

My friend Zhu Jun and I have spent the past few weeks exploring his experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Chad and I wanted to share the final post with the eHomemakers community. (If you'd like to read the full series, you can check it out on my blog.) While there are few business opportunities traditionally open to women in Chad, many have managed to carve out a niche for themselves selling food and drink. Here's Zhu Jun's take on things:

The vast majority of women in Léré and rural Chad are bound by unspoken gender rules that limit the types of entrepreneurship women can engage in. This generally means entrepreneurship for women in Chad is limited to serving food and drink. In streets near transportation centers and well-traveled roads throughout the country, women and girls hawk snacks including fried bean fritters, Chadian doughnuts or beignets, beans and rice, seasonal fruits, palm nuts, grilled chicken, grilled or fried fish, and packs of water.

Grown men who are not yet married and are thus lacking households of their own (i.e. women to cook for them) often go to "restaurants" run by women, usually simple places where women serve the Chadian staple of okra sauce and boule. In larger, wealthier towns, women and their families may own and operate restaurants that serve more expensive foods such as grilled chicken or fish, French-style baguette sandwiches, or even juice smoothies, made from blenders dating from the '80s that are powered by gas generators. (These smoothies were colloquially known as "Amoeba Juice" by us Peace Corps Volunteers because, although tasty, they were made with unpurified, contaminated water and one would almost certainly contract amoebiasis or giardia and suffer the runs as a consequence.)

But not all food service-related enterprise is created equal.

Bars, or the rural equivalent of bars, are one of the most common and popular informal businesses run by non-Muslim women in smaller towns and villages. The local, home-brewed alcoholic beverage in Chad is known as bili-bili and is fermented from the locally-grown grains, usually sorghum or red or white millet, sometimes maize, or even a mixture of these. Bili-bili is the drink of the people, made from cheap, easily available ingredients. It is also much more affordable and popular than either of the two Western-style bottled beers produced in Chad, Chari or Gala.

As soon as the sun goes down and the oppressive heat of the day dissipates, groups of women, usually relatives or friends working together, begin to make the bili-bili, boiling vast pots over large wood fires. Doing this at dusk helps women avoid working around the large, hot pots during the extreme heat of midday (the cooler, earlier part of the day is reserved for the manual labor of subsistence activities), and provides light, warmth, and a common activity in a town almost entirely without electricity. Once the bili-bili is fermented and ready, usually after several days, it is transferred into large basins and taken to sites all over town by each group of women. The women sell copious amounts of this very cheap beer (half a calabash costs about 100 CFA, or approximately 20 cents) and they share the profits, costs, and labor.

During the afternoon after work, men (and the occasional woman), disperse to these informal "bars" to drink, relax, and socialize. Muslims, who typically abstain from alcohol, gather at tea bars to indulge in syrupy sweet shai akhadar (green tea) or shai amar (red tea). The drinking goes on until the early evening and then, one by one, the drinkers disperse, returning to their homes or going into town.

First, the positive: Drinking bili-bili serves as a cheap method of stress relief, and as a social pastime, it can help to strengthen and maintain relationships. Interestingly, imbibing the homemade brew also helps nourish Chadians who have a very limited diet. Bili-bili contains high levels of protein, minerals, and vitamins which poorer Chadians would otherwise not get from their daily food. The nutritional advantage afforded by the liquor is recognized by Chadians who often and enthusiastically explain, "Ça donne la force!"

Now, the negative: As with small towns in America, one of the factors driving drinking is a lack of other recreational activities and methods of relaxation. This boredom, coupled with an extremely harsh physical environment, the constant possibility of violence, and no laws or restrictions on drinking age in Chad, has resulted in a unhealthy and entrenched drinking culture. There were extremely high levels of alcoholism in town (estimates were in the double digits) and, unfortunately, there were regular incidents of violence against women, children, and, of course, other men.

