Flowers in California

Flowers in California

Saturday, December 31, 2011

200th Entry

This is the two hundredth entry in this blog.  It won't be long.  I plan to write much more, and in a variety of formats, in the New Year.  Thank you for reading all that you've read.  I wish you an absolutely wonderful New Year and that you fulfill many of your dreams and have much joy and peace!

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Bead and A Link to Christmas Dinners Past

As I walked into the kitchen today, I saw a pearl-like bead on the floor and tried to figure out its source.  Lots of things end up on the kitchen floor but we don't see a lot of beads.

The bead brought to mind thoughts of my grandmother and the jewelry she wore. She's been gone for 21 years.  Quickly, though, I realized that the actual source of the bead was my two year old niece's necklace.  She had visited on Christmas and, at first, was wearing a lovely dress and fun necklace.  By the end of the evening, she was in sleepers and her necklace had been broken in a wild flinging incident.  I'm not surprised to find a stray bead or two left behind.

When my mind had finished travelling from my grandmother to my niece, I realized that was the first time I had linked those 2 people in any way.  There isn't much reason to link them.  The age difference would be in triple digits and my niece is from my husband's side of the family.  With both of them, though, I have gathered at Christmas.  With both of them, I have shared a Christmas dinner and enjoyed the lights from a Christmas tree.  Years apart but the tradition goes on.

I find it interesting to reflect upon the people with whom we have shared previous Christmas celebrations.  The faces change.  Time moves on.  We miss people.  Some people that we wish had joined our table, never made it there at all.  We struggle.  Still we gather.  New faces, some very small, join us.  New boyfriends and girlfriends and husbands and wives and children and in-laws join in.  Traditions change.  Still, we have Christmas celebrations.  I hope we do.

At Christmas dinner, we sit in the light of the Christmas tree, and we smile and eat and talk and poke fun at each other (or maybe that's just us).  The turkey is good, the carrots are not, somebody doesn't like cauliflower, the baby's got her head in her food.  At least she seems to like it.  And so it goes on.

Whatever it is that keeps us coming back together, in ever-changing configurations, I'm glad it happens.  I can hold onto the memories of my grandmother and see if I find any more of my niece's beads.  It is so special to have shared Christmas dinner with each of them.

Our memories are treasures.  And so are our people.  I want to hold onto both of them.  And I want to hold onto the bead.  It seems kind of special now.

I hope that all of you enjoy the traditions that link your life together as you cherish the people who mean so much to you.  God bless you all.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Peace of Christmas

It is daytime on Christmas Eve.  Earlier today, I experienced peace.  I was walking through an alley after a quick trip to the mall.  (NOW I'm done!)  I noticed the gentle nearby sound of traffic, I saw the white snowy environment in which I was walking, I witnessed the stillness and it was nice.

Ideally, we would feel very peaceful at Christmastime.  We seem to have messed that up though.  Instead, this becomes a fascinatingly complicated time of year.  No tv show, whether scripted or reality-based, could outdo the family scenarios that develop and are played out at this time of year.  Cooking a Christmas dinner is one thing - figuring out which family members will attend can be a much more complex matter.  Buying presents can be heartfelt but it seems incredibly important these days to get the right present.  For various reasons, even Christmas dinner table favours can be prepared with equal parts enthusiasm and spite.  (I can give you the pattern for them but you have to supply your own spite.)  It can get so crazy.

Experiencing the peace, that stillness, on my walk this morning was an unexpected surprise.  It was a also a reminder that all of this hoopla is not what matters.  Listening to the quiet, treasuring our loved ones, both family and friends, enjoying the beauty of the season and perhaps trying to understand its meaning, I think these may be some of the true joys of Christmas.

I hope that you all experience many precious joys and much peace this holiday season.  Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dining Room Table

With Christmas wrapping and card-writing to do, I've ended up at our dining room table a lot lately.  It's a flat surface in a handy spot and I don't need a lot more right now from a piece of furniture.  It works.

We bought this table about two years ago and it still seems new.  I try to avoid scratches or any kind of damage to it that I can.  Using it for this Christmas work has even caused me some concern.  We bought our old table from the previous owners of the house.  It was their kitchen table and had visible marks on it from where their dog had chewed it.  I don't know what it says about us that for about 15 years we had furniture that was damaged by a pet that wasn't even our own.  But, we took our time and now we have a table we like.  So far, our pets haven't chewed it.

A while ago, my brother and his family visited from out of town.  We love company from out of town and don't get nearly enough of it.  Because of the larger number of people in the house, we ate all meals at the dining room table when they were here.  It was really nice having everyone gathered around it.  At one point, there was concern that the heat from a pizza box (I didn't say we had fancy meals - just that we ate in the dining room) had marked the table.  Nobody wanted that to be the case.  At some point, though, I realized that it was ok if we had marked the table.  As people gather around it and eat, talk, laugh and maybe cry, the table serves its purpose.  As time goes on, it develops its patina from the meals held at it, and the people who come to sit at it.  It is not the table itself that matters - the one with the dog chew marks did work quite well for 15 years after all - but the moments of life that get lived at it.  I cherish these and maybe a mark or two will help us recall these moments.

This year, a Christmas dinner will be held at the table.  As long as we can pull everything together, there will even be a turkey.  I'm not going to encourage people to carve in the table or pour boiling hot liquids on it but if a mark or two gets left behind, that's fine.  It's part of the life of our table and our family.  Perfectly imperfect and that's fine with me.


Personnel Agency - Friend or Foe?

I made a questionable move last week.  I probably made a few but I'll focus on my trip to a personnel agency.  I went to one and suggested that I am available for work.  I have done temporary work before.  Last time, years ago, it led to a wonderful company where I worked happily for five years.  Not all assignments were like that.  A few stand out in my mind as being particularly unpleasant.  Still, I made some money and got experience and found my way around a new city.  It worked well enough.

This time, I would like to start working again (for money!) after being home for 11 years.  I want to write but, at this early stage, writing is not bringing in the big bucks.  Or the small bucks.  Returning to temporary work seemed like a good solution.

I went to an agency and spent much longer than I expected doing various software and data entry/typing tests.  My software skills were average, the rest was quite good and the company is willing to send me out into the wilds of the business world again.  It felt nice to be back downtown that day and to think that soon I would be a part of things again.

I guess there wasn't enough conversation that day about what I want to do.  It's difficult until you hear about an assignment to know whether you want it or not.  If stringent guidelines are laid out about what is and isn't acceptable, though, it's possible to miss out on something so good it's worth a few compromises.  But clearly, I could have been more specific.  I suppose they could have asked more helpful questions too.

The next day I received a call about an assignment that would start the next day and last a month.  I listened to the job responsibilities.  The list went on and on and on.  I could not believe the quantity and diverse nature of the duties.  I could carry out some of them, some might cause me to have emotional breakdowns, and some would probably tempt me to do bad things to people.  (I don't know how wise it is to place an overworked and resentful temporary employee in the position of making travel arrangements for people.  "Sure, I'll arrange for a flight for you" might sound helpful but there's no indication of where the flight would go or if a flight back would also be arranged.  Apparently they were willing to give me that power.  They shouldn't.)

With the position being available so suddenly and an immediate need to temporarily fill it, I wonder what happened to the person previously in it.  Perhaps the awfulness of the role got to her or him.  Perhaps they also came up with the idea of giving someone a one way ticket to a far off land and they followed through with it.  Whatever happened, if this person handled so many responsibilities, I fear that no one else would be able to explain the role and help me become comfortable in it.  There would be expectations, however, and tasks to perform.  It would be quite yucky.  You can quote me on that.

I didn't take the position.  It's fine, and expected, to turn down positions.  What bothers me is that this position was so wrong for me.  It wasn't a little wrong - it was extremely wrong.  It goes against who I am and clearly the person I talked to at the agency did not pick up on who I am and my strengths and weaknesses.  I will help with accounting or administrative work and I like problem solving.  If you put me in a little corner somewhere and ask me to sort something out, I will do that.  I've done some breathtaking (ok, maybe not breathtaking but good) work with spreadsheets.  Try to pretend I'm an administrative assistant though and bad things will happen.  You'll learn quickly that I have no aptitude for that role.  You'll learn quickly that you've made a bad decision.  You'll learn quickly that no one will win in that scenario.

I don't know where my relationship with the agency is going.  Perhaps it's over already as I have turned down another assignment since the first call.  That may be for the best.

Personnel agencies play a useful role.  I know that working for them can be a good experience.  I see, however, that their goal is pretty much to find a person for a job, any job.  That's how they make money.  That's how they keep companies happy.  I have to watch out for how to make me happy.  Accepting a job, any job is not the way I'm going to do that.  I don't want to be driven to stranding strangers around the world.  But already I've thought of that as a way to seek revenge.  I think that's a sign I should be very, very careful before I accept any temporary assignments.  And people should check their travel information thoroughly before leaving home if they ever see me anywhere near their workplace.  It's good to know we've all learned something from this experience.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Smiling Snowman Ornament

I sat down this evening, with my pen and notebook, and looked at our Christmas tree.  The lights were on and it looked lovely.  In particular, looking at it this time, I noticed a snowman decoration.  I love its expression, its hat and its carrot nose.  It is such a joyful looking snowman.

