Tuesday, August 30, 2016

This week's garden tableau

Here's the garden tableau this week... always something to be picked, so it's no wonder my moodling is all happening in the backyard instead of at my laptop these days.

We've been feasting on corn this week, yum. There are plenty of tomatoes, scarlet runner beans, cucumbers and kohlrabi. The snow peas and wax beans are blanched and in the freezer. And the squash! It made me laugh out loud. I saw some in among the corn plants, but one runner took off behind our greenhouse, and there were two more back there (I've left one to ripen a bit more).

Unfortunately, a miserable summer cold arrived last night, so the harvesting of onions, kale and chard will have to wait. And I have a box of my 91-year-old neighbour's wonderful Italian prune plums to turn into a yummy loaf. All in good time.

Gardens are a good time, in my books!
Anybody need some free kohlrabi?

Sunday, August 28, 2016

How to make a difference

My friend, Nora, called my attention to this video yesterday -- an excellent song by Steve Angrisano, with words and images by none other than Pope Francis at the Rio de Janeiro World Youth Day in 2013. The optimism and joy in the images along with the song lyrics and the Pope's words speak volumes about how we need to live our faith. I watched this one a few times to catch it all. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Simple Suggestion #256... Give back to the Earth

Our planet provides us with everything we need to live... but how often do we think about helping it out? We have the ability to return the favour, maybe not on a grand scale, but there are definitely things we can do...

Last week I spent several hours at my composter, good tunes playing through my headphones as I turned over unfinished compost and sifted out a full cubic metre of gorgeous black humus. It will be turned back into our garden this autumn to replenish the soil's nutrients for next year's plants. It's not that difficult, really -- and it's the least I can do to replenish the fine layer of soil that supports life on our planet, if only in my own back yard.

Composting requires a bit of space, plant-based kitchen and garden scraps for a nitrogen source, brown materials like leaves or wood chips to provide carbon, and air and water. Basically, I throw down a half bag of leaves, spread a bucket of kitchen/garden scraps on top, and cover with more leaves, repeating the cycle until a fair pile accumulates. I try to "stir" or "fluff" the pile every two weeks or so to give it enough air so that anaerobic bacteria can't make it too smelly, and keep it damp enough that everything will rot. I'm helping the earth by reusing the nutrients in plant leftovers to enrich the soil, and turning 55 bags of last fall's leaves into soil amendment right here instead of having it trucked away. Here's my stack of last year's garbage bags... with fall garden cleanup beginning, they'll soon be piled with organic garden waste in the other two bins of my three-bin composter, and I'll have more compost in the spring!

I realize that many people don't have the ability to make compost because of their living situations, but really, we give back to the Earth every time we make an effort to reduce our impact on its ecosystems. Edmonton's recycling and composting facilities ensure that the waste of those who can't compost at home goes to a process to either recycle glass, plastics, cardboard and metal from our blue bags, or to turn any compostable items that end up in the trash can into compost that is used by the City or sold to gardeners. So everyone is actually giving something back to our planet every time the City uses compost in our parks and gardens, or around road construction areas and boulevards.

Some other simple things we can do to help the Earth rejuvenate its life systems include grasscycling -- leaving our clippings on the lawn when we mow (the nitrogen from the clippings feeds and protects the roots of the grass), leaving our autumn cleanup until spring (so trees and plants can drop green nutrients into the soil), and avoiding the use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides so that toxic chemicals and salts aren't being absorbed into our food chain.

Everything we do to contribute to the organic health and wealth of our planet's soil is something we ultimately do for ourselves. So giving back to the earth only makes sense. Especially when I eat an heirloom tomato and cucumber sandwich!

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

Monday, August 22, 2016

Rediscovering the Balloon Guy

I first met Glen when our kids were in kindergarten together. His sister, Judith, became a good friend of mine (her son was also in the same class), and we all ended up at different gatherings together, where I learned that Glen had a particular talent with balloons. He was the guy our kids crowded to see because he could make all sorts of interesting animals, hats, and weapons (I remember that bows and arrows were quite popular) with long stringy latex tubes.

My kids switched into French Immersion a few years later, and we didn't see Glen as often, so I lost track of his balloon business. I can't remember the last time we saw him, so I was delighted when his sister forwarded the link below. He's a personable guy, lots of fun, and I can't get over some of his creations. See for yourself!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A parent's prayer

Parenting is hard. Don't get me wrong -- I love it -- but sometimes the challenges are overwhelming. I really loved it when my kids were little and followed my lead... but now they are young adults who think for themselves (which is generally a good thing) and we've reached the age and stage where what Mom has to say is often taken with a grain of salt. And Mom herself finds that she rarely knows what to say, or says things she wishes she had said differently...

That's why I have decided to rely on a simple prayer that came to me this week. Things have been going a bit smoother since I've been asking for help every day with these words:

Come, Holy Spirit,
be with me today.
Help me to say
what you want me to say.
Help me to do
what you need me to do.
Let me rest in your love
and let others rest, too.


It really has helped me to feel better about my parenting, this business of calling on the Holy Spirit to help out daily...

