Saturday, April 29, 2006


I’ve always sneered at those women who marry and stubbornly keep their own names. My thoughts being that a) they are stubborn wenches b) they are not completely committed to their husbands, and c) they are not mindful of an accommodating husband who reluctantly agreed to this, but at the same time harbors a concealed sadness because of it. But today, I’m thinking a bit different about women giving up a maiden name.

I’m currently in the reflective stage of my life and in this reflection every other day I think about a handful of fun-loving girlfriends that were once so important to me. Witty, giggly, silly friends. Friends whose love and companionship brought nothing less than sheer joy to every moment that I spent in their company.

But people move and when that happens our lives become separated contextually and geographically. We all too easily lose touch. It’s not just because of the separation. It’s also because we are just too busy with career, life, parenting, competing, to dedicate time to that which no longer forms part of our daily world.

But they remain in our thoughts – those old friends. More often than they or even we realize. And when that thought is there, don’t we all say, “I must look her up sometime.” And we make our feeble efforts to do so, but it is so impossible because that one thing that would allow us to easily track them is lost. They have given away their birth name.

And so today’s rant is about such a thing. That wonderful friend I had when fourteen. Carmen, with the laughing violet-colored eyes and the long flowing chestnut hair. Carmen, who understood and supported my every disappointment, my every hope, my every dream.

Nothing was as much fun as spending time in Carmen’s company. But such joy was infrequent. We attended different schools and she lived some distance from us. I came from a poor family, but Carmen came from a totally destitute one.

And then, one summer, a very special thing happened. An opportunity came for me to spend a day at Carmen’s place. To spend a whole day in each other’s company. She invited me and I was thrilled to pieces. She warned me that she had a humble home but, so what? So did I. She expressed a great deal of concern about that part of it but I assured her again and again that it would make no difference to me if she lived in a tent.

And so, the day came, and I went to Carmen’s house. Her home was indeed dire. An ancient tumbledown shack. The inside was dreary, dark, with few windows. The raw wood of the floors and walls darkened by the effluent of backed-up wood fires in the old wood heater. The furniture was sparse and most of it staggered against the walls as if in acts of desperation to remain upright. The chairs at the old kitchen table had no backs – only splintered remains of where backs had once been. They were wired and cross-wired underneath to keep feeble legs from folding. I noticed the screen door was badly ripped and chickens and goats meandered in and out as casually as if this was their primary home.

I began for just a moment to think I couldn’t deal with this. I had only just arrived and already a great old lump of homesickness was beginning to swell in my chest. And when homesickness imbeds itself in my body, it is like dealing with a combo of green-gilled seasickness and a blazing migraine all at once. It was difficult to keep at bay, but I fought it with all my strength. After all, I had made a promise to Carmen that none of this would matter. So I closed my mind, shut down my brain, and let it all go.

As we crossed the room, Carmen shooed a chicken aside and took me through the dreary front room to the back of the house. Here we stooped to go through a short doorway built as crudely as an old field gate. I wouldn’t have been amazed but the contrast between that room and the front room was sufficient that I was amazed. Though the paper on the walls was building paper or perhaps brown paper that was cracked and peeling and pasted over rough boards, it was painted a rosy pink. Colorful pictures from magazines were pinned to the walls. The bed was neatly made, although the quilt cover was so old and worn it was transparent as cheesecloth. And on the board floor by the bed was a tattered piece of green lino that was too short, too narrow, but with the pink walls, it lent an appreciable homeyness to the room. The dresser in the corner had the support of two adjacent walls and so it looked only half as desperate as the furniture in the front room. I could tell that someone had taken extreme effort to make the room as neat and tidy as possible.

We lounged on the bed that day and talked about boys, and clothes, and school, and dreams, and time flew past. We thumbed through a catalogue and imagined being that lovely, that stylish. I can’t recall a better time, a better day. Later that afternoon, Carmen said, “You must be hungry.” She tossed a pile of old magazines my direction and said, “Here’s something to amuse you. Wait here while I fix us something to eat.”

A bit later she came back with two bruised plates, two rippled forks, and a cooking pot. She held the cooking pot out toward me and said, “Just look in here. Do you know what I forgot to add?”

I looked in the pot. It was macaroni. Just macaroni. Boiled macaroni.

“The cheese, of course!” I said loudly with a laugh.
“No,” she said quietly. “You’re wrong. It’s not the cheese. Wait and I will add what I forgot.”

The violet eyes twinkled for a moment in her sober face. "But it sounds like 'cheese'."

It was a riddle I couldn't answer.

Carmen left the room then and returned shortly with the macaroni. She had added a can of peas to it. My heart went out to her. I felt I had wounded her with my expectation of cheese. I felt saddened and sobered.

And so, while I choked down a second plate of bland macaroni with chalky peas, I realized something. If I were the Queen of England, I would still not have been such an honored guest as I was that day. This dear friend of mine trusted me enough to take me into her total confidence. To allow me to cross her threshold (a threshold I’m not sure that anyone else in this world had ever crossed, except members of her own clan). To let me see and be a part of her most intimate and private place. It was indeed a self-deprecating act, but that was Carmen. She trusted my loyalty enough to expose even those parts of her life to me that everyone else in this world would prefer to hide. But still, my heart ached for her. She was such a special friend who deserved so much more.

I can’t fault Carmen for what happened next. She ran away from home. I could understand that she had too many hopes and dreams that could never be realized in such a sad situation. I lost touch with her. Not too worried though because she had numerous relatives in the old hometown. I was pretty certain I could find her through a relative whenever I felt a need to.

Over the next ten years or so, I frequently thought of Carmen. Always with a smile seasoned with a painful bit of desolation. Eventually when my own kids were in grade school, I began my attempts to track her down.

How often we say, “It’s such a small world” and with Carmen, I kept thinking that that accidental meeting would soon happen as it so surprisingly has with so many casual acquaintances I never expected to ever see again. Every time I leave home, whether my trip be far or near, inevitably somewhere along the way I encounter someone I once knew. So I had an unshakable confidence that I would eventually meet her in a shopping mall, in a restaurant, on the street, or at a bus terminal, airport, or train station. But it never happened.

