Saturday, April 30, 2011
Jonathan Swift, best known as the author of Gulliver's Travels, lived more than 300 years ago - yet he commented that...
The best doctors in the world are Doctor Diet, Doctor Quiet, and Doctor Merryman.
All these years later, we can't improve on his wisdom! Diet, relaxation and laughter are still a winning combination for a happy, healthy life.
Friday, April 29, 2011
... a little wear here on the collar.
The gray fabric has worn through, exposing the white interfacing. I often mend clothes that have a small tear but are otherwise perfectly fine. But this collar would be impossible to mend.
What to do?!
Hmmm. Maybe I can color the white so that it won't be so noticeable - after all, there is no fraying!
I hunt through my markers and choose the gray...
Oops! A little too dark!
Is it visible from a distance?... I wonder if Terry will notice!
Is that better than it was before?
(Almost a good idea!)
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Yes... we may agree. But why?!
Perhaps because physical abuse of women and children is in the news - and on our minds.
I remember looking down the street after hearing that one in ten women suffers abuse, and wondering: Where? Could it be happening in this very neighborhood?
So when I noticed a bruise on one neighbor's face, my first thought was that she had been hit... not that she had bumped her head on the cupboard door...
What really happened? I don't know. I didn't ask... (Women who suffer abuse rarely admit it.) But I did lose respect for her husband.
Was I right? I don't know.
It's important to talk about child abuse, spousal abuse, elder abuse, and workplace abuse (to name a few) - and to be (rightly) outraged when they occur. But sometimes I need to step back - and not jump to conclusions - whenever I encounter a perceived wrong. Even though it goes against the grain!
In school and at home, we teach children from an early age to be logical:
- What could happen if you pull a chair away from someone who is going to sit down?
- What could happen if you don't look before you cross the street?
- What could happen if you play with matches?
But - in the BEST stories, the answer is often a surprise...
Similarly a girl with the black eye may not be wearing a t-shirt that proclaims: I earned my bruises honestly - I'm a boxer!
Sometimes, even when I'm sure I know what happened, I may just be wrong!
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
I was disappointed, as I had just found some more leftover yarn in the basement.
But my rule is to listen to pain.
Why not use a wrist support with a metal bar in it? my friend Kendra (a fellow crafter and occupational therapist) suggested...
So I bought one...
As I try it on and move my hand, I wish that rather than "Trainer's Choice" it said "Crafter's Choice"!
I'm not sure this one will allow the movement I need to do double crochet stitches!
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
I recently came to the chapter on conflict - and eagerly began to read it.
How relevant! I thought (I'm not sure why, but there is often conflict in my life..!)
Of course there would be disagreements in a monastery! It would be naive to suggest otherwise. So how did this 6th century monastic deal with them? Would he recommend mediation - each side telling his side of the story? Would the resolution be win-win? (I certainly hoped so...) What secret of resolving conflict would Benedict share?
So I was somewhat taken aback to read that Benedict's solution was to have a superior recite the Lord's prayer twice a day - to remind the monks that Jesus taught his disciples to pray Forgive us as we forgive others...
In order to end conflict... simply forgive...? Forgive all?
That's it?! No discussion of who is right (and who is wrong)?! No mediation? No analysis of the problem?
I must admit I was a tad disappointed...
For me forgiveness rarely comes quickly or easily. The hurt often has to be removed layer by layer, like removing the skins of an onion. There, I think it's all been dealt with, only to discover, some time later, that there is another layer to remove. The process takes reflection and confession (perhaps writing my feelings in a journal) followed by more reflection and confession... and so on, until the pain is gone.
Am I making conflict resolution too complicated?
Then I remembered another kind of conflict resolution: Sometimes I would be upset about something in the morning, when I had no time to deal with it... I would go to work - and in the busyness of the day, would totally forget why I had been upset...
(How much easier that is!)
Is that what forgiveness is - knowing we all offend others from time to time... just as we are offended...?
So move on...? Get over it? Accept it? Forgive...?
Monday, April 25, 2011
The first is to keep active - which is why she counts her steps with a pedometer - aiming to reach five to ten thousand a day, even with her walker!
The second is based on the old adage: An apple a day keeps the doctor away. She makes sure to eat one apple. This past year, apples have become too hard to chew with her dentures - so she eats a bowl of applesauce, at lunch or supper!
