Thursday, March 29, 2012

Springtime happiness

A sunny March afternoon, and clean sheets on the line, drying by God's goodness. It doesn't take much to make me happy.

In case you missed it the first time around (October 2010), here's what runs through my head on days like today:

Ode to a Clothesline

Oh lovely clothesline in the sun -- your praises do I sing --
drying clothes for everyone, sleeves and pants fluttering.
How humbly and simply you do your work, with only wind and sun
and the energy it takes to hang our garments one by one. 

So joyous does it make me feel to see laundry flapping there,
to save earth's electricity, and to give our sheets fresh air.
My grandmother had a line like you that held twelve children's clothes,
but you will only ever hold a quarter as much, I suppose.

This busy, fast-paced world may never understand my pleasure
in hanging up each item as if it were a secret treasure,
but I feel connected to the breeze, the sun, and pins of wood.
I sense that using a clothesline is simple, organic, and, somehow, good.

I bury my nose in my fresh-dried clothes and my electric dryer I ponder.
Sans you, clothesline, would I enjoy today's wind and sun so much? I wonder.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Advertising prohibited?

I just received an email from someone named Emma who claims she has a company that wants to advertise on my moodlings. If she knew anything about Voluntary Simplicity (which my moodlings espouse) she'd know that advertising is the last thing I want on my blog. Simple Moodlings will never be about promoting any sort of commercial product. It's about being self-reliant as much as possible -- about building community and caring for the planet, about being counter-cultural when it comes to consumer culture. I guess Emma doesn't realize that I'd never be one to willfully allow anything on this blog that makes people want things they don't really need.

So, sorry Emma, I'm declaring my website as an advertising free zone (except for my little side-bar invitations to read more or check out a few other interesting websites). Ads have taken over our world... by the end of a day in 2007, the average person saw over 5,000. I suspect it's many more than that now that we have Smart Phones and adSense trying to "monetize" everything under the sun.

But me? I'm not buying in, unless this sign constitutes advertising (which, I suppose, in a way, it does):

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Simple Suggestion #117... Think long-term

Last week, my eldest daughter had her sitting for graduation photos. Outside the room where the photographer set up her portable studio sat a man selling class rings... and I was reminded of one of my life's little follies:

I really had to look for the thing when we got home. I couldn't even remember what it looked like, and wondered at the fact that I ever bought one. What was I thinking?? Well, all my friends were getting them (we had after school jobs, and therefore, a bit of disposable income that we probably should have saved for university tuition), so I got one, too, the cheapest kind in sterling silver because gold was $500 an ounce, don't you know!

I can't even tell you how long I wore the ring. Through my first year of university, perhaps? Or even that long? After which, it was relegated to a little slot in an old jewelry box and pretty much forgotten, until I saw the class ring guy last week. My daughter, wise girl that she is, said after we left the man, "what on earth would anyone want a class ring for?" And I wished I had been as smart as she. I didn't really buy mine out of sentimentality, because I certainly wasn't sentimental about my old school, teachers, or very many of my 250 classmates. I've been to a couple of high school reunions, just out of curiosity, and realized that the people who meant the most to me from those teen years were not the school classmates of whom a ring could remind me, but the friends from various youth groups in which I was involved. I bought my class ring because everyone else was doing it, never giving a thought to the fact that in the future, I'd wonder why I had spent the money on something so... well, so "not me." I've never been big on jewelry.

Fortunately, the ring is one of the few items in my life that fall into those "frivolous-spending-because-everyone-is-doing-it" or "I've-got-the-money-for-a-status-symbol" categories. Most of the things in my life now have their reason and purpose, and since embracing Voluntary Simplicity, I've become much better at thinking in the long-term, asking myself as I consider a purchase, "in ten year's time, will this really matter? Is this a good investment, or a whim? Will I really make use of this item, or is it something that will collect dust and make life more complicated rather than simpler?" Because, facing facts, if my class ring means so little to me, it's not an heirloom to be passed down to future generations... it's just clutter that will have to be reabsorbed by our overtaxed planet someday... and it already cost our planet enough in mining, smelting, creating, processing and delivery. If every person on the earth had such a ring, what would our environment look like? Would we even have one?