And so now I began phoning and interrogating those with the same name that lived in the old town. These were younger members of the clan. But always I got the same story. She might be a distant cousin. They didn’t know. They never heard of her. And so none knew where she was. It was as if she had never existed. How could someone so special, so dear, so sweet, kind, and generous, be so completely removed from other’s memory, knowledge, or interest, even that of those that I was quite certain were members of the same clan? The best I managed was somewhere along the way I secured a married name but it was an unusual name that no one knew how to spell. I tried all combinations of that name in phone directories but I came up empty handed. I thought of posting an ad in a newspaper but thought that too extreme. Perhaps something she might not appreciate dependent on her situation.

And then yesterday, Hub was at work and I was forced to make the dreaded trip to town to collect the mail and restock the pantry. And when I went to the post office, that encounter that I had so long awaited finally happened. It was not an encounter with her but it had the information I so long had sought. There right in front of my nose was a carefully written note. It had Carmen’s first name, maiden name, and the correct spelling that I had never managed of her married name. Her address was there too. On a little white card taped to the post office door. But the home address was not a resident address. It was a Funeral Home in a distant city.

I am sad today. Very sad. How different this story might be if Carmen had been one of those stubborn wenches who refused to give up her own name and identity to a husband and perhaps, also, if I had done the same.

I thought of Carmen fondly so many times. I truly have missed her over the years although one would think that sadness would have long ago dispersed. But today I find out that I didn’t miss her half so much as I do this very moment. I think when Carmen invited me to her house, she believed that I would always honor her by keeping silent about her humble situation. And I have until today. I think today I honor her by telling it. I hope that is true.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


When you are solely responsible for a incredibly sweet, gentle, tiny, warm, totally helpless being that cannot communicate needs to you except through a sad wail, how can you ignore that wail because of the content of a ridiculous bit of print that will probably be revamped in six months or a year? A document that is probably as wrong as it is right?

I’m talking about the New Revised Baby Growth Charts . Now I think everyone is supposed to be excited about the Revised Baby Growth Charts, and I am excited. But not in the way that I expect the Health and Nutritionist experts hoped.

Now, according to the experts, the biggest reason the Baby Growth chart was revised is because breast-fed babies are smaller than formula-fed babes. The document suggests that research revealed that breast-fed babies gain weight more slowly than bottle-fed. But excuse me, doesn’t this research also make some assumptions? The assumption (without validation by the babies), that the research group of breast-fed babies, from various countries, were babies that were fed exactly as much and often as they should be? And that, therefore when body size was averaged out, the sum equaled the ideal? But, in my mind, added to that wrinkle is something more insidious that the authors may have had in mind – The new social mandate, that determination to wipe out obesity.

So I am excited but not in a good way. What excites me is that the new guide does not take into account that some mom’s have rich milk, some have lean, some have more than enough milk, some don’t have enough. I was so uptight about breast-feeding my children, so uptight about needing privacy and the guilt of bare-breast immodesty that I had neither the quantity nor the quality of milk to sustain them. A situation difficult to assess. After all, bottles have measurement markers, teats do not. And so, it was only baby’s wail that told me this was the case.

The new guidelines also fail to take into account that some people will always have a problem with obesity that has absolutely nothing to do with how they were fed as babies. So let’s not zero in on babies. Seems to me, in this respect, the onus is on parents to make sure when their babies become toddlers that that is the time to work on balanced diets that set a standard for healthy eating, rather than indirectly suggesting that infants should be put on reduced diets.

We like to assume it won’t happen but with this new guide some mothers will suddenly discover one day from this chart that their thriving babies are too big and as a result will determine to correct that problem in four days or less. Insecure moms will just grab this chart and run. No matter how much baby cries.

And distressing to me is this chart also doesn’t take into account a large segment of the baby population that right at this moment are not getting enough food!!! How often on the news do we hear of babies that are removed from homes because they are not being fed? Too many. And conversely, how often are babies removed from homes because they are overfed?

You know by now that I am annoyed. Annoyed because the chart doesn’t even refer to what is really fundamental about baby feeding. That hungry babies are cranky, restless, difficult to please, and have fitful sleeps that leave their mom’s exhausted and overwhelmed. Or that contented babies, on the other hand, sleep soundly, and during waking hours are happy and content as long as the diaper is dry and all is well with the rest of the world. Or that babies will refuse more formula when they have had enough. And if they don’t, if they gobble down formula until their stomachs are distended and they are in pain, it is time to add a bit of porridge – no matter what the guidelines say.

But most disturbing of all, this new chart doesn’t take into account the wisdom of Mother’s intuition. “An intuition that is puzzling but more accurate than anything else,” Doctors so often say.

Isn’t it ironic that the handbook for hardware items will often warn us of things not at all pertinent to the operation of that hardware? A tag on a blow-dryer might suggest you do not use it for warmth for an earache or sore throat. Or a manual for a blender might warn you not to put your fingers in it when it is running. But when it comes to a manual for the care of a living breathing thing, there is no appendix or supplementary warning to suggest that some moms and babes may have situations that alter the validity of the chart.

Not even the obvious –

WARNING: Hungry Babies Cry!~

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Two or three years ago, I saw a news clip about a child that had an uncommon illness that made it impossible for her to digest foods. And what was most disturbing to me is that the condition was so severe; the Medical prognosis so dire. Doctors were stymied and admitted they were unable to find a cure. Death was imminent. It was such a heart-breaking story. And then, just last week I spoke to a neighbor. She had a bad winter. Her colitis has worsened. Her situation is now also dire and medically there seems to be no place more to go.

The neighbor’s situation brought to mind the news clip and the news clip brought to mind a theory I posted a few years back, but in reviewing it, I found it to be a confusing rant – difficult to read and difficult to cipher. So today I decided to re-post an edited version that is better focused. Take warning, however, that the following is a raw (and somewhat gross) theory that I must warn you will not sit well with those who have a weak stomach. So it’s your choice at this point to read or run.

Now going back to my original thoughts, first I need to refer to what I know about the digestion process. To begin with, it is well understood that saliva begins the digestive process. That it breaks down food in readiness for the stomach’s enzymes. And secondly, because of this, some hold to the conviction, that liquids should be served at the conclusion of a meal rather than up front in order to avoid saliva dilution. (This point may not be relevant to this discussion but it could be an explanation for the ever-increasing plague of digestive problems our current society is attempting to cope with while literally drowning ourselves in 8 to 10 glasses of water every day.)