As I looked at this decoration, I wondered where it came from.  I took a look at the back and confirmed that it is one of the ornaments my aunt has sent my son every year.  She paints an ornament and puts a greeting and the date on the back.  This snowman is from 2005.  We lost one of the collection due to breakage but we have all the rest.  It is a special collection.

Earlier today, I was at a mall.  I spent some time browsing in the Christmas sections of a few stores.  I thought I might find some decorative item I liked.  I didn't.  That's ok.

I suppose if I had found something I loved, something that really caught my eye (and was reasonably priced), it would be nice to buy it.  Perhaps it would become a part of our Christmas traditions.  But for a number of reasons, I am glad that I didn't buy anything.  Some of the reasons are quite standard - the spirit of Christmas is not to be found in things, I don't need to spend money on something unnecessary when I could (theoretically at least) donate that money to a worthy cause, we have enough Christmas decorations already.  My primary reason for being glad I bought nothing ties into the last of those reasons but it goes further.

Yes, we have enough Christmas decorations.  Already, there is an element of dread before I decorate for the season and I when I undecorate after the season.  But it's also nice to take some time and appreciate what we have.  If what we have seems like too much "stuff," the individual items have lost their meanings.  So many of the items do have meanings or stories.  Simply looking at that one snowman ornament was a nice experience this evening.  Random items purchased to add to the decor would never offer so much.

Next time I sit down and look at the tree, I will look at another ornament and try to recall its story.  There are the two dogs in stockings that somehow go back to when I was in kindergarten.  There are many ornaments that my husband acquired as he grew up.  My son has different ones.  I have an absolute favourite that has pink and green flowers.  I love them all.

Happily I have found new appreciation for the Christmas beauty already in my home.  I think this extends beyond the Christmas season as well and into our lives.  Appreciating what we have is so much nicer than seeking "it," whatever "it" is, out there.

So now, we will settle in to enjoy the season and hope that the big rabbit doesn't chew the Christmas tree cords and set the tree, presents and anything nearby on fire.  Even if (when) he does that, we won't need to replace every "thing" right away.  But I might ask my aunt to start sending non-flammable ornaments.  It would be nice to have a few sentimental items.



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Giving of a Gift: Part 2

I had the best of intentions.  But, as I should have remembered, it takes more than the best of intentions to succeed at Christmas shopping.  I thought it would be simple to go buy a Hotpaws neckwarmer.  I meant so well.  This is how my shopping trip went:

1.  I started at Sears and, I suppose, hoped to see a giant standalone display of Hotpaws products.  There was no such display.  I scurried around trying to find what I wanted.  One employee cheerily greeted me.  That confused me; I didn't think to ask her for help.  I found a few Hotpaws products hanging out with other outerwear.  There were no neckwarmers.

2.  Heading to the Bay, I skillfully avoided one of those people who wants everyone (or every woman, at least) to sample a skin concoction.  He was wise to avoid me.  My "Do not approach" vibes worked nicely.  They were a good investment.

3.  The Bay experience was much like that at Sears except everything was a little more crowded in and feelings of hopelessness were settling in.  I was hating the shopping experience by this time.  I considered that maybe the complete product line was only available in the US.  That hardly seemed fair.  When it comes to warm winter gear, Canadians need it all.  I left the Bay.

4.  I went to Shoppers Drug Mart and bought myself a clock radio.  It seemed like the right thing to do.

5.  I bought a cookie and coffee at Starbucks.  I needed stamina.  I ate my cookie at a table but got a look from a woman with 3 small children.  I think she thought she deserved the table more and perhaps she did but I was hungry and quick.  And I was on a quickly deteriorating shopping mission.

6.  I considered looking at an electronic mall directory but a woman collecting for charity was standing awfully close to it.  If I approached, I would feel obligated to donate.  I am in favour of donating but I have already done so.  So has my son.  I can't keep throwing money in.  I think we should wear little hats or something that tell everyone we've already given.  Next I'll have to go shopping for a hat.

7.  I returned to Sears.  I found a sad looking neckwarmer.  It wasn't a Hotpaws product.  I realized, though, that their products would not be any more special.  They're all simply pieces of fleece.  The one I found cost $9.  It seemed so disappointing.  I bought a scarf instead.  It's blue.  I could have bought it in my first few minutes at the mall.  My mission had failed but it was complete. 

I didn't try to make this a complicated, unpleasant affair.  It still turned out that way.  I suppose flexibility would help but it seems that for me, at least, once I'm on a mission to find a certain item, I try really hard to find it.  Does that benefit anyone?  Probably not.  It makes for a bit of an adventure but I don't want to spend time on such adventures for every person on my list.  There are no bonus points given out for trips back and forth in the mall.

Sometimes a certain item is not available or is too hard to find.  That's okay.  Something else will do.  Often, we don't even know that the person would want the gift we're so determined to find.  I still don't know that my dad has a cold neck.  It'd be kind of nice if he does though because I did buy the scarf.

I hope that everyone who is doing Christmas shopping is going easy on themselves and enjoying the process.  Some year, maybe I will too.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Giving of A Gift: Part 1

It's Christmastime and like many, many other people I am trying to come up with suitable gifts for  people (And pets; don't forget the pets).  While the numbers of people in my immediate and extended families may not be large, there are several December birthdays.  I don't hold the timing against these people but I do see that my that my son was wise to avoid the issue and be born early.  December is a busy time.

Some gifts come together easily; for my mother, I had bought a few things, ordered one thing on line and realized I had completed her birthday and Christmas shopping.  It was amazing.  For some people, more effort is required.  For my dad, it's hard to know.  I tend to buy books but I've tended to do that for a while and don't want to overdo it.  I don't want him to cower in fear when he sees another Indigo package arrive.

I saw some ads on tv for Hotpaws.  I don't know what aspect of the ads really caught my attention but Hotpaws makes warm gloves and scarves and I thought they might have something for my dad.  I've had no indication that he suddenly finds himself colder than usual but he goes for walks and it's winter in Canada.  Products to keep warm are necessary.

Looking at the Hotpaws website, I decided the most suitable product was a fleece neckwarmer.  It looked warm and soft.  There would be other presents too but this would be the feature item.

As I thought about the selection of this gift, it occurred to me that, although I can't guarantee whether the neckwarmer would be worn and enjoyed, this was a heartfelt gift.  Yes, it's Christmas and we feel a need to find something and it's a relief when we do.  And yes, it's possible that my Dad has more scarves and other neck-warming items than one person could possibly need.  Within those parameters, however, I would be buying something because I love my Dad and I don't want his neck to be cold.  That's kind of a nice gift.

As we develop gift ideas, it's nice when our motivation is this simple.  It's hard to come up with such ideas for each person on the list but we can try.

(We can also throw out a few hints about what we would like to receive.  I'd like some heartfelt presents too.  And I haven't reached the point when I cower in fear when Indigo packages arrive.)


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Storage Lockers and Stuff

I watched Storage Wars one night this week.  I have watched it more times than I care to admit.  It holds the interest of all three members of my family.  I'm not proud that we watch it but, hey, we do.

I find the cast of characters mildly interesting.  The material uncovered can be unusual and mysterious.  However real the show is, I don't know.  It's a reality show - that is not a guarantee that it reflects real life.  That's ok, there is some entertainment value.

What I find less acceptable or, at least, something to think about is why the original owners of the storage units have defaulted on rent and left behind their belongings.  The units, or most of them, do not appear to be treasure troves of collectible items that people needed to store offsite.  Rather, they are filled with the everyday items of people's lives.  There are coffee tables, microwave ovens, mattresses and, sadly, toys.  Where are the people who leave all these things behind?  What circumstances led them to pack up their belongings and place them in a storage unit and then, at some point, leave that behind?

The economy in the United States has suffered in recent years.  I watched a heartbreaking story on 60 Minutes about the children of families forced by economic struggles to live in hotels or with friends.  It's tough for kids.  When a family is in a situation like that, I guess keeping up payments on a storage locker isn't a high priority.  Keeping the family together, looking for jobs and somehow surviving, are more important.

Maybe the items in the storage lockers don't matter too much and it's ok for buyers to swoop in and bid on what they want.  It's sad to see a family's belongings rammed into a small space and then abandoned but the family matters more.  Some families are learning, as they face crushing financial difficulties, that life is about a lot more than material belongings.  I hope that things get better for the people in these situations and that, in whatever form home takes, they can soon be home again.  And that, at some point, they will have a coffee table on which to place their favourite beverage or their treasured toy.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Keeping at It

I went to the gym today.  It had been a few weeks since I'd been there.  This happens.  I go regularly, and then I stop, and then I go regularly and, well, you see where this is going.  (Sometimes to the gym and sometimes not to the gym.  That is where this is going.  But you probably figured that out.)

