What is Going on in my World

This is my column from the newspaper this week. It is very local but gives you a bird’s eye view into what is happening in my world:

Circumspection Denied: Open Our Libraries

During a conversation with a friend over the weekend, she called me “circumspect”. Not really sure what it meant (though I had an inkling) I looked it up. I knew my friend would never insult me, but I wanted to make sure the word meant what I thought it meant. And it does. According to Volcabulary.com, “circumspect implies a careful consideration of all circumstances and a desire to avoid mistakes and bad consequences.”

I do try to “case the joint” before making a statement to make sure the audience is friendly, and I try to stay as politically correct as possible. In pubic. Of course I have my own strong opinions and biases, but these are generally not for public consumption. But I have to say, the fact that “our” librarians are now entering their fourth week on strike is starting to annoy me. A lot. It is fraying on my nerves and makes me question the fairness of it all. And I am afraid I am no longer circumspect about the situation. I know there are two sides to every issue, or as my husband says three–the third being the truth.

What is the truth in this matter? And what is fair? If life were fair, the librarians would be back in the libraries helping patrons, but instead they are walking the picket line—somewhat confused as to what is really expected of them. From my understanding they are asking for little other than the status quo. Perhaps my understanding is incorrect, but I am wondering why they are not being allowed to fulfill the myriad of duties they perform for you and me on a daily basis.

For the last three decades I and my family have been enthusiastic members of our local library. I took my kids to all the programs for kids when they were little; I have partaken along with my husband in many of the adult offerings; and have been known to haul home as many as twenty books at a time. Some I use for research (for this column); some I read; and some I just enjoy perusing.

I love the library. I find the librarians in Kingsville helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable. I am leading with my heart here—and my heart breaks to see this beloved institution closed during the summer months. So, if anyone out there is listening—please give us back the place so many of us love and use. I cannot be circumspect and careful with my words about this—I need to go out on a limb and state my position unequivocally: it is just wrong to make these purveyors of the written word (and so much more) fight the good fight for their jobs.

Poetry and Prose at the Lake

Went to a poetry/prose reading over the weekend. I always feel so intellectual when I attend one of these things. “Feel” is the operative word here, which means that I do not necessarily understand all the nuances of the sentiments being expressed but I like the challenge of trying to unpuzzle the written word. Poetry is a puzzle that unlike its cardboard cousin can be put together in many different ways and produce as many pictures as there are readers.

The outdoor “reading”  took place at the Woodbridge Farm Retreat overlooking a tranquil Lake Erie. Hosted by Grant Munroe (et al), we listened to old 78’s under a canopy of ancient trees. The poet, Jesse Eckerlin had spent a week writing at the farm, and read from his chapbook of poems called “Thrush”.  I particularly liked the poem called “Emporium” as it brought us face to face with another era ensconced in the modern day. The opening lines: “A disorderly labyrinth of decrepit junk, this florescent bunker hunkered in the north end of the city…” is reminiscent of meandering old stores that we have all experienced with stuff from a decade long gone still for sale. He describes the products as “…either raw materials or house goods from the 40’s or 50’s that have gracelessly fermented into novelty items.” I cannot do Jess justice here, but it is enough for you to know his work is fierce and fearless and fine.

The other reader was Robert Earl Stewart, a former Windsor Star reporter turned poet and prose writer. He read from a book he is now in the process of writing about running. Though the passage he read does not convince me to run, it was filled with a wry look at his personal life and how running saved him. He was in turn funny, honest, and an accomplished wordsmith, who made you hang onto his every word.

It was an ideal way to spend a summer Saturday afternoon. I believe there will be another reading on August 20th. Stay tuned.

 

Published in: on July 19, 2016 at 6:12 pm  Comments (4)  

Guess.What.Day.It.Is?

sometimes our shadow selves are bigger than we are….

Live & Learn

drone


Notes:

  • Source: DailyMail.com: 2nd place winner of Dronestagram Contest.  “This spectacular camel tour was snapped at sunset by honeymooner Todd Kennedy in Cable Beach, Australia.” Don’t miss the other Drone contest winners here: Dronestagram Contest Winners
  • Background on Caleb/Wednesday/Hump Day Posts and Geico’s original commercial: Let’s Hit it Again

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Published in: on July 13, 2016 at 9:40 am  Leave a Comment  

From the Heart

I am a huge advocate of letter writing. Does that mean that I write a lot of letters? No. At least not anymore. I used to. Write a lot of letters. Now it is email and messaging and texting. More decades ago than I care to count I was an avid letter writer during the summer months when I was home from university. I missed my roommates and friends and a far flung boyfriend or two, so I would spend a lot of my spare time penning letters that involved perhaps a bit of exaggeration about how wonderful my summer was. In reality I was working at a summer job or two that took up most of my time.

