Flowers in California

Flowers in California

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.