Two quick stories:

- During my first site visit, there was a commotion as individuals reported to and from my host father, a local chief and a member of the royal family. Apparently, one of his sons, a host brother I hadn’t met, had gotten into a drunken argument with a man and demanded the man's sunglasses. When the man refused, things got physical, and the host brother pulled out a knife and stabbed the man to death. Then, my host brother put on the sunglasses and continued strolling down the street. He was later detained at the jail but was reportedly still so inebriated he didn't understand what was happening to him.

- A young male relative of my host father would visit me often at my house. When he was sober, he was helpful, polite, and serious. Often, however, he would stumble into my living area barely able to stand or walk, his eyes glassy and sometimes even rolled back into the sockets, and alternating between mumbling to himself and making aggressive yet incoherent statements. The boy was only seventeen, but he was frighteningly drunk on a regular basis.

While making and selling bili-bili can be an extremely lucrative undertaking for women, its numerous negative consequences - many of which impact women directly - make me question the mantra that all enterprise is good enterprise.

I do think that supporting women's ideas and businesses in the developing world is often effective in raising their standard of living, increasing educational opportunities (particularly for their daughters), and affording women a measure of financial and personal independence. That said, women in the developing world must also negotiate a complex social and cultural framework and it's important to realize that economics and entrepreneurship are not the silver bullet in every case. Very often, a raised profit margin isn’t enough to ensure the safety and better lives women seek for themselves, their families, and their communities.

(This post originally appeared on http://aditkowsky.wordpress.com. It is reposted with permission.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Opportunities for Malaysian Changemakers

My full-time job these days is working for Ashoka's Changemakers, an international social enterprise organization that brings people together online to find solutions for different social issues. We host a number of different competitions and I just wanted to share two opportunities that the eHomemakers crowd might be particularly well suited for:

Women | Tools | Technology: Building Opportunities & Economic Power
This competition focuses on innovations that enable women to use the power of technology to expand their opportunities for economic advancement. Obviously, I immediately thought of eHomemakers but I'm sure there are other organizations and individuals in the community who have great ideas for this competition. The deadline is April 14. More...

Leveraging Business for Social Change: Building the Field of Social Business
Changemakers and Artemisia are looking at how social business initiatives can thrive and scale-up their impact on quality of life. You have a little more time to enter this competition - the final deadline is June 9 - but if you enter by April 28, you have the chance to win a digital camera. More...

Good luck if you choose to enter and if you know of any other opportunities, please share them in the comments!

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Importance of Tabloids and the Stay-at-Home Writer by Avantika

Friend: What’s that you’re reading?
Avantika: A magazine.

Friend: I can see that. But which magazine?
Avantika: Just a magazine. You know I read anything and everything I can lay my hands on.

Friend: What do you mean just a magazine? What’s the name? Why such a secret?
Avantika: No-lah. No secret. Just shy to tell you.

Friend: So, which one is it?
Avantika: Errr … Hello! magazine.

Friend: W-h-a-t?
Avantika: Don’t shriek! I knew you would react badly. Stop laughing at me.

Friend: OK. OK. I’ll stop now. But, do you know how funny it is? I mean, you the oh-so-serious-writer reading a Hello! magazine. And what else do you have here? What? The Daily Mail and tabloids? What’s wrong with you?
Avantika: I told you why I read these magazines. They help me in my writing.

What I’ve listed above is an actual conversation I had with one of my friends just last week. Ever since I was in college, I’ve been reading the tabloids and also what others call ‘trashy’ magazines. I have benefitted from the detailed descriptions of the journalists, the raw emotions of everyone in the story recorded and the facial expressions of the people photographed. Those that fascinate me the most are printed copied and filed away in a suitable place. Don’t believe me? Here’s an example.

The following is a tragic story which appeared in the online version of The Telegraph.

Teenage A-level student stabbed to death by suspected robber
A teenage A-level student, Asha Muneer, was stabbed to death by a suspected robber as she walked home along a canal footpath. The 18 year-old was discovered by a passer-by lying face down on a path beside the River Kennet in Reading, Berks. A post-mortem found she died from multiple stab wounds. Witnesses said some of the contents of her handbag were strewn nearby.