Today, I decided to walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes.  I will ease back into more exercises and more strenuous activity.  So, I started walking on the treadmill.  Then, I got bored.  I was quite bored.  Around the ten minute mark, I felt like I couldn't walk for 30 minutes; the boredom was too much.  My resistance is not usually that strong.  It must have been working out when I wasn't.  It was clearly of the opinion that we should get off the treadmill and give up.

I kept going through the ten minute mark though and set my sights on 16 minutes.  For some reason, if I can get to 16 minutes, the time seems to go quicker after that.  Perhaps it's a matter of getting past the half way point.  Whatever happens at 16 minutes, I like that point in time.

I guess sometimes we have to keep going and work through barriers in life when we'd rather give up.  The world wouldn't end if I got off the treadmill after ten minutes.  But giving up is too easy.  We don't reach our goals when we give up along the way.  And there are goals much more exciting to pursue than walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes.  There are so many things we can accomplish.  And it's worth pushing through so that we can accomplish them.


Getting Along

I was at the mall yesterday and I saw something that warmed my heart.  A girl who I believe is Muslim (I don't like to assume anything but she was wearing a hijab) deposited money into the Salvation Army Christmas kettle.  I almost broke down in tears.  It doesn't always take a lot to make me break down in tears but this was so nice.

Interfaith generosity and love and compassion and understanding are such dreams, such ideals, such lovely things for which to hope.  Of course, we could use generosity, love, compassion and understanding among people within faiths too and within all of society.  We need to get along.  I think it's worth a try.



Don't ask a woman if she's pregnant - ever

I came up with this rule a long time ago.  I have stuck to it.  Not everyone follows it.  I don't normally like to suggest what people do or don't say but I believe this is very important.

Women can have medical conditions that result in them appearing to be pregnant.  There may be several conditions - I know of a few.  One is fibroid tumours.  I know about them from personal experience.  I also know the pain of being asked if I'm pregnant.  And of people looking at my stomach without asking.  No, I'm not pregnant.  If you only knew how loaded an issue that is to me and how much that question hurts, you would never, ever ask it.  Or look at my stomach for too long.  That hurts too.

Sometimes, a person is pregnant but it's not going well.  It's quite possible she doesn't want to talk about it.  Too many pregnancies don't end with the arrival of a healthy baby.  Too many of us know about that.

Please, be considerate.  I know we all get excited about babies and pregnancies but a bulge in a woman's belly, big or small, isn't always something about which they are happy and to which they want attention drawn.  Sometimes things aren't how they look.


Eating with Appreciation

Last night, I saw a character on a tv show try to eat something he didn't want to eat.  It was a lamb kebab.  I wouldn't want to eat it either.  There are many meats I wouldn't eat and I would prefer to eat none at all.  Lamb is on my I-don't-eat list.  I wondered, as I watched the scene on tv, how hungry I'd have to be to eat the lamb kebab.  That got me thinking.

Whatever my reasons for not eating various foods, the foods provide valuable nutrition.  A starving person would appreciate them.  We need food.  And we can pick and choose what we like to eat.  We have that luxury.

Perhaps we should maybe take more time to appreciate food and on this day, Thanksgiving in the United States, it seems fitting.  We can appreciate food that tastes good and even food that tastes bad.  If we think about why we are eating and how lucky we are to have food, maybe we will be more inclined to eat good food, less inclined to waste food and better able to teach children to have a rational approach to food.

I still don't want to eat a lamb kebab.  But maybe once in a while I should eat something I don't like.  I should let myself get hungry and see how that feels.  I can learn what food really means to us and how profoundly lucky we are to have it.  I can eat for the right reason; we need to eat to fuel our lives.

I wish everyone in the USA a nice Thanksgiving Day.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

In Our Pursuits

I wonder if she enjoys watching SpongeBob SquarePants.  I'd think that could go either way.  I like that show.  Oh, but I'm digressing before I even get going here.  I'll get back on track.

In the Globe and Mail Books Section today, I enjoyed the "My Books, My Place" piece.  Author Susan Casey was featured.

While it's often interesting to look at this column and see where people like to read and/or write, I was especially interested in learning about Susan Casey.  She described her ideal setting for reading (it sounded neat and would be in Hawaii) and she talked about the many books she owns.  A lot of them are ocean-related and many deal with sea creatures.  And it was clear that she is enthusiastic about them all.

I find it fascinating that people have varied interests.  From the picture accompanying the article, I wouldn't have expected this woman to be a sea creature enthusiast (for one thing, there's a cat sitting beside her.  I guess they're easier as pets).  For another thing, it's just so different.  I don't know too many (if any) people with similar passions.  And it's wonderful that this woman knows her passion and is pursuing it.

Whatever our interests, our passions (as long as they're healthy - nothing damaging), we can make our lives richer by digging into them.  Questions lead to more questions, discoveries lead us in new directions and our pursuits lead us to people with similar fascinations.  As we acquire more knowledge, we have more to contribute to life.  Plus, it's just fun.

So, let's go and pursue our own sea creatures.  In whatever forms they take.  Enjoy them all!


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I Oppose the Word "Just"

I just do.

No, there's a lot more to it than that.

First of all, the word "just" isn't always needed.  It doesn't add a lot of meaning.  How can things be "just perfect" or "just right"?  Aren't they perfect or right?  So, it's on my radar screen for that.  But I have bigger problems with the word than that.

As far as the word "just" being used to mean "fair", I think we should give up on the concept of life being just or fair if we want to happy.  I don't see evidence that anyone is using a giant weighing system to ensure everyone has equal measures of happiness, sadness and everything else.  We have to make the best of what we are handed in life.  Again, we can strike out the word "just."

Finally, we use the "just" to minimize our accomplishments.  We just create beautiful pieces of art, just teach or just write.  We just cook, bake, clean, go to work, care for animals, raise children or volunteer.  We just pick ourselves up from defeat or upset, and carry on.  We just do a lot of things.  How about we stop minimizing any of them?  How about we give ourselves credit for all that we do and all that we are?  We're not "just wonderful."  We are wonderful!

I'm not going to formally request that the word "just" be removed from usage.  Too much paperwork.  But I think it's important to consider the use of the word, especially in the context of minimizing things we do.  What we do has value and so do we.  It's that simple.  And yes, I could have used the word there.  But there's no need.  It really is simple.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Becoming Handcuffed

I just ate my lunch and glanced through the paper.  I saw a picture of Michael Jackson's doctor having handcuffs placed on him.  Dr. Conrad Murrary was found guilty of involuntary mansalughter in the death of Michael Jackson.  He became a man in handcuffs.

I don't know how long the handcuffs stayed on Dr. Murray or the rightness or wrongness of the verdict.  The life and death of Michael Jackson are not straightforward.  But the image of this man, this doctor, losing his freedom struck me.

I wonder what it is like to go from being a free person and a medical professional to a person who is cuffed and imprisoned and at the control of the justice system.  What did he lose with the verdict and with the action of being handcuffed?  He passively accepted them both.  What else could he do?  But what is it like to go from sitting in a courtroom, well-dressed in a suit and tie, to suddenly becoming a handcuffed convict?

And really, why the cuffs?  It must be a standard procedure but I doubt that it's necessary.  Does it help anybody to strip away this man's dignity in this way?  From his defeated expression, he did not appear about to run away or hurt anyone.

This isn't about the rightness or wrongness of the handcuffs though.  It's about what it must be like to lose one's freedom and have one's situation change that quickly.  It's about wondering what it is like to, literally, have our hands tied, to truly be imprisoned, not imprisoned by the limits we impose upon ourselves.

For those of us who are free, who can use our hands, who can lead our lives, we have so much opportunity, so many options.  We can do so much.  It is in our hands. 


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Going For It Finally

I'm hungry now.  I'm not hungry for food.  I just had a little snack so I'm fine that way.  Thank you for your concern though.  No, I'm hungry for life.  I'm hungry for doing what I want to do regardless of, well, regardless.  It is time to move forward.  Finally.

I'm not sure how to deal with the fact that I have wasted time and lots of it.  You don't get that back.  But maybe it helps you use time better in the future.

I am grateful to have wonderful people in my life who offer encouraging words.  They believe in me.  We all need that.  I'm starting to believe in myself too.  And not beat myself up about things.  My confidence is, well, coming along.  The seeds have sprouted.

I see no benefit to hiding our abilities.  The world needs what we have to offer.  And we need to offer it, we need to express ourselves and our talents.  To quote Marianne Williamson:

"Your playing small does not serve the world." (see below)

We all have so many wonderful talents and interests and potential.  When we unleash them, we can do amazing things.


Regarding the quote:  I refer you to Marianne Williamson's website for the context of this quote and further information.  I find the entire quote shown there very inspiring.  Enjoy!

