Thursday, February 27, 2014

Another gardening season begins

We're in for a few really cold days in the next week or so, so it makes me happy to see these little guys -- my first heirloom tomatoes of the year (peppers are lazy louts -- still haven't roused themselves). I've started these on the early side, hoping that I'll soon be able to move them out to our almost finished carpentry shed transformed into greenhouse, which is coming along. Lee is just waiting for the humidity and temperature sensors to arrive this week, and there's some cleaning and painting to be done, but it won't be long before I'm organizing for our first growing season out there!

Today I'm planning to vacuum up sawdust and otherwise dream about what it will be like out there... and maybe study my greenhouse books...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Simple Suggestion #196... Support a local artisan

Displaying flower clocks.jpgMy friend Nicola, with whom I share tomato plants and who shares apples with me, has a neat little business going. She makes Geekware (click here to see more) -- basically, she recycles odds and ends from our digital age and turns them into interesting things that people might enjoy using. Yesterday, the clock that you see in this picture showed up on Facebook, and I thought, wow, how creative is that!? It's made of some mini cds and "old bits and pieces of technology lying around." If I didn't have too many clocks in my house already, I'd buy one -- such a creative idea. Hmm... I wonder if my hubby needs an office clock? So far, I don't think Nicola has these up on her website, but I think she's got a great idea there. She also has some nifty keyboard cufflinks (think monograms) and other digital gift ideas to please computer geeks.

The thing is, there are a lot of wonderful local artisans out there who are making old bits and pieces of this and that into new, useful items. I'm thinking of my cousin Cyla's baby quilts, and the folks at our farmer's markets who sell all sorts of interesting and practical odds and ends made of old bits and pieces of fabric, wire, re-purposed elevator shafts -- you name it. Then you have artisans who create pottery, paint gorgeous watercolour images, and come up with enough different, cute knitted hats to cover the heads of all the kids in our local elementary school. Plus there are the foodies -- who make jams, loaves, breads, kale chips, relishes -- again, you name it. And it's all local, so fewer fossil fuel emissions are added to the planetary cost.

I think this moodling is a sign that it's been too long since I've been to a farmers market, or snooped on kijiji for good local gifts that people will enjoy. How about you? When's the last time you supported a local artisan?

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

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Pope's quiet ecumenism

If you've been following my moodlings for a while, you know that ecumenism -- unity among churches and believers in God -- is a cause very dear to my heart. I am certain that Jesus didn't intend for those who follow him to divide up into groups that all claim to be following his way, picking and choosing different aspects of his life and teachings to emulate and emphasize while ignoring everyone else, and I believe that my own church is one of the worst offenders in this regard. Jesus wanted all human kind to understand that love is the bottom line, and inclusion, forgiveness (as we hear in today's Gospel reading), and unity are essential for love to fill the world. Unfortunately, we're human beings who have come to think that we belong to different clubs, forgetting that we all, ultimately, belong to God.

So when a friend sent me a video Pope Francis made earlier this year, it made me happy. It's a seven-minute piece that was recorded on the iPhone belonging to Evanglical Bishop Tony Palmer when he visited Pope Francis on January 14th. The two are friends, and the Pope asked if he could send greetings to a conference of leaders from Kenneth Copeland Ministries, a Pentecostal mega-church convention where Tony would be speaking. They made the video on the spot, and it seems Vatican staff had no idea about it until it appeared on YouTube last week, with subtitles.

Bishop Tony Palmer also impresses me. He uses the Pope's video in the context of an excellent lesson on ecumenism at the conference, which can be seen if you click here. He says, "...diversity is divine, but division is diabolical." And I love Pope Francis' opening words in his seven-minute portion of the video, how he isn't speaking English or Italian, but the language of the heart... a heart that is feeling joy and longing for communion, unity between believers. His message of reunion and reconciliation as a miracle that God will complete somehow is beautiful, too.