The third is one I've reprimanded her for recently. But it turns out I'm wrong.
She insists on drinking 8 to 12 glasses of water a day. The problem is that it keeps from going on field trips with others in her residence: She's afraid to go away unless she is in easy reach of a bathroom.
So don't drink any water for two hours before you leave, I suggest. But she's a creature of habit.
When a doctor commented that her kidney function is better than his and mine combined - I had to admit that she must be doing some things right!
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Talking to some very religious people, Jesus chides them: "There is no room in you for my word."
The New International version translates it: "you have no room for my word."
What was keeping them from hearing God's word was a religious belief system that left no room for a fresh understanding of God...
Reflecting on Jesus' words to them, I wonder: Do I have room in my heart for fresh words from God?
How does one keep an open heart?
Saturday, April 23, 2011
This white pine in our front yard shed a lot of red needles a few years ago.
Much more than this past winter.
Was it dying? we wondered... But no, it's still here, going strong.
This year the surprise was the pine trees in our back yard. Three or four act as a wind block from north-west winds. Mature trees when we moved here 30 years ago, their branches are still spreading out wider each year (hampering the growth of grass).
And this winter, something we have never seen before...
Bits of branches, green new growth falling from them, littering the ground.
What is happening here? we wonder, as we rake up garbage cans full.
Nature is full of surprises! That has never happened before!
Friday, April 22, 2011
One of these details (for me) has been a book brought to me by a friend: Benedict's Way. Her church group is using it as a study - and she thought I might be interested in reading it too.
It has been a wonderful "gift" - my friend's sharing of her book, and (I believe) God bringing this book into my life at this time.
The beauty of this book is its short, thought-provoking chapters on 30 diverse aspects of Christian living, from prayer, work and service, to conflict, friendship and joy.
As I focused daily on one simple aspect of Christian living, I have thought about issues I struggle with... and felt strengthened by the simple wisdom the book shared.
Timing is everything... so they say. Which is why this book has meant so much: I needed to think about these things at this time of wondering what I should be doing with my life. (Is it a co-incidence the book was brought to me in Lent, a traditional time for slowing down and reflecting on OUR FAITH?)
Have I been changed? I don't know... Challenged? YES!
Sometimes in life we need to (again) review the basics...
And it's exciting to know that, just as God brought this book to me now, there will other books - more ideas to ponder - along the way. God knows what I need and when I need it the most!
Thursday, April 21, 2011
My students found it very confusing. So I started a list of these problem words. What surprised me was how many of them there were!
At the same time, I kept looking for a comprehensive workbook that dealt with all these English homonyms. But I couldn't find one.
Maybe I should write one... The idea seemed like an interesting challenge, so I started, spending weekends and summer vacations on this project. Eventually... two years later... it was done! A 148-page spelling workbook of words that sound the same as other words... together with exercises, explanations and an answer key. And my list of problem words had grown... from a hundred to two hundred... and eventually to five hundred homonyms!
I took the plunge and self-published it...
The hardest part of self-publishing, after writing the book, is getting it out there, letting people know it exists... I attended literacy and ESL conferences and talked to teachers about my book. Eventually two online bookstores, Grass Roots Press and New Readers Bookstore began to sell it.
Eventually I ran out of copies, so I printed a second edition. To date I have sold about 3000 books.
I am now wondering if I should take the second half of my accumulated material and create a a second spelling resource... of words that my students used to confuse... (like impossible and impassable, except and expect).
The real question is: How much energy do I have?!
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
And one water-filled ditch near our house has attracted...
... a pair of ducks!
I don't expect the water to last too long...
So I wonder how long they'll stay!
(I'll have to come back and check from time to time...)
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
This happens from time to time, for no apparent reason. Two nights ago, I decided to do laundry at 3 am - and had two loads washed and dried before 7... Then I went back to bed, for another hour's sleep. (Now - in retirement - I have that luxury.)
Yesterday I made a point of getting exercise and fresh air. I worked in the garden, then took a long walk. Towards evening, I even went for a bike ride. Falling asleep was no problem - but here I am at 1 am... wide awake again!
I decided years ago (when my periods of insomnia began) that I would not stress it... I would go with the flow. It was a lot harder in those days, as I had to be at work at 7:30 am... just when I was starting to feel tired again.
