Despite the pandemic, it’s without a doubt the best time ever to be alive!

How can I say such a thing when this pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our daily lives?

Well, here’s how…

1) Technology has opened doors to endless new choices available to us. It’s never been easier to keep in touch with old friends, new friends, and extended family. For those of us who grew up during a time when the only forms of communication available were to (A) mail a letter, or (B) use the one corded telephone that we shared with everyone else in the household, the options we now have today are magical. FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Facebook, Instagram, and so on, are the communication tools of our science-fiction dreams. We can blog, text, video conference, and chat on the phone no matter where in the world we happen to be.

We can shop for pretty much anything we need online and have it delivered to our doorstep. We can find answers to just about any question that pops into our mind simply by calling out, “Hey Google, Siri or Alexa.” Many of us can work from the comfort of home without having to tangle with rush-hour traffic. We can fix a plugged drain or build something in our basement workshop just by watching an instructional YouTube video.

I could go on until tomorrow, but I’m sure you get the message. Sometimes we forget that life is so much easier today in so many ways.

2) The municipalities where we live do a great job of keeping conservation parks and forests welcoming places where we can meet up with family and friends for a walk together while immersed in the great glory of the outdoors. Opportunities to connect with nature are never far away. There is no better conductor than fresh air and nature to fill the soul with the most heavenly music on earth.

3) Public libraries are the most precious resource within our communities. Library systems are set up to make it easier than ever for all of us to simply sign in and borrow electronic reading material from a massive database of books and magazines—whatever your heart desires is available for you to download right onto your computer or reading device for FREE. You can choose to satisfy your interest about anything that stokes your fancy, or be entertained with your favourite story genre, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year… and did I mention that it’s COMPLETELY FREE?

Pandemic (or anytime) Pastimes

You can choose to view these times through a lens of optimism… we’ve been given the gift of more free time than we’ve ever had before, which means that we have an opportunity to enjoy activities that we might not have considered doing pre-pandemic…

1) Immerse yourself in an afternoon of creativity that takes you back to your childhood. Think popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue, finger paints and huge sheets of paper, Ivory soap bar carvings, paper mache with a balloon, newspaper strips and paste. With a Dollar store around every corner, materials are inexpensive and easy to find. Need some inspiration? Check out Pinterest for endless ideas, or try an instructional video on YouTube. 

2) Look for an online class at your municipal website, or on the site of any college/university in your vicinity. Scroll through the many course selections and choose something that you never thought you’d ever attempt. Of course, if you visit your public library website, you’ll also find an educational selection filled with free courses on more topics that you could begin to imagine. 

3) Embrace nature. It’s winter and you probably feel more cooped up than ever. So put on a warm coat, hat, scarf and boots and try snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Go for a hike on a groomed forest trail in a regional forest or conservation park. Take a few sandwiches and a thermos of hot chocolate and turn it into a winter picnic. 

4) Has it been eons since you’ve attempted a puzzle? Next time you have to pick up something at the store, also pick yourself up a crossword or Sudoku puzzle book. Or challenge yourself with a jigsaw puzzle. I recently finished my first jigsaw puzzle in a long time—talk about being completely absorbed in something. At times, it was hard to tear myself away! 

5) Go on a journey with your memories. You once made the effort to put together all those photo albums that are collecting dust in your cupboard. Now is the time to dig them out and look through them. Have old vacation videos? Watch them all.

6) Dust off your collection of old recipe books and try choosing some new dishes to try. Select a different one every week. You just might discover something new to love.

7) Increase your capacity for joy. Get a blank notebook and make a point, every day, of writing down one thing that you feel grateful for. Just one thing. When you look back at your notebook a year from now, you will be impressed at how much you have to be thankful for.

8) Seek out someone you’ve lost touch with and call them for a chat on the phone. 

Treasures to give thanks for no matter how dark your day has been:

1. Standing before an open field at dusk, watching sunset’s cocktail of colours spill across the sky. 

2. Gazing out over any body of water: a pond, a river, a lake, or an ocean. Water is life.

3. Deeply inhaling the fresh scent of pine as you meander along a groomed path in an evergreen forest.

4. Lounging before a picture window with a hot cup of tea while watching the flutter of snowflakes as they fall to the ground.

5. Absorbing the unconditional love of your pet as you run your fingers through its warm fur.

6. Having even one good friend that you can chat and laugh with.

7. Two legs that enable you to walk, two arms that enable you to hug, two hands that allow you to hold a book or cook a meal, two eyes that enable you to see that a whole world of beauty still exists around you.

