Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Flowers: Gladiolus

Garden at Sainte Adresse -Claude Monet 1867

It is a common sight around here to see a small wooden hut at the end of an Old Order Mennonite farm lane with fresh fruit and vegetables for sale. Sometimes there is just a pail of flowers and no attendant, requiring the purchaser to go up to the house to pay. In the last couple of weeks, gladiolus has been the most common flower available.

These stiff, formal flowers are often associated with funeral arrangements. I planted them one year and found they were too heavy for their stalks and had to be staked. In our climate, the corms must be removed from the ground in the fall and hung to dry. I don't bother with them now in my garden.

Almost all gladioli are native to sub-Sahara Africa. They were introduced to gardens in Europe and North America in the early 1800's. Claude Monet was apparently fond of them and featured them in the above painting. One variety, gladiolus primulinus, was discovered in 1890 on the banks of Victoria Falls, in what was then Rhodesia. The upper petal was hooded in order to keep the pollen bearing stamens dry in the mist from the waterfall. It became known as the Maid of the Mist and is available from mail order nurseries. The picture on the left of this flower is from a website called The African Garden.

Gladiolus is the representative flower for the month of August. I bought three stalks last weekend and have enjoyed the small arrangement all week. They have been cut shorter each day as the lower flowers wither on the stem. Today is the last day of August, and they will be ready for the compost heap by tomorrow. It is hard to believe September is almost here. Schools open next week in Canada and summer comes to an abrupt end. The gladiolus is our last summer garden flower.

Hope every one has a safe and enjoyable long weekend!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Two Moons, Hoaxes and Eclipses

Taken on August 27, 2007 from my front yard

Planet Mars is coming closer to the earth and will be the brightest planet in our night sky starting in August. It will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. It will maximize on Aug. 27 when Mars comes within 34.65M miles of earth. Be sure to watch the sky on Aug. 27 12:30 am. It will look like the earth has 2 moons. The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287. Share this with your friends as NO ONE ALIVE TODAY will ever see it again.

Did anyone else receive this email? I have to admit I did not immediately recognize it as a hoax that has been circulating for a few years now. I usually spot an urban legend quickly, but my knowledge of astronomy is limited to identifying the sun and moon, the Big Dipper and Orion's Belt. The last sentence should have caused bells to ring in my mind, but I did get suspicious eventually and looked up more information on the story before August 27th.

We are inundated with information every day from many sources. In an age of instant information, news is sometimes posted before all the facts are known. Conflicting reports abound, nowhere more than in the field of health. What is good for you one year may be deadly for you next year (Vitamin E supplements for example).

I once printed a number of stories and pictures from Snopes, some true and some false, and let the 10 and 11 year olds in my Sunday School class analyze them. The children had to decide which were true and which were hoaxes. It was a very difficult exercise, and they made many errors. They did not have enough knowledge on a variety of subjects to make an accurate judgement. Being misled by a story about "two moons" is not a big issue, but misinformation on more important issues can lead to poor decisions. Advertisers often rely on a gullible audience who are drawn to attractive claims that may or may not be substantiated.

August 27, 2007

It does not take an expert to recognize that the two moons were caused by taking a picture with a wobbly tripod. There was one full moon in the sky and no sign of Mars in the glare of city lights.
I did read the truth about the total eclipse of the moon that took place between 5 AM and 6 AM in our time zone on August 28th. I got up at 5:15 AM and watched through my kitchen window as the moon disappeared behind the shadow of the earth. Dawn arrived so I did not see the emerging moon as the shadow passed. In ancient cultures, eclipses brought fear because people did not understand what was happening. Our knowledge of the solar system eliminates fear, but with all our knowledge we are still open to deception.
We need to become media sceptics and teach our children to be critical thinkers. Theories are not facts, scientific studies can be poorly designed and there is always a bias to news reporting.

Lunar Eclipse August 28, 2007

One day Chicken Little was walking in the woods when --KERPLUNK -- an acorn fell on her head "Oh my goodness!"said Chicken Little. "The sky is falling! I must go and tell the king.

Do you remember the ending to this story?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Gone Fishin'

There are two types of fisherman - those who fish for sport and those who fish for fish.