I wrote hundreds of letters and received the same back, because a letter sent was always met with a letter received. Many of the letters I composed were from a small room on the second floor of my family home just down the hall from a bedroom I shared with my sister, Peg. We dubbed this room the “spook room” because before we transformed it with pretty pink rose covered wallpaper it had grey walls and had been used for storage by the former owners. We renovated it and turned it into a tiny getaway, with mattresses on the floor and bright throw pillows. The room had a huge window for its size, and it was in front of that window where I wrote many a letter.

I am reminded of my letter writing days by a book I picked up yesterday at Chapters called “To the Letter” by Simon Garfield. It is subtitled “A celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing”. Not to put too fine a point on the fact that letter writing is a lost art, but the book was only $5, marked down from its original price of $29.

I am guilty of not using a pen and stationary much anymore. If I write a letter, I tap it out on my laptop and then change the font to look like writing instead of printing to make it resemble a more personal note. I know that I fool no one with this tactic, but it does make the presentation a little closer to actual letter writing.

Garfield makes a compelling argument for letter writing—one that has convinced me that I should do more of it—even if it is not handwritten. He says that “Letters have the power to grant us a larger life. They reveal motivation and deep understanding. They are evidential. They change lives, and they rewire history.”

Pretty heavy duty reasons for letter writing, though I do not think that anything I have ever written has changed a life or rewired history—but perhaps I have offered a different perspective or word of encouragement, or even lent a bit of humour to a situation. Garfield believes that at one time “It must have seemed impossible that their worth would ever be taken for granted or swept aside” because “a world without letters would surely be a world without oxygen.” Yet, today many of us rarely put a pen to paper unless we are signing a legal document or for a package that comes to our door. I agree with Garfield that the loss of letter writing has put a strain on literacy and good thinking. The handwriting process is a slow one, and that fact generally leads to more organized thinking—we have the time to think before we commit to paper.

The author also makes an interesting point that one might not come to initially. He believes that writing a book about the magic of letter writing is also writing a book “about kindness.” He says that he is not against emails but calls them a “poke”, and letters more of a “caress” that “stick around to be newly discovered.” He believes that letters are “a form of expression, emotion, and tactile delight we may clasp to our heart.”

I wholeheartedly agree with him. I have kept letters for decades. They are little time capsules that show us what we and our friends and family were like at a certain point in our lives. I doubt that I will return to the handwritten days of yore, but Garfield has convinced me that the written word is one that should be cherished, and one we should share with those we love. Now admit it—it is wonderful to receive a bit of snail mail every once in a while that is not a bill or political propaganda.

Published in: on July 11, 2016 at 8:02 pm  Comments (6)  

Just One Shopping Cart Away

 

 

In my constant search for the meaning of life I am often stymied. My efforts are thwarted by life itself. I have finally given in and come to the conclusion that life is a mystery—and not one that is going to be solved by me. But I have found a few truths floating around the other mystery I have not cracked—the Internet. On my Facebook page I found some wise words of advice attributed to Dr. Richard Carlson, author of “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”.

This paragraph showed up on my Facebook page on a bright Sunday morning, and rather than skip over it, or nod my head in silent agreement then go on with my day, I thought I would share it with you along with a few thoughts of my own. I shared it on Facebook with the comment: “easy for you to say….” Here is the paragraph which took some licence with the good doctor’s guide to a good life:

“Live beneath your means. Return everything you borrow. Stop blaming other people. Admit it when you make a mistake. Give clothes not worn to charity. Do something nice and try not to get caught. Listen more; talk less. Every day take a 30 minute walk. Strive for excellence, not perfection. Be on time. Don’t make excuses. Don’t argue. Get organized. Be kind to people. Be kind to unkind people. Let someone cut ahead of you in line. Take time to be alone. Cultivate good manners. Be humble. Realize and accept that life isn’t fair. Know when to keep your mouth shut. Go for an entire day without criticizing anyone. Learn from the past. Plan for the future. Live in the present. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s all small stuff.”

Now these might seem like clichéd bromides, but if you take them one by one—there is a lot of wisdom here. Personally I would have led with “realize and accept life is not fair”. If you come to this realization early, you are golden. Then when life seems to be fair (or your rendition thereof) you are a happy camper. And when it is not—well, you were prepared.

I try to follow many of these rules, but fail miserably with a few. I try not to argue, but sometimes I cannot keep the beast within that wants to get her point across. Occasionally I do this loudly and semi-aggressively. I prefer to debate but sometimes the debate turns into a dispute. On examination, there is really little satisfaction in an argument, because whoever happens to be holding a different opinion will rarely be swayed by your brilliant argument. Thus the advice to “not argue” is good, but sometimes the will is weak. I am sure that by the time I am 90 I will be able to act more successfully on this advice.

