T-Shirt Into Tote

This is something I learnt while hanging out in Pinterest (which is highly addictive). I only dare to go into Pinterest on the iPad after dinner and even so, I end up getting goggle-eyed and inspired by all the interesting stuff.
This is what I learnt last week and since I had an old t-shirt I didn’t like wearing (got this t-shirt free when I joined the Charis Treasure Hunt a few months ago).
You know, some t-shirts are just too awful to wear – the cutting is ridiculous, the collar’s too tight and the overall look is plain silly.
And I don’t like using t-shirts as rags or rugs either.
Here’s an idea I tried out and it worked. Although it’s much faster if you have a sewing machine, it’s ok to hand sew it too (like I did). It took some time – maybe 20 minutes or so – but I was darning a few other things (Nic’s pants with a button missing) so it wasn’t so bad. When I batch process stuff – meaning I do ironing in one entire batch, or folding a big bunch of just dried clothing, or patching up a couple of items – it’s a lot less tedious. I don’t feel so aggravated.
Also I thought a t-shirt transformed into a tote or shopping bag is a great idea for a few reasons: the cotton bag can be tossed into the washing machine if it gets dirty (unlike those non-woven bags you get these days) and it’s foldable (you can carry a few easily) and it gives you a way to upcycle your old cotton t-shirts without guilt.
And cotton is much better for us and the environment.
We always get cotton t-shirts right? When you participate in a jogathon, marathon or any sporting event, you end up with oversized t-shirts which some people use as night wear. I don’t because I love wearing nighties to bed, not huge t-shirts.
OK, onto the instructions.
First, you lay the t-shirt flat on the floor. Smooth it out nicely.

Recycle your t-shirt and make into a shopping bag
Lay t-shirt flat, prepare to cut off sleeves

Take a sharp pair of scissors and cut off both the sleeves. Leave the joint seams intact because this gives your tote added strength. Next snip off the collar. You can be precise and lay a plate to get a nice round shape but I was lazy and just snipped it off in one go.
Cut off sleeves and collar off t-shirt
Cut off sleeves and collar

Then pin up the bottom of the t-shirt and sew away. It’s faster if you have a sewing machine. I did it by hand and it still looked OK. After that just turn the t-shirt inside out and what do you know, you’ve made yourself a cotton tote for shopping! I don’t like advertising brands so this below is how the finished tote looks like. If you like the brand on the front of the t-shirt, then you can turn the t-shirt inside out and sew up the bottom part. It’s all up to you.
Sew bottom of t-shirt
Sew bottom of t-shirt and turn it inside out

If you’re really the neat sort, you can even sew up the sleeve part neatly but I wasn’t too bothered. It’s a rough and tumble sort of recycled bag, right?
It’s the kind of weekend project that takes all of 30 minutes to do.
Happy crafting!