If people concentrated on the really important things in life,
there'd be a shortage of fishing poles. ~Doug Larson

The fishing was good; it was the catching that was bad. A.K. Best

Bragging may not bring happiness, but no man having caught
large fish goes home through an alley.

A bad day of fishing is better than a good day of work.

Fishing is boring, unless you catch an actual fish,
and then it is disgusting. ~Dave Barry
(This quote is for Becka!)

I have spent many, many hours in a fishing boat while my husband trolls around some big lake. He is a serious fisherman with boxes of tackle, a number of rods and a fish finder. I took all the pictures above along the banks of the Grand River, except for the one with my nephew and the big carp. The fisher sitting in the Canada chair is on the pier where the Grand River empties into Lake Erie. I loved watching the young boys with their makeshift fishing poles. We looked on in suspense as the two young men slid down the steep embankment to the river's edge. I have no idea how they got back to the roadway above.
Forget about the TV shows with the professional fishers in big boats. This is a feature about people who understand the real spirit of fishing! Do you enjoy fishing?

Pam at Nature Woman has posted a great fishing story here!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Controlled by Fate?

The Becka recently rented a movie she had studied in film class at high school called Run Lola Run. This 1998 German movie tells the story of a woman named Lola who must obtain a large sum of money in 20 minutes in order to save the life of her boyfriend. The film presents three different scenarios demonstrating how changing just a small incident in the story allows for a completely different ending. How often have we looked back on a certain event in our lives and said, "If only I had done this or done that!"

About 15 years ago, I fell on ice and broke my arm badly while walking into work. I had parked on a street three or four blocks away from the hospital and had risked the treacherously icy sidewalks in order to save five dollars at the parking garage. I had surgery and was off work for 3 months. I revisited that morning many times in my mind and wished I had done things differently.

We were at church yesterday and were about to slip out early right at the end of the sermon. But the pastor did not end the service immediately and we decided to stay a few minutes longer. We left about twenty minutes later for the short drive to our home. On the expressway near our exit, the traffic drew to a complete halt and we sat for 45 minutes waiting for what we assumed was an accident.

We watched as a helicopter arrived and airlifted a seriously injured person from the highway. We found out later that a large SUV had crossed the median and hit a car going the opposite way head on, killing the driver and seriously injuring her passenger. We drive this road every day. If we had left church when we initially planned to, we would have been in the area of the accident when it happened. We talked about it later and Becka said that as she sat in the traffic she was thinking about Run Lola Run. Little decisions can change the ending of our story.

We are able to control our destiny to some degree with the life choices we make. Fate speaks of a force that predetermines and orders the events in our lives. In Greek mythology, the three Fates spun, measured and cut the threads of life. People may seek to learn their fate through divination or seers, but I do not wish to look in a crystal ball in order to see my future. It is best to let things unfold a day at a time. Each time I face an unexpected delay or change in my agenda, I do not fret. We never know if that delay may be a seemingly small detail that will change the ending of our day in a significant way.
Becka posted an account of this same event on her blog. She also inserted a short trailer for Run Lola Run.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 3: 5, 6

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Blair's Sheave Tower

Sheave Tower
Blair, Ontario

A while ago I watched an interview with Ron Brown, the author of a book called Top 100 Unusual Things to see in Ontario. It was intriguing to think there were so many sites off the regular tourist track. I am always interested in learning more about my area, so I bought the book. I have seen a few of the featured places including the Pioneer Tower that stands on a high bluff along the Grand River just downstream from my workplace. This tower was completed in 1926 to celebrate the German origins of the region, particularly the Pennsylvania Dutch and Mennonite settlers who settled here in the early 1800's. The city of Berlin, Ontario had its name changed to Kitchener during WW1, and this tower was built to help heal nationalistic wounds. The architecture is Swiss in influence, as Switzerland is the ancestral home of a number of Mennonite families in the area.

Pioneer Tower
Kitchener Ontario

But I had never heard of the other local landmark apparently located just about 10 minutes from my house. The first evening I went looking for it, I was unsuccessful in finding it as the trees hid it from view along the country road. The Sheave Tower is in a small historic village just outside the city. This is the area where my husband's ancestors settled when they came to Ontario from Pennsylvania over 200 years ago. Here is a description of the Sheave Tower from a local artist's web site.