8. A roof that shelters you, a warm bed to sleep in, food in your cupboard.

9. All of the simple things in life that we take for granted.

If I still haven’t convinced you that you’re living in the best of times, just imagine living in…

536 AD: Apart from falling empires the world over and general political chaos, the year 536 also marked one of the worst global famines in human history, thanks to a giant volcanic eruption in Iceland that resulted in an ash cloud that kept the northern hemisphere in the dark for 18 months, and dropped temperatures to their coldest period yet, leading to mass crop failure and starvation. 

541-542: The plague that ravished large parts of the world between 541 and 542 led to an estimated 25 to 50 million deaths. A quarter of the world’s population was wiped out within two years.

1316: Most of Europe’s harvests failed, leading to widespread starvation and death.

1347: Welcome to the peak of the bubonic plague, with about 60% of all Europeans dying swift, but agonizing deaths.

1520: Europeans brought smallpox to the Americas, wiping out most of the indigenous population.

1816: This was “the year with no summer,” as millions of tons of volcanic ash and sulphur spewed into the skies from Mount Tambora in Indonesia, causing temperatures around the world to fall below freezing in July.

1918-1919: The Spanish flu epidemic infected approximately one-third of the entire human population, with total casualties somewhere in the ballpark of 20 to 50 million. The virus acted so quickly that in many cases, victims would die within a few hours of infection. Of course, doctors back then simply didn’t have the capability to respond effectively.

1933: The great depression reached its peak, with some 15 million Americans unemployed (one-in-four adults) and half the nation’s banks defaulting. Unlike today, there was no unemployment insurance or welfare or gazillions of social services for the taking.

1939-1945: We all know about the horrors of WWII. Actually, any year in history stained by war would have been a devastating time to live, wouldn’t you agree? Let’s just pray that our world leaders have learned some valuable lessons from past history.

Finishing a creative project feels SO gratifying

In these trying times, there’s absolutely nothing better for the soul than having one or more beloved hobbies to lean on. When you have a creative passion to turn to, you reap a wealth of healthy benefits:

  • Working toward a goal that you’re passionate about gives you a sense of purpose, which makes you feel happy and content.
  • Working with your hands as you immerse yourself in a project of your choosing is beyond relaxing. It’s the next best thing to meditation!
  • When you complete a project, you feel new stirrings of excitement as you think about the next.
  • Seeking out and experimenting with fresh ideas and new challenges takes you on a learning journey that never ends—your mind is ever expanding onto new pathways to discovery.
  • Finishing a project gives you a deep feeling of accomplishment. It’s a confidence-builder.
  • You are never bored. Your hobby is always there, waiting for you to dive in.
  • You learn more about yourself. Hobbies help you to explore and discover new skills, as well as unearth hidden talents that you may never have realized you had. 
  • It’s this simple: not only is it FUN to create new things, the act of doing so fills you with pure JOY!

With that said, here are some projects I’ve finished over the past few months. I still have to write out the patterns for some of them, which I’ll post for you at a later date.

Happy hobbying to you!

Toronto Blue Jays baseball cap and booties for a special new baby
Little drawstring bag
Easter bunny headband
Lemon meringue slouchy hat
Grey & cream pocket scarf
Blue jeans blue crocheted hippie skirt
Teal tie top
Rose lace top
Pen & ink doodle drawing: The most priceless things are wild and free
Pen & ink doodle drawing: You already have what you’re looking for

Your Purpose

I’ve long wondered about the force that drives my passion to write. I can’t recall a time in my life when I haven’t had the concept of a story brewing in my mind. Am I destined someday to write a narrative that will touch others? …that might inspire one soul to take a different path? Could my words help influence a decision? …offer a bit of cheer in a life that needs brightening?

I believe that each and every one of us were assigned special gifts—gifts that make us as individual as our fingerprints. Some of us have yet to realize our signature abilities, but they do exist, nestled deep in wait until the time is right for them to surface.

There are those who are verbally gifted. A kind word to someone in need, an inspirational anecdote to raise the spirits, the comfortable chatter that binds a friendship.

Some are blessed with a keen ability to listen. There is no better salve for a troubled heart than the undivided attention of a good listener who truly cares.

Some are gifted jesters. A hearty dose of laughter fertilizes the seeds of lightness and healing to help them take root in the soul and flourish.

Then there are those who, with a swipe of brush across canvas, create wondrous visuals to remind us that beauty exists in the simplest of things…it’s all around us, all the time—there to be seen with open eyes and minds.

And there are those blessed with musical gifts. They have the power to mist our eyes with tears and our souls with joy, simply by unleashing their acoustic ingenuity.

