Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Simple Suggestion #162... Reuse and reuse and reuse your plastic

How Big Is That Widening Gyre of Floating Plastic?
If you've been following these moodlings for any length of time, you know that I'm concerned about the plastic buildup on our planet. Petroleum products in the form of bags, containers, coffee cup lids and islands in the ocean (ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?) create issues all over the globe. See that yucky mess over there? So this is a rather strong suggestion I'm making...

Human beings have become rather dependent upon plastic... and unfortunately, many of us treat it like it's an unlimited resource which we are entitled to use -- and toss. But that kind of thinking is gumming up a lot of natural habitat, clogging waterways, killing wildlife... and how many plastic bags have you seen flying in the trees this spring? Ugh. So we need to be more mindful of our plastic... and make sure that it isn't single use, at the very least. Rather than freeing the majestic plastic bag that you see in this four-minute documentary, why not use those cloth bags?


When I was a kid, my mom saved our bread bags so we could take our lunches in them rather than buying more trendy 'baggies' with the 'fold lock top.' Now my girls take reusable containers for their lunches, but I still reuse plastic bags wherever possible. Below are my veggie freezer bags -- some of them date back to 2008, when I started blanching and freezing our backyard vegetables. After each use, they get washed and hung up to dry in the laundry room, then put away until next blanching season. No reason to buy brand new when these work just fine, thank you very much. It's simply called being mindful of our beautiful earth.


There are plenty of other ways to reuse plastic before it goes to the dump. Fortunately, in Edmonton, we will soon have a solid waste gasification plant that will turn those plastic bits into synthetic fuel rather than landfilling them... but synthetic fuel's carbon emissions mean there's still no reason to throw out plastic if we can avoid it, whether it's gasified or not.

So, please join me in my efforts to reuse... and reuse... and reuse...

And not just plastic...

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

Monday, April 29, 2013

Snug as two bugs in a... leaf

After a beautiful weekend (during which my marvelous hubby built me two more raised bed garden boxes), it's snowing again here today. I think I'll wait until tomorrow to plant my sweet peas. I started to get excited about the coming gardening season as I knocked down the standing stalks in my front yard and found lots of life under the leaf mulch... and in it. When I saw these two, I had to run into the house for my camera.


I hope you're snug as a bug today... or free as a bird if the sun's shining where you are!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Simple kindness on a Sunday

Here's another wonderful story that my friend, Charleen, sent me, a clip from our national news here in Canada. Something as simple as opening doors for others can change a life... Enjoy!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Simple Suggestion #161... Boycott bad business and support the common good

This morning I woke up to the cries and screams of my sisters and brothers at a Bangladesh clothing factory (on the radio). More than 230 of 2000 employees died on Wednesday because the factory bosses ignored an order to close an unsafe eight-storey building with major building code violations that caused huge cracks in its walls. Less than five months ago, another clothing factory caught fire, killing 112 people who were unable to escape because of poor fire code regulations. Survivors say that the doors were locked to keep workers in.

With all the bad news in the world, it's too easy to listen to a radio or tv report, shake our heads, and continue living our lives. After all, Bangladesh is so far away, and what does it really have to do with me? I'm afraid that's what I did after the Tazreen factory fire on November 24th, 2012. I forgot that the people in that fire were my sisters and brothers. I forgot to take it personally.

How many garments do you own with the Made in Bangladesh label? Do you know if those items were made in factories with high safety standards and decent wages for workers? I don't know the answer to either of those questions in my own life, but I know these are issues to which I'm going to be paying a lot more attention. I have the power to create positive change for my brothers and sisters in the clothing industry. So do you. As consumers, we have the ability to vote with our wallets and boycott Bangladesh until proper regulations are put in place and enforced. It also wouldn't hurt to boycott our big North American companies who buy cheap clothes until they actually insist that the workers be paid more than $1.25 per day. I don't know about you, but I don't need an eight dollar t-shirt so desperately that people need to die for it... and I'm willing to pay more so that they can have a living wage.