So now, the next thing I want us to think about is how infant feeding was done in the homes of early settlers and ancient tribes. Have you ever thought about how mothers fed their babies before the introduction of blenders, processors, and Heinz baby food? We might like to think ancient tribes pounded strips of meat between two sanitized rocks, but that was not the case. Or that babies drank only breast milk until they got teeth. That was not the case either.

Babies were fed their first solids in the same way as observed in nature. Women chewed mouths of berries, moose-meat, corn, or other solid foods, until the stuff was warm and well masticated. The mother then planted her mouth over the child’s and pushed the warmed and blended food into the mouth of the child. This is a theory I did not have to research because that is how my mother fed my older siblings. Me too, probably, but I don’t want to think about that. The benefit of this kind of feeding was that babies received foods that were digestible because of the modification and pre-mix of the mother’s saliva.

Is it possible that a similar approach might provide the life-saving cure for the child I mentioned at the beginning of this post who through some quirk of nature was unable to digest and break down the food needed for her to survive? Or that a similar approach might bring relief to my neighbor who is becoming increasingly desperate?

It just seems to me that if mother’s could make infant food more digestible by masticating it prior to feeding, that a similar approach might work to treat conditions such as colitis. Or other critical health situations caused by one’s inability to break down foods such as gluten, proteins, starches, sugars, et cetera.

And no, I’m not thinking of saliva switching among adults. What I am thinking is about the possibility of treating those with specific digestive problems with pharmaceutical elixirs containing the saliva (cloned or real) of animals proficient in digesting particular types of food. For instance, for assimilation of meat proteins, the saliva from meat-eaters, such as bears or dogs. Or for gluten breakdown, the saliva of a sheep or cow.

I know it all sounds quite revolting but is it so different from xenotransplants (animal transplants) for curing other medical problems?

What do you think?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

# 141 SEWING GENIUS? yes!

A few observations just to set the context of this post. First, I’ve always been quite aware I can’t do more than one thing at a time. I have extreme difficulty with he who would try and lip sync or sign something to me while I’m on the phone. I cannot read with a radio or TV on. I cannot write without total silence and non-interruption. I cannot drive while talking on a cell phone. It’s not as if I don’t know.

Now normally it takes no more than a couple hours for me to zip up a pair of slacks. But this time that was not going to happen. To begin with I couldn’t find my standard pattern so I had to use a new one. That meant measuring and some pattern adjustments that took extra time. And then when the sewing just got nicely going, I was interrupted by visitors.

Now I had marked the front pieces in order to separate them from the back as they are very similar but later when I got back to my sewing I couldn’t remember which ones I had marked. Then another interruption, more visitors, and when I got back to my sewing I promptly sewed both pockets shut. Now ripping and tearing to get that corrected. Now we’re finally making good progress when another neighbor stops in for his annual visit to make arrangements for Hub to cultivate his garden.

And now we are on day two of the pant construction and frustration is building. So now I am sewing like a fiend to get the damn things done. Finally I have them completed and go to the bedroom to try them on just to check the leg length. Hub yells from the front room, “Come here, let me see how your new pants fit.”

I strut my stuff in the livingroom and model them for him. “My God,” he says, “Are those ever nice? They fit perfectly in both the front and back which is not always the case when you sew slacks with an elastic waistband? How did you get them to fit so nicely this time?”

“I don’t know,” I said, with a shrug, “I guess because I used a different pattern.”

I returned to the bedroom to remove my pants and that’s when I noticed what I had done. I had sewn the pants together backwards with side pockets attached to the backs of the pants rather than the fronts. You see what I meant about interruptions. This is the damage they do. But at this point, I was far too frustrated to contemplate any correction. I put my slacks back on and examined them in the full-length mirror. And guess what? Hub was right. Tailor-fit, yes.

That’s when I concluded something else as well. Obviously Pattern People (those who make sewing patterns) assume that every woman in the whole wide world has a flat tummy and large buxom buns. But as one ages that is not necessarily true. Over the years and with the passage of time my flat bum has got flatter and the flat tummy of my youth has got quite pudgy. So you see, this is how pants should be sewn when one reaches the other side of mid-life. It was unintentional, but don't you think it was truly a genius move?

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Do we ever consider thinking outside the box, far enough outside the box, to question something that for all intents and purposes seems to have a positive thrust on the moral good, equality, and equity of society? For example, ‘democracy’. Like a mother’s unconditional love, it is such a grand and wonderful thing. Why think outside the box about a thing that is so great and good?

Democracy is just too good to question, to contemplate, to ponder. So far removed from the brutal force of a dictatorship, that it seems ridiculous to even discuss the two opposing values on the same page. But I’m going to do just that. Starting with dictatorships.

So first of all, I want you to ignore all the distress you feel about people ruled by the brute force of a dictatorship and think for just a moment how efficient a dictatorship is for the dictator. Dictators don’t have to campaign to harness the spirit of a people. They simply destroy it. There will be no opposition here. No one stirring up trouble. No one protesting, questioning, creating discontent. From a leader’s point of view, it is an easy authority.

Democracy is not like that. There are always bubbles on the surface. Always someone wanting more respect, more rights, more transparency, more honesty, more money, more land, or more representation. Always someone protesting, questioning, demanding, soliciting. It is not an easy authority. Within the freedoms of democracy, democratic leaders are busy, busy, busy. Brush fires are ignited faster than they can put them out. While one problem is being resolved, twenty more are bubbling up nearby. Democratic rule is hard work for the ruler. But for as relaxed as our democratic leaders are, as often as they are out on holiday, as well-rested as they look, as much as they ignore demands for transparency, and side-step the truth, I am getting just a mite suspicious about what is going on here.

It seems to me our democratic leaders have come to the realization that if they ignore the fires, fence out the protesters, sideline health care and education concerns, and dodge and disregard all the outcries and complaints for clarity and explanation and just forge ahead with eyes shut and ears blocked, doing their own thing in their own way in their own time, eventually citizens sink into a sea of apathy. And like a dictatorship, the spirits of the people are destroyed. They hate what is happening but their passions are too withered to write letters of protest. They no longer want to be involved, they no longer are hopeful that anything can or will change. And now you see what we have? A democracy that is as easy an authority as a dictatorship.