Built by Allan Bowman in 1876, the Sheave Tower, 31 feet tall, was considered to be the oldest hydro-generating system in Ontario. The board-and-batten structure with pointed gothic windows is located in a stand of cedar, bass and maple trees on Old Mill Road outside the Village of Blair, Ontario. The late Nick Hill, an heritage architect, described the Sheave Tower as “absolutely magical . . . a jewel in the midst of a beautiful wetland.” Water from Blair Creek ran through the sluice and turned a vertical turbine shaped like a corkscrew. A series of shafts and gears spun a giant pulley mounted high outside the tower by the steep-pitched roof. A long cable was looped from the tower’s pulley to another pulley 70 metres away at the Blair Mill. The Sheave Tower produced an additional 15 horsepower for the Blair Mill, which once ground corn for Schneider’s pea meal bacon. Heritage Cambridge restored the Sheave Tower in 1999 as a passive display without moving mechanical parts, and returned the medieval-looking tower to its original oxblood colour. Marriage proposals have been made within its walls! Fishermen, artists and photographers continue to be drawn to it.

The old mill across the road is still in operation to this day, and the creek rushes by the restored but silent sheave tower on its way to the nearby Grand River.

I have marked a few more places from the book that are within a couple of hours from home and will try to visit them soon. Some are historic sites and others are of geological interest.

Do you live near any landmarks that are unique to your area. What would you contribute to a book about unusual things in your "backyard'?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Friday Flowers: Impatiens

Impatiens pallida - Pale Jewelweed

Impatiens is a genus of over 800 flowering plants in the family Balsaminaceae. I have recognized the cultivated variety as long as I can remember as a tender annual that is used widely in summer gardens in our area. This most familiar plant, also known as Busy Lizzie, is a perennial that is native to East Africa. It grows up to a height of 60 cm tall in a warm climate. I planted an entire flat of this type of impatiens last year and every last plant was eaten by rodents capable of climbing into my planters.

Impatiens Walleriana - Busy Lizzie

I took the picture above at the home of one of my patients who obviously does not feed squirrels and chipmunks.

When the seed pods of Impatiens flowers mature, they explode when touched, sending the seeds several metres away. Thus the name "impatiens" (impatient) or "touch-me-not". There are two types of Touch-me-nots native to North America.

Impatiens Capensis - Spotted Jewelweed

Spotted Jewelweed, or Orange Balsam, is abundant in our area, growing in moist areas near streams and ditches. Pale Jewelweed has a similar yellow flower which I have found to be a little larger than its orange cousin. They grow side by side along the river where I walk.

I found a number of tall plants with pink flowers of the same shape growing along the same trail, but almost in the water. They were not in my flower guides and I had difficulty identifying them. They shared the watery stem common to impatiens and the flower was almost identical in shape to the other Jewelweeds.

Impatiens Glandulifera - Himalayan Balsam

I discovered that this is a very invasive, non-native species known as Himalayan Balsam or Policeman's Helmet. The shape is reminiscent of British police headgear. It is an aggressive plant, spreading by seed quickly along waterways. In Britain, it is considered one of ten most noxious weeds and Balsam Bashing events are organized to try and control the plant. They have a very shallow root system and are easy to pull out of the ground. The flowers must be destroyed as they carry many seeds that will germinate the next year.

"Policeman's Helmet"

I know little about plant classification and find it interesting that all these flowers belong to the same family. The stems share similarities, but the flowers of the garden impatiens and the jewelweed are dissimilar except perhaps for the little curly point at the back of the bloom. Why has the Himalayan Balsam spread as a nuisance plant while the seeds from the non-native Busy Lizzie's do not germinate readily in the soil after the winter?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Terri Kirby Erickson

A few weeks ago I received a comment on a Friday Flowers post from North Carolina poet, Terri Erickson. She referred me to a poem of hers titled 'Queen Anne's Lace', published recently in the Christian Science Monitor. I copied the poem in the comments section of the post and later looked her up on the internet. When I realized that she had published a volume of poems, I contacted her for permission to use her poetry on this blog. I ordered her book Thread Count, a collection of 102 poems, which arrived today. I have been reading it while sipping my afternoon tea and enjoy her style very much. She has kindly given me permission to share a few of her poems as I have purchased her book. Here is a sample of one of them.