But not every person’s gifts are so clearly defined.

The healing touch a parent uses to soothe a child.

The love that seasons a meal prepared to bring others together.

The smile that lights up a city block.

Every life on earth has meaning. And every living creature has been designed with a master plan.

I believe that our special abilities are tools we’ve been given so we can add a bit of magic to this world and help make it a better place.

So share your gifts and feel your purpose. If you can positively influence even one soul in this lifetime, whether or not you realize it, you will have made a difference.

A change of perspective might help. Try seeing this as an Isolation Vacation

With all social activities shut down, most people working from home, and everyone holed up in their homes 24/7, the words “I’M BORED” are becoming the most-repeated words in the English language (second only to “pandemic”).

BORED is just another word for OPPORTUNITY.

As an introverted type who is quick to choose seclusion over socializing (unless my spouse drags me forcibly out of the house), I have some suggestions to help you bust through your boredom. Even if one of these isn’t typically your thing, give it a try. You might discover a new interest that you would never have believed you’d enjoy so much!

Give your inner child a chance to come out and play.

When you were a kid and there was nobody around to play with, what did you do? Draw pictures? Make paper airplanes? Work on a jigsaw puzzle? Bake cookies? Write a poem?

I remember sitting in my room as a kid with a department store catalogue (remember Eaton’s?) and a pair of scissors, cutting out the pictures of models and turning them into paper dolls with different outfits, also cut out of the catalogue. Nowadays, I’ve seen some awesome projects online where people have used pieces cut from magazine pages to make art collages—there are so many inspirational ideas out there, even if you don’t consider yourself to be creative, some of these ideas may pique your curiosity. We all have some form of creativity buried deep inside, ready to be released with just a bit of encouragement. When you were a child, you did this without even thinking about it. Go online and check out what other people are doing. The ideas there are endless. Try to see self-isolation as an opportunity to meet up with your long-lost inner child and allow yourself to have fun playing again.

It’s never too late to learn something new.

Is there something new you’ve wanted to learn, but never had the time? Well, now’s the time! Thanks to YouTube, there are endless instructional videos online covering just about any topic. Think of a new skill you might like to learn, and look for an online video tutorial. Try learning a new language, a new recipe, tackling a small home repair yourself… the options are infinite.

Get a jump on your spring cleaning.

It’s definitely an ideal time to clean out and organize your closets and cupboards. Or tackle some early window cleaning. Or dismantle and wipe down your light fixtures. My window blinds throughout the entire house had about an inch of dust on them, so I took an afternoon to clean every one, as well as all my light fixtures. I need to wear sunglasses inside my house now! Put your confinement to good use, and by the time this pandemic is over, your house will put Martha Stewart’s to shame.

Here is—hands-down—the BEST way to relax…

Indulge in the extreme pleasure of curling up on the couch with a cup of tea or coffee and a really, really good book. There is no better way to unwind. The public libraries may be closed, but their online resources are not! If you have a library card, go online and check out your public library’s database of ebooks and audio books. You’ll be absolutely amazed by their selection of everything from fiction to memoirs to DIY manuals and so much more. There are no late fees like there are with hard copy books, and best of all, EVERYTHING THERE IS FREE! If you don’t like the book you borrowed, just click on return and borrow another one. As long as you have an electronic device (laptop, tablet, phone), all you have to do is download the borrowing app (you’ll find easy instructions on your library’s website) and start borrowing.

Your public library doesn’t just lend books—you can also borrow online magazines as well as music and videos! They even offer an incredible selection of learning resources and correspondence classes on just about every topic—all electronically. Again—everything is FREE. I’ve always said that most people don’t realize the great value they have at their fingertips in our public libraries; well now is a good time to make that discovery.

I’ve recently developed an addiction to audio books that I listen to while going for long walks outdoors. It’s like being a kid again and having somebody read stories to you—it’s honestly the most zen way to spend a chunk of time.

Get back to nature.

And speaking of being outdoors—you won’t get COVID19 by getting outside. Go for strolls around the neighbourhood (keeping social distancing in mind as you pass by other walkers) and clear your head with some fresh air (one good thing about this pandemic is that it has had a positive effect on the environment, since most cars are now confined to their driveways instead of clogging the roads and the air we breathe). Slip on some boots and go on a trail hike in a regional forest. There’s nothing better for the soul than getting out into the great wide open; it’s the most natural pick-me-up you can treat yourself to.

You can still enjoy lots of social time with friends.