And so now I come to the point where I am thinking so far outside the box, that things are becoming totally weird. As weird as someone dedicating time and effort to generically creating a dirty diaper or a rotten egg.

Is it possible that democratic leaders willfully seek to create a citizen-conscience as malleable as those under dictatorial rule? A plastic-minded public that are easily bent? That have lost the will to fight and protest that which they abhor. A public that will choke down whatever comes their way without complaint and the same resignation as those people governed by a dictator?

When democratic leaders exaggerate their power and authority to a brutal level but insidiously practice it in a quiet civilized way, what have we got? A thing that quietly walks like democracy, quietly talks like democracy, subtlety smells like democracy, has the likeness of a democracy, but is it democracy?

So while shaking my head in utter dismay, my real question is, “Is it possible that a democratic leader could be so warped, perverted, and devious that they would willfully craft a climate of apathy and indifference to make their job easier? Do you think this crazy notion could be so?

P.S. I think embedded in this crazy rant is something that begins to explain why the war in Iraq just goes on and on, but that is a whole other blog too complex for me to tackle.

Friday, April 21, 2006


I’m no whiz when it comes to politics, but Hub would be the first to agree that I watch more of the stuff than is good for me. Politics is complicated stuff and because it overlaps into global situations as well as domestic ones, I tend to think about it in smaller pieces. Smaller pieces that my simple brain can easily manage.

And one of the small pieces was the day a news reporter was interviewing people in the street during a leadership campaign. He asked one passer-bye how he felt about anyone wanting to be President. The response he got was to the effect that ‘Anyone who is bent on having that much power and authority is probably not a good person to lead a nation.’ I was struck by the wisdom of that comment. I had to agree.

Now I have observed both Canadian Prime Ministers and American Presidents over many years. There is so much I didn’t like about Prime Minister Trudeau’s policies and much I didn’t like about Diefendbaker’s as well. But regardless, I have to admit they were clever men who, above all else, were passionately in love with Canada. And I believe President Clinton and J.F. Kennedy were Presidents who were passionately in love with the U.S. But the U.S. now has a President that it seems to me is passionately in love with power and authority rather than country. What a difference it makes when a relationship is based on love of power and prestige rather than soul-felt love of that significant other – in this case – country.

And to curry these thoughts a bit more, at the moment it might be premature to say so, but I can’t help but think that our new Canadian P.M. is more in love with power and authority than country, and that is not good. By the way, there are symptoms of the kind of love a politician harbors. Those who love authority more than the country tend to hide behind a façade created through physical appearance. These are the ones that are most likely to have sleeves rolled up in a work situation, casual clothes in a town square situation, and academy winning performances when it comes to interaction with the vulnerable of our society. In the same way that we might seek to hide a facial blemish with make-up or a flesh-colored bandage, they seek to hide their zeal for power with outward costuming.

But those who harbor passionate love of country right to the depths of their soles/souls pay little attention to fashion appropriateness or role-playing. They have no blemish to hide. Eyes are windows to the soul and those leaders crazy-mad about country cannot alter the intensity of that zeal with costumes or role-playing. No matter how they dress, it is in their eyes and voice and countenance that we can all read the sincerity of their love of country.

I can’t recall who it was but I do remember one politician announcing his resignation by saying that he must retire because he no longer had the ‘fire in his belly’ to do the job. In a world where no one ever apologizes was that an apology or was that just straight-up honesty? I think it was a bit of both. And I appreciate the bravo of the person willing to honestly admit to this weakness.

And one more thought. Have you ever plowed through the last obligatory weeks of a job once you have handed in your notice? I have many times. And as honorable as I may have wished to be about it, as hard as I may have tried to have the same interest and commitment to that job as I always had, it just doesn’t happen. As soon as I handed in that letter of resignation, motivation flew out the window. No amount of self-hypnosis could make me care about tasks as I once had. Every single day after handing in my notice was a drudgery that I reluctantly carried on with. And I find it hard to believe that anyone would feel any different than I felt at times like this. And what really blew my mind is when I was selected to interview those candidates hoping to replace me. Flattered at the inclusion of my opinion, but truly, honestly, deep down in my soul, it didn’t matter a damn to me who did the job after I left, or even how they did it.

So then I look at American Politics with the policy that after two terms a President must step down. And I have to ask myself. How can a President be even a little bit effective in the final years of a second term? With a forced resignation in place there is no reason to strategize over the long term? No reason to bend an ear to constituents. No reason to harbor close to one’s chest any new wisdom learned from past mistakes. No reason to be motivated. No reason to be passionate. No reason to even have integrity or credibility. Because in a few short months all that will matter is how comfortable they are in the role of a private citizen. So if installed for two terms, they work furiously for the first four years to get re-elected, then work like a lame duck for the next term, knowing that no amount of dedication or motivation can selvage their position beyond it’s fixed deadline.

CNN polls keep asking things like “Is Bush a lame duck?” Silly question. Of course he is. When you know for a certainty your time is about to expire, nothing matters in that arena anymore. The incumbent remains seated in a public square, in a place of governance, but the extent of that governance can now be placed on the head of a pin. Tasks that have to do with the public good no longer have purpose. The ‘fire in the belly’ is forcibly extinguished leaving only a shell of a leader. Too hollow to ponder anything beyond his integration back into private life and personal situations that have absolutely nothing to do with the good of the country.

It’s a good time to sneer at Iran. To utter false threats that are unbelievably brave. Knowing that, as soon as the fight starts, retirement of the aggressor kicks in, and he can fly to a personal retreat and let someone else get his or her nose bloodied in the fray.

There seems to be a presumption that Presidents are tied enough to party lines for them to work doggedly to the last day of their term in order to keep a ship afloat that they will no longer be sailing on. That is such utter nonsense. How many of us, if we knew tomorrow was our last day on earth, would doggedly set out to re-shingle the roof today for the good of those in our household being left behind?

Now if there is more sanity in all this than I am able to see, I would certainly appreciate your comments to help me understand it. And if there is no sanity in it, might as well comment on that as well.