There was a sparrow
on my porch rail
this morning whose song
vibrated her throat
and shook

her feathers in all
their muted
shades of brown and gray,
as if the energy expended by

this frail body propelled
the earth in its daily spin. She
sang for seconds only, opening
her beak wide enough

to swallow the
sky. Then she flew away, as if
she had done at last, the thing she
had been made for


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Joys and Trials of Religion

I have been tagged by my niece, Jaspenelle, to participate in this meme. Since I feel she is a sincere spiritual seeker, I do not want to ignore her request. Jaspenelle is very creative and thoughtful person who is following a Pagan path. I do not hide the fact that I am a Christian, a disciple of Jesus Christ, and that my faith is very important to me. I am happy that we respect and love each other and can share in discussions such as this one.

While my faith is important, I am not a religious person. Religious people follow dogmas, rules and rituals that are often man-made and divisive. Nothing is uglier than a group of "christians" fighting among themselves or with others over an interpretation of scripture or a particular doctrine.

I attend church regularly, not to save my soul, but to share with others and encourage them as they grow in their faith. I can worship with true believers from many different denominations. My faith is as important to me from Monday to Saturday as it is on Sunday. The Bible has more condemnation of religion than commendation. Jesus had harsh words for the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of his time who were outwardly righteous and inwardly corrupt.

James 1:26, 27 defines religion this way.

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

The meaning of "polluted by the world" in this context means this to me. My behaviour is not influenced by the desire to accumulate things for myself, whether that is fame, influence, money, or material possessions. My moral compass is set by scriptural guidelines.

In Galatians 5:6, Paul says, "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."

So, with that background in place, here is meme.


  • 1. You have to use your own belief system for the meme. No fair using someone else’s to make a joke or satire. Being humorous about your own religion is encouraged!
  • 2. You have to have at least one joy and one trial. More are encouraged. And no, they don’t have to be equal in length, but please be honest.
  • 3. You have to tag at least one other person. More are appreciated!
  • 4. Please post these rules
  • I do not have to struggle to make myself good enough for God to love me. "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." Romans 3:22
  • I can share God's love with others by accepting them and caring for their needs even if they are not like than me.
  • My life has a purpose and even if my role is small, I can make a difference in the lives of others.
  • I can have joy even in difficult times, because my peace and happiness comes from God.
  • That Christianity has such a negative image to some because of harsh and judgemental people who condemn people without even trying to love or understand them.
Count yourself tagged if you are interested in the topic.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Please note: The following post is based on anecdotal information and my observations. To my knowledge, there is no scientific proof for any of the claims made.

I was born into a family of allergy sufferers. I married into a family of allergy sufferers. My children suffer from allergies as do their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Last week Becka and I took the dog on a usual trail along the river. Dakota led the way and took his favourite route on a footpath at the river's edge. We had not been in this area for a few weeks and found ourselves surrounded by flowering plants, (which Cathy has identified as ragweed!) that were at least six to eight feet high. After making our way back to the groomed trail, Becka's arms began to itch and she started sneeze.
Thus began the fall allergy season.

Becka in a patch of Giant Ragweed, which can grow to a height of 13 feet

September was a difficult time for Becka when she was in school as her seasonal allergies were at their peak. We tried various antihistamines but she still felt miserable until the frost came. A few years ago I read in a magazine that eliminating certain foods from the diet could decrease sensitivity to environmental allergens. A total elimination diet is a challenging undertaking and the article recommended eliminating the seven most common food triggers for a week, and then introducing one food at a time. The seven foods were wheat, sugar, eggs, milk, corn, soy and peanuts. I tried a diet free of these foods for one week and was surprised at the effect it had. For several years, I had taken inhalers for exercise induced asthma. Whenever the dog heard me use an inhaler, he knew it was time for his walk. After a few days of eliminating the seven foods, I had no wheeziness and could walk briskly in cold air with no symptoms. I have not used an inhaler for three years now.

Becka agreed to forgo the same foods during the late summer period. As a young teenager, it took discipline to pass on pizza and ice cream, but she was motivated to continue as her hayfever symptoms disappeared. We have narrowed the list of offending foods to three items and this weekend changed our diet to avoid those food triggers. Becka had to take an antihistamine for one day, but has been free of symptoms now for 24 hours. We went for a walk in the field near our home with no problems, but will avoid the river trail for now.

