Hot Water-Elixir of the Gods

Water heater sm

Water heater sm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you don’t believe that it is the simple things in life that make life grand, then you have not been without hot water for five days. A week ago, our water heater decided it had had enough and emptied its warm watery contents all over the floor of our basement. Lovely.  After rescuing all manner of flotsam and throwing away some jetsam, I used the shop vac to clean up the water. Then I went online and watched a video that advised what you should do when your water heater dies and emits its contents willy nilly all over the floor. First if it is a gas heater, which is what we have, you should turn off the gas (light bulb moment) then turn off the water that goes into the tank (second light bulb moment).

Okey, dokey,…………

A quick and rather frantic call to my husband at work brought him home to turn off the gas and the water, since I did not want to blow up the house by turning something the wrong way. We called the water heater people who told us they would be there between 1:00 and 6:00, which sounds like quite a leeway, but as I had spent two summers working at Bell Canada while I was a university student, I knew that this was not bad timing. At Bell we expected people to take the whole week off to wait for us (I am just kidding).

I had the red carpet laid out for the water heater fellow, and after leaving him in the basement to assess the situation I turned to go upstairs and told him to call me if he needed anything. I had not made it to the top of the stairs when he called me back down. Apparently new rules and regulations called for our chimney to have a lining before he could install a new water heater. The rules apparently came into effect about twelve years ago–our water heater was more than twenty years old. The new rules safeguard against carbon monoxide, so there was no getting around them.

So……….we had to have a chimney liner put in. It was late Saturday afternoon. Sunday, of course was a no go, and Monday was Family Day.  Tuesday, the guys came to put in the liner, but it was too big, so we had to wait until Wednesday to have the work done with the right size liner. In the meantime we got two big pots out and boiled water on the top of the stove, and got our kettle going every time a bath was to be had. Just so you know, if you want more than a tepid bath, it takes about 6 large pots of boiling water and three kettles full. And then it is only a little more than warm.

I decided that I did not really need to wash my hair as I had no big important meetings or lunches or dinners to go to—so I swept my hair up in a ponytail and got quite good at sponge baths. Must admit, I had a pretty good excuse to do as little laundry as possible (yes, I know there are cold water laundry detergents, but that is not the point). Doing dishes was another hurdle, but a few kettles of boiling water pretty well took care of them.

On Wednesday night the water heater fellow showed up at around 6:30 and put in our brand new water heater. He was exceptionally nice, and when I told him to call me if he needed anything—he did not call me. Which was a good thing.  The five day saga had ended. Now we had a new liner in our chimney, a new water heater, hot water, and no carbon monoxide poisoning. What more could a body want?

Hot water is a lovely thing. A glorious thing. Something we so take for granted. Now in my prayers before I go to sleep at night I “God bless” all my family and friends and my new water heater. No joke.

Published in: on February 28, 2012 at 11:11 am  Comments (5)  
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Anything Is Possible

Flickr Chinese Dragon Year Statue

Flickr Chinese Dragon Year Statue (Photo credit:

According to the Chinese horoscopes for 2012, it is the Year of the Dragon. But, if you are under the sign of the dragon, the year does not look all that great. You are warned to drive carefully, and are apparently “prone to accidents, small ailments, losses in gambling and speculations.” You are supposed to avoid partnerships, and romance is unstable—so much so that it is not a good year for a dragon to get married. Your Chinese horoscope is based on the year you were born—so if you were born in 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988 or the year 2000 you are a dragon.

I was born in the year of the snake, and after reading my Chinese horoscope (in the Toronto Star) for 2012 was feeling quite disappointed until I read the dragon’s plight for this year. Then a thought occurred to me—I am not Chinese, thus the whole thing is moot. I am going to stick with being a Taurus, on the cusp of Aries—so whichever sign is supposed to be having a good day, I adopt that sign for the day. Truth be told though, I do not put much faith in horoscopes.

I heard a wonderful definition of faith on the program “Big Ideas” a few weeks ago. It seems in this sometimes secular age we are not supposed to admit that we have faith in something—but this definition, by  a Jewish scholar and Rabbi wrapped it up quite neatly for me. Rabbi Sacks said that “Faith is the defeat of probability by the power of possibility.” I love that. We are capable of believing this, no matter what our particular belief system is. The Rabbi also stated that “nothing interesting is probable.”