Are you going crazy without face-to-face social interaction? That’s the beauty of Skype and FaceTime. A few times a week, I get a cup of tea and sit down in front of my computer for a FaceTime session with my girlfriends. It honestly feels no different than if we were sitting in the same room together. Sometimes we hang out on-screen for a couple of hours at a time. It’s so much fun… and I don’t have to clean the house before they come over 🙂

P.S.: The phone isn’t just for texting—you can also call people and actually talk to them!

Music is medicine for the soul and body.

To me, music is the ultimate mood lifter. When you’re feeling antsy, put on some of your favourite tunes and dance! Not only will your spirits lift, you’ll get in a great workout too. A friend of mine dug out her old skipping rope and plans to skip every day to burn off some of her restlessness. I have a bunch of old workout DVDs collecting dust in a cupboard. I may just dig them out and try different types of workouts for a change. Getting yourself into the habit of some form of daily exercise is guaranteed to give you more energy, improve your mood and boost your immune system. You will also sleep better than you’ve slept in years.

There are still many reasons to count your blessings.

No matter how bad things get, there will always be something to be thankful for. In the face of all of this doom and gloom, I challenge you to write down at least one thing that you’re grateful for every single day. There will always be something. You are alive and in good health? Be grateful for that. There are still sunsets to watch, and flowers that will bloom, and birds singing their songs, and people who love us, and there’s always hope if you keep the faith. I wish I could remember who wrote this impactful saying—I’ll leave you with it now: “The best often comes after the worst happens. You can either move on, or you can dwell on the things you can’t change. Either way, life will go on.”

F.Y.I.: I highly recommend the books below. They are among some of my favourites:
An Embarrassment of Mangoes – Claire Bidwell Smith

Around The World in 60 Seconds – Nas Yassin
The Light Between Us – Laura Lynne Jackson
Behind The Beautiful Forevers – Katharine Boo
Falling in Honey – Jennifer Barclay
From Broken Glass – Steve Ross
The Gratitude Diaries – Janice Kaplan
After This – Claire Bidwell Smith
I Heart My Little A-Holes – Karen Alpert
Humans: A Brief History of How We F—-d It All Up – Tom Phillips
Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
Messages – Bonnie McEneaney
Our Kind of Cruelty – Araminta Hall
Pandemic – Sonia Shah
The Accidental Veterinarian – Philipp Schott
The Afterlife of Billy Fingers – Annie Kagan
The Cow in the Parking Lot – Susan Edmiston
The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
The Joy Plan – Kaia Roman
The Killer Across the Table – John Douglas
The Noticer – Andy Andrews
The Pull of the Moon – Elizabeth Berg (ALL of Elizabeth Berg’s books are AWESOME)
The Rabbit Effect – Kelli Harding
The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd
The Sex Lives of Cannibals – J. Maarten Troost
Getting Stoned With Savages – J. Maarten Troost
Messages From the Masters – Brian Weiss
Many Lives, Many Masters – Brian Weiss
Lessons from the Light – Kenneth Ring
An Invisible Thread – Laura Schroff
Freakonomics – Steven D. Levitt
The Geography of Bliss – Eric Weiner
The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls
The Last Lecture – Randy Pausch
Night – Elie Wiesel
Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking – Susan Cain
Sht My Dad Says – Justin Halpern
The Soul of an Octopus – Sy Montgomery
Until I Say Goodbye – Susan Spencer-Wendel

And there are so many more. I would need thousands of pages to list them all.

 

Baby’s Christening Day Sweater & Cap

While reading a book this week, I stumbled upon a saying that really touched my heart, and I’d like to share it with you here:

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel of the one who has crushed it.”

Isn’t that beautiful?

I had some angora-like cream-colored yarn in my cupboard and thought it would look nice crocheted into a baby sweater. I just made up the pattern as I went along and didn’t write anything down—now I wish I had so that I could share specific instructions with you.
In case you want to wing it yourself, I used 2 balls of baby yarn and a 5 mm hook.

I used a basic 3-dc shell stitch, crocheted in rows, and created two 7” wide x 10” long rectangles for the front and one 14” wide x 10” long square for the back. I seamed them together (wrong side) at the shoulders. Then I crocheted two more squares (7” x 7”) for the sleeves; folded them in half and fastened them at the shoulders, then seamed the sleeve edges and sweater sides together.

Once the basic sweater was constructed, I used more shells to create a scalloped border around the bottom, front edges, neckline, and sleeve edges.
I then attached cream colored ribbon in two places to use as simple front fasteners.
Lastly, I made a matching beanie, starting with six rounds of dc with an increase on each round, then 5 rounds of 4-dc shells, then one border round of sc.
If you have intermediate to advanced crochet skills, you’ll have no problems making a similar-looking set.

