Friday, July 29, 2005


I was raised in a seriously religious home. As a child, I thought it was too tough. Couldn’t play ball on a Sunday, couldn’t attend card parties, couldn’t wear jeans, couldn’t wear make-up, couldn’t attend a movie or go to a dance, couldn’t play cards, or read "True Confession" magazines. And when I’d complain, and believe me I did a lot of that, my Mother used to say that although we are ‘in’ this world, we must not to be ‘of’ the world. She always emphasized that religion is about redemption of our souls after death, not redemption of our good time here.

But that wasn’t all. As a child, I can’t begin to tell you how many times I was blasted by a hell-and-brimstone preacher with the threat of immediate death in a car crash upon leaving the church if I did not soak up everything he said. Under those circumstances, I would dash to the altar, pray diligently with renewed remorsefulness for forgiveness of my sins, before I could steady myself enough to step out into the street and walk to my parents’ car. And then, after that, if a car struck me, so what? After all, faith is not about our good time here, it is about our good time in the hereafter. (Strikes me right at this moment these thoughts are vaguely similar to a suicide-bomber mentality).

But I digress. What I really wanted to do here is flesh out the memories of my difficulties in following my Mother’s religious agenda. Social restrictions were difficult, explaining these restrictions to classmates was equally difficult, but the worst thing of all was that repentance was not enough. In order to save my wretched soul from a burning lake of fire, I must tell others about God and explain to them how they could be like me. And why was that so difficult? Well first of all, talking about such things was embarrassing to the extreme. And secondly, now that I think about it, what could I possibly use for bait for anyone to want to be like me? Dirt poor, obliged to go to church all the time, no personal liberties, etc. Obviously, with all these problems with Fundamentalist beliefs, even as a very young child, I promised myself that one of my goals in life would be to search for another "easier" religion.

Now, in those days, I didn’t know a lot about other religions but I could see, even as a child, that the Unitarians had a good thing going. Lots of personal liberties. They could smoke, drink, play cards, go to movies, attend ballgames on Sundays, etc.

The Catholics too, had a good thing going. They had all these liberties as well. They also had a wide encompassing kind of tolerance, or so it seemed to me. Their congregation covered a wide spectrum. There were practicing Catholics, non-practicing Catholics, those who regularly attended mass, and those who never attended but insisted beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were Catholic. That was pretty impressive. And the only hard and fast rule that I was aware of certainly didn’t impact on their personal and social life. Baptism in the church and fish for supper on Fridays was about as regimented as it got, as far as I was able to comprehend. Obviously being a Catholic is much easier than being what my mother expected me to be. Besides I like fish. Fish, instead of moose or goat meat every Friday would be really nice.

And furthermore, I noted that if the RC’s committed any sins, they could just go to confession and get that all cleaned up. Right? No one was constantly reciting to them the fearsome phrase, "my spirit will not always strive with man" which I had been led to believe is that by committing a sin, even unwittingly, one could find themselves eternally banned from any further communication with God. You could weep, you could cry, you could plead, but it would be all to no avail. Shut out. Eternally shut out.

And furthermore, when RC’s died, with no chance to beg forgiveness, someone else took over to do it for them with something called ‘last rites’. And failing all that they even had a stopping off place between the joys of heaven and the horrors of hell called purgatory. Nice.

So from my perspective, it seemed a whole lot easier for a child who had stolen cookies from the jar, or Christmas oranges from the stash under the cupboard, to be forgiven in a Catholic confessional rather than having to go to bed each night worried sick about being cast into a lake of fire. A real risk and possibility in my mind after reciting my prayers. i.e. ‘If I should die before I wake’.

And, in truth, it seemed so much better to me having a living breathing real person behind a wall in a confessional box telling me that my sins were forgiven rather than just hoping they were. It's difficult for a child to cope with the intangible absolution of Fundamentalists. Theirs is a process of seeking absolution through an invisible cosmic connection that always left me worried, particularly during my teen and adolescent years, that I might be too wicked to get absolution because of the occasional pornographic thoughts, and because of the stash of "True Confession" magazines and the sinful tube of lipstick hidden under my mattress.

I was well aware the Seven-Day Adventists had a good thing going as well. After death for the sinful, absolute nothingness. Heaven for the righteous; for the unrighteous just a big whole lot of nothing. That sounded really attractive to me. Comforting. Very comforting indeed.

But going back to RC’s, today I am wondering why a religion that was so liberty-minded, tangible, tolerant, comforting, and easy to follow, when I was a child, could be such a problem for adults. Particularly since nothing in that religion has changed since I was a kid. But what a hue and cry there is from adults in the Catholic Church for reform. They find everything about the church too difficult. Since the death of Pope Jean Paul, and the installation of a new pope, the media has been saturated with articles about RC declining membership and specific issues such as birth control, women in the priesthood, and priests rights to marry.