But - if it was any consolation - I often discovered I was not alone. If I shared that I had been up since 1 or 2, there was often someone else in the staff room with the same tale of woe.
We should have called each other and talked, we would laugh...
How to spend these early morning "bonus" hours?
It's not easy to decide! Whatever part of the brain was awake - it wasn't the part that wanted to mark essays, back in my teaching days. Now I'm luckier. My midnight-sleepless brain is willing to be reflective, and lets me read, write, reflect (or blog)...
So here I am again... awake at 2:15 am... reflecting on my life. With any luck, a post or two will be written before my mind shuts down and wants to sleep again!
Monday, April 18, 2011
Unlike the Quebec one I visited when I was teaching at St. Jean, this one had no restaurant attached. In Mont-Saint-Grégoire, Quebec, we ate ham, mashed potatoes, eggs - all slathered with a generous serving of fresh maple syrup! And for dessert, maple sugar pie! It was a meal I will never forget!
Some Ontario sugar shacks serve pancakes with maple syrup. But this one simply produced maple syrup.
And unlike the traditional tapping of trees with buckets that I saw on school field trips with my children, this one had a web of permanent blue tubing weaving from tree to tree to collect the sap.
The season had just ended and the taps previously plugged into the trees had been removed and tied up.
The hole where the tap had been connected to the tree is visible just below and to the right of the blue tubing.
Inside the rustic building, a modern evaporator boiled the sap down to syrup. Wood was still used to heat the sap.
Our adventure started on our way to the camp - as we tried to find a dry path along the muddy road.
And ended as we maneuvered our way back, maple syrup in hand!
As we passed new housing developments down the road, I couldn't help but feel sad. How long will this rural retreat remain untouched as houses spring up around it? How many years before this piece of traditional Ontario is devoured by our growing city?
Sunday, April 17, 2011
LOVING your children but LETTING THEM GO...
DISAGREEING but supporting someone's FREEDOM OF SPEECH and RIGHT TO A DIFFERING OPINION...
In a Benedictine monastery, nobody was allowed to own anything - without the abbot's permission, that is. Yet everyone was provided with basic needs: a bed, food, clothing...
So the tension isn't so much for monks in monasteries, but for the rest of us, who need to provide ourselves and our families with homes, food, clothing - with all we need. How can we spend our lives working to provide these, without making the acquisition of THINGS our primary goal in living?
In a world where we respect those who are rich and successful, how do we reconcile our admiration for self-made millionaires with Jesus' words: It is easiser for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God...?
It is natural (and good) to want to build up (not tear down) our lives, careers, marriages and families. In fact, the Bible says: A good man leaves an inheritance for his children's children. An inheritance can be a family tradition, but it is usually thought of in terms of possessions. We want to leave enough to meet our needs, with a enough left over to share with our children and grandchildren when we are gone.
I have no answers - but am left pondering some of the ideas in the book, Benedict's Way: "Above all, this poisoning practice, possession, must be uprooted and removed from the monastery." (RB 33:1)
His words seem so harsh, so strong...
The older I get, the more I realize how transient ownership is - houses are bought ...and sold, families move in ...and out. Yes, we all need a place of safety and rest, a place to call home. We all need clothes to wear. But people can be happy in small houses, with a few appropriate outfits. Moving to a larger home or buying more designer clothing doesn't automatically bring more happiness.
Happiness should be the goal - not possessions!
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Most survived and grew, eventually rewarding me with flowers in a beautiful array of colors.
I have transplanted them several times into larger pots - but it recently became evident that some had grown into two plants that needed splitting.
This is all new to me! But one warm day this week, I did take them outside to re-pot them... and I did break them apart.
Hopefully they will continue to thrive!
Now I have a basketful of smaller plants again!
Friday, April 15, 2011
So it was very strange to discover, in Benedict's Way, a modern day summary of a 6th century manual on communal monastic living, that St. Benedict advocated REVERENCE for implements - TOOLS!
The concept was very strange to me...
Reverence for life? Yes!
Reverence for nature? Nature inspires reverence!
Reverence for God? Of course!
Reverence for tools? Really? What a strange idea!