Thinking long-term is something we all need to do daily, for the sake of the earth and its future generations. I have a little reflection book for this season of Lent, and one of the things that recently struck me in its writings was a little story about a woman whose husband was a collector of things while she collected "empty spaces." I'm convinced that if we think long-term -- ten, twenty, or fifty years from now, we'll be much happier with the empty spaces we've collected than with anything else we can accumulate and will someday have to shed. Like class rings, and much bigger things.

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Simple Suggestion #116... Set an example

This Sunday morning I'm thinking about Francis, my favourite Saint, and how he liked to say, "Preach the gospel, and when necessary use words." It's a phrase I come back to again and again. Even though my maiden name translates to "preacher," I've never been particulary comfortable with preaching, or with preachy people. I much prefer the people who simply live as they believe and offer explanations when asked.
Living what you believe isn't easy. For example, I believe that Sunday worship with a community is important, probably because from when I was a week old, my parents took me to church every Sunday. It was part of life, not something discussed, just something done regularly. When I reached adulthood and realized that I could do other things besides attend church on a Sunday, I tried that for a while, and felt like something was missing. Yes, I could pray to God on my own, but it was too easy to forget about God when I didn't slot church into my schedule and meet regularly with other worshippers.

So now that we have our own family, we take our girls to church every Sunday, mostly without question, even though they know that their mom is struggling mightily with the hierarchy and its rules these days. As tempted as I am to quit Sunday worship and just be with God outside of all the dogmatic silliness that seems to have once again overtaken my church, which seems to be more worried about details than the basics of feeding the hungry and giving clothes to the naked, I keep attending. Friends tell me that I'm within my rights to be a conscientious objector and not go to Mass... and I'm sure God wouldn't hold that against me (though the Church would)... but if I truly believe in the importance of Christian community, and I do, how can I quit? If I do quit, I'm not showing my girls the importance of community by my actions... though I am always looking for ways to show them Christian community's value where it occurs outside of church, too.

The same goes with almost anything I believe in. If I believe that our planet is in trouble because of global climate variations (which are in the news a lot these days -- Winnipeg at 24 degrees Celcius (73 F) in March is unheard of!), how can I live as though I have no choice but to use fossil fuels as frivolously as possible? How can I purchase strawberries out of season? How can I pretend that the most important thing is having an updated kitchen? I can't. So I preach the gospel by trying to live as lightly as I can... as joyfully as I can.

And now I come to the real struggle... these moodlings. Lately, I've been feeling that they're pretty much counter to St. Francis' words about using words only when necessary. I'll admit it... I get pretty preachy here sometimes, even as I try to show examples of simple living and other worthwhile ideas. Maybe I'm not the best at preaching the gospel without using words... but then again, maybe it's impossible to go against the "preacher" name with which I was born. So I continue, hoping that some of these ideas will set examples to help you in your efforts to live simply, too... and that you will go out and set examples of your own!

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Celebrating our brothers and sisters with Down Syndrome

 Did you know that March 21st has been designated by the United Nations as a day to honour our brothers and sisters all over the world who have an extra chromosome? That means that today is World Down Syndrome Day.

I'm blessed to have several friends and two relatives with Down Syndrome, and I have to say that my life would not be as rich without them. They are true gifts in that their friendships are honest and real, their love of life is contagious, and their personalities light up any room in which I've ever joined them. If you know someone with Down Syndrome, you'll know exactly what I mean. The traditional first day of Spring is a perfect day to celebrate them, don't you think?

Nathan Ball, L'Arche Canada's Executive Director, brought World Down Syndrome Day to my attention through his blog, which you can read here. And he's absolutely right -- all my Down Syndrome friends are great dancers!

Today I'm thinking mostly of my cousin Sarah, whom I've known for all of her 30 years. A natural extrovert, she has the greatest sense of humour, and loves to pull peoples' legs. Everyone is her "favourite." For example, I'm her favourite oldest cousin in Edmonton, a title that can only belong to me. From the time she was small, she was everyone's favourite herself, and now that she's lost her eyesight, personal encounters have become more personal as she likes to hold hands and know people by touch. I don't know how else to describe her except sweet beyond measure. So today I'm sending fond thoughts to you, Sarah, and to my cousin's son, Christopher, and to John, Tim, Patsy, Bethany and Kent, and all your family and friends.

For more information on World Down Syndrome Day, check out, and have a good one!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Nothing to fear but fear itself

I can laugh about it now... but at the time I was just plain freaked out.