A 19 year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of her murder. He has not been charged. Miss Muneer was studying for her A-levels at Highdown School in Caversham, Berks, and hoped to go to university, it was disclosed. She was a part-time shop assistant at a Laura Ashley store, and was attacked as she walked home after an evening shift at the Reading Gate retail complex. It was thought that she took a short cut home along the towpath and that her killer ambushed her from behind and stabbed her to death. Her body was found under a bridge at about 9.15pm on Monday by a jogger. Police carried out a fingertip search of the area but were not believed to have found the knife used to murder Miss Muneer.

Forensic officers removed a small kitchen knife that was found about 150ft from where the body was discovered. It will be tested for forensic evidence, but officers played down the possibility it was the murder weapon. A spokesman for Thames Valley Police said that the girl’s death was being treated as murder. “We continue to keep an open mind as to the motive for Asha’s death,” said Det Supt Karen Trego last night. “A team of detectives working on the investigation are pursuing a number of lines of inquiry. “This is obviously a deeply distressing time for those who knew and loved Asha.” Supt Jim Weems, area commander for Reading, added: “I’m confident that someone out there knows how and why this happened.” Last night, family members gathered at Miss Muneer’s parents’ three-bedroom terraced home in Reading. The family were too distressed to comment.

Friends paid tribute to Miss Muneer on Facebook. Rebecca Stanton wrote: “A beautiful young girl doing her A-levels and preparing for uni, taken by pure evil. Words can’t describe what a loss you are.” Janet Patewa said: “R I P Asha, you will truly be missed and loved. I will remember you for your charm and fun persona. You were fun to be around, always making everyone laugh.”

The canal is popular with dog walkers, cyclists and fishermen. But residents out walking near the murder scene, close to Reading’s Madejski football stadium, yesterday said they tended to avoid the area at night because it was badly lit. There are several CCTV cameras in the vicinity, however, and their footage will be examined by police.

Kathryn Hilliard, 28, of nearby Kennet Island, said: “That part of the footpath is a bit scary. I would never go down there in the dark on my own.” Margaret Ward, another resident, said: “It’s quite picturesque, but it’s not somewhere I’d walk in the middle of the night because there’s no lighting there. Even with my dogs, I wouldn’t walk under the bridge.”

The footpath remained sealed off with police tape yesterday.
This story is approximately 500 words long. It gives the facts of what happened. More often than not, the victim is described as ‘Ms. Muneer’. Some information about the reaction of family and friends is provided. There is one photograph of Ms. Muneer in this article. As I read it, I tried to imagine the scene of the crime and Ms. Muneer’s workplace. I had in mind that the Laura Ashley department store that she worked in was a small shop in a row of shops on the High Street of Reading – much like the one I used to go to in the UK.

Take the same incident and observe how it was reported in the Daily Mail.

19-year-old is held for knife murder of teenage Laura Ashley shop girl as she walked home from work

Murder investigation: Asha Muneer died of multiple stab wounds.

A 19-year-old man was today being quizzed by police on suspicion of murdering Laura Ashley shop worker Asha Muneer. The man was arrested at 10pm last night following the discovery of the 18-year-old's body.

Asha was stabbed 'multiple times' as she walked home from her part-time job along a lonely riverside footpath. Police revealed she had been stabbed in the head and body before being left to die alone on the bank of the River Kennett, two miles from the centre of Reading, Berkshire.

Today, as police frogmen were searching the river for a murder weapon, her family said they had lost a 'loving, beautiful daughter'. In a statement, her mother, father and two sisters, said: 'Our family have lost a loving, beautiful daughter and we are trying to come to terms with how she died and the void that it has left in our lives.' Friends also paid tribute to a 'bubbly girl' who was always there for her friends.

The scene of the attack is close to Reading Football Club's Madejski stadium and less than a mile from her place of work - an out-of-town branch of Laura Ashley. Detectives said the attack took place at around 8.30pm. Asha's body was discovered 45 minutes later by a jogger.

'Bubbly': Asha, 19, who died after walking along a canal after finishing her part time job, was described as sweet, funny and a good friend by schoolmates. Her handbag, which was found near her blood-soaked body, had been emptied and its contents scattered on the ground.