Monday, April 17, 2006


If you are a woman with a special man in your life, chances are that sooner or later it is going to happen. Maybe it’s already happened, maybe it’s happening right now, or maybe it’s going to happen sometime real soon. The day of the “round-table discussion”. The day, when out of nowhere, he will say to you, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I think I want out.”

And so now, after the initial brain-searing shock, what do you do, particularly since you thought everything was going well and good? Car paid for, house almost paid for, kids thriving, savings building, sand and sun holiday in the works, job promotions happening, household chores nicely split right down the middle and running as efficiently as a well-oiled machine. And a monster bouquet of flowers not yet wilted in the vase on the kitchen table from the last thoughtful expression of love and appreciation. Living the dream, like peaches and cream, or so you thought and now what is this all about?

Now in order to explain this, I have to ask you to deviate from this problem to how problems like this are handled in the workplace. In recent years, business consultants have researched all there is to know about employees’ work curves. Employee motivation, contentment, enthusiasm and productivity. And they have found that, although at first glance, it would seem an increase in pay should be the best motivator, it really isn’t. It may temporarily slow down, but it seldom halts, the downhill slide of the discontented worker.

What Researchers have found out is that the greater good is accomplished by giving employees ownership of their work. Greater responsibility and control. The ability to define their own goals and the authority to set tasks in motion through their own innovation. This is the formula for increased employee motivation, pride, productivity, satisfaction, and loyalty. A formula that makes for happy team workers and makes those same happy workers work harder.

So knowing this, let’s now return to the subject matter of the original round-table discussion when the significant other announces out of the clear blue sky that they want out. A staggering proclamation that makes one immediately wonder what is at the root of it? More often than not the initial response is he can’t help himself. This is the outcome when increased age and decreased hormones begin to conflict. The well known but less understood mid-life crisis. But a mid-life crisis usually is evidenced by infidelity. And in this situation there is no infidelity. Of that we are certain. So that only makes the situation more puzzling.

But thankfully, for some diseases, even if diagnosis is non-specific, there are cures. And for this complex matter, there are two treatment methods depending on how the household is administered.

If this is a union based on the philosophy of the 50’s, the husband is the CEO of the team. And so, if that is the case, fixing this problem is in His job description, not Hers. And being the support worker is not so bad because all she needs to do at this point is shrug her shoulders and say, “You’re the administrator around here so if you’re not having fun, then don’t be telling me about it. I’d be keen to listen if I were in charge because in that situation I would be responsible for your good time, but as it is I am not. So deal with it.” (And with that little announcement, the ball is back in his court. He can’t blame anyone but himself for any negative feelings or failings.)

Or, on the other hand, if the woman is the Boss, or CEO, than she better get busy. She needs to transfer some of the ‘ownership of the work’ to her support staff to get back motivation and enthusiasm. Which might prove to be a tough thing for her to do after managing all affairs of the Company single-handed for 5 or even 35 years.

This is a bizarre rant so let me first assure you that I’m not advocating anything here. How you conduct your affairs is your business. But this is a theory that seems to hold as much water as emotional bribes like Dr. Phil’s advocating of wine, flowers, dining, and dating pretences to mend failing relationships.

Friday, April 14, 2006


Living life while taking ‘time to smell the flowers’ has far more meaning than I ever realized. It is more than a simple statement with a simple meaning. It is more than a suggestion that occasionally we should pause from the rush and chaos of everyday living and smell the air, feel the breeze, admire natural beauty, or dip our feet in the warm water of a shimmering lake. The whole idea is much more complex than that.

I discovered, only recently, that all of us live life positioned in either the past, the present, or the future. And depending on where we position ourselves, life can be quite different. Up until middle-age, I lived in the future. When I was 12, I couldn’t wait to be 16, when I was 16 I couldn’t wait to be 21. I was always anxious about the future. Always looking toward it. Always impatiently waiting for it. When I got married I was thinking about family, and when I had babes couldn’t wait for them to grow up. Always competing for more excellence in the future. And even when doing everyday tasks, I was always pressed with anxiety whether I was cleaning house, washing a car, sewing, or repairing something. Anxious to finish. Wrapped in thoughts of completion. That ever-present need to go faster, more efficiently, and get the project finished.

Then, of course, as middle age descended on me, I switched to looking to the past. Thinking, so what if my face caves in, I’m still the ‘me’ of my past, but the mirror is not in agreement. And as for everyday tasks, distressed that the things I did so quickly in the past now take me so much longer. So living in the past isn’t very nice either. And although positioned in my past, I still could not position myself in my former glory. So like the anxiety of living in the future, the downside of living in the past is that it is a position of quiet but discomforting resignation that is a rather dark place to be. Like living in a chronic state of jet lag.

But then I discovered that third option. The option of living in the present. In real time. In syncopated time. I discovered it quite by accident.

One day, not too many months back, I was sewing. I suddenly realized any darkness of the past or anxiety about the future had floated away. And that’s when it came to me that I was living in the moment and that living in the moment is so different from living in the past or the future. There was no rush to finish the project. The enjoyment was in the exact minute of each stage of progression.

But this positioning is not an easy placement to achieve. There must be an art to it. A fairly exact art. The art of working with only the micro-task of the moment under consideration. Like breaking up an overly long lesson into workable pieces. Like savoring and chewing on a gummy-bear rather than trying to find flavor and substance in a wisp of cotton candy. And guess what else? When life is lived this way the tasks are done with greater joy, the outcome is more satisfactory, and work does not have the drag it has when one is rushing to start a thing and then rushing even harder to finish it. Rather than taking each day as it comes, it is like taking each hour and minute as it comes. And surprisingly, even at that, completion comes as quick or quicker because work done in the moment is not punctuated by all those breaks for future planning and past re-evaluation of progress and time.

But, best of all, there is no anxiety or discomfort in living in each current minute and second of one’s life. The bread is kneaded more gently, the oak table is polished more lovingly, Hub’s backrubs are given more sincerely. Rare and simple blessings are better appreciated, and amongst it all, the soul is quiet and serene.

If this is what ‘taking time to smell the flowers’ is all about, it is not easy. This positioning, though an ideal place to find peace and tranquility is as difficult to maintain as walking a narrow fence rail without toppling to one side or the other.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


Don’t read this. I am simply posting this because in the last couple of years, my blog has replaced my daily scribbles in a journal. The journals I have packed away in boxes with the hope that they will be carefully housed in some attic or under some bed for years to come. But keeping old journals is not compatible with the way people live now. We prefer to keep our life and environment clutter-free. We like to apply the rule that if anything isn’t used or referred to for more than two years it should be discarded to make space for something else.