I also read that eating local unpasteurized honey exposes one to regional plant pollens and helps desensitize a person to their allergic effects. So we add a tablespoon of local honey to our daily ration. Perhaps it helps, perhaps not, but it tastes good.

Food and environmental allergies are very common and there are many theories on the causes for their apparent increase in incidence in recent years. Sensitivities can develop with overexposure, and our diets often contain an excess of refined products, particularly wheat and corn. For most people, sensitivities are an annoyance as true, life-threatening food allergies are relatively rare.
I know what foods I need to limit even if I cannot prove it scientifically. We need to listen to our bodies instead of reaching for a prescription or over the counter remedy for every symptom. Finding a trigger and removing it rather than masking a reaction is the sensible approach to any physical complaint.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Room with a View

This month a patient who did not fit our usual demographic profile was admitted to my floor at the hospital. Dev, in her 40's, is a single mother of two children. She had a devastating reoccurrence of her cancer that had been in remission and had been in and out of the hospital system for most of the summer. She came to us for rehabilitation in order to build her up before her next round of chemotherapy this fall. When I first assessed Dev, I doubted that she would ever walk again, yet a few days later she was taking wobbly steps with a walker and some help. I have seldom seen such determination to get better.

The next week she wanted to try a pass home on the weekend but had to be able to do the stairs in her house. Again, it seemed impossible that she had strength enough to climb a single step, but that morning she went up and down twelve steps. Her pass went well and she was so happy to spend quality time with her young daughter. She came back from her pass and announced that she was going to go home at the end of the week for good. Her rehab program had barely begun and because she lived outside the city, it would be difficult for her to come in for outpatient therapy. No argument would change her mind, and she headed home with a wheelchair and other equipment to help her manage.

I went out to visit her on Sunday afternoon and met a person I hadn't become acquainted with in the hospital. You never know someone until you see them in their own environment. She lives in a big rented farmhouse in the country with several cats and dogs, her son and daughter. The house is old, and the large living room window opened up on a view that was beautiful and peaceful. Her treasures were there, a guitar, a collection of meaningful knick knacks, and her drawings. I had no idea she had an artist's soul. She showed me her drawings, horses, unicorns, portraits of people she knew and loved, and her Celtic designs. A lovely Celtic prayer she had written out hung above her bed. Her strength continues to improve on a daily basis.

Dev will get better faster at home, even without therapy and medical supervision. She is able to eat and sleep well now, something that was difficult in the hospital. She can nurture her soul and spirit with her music and art. She is surrounded by those she loves. Dev has not had an easy life, and her struggle continues against a formidable foe. But the will to live is a formidable ally.
As she looks out her window she will gain strength to face whatever the future holds for her.
I will share this post with her along with my prayers and best wishes for her complete recovery.

Photos taken near Dev's home. The sketch is by my daughter Becka who shares Dev's artistic nature.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Simply in Season

Our region's farmers' markets are becoming busier each week and the stalls are brimming with local foods. I have to be very selective now or we have more food than we can eat before it spoils. Canning doesn't fit into my schedule, except for a batch or two of chili sauce and salsa.
I discovered a lovely food blog called Tea and Cookies. The latest post featured Insalata Caprese. Laura featured a similar dish on her blog a couple of weeks ago. I purchased two large potted basil plants for two dollars, some fresh mozzarella cheese, and made this delicious dish with tomatoes from my garden.

There are a number of cookbooks available that feature seasonal cooking. Simply in Season, commissioned by the Mennonite Central Committee and published by Herald Press, is written in the spirit of the classic More with Less Cookbook. The recipes are simple, many are vegetarian, and all are home style meals typically served by Mennonite cooks. I noticed there is also a children's cookbook by the same name. I haven't seen it myself, but would recommend it just because of the quality of the original title. I made Tabouleh from a recipe in the first book and have posted it on my recipe blog.

Preparing foods from the market takes a little longer than heating up an entree from the frozen food section of the grocery store. But the fresh flavours of the season are worth the effort of some extra chopping and cooking.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Flowers: Drought Resistant


This summer, like several in the past few years, has been very dry and warm. Our soil is very sandy which is good for drainage around the foundation of the house, but not as good for the plants in our garden.