But there it is... "Let the tools of the monastery and its whole property be regarded as if they were the sacred vessels of the altar." (RB 31:10) "Allow no one to treat the monastery's tools and implements in a slovenly or careless way." (RB 32:4)
Was it because, in poor monastic communities, tools were rare and expensive? To last longer, they needed to be well cared for. But to be viewed on equal terms as sacred vessels used in worship?! Isn't that excessive?
Or is there more to it? Is it because all that we do is an act of worship - if we believe that God has put us in the world for a purpose?!
If so, "the things we touch (and the people we touch) are to be touched reverently" (Benedict's Way, page 91).
Food for thought!
So today, as I tackle this somewhat boring job of raking dead branches from my flower beds, how would I do it differently if I viewed it as important, sacred work?... (More slowly and thoughtfully, perhaps - not trying to finish as much as trying to do it well?)
And what about this computer - do I treat it as a "sacred vessel" as I write my blog?
Or is all this too much of a stretch for me? (Old habits are hard to break!!)
Thursday, April 14, 2011
As I ponder its title, wondering what "successful aging" might be... (Accepting all that life brings, at every stage? Being happy?) ... I am still enjoying the tips the book offers, such as:
- Try to maintain a sense of humor.
- Avoid talking about your aches and pains...
Lord, Thou knowest better than I know myself, that I am growing older and will some day be old.
Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody's affairs.
Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy.
With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest Lord that I want a few friends at the end.
Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.
Seal my lips from aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others' pains, but help me to endure them with patience.
I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a sureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.
Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a saint - some of them are so hard to live with - but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil.
Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so. Amen.Whoever wrote it, I love it! (And I give my children permission to remind me of its wise words whenever necessary!)
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
I used to garden in pair of (my son's) old running shoes... And ever since they've fallen apart, I've been looking for the perfect pair of gardening shoes.
I wonder if these are the answer: cute red clogs from our local Lee Valley Store...
I'll try them out soon - trimming back last year's growth in the flower beds!
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
So today - I celebrate my daughter's journey in her art...
Yesterday, an online magazine for teens posted this interview with her.
The journey isn't over... No sense that "I've arrived..."
Simply thankfulness... for the journey and for the good things that have come our way... (Children being one of them!)
Sometimes it's good for all of us to pause and appreciate how far we've come... on the road to where we're going... wherever that may be.
"To travel hopefully is better than to arrive." (Robert Louis Stevenson)
Monday, April 11, 2011
I remember my father's excitement when he first encountered the concept of inferiority complex (probably in the Readers Digest).
That's what I have! he announced, suddenly understanding himself. When you grow up without a father, like I did, that's what happens. You get an inferiority complex.
Inferiority complex became one of his favorite expressions... He wore it with pride... Understanding made it easier to bear.
I'm not sure my mother ever took a psychology course. In any event, she never referred to it - and she never embraced psychology as a personal tool of self-understanding. In later years she was haunted by remorse, remembering my young brother's tears when she left him from Monday to Friday with her mother, who lived a two-hour drive away, during a period of time when she (a teacher) couldn't find a babysitter near our home.
I still think of how he cried and clung to me, she said. (What could I say?)
Well, that's the past. I told her. You can't do anything about it now.
Maybe confessing it helped, as she never mentioned it again.
I first encountered psychology in my first year English literature course at university. As our prof focused almost entirely on deeper levels of mind and motive - subconscious desires, Freudian slips, hidden fears, phallic symbols... - we asked each other:
Where does he find all that stuff? Is it really there? Or is he making it up?!
Literature (and life) suddenly became more complex...
And so it remains: Trying to understand the psychological reasons for what is happening around me (and inside me) is simply the way I look at life.
How would I view life differently if I had lived before psychology?
Sunday, April 10, 2011
The whole spiritual life of the Christian... is a process of listening to God... This image of the inward ear, the ear of the heart, shows us that our listening is not merely an intellectual or rational activity; it is intuitive, springing from the very core of our being; where we are most open to God, most receptive to the word he speaks. We have to be very quiet and still within ourselves, very alert and attentive, if that word is to resonate properly in our innermost depths.
(The passage is a quote from the book, The Path of Life: Benedictine Spirituality for Monks and Lay People by Cyprian Smith, O.S.B.)
Saturday, April 9, 2011
...I had a flashback to Puffed Wheat Squares, a favorite childhood treat. (I think they predate Rice Crispy Squares... At least, they did in my life.)