The word probable is defined as “appearing to be true or accurate” in my new book called “The Thinker’s Thesaurus” by Peter E. Meltzer. The book was a Christmas present from a friend, and I have to say I was very complimented that she thought of me as a “thinker”—at least that is how I am going to take it—rather than someone who needs help in this area. My computer’s thesaurus comes up with a few more pithy synonyms for probable, such as: likely, credible, feasible, and plausible. In other words, probable has its feet firmly planted on terra firma, but still wants to hedge its bets. As an adjective, the Encarta Dictionary says that it means “likely to be true, although evidence is insufficient to prove or predict it.”

On the other hand, to me, the word “possibility” does not seem to have hard and fast perimeters. And that wonderful if hackneyed saying “anything is possible” has so many delightful derivatives. Here are just a few, from the wise to the famous to the scientific:

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. – Dalia Lama

Anything is possible as long as you have the passion. –Guy Forget
Anything is possible in this world. I really believe that. –Liza Minelli
Here’s proof that if you live long enough, anything is possible. –Barry Manilow
If you believe in yourself anything is possible.-Miley Cyrus
Never let life impede on your ability to manifest your dreams. Dig deeper into your dreams and deeper into yourself and believe that anything is possible, and make it happen. – Corin Nemec
The best scientist is open to experience and begins with romance – the idea that anything is possible. –Ray Bradbury

With self-discipline most anything is possible. –Theodore Roosevelt

Try changing the word possible to probable in any of the quotes above, and the meaning is just not the same, and not nearly as inspiring.

Possibility’s synonyms reek of hope and aspiration with words like option, opportunity, potential and leeway, with a little risk and chance thrown in for good measure. You cannot quantify possibility; you just have to believe in it.

Published in: on February 21, 2012 at 7:49 pm  Comments (1)  
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Sometimes I’ve Just Got Nothing

Cover of "The Simple Living Guide: A Sour...

Cover via Amazon

I write a weekly column in the Kingsville Reporter and sometimes something to write about evades me so I turn to chance–here is the result:

Order. That is the title of a topic in a book I have just opened at random hoping to find a subject to write about. Sometimes I just have nothing to say, which makes it difficult when you are entrusted with turning out a weekly column. Correction: I have lots to say, but do you really want to hear about my frustration at trying to get the thick (and I mean THICK) layer of fuzz off a corduroy shirt I mistakenly washed with a fuzzy blanket? No? I didn’t think so. So I am trying a method people seem to use when searching for an answer—I am employing chance.

Many people look to the Bible for answers, and open it randomly hoping for a word or two of wisdom to guide their life, but I have found it does not always work for me. I usually happen on some passage about unhappy people wandering in the wilderness looking for answers and not finding them for forty some years. You will understand why I am looking elsewhere today for a bit quicker solution, as my deadline looms large.

The random solution seems to be the subject of Order. At least according to pages 156 to 157 in Janet Luhrs’ book, “The Simple Living Guide”.  Luhrs is very stuck on simple living, though one would think living simply would not need a 444 page tome in which to deliver the goods. Anyway, let us look at what she says about Order. Apparently it is “the hallmark of the simple life.” Luhrs says that life is much easier “when you can find what you are looking for”. Sure, but how interesting is that?

She also suggests that to simplify our lives we should go through our houses and “keep only those things that (we) love and give (us) a sense of pleasure.” She asks why we need a “tabletop of artifacts and what-nots jammed on there like crowds at a Christmas sale”, and puts forth the theory that less is better. My question to Ms. Luhrs is this—what if those artifacts and what-nots are the things we love and that give us a sense of pleasure? I can see that Luhrs is going to get nowhere with me and her sense of order. Turning the page, I see the title “Joy”—maybe this is something I can get behind.

Luhrs says that “joy is what you make it”, and that by finding joy in mundane tasks, we have found at least one of the secrets to a good life. Now, I must say that I like this drop of philosophy and will keep it in mind when I try to remove the thick blanket of fuzz from the above mentioned corduroy shirt (which if it were mine I might have thrown away, but it seems it is someone’s favourite shirt in this house.)