What moves you?

It’s a typical day.

Same old. Same nine-to-five routine. Same rush-hour headaches, same group of maniac drivers on the road… when… all of a sudden, my attention is gripped by the sight right in front of me—mother nature’s magnificent ink pots of ruby, magenta, russet and amber spilling to stain the deep blue of the sky—right there before my eyes, waiting patiently to be noticed. In awe, I detour away from the traffic to a quiet road, park my car, and sit in worship of such a perfect sight.


When I see something that moves me like this, I am compelled to stop and take notice… and write about it. Everything about a sunset—the amalgamation of colour, the serene sense of peace it represents, the powerful expanse, the pull of it—is all too special not to be noticed and revered.

Writers have an all-consuming need to translate what moves us into words. When we see something that stirs our feelings, we simply can’t keep quiet about it. If we see something that makes us happy, we must write about the source of our happiness. If we see something that makes us sad—oh woe is the story we’ll write. If we see something that makes us angry—well, let’s just say it’s wise not to mess with a writer because you just might find yourself the subject of a very spirited editorial in a newspaper or other venue. We don’t just see things, we feel them to the core. Which drives our need to write.
If you’ve been down with a case of writer’s block or caught in a mood rut, perhaps you need to rub your eyes and take a fresh look around. It’s all too easy to lose sight of the simple yet astonishing beauty blooming in front of our noses every day, when our sights are ever-focused instead on the hustle and bustle of daily life.

A fat black and yellow bumble bee darting into and out of a clump of blossoms; the metallic flecks that sparkle in an otherwise plain stone; a lone ripple on the calm face of a pond made by the paddling of a mallard duck and her babies; the bouncing pigtails of a little girl playing hopscotch; cream-puff clouds on a blueberry sky. So simple, so precious, so easy to miss.


How many sights do you pass by each day without taking notice—sights that have the power to move you?

Open your peepers. There are miracles everywhere.

Another Year, Another Hope Dashed. That’s Right. It’s Time To Make A New Year’s Resolution.

new-years-eve-pixabayAs the New Year looms ahead, I remember that it’s almost time to choose which of my shortcomings I’ll target as my resolution to tackle in January. After all, is there any better way to punish myself for my overindulgence during the month of December?

I wonder if the Romans realized how much grief they would cause someday when, back in 153 BC they voted to declare January 1st the beginning of the New Year. Way back in 2000 BC, the early Babylonians, who had originally named March 23rd the beginning of the New Year based on the start of crop-planting season, weren’t nearly as hard on themselves as we are today. After all, their most popular New Year’s resolution was to return any farm implements that they’d borrowed from their neighbors.

We should be so lucky. Every December 31st, we modern-day folk insist on looking back with a critical eye, looking forward with an idealistic eye, and coming up with at least one way to put a damper on the month ahead. Thanks to the Internet, I discovered that we even have a top ten list of the most popular New Year’s resolutions:

  1. Spend more time with family and friends. Magazine polls show that more than 50% of us vow to appreciate our loved ones and spend more time with family and friends this year. My family and friends already take up far too much of my time. I plan to spend more quality time with myself this year.monkeys-pixabay
  1. Exercise. Anyone with half a brain knows that exercise reduces the risk of certain diseases, increases longevity, helps achieve and maintain weight loss, enhances mood, lowers blood pressure, etcetera. So why is it that most of us spend not only the month of January, but every month that follows, beating ourselves up over the fact that we can’t seem to stick to it? I already know that exercise will, once again, be at the top of my list of resolutions for 2017 since it’s been reappearing there every single year since 1986.fitness-frog-pixabay
  1. Lose Weight. According to statistics, the vast majority of us are clinically overweight, so (surprise!) weight loss is one of the most popular of all the resolutions. With this also being my resolution for the past twenty January firsts, I’ve alternated donating fat clothes and, later, skinny clothes to the Salvation Army for so many years that I know I could walk into the store at any one time and find pieces of my clothing in every size category.diet-pixabay
  1. Quit Smoking. Smoking harms nearly every organ in your body. It increases your risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, impotence, infertility, lower bone density and more. It also adds wrinkles to your skin that wouldn’t otherwise be there, stains your teeth and makes you smell like a dirty firepit. Ick. Even if you’ve tried to quit before and failed, don’t despair. On average, smokers make the attempt about four times before they quit for good. Really, why would you want to risk shortening your life span with all these resolutions to look forward to every January 1st?smoking-pixabay
  1. Enjoy Life More. I know we lead hectic, stressful lifestyles these days, but do you really need to be told to do this? Come on, people! Pick up the phone and call in sick!hammock-in-the-forest
  1. Quit Drinking. If you have decided that you want to stop drinking alcohol, there’s a world of support available right in your community. In my case, I don’t imbibe enough and I’d probably be doing myself a favor by substituting a glass of red wine for every coffee I chug throughout the day.wine-pixabay
  1. Get Out of Debt. Money is the number one cause of friction between spouses. Most of us don’t need all the stuff we already have, so why buy more? With that said, try chopping up your spouse’s credit cards on January 1st (but find a good hidey hole for your own).credit-card-pixabay
  1. Learn Something New. There is so much to learn in the world around us. So get moving. Learn a language, master a hobby or a dance step. Whether you take a course or read a book, education is one of the easiest and most stimulating of all the resolutions to keep. A challenged mind is a sharp mind. (Now, where did I put my book?)knitting_pixabay
  1. Help Others. When you help others, you help yourself in a most spiritual way. Whether you mentor a child or build a house or volunteer at a hospital, volunteer organizations can always use your help.helping-hands
  1. Get Organized. Unless your entire life has somehow been electronically wired so you just have to clap to find everything in it, you probably need to organize all your nooks and crannies. Cleaning out the flotsam is empowering. Begin with a closet. And this spring, when your mate can’t find the golf clubs, simply remind him/her about Resolution number one!50s-housewife