And it's not just Bangladesh, and not just the clothing industry. There are all sorts of consumer goods being sold for ridiculously low prices by our big box stores... who rely on cheap, overseas labour (often with poor safety regulations and no worker benefits) so that they can undersell local businesses that ask fair prices for locally produced goods. I refuse to darken the door of a Walmart, and my support of local businesses and second-hand stores is on the increase all the time because I just can't stomach the injustices built into our consumer culture. I can, however, do some research and act justly -- to support the common good.

How about you? What would happen if everyone took these things personally?

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

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Shadow in the sun

Ahh, yesterday was a lovely, very spring-like day (FINALLY), the kind of day to make you feel like a frisky puppy, ha. So I took a walk with ours.

Shadow, Julia's little Havanese friend, seemed to be rejoicing in the warmer weather, too. For a change, he didn't have to wear his haute couture doggy turtle-neck sweater (designed by my husband out of an old neck warmer) that makes him look like a miniature panda bear. It's been a trick to get him to go anywhere on his leash because even with the sweater, he starts to shiver before long (though if you can get him to run beside you, he seems to forget that he's cold). Yesterday, no problem! We took two long walks.

Life with a dog is both better and worse than I expected, but Shadow is so darn cute and not all that smart yet, so there's no point in getting angry with him. He just doesn't get that he should always piddle on the pad instead of the lino, and he thinks that mud is for having fun -- which, I guess it is when you're a pup. It's not his fault that Julia lost her hold on him as they came in the back door yesterday... and he made it up the back steps, through the kitchen/dining area and all the way to the front door leaving muddy paw prints the entire way! Julia didn't even complain as she washed the floor after him while I took him to the laundry sink to clean him up.

He's even starting to let me have a decent night's sleep -- from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. without a break some nights. Shadow absolutely adores Julia, who has napped with him on one occasion, and takes him to hang out in her room on a regular basis (a nice break from his kitchen enclosure, I'm sure).

He's kind of messed up our usual routines, but he's also made us laugh, and work together in new ways. My husband and I regularly look at each other incredulously and say, "we're dog owners." But one of my great delights is watching how Lee talks to Shadow, takes him for walks, and shows a new and different sort of kindness to our newest family member.

I also delight in watching a little dog rolling in the grass on a sunny day, or strutting along the sidewalk in the sunshine like the world belongs to him.

Yes, I guess I'm officially a dog owner.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Some scripture for Earth Sunday

A few years ago, I visited my girlfriend's United Church on the Sunday nearest to Earth Day, and the service made me cry... in joy that her community would center their liturgy on the needs of the beautiful earth God has given us, and in sorrow for the way we have taken creation for granted, using its resources thoughtlessly and causing pollution and disaster. The prayers prayed didn't let us off the hook for humanity's inhumanity to the earth, but it was still a beautiful and hopeful service that touched me deeply.

In looking at my missalette, which contains the liturgy for this Sunday, I can't find an extra single word of prayer or concern for our planet other than the lukewarm stuff that is usually there. It's Good Shepherd Sunday, so you'd think it wouldn't be that hard to connect Christ's care for his sheep with our own care for God's creation. I guess pastors that are aware will do so, but I'm disappointed that our Canadian liturgical resource ignores Earth Day altogether. I know, it's a secular occasion -- but the earth is a sacred trust that believers of all stripes could celebrate together in our worship, and my church is missing an important opportunity. Even in Monday's liturgy, on Earth Day proper (April 22), there is no special mention of or prayer for creation. St. Francis would not be amused.

For my readers, I offer a little bit of scripture to pray with this Earth Day, taken from chapters 42 and 43 of the book of Sirach. Have a Happy Earth Day, and don't forget to do good things for our little blue planet every day!