Idol Worshippers

I was at the Buddhist Tzu Chi Recycling Centre at Taman Lumba Kuda (behind Shang Wu Primary School opposite the Penang State Mosque) a few weeks ago. It was a warm Saturday afternoon which made people lazy to go out.
Nic and I were there to see for ourselves what a successful recycling centre looked like.
The area we live in, Taman Sri Nibong, had received a proposal from the good people at Tzu Chi that they wanted to turn an abandoned food court in our residential area into a recycling centre. Tzu Chi would pay MPPP a rental to use the premises. They did a presentation a few days before that to let us know what their plans were plus answer any questions or doubts.
I like Tzu Chi, not least because they’re a Buddhist organization. They are an amazing example of what good things can be done if done right and with compassion. The way Tzu Chi is run can put many conglomerates and businesses to shame; they have such integrity, such intelligent systems and their inspiration is truly awe-inspiring. (Another Buddhist organization worth mentioning is The Kechara Group. Love, love, love their work.)
Another group had also wanted to turn this old food court into something else. I shall not name this group but they did nothing after proposing their idea for all of two years. When I was in the RA Committee (and that was 2 years ago), I had heard of the big idea but nothing came about. Naturally we all assumed this other group had lost interest or had no funds.
So now that Buddhist Tzu Chi had an idea and proposal, this other group gives an ultimatum – “take our idea and benefit this entire taman or go with Tzu Chi” assuming that only THEY could do something good for this area – when they had remained so quiet for the last 2 years. Humans are so bloody predictable. Give them a bone and they will fight like dogs.
And these are grown men and women!
Some say that a multi-purpose hall is better (so let’s tear down the old food court). Some say a recycling centre is dirty and will attract strays. Some say a library is even better (oh dear, in this day and age when even adults don’t read and we expect kids to go to a library?). Or a coffee corner. Someone even said, why don’t we ask someone rich like Vincent Tan to give some money and turn it into a hall.
Oh so many ideas.
Anyway, that has yet to be settled. While the arguments zoom back and forth, there’s an elephant in their midst. No one wants to say it but the taman residents are afraid Tzu Chi will turn Taman Sri Nibong into a temple or something. Or proselytize and turn us all into Buddhists.
The people who make bold accusations like this did not attend the Tzu Chi presentation nor did they make the effort to visit the recycling centre in Taman Lumba Kuda (which is clean and quiet and gives the entire community a place they can gather!). They sit behind their PCs and spew forth such illogical statements that it makes me wonder – why are certain Christians so afraid of Buddhists?
I am a Buddhist and I can tell you this – we do not go around proselytizing because we’re not about saving your souls. Your soul is yours. It is your karma to have your soul. It gives us no credit to save your souls.
So there. I’ve said it. No offence to Christians – I have plenty of Christian friends, OK.
Plus my sister is a Muslim. Yup. She is. My own blood sister. So yes, I do know what I am talking about.
In fact, I have been asked again and again to join Christian groups on pretext of going out for dinner/party/fun.
My neighbour Vern and I have a secret code for this -“porridge group”. I told her this story – when I was in USM as a freshie, all naive and young, my senior approached me and asked if I wanted to go out with her friends for porridge. I was not feeling too well then, having just recovered from chicken pox, so porridge sounded divine (and campus food was always spicy and curried).
I didn’t know it wasn’t just porridge.
After our dinner at a nearby hawker centre, she drove us all to her friend’s house. A big group had gathered.
“Oh, we’re going to watch a movie and sings some songs, that’s all,” said this senior to me. I was lucky my roommate was with me. She was just as confused as I was. Maybe we looked too heathen!
The movie was about Christ and how he died for our sins. The songs were songs of praise with live guitar music. It was practically a cell group meeting for all I know.
We couldn’t even walk out of the house as we had been driven there and out of politeness, had to wait until the 2 hours were over before we were taken back to our hostel.
I felt so cheated and so angry. I never spoke to that senior again. If only she had clued us in, at least we would have had a chance to decline or if truly interested, to say yes.
But to induce two girls and bring them to a cell group meeting on the pretext of going out for dinner was the cheapest of all cheap tricks.
I always tell people I meet that religion is deeply personal. What you do in your personal life is between you and God or whomever you believe in.
Whatever religion you belong to, be the best follower of that religious teaching.
I studied in a Methodist school. I know the Lord’s Prayer – I had it memorized when I was 10 when I was searching for some sort of religion to cling to. I grew up with a best friend who is deeply religious – a Catholic where I had joked “Nothing comes between you and Jesus.”  I tried attending Friday sessions at the chapel in my school. But nothing.
Religion is an affinity. I had none with Christianity. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect it as a religion. When I came to USM and learned the Dhamma, it felt like coming home. It fell into place for me.
Many friends became Christians after years of praying as Taoists and Buddhists. It’s OK because they finally found what they were looking for.
But to presume that Buddhists are all out to convert people is wrong.
Have you ever seen a Buddhist giving you a pamphlet and saying “If you’re free, why don’t you come to our service this Sunday at 1oam?” or “What are you doing this Sunday? Would you like to join us in worship?”
So for all our corny slogans of 1Malaysia (I hate it with all my heart), we still don’t understand each other, do we? We still don’t know what we all are or how our philosophies differ or when they merge.
Some Christians are afraid of some Buddhists/Taoists/Confucianists. We’re all that cymbal-clashing, idol-worshippers who burn joss paper, light incense and live by archaic superstitions.
Open up your eyes, will you? Come and understand first before you judge.