It's stories like this that keep me connected to my church even though I am impatient for change. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Simple Suggestion #195... Enjoy the day's diamonds

Can you see the sparkles?
Shadow-dog and I are just back from a frosty walk, and it's a gorgeous day out there. Not temperature-wise if you're used to tropical climes, but beauty-wise. Yesterday we had a gentle snowfall that covered everything in diamonds of the best kind. They don't have to be mined or cut -- they just appear out of nowhere and make life glitter for a time without costing the earth a cent.

Life is full of diamonds -- ever notice? A friend of mine started this moodling in my mind by commenting on the Aurora Borealis (the prettier name for the Northern Lights) that were out early this morning when she was walking her dog. An Olympic gold for the Canadian women's curling team was another sparkling start to the day, and the story of a student basketball team manager with Down Syndrome given an honorary 2-day contract with the Philadelphia 76ers was another little diamond I found online. (Click here to see it.)

The walk Shadow and I took on a very pretty winter day is a diamond in itself, as were
the flocks of waxwings swirling in the skies above us. When we got home, the sight of the snow blocks cut out of my garden during my youngest daughter's fort making plans (that didn't quite reach fruition) made me smile. They look so pretty in the sun. The dog has a great time romping around them.

And said dog is another crazy little diamond that I managed to catch on camera, splashing through the snow diamonds and chasing his tail (I love how he always growls at it as he circles). In case you haven't guessed, anything that makes a person happy and makes life shine a little more than usual qualifies as a diamond in my books.

Where are your day's diamonds? Being aware of them is just one way to have a diamond of a day!


Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Gettin' the itch

This weekend, my wonderful husband and I spent some Valentine's time together working on our greenhouse construction. We managed to get the north side's plywood walls mostly finished to protect its R-40 insulation:


(Lest you think we have no romantic bones in our bodies, 
we also managed to attend a Valentine's Dinner and Dance on Saturday night!)


It was wonderfully warm in our special sun room yesterday. 
I've spent a little time online trying to determine what colour to paint
those plywood walls. I guess it should be a full-spectrum white, somehow.
Time in the greenhouse gave me the itch to get my fingers into some dirt,
so in the afternoon, I decided to start my peppers, and a few heirloom tomatoes.


Yes, it's a bit early, but I always find that it takes forever for pepper seeds
to germinate, and hopefully we'll be able to use the above space soon...
but for now, they'll be waiting and warming on the window sill.


I received my order from Heritage Harvest Seeds last week, 
and couldn't wait to plant Ukrainian Pear, Martino Roma and Black Prince
heirloom tomatoes, as well as my usual Jalapeno and Blushing Beauty peppers.
It was a balmy 3 degrees celcius outside (37F) when I was planting. 
I have dirt under my nails, and I know spring is coming.
Feels good after all the cold winter weather we've had!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Choose love!

Here's a lovely video featuring the music and art of Shawn Gallaway, a singer songwriter-musician-writer-artist-healer, with a message perfect for a St. Valentine's Day weekend. Enjoy!


A music video by Shawn Gallaway.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Too many farewells

We're having a hard week at L'Arche Edmonton. Today, the mother of one of our board members will be buried. We are also in solidarity with L'Arche Calgary, as the community mourns the tragic death of their independent living coordinator, and the injuries of their operations manager and other family members in a weekend car crash. And tomorrow, we say farewell to our beloved friend, Joyce, who died peacefully last week. (In some of my past moodlings, her pseudonym was Jane.)

Joyce had been unwell for some time, though physicians couldn't name the exact ailment, and the community chose not to increase her anxiety or pain though more invasive medical procedures. She was well cared for at home for as long as possible, but because her medical needs became more than the community could handle, she was preparing to move into long-term care when she had a stroke.

Joyce, who was a cheerful and welcoming presence for people who came to L'Arche during her 37 years in the community, left us all with many warm recollections and humourous stories. As part of the community's farewell, about 40 people crammed into the living room of Joyce's home last Thursday afternoon to share some of the memories that are her lasting gifts to us. We sang My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean because Joyce always enjoyed that song. We remembered a little lady who liked to look nice, wearing a necklace to finish her ensemble more often than not. We talked about her surprising (and sometimes slightly wicked) sense of humour, her love of sugar cubes, stuffed animals, and babies, and how many people had the opportunity to hold her hands in her last hours. We remembered her pain that was so evident in the last months, but also the times when she was content to just rest in her favourite chair wearing a small smile. She had a knack for giving people nicknames that only she used, and her infectious grin -- with the mischievous twinkle in her eye -- blessed us all.