I will now call to mind the works of the Holy One,
    and will declare what I have seen.
By the word of God, creation was made;
    and all God’s creatures do God’s will.
How desirable are all God’s works,
    and how incredible they are to see!
 All these things live and remain forever;

    each creature is preserved to meet a particular need.
All things come in pairs, one opposite the other,
    and God has made nothing incomplete.
Each supplements the virtues of the other.
    Who could ever tire of seeing God’s glory?
The pride of the higher realms is the clear vault of the sky,
    as glorious to behold as the sight of the heavens.
The sun, when it appears, proclaims as it rises
    what a marvelous instrument it is, the work of the Most High.
At noon it parches the land,
    and who can withstand its burning heat?
One who tends a furnace works in burning heat,
    but three times as hot is the sun scorching the mountains;
it breathes out fiery vapors,
    and its bright rays blind the eyes.
Great is God who made it;
    at his orders it hurries on its course.
It is the moon that marks the changing seasons,
    governing the times, their everlasting sign.
From the moon comes the sign for festal days,
    a light that wanes when it completes its course.
The new moon, as its name suggests, renews itself;
    how marvelous it is in this change,
a beacon to the hosts on high,
    shining in the vault of the heavens!
 The glory of the stars is the beauty of heaven,
    a glittering array in the heights of God.
On the orders of the Holy One they stand in their appointed places;
    they never relax in their watches.
Look at the rainbow, and praise God who made it;
    it is exceedingly beautiful in its brightness.
It encircles the sky with its glorious arc;
    the hands of the Most High have stretched it out.

Thank you, God, for our beautiful earth, which you have made. Help us to respect and love it as we should.
+AMEN.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Simple Suggestion #160... Embrace imperfection

The other day (before the Marathon bombings -- my heart goes out to its victims...) I put on my favourite sweatshirt, one that Lee bought for me on a business trip to Boston some years ago, and I noticed that it's showing its age.The edges of the sleeves are frayed, as is the collar, but the rest of the shirt is in good shape. I sighed, thinking that I should probably tear it up for rags (we're going through a lot of those these days due to Shadow-the-puppy). After all, the shirt's probably not fit to be worn in public anymore.



Then I thought, wait a minute, if it's good except for the cuffs, it's still mostly good, and isn't that good enough? Just because it isn't in perfect shape doesn't mean it should go into the rag bag. And why can't I wear it out in public? Because I'm afraid that someone will think less of me for wearing a shirt that's a little tattered around the edges? Lots of my clothes fit that category! And who cares what others think of me? And why not embrace a little more imperfection in my life? 

The problem is that, like the rest of the human race in North America, I've become conditioned to believe that once something starts to look old or has an imperfection, it's not good enough. Who goes out and buys the apple with the blemish? The shoe with a scuff on the leather? The chair with a tear in the upholstery? Those things are often discarded, offered at clearance prices, or donated to the food bank. Savvy consumers know that we deserve the very best and are entitled to better than second-class stuff -- or at least that's what the marketers are constantly telling us. Shopping at The Gap is cooler than browsing at Goodwill or Valoo Villaaaje (Value Village, pronounced with a French accent) any day! Used and second-hand and slightly tattered? Forget it!

The trouble with this kind of 'I-deserve-only-the-best' thinking is that it pervades our society to the point that we are wasting a lot of our planet's resources out of our too-high-mindedness. And when we carry an elevated sense of entitlement, it's too easy to become judgmental about 'quality', and there's always the danger that we may start to look down our noses at those who don't meet the high standards we set for ourselves. 

A society that wants only the best of everything also misses out on dragonflies in the amber of life. Like my Uncle Louis, whose funeral I attended last week. To a world looking for perfection, he certainly wasn't it. His developmental disability left him on the margins of life in so many ways, but in the ways that really count, he was front and center. His imperfections called for love and compassion from his family and friends, and made them into more beautiful people over a lifetime of caring. 