I try to be kind; I let people cut in front of me; I plan on taking a 30 minute walk everyday (as soon as this stupid knee will let me do more than a shuffle); I have pretty good manners; and I love being alone at times. I try to be humble, listen, and keep my mouth shut. The operative word here is try—as I am not always successful.

The one that really hits home for me is to “go for an entire day without criticizing anyone”. I think this one is key to living a happy life. But it is the most difficult one of all. We are a people who seem to need to criticize—our government, our neighbours, our family, our friends—even our acquaintances. I think that what is important is that in our criticism we are defining ourselves and our values. But maybe we should find a different way to go about it. Or at least understand why we are so critical.

Being critical is not always bad. Apparently it has two roots. The assessing, analyzing, evaluating and appraising root is how we compare ourselves to the world and its contents, ideas, and the people who form them. But if criticizing takes on its shadow meaning—the one that censures and condemns, slams and passes unfair judgment, then I agree with the Dr. Carlson–we should try to erase this from our habits.

I have not learned “not to sweat the small stuff”. It is a process, and one that is more difficult for some than others. I know that what I am worried about today will rectify itself in some manner. I just hope that the manner in which it rectifies itself is not one that finds me in jail, on the street sleeping with my piled high shopping cart beside me, or toothless.

Published in: on July 4, 2016 at 3:08 pm  Comments (13)  

Big Red

could not have said it better myself!

Live & Learn

canada-day-flag-1

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Published in: on July 1, 2016 at 2:08 pm  Comments (2)  

180 secs of your life. Pause to watch.

wow

Live & Learn

and don’t quit until the finish…


Source and read more here: World Renowned Pianist Performs Concert Floating on the Arctic Ocean

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Published in: on June 24, 2016 at 7:04 pm  Comments (2)  

Not One of my Best….

It’s Only Words…

“It’s only words, and words are all I have
To take your heart away…” ~ Bee Gees,  “Words”

What are the ten most commonly misunderstood words in the English language? I am sure we all have words that we think should be on this list—but this list is one that had me rethinking my definitions. Derived from grammar.net they were shared on a blog I frequent called Writers Write. (You know I don’t care either where I got the words, but I have to acknowledge my sources just so you don’t think I am smart enough to come up with this stuff myself.)

Anyway, the ten words are:  enormity, nonplussed, bemused, redundant, plethora, unique, fulsome, noisome, ironic, and literally. Admittedly we do not use all of these words on a daily basis, which could explain why they are commonly misunderstood. You may be surprised that your definition is not the true meaning of the word. Then again, you may be absolutely brilliant and know the definition of each and every one of these words. I believe that I knew the true meaning of many of the words, but some surprised me.

Enormity does not mean enormous. Who knew? It means “monstrous evil, excessive wickedness, (and) outrageous.” So when someone describes the “enormity” of a situation, they are not just talking its size, they are talking about its badness. I must say that I did not know that and will certainly watch my words when I am describing a situation—and hope I never run into one of enormity. Though if you watch the news there are plenty of situations that unfortunately can be described this way.

Nonplussed means bewildered, extremely puzzled, at a loss. Not, unimpressed or unaffected. I find that I am nonplussed a lot. Bewildered is my middle name. Extremely puzzled is my game. And I am at a loss a lot. (Okay, I admit it, I am having a bit of fun at the expense of nonplussed.) Bemused is not mildly amused. It is apparently a cousin of nonplussed because it too means bewildered and confused. But here is where it differ–it also means “lost in thought.” I am not all that sure that when you are lost in thought, you are bewildered and confused, but maybe the meanings are meant to stand alone. Perhaps one is bewildered and confused OR lost in thought.  Now I am bewildered and confused.

Redundant does not mean useless. It means needlessly wordy or repetitive. Which I think can be defined as useless, but apparently I am wrong. Plethora is not merely having a lot of something, it is having a superabundance of something. And here I thought plethora meant having a lot of different somethings. A variety. But no, it is having a superabundance or excess of something. I believe that this paragraph has a plethora of the word something.

Unique means “the only one of its kind” not just unusual. Unusual is rare or uncommon but does not reach the pinnacle of being uniquely unparalleled. The definition of fulsome left me completely nonplussed and a bit bemused. It sounds like such a lovely generous word, but it is “offensively flattering and insincere” rather than being the “abundant praise” I thought it was. Dodged a bullet here. Thank you grammar.net.

Noisome is not just noisy. In fact it does not have to be noisy at all, though noise could fall under its umbrella. Noisome means obnoxious, harmful,  (and) offensive to the senses. I hope this column does not fall under the category of noisome. The last thing I want to do is offend your senses. Or bore you. “Hey you in the back corner: Wake up!”