Other herbs such as sage, thyme and tarragon have also done well

We have put loads of topsoil on the lawn and garden in the past 20 years, but the sand always rises to the top eventually. In the late 1990's, I watered the garden with a hose every evening and had impressive blooms throughout each growing season.

Sedum- Gold Moss Stonecrop

In the past few years, our municipality has restricted our watering to the point where we can now only water with a hose once a week. Our watering day is Thursday, from 7-11 AM and 7-11 PM. We are permitted to hand water any day of the week with a can.

Cold Hardy Yucca

The only annuals I have are in a few pots around the deck, and the rest of my garden consists of perennials. A couple of weeks ago I dug up a number of plants that were not doing well in drought conditions including my Bee Balm and Pinks.

Autumn Joy Sedum
Will be flowering soon

My rose bushes are barely alive and will likely come out in the fall. But the plants pictured have thrived with neglect and flourish in poor, dry soil. I need to find more plants that can survive our long, cold winters and hot summers.

Another Lily

What plants do you have that grow well in these conditions?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Social Connections in an Electronic Age

I set up my first internet account in 1995 when I bought a new Macintosh Performa computer. The little red mail truck in eWorld announced the arrival of messages to my inbox, which were few and far between. The internet was exciting. There were few graphics and any news photos downloaded at a painfully slow pace. In 1998 I planned a trip to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, booked all our motels on the internet, and printed off maps of our route. Our computers were used more for games and word processing in those years.

For someone who started on the internet fairly early, I fell off the cutting edge very quickly. Last year I became aware of the fact that the younger members of the family were communicating on My Space, collecting friends, and posting pictures and blogs. I definitely did not belong on the My Space site and found instead a comfortable platform on Blogger.

Enter Facebook, the new essential social networking site. What started as a network for colleges and workplaces is now open to everyone. I estimate the average age of its users to be 25 years old, but my very cool aunts, who are a generation older than me, are also on Facebook.
I signed up 2 weeks ago and my list of friends include family and acquaintances I haven't been in contact with for some time. I received a friend request yesterday from someone I hadn't seen in 24 years and it was interesting to catch up on what their family was doing. I have read that some workplaces are banning Facebook as it can be a very addictive pastime. I really don't care to know what mood people are in, or the latest food fight they have engaged in, and am not trying to collect friends like trophies. I have been playing a Facebook Scrabble game with our Neuropsychologist for the past 10 days (off work hours of course!). My handicap is an IQ that is at least 20 points lower than his, but it has been lots of fun anyway. I belong to a few groups including Canadians over 50, my workplace group, and a group that shares my maiden surname.

I know only a handful of people on my street and see them infrequently. No one sits out on a front porch and chats with the neighbours any more. Our lives are busy and are often centred outside our neighbourhoods. Yet social contact is essential so we are reinventing ways to connect with people and make new friends.

There will be something newer and more exciting than Facebook soon, in fact, it is probably out there already. Regular email has become more impersonal as it is used more and more for business, advertising and spam. Blogger remains my favourite outlet for creativity, learning, and meeting new people. I enjoy visiting with people face to face most of all.

Diane, one of my FB friends, (and a flesh and blood friend), posted this picture she took while on holidays at the lake this month. This young Mennonite family took time away from the farm to enjoy the beach. I am sure they are not meeting friends online and that they belong to a far more traditional social network.

Are you connected to an electronic social network? Has it changed the way you make and keep friends?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Music from the soul

Music preference is a generational thing. The latest music style is sure to disgust parents and delight their offspring. There are so many music styles now that finding music to suit an individual's taste can be be very challenging. Music store gift cards are the only way to go.
I grew up in the 1960's and 70's where music defined the baby boomer generation. It was part of a social revolution that included the civil rights movement and the redefinition of the role of women in society.

I seldom go to movies, but have seen Hairspray three times now (in seven days!). I love the music and the story. And it appealed to my husband and all our daughters. Now that is unusual!
I usually listen to classical music, but enjoy gospel, R&B, soul, and early rock and roll. I prefer original, eclectic sounds to "canned", synthesized music of popular radio stations and public loudspeakers.