Above All, Have Faith

The past few weeks were rather busy for me since I was roped into planning our women entrepreneurs’ group luncheon to celebrate our 6 years!
When Jo and I had this idea in June 2006, we never envisioned it to grow to more than 50 members plus a database of 200 or so non-members (those who do not yet qualify to join us).
Anyway, that is over and done with – our anniversary celebration last Saturday was a tiring effort on all fronts.
You know it’s never fun to be on the organizing committee. I only managed to eat a bowl of piping hot crab noodles before being called to do 101 things. Griping aside, I must admit I am kinda proud that the little group of five ladies we started has turned into something to be reckoned with in Penang.
While it was a success with a full turnout of ladies in their glittering best on a rainy Saturday, I felt that we could have done much more as a team.
Teamwork is always crucial in any event planning. I felt disappointed at some people’s attitudes.  You know how right it is that you only see the person’s true colours when that person is under stress or tight deadlines.
I came away contemplative.
I came away looking at some people with new eyes.
Some shone under pressure. They were brilliant in planning and execution. Some stepped up, right from the start.
Yet there were also some who brought their worry into the group.
They didn’t want to participate.
I told Pauline, let them be. We’d just have to do without them then. (I must tell you then of my cabbages and brocolli* theory. More of this later.)
And above all, have faith.
Because she was worried sick about ticket sales. As the organizing chairlady, she was in charge of paying full fees for the hotel ballroom even if we failed to sell our tickets.
In looking back, I realized I learnt this “having faith” idea from my Christian friends. I have so many of them that I’ve lost count. My best friend is a Catholic, did I tell you that? So I grew up hearing about her church activities and more.
A few of my good friends in Penang are Catholics. Many more are from various churches in and around Penang.
Faith was a word I have heard many times.
Until you experience it, it remains just that. A word.
Faith is about doing your best, your utmost, and then letting it go into the hands of someone, something that is far bigger and more powerful than ourselves. You can call it God. I call it the Cosmic Universe. I call it the Unknown Presence sometimes.
Faith is about helping ourselves so that someone else may help us. It could be indirect help. Or divine help.
When we hit our break-even ticket sale mark, Pauline was the first to let us know. And I was truly happy for her.
For in helping her sell tickets (and get sponsors and lucky draw contributors), we have all learnt something precious. That each of us has the ability to do more than we think we can.
We can challenge ourselves and we can make things happen. That’s what makes us all walk a little straighter. That’s what makes us more confident, more aware of the wondrous things we could do, if we put our minds to it.
For the naysayers who stood silent, who bit their lips, who worried instead of getting down to work, they may not have learnt anything.
And that’s really a pity.
Because the way I see it, an event like this (or any other event for that matter) is just a vehicle to test us all. Could we put ourselves away and do something for the greater good?
Far too many people can be negative. Being negative won’t help things run along.
Taking action and trying your best can.
When Kim jokingly said that from now onwards we’d all have withdrawal symptoms, I’d raised my eyebrows. No way. I had put aside a bunch of business stuff to do when I was roped into the planning committee.
Now I had to get back into putting my own stuff in order. Pending projects (eerrrkkk), clients I needed to meet for discussions and generally, my own self-development (you know, reading and learning).
I have faith.
And I hope, whatever you are going through right now, that you have faith too.
Things will get better!
P/S: *Oh yes, my cabbages and broccoli theory which Nic had laughed about just the other day. When I was 19, I had my teenage heart broken when the boy whom I liked turned out to be such a jerk – he had no guts to break up with me face to face; he did it on the phone! Worse, he had called my best friend, yes, that Catholic girl, and told her he was going to break up with me (she had introduced him to me).
Luckily my best friend called another best friend and they drove to my house at midnight, hoping to break the news gently to me before that boy called. Unfortunately, they were too late. So they lounged around my porch while I was on the phone, being “broken up” with! They were sweet.
He was a bum and a spineless worm (and thank god I didn’t marry him). Anyway, I told them later that it was a cabbages and broccoli thing.  My theory was if someone preferred cabbages, so be it. (Ahem, I was the broccoli in the analogy.) In my mind, if you preferred one thing over another, so be it. Just don’t regret eating cabbages all your life. I was going to be so damn “broccoli” that he would regret it for the rest of his life that he didn’t desire me.
Yes, I was a bit mad like that in my youth.
I have lived using this philosophy since then. I would never go begging someone to be my friend/lover/client; in fact, I’d make myself so attractive/smart/irresistible that those who’d scoffed would regret it sooner or later. That was the ultimate revenge.
It took a break-up for me to create my philosophy but it helped soothe a broken heart (which actually was healed when I met husband-to-be during  my first semester in USM!). So there. Strange but true.
Cabbages and broccoli. Tell me if you think I’m mad.