Now it would seem to me, the common sense approach to all these concerns would be the same common sense approach I had as a child. Particularly since the Catholic Church lays claim to being the original Christian church, and because (and this is stated in doctrine), the church and the Pope are infallible. That being the case, change cannot happen. Change will turn what was once fact into fiction. True and infallible beliefs cannot be altered to fit social and political conditions. To change anything now would be to say the Pope is fallible, the church is fallible and say that historically they have been wrong throughout all of history. That crashes and burns the infallibility and first-church-basis that has always been their best selling point.

So, it would seem to me, that the thing to do is to find an easier religion that has beliefs that are in agreement with one’s personal and social preferences. That would seem more acceptable than deviously pretending to be devoted to a particular sect, while at the same time rejecting a big chunk of the churches' doctrine.

NOTE: In the writing of this blog, I did no research to verify the accuracy of my perceptions of the various sects mentioned. If I have written anything that is an untrue assumption, please feel free to correct that assumption for the benefit of any who may read this rant.

Friday, July 22, 2005


Last week MD (Middle Daughter) and her two preschoolers were out shopping. In the grocery store, MD noticed there were two new shades of pink and blue jelly beans in the jellybean bin that she had never purchased before. She was curious what new flavors they were so she took one of each and tasted them. Then she offered one of each to her eldest child for her opinion.

That’s when it happened. Immediately a small hand shoved the offering away and an indignant finger was pointed up at her as a very loud child’s voice began to berate her with deadly seriousness.

"Mom, THAT is stealing. You are a thief! You are not to remove or eat anything from store shelves that you haven’t paid for!"

MD cringed, gave the child "the look" that says "enough already" and covered her face hoping her offspring would cease her disciplinary seminar. But Grandchild was just warming to her subject. With all customers in the store looking in MD’s direction, the tongue-lashing continued.

"You could go to jail. You could be arrested. That is a bad thing to do. My own mother (with disgust). I can’t believe it." Then she added as customers snickered and some roared outright. "That is just like ‘Hi-Lite Robbery!" (of course, what she really meant to say was "Highway Robbery")

Grandchild was pretty much drained of her angry emotions by this time and when she paused, MD quickly, very quickly, interjected in a mortified whisper, "Look, it’s okay Kiddo. I’ll pay for the jelly beans." Red-faced with total embarrassment, she quickly headed for the till with her cart.

When they reached the till, the child watched with care as the clerk rang up their purchases ending with the bag of jellybeans. All eyes were still on MD. Customers remained like statues in a wax museum, with amused faces turned towards MD to see what would happen next.

"And now," MD said to the clerk, loud enough for the peanut gallery to hear. "I ate 2 jellybeans, so will you remove two jellybeans from that bag and weigh them and add the cost to my bill."
Without flinching, the clerk dutifully removed two jellybeans from the bag and put them on the scale and added the cost to MD’s bill.

At this point her little one grinned broadly from ear-to-ear and skipped happily out the door to the parking lot, absolutely pleased with her performance and thoroughly satisfied that all wrongs had been righted.

Note: On another matter, ongoing discussion continues at Blog # 41 POLITICS 101, and you are welcome to still leave comments there if you would like to participate in that discussion.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


I heard today that physical exercise is an absolute sure cure for insomnia. Whoa, if that is true, I don’t want to be doing that and neither does Hub. We don’t have insomnia – in fact we have quite the reverse.

I’ve passed the initial stages of life: the childhood stage, the competitive stage, and definitely the materialistic stage. I am now in the midst of the reflective stage. But despite all that, when I poked my fingers in the dirt of a friend’s garden, I turned green with envy. Though I no longer yearn for material possessions, I was surprised to find myself coveting what another had to such an extent.

And what does she have that I covet?

Dirt. Black, fluffy, mulch-ridden, warm, moist, and sand-anointed (without a clay base) garden dirt. That’s what.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

# 41 POLITICS 101

I’ve never been a guru when it comes to understanding the politics of government and the thinking behind it. In school I just couldn’t get a grip on it. But as an adult, I thought I finally had a passable understanding that could at least give me the intellect needed to vote.

Now what I thought was the case was that conservatives are anti-abortion, pro-life, non-war-mongering fundamentalist-based persons who prefer to cling to a peaceful means of government. And that liberals were persons ruled more by intellect than ethics, and willing to react with drastic measures whenever new knowledge and new research dictate a need for change.