With that thought in mind, I’m grateful for the Web. This is my place to stash archives where they will always be accessible and safe from damage by flood, earthquake, fire, loss, or the fastidious housekeepers who can’t bear to have the clutter of old journals in a closet or under a bed.

Now I think historically, despite the passage of generations of time, families share and clone personality traits, mannerisms, and subtle things embedded in our shared DNA. So knowledge of what went before can be revealing. It can explain to future generations so many puzzling things about their own emotions, compulsions, or motivations. So that is the fundamental thrust of this post and gives some sensibility to why I am recording the things that are recorded here.

My knowledge of the personality of my ancestors is very limited. I know nothing of the attitudes or personalities of my third-generation-back relatives. But History repeats itself by giving families duplicated personalities, aspirations, and even the dreams of those who have gone before and although it usually skips a generation, sometimes even two generations, I think family values, connections, and disconnections need to be set down in fairly detailed ways. Because so often situations of family history that go back sixty years, maybe a hundred years, maybe even two hundred years, are our best resource for explaining the complexity of situations we find ourselves in, in the present. And the real value of this knowledge of our past, is that it provides an understanding that helps subsequent generations recognize the strengths inherent within that can, if unattended, become weaknesses; and the weaknesses inherent within that can, if attended, become strengths.

So the following becomes a form of historical family tabulation that will probably not interest you, so as I said before, don’t read this unless you’re really short of reading material. There is really nothing comforting or uplifting in its contents. But it must, for the reasons I have stated above, go into my Blog Archives for the edification of subsequent generations.


Family situations cause bitterness and bias. That’s the nature of life. And despite my efforts to be tolerant I have an inner spirit that harbors its share of disgust though I try to religiously toss out anything of this nature that I haven’t referred to in the last two years. But in real life I hoard useless stuff and I guess in spiritual ways I hoard useless stuff as well. Some things I can’t toss aside no matter how hard I try.

I realized that when I wrote a Eulogy for my eldest sister who passed away last week. Her death was not as sad as it might have been. She was a ripe old age, she was in a wheelchair, she was in constant pain, and for many years now she has been unable to write letters or do the crafts that she always so loved to do. She looked forward to a release free from pain and it came quietly to her during her sleep. For that we were all grateful.

Now hers was a blended family. She had some children of her own but when she married, she also became stepmother to some grown children. Grown children fanatical about missions, and mission fields, and sponsorship, and money collections, and fund-raising. And that would have been all good and well, but in the midst of all this, dear sister lived in totally dire conditions. A house that was so inadequate that she once told me, “Most people undress to go to bed, I dress up in extra clothes to keep warm.” And when her own children were young, she told me she had to put mitts on them so they could play with their cars and trucks on the kitchen floor. Yet amidst her own dire need for better food, better housing, her husband sent the wee bit of money that he had to his grown children from his previous marriage for their mission funds.

I read a letter to my sister from one of the grown daughters that emphasized over and over how difficult it was to eat nothing but cabbage and how she longed for lettuce. Of course the next small check that came to my sister’s home was immediately repackaged and addressed by my sister’s husband to a foreign mission dealing with the hardship of an abundance of cabbage – but no lettuce. Meanwhile for months there had been no salads on my sister’s table of either lettuce or cabbage. And so, when an opportunity presented itself, I had a talk with Ms Missionary. A talk shortly after I had given her father, my B-in-L, money to pay the repair bill so he could get his old car out of the shop rather than continue riding an old derelict bicycle back and forth to town.

I told Ms Missionary about the sad situation of the cold, drafty shack her dad and stepmother were living in. I told her that on their table during winter months, there was never a salad, lettuce or cabbage. I told her that the money that was being sent to her was money that was sorely needed for their survival.

And what did Ms Missionary do? She looked at me blankly and shrugged her shoulders and said, “I had no idea that things were as dire as you say. But what can I do? My Dad sends the money voluntarily. He is adamant he doesn’t want it back and he always tells me they are managing very well.”

I tried to appear amiable though inside I was filled with disgust. “They are not managing well,” I said. “What he is telling you is not true. And it’s not that difficult to put an end to it,” I said. “When he sends you money, send it back. If he sends it again, send it back. Eventually he will no longer send it.”

So the conclusion of this conversation was that Ms. Missionary would keep in touch with me from her remote location oceans away and if things weren’t good at home, she would refuse the money. She carefully copied down my name and address. That satisfied me, but now it is twenty years later and in that twenty years, there has not been one solitary query made as to the state of affairs at home.

So, with my sister’s passing, although this mission-fund-leaching-activity on Ms. Missionary’s part has always irked me beyond belief, I decided to put that all behind me and write something for my sister’s funeral that would simply honor the wonderful person my sister was and let the rest of it go. What point to hash it over now?

So, at the request of my other sisters, I sat down and wrote this brief Eulogy.


Today we are sad. Talking helps. We talk about a sister who was wholly dedicated to God. A sister who was so quiet, so transparent, so in the background, but yet her life was such a testimony to others. I know that because so many people have said so to each one of us.

She limped through life on a bad hip that was seldom free from pain. She had reasons to complain, but still the closest I ever heard to a complaint was her comment to me after attending a woman’s social.

“I looked around me today,” she said, “and said to myself, I need to smile more. Those other women at the social today were so carefree and happy. Why can’t I be as cheerful as them? And so,” she said, “I really tried to be. I tried very hard. But I couldn’t. And then I realized that my body has been in so much pain for so long that I begin to believe that it how it is supposed to be. That I am no different from anyone else. That they feel the same as I do, but they are bearing up under that burden so much better. Do you think that is true?” she asked.

I wished I could have said it was true. That everyone felt pain equal to her own. But of course I couldn’t because it wasn’t true.