Losing a parent is so difficult

I haven’t blogged in a while. I’ve been in a slump that’s been hard to crawl out of. My dad passed away unexpectedly the day before Christmas Eve, and saying that it was the worst Christmas of my life is an understatement. Christmas? What Christmas? When I wasn’t moving around in a fog, I was frantically busy helping my mom with everything in her life that needed to be attended to. And although things have started to settle down a bit, her life and mine will never be the same.

When my healthy dad was told in early 2015 that he had amyloidosis—a very rare condition where an abnormal protein is produced in your body that is not a form of cancer but is equated to it, the conundrum being that nobody in the medical profession can determine what causes it to develop in a healthy person with no family history of anything that remotely resembles it—he was told that six months of chemo and some related meds could extend his life for possibly a few more years.

He endured the horrible treatment throughout the months, finishing his last dose on the Tuesday before Christmas. His diagnosis had improved and he was feeling good…was so looking forward to spending Christmas with his family. Chemo does terrible things to your taste buds, so he was excited about eating Christmas dinner and having his first glass of wine in a long time. The next morning, after happily rising to enjoy his first cup of coffee, his heart simply stopped beating. And that was that.

I wrote a eulogy to read at his funeral, and I thought I’d share it here on my blog. My father inspired me in many ways, and my eulogy was my final thank you to him.

Dad relaxing in his garden.

Eulogy for my Father

My dad always saw the good in people and in life.

He could be a pessimistic old buzzard at times. But he was also an optimist in so many ways.

I remember him telling me, when I was little, that we are all very much alike, just people with flaws and strengths, all doing the best we can with what we have. When I would be judgmental, or be negative about life, or just behave the way we human beings sometimes behave, he would sit me down and share his heartfelt beliefs with me, the sort of beliefs that can only come from a soul that’s rich with integrity. He was my teacher, and I learned so very much from him.

As I watched him struggle to beat the terrible disease that took his life, I found myself asking all those questions that we ask ourselves when we believe that life’s not fair.

It wasn’t long before I realized that much of the wisdom he had used to guide me as a child was still there to provide the answers I needed, and it was clear that no matter how bad things can get, making a conscious choice to look at life with anything other than the most optimistic eyes would be to dishonor everything he ever taught me.

Mom, dad, and baby me.

My dad was an inspiration, and I’d like to share with you some of the wisdom that he taught me throughout the years:

Hold my hand and let’s take one step forward today.
If you are sad,
if you are angry,
if you are sick,
if you are lost,
if you are alone,
if you are confused,
if you are frustrated,
no matter your complaint,
stop for a moment.
Step away from yourself.
Then take one step forward.

Lift your chin
and appreciate the quiet expanse
of the sky above you.
Focus on the wonder
of something so simple,
something that will always be there
even on all the days that you don’t see it.

Give thanks for the miracle of your eyes.
Because they allow you to see a sky
that many can only try to imagine.

Breathe deeply of the air that gives you life.
Basic. Base. There.
Such a blessing
to enjoy the simple act of breathing
without a thought, without a struggle.

Dad and mom in recent years.