The store where the teenager works closes at 6pm leaving two-and-a-half hours unaccounted for. However, last night it was reported she had arranged to meet friends at a nearby McDonald's after work.

Yesterday members of Asha's family gathered at her home in the nearby Whitley area of Reading, a mile and a half from where she was stabbed.

Forensic experts collect evidence at the scene by the River Kennet in Reading
A man, who described himself only as Asha's uncle, said: 'We don't really know anything much about what happened. It is too soon to talk about Asha. We are not in the right place in our heads at the moment.'

Asha, who is believed to be Muslim, had four sisters aged between 14 and 21 and a young brother. Her father is a taxi driver.

A close school friend, Amy Collett, said: 'Everyone loved her. She was so sweet and funny and was there 100 per cent for her friends. She was so bubbly.'

Police taped off the riverside path where the woman's body was discovered. Police at the scene next to the Kennet River in Reading, Berkshire, after the young woman's body was found
The pair met at Reading Girls School which Asha attended for GCSEs before moving to Highdown School in Caversham to do her A-levels.

Amy added: 'Just the other week she messaged me about an event she was organising. It was going to be like a mini reunion. I'm so sad that I won't be seeing her there now.’

Another friend said she believed the teenager had an older boyfriend. She said: 'I don't know how she met him. I heard a few months ago they were having problems.'

Highdown School head Tim Royle said: 'The whole school community is deeply shocked by Asha Muneer's tragic and untimely death and all our thoughts and deepest sympathy are with her family and friends at this terrible time. 'Staff at Highdown School and Sixth Form Centre and from the local authority are working together to provide support for all the children who have been affected by this appalling tragedy.

Asha Muneer had a part-time job at Laura Ashley in the Brunel retail park. Her body was found on the towpath near the Madejski stadium. 'Asha was a much-liked and very talented student. She will be greatly missed by all her friends at Highdown and by the staff who knew her and taught her.'

A Facebook group page was last night set up in Asha's memory. A poem dedicated to the schoolgirl finished with the lines: 'Asha was definitely a star to those she knew - like a sister to everyone.' Emma Leigh Brennan wrote: 'Asha, you brightened so many peoples days with ure jokes and how you never used to think before you said things lol (laughing out loud), you had the whole class rolling up and no one will ever forget you for that.
'There is not many people in the world that were as good hearted as you were.'

One local woman, housewife Leanne Marlow, a 21-year-old mother of one, told how she had walked the path where Asha died just two hours before the attack. She said: 'It was very dark. 'It can be very gloomy down there, especially at night.'

Kathryn Hilliard, 28, from the nearby Kennet Island housing estate, added: 'That part of the footpath is a bit scary and there's a lot of graffiti down there. I would never go down there in the dark on my own.'

White-suited forensic officers yesterday trawled the site immediately around where Asha's body was found. A kitchen knife was found on the ground nearby but it was unclear if it was used in the attack. The underpass, which runs under the A33 road, is often used by pedestrians to walk between the various retail, industrial and housing estates that line the road into Reading town centre.

Thames Valley Superintendent Jim Weems said he was 'keeping an open mind' about the motive for the killing.
This article is almost double in the amount of words used to describe the same incident.

This is how I used these articles to help in my fiction:
  1. Setting: There are 8 photographs in this story – from the 2 pictures of Asha Muneer, the police at the scene of the crime and even a picture of a blade of a knife found at the murder scene. It’s like a dream come true to help an author ‘visualise’ a scene in her head.
  2. Dialogue: There are such emotional quotes from members of the victim’s extended family, her co-workers, school friends and nearby residents. When writing dialogue, nothing destroys a story more when readers say, “I don’t recognise that person. People who live in my town don’t talk that way.”
  3. Plot and Structure: Ever heard the saying, ‘Truth is stranger than fiction’? Well, with these stories, you’ll know what the truth is. If there are twists and turns in your story, you’ll know just where to tweak it to make it sound real.
The question now is this: can you see why it’s important for writers to read anything and everything they can lay their hands on?