Last weekend, our city hosted a three day Blues Festival downtown. (Here is my daughter's take on the evening). The weather was beautiful for sitting outdoors listening to various artists, crowd-watching and and eating different ethnic foods at outdoor tents. The music was original, sung by the people who wrote it, and very enjoyable to listen to. And the crowds that came ensured that this event will become an annual affair.
What is your favourite music?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

All things Bright and Beautiful

In my last post I wrote about some of the hard things observed in the past week. Thankfully, there was plenty beauty too. The above pictures, all taken in the past few days, depict this. They remind me of this children's hymn I learned at primary school in South Africa.

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all...

Cecil Alexander 1848

Wishing everyone a good week ahead, full of blessing and beauty!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Seventy times Seven

At the hospital team rounds this week someone commented, "Is it just me, or are all the patients we have now from dysfunctional families?" We all chuckled, but everyone knew that their own extended family had some dysfunctional members as well. Family secrets are revealed in times of stress and illness, and it would be hard to shock me with anyone's family history after the years I have worked in the hospital and community.

This past week I went to visit a patient in his home and found him lying dead on the floor. He was younger than me. The police and paramedics who arrived were visibly shaken by the unpleasantness of the situation. They solemnly put him in an ambulance to be taken to the hospital and pronounced dead by a physician. I had visited this man several times and he shared some of the circumstances in his life that led him to a self-destructive lifestyle. While I was not surprised by his death, I wept for his wasted life and for his fragmented family.

The father-in-law of one of my co-workers died a few years ago. The obituary in the local paper did not even mention his son, daughter-in-law or grandchildren as family members. The next day there was an additional obituary written by his son, stating his relationship to the deceased and his sorrow that his father had never forgiven him for something that happened in the past.

I have a patient close to 90 years of age who has never forgiven her daughter for something she did when she was 19 years old. Her daughter has tried to mend the relationship, but her mother's pride and bitterness has not allowed this to happen. The old lady needs support now, but has burned many bridges over the years. Will she forgive at this this late stage of life? I hope so, but it seems unlikely to happen.

I could go on and on, and those who read this could add stories of their own. We all are hurt by others from time to time, and those closest to us can hurt us the most. Parents have great expectations for their children, and disappointment in the choices they make can create barriers that are difficult to overcome.

Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven..." (Matthew 18:21, 22)

Easy to say, but so hard to do.

Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis
(Double click to enlarge)

I loved this Pearls Before Swine cartoon in today's paper. Goat, the most intellectual character, (who maintains a blog that never has hits!) shares his wise observations in the first two panels. Rat, who is typically insensitive and egotistical does not recognize this description of his own life.

How we live our lives is a day to day challenge. Forgiveness frees us from the past and allows us to move ahead and develop meaningful relationships, even if we are not forgiven by others.

We have today. Anything beyond the present is not a certainty, but is a gift from God.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Flowers: La Marguerite

Ox-eye Daisy

The desktop of my computer at work currently features a picture of Shasta daisies from my garden. My co-worker Margaret, a multilingual physiotherapist from Holland, asked me what the name of the flower was in English. She told me that this was her name flower, and true enough, the word daisy is Marguerite in French and Margarita in Spanish. That is how the name Daisy became a nickname for Margaret.

There is no summer flower more cheerful than the daisy. William Wordsworth described it as "Thou unassuming commonplace of nature".

Our wild daisies are non-native species that multiply quickly by seed and spreading roots. The Ox-eye daisy is the wild European species known as the Marguerite. A few years ago I pulled one Ox-eye daisy from a field by the root and stuck it unceremoniously in my garden. The next spring I had at least a dozen plants and finally had to remove them all before they took over the garden.

Shasta Daisies in my garden

I have Shasta daisies in my garden as well. These hybrid perennial flowers have spread very slowly in comparison to the wild flowers. They need watering and enriched soil to produce the best blooms. Mine have done poorly this year in our dry summer weather.

Daisy Fleabane

The Daisy fleabane is a native plant that is blooming now even in poor, dry soil. In fact, it blooms from May to October in big bright patches.

My friends and I used to play "he loves me, he loves me not" with daisy flowers in the days of childhood and teenage infatuations. The French started this little game but with a few more options. Here is how it goes...

Il / elle m'aime un peu, (he/she loves me a little)

beaucoup, ( loves me a lot)

passionnément, ( loves me passionately)

à la folie, ( loves me madly)

pas du tout ( loves me not at all)

If you really need to know, go pick yourself a bouquet Marguerites and play until you come up with the answer that you want.