A society that wants only the best of everything also becomes enslaved to an ever-changing ideal of what is 'best.' Many of us are slaves to trends in fashion, food, entertainment, home renovation, transportation, travel, you name it... not realizing that freedom lies in being open to imperfection, to listening to our hearts and souls rather than consumer culture, and to choosing simplicity over the latest and greatest thing since sliced salami. It means sprucing up the Charlie Brown Christmas tree! And becoming less judgmental, less wasteful, and more compassionate people in the process.

Which is why I am holding on to my favourite vintage sweatshirt (why not embrace the vintage movement, too?). Wearing it will remind me that life isn't about perfection. It's about living lightly. It's about humility. It's about relationship, and freedom, and simplicity.

So if you see me wearing my slightly-tattered sweatshirt in public, don't be surprised!


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

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Book Review -- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

My friend, Charleen, has a book club of her very own that I call CBC, for Charleen's Book Club. Our book for January-February was Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (Crown 2012, ISBN 978-0-307-35214-9). Having given myself permission long ago to be the introvert that I am, I found the book to be an affirmation of the choices I've been making, and enjoyed seeing how some of the studies cited in its pages fit with my life and the lives of other introverts I know. Our book club's evaluation of it was positive, and since then, I've run into others who have read it and agreed with the sentiment expressed at CBC: "If only I had read this when I was young!" (If we had read it when we were young, perhaps we would have valued our quiet ways earlier in our lives.)

I read the book and didn't give it much more thought -- but over the last few weeks, through conversations with my most introverted daughter, I decided that maybe I should moodle about it here. After all, if it spoke to CBC and me, it's bound to speak to other quiet people who might need the affirmation it offers!

In Quiet, Susan Cain set out to show the value of introversion in a world that gives high regard and praise to those who are extroverted. The introduction tells the story of Rosa Parks, the woman of African descent whose quiet refusal to surrender her seat on an Alabama bus gave impetus to the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. Her quiet presence and strength reinforced the work of Martin Luther King and those who came after him. The way Cain told the story made me wonder if an extroverted Rosa Parks would have been as effective. Somehow, I don't think so.

Cain's book cites many studies about introversion, and I found that by the time I was halfway through it, I'd read enough scientific and psychological proof for her opinion and was wishing it would end, but I plowed through so that I wouldn't miss anything. For me, the introduction and conclusion were probably enough -- but for those who like to get into detailed studies, there's plenty of information to back up Cain's arguments for introversion.

The realization that meant the most to me in this book is that it's only been the last hundred years or so that extroversion has become the model for so much of our world's interactions. Up to that point, being quiet, thoughtful and sensitive was seen in an equally positive light with being outgoing, lively and super-thick-skinned. But ever since Dale Carnegie published his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, the quieter and more thoughtful ways of introverts have been somewhat disparaged by a society that's become more interested in 'putting yourself out there,' 'going for the gusto,' and 'showing the world!'

Of course, for the one-third to one-half of the introverted population (many of us quashing our introverted selves to appear as extroverts when necessary), extroversion is not what life is all about. We like quality relationships over quantity, so we often prefer settings that allow for intimate one- or two-way chats over noisy parties where we're expected to interact on a more superficial level with many people. We know that not everyone HAS to be a public speaker all the time -- some of us are cut out to listen, ask meaningful questions, and share well-considered ideas rather than blurt out our most recent thought for feedback. Reflection in our own space works better for many of us than brainstorming around a board room table ever will, and an office with a door that can be closed helps us to be more productive than a pod of cubicles encouraging group interaction.

Susan Cain's work has a lot of implications for our world -- and for the way we organize our work spaces, our classrooms, and our home life. I wish I had read this book before I started my teaching career, because education has evolved in such a way that introverts are more likely to fall through the cracks of the school system, and there are simple ways to counter-balance educational opportunities to help the introverted child. Every teacher should read this book.

But even if you're not a teacher, this post is for all you introverts out there who wish you were more extroverted (as I have at many different times in my life) -- if you're looking for encouragement to be who you are, Quiet might be one book to check out. If you don't have time to look for the book, click here for Susan Cain's website, The Power of Introverts, or watch the Ted Talk video below. It's not a complete explanation by any means, but it gives you some idea...