And so with her passing, we are relieved that she is finally free of pain, but we are also sad. We search for comfort in conversation. We talk about her simplicity and gratefulness for the smallest of favors. And in that conversation, Sister B recalls how Departed Sister said to her when she was planning her wedding that she hoped she could have an abundance of pink roses to mark that special day. But aside from the small spray of pink roses in her bouquet, there were no extra roses. And so Sister B and Sister C and Sister D grabbed scissors and scurried into the woods where they clipped buckets of thorny branches of wild roses. And so, although the wedding was a simple outdoor celebration, there were an abundance of roses. Enough roses to transform a common farm yard into a special Rose Garden.

This is a simple story but it seems to frame the feelings we have about a special sister. She was that special quiet, unassuming presence that transformed our lives, like the wild roses, into a Rose Garden with the strength of her faith, her enduring courage in the midst of much hardship, her patience and appreciation of simple things.

I like to think that in heaven she will say to her Lord. “Lord, I looked around me today at the others. I feel so much joy. I think I feel I have been given more joy than the rest of them.”

And the Lord will say, “That’s true, my dear, you have. Your life was such a shining light to others that I have given you an extra portion.”


So now, those of my family tree, you know that right now there are more offshoots with the same mannerisms, personalities, and common DNA as Ms Missionary. This spiel is for those of the same persuasion within the next generation and the next. I understand Missions are an honorable profession, but they are not honorable if they are implemented through the dishonorable acquisition of funds from those in need.

Practice the faith you preach. If God wants you to serve in a mission field, he will provide. You do not need to take action to secure what you need through despair over cabbages, sacrifice of the fee for a bouquet of roses, or through the ignoble transfer of funds sorely needed for another’s food, clothing, and shelter.

In re-reading the Eulogy I wrote, I am somewhat ashamed. As much as I tried to lay aside my grievances, anyone with a discerning mind can find them woven into the thoughts I expressed. But in my family tree, all do not have a discerning mind. And so it is my hope, that in the future, some of my descendent kin will read this and be more discerning in recognizing the offensive odor of exploitation versus the sweet smell of faith.

(I told you not to read this, but if you were patient enough to read it, now that you're done, you might as well comment)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


A Stunning Discovery

And so I continue my story but first I must ask, “Do you have friends with a warped sense of humor like I have?” The kind that will send a Birthday or Christmas card knowing that when I get that letter from the post office I will run to the car and open it immediately. My car with the burgundy seat covers that can magically crochet dog hair into complex doilies and velcro-textured rugs that can attach themselves like glue to anything that falls on them. And so I rip open my exciting personal letter only to discover that besides a lovely card there are also no less than 160 cellophane or foil itsy-bitsy flowers, stars, angels, that promptly fall onto my lap or the floor of my car. With their sharp little edges they attach themselves to the whole of the car’s interior, and because they are so tiny they are next to impossible to clean up. I swear I am still pulling some of them out of the rug from two Birthday’s back.

It’s frustrating when that happens. But sitting out in front of the hospital with thoughts of whether or not I qualify for special medical care, I am thinking how much worse royal f---ing blue blood will be to clean up. But as I told you in my last post, despite my fears about the wound on my wrist I am close enough to the hospital that now I can be calmer and so much braver.

So carefully, carefully, so as not to flood my car with an ocean of blue blood, I pulled back the band-aid ever so slightly to have a better look. And that’s when I discovered a rather stunning thing. Something I might have noticed earlier if I hadn’t been in such a panic to get the wound taped up and the bleeding stopped. Somehow in the process of the manufacturing and wrapping of that band-aid it had come in contact with an ink spill. And that spill left a large dark blue stain on the padded side that extended right to the edge and leached to the other side in the same way that a swiftly flowing wound would do. It was not my royal blood or aortic blood or vital left-side-of-the-heart blood. On closer examination I now realized it was nothing more than a very large ink stain. And so, with that realization, came the conclusion that I might as well head home. Obviously this was not a wound that needed special attention.

Now that should be the end of this tale, but upon starting my car and preparing to leave the hospital, it begins to rain and snow at a goodly pace. I turn on my windshield wipers but they stay glued to the off position. I check and find them completely iced up. I dig away what ice I can with a rat-tail comb but the comb has too much flex and the ice is too hard. Then I locate a ballpoint pen that works fairly well but long before I’m done it snaps in half. I notice a man in a vehicle nearby that I’m thinking may help – maybe he has de-icer – a screwdriver – a bottle of alcohol (not to drink, to melt the ice) – maybe a better understanding than I of where the mechanism must be freed (cause I have no idea). Again I’m back to those panic-driven, fractured, rampant thoughts of desperation including Hub’s fanaticism about imposition versus independence. I begin to walk over to the vehicle nearby, but before I go more than five steps I retrace my own footprints back to my car. Nah, we won’t do that.

I continue to run the heater and windshield defrost full bore and continue to try to dig away more ice with the broken pen. In between these efforts, I try the wipers, but they still refuse to budge, even when I turn them on and lift and push them to help them break loose. The temperature is dropping and the downpour of snow and rain is increasing. The man, who maybe could have helped, has driven away.

I finally decide I am going home even if I have to drive with my head stuck out the side window. I will stop if I must and rub the windshield off with my sleeve if nothing else. I begin the drive and quell at how hazardous the stupidity of this is to not only myself, but others on the road as well. I can only make out dark outlines of roadside brush and buildings through the fog and ice and rain on the windshield. But eventually, having reached the outskirts of town, I am able to speed up and eventually the window clears somewhat even though it is still raining and snowing.

In this situation there is no safe balance. You know what I mean – the safe balance between those who hazard others by driving too slow, and those who hazard others by driving too fast. So I just eliminate those concerns from my mind and continue on as best I can.

I am so glad to get home and, although I didn’t expect it could happen, after this eventful day I now dread the dreaded trip to town even more than I did yesterday or the day before. Hub is sympathetic about my eventful day and proud of my independence. Daughter, on the other hand, ignores the sad details, and when my tale of woe is concluded simply remarks, with a hearty chuckle,

“Mom, it’s so good to hear that you finally had a reason for an outing!”

Monday, April 03, 2006


Blue Blood and Black Ice

Last post, I explained to you how I slashed my wrist and with blue blood seeping through the bandage I am now in a panic to get medical attention. But before I continue, I need to also tell you that I have been hunkered down here on the farm since early last fall. And despite the kids’ concern about how unhealthy it is for me to be such a recluse, I haven’t budged. My only outings have been limited to the dreaded trips to town every two or three weeks with Hub driving. So I haven’t been behind the wheel of a vehicle for at least six months, maybe more.