You see, I'm a worry wart at times. It's a trait that I wish I could change. Especially in the wee hours of the morning when my blood sugars drop and I'm not thinking straight... like early Sunday morning.

Our eldest daughter went out Saturday evening with a friend whose 18th birthday was on St. Paddy's day. For those who don't know, the legal drinking age in Alberta is 18 (I know, too young... but facing facts, a lot of kids are stealth-drinking long before that anyway). So our girl's plan for Saturday evening was to have some green beer at an Irish pub on Whyte Ave to mark Megan's birthday. It was discussed and agreed upon long in advance, in spite of the fact that we were supposed to be singing at church the next day (a good thing -- another reason not to end up hung over). Off she went, with cab fare in her pocket.

Unfortunately, at 1:15 a.m. I woke up (I don't usually do that unless my blood sugars have gotten too low -- I have type 1 diabetes) and realized that the front light (left on for our late daughter) was still on. And here's roughly what went through my head:

She's not home yet! She said she was going to have a green beer and come home because we're singing in the morning. But she's not home yet! What if something happened to her? What kind of an idiot mother am I to allow my barely legal daughter to go partying on Whyte Avenue all alone? She's not home yet! What if she doesn't come home? What will we do? I can't manage singing at church alone! How will we find her? Oh, we can call the cell phone. No answer! What's going on? Where can she be?

And on it goes, for another twenty minutes, with me fretting and imagining nightmarish scenarios of drunk drivers and murderers and drunk tanks and bar fights and other ridiculousness, while my husband is laying in bed beside me, muttering, "the bars haven't even let out yet."

I pray for a while and fret some more. I can't relax. My heart is pounding in my ears.


My heart is pounding in my ears?!

That always happens when my blood sugars drop too low. I get up, get some apple juice, go back to bed, and fall asleep. Near two a.m. I hear our daughter at the door. I get out of bed, give her a hug and ask how her evening was. Of course, she had a great time dancing with a big group of friends while I was fretting about her, my blood sugars down in the basement somewhere. I go back to bed, thinking, now how stupid has the last hour of my life been, worrying about a child who has never given me cause to doubt her levels of maturity and responsibility?

Jesus said, "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own." More recently, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in one of his inaugural speeches said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."

In my case, I have nothing to fear but the fretful thinking that comes with low blood sugars! How blessed I am!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Paddy's Day!

I love St. Patrick. I mean, what's not to love? He was a pretty amazing fellow... another one of those young men captured and sold into slavery, where he made friends with God somehow. Then he returned home and spent the rest of his life in the service of the people of Ireland. There are so many fascinating legends of Patrick -- how miracles happened everywhere he went, how he freed Ireland from snakes, and how he preached the Trinity using a shamrock... I like to think of him as a man of joy and love, sharing his faith wherever he could, even in the face of tremendous opposition. He never backed down from being himself and speaking honestly about his belief, and won many friends for God. He's credited with one of my favourite prayers, St. Patrick's Breastplate, a version of which our L'Arche community likes to sing. Peace, before us, peace behind us, peace under our feet...

He also left us his heavenly birthday for celebration and fun. A half million people attended the St. Patrick's Day parade in Dublin this year, and more will be celebrating until the wee hours... my eldest daughter included. Recently "of age," she's determined to have a green beer with a friend whose birthday is today. I wouldn't mind a green beer myself.

But I'm already dizzy enough, so I'll content myself with a little piece of silliness instead. Here's a funny little video from the Muppets. I'm not sure why they appeal to my sense of humour the way they do. Danny Boy, the quintessential Irish tune, deserves more respect than this, and I'm sure St. Patrick never in a million years could have guessed that something like this would be created because of him! Oh well. Happy St. Patrick's Day! And hugs to all my Irish friends!

Friday, March 16, 2012

It's that time again!

A couple of years ago, my hubby built me a little "green room" in the hobby shack in our back yard. The original owner was a carpenter and built the little house as his workshop (it has eleven electrical outlets!), but it's our garden shed now.

The greenroom is painted green inside and out except for the sliding door, is well insulated so it holds heat (it's 26 degrees Celcius in there right now -- that's 79 Fahrenheit), and is a lovely little space for starting seedlings when the warm March sun comes in the low south window.

Our dream is to convert the shack into a three-season greenhouse complete with clear roof and heat retaining back wall, but for now, it's sufficing as our early planting space.