Keep Bothering

I hope that each of you enjoys reading this blog.  I expect that you get a sense from it that I enjoy writing.  I do; it is my passion.  There are times, however, when I don't feel positive about it.  Here are some words I found this evening in one of my notebooks:

The house would be a lot tidier if I didn't have notebooks and newspapers and books and pens and things to read and things I'm writing and things that inspire.
Maybe that would be better.
Maybe my words are clutter.
Maybe the world doesn't need more.
That's what it feels like right now.  Who cares?  Shut up.  Stop making noise, on paper.  Just be still.  Would that be better, more peaceful, simpler, healthier?
Should I just give up, & keep it simple?
Why try so hard?
Why try at all?
Why bother?

What a sad person I would be if I gave in to discouraging thoughts like that.

I plan to keep on bothering.  I hope that all of you know and pursue your passions.  And keep bothering, always.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Looking and Hoping for a Much Better Way

I watched video of Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi, in terrible shape, and soon to die.  As well, I believe I saw his body after he had died.  The images were horrible.  While the ethics of showing this material can be debated, they show us that this man came to a violent end.  I don't think we should be sheltered from that truth.  I do think we should consider the question:

Is that the best we can do?

I don't question that Moammar Gadhafi oppressed his country, inflicted violence upon others and was involved in terrorist activities.  I will read more about him and gain some more understanding but clearly, he did terrible things.  But, in 2011, do we not have better ways to deal with a person like Gadhafi?  Is there not a more peaceful solution?

I saw people of Libyan descent on the news.  They looked genuinely happy that this man is dead.  I know that they have legitimate, heartfelt reasons for this happiness.  For them, I am pleased that they and their families feel free of this man's threat.

When my son learned about this event though, and we were talking about it, I chose to temper the celebratory tone.  I don't like to convey that a person's violent death is a cause for joy.  How do we teach tolerance and love when the ultimate answer is to kill bad people?

I don't know what better ways there are to stop people like Moammar Gadhafi and others from doing harm.  I think society should be working towards better solutions though.  Solutions from the mind rather than from military strategy are called for.  We're not there yet, we don't have better answers, but we can work towards getting to a more enlightened place where we can do better.

Maybe it was the right decision of the media to show the tapes of the ugly truth of the end of Moammar Gadhafi's life.  And to show the ugly truth of violence, even when it's considered to be for a good cause.


Quietly Searching for My Inner Normality at Parent-Teacher Conferences

I got through parent-teacher conferences this morning.  I talked to two of my son's teachers.  I don't think I humiliated anyone, this time.

In communicating with my son's teachers, right from kindergarten, I have a bad record of feeling like I've said the wrong thing or offered more information than they could possibly want to hear.  In other situations too, I have a tendency to revisit conversations in my mind and wonder if I've said the wrong thing.  With my son's teachers though, I may be right about saying the wrong thing or, at least, saying way too much of the right thing.  I don't think they need to know

- my educational history from elementary grades to university and continuing ed courses
- that I'm from Toronto and like to go back to visit it
- that I have rabbits, two right now, and my whole history of having rabbits as pets
- my interesting in writing and my preferred genres
- my breakfast choices and what I plan to have for lunch
- my feelings on any number of subjects
- my son's birth story and how I feel about that

I don't think I've delved into all those topics (yet) or at least not to this level of detail.  But I have talked.  And while the information itself is generally quite irrelevant, the fact that I start spewing it may be of interest to them.  I wonder what they've recorded about me.  I wonder if I have my own file.

In other situations, I do not demand a lot of conversational time.  Clearly, I like saying things in written form.  Maybe because, as an introvert, I appreciate situations where I can take time and put some thought into what I am saying, the short interview set-up intimidates me.  My son and his education matter a great deal to me and it's a big deal to have a chance to exchange information about him.  As well, authority figures may be a bit of an issue.  Maybe I still want approval for things from my past.  Whatever the explanation, maybe it's ok that I go a little crazy in this setting.  Maybe.

Today, on the way to school, I let my son in on my concerns and desire to do well this time.  I came up with some thoughts to guide me:

 - It's better to say nothing than something stupid.
 - Nodding can be ok.

My son came up with the best line (as usual) of all:

 "Find your inner normality."

He can say that - he knows me well.

This time, I found my inner normality.  I listened and, while I hope I said appropriate things, at least I know I didn't provide too much information.  It was a better experience.

I was impressed with the teachers with whom I spoke.  I am proud of my son and his effort and approach to school.  Keeping quiet, and out of the spotlight, I enjoyed parent-teacher conferences this time.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On Fixing the Dishwasher and New Perspectives

I just spent a few minutes down on the floor with my head in the dishwasher and water dripping on me.  While it wasn't the best part of my day, it wasn't necessarily the worst and I eventually emerged victorious.

My victory comes in the form of securely reattaching a piece of the dishwasher that I removed a few weeks ago when I was cleaning out the filter area.  I was hoping that the piece wouldn't matter and I still don't know the exact role it plays.  But now it's in place and I reattached another piece of the filter more securely as well.  Hopefully our dishwasher problems are over for a while.

Preventing appliance disasters is highly regarded in our household.  We have had bad luck with dishwashers and there was the horrible oven incident of 2005.  I don't know what it would do to us emotionally to have to face another appliance catastrophe.  I'm glad this problem seems to be sorted out.

Now, I take from this repair adventure not just the knowledge of where parts go in this model of dishwasher.  Although that is valuable information.  What struck me as I sorted things out was that when I tried to fix it a few weeks ago, I came at the problem from one side of the dishwasher and it didn't work.  But this evening, when I came at the problem from the other side, I got a fresh look at things.  And I was able to resolve the problem.  A fresh perspective made the difference.

Some problems are tough.  A fresh perspective might help with issues larger than dishwasher repair though.  It's amazing how a change in environment or a nutritious meal or someone else's helpful words can change one's vantage point.  I'm glad I'm not still working on the dishwasher from the wrong side.  I think it's good to work on other challenges and opportunities from fresh perspectives too.

And I really hope this load of dishes comes out clean.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sleeping in Comfort

As I was walking through the mall today, I saw a woman in the Quilts etc. store holding up and folding a comfy looking quilt.  There are lots of quilts at that store; it's well-named.

Seeing that quilt made me think of the one that I pull up on myself each night.  The other night, as I did so, I heard sirens.  I felt grateful for the comfortable situation in which I found myself and knew that someone wasn't as lucky at that time.

It is wonderful to have a comfortable bed to turn to at night.  It is so easily overlooked but we who have that have something worth appreciating.

I don't know what it's like to be homeless.  I imagine that a key component of it is that the people are bedless.  Having no home, no place to make your own must be difficult during the day but at night, to have nowhere to shut down and settle in, on your own or among people you love, must be extremely unsettling.  I know that there are facilities that provide shelter but they are not home.

I remember seeing a picture, when my son was a toddler, of a boy who resembled him.  He was sleeping on his father's lap.  His family was homeless.  He didn't have a bed of his own.  I wonder what that's like for a child and how he's doing now.  I hope that things have improved and that he has his own bed.

Solving homelessness, like so many problems, is not easy.  There is not a standard profile of a homeless person.  Maybe, if we notice and appreciate that we have beds and blankets and peace at night, we will consider what it must be like not to have those things.  We will realize that it is worthwhile to try to help others to have them too.  And eventually we will go to sleep at night, in peace and comfort, knowing that others are doing the same thing.

(By the way, there is a charity that takes an interest in supplying children around the world with beds.  It was founded by the parents of former NHL goalie Ken Dryden.  I don't know a lot about it but here is a link that I found to its website.  Just something to think about so that everyone can have a better sleep.)


Thursday, October 6, 2011

On People Connecting

I stumbled my way through ordering a cheese pretzel the other day in the only language in which I claim fluency.  It wasn't overly impressive.  The server was polite.  She knew what I meant.

During our transaction, smiles were exchanged.  Somehow we connected.  It's possible that the server's first language was not English.  But few words were required.  With being temporarily tongue-tied, I was lucky.  But the whole thing got me thinking about how language can be a barrier to connecting.  That's unfortunate.

I find languages interesting and know some words in a few different ones.  French is my strongest.  I realize now that I have never used second language skills to get to know someone.  I understand a few words in Italian but I never got to know my friend's grandparents when I was a child.  They spoke Italian and I didn't and, while I was in their house a lot, we could not communicate.  Or we didn't communicate - maybe we should have made an effort.

I am not proud of the fact that even now, I find it very challenging to converse with someone who doesn't speak English well.  That's terrible.  But I don't pick up as much information from a person nor as good a sense of what they're really saying.  I wish I could.  And it's harder for me to express myself.  I wish it wasn't.

As wonderful as a variety of languages is, I wonder what it would be like if somehow, we all spoke the same one.  If language stopped being a barrier, we could understand and relate to so many more people.  We could have deeper discussions and learn more of people's experiences from around the globe.  We would be able to know each other's feelings more deeply too.  I think it would be wonderful.