So now in my panic, I’m thinking, “But isn’t driving like bicycle-riding and some other aspects of life? Once you know how you can never forget? I certainly hope that is the case.”

But maybe not. If you don’t drive for that long, maybe it’s better not to, especially under this kind of distressing circumstance. So I begin to think that maybe in my shaken state of mind I should phone a neighbor to take me to the hospital. I know any neighbor would do it in a minute but Hub would so adamantly not approve. He values independence. That’s why he moved a 30 cube-foot deep-freezer downstairs alone, and when it didn’t work, he moved it upstairs alone, loaded it on a pick-up alone, and replaced it with another alone. A hernia-promising effort (that I refused to get involved in). But he did it assisted only by straining muscles and a couple of lengths of rope. But that’s Hub. Independence is as important to him as writing is to me.

So no. I’ll not phone anyone. I’ll not impose on others. So instead I grabbed the keys and jumped in my car. But I wasn’t going anywhere. The car was too buried in the snow. It wouldn’t go ahead or back.

Now I’m really uptight. No blue or red blood coursing through my body now, just the anxious rush of adrenaline that takes over when everything is going wrong. My state of panic has me close to tears, but I found that eventually, with a bit of shoveling, putting car in drive and jumping out and pushing driverless car, and jumping back in and rocking car back and forth by slamming it from D to R and back again (enough to burn out a perfectly good transmission), I got the car out to the road. And so from then on I continued down the road painfully aware of how at every crossroads there is likely to be patches of black ice. Between blue blood and black ice, today I’d heartily vote for a world dressed in monochrome.

Soon I was at the hospital. I parked the car and shut the key off. That’s when I realized I hadn’t had time to brush my teeth so I grabbed a breath mint from my purse, and while letting it dissolve in my mouth, I attempted to calmly take stalk of my situation. But being calm is not easy. And again my mind is flashing broken thoughts – healthcare overload – trivial things – too costly – unnecessary – blue blood – what means this? – what matter? – my rights – rights to medical care – dumb doctors – too dumb to know about blue blood.

I re-examined my wrist and now recognizing that medical help is less than 50 steps away I finally gained a new level of composure and confidence. I decided to bravely peal back the band-aid and take a closer look.

Part III of AN EVENTFUL DAY coming up soon.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

# 133 AN EVENTFUL DAY - Part I

The Suicide Cut

Yesterday was an eventful day that I prefer to never repeat. After Hub left for work I was having a bath. And while doing so I noticed a pair of scissors within easy reach on the counter. Now I don’t know what kind of fool would attempt to cut their toenails in the bathtub, but that is what I decided to do. So there I am, still in the bathtub, twisted into a pretzel with one foot in the air so I can reach my toenails, trying to position the scissors under a toenail. You know it. Water is slippery, scissors are slippery, skin is slippery, add soap to this and things become ominously slick. And that’s when it happened. The scissors suddenly slipped and the point jabbed hard into the suicide-coordinates on the inside of my wrist.

Now most small cuts don’t begin to bleed immediately, and when underwater the blood is even less evident. I know that from shaving nicks in my legs over the years. In these situations, I haven’t even known that I’ve cut myself until I’m out of the tub, dried off, hair styled, teeth brushed, make-up on, housecoat on, and I’m ready to put on nylons. That’s when bright red drops of blood begin to reveal secrets of where I obliviously nicked the skin.

But no delayed bleeding here. Immediately there is enough blood for me to realize my wrist has a clean slit at the suicide coordinates. So I leapt from the tub, wrapped my wrist in a towel and dried it as briskly as I could. At the same time I grabbed the first aid box I keep in the bathroom drawer and began pulling out bandages. Fabric bandages, plastic bandages, clear bandages, all that I could grab at one time.

I found myself mentally reciting in my head at breakneck speed Hub’s advice about wounds like this. ‘Tape the cut crossways. Get it tightly pressed together. Then wrap it the other way.’ This I managed to do, but with the dampness, I knew that first bandage would let loose soon if I didn’t hurry to tape it the other way.

Now you know some bandages stick and some don’t but in a panic situation like this, no one is sorting them. Without discrimination, I ripped open anything that resembled a band-aid and layered them on. Two crossways on the slit, then another six or so overlapping around my wrist. Firmly tight, but not so tight as to risk cutting off circulation. Bandage wrappings flew like cookie crumbs fly from Cookie Monster’s mouth. Honestly, if you had seen the bathroom when I got done, you’d have thought the only thing I had to open those bandages was one arm with a hook. There were tiny bits of paper, bigger bits of paper, and discarded band-aids folded over on themselves every which way. It looked as if I opened three or more boxes of bandages. And perhaps I did. But the situation, like I said, was too critical to be selective and too critical for me to even think of looking for the little paper flaps or pull-strings for opening them. I just ripped and tore with my teeth and nails at two to three bandages at one time.

So now, for the time being, the band-aids are holding and the blood seems to be stopped. Realizing this, I finally began to calm down. I quickly mopped the water from the rest of my still dripping limbs. Then I re-examined my wrist and horror of horrors. There I see a huge stain seeping into the edges of the outermost band-aid. A stain that was not red, or scarlet, or crimson, or brown, or even reddish-brown or any color of blood that I have ever seen in my past. This stain is blue. Dark blue. Big royal f---ing blue. What is going on? Panic reasserts itself and fractures my thoughts into tiny confusing bits and pieces.

‘Physiology – circulation – blood – royal blood – fact – fiction – posters in doctor’s office – depictions of blood flow - blue track – red track – always separate - one entering heart, one leaving – oxygenated – not oxygenated – blue direct from the heart – red from the extremities – aorta red – vein blue or is it the other way around – I want to remember – can’t remember.” I look again at the bandage and yes that large stain is blue – dark blue like stamp pad ink. Not red, just blue.

This is not good. I think the band-aid is swelling into a bubble at the wound. No doubt due to the pressure of the hard rush of aortic blood direct from my vital organs. I simply must get to the hospital and get there quickly.

Next Post: AN EVENTFUL DAY - Part II, coming up very soon.