When word got out that Joyce wouldn't be with us much longer, her hospital room filled with family and friends from the L'Arche community until people overflowed into the corridor, sharing stories and singing, making hospital visitors and staff wonder who the important person in room 23 was. After she died, her doctor told those present how much she had been touched by knowing Joyce and caring for her for only four weeks, with the tears and sadness that we all feel at her loss. Joyce's simplicity and humility touched so many -- more than we will ever know -- and I suspect that she is looking out for her L'Arche family with extra care now.

Joyce joined L'Arche's Day Program while still living at home with her mom, catching rides to the workshop with those who lived in L'Arche homes in Sherwood Park. In 1977, she joined the community, living in Little Flower home for many years, welcoming many assistants and other friends. My little girls and I were among those friends when we had tea at Little Flower some years ago. Joyce met us at the door (as she had met so many others) and kept my little ones supplied with cookies and juice while I visited with my girlfriend, who was house leader at the time. Joyce had quite the knack with little ones, and I learned later that she had worked at a daycare for quite some time.

The love expressed and tears shed at our farewell gathering last week and at the funeral tomorrow are a clear indication of how much she was loved and will be missed. I think especially of those in her home who loved her in her pain and took such good care of her in the last few years. I fully expect that when they arrive at Heaven's Gate, Joyce will be there to meet and thank them, and when other members of her L'Arche family are heaven-bound, as is the case this week, Joyce will be there to let them in.

May she and our other deceased community members and friends rest in peace.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Simple Suggestion #194... Ask for smaller portions

I have been looking and looking for a quotation that is eluding me. Perhaps you know it and can send it my way. It goes something like this:
Of food and drink and victuals and stuff, a bit too little is about enough. 
I suspect it's another saying by that prolific writer, Anonymous. Regardless of its exact wording or who wrote it, it fits perfectly with today's suggestion, brought to you by my daughter, Suzanna, who suggested this topic.

She and I had a girl's weekend back in September, and went out for breakfast on the Saturday morning, a bit later than usual. Feeling very hungry, she ordered the Farmer's Grill -- the breakfast plate with pancakes, sausages, bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, toast and I'm not sure what all else. When it arrived, we quickly realized that it was enough for two of us. She looked at me helplessly, and tucked in, but there was no way that she was going to clear her plate, and I couldn't help her because I had ordered my own meal. Because we were staying at a retreat house and had no access to a refrigerator, we couldn't take away the extras. Suzanna said, "That was just too much food for any one person to eat. Why do they make such huge portions?"

Why indeed? I can't help but think that a big oil worker from Fort Mac would have had trouble finishing it all... and as I looked around the restaurant, I noticed a lot of people pushing away plates still holding too much food.

The thing is, there are people all over the world who don't get enough to eat -- and here we are, wasting too much on a regular basis. Somebody somewhere once told me that it was impolite to eat everything on my plate -- that I should leave a morsel or two to show that I had some self-control. But for me, self-control is evident when I take a smaller portion of something, rather than leave food to waste.

I'm not going to rail on about the amount of food wasted by North Americans. What I am going to suggest is that we always take restaurant leftovers home for the next day's meal, and that we start asking for smaller portions in food establishments that insist upon offering huge servings. Some places are already catching on to this idea, offering half-portions on their lunch menus. Of course, their half-portions are probably the perfect size for suppers, calorie-wise! If enough of us started asking to have reasonably sized meals served in restaurants, perhaps the Super-size Me world would get the message that we don't need to overeat -- especially if there's dessert on the menu!

So here's the challenge -- the next time you eat out and find that the plate you've ordered offers more than an ordinary stomach can hold (make two fists, hold them knuckles together, and you've got the size of your stomach, more or less), ask to speak to the manager. Let her or him know that you would very much like it if, the next time you came in, you could order a half-portion of your menu item. See what happens. Even if nothing does, if we make the statement often enough, eventually it will be heard, and less food will go to waste. I hope.