Okay, now back to Joy.  According to ‘Abdu’l-Baha’ (whom I am quoting only because he has such an interesting name): “Joy gives us wings. In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better able to cope with the world and find our sphere of influence.” I don’t know about you, but if I can gain a keener intellect, a less cloudy understanding of life, and more vital strength just by being joyful, I will give it a whirl.  As for my “sphere of influence”—well, I will just have to keep looking for it.

Okay, turning to the next page, I find not what I am looking for, but the thing that I think is looking for me. Randomness does have its painful lessons as the next title is Patience– something I am sorely lacking.  Okay, is someone trying to send me a message here? Methinks Luhrs is just a bit preachy—but I guess we are all not in the choir.   I do like the next insight though. Luhrs says that “a little quiet waiting is good for the soul” and that in the end patience pays off by giving people a life that is “more serene and fulfilling”. I could use a scoop of serene with a dollop of fulfilling. Could I have that with a little ice cream and hot fudge sauce?

Published in: on February 15, 2012 at 1:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Very Interesting, But Stupid

“Multi-tasking: screwing everything up simultaneously.” – Anonymous

Read something recently that explains everything. Especially for those of us who brag that we are “multi-taskers”. From the cofounders of Button Up, “a company dedicated to helping stressed women get organized” come these words of surprising “time management truths”: multi-tasking “impairs intelligence and hurts efficiency.”

Who knew? I always thought of multitasking as a way to “mix things up” and keep boredom at bay while doing a number of mindless or not so mindless but unpleasant tasks. But I am wrong. (And no, this is not the only time I have ever been wrong, or ever will be wrong, no matter what my family says.)

The “Button Up” girls,  Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore wrote an article called the “Nine never changing laws of managing your time”. Number five dealt with multitasking. They said that researchers at the University of Michigan “have shown that multi-taskers actually take longer to finish work than those who did each task sequentially.” What really piqued my interest though was their provocative statement that “top-tier institutions like UCLA have shown that switching between tasks impairs our ability to learn and even impairs our IQ more than smoking marijuana.”

Apparently there are different ways to multitask, some less harmful than others. I Googled “advantages of multitasking” and found some info which broke the term down into two parts: background tasking and switch tasking.   Background tasking is “something completely mindless and mundane in the background such as exercising while listening to (a) CD, eating dinner and watching a show, or having the copy machine operate in the background while you answer emails.”  They noted though that “switch tasking” is “switching rapidly between one task and another” and that no matter how quickly that takes place in your mind, there is a high cost to switch tasking. As happens so often when you Google something, you are left with having to imagine just what the high cost is. I guess it is the time lost while going from one task to another, and remembering where you are in the task—at the beginning, the middle, or the end, as well as refocusing your energy and mind.

Some things fall just naturally under multi-tasking and are really neither background tasking nor switch tasking.  Cooking is multi-tasking at its most elevated level. Seriously, if you are fixing Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and all the fixings—if you follow the theory of the “Button Up” girls, and do everything sequentially, then you would cook the turkey, then the potatoes, then the stuffing (if you do not stuff the turkey as so many nutritionists are advocating now so you do not food poison yourself), then the corn, then make the jello, then thaw out the pumpkin pie (okay, you get the gist), you would be having Thanksgiving dinner about three days after you started. Now, I know I am being ridiculous to make a point here—but multitasking is a necessity in some areas of life.

Thanksgiving dinner in Canada.

Thanksgiving dinner in Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Modern technology lends itself to multitasking—we can do laundry, run a load of dishes through, talk on the phone, all while making scrambled eggs. The only danger here is that you will run out of hot water, or start stirring the eggs with the phone, which could get a bit messy.

I understand that there are some real dangers to multi-tasking though—especially if you are driving. Statistics have borne out the fact that we are not meant to chat on the phone, or heaven forbid, text while we are driving.

Apparently a study was done with high multi-taskers and low multi-taskers, and the former underperformed, had trouble filtering out distractions and in the end had a poorer memory. As I stated at the beginning of the article—this explains everything. It also explains why cooking, the ultimate multi-tasking task is not my strong suit.

Published in: on February 7, 2012 at 11:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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