Kneel to the ground
and smell the rich aroma of the earth
that is your foundation.
Draw up and fill your lungs
with flora, with fresh laundry,
with all the scents of life
that ride on the breezes.
This gift. This blessing…

Move those limbs that you can move.
Do you have legs?
Can you walk, run, jump, twirl?
Do you have arms, hands, fingers?
Can you clap them, flex them, write your name in the air?
Can you reach for the sky?
Rejoice in these simple freedoms
that so many must live without.

Who are you (you may be thinking)
to sermonize to me
about counting my blessings?
Well
I, too, am sometimes guilty
of the human disease
called unmindful existence.

So today is the day
I will step away from myself,
take one step forward,
and acknowledge how very blessed I am.

That’s dad in the middle, with two of his buddies.

I have eyes that allow me to see
all that is right in front of me,
and awareness to clear my vision.

I can see.
I can feel.
I can breathe.
I can walk.
I can speak.
I can hear.
I can taste.
I can eat.
I can drink.
I can forgive.
I can love.
I can choose.
I can imagine.
I can make a difference.
I can hope.
For hope is always there,
waiting for you to believe.

I can walk outside
and I can look up at the infinite sky
and I can marvel at the magical synthesis
that produces such an astonishing shade of blue.

me and dad at the lake

Me and my dad, once upon a time on a lovely summer day.

I can stand on land
that spreads in every direction
and know that it is possible
to go anywhere I want to go.

I can peel an orange
and eat the flesh
and when the juice runs over my chin
I can splash cool water on my face
and feel grateful that the simplest things in life
are also some of the most magnificent.

The sadness, the anger, the frustration…
it will come, it will go, it will still be there.
But so will all of our simple blessings.

Thank you, Dad. And rest in peace.

A salute to writers of the past, present and future

writers1Let us imagine for a moment that we live in a world where writers do not exist. We express our thoughts verbally or by gesticulating, but no words are recorded for posterity.

There are storytellers who entertain us with impromptu tales. Mimes are the new Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Daily local news is dispatched by word of mouth but becomes diluted and distorted, as usually happens when the masses pass information verbally. And telephone companies are rolling in more dough than ever!

booksBut there are no writers. Imagine that.

There would be no books. No Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Andersen, Beatrix Potter, or C.S. Lewis to fuel our imaginations. No word pictures from the past painted by Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman or Tennyson or Wordsworth. No Edgar Allen Poe or Bram Stoker or Mary Shelley to chill our spines. No Tolkien, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jules Verne or Mark Twain to sweep us away on amazing adventures. No Louisa May Alcott, Harper Lee or E.B. White to bring us to tears and laughter. No runaway romances, funny anecdotes, or science fiction to entertain us. I wouldn’t have enough space to list all the authors from yesteryear and present day whose thoughts and ideas would never have connected with ours.

No biographies or memoirs to give us a glimpse into the fascinating lives others have led. No history books to take us on great journeys back in time. No geography books to transport us to places we’ll never be able to see on our own. No science books to expose us to worlds we can’t even begin to imagine. No special-interest books to inspire us to learn new activities.

magazinesNo magazines with articles that entertain and teach us. No Good Housekeeping or Reader’s Digest or Popular Mechanics or Psychology Today. No National Geographic or Sports Illustrated or Prevention. No People Magazine or Fortune. No newspapers to keep us informed about the world around us. No comic books filled with scenarios featuring larger-than-life heroes.

No greeting cards or letters. No advertising to help us make choices.

No song lyrics on record. No theatre, television or movie scripts.dictionary comic card

No manuals to instruct us. No dictionaries or encyclopedias or famous quotations.

Consider the impact that writers throughout the ages have had on our lives. Writers make work of seeking out and compiling information about the things that we wonder about but don’t have the time or resources to seek out on our own. Writers use their skills to transform rough ideas into vivid pictures that will teach, entertain and inspire. Writers keep the era that they live in alive in the minds of future generations.writers2

Writers live with constant rejection—it’s the nature of the work. But today, I’d like to take a moment to praise and raise a toast to writers everywhere—those from the beginning of time, those today, and those of the future.

Bottoms up!

There’s that sunny with blue-skies-ahead, picture-perfect wedding day … and then there’s marriage.

wedding

 

 

 

Paul and Donna on their wedding day in 1980.

 

 

 

My husband and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary last Sunday. That’s right. Thirty-five years under the same roof. If you also count the three years we roomed together before the wedding, it’s actually been thirty-eight years. We started dating when I was sixteen.