I looked online for a recipe and came across this one.
Here's what I did - it was surprisingly easy!
1. Before mixing the ingredients, I generously greased a large cake pan and I measured 8 cups of puffed wheat into my largest mixing bowl.
2. I measured the following ingredients into my largest (4-cup) measuring cup:
- 1/3 cup of margarine
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 (generous) tablespoons cocoa
4. I repeated this for 30 seconds twice, then for 20 seconds 3 times, mixing well after each time.
5. Then I quickly poured the hot, bubbly liquid over the puffed wheat squares, trying to mix and coat them all before the liquid hardened. Then I quickly poured the chocolate-covered puffed-wheat into the cake pan and pressed it down with the back of the spoon.
6. I let it cool for several hours before cutting it into squares.
The results were delicious... and they disappeared quickly!
Next time I would cook the liquid a little less, perhaps the 2 minutes suggested in the recipe (rather than 3 minutes).
Friday, April 8, 2011
Then anti-inflammatory medication caused one side of her face to swell up.
I'm taking so many pills, my mother fretted. They'll probably kill me.
On her second trip to the hospital emergency room, this time for upper leg pain she couldn't endure, X-rays revealed the problem was bursitis, a common inflammation - nothing more.
When she yelled out in pain during a blood test ("You're killing me!!"), it became apparent that what to most people would be a minor discomfort, was intolerable to her.
At that point, a geriatric nurse came over to talk to us.
We went into a quiet office, where the nurse asked my mother about her life, past and present. After their little chat, the two of them went for a "walk" around the hospital ward.
I want to see how you're doing on your walker, the nurse explained.
I sat waiting for them, feeling a sense of relief: Someone was trying to see beyond her symptoms.
Your mother is very anxious, the nurse commented when they returned. Has she been that way for long?
Ever since she moved here nine years ago, I replied... Especially if she doesn't sleep well at night... And she said that pain kept her awake all night.
I think she should be assessed and followed for a while in a geriatric day hospital, the nurse replied. She would come in twice a week. If her anxiety is a problem, or if it gets worse, a small amount of medication could perhaps help.
I'm also going to prescribe some physiotherapy and adjust her pain medication...
For the first time in a long while, I felt a sense of hope.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
They are, at times, annoying. Their 5 a.m. cawing often wakes us up in summer, when windows are open. And occasionally they tear open plastic garbage bags, littering the street with refuse...
But one Ottawa neighborhood, about 10 kilometers (7 miles) from ours, is apparently inundated with crows... and it is making the news... (One account estimates them at 20,000 - another at 100,000! I'm not sure how they arrive at those numbers, but - as both numbers suggest - there are a lot of crows!)
Thousands live in one neighborhood park, attracted by the park's tall trees... Here is a You Tube look at the sky as they return to roost at night!
(And, no - the crows haven't murdered anyone. "Murder"" is apparently the correct term for "flock" of crows... And the word does add drama to the situation!)
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
As I read the book (Benedict's Way), it strikes me that, whether we are aware of them or not, every family or group of people living together has its own unwritten rules, developed over the course of time...
Our family rules include:
1. We remove our shoes before entering the house.
2. We share the cooking and the cleaning.
3. Sunday afternoons are for TV football for five months of the year.
4. I get up early - and have the house to myself. Terry watches TV till 1 am... After 9 pm the house is his...
5. No pets requiring daily care - as they would hamper travel plans.
What other unwritten rules have we created over the years? I wonder...
Perhaps Terry and I would benefit by re-evaluating them... Are we both happy with our "rules"...? Could they be improved upon?
Monday, April 4, 2011
When they finish blooming indoors, I'll plant them outdoors.
If squirrels don't dig them up, they will bloom again next spring!
Sunday, April 3, 2011
From a book entitled God Calling, they encourage me to slow down and listen as I pray.
Take time for prayer. Take more time to be alone with Me. So only will you prosper...Seek sometimes not even to hear Me. Seek a silence of spirit understanding...
Times of prayer are times of growth... Remember that from the point of view of the Great Worker, one poor tool working all the time, but doing bad work, is of small value compared with the sharp, keen, perfect instrument, used only a short time but which turns out perfect work...
Reflecting on these thoughts has become my Lenten "discipline."