I don't think there will be only one language in the near future, nor should there be, but thinking about the concept makes me realize that I should try harder to get to know people, however tricky conversation with them may be.  There are so many amazing people in the world who have so much to share.  It's worth listening and working hard at understanding.


Monday, October 3, 2011

The Sea - One of the Places I'd Like to Be

I have to be careful to avoid my house becoming like a walk-through instruction manual.  I like inspirational quotes, a lot.  And I hang them on our walls, quite often.  Guests should factor some reading time into any visit.

One of the sayings I have on the wall is "The Sea is where I want to be."  I love the ocean.  I love oceanfront beaches.  And the beaches alongside large lakes.  Given a choice of travel destinations, I would prefer one that involves staying by "The Sea."

With all that being said, it must be noted that I don't live near an ocean, lake or anything else that could be descibed as a sea.  So, my little saying becomes rather rueful.  It suggests that all the time I'm not alongside water, I'd rather be somewhere else.

On the weekend, I was in an all-year Christmas store that offers decorative items that go way beyond that season.  I found inspirational quotes, as usual, on various objects and also a section of ocean-themed decor items.  I spent a lot of time in this store.

While a few quotes caught my eye, the one that left the biggest impression said, and I'm paraphrasing, that paradise is anywhere, it's up to you.

I believe that's true.  We can worry and fret and complain in a beautiful setting or we can rejoice in less than ideal surroundings.  Yes, I love the ocean.  But I don't want to spend my life regretting that I don't live by it and wishing I was somewhere else.  I hope to take trips, maybe some day I will even move to a waterfront location.  I don't know.  But I do know that making the best of life as it is, and where it is, is a good idea.

And by the way, on those visits to my house, after you're finished reading all the quotes, please spend some time looking at beach and waterfront pictures hanging on the walls.  And enjoying the colours of sky and sand and sun.  Yes, I really do love the sea.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Watching Parliament at the Gym - Really?

When I am at the gym, trotting on the treadmill or rowing to nowhere on the rowing machine, I need something at which to direct my eyes.  Even if I mastered listening to music while I work out (and I hope I don't have to hire a trainer to help me with that), there is still the view to be considered.  Sometimes I look at people but it's tricky to know when it gets closer to leering than looking and I'd rather stay away from that if I can.

Frequently, I find myself watching the tvs.  There are three of them.  With a visually interesting show, like Ellen, or even a sitcom and the correct distance from the closed-captioning, watching tv can help to pass the time and add some fun.  Some people, however, must have very different ideas about tv viewing at the gym.  They choose stations with shows that I have to describe as boring.  Boring.  That's not a word I like to use much because I find life anything but boring.  Some tv stations manage to assemble a good bundle of boring, however, and there are people who choose to watch.  Earlier this week, I saw Parliament.  Yes, Parliament on tv.  How can watching that possibly enhance the gym experience?

I suppose the solution to the problem of what I consider to be poor tv channel choices at the gym is to change the channel.  I've seen people do it.  But I am not a person who wants to impose her choices on others or I'm just not that assertive.  I have seen someone walk in, look at the tv, and change it without regard for anyone else there.  That won't be me.  I will just keep on running or walking or rowing and pondering the minds of people who find parliament or business news or never-ending news interesting.

I might end up having to watch attractive men working out, again.  If that's what's required of me, I will accept the challenge.  Oh, the demands of physical fitness. 



Monday, September 19, 2011

Bridge to Euphoria

The Terry Fox Run is an excellent fundraising event.  It continues the legacy of a Canadian hero.  It is an honour to participate in it.

My friend Kim and I chose to walk.  That's ok - nobody has to run.  We raised a little bit of money and started off yesterday morning on our trek, among a crowd of runners and walkers, young and old, human and canine.  It was a nice morning and we enjoyed walking and chatting.

At some point, I noticed that people ahead of us were crossing a pedestrian bridge.  Most people would barely notice.  It was not a high bridge or a precarious-looking bridge.  But it was a bridge and it crossed the river at a location where it is fairly wide.  To me, this presented a crisis.  If I was going to continue on the walk, I would have to cross the bridge.

It was very difficult for me to get across but I did it.  My friend Kim helped greatly by letting me hold onto her and by speaking gentle, supportive words.  I will never forget her kindness.  I hope that her hand was not seriously damaged by my grip.

After the crossing, and once we'd gotten what I considered a comfortable distance away from the bridge, I was proud.  It was embarrassing to have been upset so I wasn't overly proud but I was really pleased with my accomplishment.  It hadn't seemed possible.

(Here we'll gloss over the fact that we soon realized there was another bigger, higher, more open bridge to cross to go back over the river.  I chose not to try that one and, long story short, we took public transit back to the other side.  It wasn't a timed race, we did make it back in our own way, and you don't get memories like we have from sticking to the official route.)

By the time we went out to lunch after the walk, I felt euphoric.  There was a new richness to life, friendship, conversation and food.  Although I wouldn't have asked for the event to go the way it did, I felt great and it was a very satisfying experience.

I don't often challenge myself to try new things, and things that terrify me.  I did this by accident.  Maybe I should challenge myself more.  Maybe we should all reach out and conquer new things, face our fears.  It may seem easier to sit back and try to stay safe.  But safety doesn't lead to a feeling of accomplishment and a sense of euphoria.  They're nice feelings and I think I'd like to have them more often.  And even if I have to feel like I felt on that bridge, it's worth it to get to those feelings on the other side.

Thank you to Kim.

Thank you to Terry Fox for the journey he began.  He did so much more than cross a bridge.  He started running and the world joined in.  Thank you, Terry.


Friday, September 16, 2011

When Anger is Ablaze

I understand anger.  I know its strength.  It can lead us to say hurtful things.  And act irrationally.  It is a very powerful emotion and I suppose if we can experience intense joy and love, we can also feel intense anger.  It's part of the package.

I have been having more trouble understanding how someone sets a multi-family dwelling on fire because of a fight with one's spouse.  This happened locally this week.  I don't mean to suggest that setting the spouse's home on fire would be a good idea if it were single-family.  This is a horrible action to take but I choose to believe that it was meant as an act of property destruction and not murder (it was not in the middle of the night).  To go beyond the notion of revenge on someone you're mad at, though, to the point of destroying other people's homes and belongings and risking a lot of lives, takes some heavy duty anger and a lot of irrational thought.  Also, it was after the initial disturbance so this person had time to think.  It's awful.

Actions have consequences.  Even if this person thought he would not be arrested for the crime, he had to know that there would be damage, inconvenience and major upset for the other tenants.  Was he so blinded by his own own problems that he didn't consider these repercussions?  Was he abusing some kind of substance and his judgment clouded?  Does he feel so wronged by the world that he wants to get back at more people than just his spouse?  What made him believe this was the best course of action?

Nobody wins here.  He's arrested.  His spouse has no home.  A lot of people have lost their belongings and homes and found out that there is more reason to be afraid than they may have realized.  But he was angry and he acted on his anger.  I guess he did what he set out to do.

I wonder if we can teach children to handle anger better.  Would that be enough?  We also need to consider the effects of our actions on others if we are to live peacefully.  Can we teach that?  And who are we?  Who does and who should do the teaching?

I don't know.  I wish there were ways to ensure that people don't do things like this again.  Individually, I can try to understand my own anger and help people around me to process theirs.  And maybe being kind and courteous when interacting with strangers can help a little bit.  Rather than stoke the fires of people's anger and hurt, I can add some pleasantness.  I don't think it can hurt.  But I don't really know how we can stop people from taking such terrible actions.  I wish that people put their energy into making things better rather than so much worse.  I am happy when I think of how much better the world would be, and I am trying to hope will be, when more people do that.


Monday, September 12, 2011

My Trainer - The Poor Soul

I wonder how ugly it's getting over at my local gym as the trainers sit around and argue over who will take on the task of working with me.  Despite everything I have said in the past and my own fiercely independent approach to most things, I have signed up for 1 1/2 hours of fitness training.  I want to learn what exercises are useful and I want to learn how to do them right.

It will be a challenge for the trainer.  I can't possibly understand how the right person for me can be chosen randomly.  That person will require a certain temperament.  Physical skills will not be enough.

It is a little discouraging not to receive a call in the promised timeframe.  I will try to be a good trainee. As long as my list of warnings, limitations, and rules is understood and respected.  Oh, this does promise to be interesting.  I wonder who will draw the short straw.


Monday, August 29, 2011

On Papa Smurf and Hoarding

For the past few days, I have been cleaning out and rearranging kitchen cupboards.  It's kind of fun.  And I look forward to trying out the new set-up.  It's entirely possible I will be shuffling it all back to the way it was but for now, I'm hopeful.