The blue bin below is planted with early lettuce and chicory for salad, and a few Brandywine heirloom tomato seedlings should come up, too.

Leeks are on the windowsill, 

and tomatoes are in the 4x4 pots. Italians, Oxhearts, Li'l Rubes, bush beefsteak, and my favourite heirloom varieties -- Golden Russian, Moscow and Golden cherries. I also planted a few Blushing beauty peppers, and some jalapenos. 

The sun gets warmer by the day, and it will soon be time to plant outdoors. But please, God, we could use a little more moisture first! It's been a dry winter, and the little snow we had is almost gone already. The kids have their bikes and skateboards out, and the gardening season will soon be upon us -- I'll plant some lettuce in the cold frame against our shack in a couple of weeks. And then it will be tulip time -- can't wait! Happiness is dreaming about gardening, at least for me!

If you're a gardener type in Edmonton, don't forget Seedy Sunday is this Sunday, March 18th, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Alberta Avenue Community Hall, 9210 118 Avenue. I wish I didn't have to sing at noon Mass that day -- the speakers they've lined up sound absolutely great! See And have a good weekend!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Writing like myself

For the last few weeks, since meeting with a writer in residence, I've been giving a lot of thought to my writing style. I borrowed a library copy of Jack Hodgins' A Passion for Narrative: A Guide for Writing Fiction (McLelland & Stewart 2001, ISBN 07710-4198-5) and read through it, just to make sure that the final draft of my novel is as good as I can possibly make it. I suspect professional writers could pick what I've written to pieces, but I don't really care. I've spent nearly ten years honing my manuscript, and it has come a long way in its improvement. If I go any further with revisions, I'll be writing to appease someone else's sense of style rather than my own.

To put it plainly, that won't work.

I found an interesting piece of Jack Hodgins' writing that explains perfectly why I think this is so:
I once complained to a writer friend that every time I start a new story my goal is to write it in fast, tight, clean, clear prose... but that once I get into the job, prose springs up all around me like a jungle: new people get into the act, the story becomes more complex and mysterious than I'd anticipated, all of the world seems to want to be part of the action. Less puzzled by this than I, my friend suggested that things could not be otherwise. "You were born and raised in a temperate rainforest. You have a rainforest brain, fecund and complex as a jungle. Don't fight it... this is not only inevitable but appropriate." (p.77)
Reading that paragraph was an "Aha moment" for me. Not because I was born in a rainforest... no, the exact opposite. I was born and grew up on bald, flat Saskatchewan prairie until we moved to Edmonton when I was nine-and-a-half. I've always been a prairie girl at heart, and perhaps that's why I write plainly, simply, focused on the plot rather than the description of setting or the use of alliteration. I like to read writing that is poetic, metaphorical or full of tricky literary devices sometimes, but that's not my style. I know that my writing will never be considered great Canadian literature because of it, but I have recorded a few stories that came out of nowhere that I really like to read (including my novel), so I won't apologize for not fitting in with the talented Canadian literati. I write like myself, and that's good enough in my books.

If you're looking for encouragement to write, Jack Hodgins' book is a good one, with many ideas and interesting exercises. But if you don't need encouragement, that's even better. Write for the love of writing, and "it's all good," whether literati think so or not.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Simple Suggestion #115... Unplug

I've never really been a fan of Daylight Savings Time, mainly because of that lost hour of sleep every spring, and all the dopey car accidents and confusion it creates for human beings on Sunday/Monday morning. I don't know about you, but I find that just one hour's change in schedule really messes me up. I feel dopey for a full week afterward, like I've got seven days worth of jetlag or something. No wonder I'm not a huge fan of plane travel. This week, I'm more like the great African explorer's porters who, after four days of break-neck speed safari-ing, sat down and refused to budge an inch, insisting upon time for their souls to catch up with their bodies.

Of course, DST has a few bonuses to offer us (though if we waited a few weeks, we'd have the same benefits without having to give up a precious hour of sleep) -- the first being more daylight sooner, the second, gaining that hour back next fall, and the third being the ability to use less electricity when it comes to lighting our homes in the evenings.