Though I know shyness and introversion are NOT the same thing, I think a Henri Nouwen reflection that arrived in my inbox earlier this month also fits introverts. His words below are lovely, and encouraging. Of course, the most important thing, whether you are introverted or extroverted, shy or outgoing, is to love yourself and those introverted and extroverted people around you! I'll leave the last word to Henri:

There is something beautiful about shyness, even though in our culture shyness is not considered a virtue.  On the contrary, we are encouraged to be direct, look people straight in the eyes, tell them what is on our minds, and share our stories without a blush. 
But this unflinching soul-baring, confessional attitude quickly becomes boring.  It is like trees without shadows.  Shy people have long shadows, where they keep much of their beauty hidden from intruders' eyes.  Shy people remind us of the mystery of life that cannot be simply explained or expressed.  They invite us to reverent and respectful friendships and to a wordless being together in love.
-- Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey, April 1

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Easter music for a Sunday

The Easter Season lasts until Pentecost, so tonight we'll be having Taizé Easter Prayer at 7 p.m. at St. Luke’s Anglican Church (8424 95 Avenue). All are welcome! It will be our last Taizé prayer until September, and will involve a lot of Easter Alleluias. To whet your appetite, here’s a short video from the Church of Reconciliation in Taizé, of an Easter chant that’s not on tonight’s program, but is still one of my favourites. Happy Sunday!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Simple Suggestion #159... Get to know the Queen(s) of Green

(I'm really tired of all the white stuff outside, with more to come this weekend. So I'm jumping the gun a bit and greening up this blog, to go with this Simple Suggestion... and to encourage Spring to show up already!)

If you know me at all, you know that I'm one who is always looking for healthier, more natural and less wasteful ways to live sustainably. As far as I'm concerned, there are way too many artificial products in our lives that, while they promise in their advertising to make life happier and healthier, are actually contaminating our planet's ecosystems and thereby ruining our well-being, whether we know it or not.

So today's Simple Suggestion leads me to share my latest foray into healthier personal care. I stumbled across a lovely simple way to wash and condition my hair on the Queen of Green blog that was started by Lindsay Coulter, currently on maternity leave, and Tovah Paglaro, who is fulling in for her. These gals really are green. They're not pushing 'greenwashed' commercial products -- they're about self-reliance, and about supporting small businesses that are doing things in a green way. Nothing makes me crazier than walking down the cleaning aisle at the store and seeing the fancy so-called-green products that cost two or three times as much as regular products, but contain the same toxins!

Queen of Green Tovah recently published an excellent hair and body care post that's all about keeping toxins out of our air, water, soil, and bodies. I was a bit skeptical, but I've tried the hair part of it, and it's amazing! I'm hooked. (I'll try the rest, too, once I get all the ingredients.)

So here's what you do, if you want a natural way to clean your hair that is free of the kinds of chemicals that are listed on an ordinary shampoo bottle: put 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of baking soda into a small dish (I use half of a 1/4 c (60 mL) measure), and pour 1 tbsp (15 mL) of cider vinegar into a 1 c (250 mL) measure.

Pour half of the soda into each hand, wet it into a paste, and rub it into wet hair. It will feel gritty, but it will lift out any dirt or grease with the use of a naturally occuring chemical (sodium bicarbonate originates around natural springs and has many good uses, but I hadn't heard of this one!)

Once the soda has been fingercombed through your hair, fill your vinegar container with water to the 250 mL (1 c) mark, and use the vinegar-water mix to rinse. I can't get over how soft my hair is since I've started cleaning it this way. The smell of the cider vinegar vanishes, and my hubby, with his fragrance allergies, is happy that I don't smell like a perfume counter. If there are any chemists out there reading this moddling, perhaps you can tell me how cider vinegar (with a pH of between 4 and 5) and baking soda (with a pH of 8) can leave my hair softer and less greasy feeling than the shampoos and conditioners I've used all my life.