But in the States, I find that the Republicans (conservatives) are bullying and war-mongering but at the same time pro-life (a brash contradiction, in my opinion). And the Democrats (liberals) have a somewhat conscientious view ruled more, it would often seem, by ethics, rather than intellect. So you see why I’m so confused. And I’m not the only one. At least twice a week, someone asks me the same question about current events in the U.S.

"Is that a Republican ideology? Sounds more like a liberal ideology to me?"

The lines of delineation between conservatism and liberalism are becoming so blurred. We are all so confused. Hub is confused, I am confused, neighbours are confused, even relatives that live in the States are confused. What I think is causing the confusion is the fact that government is getting too involved in religious ethics. Maybe not religion, per se, but religious ethics. Gay marriage, abortion, right to die, war, anything pertaining to God such as prayer in schools, ten commandments display or demolition, etc. All political events and situations that become insidiously entangled in the fringes of religious ideologies until the tangle begins to even encompass other political situations quite removed from these problems.

You see politics and religion are a bad mix. And inviting Gerry Falwell and his contemporaries on political talk shows is not helping the matter. When politics and religion start to intertwine it seems like the result is a disheartening and disappointing political antagonism in the U.S. that is negatively affecting unity and patriotism at its very core.

But, all that aside and going back to the original problem, my confusion only increases with the passage of time. So I decided to scrap all previous thinking about liberals and conservatives and look at the primitive motivations of man (before government ideologies were crafted) in the hope that I could form a new, and better understanding, of what motivates the philosophies of Democrats vs Republicans.

Now in my research, I found that some of the Great Philosophical Thinkers concluded that Man is driven by an unconscious hard-drive rather than intellectual software. And such persons are NOT able to transcend animal nature. Primitive instincts override any intellectual thought. And it is these basic instincts (rather than God as G.B. would have us believe) that position them to concentrate solely on aggressively protecting their territory and enhancing their power. I can’t help but think that this best describes the one staunch Republican that I am most frequently exposed to in the media – G.B.

And other of the Great Thinkers concluded that Man can transcend animal nature, that he is a creature ruled by intellect – albeit a fallible intellect. Intellect that sometimes leads to very foolish attempts to make life more pleasant (the Monica affair), and sometimes leads to very wise attempts to make life more organized (economy and trade). I think that best describes the staunch Democrat that I was most frequently exposed to before G.B. came into power.

So my question to those who have that better understanding of party platforms and politics is this. "Am I making any progress?"

There is room for comments and any help would be appreciated.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Now I am one who believes that I am not on this earth to be entertained by Hub or put in a good mood through someone else’s heroic efforts. I firmly believe that when I plant my feet on the floor every morning, I am solely in charge of my good or bad day. It’s up to me whether I make it or break it.

But some days that control is yanked out from under me before I even get my blood circulating. This morning was one of them. First, a glance out the window. Big blue sky, bright sun, flowers blooming – a truly beautiful day. The best kind of day.

Secondly, into the shower. Humming happily, warm water drenching, beauty-bar sudsing, then a cold rinse to fully awaken me. But then, I pull a towel out of the cabinet and my whole world comes crashing down.

Who is the irresponsible brain-dead abysmal wretch that decided that bath-towels should have a strip of decorative ribbing on either end that shrinks up to 1/3 the original size in the washer while the rest of the towel remains its original size? For what purpose?

Some towels do, some towels don’t. The price of the towel isn’t even a clue. My lavender towels were expensive and they are shriveled up after laundering across both ends.

So why is it that all apparel nowadays is clearly labeled with laundering instructions, except bath towels? It wouldn’t be that difficult to let customers know what to expect. A little card attached that might read as follows:

"The appeal of these thick luxurious towels is the attractive decorative strip on either end and the life-time GUARANTEE which you are encouraged to read.

GUARANTEE: From date of purchase the decorative strips on these towels are guaranteed to shrink by 30% in the first wash, and guaranteed to continue to shrink at a lesser rate in subsequent launderings thereafter."

At least if such a note was attached, I would not have to deal with a ‘broken’ day before my morning coffee. I would only have to deal with my new coffee pot that builds up a final puff of steam at the end of the brewing cycle that blasts the coffee ground holder wide open and spews wet coffee grounds all over the counter. Or my new improved metal-utensil-safe non-stick fry-pan that is not visibly askew but yet the eggs and pancake batter all rush to one side. Or my new thermo-safe 4-slice toaster that only heats up enough to dry bread, not toast it!