When you’ve lived with someone for thirty-eight years, you’ve earned the right to refer to yourself as the Queen/King of compromise, patience and acceptance. I don’t think it’s possible to be in it for the long haul without both parties making a conscious effort to cultivate these essential virtues. Being able to laugh at yourselves is also a necessity.

It’s not even remotely easy. I could have packed my bags any number of times through the years and left over issues that I would today consider to be moot. I’m glad I didn’t. Every human being on this earth is flawed—you included. When you live with another human being, you live with their flaws too. That’s where a combination of compromise, patience and acceptance comes into play. Without it, your partner’s flaws become magnified until they are unbearable.

My husband and I both have our flaws (he has a lot more than I do, of course) but we are and will always be each other’s best friend forever. That makes the choice we both made to live our lives with compromise, patience and acceptance worth it.

Speaking of flaws, the subject brings to mind a story I wrote that illustrates a good example of choosing patience over murder. 🙂

Unfashionably Late, Thanks To My Mate

My husband’s pet name is Pokey. Shortened from its full spelling: Slowpoke.

There’s a generations-old myth that implies that women are guilty of taking forever to get ready to go out while the men wait impatiently for them. At our house it’s Pokey who takes forever to get moving. We are fashionably late for absolutely everything and it’s never intentional.

Here’s a typical scenario. We were invited to a friend’s wedding. On the same day that we received the invitation, I recorded the date and time on the kitchen wall calendar, updated the daily diary in my purse and set my email appointment calendar to send me an electronic reminder. Before the day was over I had map-quested the location, printed out detailed directions plus a street map, calculated the time it would take to drive from A to B with or without heavy traffic, and confirmed in my mind the dress and shoes I would wear. Only then was I able to relax and simply look forward to a fun evening out.

Pokey’s response to the news: “Just remind me the day before we have to go.”

I reminded him a full week before—and every day leading up to the event. You’d think he would have been prepared, right?

With the wedding procession set to begin at precisely three in the afternoon, I knew that we had to leave the house no later than two-ten in order to arrive in plenty of time to find prime aisle seating. Naturally, on the day of, Pokey decided mid-morning that the eavestrough, which had been overflowing with debris and on the verge of crashing down at any moment for the past several months, was in dire need of a cleaning… immediately. By one o’clock I had thoroughly aerated the lawn from stomping back and forth in my high heels, and our neighbours learned curse words they’d never heard before. Pokey finally climbed down after I threatened to pick him off the roof with his old pellet gun.

Sending clumps of mud, pine needles and bird poop flying in all directions as he slapped off a sopping wet pair of work gloves, he had the gall to smile. “Why are you in such a knot? I’m hopping into the shower right now and I’ll be ready in five.”

Pokey was, in fact, out of the shower in five minutes; I stormed upstairs to find him wandering around naked, trying to choose between two ties that looked identical. “Do you realize that we have to leave in less than an hour?” I shrieked, my blood pressure staining my cheeks more effectively than my blusher. “Don’t sweat it,” was Pokey’s reply. “Oh. By the way. Have you seen my white shirt anywhere?”

At two-oh-five while I stood near the front door giving myself a quick once-over in the hall mirror, Pokey was still upstairs ironing the white shirt that, though dry-cleaned since it’s last wearing, had been discovered in a crumpled heap at the back of his closet.

Leaning against the front door, trying my best not to look at my watch, I waited. Although my foot was tapping a hole through the ceramic tile, I’d made a pact with myself not to have a meltdown. I loudly whistled the Guns N’ Roses tune Patience in an attempt to drown out the creaking of the floorboards upstairs as Pokey loped about, searching for his wallet and car keys while trying to knot his tie.

At two-fifteen I was practicing the breathing techniques I’d learned years ago in Lamaze classes, while focusing on a hairline crack in a ceramic floor tile that Pokey was supposed to have replaced last year.

At two-seventeen my fists were flexing as my Lamaze breathing converted to hyperventilating. It was at that precise moment that Pokey appeared, literally leaping into his shoes and yanking his trench coat from the closet in tandem while ushering me out the door with a, “Why are you just standing here? We have to get going if you don’t want to be late.”

Believe it or not, we arrived at the church with exactly sixty seconds to spare. Of course I never did get my aisle seat, which explains why, in my one shot of the bride making her entrance, her face is obscured by the beehive ‘do of the lady beside me.

Whenever anybody says that marriage is all about compromise, my thoughts flash back to all the years I’ve spent tapping my feet at the front door. Compromise—hell, yeah! And a good supply of blood pressure meds too.
today

Paul and Donna today with our Jennifer.

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