Hats off to Tovah!

If you're one of 'my tribe' who believes that we need to live more lightly on the planet even as we look after ourselves, I invite you to click here to visit the Queen(s) of Green. Last year, Queen of Green Lindsay led a "Spring Breakup" campaign to make consumers more aware of the toxins in most commercial cleaning products, and offered some wonderful recipes for making more natural alternative cleaners that don't contain yucky-sounding things like the ethanolomine family (mono, di and tri), sodium laureth/lauryl sulfates, and triclosan, the great hormone disrupter. And now that Lindsay's taking a break to have her first child, Tovah is doing a great job of continuing to educate people about healthy ways to live that are better for us and the planet. I wish these ladies had been around when I was looking into environmentally friendly diapers, etc.

To be honest, living simply can seem like a lot of extra work if you're going to do it well. But that's usually just the initial outlay of time. Those who choose to live simply know that by making our own cleaning and personal products out of natural things, we're sparing our planet, our homes and our bodies a lot of complex chemical consumption conniptions (sorry, I couldn't resist all that alliteration). Mixing up batches of products made from basic ingredients feels better for my planet, my family, and me.

Now, if you come visit us, you won't have to wonder why I keep measuring cup, baking soda and cider vinegar in my bathroom cupboard!

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

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spring, where art thou?

In Edmonton it feels like -14 C outside this morning (about 7 F), and there's still too much snow, compared to last year. I didn't take any pictures of the yard a year ago, but you can see the difference outside in these two pictures...


last year's picture of the little tomato plants in my green room, and this year's:


I'm not complaining too much about the snow, though. The answer to the moodled question in this post's title is that Spring is in my little tomato plants, which, God-willing, hold the promise of some delicious fruit come August. And after travelling home from Saskatoon yesterday, I certainly don't have as much to complain about as some of the farmers in Saskatchewan, who will be waiting a while to get into their fields. Looks like it will be a muddy, floody couple of months across the prairies. My friend Mark is quite concerned about the Red and Assiniboine Rivers rising in Winnipeg...

I've been meaning to share this video taken by my cousin Dave of the farm where he grew up. He takes us on a nice tour around the farmyard, where the chicken coop was completely buried by the March 21st blizzard (the chickens were fine). The answer to my question on the whereabouts of Spring in this case is, perhaps, under 16+ feet of snow... 


Hurry up, Spring!! But not so fast that everything floods!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A little Mozart for a Sunday

I've always loved Mozart's music... it's so amazing to me to imagine one person being able to compose a masterpiece like the one below -- all the orchestral parts fitting together like an intricate puzzle. The way he wrote his Requiem absolutely floored me in the movie, Amadeus, but I don't feel like posting such a somber melody for the day I drive to Saskatoon for Uncle Louis' funeral. I think Uncle Louis would like this one better, Piano Concerto No. 23. Close your eyes and listen... or let the music play as background to a phone conversation with a friend... or watch these amazing musicians... I love close ups of them as they weave their magic, don't you?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

All that I owe my Uncle Louis

My uncle Louis (pronounced Louie) passed away this morning. The good thing is that he didn't 'go downhill' for very long -- we only heard that he wasn't doing well on Friday. Since then, updates from family who live near him indicated that he wouldn't be with us much longer. Another uncle reported that when he visited yesterday, Louis didn't speak, but he occasionally raised a hand as if to wave at unseen visitors in his hospital room. That's why I wasn't surprised when Dad called this morning with the news that Uncle Louis is in a better place now. He would have been 79 this June.

Louis was the third-born in his family of nine, the second son of six, five years older than my dad. It was probably quite early in his life that his parents realized he had a disability, but we didn't actually know the words Fragile X Syndrome until the early 1990s. By then, Uncle Louis was well known and loved in our clan as the uncle who loved to tease and be teased. In my mind's eye, I see him shaking his finger and saying, "YOOUUUUU!" or laughing a big belly-laugh. He lived with my grandparents until they moved into Seniors' housing, and then he had a life of his own in a home for people with disabilities, working at a special workshop where he did woodworking. He loved to be taken out for lunch, especially for pie and icecream, after which he would announce, "I am a happy man." The picture above right always makes me smile -- it's actually from a family picture taken in front of my grandparents' camper van, with everyone looking at the camera, except for one...