I know, I know, electricity isn't something we give much thought, except when it comes time to pay the bills. But it's also something we shouldn't take for granted, something to be conserved as much as possible, especially since so much of ours in Alberta comes from fossil fuel sources that increase the carbon in our atmosphere and cause climate change. Any time we can do things without using electricity is bonus time for the human race. (And using windpower is always a positive option, too... check out

So, as much as I hate losing that hour of sleep, I like living without lights in the evenings. And we carry it further, by unplugging as much as possible, and looking for every other possible way to reduce our use of electricity. Like, for example, this:

A handy-dandy power bar. We have power bars attached to our computers and modems (where they also prevent power surges that can destroy hardware), our TV and related devices, and our microwave. Any item that has those little "user friendly" lights to indicate that they're in working order can be an electricity vampire, sucking energy from our home. Snap off the power bar switch, and their vampire habits aren't eating electricity unnecessarily -- especially our annoying microwave, which keeps flashing the words PRESS CLEAR CLEAR CLEAR HAVE A NICE COOKING TIME. Honestly, who came up with that brilliant message?

We'd like to think that future generations will have enough energy to live happily in the future, so that's why we try to live without electricity as much as possible... which brings me to another reminder. Earth Hour 2012 arrives at 8:30 on March 31st. How are you planning to live it, and carry it through to the rest of the year? For ideas, check

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sometimes I'm just so proud of my city...

Edmonton, Alberta, is an interesting city. We're known globally for two things: West Edmonton Mall, which was once the world's largest shopping centre, and the Edmonton Oilers (well, we'd be known globally for that if everyone in the world was a hockey fan in the 80s. I suspect if you mentioned our city in Madagascar today, you'd get a lot of blank looks).

Since the late 80s, Edmonton has also become a world leader in something that a lot of people aren't aware of -- Waste Management. When it was discovered that our landfill was reaching capacity too quickly back in those days, the City decided to start a residential recycling program that has developed and grown into a waste management Centre of Excellence. It is now being studied by people from all over the planet who are realizing that if we're going to survive as a species, our garbage needs to be properly handled: reduced, reused, recycled, recovered, composted, and all that other good earth-friendly stuff we can do with it.

What I was less aware of was that the City has carried this idea even further by hiring people that aren't generally considered to have the potential to be good employees. I knew that people with intellectual disabilities have been involved in recycling programs from the beginning, but I didn't know about all the other "second chances" that Quality One, the staffing department, has been creating... putting into practice one of my favourite sayings, attributed to Audrey Hepburn: "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone."

Sometimes, the people of my city just make me so proud. Watch this ten minute video about Quality One, and you'll see what I mean.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Simple Suggestion #114... Sing a song

I'm still really enjoying Edward Hays' Chasing Joy: Musings on Life in a Bittersweet World (Ave Maria Press 2007, ISBN 13: 978-0-939516-78-0). Today I had to go back a few chapters to reread the ones about singing, just because they made me feel happy when I read them the first time.

Fr. Edward writes about how music is one of the best motivators for living a good and generous life, and I wholeheartedly agree with that. So often it's only taken the simple power of a good piece of music (the He's a Pirate Theme from the Pirates of the Caribbean really gives me a rush!) or a lively song like Phil Collins' You Can't Hurry Love to lift my spirits... and I can recall many times when work that seemed like drudgery somehow became more pleasurable because one bored person in the group decided to sing. It happens in our kitchen as our girls do the dishes sometimes. We also have videos of summer holidays where we were rowing a long stretch down a windy mountain lake and someone started singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. Before we knew it, there were several additional harmonies and side versions and we had reached the far shore... in much better spirits than before we sang.

In ages past, people sang all the time. Soldiers sang as they marched... do they still? People in the civil rights movement sang to encourage one another in their rallies against injustice, and labourers sang as they worked. One of my favourite saints, Vincent de Paul, who had been sold into slavery (because a ship he was on had been captured by pirates), sang until the lady of the plantation noticed him in the fields and made him her "house servant" instead... a considerably cushier job. He eventually won his freedom.

Unfortunately, in our world of music videos, cable radio and iTunes, a lot of us have forgotten about the joy of singing, alone or in a group. We've become passive listeners a lot of the time because it's Adele who has the pipes, not us. But by denigrating our own talents, great or small, we're doing ourselves a huge disservice. I'm not saying that we should all leave our homes in the morning as though we were the stars of our own version of Hairspray or any other hit musical you care to name. I'm just suggesting that adding a little more homemade music to our lives can't be a bad thing. It costs us and the planet nothing if we sing a few songs to lift our spirits. Few things make me happier than seeing someone singing in the car on their way to work. It's almost as good as listening to a little child un-self-consciously inventing her own words to a pop song!