As I go through kitchen items, it becomes obvious that we have too many of some items.  So, off to Goodwill they will go.  When I look at some, I'm not sure that Goodwill will want them even though we were using them until last week.  I use things for a long time because I don't like to waste things.  I don't want to send items to Goodwill that they can't use and which will require disposal.  It can be a tough call.

I also have a bit of a tug-of-war about certain items.  There can be the sentimentality factor and a strange reluctance to get rid of something that we've had a long time.  I have watched shows such as Hoarders and Hoarding:  Buried Alive lately though.  What I've seen and heard on those shows makes it easier to get rid of some items.  They help to alleviate guilt when that is a factor in keeping something.  After all, according to those shows, holding on to things we don't need is a terrible thing to do.

While those shows do make me consider some habits, I've learned it's important not to take the concept of purging one's items too far.  I am so glad that with one of my older items, I hadn't done that.

Recently, I went to see The Smurfs Movie.  I really enjoyed it and was envious of the Smurfs' happy lifestyle in their community.  And I had not known that Smurfs are three apples tall.  You never know when you'll need that information.  Anyways, watching the movie, I started to wonder if I still had the Papa Smurf stuffed animal that I won in an amusement park in the 80's.  I had been excited to win him on my own; none of my boyfriends in the pointless relationships that dominated my teen years had to do it for me and that meant something to me.

I knew that I had kept Papa Smurf a long time.  Well, I don't want to say a long time because that makes me sound old but, yes, it was a long time.  I also knew that I have been clearing out stuff lately.  I feared for the little blue guy.

When I got home, I went to the room where I thought he might be.  I felt really bad as I looked and didn't see him.  I knew then that we can go too far in ridding ourselves of our belongings.  I knew then that I had to put these thoughts in writing.

Happily, I found Papa Smurf.  I was so relieved.  It doesn't affect my day-to-day life that much to have him around but he is a piece of my past.  After enjoying the movie, it's even nicer to have a Smurf.  Of course we can't keep everything but we can keep some special things.

I'm not sure that I'm comfortable with the fact that hoarding shows are on tv.  I have watched them, though, and I might do so again.  They seem exploitative and some, maybe most, of the people profiled seem to be really troubled.  It must be a horrible invasion of their privacy to have family and/or friends, cleaning people and a production crew enter their home.  I hope I have the resolve to do better things with my time than watch more episodes.

These shows can also make viewers, or me anyways, fear that if we don't throw things out, our homes will look like the ones shown.  I have been made aware of some bad tendencies I have.  But I am not a hoarder.  Those people are very troubled.  We don't have to throw out all our belongings.  There's a big space between keeping a few too many things and not being able to eat in one's kitchen and normalizing bug and rodent infestations.

I believe it's good and healthy to keep something like my Papa Smurf.  And he is only three apples tall.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Mr. Jack Layton

Rest in Peace to Jack Layton, Leader of the NDP, Canada's Official Opposition Party.

I cannot honour this man adequately with a blog entry.  His letter to Canadians said it all so well.

I can't believe he's gone.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Winds Are Blowing

When the wind was strong last night, it seemed perfect.  The winds of change are blowing through the lives of a lot of people I know right now.  They're powerful winds.

Some people are going through painful change.  For some, the changes will be wonderful.  For all of us, these changes are new.

The greyness of today's weather seemed perfect too.  We cannot yet see the colours, the effects, the new scenery these changes will create.

Friendships will endure.  But lives will change.  They must.  We must.  I am excited and a little uncomfortable.  We are treading on new ground and we have to trust that it is stable beneath our feet.  And that it's o.k. to start walking around in this redesigned world.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What Others Say

Today someone said things to me that I found strange.  They bothered me.  I've tried to sort out how I feel about them.

As the day draws to a close, however, I am realizing that the comments another person makes say more about them than they do about me.  No, it's not normal to greet someone after their vacation and tell them it wasn't long enough.  A week at a beach seemed just right to us.  But I have areas in which I can improve too.  I will not dwell on other people's issues.  Or not for long, anyways.

Oh and, yes, I know I got more freckles from the sun.  I also got a  healthy glow.  It would have been nicer to point out the glow. 


Monday, August 15, 2011

Isn't Travel Fun?

To avoid travel problems, it's best to stay home.  That way you wouldn't:

- find out your flight is delayed over 2 hours and that you will miss your connection and stay in a hotel in the connecting city for a flight at 7 a.m.
- stand outside a gas station in Durham North Carolina, terrified that someone in your party was having a serious food reaction
- wait for one and a half hours to get hotel vouchers in connecting city so that you are at hotel for less than 5 hours
- notice that only one of the three of you has an assigned seat on this flight and that the flight is overbooked

I can see that not everyone wants those things to happen to them.  And all of them have happened to my family within the last 24 hours.  But if we hadn't travelled, we would have also missed:

- a wonderful beach trip that included my parents

and, within the last 24 hours,

- a chance to talk to and cheer on fellow travellers as we all worked to sort out our travel issues and get on with our lives
- a little extra attention (and free breakfast) on this morning's flight because our tickets somehow indicated what we had been through
- a remarkably nice, albeit quick, sleep in a reasonably nice hotel
- the profound relief that there was no food reaction and a chance to view the rest of this situation in perspective

It was kind of my goal through the ordeal to get back to our living room.  I will go there and read through my mail.  But I don't want to stay in the living room too long.  There was a time in my life when I wore out a couch cushion from sitting on it so much.  That wasn't good for me or the couch (we had to replace it).  A lot of living happens outside the living room and if sometimes I end up tired and upset and a little frantic in an airport after 11 at night, it's just a part of the adventure.  But I'm glad we're home.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Nature's Beauty

I understand that not everyone likes small animals, especially rabbits, as much as me.  Well, let's say I understand.  But whether one loves them or not, it troubles me to see people chase them away from their yards.  Yards are outside, rabbits are outside.  I think they go with the territory.  In a city, we are lucky to see wildlife up close.  I think it is sad and wrong to see it rebuffed when we get that chance.

A man who lives on my street really likes the outside of his house to be neat.  When he was chasing a rabbit away one time as my son and I played badminton on our lawn, I (somewhat) nicely yelled over to him that I like the rabbits.  He said nicely that he would like them too if they didn't dig holes in his lawn.  They don't dig holes.  They do create very shallow dugouts where they lie down.  And they use the same dugout repeatedly.  It's not a big deal.  And is it really that important to this man that his lawn be perfect?  It's not like he has a beautiful flower garden that's getting eaten or his family's vegetables are being stolen.  And I have colourful flowers that are low to the ground and very few get eaten.  I coexist with the rabbits.  I enjoy their presence.

I don't think I'm bothered about this just because I like rabbits.  Rather, I'm bothered because I don't see the merit in protecting perfectly tidy but boring outdoor spaces.  Flowers are beautiful.  Trees can be beautiful.  Nature is beautiful.  Animals are a part of nature.  When someone angrily tries to keep one element of nature away, there is less beauty.  When someone tries to manipulate their outdoor space with perfectionism, it's not natural.

JAHD - This piece is dedicated to Tom, the baby rabbit who lived outside our house for a few days.  Naturally.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

No, I don't think I can dance but I like the show

Some tv shows aren't that inspiring.  I'm thinking of reality shows like Hoarders, Storage Wars, Pawn Stars, Pawnathon, American Pickers, and now Canadian Pickers (I'm just hoping the Pickers shows stop proliferating before we get to Nose Pickers.  Although My Strange Addiction already exists so that topic could be covered there).  These are just ones that I've watched.  I doubt that Big Brother, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, and Swamp People really lift one's sights to higher levels either.  Maybe I'm wrong.

One show that would also fall into the reality tv category I suppose, to the extent that any show on tv depicts reality, is So You Think You Can Dance.  Happily, I find this show inspiring.

On this show, young dancers perform many dance routines in familiar and very unfamiliar genres with the hope of progressing to the end of the show's run and, ideally, being judged the best dancer.  I find it unfortunate that it is a competition, as they are all wonderful dancers, but I suppose this motivates them to try their absolute best.  And as I watch them in their pursuits of excellence, I am inspired to try my absolute best too.  I expect that other viewers are also so inspired.  I believe this is a positive thing.

For me, I will not be pursuing excellence in dancing.  That's never really been an option for me.  My passion is for writing and when I see those kids giving everything they have to their dancing, I want to give so much of what I have to writing.  They help me understand what it means to love something.  I am grateful for that show.

Maybe people find inspiration in some of the other shows on tv.  Maybe they provide relaxation and enjoyment.  Those things are good too.  For me, I don't get a lot out of them and I don't want to spend time watching.  But I will watch something that inspires me, that makes me want to do more, to dig deeper, to be better at what I love to do.  I find that a good use of time.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

On Cheering and Caregivers

I went bowling today with my son.  It's something we enjoy doing together, especially when we knock down pins.

Today there were 2 lanes near us that were occupied with bowlers who were physically and/or developmentally challenged.  I noticed that there was a big difference in what was happening at those two lanes.  I didn't like what was happening at one.