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

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Lord is my light

Tonight’s Taizé Prayer will be hosted by the community of Hope Lutheran Church (5104 106 Avenue, Edmonton). The Lord is our light, and we won’t hide that light under any bushel baskets, but we’ll sing about it in a meditative way. Come join us!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Simple Suggestion #193... Say a simple hello

Maybe this wouldn't seem like a good suggestion to the extreme introvert, but to me, it's just part of living a life of courtesy and kindness. I'll admit it: I am an introvert (but not too far from the extrovert end of the scale), so I'm not the type to really go out of my way to say hello to people, especially when I sense that, like me, they might prefer their own little world. But it's always been a rather uncomfortable feeling for me to walk past someone without acknowledging them in some way -- eye contact and a smile, a nod, or a simple hello. A stranger coming down the sidewalk is just someone I don't know, and a little acknowledgment might be the difference between the feeling of not being worth anything and a happy day -- for both of us.

I never know what might happen when I say hello to someone. Usually, they say a simple hello back, and we continue on in our separate directions. But last week I said hello to a boy with a backpack who was shuffling along, head down as if he was rather dejected, and his head snapped up, he looked me in the eye, and said, "Have a good day."

I don't know about you, but I can't wish someone else a good day without improving my own somehow, a wee bit. Greeting other people is like throwing a little positive energy into the wind, and feeling it rush back to ruffle my hair, too.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Isn't it a wonderful world...

Piccsy :: Map of the World Map from Old Sheet Music, Art Print on EtsyA few years ago, when my daughters were still playing soccer, Suzanna played against a team from the most ethnically diverse part of our city. My neighbour's brother, who has spent a lot of time in India and Asia, was standing next to me when I commented on the fact that every player but one on the opposing team had black hair. He turned to me and said, "Won't it be a wonderful world when people no longer notice things like that?"

This past weekend was the American Football Superbowl, when the two top teams played for the championship trophy, and advertisers pulled out all the stops to make commercials for their products that people will remember. A certain cola company's ad (click here to see it) has received a lot of negative attention because it took a national hymn and, while lines of the song were translated and being sung in the languages of different nationalities, it showed gorgeous images of people of those nationalities participating in life in the United States.

One of the really beautiful things in our world is the diversity of its people. Our different cultures, languages, beliefs and traditions give the world such richness and beauty. For a long time, my part of North America was pretty homogeneous, but in the last twenty years, things have really shifted, and now it's unusual to go through a day without the sound of a different language or accent in my ears, spoken by someone with skin colour different than mine. Coming from a bilingual country that is becoming more multilingual by the day, I think the sights and sounds our immigrants bring from their lands of origin are exciting, appealing, and expanding the hearts and minds of long-time Canadians, most of whose families originated in other lands, too. The fact that these more recent immigrants have been brave enough to join us in the Canadian multicultural mosaic, to learn yet another language and live in a different and much colder land, this time of year(!) fills me with admiration and appreciation for their resourcefulness and resilience.

We are all brothers and sisters, and isn't it a wonderful world when we can sing the same song together, even if our languages are different?!

The belief in the inner beauty of each and every human being is at the heart of L'Arche, at the heart of all true education and at the heart of being human. As soon as we start selecting and judging people instead of welcoming them as they are -- with their sometimes hidden beauty, as well as their more frequently visible weaknesses -- we are reducing life, not fostering it. When we reveal to people our belief in them, their hidden beauty rises to the surface where it may be more clearly seen by all.
--Jean Vanier, Becoming Human, p.23. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Now let your servant go in peace...

The chant in the video below is perhaps my favourite from the Taizé community, the prayer of Simeon upon meeting the infant Jesus in the temple. The old man’s eyesight might not have been clear, but his heart-sight was perfect. He embraced the child and gave thanks for God’s personal revelation to all people. The melody of the chant reflects beautifully Simeon’s longing for God, and my own. And the words are lovely, too: Now let your servant go in peace, Lord, according to your promise. If only we could all go about our lives in peace, spreading peace.

I'll be humming this one all week, guaranteed! Enjoy!