Ironic is also on the list, and ironically it is not an “amusing coincidence” but instead,  the “opposite outcome of what is expected”. (I know, I know, I did not use ironic entirely correctly but I am calling this poetic licence for lack of a better excuse).  Last, but most assuredly not least, one of my favourite words: literally. It means “word for word” which also means I have probably never used it correctly. Ever.

Alas, the Bee Gees were right: “words are all I have” even if I use them incorrectly….

Published in: on June 22, 2016 at 3:41 pm  Comments (7)  

Wish I Had Written This: Dads

What Is A Dad?

A dad is someone who
wants to catch you before you fall
but instead picks you up,
brushes you off,
and lets you try again.

A dad is someone who
wants to keep you from making mistakes
but instead lets you find your own way,
even though his heart breaks in silence
when you get hurt.

A dad is someone who
holds you when you cry,
scolds you when you break the rules,
shines with pride when you succeed,
and has faith in you even when you fail…- Unknown

Published in: on June 19, 2016 at 1:56 pm  Comments (9)  

Zenku #358

smart advice….

Zen Kettle

Walking on the

first hot day

Go earlier

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Published in: on June 17, 2016 at 9:43 pm  Comments (2)  

The New Demon

 

 

Just finished reading an article on the new enemy that is taking Canada and most of North America by storm. It is apparently the new evil in our lives. Move over salt and fat and eggs, sugar is here to join you as the new forbidden food.  Fat and eggs have been redeemed somewhat—it seems it is okay to eat eggs again as long as you do not eat half a dozen in a sitting, and fat is getting a bit of a break as long as it is not the dreaded trans fat. The jury is still out on salt though.

My immediate family (my husband and two sons) LOVE salt. I cannot eat off their plates as their food is saturated with the stuff—which I use judiciously in my cooking and on sliced tomatoes, French fries, and corn on the cob. They use salt with little caution and without care. I try not to take it personally that they have to coat my cooking with the white stuff to make it edible to their seemingly salt-starved palates.

While I am somewhat cautious in my salt use, sugar is my nemesis. I seem to have acquired a sweet tooth that has made itself known more intensely as time goes on. I used to put up to three teaspoons of sugar into my cup of coffee—but quit cold turkey a couple of years ago. Now I have become a much more avid tea drinker, as I have never taken sugar in my tea. I am guessing that while the aroma and idea of a coffee are still pleasing, the taste without sugar is not. I now drink about a half a cup a day. I am proud to say I have not given in to adding sugar to my coffee again, but I would be lying if I did not say I am still tempted.

I love sugar in its many forms. Its voice calls out to me when I need comforting but more and more research has led to some ominous conclusions. Here are just a few from the website body ecology. Writer Donna Gates says that:

            Sugar promotes wrinkling and aging skin, makes your blood acidic, can lead to osteoporosis, rots your teeth, raises your blood sugar level, contributes to obesity, can be addictive (jury still out on this one), provides empty calories with no nutritional value, contributes to diabetes, robs your body of minerals, robs you of energy, contributes to heart problems, can cause cancer, contributes to ulcers, can cause gallstones, raises serotonin, weakens eyesight, can cause low blood sugar levels, contributes to aging, feeds candida, and can cause arthritis.

Now truth be told this list came from an article touting stevia as an alternative sweetener, so while its claims are true, the degree of truth is something we have to discern for ourselves. But we have to face it: there is really no denying the fact that too much of a good thing can be terrible for our health.

I have taken steps to lower the amount of the demon called sugar in my diet, but I do give in to the occasional non-diet beverage, empty calories and all. I have declared the weekend my sweet spot, when I may eat a few things that contain white death but in a more moderate amount than I used to. At one time I used to eat four cookies, now I eat one or two. And I find that a bite or two of a rich dessert satisfies my sweet tooth while much more just leaves me feeling guilty.

“Guilt is a great motivator” my husband often says (and I must say there are times I have used it to motivate him—sometimes with more success than others) but I do find that a little well placed guilt keeps me on a more sugarless path.

There are only so many things that we have control over, and what we put in our mouths is one of them, although sometimes it is governed by the way we feel. I have learned the hard way not to go grocery shopping when I am hungry, but I have also learned that saying yes on occasion to a few of my sugary treats keeps me in line the majority of time.

I hope that some study finds that sugar is good for you just like they have come to the conclusion that eggs are good for you and we need some fat in our diet. Until then, I will not be adding sugar to my morning coffee. I believe that back in the day, two coffees with six teaspoons of sugar contained my allotment for the day. I can think of better ways to disperse my allotment….

Published in: on June 9, 2016 at 7:57 pm  Comments (21)  
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