I admit that I am an outsider and maybe there is a lot more to know about the situation but this is what I saw.  In the lane to the left there was a man who, while he talked very slowly and deliberately, functioned very well and bowled well.  He had a caregiver with him.  The caregiver showed no enthusiasm for the man or his bowling.  His body language and his activities with his phone conveyed that his interests were elsewhere.  The man talked to him some but I don't know how much the caregiver said.  When the man got strikes or almost got strikes, there was no recognition.  It didn't stop him from bowling well but it would have been nice if there were some cheers for his accomplishments.

This contrasts sharply with what took place in an alley to our right.  There were a lot more people bowling and I think there were two caregivers.  The caregivers watched and reacted to the bowling.  They smiled.  They were engaged.  All of the bowlers at that lane were engaged too.  It looked and sounded like such a lot of fun.  Those people, all of them, were part of something wonderful.

The vulnerability of the man in the left lane struck me.  While his actual care may be handled well or at least adequately, I wish that he was working with someone who, well, was nicer to him.  He deserves it.  I hope that he has some people in his life who encourage and cheer him on now or in the future.  It is a joy for me to think of the fun and camaraderie the other bowlers and caregivers were experiencing.  Hopefully his caregiver noticed those things too.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hmm, I don't know

I woke up from a nap the other day and the words "What do you want?" were in my head.  I pictured them framed in a rectangle.  I wrote them down quickly.  I felt a need to capture them.

Since then, I have worked on the question but not fully answered it.  I'm finding it surprisingly difficult.  Is there something that should be obvious but I'm not seeing it?  Was the question just something random that entered my thoughts?  Maybe the only answer required was "A glass of water - yes, that's what I want"  I don't know.

I wonder what other people want.  What are they hoping for and working towards as they interact with people, work, play, have their quiet times.  What are you hoping for?  Do you know?  Is it only me who can't come up with an answer?  Was there a page missing in my instruction booklet?  Another one?

I'm not going to spend hours and hours on this question but I will think about it.  Maybe the answer I find will help me focus my attention and live more purposefully.  Or maybe I'll just decide I want to repaint the living room or buy new shoes.  I don't know.  All I did was take a nap and come up with a question.  It's fun to think this is profoundly meaningful.  But new shoes are fun too.


PS - I always love to hear what you're thinking!  Comments are most welcome.  Joanne

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ambitions and Anne of Green Gables

I am reading the book "Lucy Maud Montgomery:  The Gift of Wings."  It is an incredibly well-researched and apparently thorough biography of the woman who wrote Anne of Green Gables, 19 other novels, and 500 short stories and poems.  It is long but the quality of the writing and my interest in the subject keep me moving through it.  I am glad that I bought this book.

Montgomery's childhood and adolescence were difficult, sad times for her.  She lost her mother very early, her father lived far away and her maternal grandparents raised her.  She did not get along with her grandfather.

Despite all of the difficulties in Montgomery's life, she was a creative and intelligent girl.  And despite her creativity and intelligence, she faced a battle to get an education to develop her talents.  She was a girl and at that time, girls were actively discouraged from pursuing higher education.  But still she had dreams.  Luckily, she also had her grandmother and she was willing to help out with tuition costs.

While Montgomery had a difficult family situation, I don't know that a girl who had her skills and ambitions would have fared a lot better in many families at that time.  Female teachers were paid less than male teachers although they had the same responsibilities.  Women were supposed to get married and if they didn't, there were limited options for them.  Those were society's rules and women were expected to abide by them.

The thing I don't understand is why, if it was nature's intention that women not pursue their dreams and realize their ambitions, women would have dreams and ambitions.  But they did have them then and we do have them now.  They're part of us.  So, how can it be wrong to make them come true?

A lot more recently than in Lucy Maud Montgomery's lifetime, girls' career aspirations have been handled differently than those of boys.  In Afghanistan, the right of girls to get education was revoked.  It is being returned to them now, hopefully.  Girls and boys have often been treated differently.  And yet, both can dream, both can aspire.  And both can contribute.

I don't think it does women well to discourage them from full participation in the world.  Frustrated, neglected ambition can lead to problems.

In addition to the problems for women themselves, and those are serious in my estimation, by not allowing women full particpation, the world loses out on the gifts that women can share.  If Montgomery had followed society's rules strictly, we would not have Anne of Green Gables.  It is awful to think of how many women never did develop their talents, offer their gifts and make a difference in the world.  I wonder how different the world would look if it had received all of those gifts.

As for the rest of Lucy Maud Montgomery's life, I don't know that it will be a much happier tale.  I hope that she had happy times.  She deserved them.  She brought much joy by sharing her gift and writing Anne of Green Gables and so much more.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Making People Happy - Maybe That's Enough

Last evening, my son started asking questions about the role of the British monarchy.  I guess he hadn't given it too much thought until Prince William and his new bride, Kate, came to Canada.  He wanted to know if the King and/or Queen make decisions.  He wanted to know what they do.  It was hard to explain.  I don't know a lot about what they do. The Queen has always been there, doing her job well it seems, and to a child of the world today, the roles may seem strange.  We didn't even start to discuss the financial issues of it all.  That might have really perplexed him.

I have questioned the role of the monarchy.  Logically speaking, there doesn't seem to be a lot of need for it.  But I don't think that logic has to rule the world.

Throughout their visit to Canada William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have made people happy.  How many people travel around the world and do that?  Perhaps this alone is a good reason to continue the role of the British monarchy.  I wish this young couple the very best.


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Titles Under Consideration (Or Not)

I haven't committed myself to any of these titles yet.  See what you think.

1.  Fuzzy Foods and Odd Stains:  Tales from the Back of the Fridge

2.  The Effective Bribery of Children:  Getting Past the Shame and Using the Power

3.  Your Rabbit's Birthday:  Making It Special

4.  Bad Smells and their Origins:  When Air Freshener Fails

5.  Between the Sneezes:  Enjoying the Ritual of the Morning Sneezing Fit

6.  Listening When Your Pet Shares Its Hopes and Dreams

7.  Avoiding Humilation at the Gym:  Tips for those Who Just Move Differently

8.  Discomfort at the Hair Salon:  The Case for Robot Stylists

9.  The Goldfish:  Exploring The Vast Potential of an Underappreciated Pet

10. Why is the "Laughing Cow" Laughing?  The Dark Side of a Happy Bovine *

11. When the Hour Is Up:  How Your Psychologist Really Feels About You

12. Holding Onto the Pounds You Know:  Proven Strategies for Maintaining Girth

13. When Feet Go Wrong:  A (Clumsy) History of Spectacular Falls

14. Using Invasive Plants to Quietly Avenge Your Neighbours

15. Understanding and Encouraging Your Eccentric Small Pet

16. Fruits:  The Sneaky Cousins of the Vegetables We Trust

17. Loving Our Toes When They're Non-Traditional In Appearance

18. Toxins We Love:  The Enduring Joy and Promise of Household Cleansers

Feedback is welcomed. :)

* I have nothing against Laughing Cow Cheese.  It's probably yummy.  But I saw that face staring at me at the grocery store.  Simply put, she started it.


Excuses - but why?

I enjoy going to the gym.  I love writing.  For the past few days, I have found reasons to avoid both of those things.  I have managed to watch tv, shop, talk on the phone.  It's not that there hasn't been time.  It's just that I haven't used it for those activities.

I know I'm not the only person who doesn't do what they know to be best for them.  Are we rebellious?  Are we self-destructive, lazy?  I don't know.  I just want to understand why we don't always move in a forward direction as we go through life.  Maybe that's just the way we are but I have a question: 

How different would our lives and the world look if we did make the best choices all of the time?

Wow.  We would do more, create more, feel better.  And, we would spend less time fighting with ourselves and regretting what we haven't done.  Then, we would have more time to do even more good things.  Things would just get better.  And better.

I am going to try stop wasting time coming up with reasons, excuses, explanations for why I don't do things that are simply right for me to do.  It's not that complicated.  It's time to get on with it and make the most of every day.  Even though I have exercised a lot of creativity in coming up with excuses.  And you know - exercises, creativity - that sounds almost as good as writing or working out.  So I can give myself credit for that, I suppose, and, oh dear, it's starting again.  Better get moving.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

It's So Easy to Miss So Much

Admittedly, I'm sitting in my basement right now.  But earlier this evening, I left the basement and sat in our living room.  I'm glad that I did.

As I sat in the living room, with my legs curled up, on the really comfortable couch, I felt a nice breeze from the open window.  I heard a bird (and this one was singing not squawking, unlike most of the birds I've heard lately) and I enjoyed the occasional glance at the sky to the west.  It was a lovely time of day.  It's a lovely time of year.  It was a lovely time of life.

I didn't have to come upstairs and sit in the living room.  I was enjoying watching tv downstairs.  OK, I was watching So You Think You Can Dance.  I love the expressiveness of the dancing and the love of dance that the contestants display.  But I didn't want to spend all evening watching tv and I left.