Our paths haven't crossed since my grandma's funeral 13 years ago, but our family Christmas letters decorated Uncle Louis' room every year. My parents were sure to share stories of him after their visits to see him in a small Saskatchewan town six hours from here. Uncle Louis never had much to say, but he radiated the kind of warmth and friendliness and inclusivity that so many people with disabilities offer everyone they meet, and his town was fond of him. He wasn't the kind of guy who would judge anyone by what they wore or how they acted or what they did for a living -- or anything else, for that matter -- he was all about acceptance, gentleness, and friendship. 

Never a demanding fellow, he rarely called attention to himself, and was content to sit on the sidelines and watch the goings-on. Perhaps that's why I don't have any really good pictures of him. I've gone through my photo albums, only to discover that he was never the focal point of my camera, except for once -- a picture of him washing Dad's car on my wedding day, with the caption, "Uncle Louis, supervisor." In other photos, he's sitting in the background, listening to people around him, like the proverbial fly on the wall.

Uncle Louis was my first friend with a disability, who taught me from a very young age that people with disabilities are not to be feared, but to be appreciated for their uniqueness. From him, I learned to value difference, quietness, and gentle humour. Because of him, I chose to spend a summer working with people with disabilities at Camp Health, Hope, Happiness (He Ho Ha), and was employed at a group home for people with severe disabilities in my last year of university. His influence eventually brought me to the L'Arche Association here in Edmonton, an amazing place to work, laugh, and love. Even though I haven't seen him in 13 years, my uncle's presence deeply permeates my life... especially when I kibbitz with Thomas and Bill, two fellows with Fragile X Syndrome in our L'Arche community. I have always had a special fondness for them. Bill reminds me so much of Uncle Louis!

So you see, Louis, my dear uncle, I owe you a huge debt of gratitude. Because of you, I understand in the marrow of my bones what Jean Vanier has written about the beauty of every person, but especially, persons with disabilities. You have always been a peaceful presence. Because of you, my life has taken a unique path, and I will always remember you, especially when I spend time with my friends at L'Arche. I love you, though I might not have actually said so in person. The tears that have been blinding me as I type these words are testament to that. Thank you for being you. I have missed you for the past 13 years, and look forward to seeing your smiling face on the other side. In the meantime, enjoy your new life -- may heaven bring you many belly-laughs!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Simple Suggestion # 158... Remember your seven Rs


A poster appeared on the Master Composter/Recycler page this morning, courtesy of Gerda, and her sharing has spurred this moodling... I was intrigued -- some of it I could guess the meaning, but other bits I wasn't sure (Recusar??) So I decided to see if I could figure it out, simply because I'm always interested in peoples' takes on reducing, reusing, and recycling. I hadn't seen a poster about seven Rs before.

After an hour of working on it, I'm guessing that because it's written in Portuguese, it might originate in Brazil, where there seems to be a lot of awareness about environmental issues and the need to live sustainably. Here's how it looks once translated to the best of my ability:


It's an excellent list, all in all. The only one that deserves a bit more consideration is #4 -- reuse. If we're living as sustainably as possible, of course it's important to reuse everything we can, but I would also caution against reusing things to make more "stuff" that isn't useful, unless you're in kindergarten. There are plenty of crafty websites out there that encourage the reuse of all sorts of items to make planters and wall hangings (and cute little knick knacks out of toilet paper rolls...) but we also need to remember that we probably shouldn't make more than we can use, or our psyches will be cluttered with too much stuff. Voluntary Simplicity is about living with just enough.

Other than that, it's definitely a list worth remembering...

For more Simple Suggestions, try here.