Fr. Hays also reminds me that singing has healing power. He mentions how Alzheimer patients respond well when their caregivers sing... perhaps because the subconscious feels that if someone is singing, everything is alright somehow. And I suspect he's right when he says that "a song a day keeps the blues away."

So here's another one of my favourite tunes, from my favourite Coen Brothers movie, O Brother Where Art Thou. It's been stuck in my soul lately, so I've been singing aloud even though I don't have Allison Krauss' sweet voice. Why fight ear-worm music, I figure -- I might as well sing it until another piece comes along and takes its place. This one makes me happy in ways that I can't explain... maybe because it brings back memories of the first time I saw and heard it in the movie theatre, and felt like I was standing in the forest with the hilarious Soggy Bottom Boys, surrounded by the choir -- goosebumps time. A good, singable piece. Your secret mission today is to sing it aloud, or choose one you prefer, and see if it doesn't raise your spirits, and maybe even the spirits of those around you!

P.S. Happy Birthday, Cathy! Thanks for the many times we have walked and sung together, whether people were listening or not! "When I first came to this land..."

P.S. Again: Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

These are a few of my favourite things...

My seed catalogue order arrived this morning, which makes me happier than a lottery winner! I'm not kidding!

I'm also counting down ten days until tomato and pepper planting time. Ah, the promise of a new gardening year!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Nella Fantasia for a Sunday

A number of years ago, I enrolled in a series of Art and Spirituality workshops taught by a friend -- who is now the woman I work for... Pat, our Community Leader at L'Arche. I hadn't seen her in several years, and was delighted to explore different art forms and meditative practices with her on those evenings at Star of the North Retreat House. Besides recalling the opportunity to reconnect with a special person who had dropped off my radar for a few years, one other thing sticks with me from that time... this song. Pat played Sarah Brightman's version of it, and it so haunted me that I searched it out and purchased a copy of Ms. Brightman's1999 Eden cd so that I can listen to Nella Fantasia now and again.

In looking on the internet for a version for you, I learned a few things about Nella Fantasia... I knew that it was composed by Ennio Morricone for the movie The Mission, but what I didn't know was that it had no words until Sarah Brightman repeatedly bothered Maestro Morricone to make it into something she could sing. Chiara Ferrau wrote the lyrics, and if you've been with me for a while, you know I'm a definite sucker for Italian... If you're curious what it all means, there's an English translation here on Wikipedia. I didn't know its meaning until today because its beauty is meaning enough. The video below is of Chloe Agnew from Celtic Woman -- she has a gorgeous voice that moves my soul like it was the first time I heard the song. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Budgie update #6

My girls were all worried yesterday -- "Mom, something is wrong with Pebbles!"

It was true. When I got up in the morning and uncovered his cage, the shouting began. Budgies have very loud voices when they're upset about something, and Pebbles was definitely using his. He was also bouncing around in his cage like a crazed thing, never settling for a second. Usually he has his quiet, dozy periods in the afternoon, but when I sat on the couch for my own quiet dozy period, I couldn't read my book for all the budgie yelling going on. There were no sweet chattering "birdie birdie birdies," "I love yous" or "kiss, kiss, kisses" to be heard all day.

Suzanna thought he was cold and feeling sick, so we upped the thermostat a notch, and that made us too warm. She thought he was hungry, so we refreshed his birdseed, but he wouldn't eat. He just bounced around the cage, yelling and shouting... so we let him out, and he attacked my umbrella plant, tried to find crumbs on the kitchen table, and just acted strange and skittish, uninterested in any interaction with his favourite human beings. He wouldn't even play his favourite chasing games (usually, us chasing him from place to place with a favourite toy). It seemed he was constantly asking for our attention, but at the same time, didn't want it. But he definitely wanted something. So we gave him his favourites -- celery leaves and bits of carrot. Not interested.

As we ate supper, he yelled and yelled and yelled, ran up and down his perches, turned somersaults between his legs, and just never stopped moving. Frantic.

And then it dawned on me. The night before, Julia had changed around the toys in the cage, replacing one usual shiny silver bell with a small jingle bell. I suggested she change it back.