If you’re looking for me this morning you’ll find me outside perking coffee on a open fire in a soot-blackened pot. Cooking pancakes and eggs in a cast-iron griddle. And making instant toast on a steel-covered fire-pit. And then I’m going to lounge for an hour or two in my new luxurious lavender-colored terry-towel hammock strung between two large maple trees and wait for my broken morning to heal.

Friday, July 08, 2005


Somehow it just wouldn’t be right to attend a once-in-a-lifetime event and not make some commentary on it. That once-in-a-lifetime event occurred this weekend. I assume it will be once in a lifetime because it was so very long in coming. It was a school reunion. Not a class reunion, but a reunion of just those few who ever attended a very small country school before most of these country schools shut down and the kids were bussed to town.

I’m not sure if our little school was closed down as a result of some kind of feasibility study as so many are today, or if it was because an inspector, in checking the soundness of the structure, hit the wall with a hammer and it went right through. In the original construction of the building the walls were filled with shavings (as was common in those days) but the shavings put into the walls of our school were damp when they were put there and as a result, the walls rotted. So the lifetime of that school was not much more than maybe ten years. So we were bussed off to a town-school where we were splintered away from our tight little group, separated, and re-mixed in with the masses. So few in number that when blended in and re-sorted in such a large school, we no longer had any opportunity to socialize with each other.

So I guess from that time on, we accepted that our paths were unlikely to pass the same way again. But someone realized that the march of time rushes on and finally, a move was made to have this one reunion.

Now there isn’t much to say about the reunion except how pleased I was to see schoolmates I hadn’t seen for such a long, long time. And why I was so apprehensive, I surely don’t know. Because when I saw those old schoolmates, we immediately fell into easy conversation, fluid and funny, with no awkward ‘ice-breaking’ pre-ambles.

So what was the highlight of my day? It was the realization that we are the remnants of an alliance that started in Grade one for most of us. In such a small school, in such a small community we were no more than 35 friends across a spectrum of Grades one to nine, that knew everything there was to know about each other. We knew everyone’s parents, where everyone lived, how everyone lived, and what they did for a living. We knew all their siblings, what kind of vehicle they drove, and what kind of food they ate.

There was too much common knowledge among us to allow for pretense. We existed in an age of innocence and fairness. All simple country folk too involved in baseball, school, and survival to even give a thought to unfairness, indignation, snobbery, or haughtiness. Sure we squabbled over first rights to the five new books in the library, and there were regular disputes about who yelled ‘batter’ first when we hit the ball diamond. And we argued endlessly over seats at the front of the class and seats at the front of the bus. But we had a special understanding and affection for each other that didn’t let any of that stuff get in the way of our loyalty to each other.

No group was so unified, so undivided. We were solidarity in action when "OUR TEAM" was playing ball or competing in a sports day at another school. Busting with pride over our classmates and ready to back their cause in every possible way. A small cheering section, but we protested every move that was not in our favor and cheered wildly for anything that was.

And although many years have come between, and we have not kept in touch, I found that nothing has really changed. As we drifted about during the day, we reconnected with arms flung around each other’s waists as we had done in the old days. I found that in the company of those we knew as children, we let that thin cloak we once wore in order to be cool and sophisticated Grade fivers or sixers slip away, and so many of us admitted for the first time, in forthright conversation, how much we valued each other. Old, well-hidden and well-disguised crushes were revealed.

We spoke with fond remembrance of the pioneers of the district. We remembered them as well. We have all passed the material stage of life and reached the reflective stage, so there were no comparisons of finance, success, or even notoriety. But yes, we did return to a couple of critical points of outright agitation.

One classmate exposed her disappointment when she got sick on the 28th of June and was forced to stay home from school. It was the last day. She and another fellow were in the running for a coveted one dollar prize for perfect attendance. She felt the prize should have been split. She felt she should have got fifty cents. But some forty years later was not too late to add our support to her unfortunate circumstance. During the supper, we yelled mercilessly at the one who pocketed the entire amount, "Give it back, Give it back!" And when those two classmates that were so evidently the teacher’s pets, went to the front and admitted it, we felt better. We booed them for being that way and then applauded them for their honesty.

It was if the joy and innocence we had known in our early years once again descended on each of us. It was astounding to be a part of something that re-established itself with no strain. We fell into easy communion with each other as if only a day had passed.

The rendering of the day was the nostalgic sadness that overtook us at parting time. I think many felt the same as I did. A sadness in the realization that since those early days, despite the passing of many years, despite the numerous acquaintances who have drifted in and out of our lives, only a very few of us have been lucky enough to find friends in our adult years that are as flawless and as great to be with as those first schoolmates.

These were, indeed friends of the heart. That’s what I told them and they all agreed.