It is so easy to miss out on a nice evening like this one.  And to miss out on so many other things as well.  I don't know that we choose to stick with the familiar, to hide in the basement, to stop trying new things.  Rather, we get comfortable and forget that there are other joys waiting to be experienced.  They may not be big and spectacular - they can be as simple as sitting in a living room on a beautiful evening.  But when we have so many things around us to experience and enjoy, it's nice when we realize that, do something different, and savour more of life's rich offerings.


Monday, June 20, 2011

A Waste of Time or The Rhythm of Life

I was cleaning up the kitchen tonight.  Around dinnertime, it had turned into a disaster zone.  Once I emptied the dishwasher and refilled it, I sorted out the sink.  I've done these things more than a few times before.

As I worked on the sink, I thought to myself that this kind of thing is a waste of time.  How many more creative things could I be doing if I didn't have to get rid of yucky food debris after dinner?  Or change the sheets.  Or clean the bathroom.  And this doesn't even take on the question of why I am the one who does these things.  For now, it is fair in this household that I do them, I guess.  It's just - these things are boring.  Are they a waste of our time?

I can't answer that question definitively.  If all the household tasks were handled somehow, we would have more time to do other things.  In corporate offices downtown, people have jobs to perform - the cleaning of their workspaces is taken care of by others.  I can see some advantages to being free of all such responsibilities.

I can also see that the simple duties we undertake in our homes lend rhythm to our lives.   We can do many other things in a day but we return to these activities and they provide us some constancy, some grounding, some order.  And that's good.

When we neglect these activities, we mess up not only our homes but also our lives.  I don't want to do that.  Sure, I'm not thrilled about fishing debris out of the kitchen sink but, after I've done that, I want to notice and appreciate that we have a sink, a kitchen, running water and a home.  I want to keep on experiencing and enjoying the rhythm of life.


Friday, June 17, 2011

The Trust of a Rabbit

That's a nice title for an entry but I am not sure that my rabbit trusts me.  I'm not even sure he likes me.  He seems to be more interactive with my husband (who claims not to like him) and my son.  Maybe the fact that I'm the one who scoops him and puts him in his cage makes him keep his distance.  Or perhaps he just doesn't care for me.  It happens.

Regardless of my rabbit's feelings towards me, I hold the little guy's life in my hands.  I was carrying him around the other night and we were both working to ensure that I was holding him securely.  Looking at him, I was struck by how vulnerable he is.  I am careful with him.  But he has no control over that.  He is so dependent on me.

Every pet depends on its owner or owners.  People acquire pets for various reasons.  Sometimes, they are the wrong reasons.  Sometimes, they are the wrong people.  Sometimes, reasons and lives change and things aren't so good for a pet anymore.  I admit that when my son was younger, I didn't give my rabbits the attention they deserved.  I will always regret that.  Animals still need us no matter what is going on in our lives.  We owe them good treatment and proper care.

I will go downstairs tonight and give my rabbit some of the care he deserves.  It is wonderful that so many pets get good treatment.  I hope that by teaching children about animal care at a young age, through humane education programs, and by encouraging adults to take pet ownership seriously, we move towards all pets being valued and treated very well.  I hope we can show that we are worthy of their trust.

Even if I do scoop my rabbit up and put him in his cage at night.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Oh Right, the Plants - I should probably water them or something

I don't have strong feelings regarding houseplants.  Does anyone?  I used to water a sunroom full of plants when a neighbour was away.  She must have really liked them.

I have six houseplants.  Maybe.  That's all I know about anyways.  I don't know why I bought some of them.  They're green, they're leafy and that's about it.  I understand why I bought ones that were in bloom; I like colour.   And sometimes those plants bloom again later.  That can be really nice.  With the others though, I don't feel a lot of love.  Occasionally, I notice them and think they might need water or something.  It's not unlike mealtime at our house.  And pouring a little bit of water on them (admittedly mealtimes are a little more complicated) keeps them going until the next time.  And on it goes.

I don't have the heart to stop watering these plants or just dump them out, much as I may want to do those things.  So the plants keep on, well, being plants, no matter how I feel about them.

Perhaps my disinterest is a little stronger at this time of year.  I have a lot of outdoor plants and I look forward to the colourful displays they will provide.  Maybe I'm just tired of things that clutter up the house.  We have papers, books and coats for that - we don't need plants to help out.  Or maybe I'm just not a houseplant person.  I can live with that.

The plants will continue to be here as long as nothing untoward happens to them.  There could be an overzealous spraying of a household cleaner, a window adjacent to the plants being left open on an unusually cold night, an infestation of some kind of bug (I generally prefer to avoid household infestations but can make an exception) or, oops, I could leave them by the sunny kitchen window and forget to have someone water them when we go away.  Things happen.

Regardless of whether these plants remain here long or not, I don't think I should buy more of them.   There's nothing wrong with these or any houseplants.  They should just be in a place where they're appreciated.  And that doesn't seem to be this house.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

On Technology and On Resisiting It

I took a very good writing class today.  The instructor was enthusiastic and interesting and there were four students in the class.  It was a dream.  I could have stayed there forever.

Since class, I have reflected on the words of one of the other students and felt a little bit sad.  She seemed like a nice lady, she is talented with words, and she has an interest in writing.  This lady has negative feelings towards technology, however and she seemed a little bit down about it.  She is entitled to her feelings about these things, of course, but I think she is limiting herself.

I know that technology has changed and will continue to change the way that people record and share their thoughts and ideas.  But things have always changed.  At one time, books were new.  At another time, letters were born.  Movies came along and television followed.  People have used telegrams, phone calls, faxes, emails, cell phone transmissions, text messaging, and social media.  New mechanisms come along but people still communicate.

For me, new technology and the use of social media have enriched my life.  I like being able to look things up on Google to quickly answer questions.  Facebook has enabled me to reconnect with important people who had disappeared from my life, as they sometimes do, and to have fun with people who are in my life now.  Occasionally, I send text messages that involve sorting out the details of getting together with people.  Being on Twitter has helped me learn about areas in which I am interested and to learn of other people with similar interests.  (Yes, there are other rabbit fans out there.)  And my favourite type of communication is still face-to-face, ideally over coffee.

I wish that today my class could have helped this woman learn to like technology a little bit more.  Of course, we can't and shouldn't force our opinions on her.  But maybe if we could show her that  technology has some positive uses, we could have helped her open up to the possibilities.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Meditating Without Words

This morning, I meditated.  When I do so, I try to clear my mind of words and listen to the sounds around me.  It can be a challenge (I started composing this entry as I tried to meditate) but it's an interesting exercise.  And I have moments where I feel like I am simply experiencing, without judgment.

In getting my mind closer for a little while to a wordless state, I think I may become more child-like.  I don't apply labels to every sound.  Usually we have labels for everything.  I can't look at a flower and simply enjoy it.  It's a blue rock phlox that is ideally planted in a rock garden.  We know so much information.  We have so many details attached to everything.  It is nice to clear that out sometimes.

As vitally important as words our to our communication and lives, I find it interesting to consider what it would be like to live without them for a while.  Where would our impressions, our pure thoughts lead us when we go with our wordless experiences?  It is not just a matter of silence between people, it is an absence of words in our minds.

Our minds are amazing.  They're also very full.  I think a little bit of decluttering now and then of the mind can help us find our way and help us find its beauty.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Carrying Cupcakes

I was out today and encountered a popular cupcake store.  I decided to indulge and bought two cupcakes to take home.

I had to take the bus home and wondered if the plastic box I received to transport them was adequate.  Perhaps a bag would have been helpful but then it's so much better to keep cupcakes in an upright position and bags don't always ensure success with that.

Setting off down the street, I clutched my plastic box.  I suppose the key to the whole thing with cupcakes is that they are often packaged in clear boxes and clear bags.  Cupcake vendors are smart.  They want other people to see the cupcakes.  They want to plant the seed in their minds.  Because I wanted my (overpriced) cupcakes to make it home safely, I wanted to handle them carefully myself.  But I was also feeling protective of them when other people got nearby.  I did not want anyone to take my cupcakes.  I would defend them.

Because carrying cupcakes in open plastic is such a public thing, I have encountered comments before.  I didn't get any comments today.  I was kind of alone in my thoughts anyways and tried to give off a bit of a please-don't-approach air.  But what if someone knocked them out of my hands to be cruel?  What if I tripped and they went flying?  Everyone would know that I had wanted cupcakes and I wasn't going to get them.  Cupcakes make us vulnerable.  It would be so humiliating if they ended up as piles of crumbs on the street.

I got the cupcakes home safely.  Mine wasn't actually that tasty after all that and I don't think I'll buy any for a while.  But they made for an interesting trip home on the bus and  I can't believe how protective I felt towards two simple cupcakes.  I don't remember being that protective getting my son home on buses when he was a baby.  Oh dear, did I just say that?