Like magic, the yelling stopped. Pebbles is happy again. He just wanted his favourite bell back.

Here's a little video of him and his bell from this morning. He can see me making breakfast, so he's dancing around a little. At the end, he whispers a few "sweet nothings." If you ever come visit, he'll whisper some to you, too, as long as you let him keep his favourite bell.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

"Chasing Joy" and the wisdom of Edward Hays

Chasing JoyThese days I'm reading Edward Hays' delightful little book called Chasing Joy: Musings on Life in a Bittersweet World (Ave Maria Press 2007, ISBN 13: 978-0-939516-78-0). It's a marvelous thing to be reading as I continue to struggle with inexplicable dizziness issues, because it's about joyful living even when it's hard to feel joyful -- in a realistic sense, not just, "Everybody be happy!!!"

I've known and loved Edward Hays' writing since reading The Ethiopian Tattoo Shop when I was in High School. He's a Catholic priest, but not a boring one -- he's a great storyteller, and I suspect he's the kind of person who always has a twinkle in his eye. I just googled him to make sure, and wasn't disappointed. He looks like Santa's brother. He's written a stack of books, many of which I've perused, and several that I own because it's nice to inject some whimsy and humour into prayer now and then since God must have the greatest sense of humour of all. I mean, look at the walrus... or the emu... or the proboscis monkey. If they don't strike you funny, think of the last person who made you laugh...

I just wish the hierarchy of the Catholic church would stop taking themselves so darn seriously. In Advent, they took the Mass from solemn to downright depressing with "adjustments" to the translations of the Mass, all in the name of making it truer to the original ancient Latin. The problem is that no one speaks ancient Latin anymore, and now Mass feels pompous and frustrating. Up until recently, for as long as I've been alive, the church's prayers have always addressed God like S/he is a dear friend rather than as a solemn and distant being who demands our absolute, tongue-twisted adoration. And, as you know by now, I'm one for simplicity, not pomposity. Short and sweet is better than long, convoluted and boring!

I've already made public my opinion that the new translation of the prayers makes them inaccessible, exclusive, stilted and stuffy. In fact, the "new" prayers with their words like beseech, implore, devout oblation, blah blah blah O God Almighty Father (sorry, but God is more than male!!!), have tempted me to start a Facebook page called "People for a New New Translation" just to see how many others would join the club. Except I would prefer a catchier title than that. If you know of any such page, tell me, because I want to join it! Or if you can think of a zingier moniker...

Anyway, Edward Hays again brought to mind this recent pet peeve when I read the following in Chasing Joy, in a chapter called "clinging to the faith doggedly but without joy": 
"...clinging without joy to the faith can be a valid motto for the large numbers of faithful who today sadly lament the restoration of the clerical culture and the practices of the pre-Vatican Council Church [Maria's note: e.g. this new translation].... Don't bother to write letters to Rome. Complain directly to God!.... Pray with faith, and I'll wager you'll hear something like this: 
"Ah, you sound just like my son, Jesus! How he used to lament to me, moaning over the wretched worship of temple and its priesthood or the hypocrisy of the village elders with their strict observance of the petty religious rules..."" (p. 111-112)
According to Edward Hays, God encouraged Jesus (and encourages us) to be joy for the world, to make love the greatest commandment, to love those whom society finds the most unlovable, and to smile and laugh at those who would make a relationship with God into a frowning, pious, gloomy and guilt-ridden thing.

That's the challenge for me these days, to smile and laugh as I listen to these pompous new wordings of church prayers that have our older priests stumbling over the texts, poor guys. I don't mind change when it's for the better, but this is not. I find myself either rolling my eyes, or tuning out these new prayers most of the time because they have too much useless gibberish -- as though lengthier sentences using weird Latin sentence structures from the 1920s Roman Missal translation of Pope Benedict the XV are somehow more pleasing to God. With the prayers we used for the past 40-some years, I loved to listen for the gems among the direct and simple words. It's painful to hear pre-Vatican language when you've always loved post-Vatican prayer.

I'm not quite clinging to the faith doggedly and without joy, because having someone wise like Edward Hays putting his thoughts and feelings into encouraging words like this makes it just a little easier. If you're looking for a good read to challenge your heart and lift your spirits during the long season of Lent, I'd recommend  Chasing Joy. It's helping me to take heart and be of better cheer! (Though I may start that Facebook page yet!)