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Time disappears...

...when I'm in my garden. I step out the door and lose three hours. There's just so much happening these days!

Pumpkins plumping up...

too many scarlet runner beans to keep up with...

Brussels sprouts sprouting
(my experimental crop this year)...

the return of the 2000-year-old squash...

more kohlrabi than I know how to handle...

our first cabbage patch...

and winter tomato plants coming along
(saved them from my compost pile a few weeks ago).
In the front yard...

gorgeous little monks in their hoods...

the last of the day lilies...

plenty of zinnias...

stuff to cure the common cold (echinacea)...

and a hummingbird's-eye-view of honeysuckle vine
(we have a little green male and his mate
who seem to be visiting regularly this summer).

There's lots more going on -- of the picking, cutting, and blanching variety.
If you feel like coming to help, I promise you can take some home with you. 
But if you're not interested in free organic produce, there's always

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Dimitri's parting gift

In case you're wondering where I've been (if you've even noticed that I hardly moodled at all last week), let me just say that I was busy preparing to receive some very special visitors and didn't get to my computer.

Our friend Dimitri, who died suddenly in June, was supposed to come and visit along with his friend Xavier from August 11-14. The two didn't have any trip cancellation insurance, so after Dimi's funeral it was decided that Xavier would still come, with his wife, Ilse, in Dimitri's place. When we heard that they would be coming, we sent word that we would very much like to host them in Edmonton.

So this past week I worked hard to get ahead of the garden produce for a few days, mowed the lawn, and did laundry two days earlier than usual so that everything would be ready when our company arrived on Thursday afternoon. Lee left work early on Thursday and took Friday off as well, and we looked forward to our visitors' arrival, though we knew next to nothing about who they were. Because our friend Dimi was a 34-year-old para-commando, I expected we would be visited by one of his young army friends with a young wife.

So I was a bit surprised when a couple close to my own age pulled up in their rental car, and it took only a few seconds to realize that they were my kind of people. After Belgian kisses (three on opposite cheeks) were exchanged all around, I asked Xavier how to pronounce his name. "How do you pronounce it?" he asked. "Any way you want to say it is fine." When I insisted on hearing the proper pronunciation, he said, "It's Xavier (Ksaav-yay), pronounced the French way, or Richard, or whatever you like."

What unfolded from that point on was a lovely weekend with a wonderful couple -- both of whom were warm and friendly, with an excellent sense of fun and a marvelous command of English. Xavier is a retired barber of a philosophical bent who is now Mr. Fix-it for a senior's facility and acts in his local theatre company, and Ilse is a physiotherapist who provides fitted wheelchairs for the disabled, loves cycling and being with people. We had so many wonderful conversations. They were very interested in outdoor pursuits, and the weather was perfect while they were here, offering us a lot of time outside.

Thursday evening we introduced them to the Miracle Treat Blizzard fundraiser at Dairy Queen and did a wee bit of sightseeing, watching some Pokemon Go insanity at the Legislature grounds. On Friday we spent an hour in the bison paddock at Elk Island National Park just watching a herd grazing. Then we went canoeing for two hours on Astotin Lake, and had a leisurely lunch on a hillside with a gorgeous lake view. Friday evening we visited the Fringe Festival in Old Strathcona, taking in some street performers, and ended the evening at the High Level Diner for coffee, beer and dessert. On Saturday, we took a 30 km bike ride through the river valley (I never would have made it up the Keillor Road hill without Xavier's help!!) and we all went out for dinner with our kids. And this morning Julia made them two kinds of berry pancakes before they caught a plane to visit friends in Ontario.

It is only now that they are gone that I realize how much their visit meant to me. Dimitri's death was a shock, something completely unforeseeable and heart-breaking. He should have been here touring the Rocky Mountains, canoeing, and drinking Canadian beer with his friend and mentor, Xavier, who is still very much feeling the loss. We were so far removed from the tragedy of Dimi's death because of distance, but Xavier and Ilse's presence made it accessible and real for me, and assured me that life continues for my friends in Belgium, albeit without a beloved friend, son and grandson. After Ilse and Xavier left this morning, tears of sadness -- and gratitude -- flowed.

Dimi, your death is a hard thing to understand -- you had so much to live for. But somehow, I think you know how grateful I am to know your friends Ilse and Xavier, and I thank you for providing the impetus that sent them our way. Your friendship was an unexpected gift in my life, and your parting gift of these two warm and funny friends is also unexpected and much appreciated. You loved them, and now I love them too.

Dankuwel, my friend, and rest in peace.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Laudato Si: Sunday Reflection #50... The Grand Finale, period

I'm feeling a little emotional, believe it or not. It's been just over a year since we began to read Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home together, and it's been an interesting journey -- I know I learned a lot, especially from the footnotes of the document, which you can access by clicking here and scrolling down. The endnotes contain a lot of references to other important documents, many of which I hadn't heard of before reading Laudato Si. So if you are looking for more material about helping our sister, Mother Earth, to regain her equilibrium, I'd encourage you to check them out at your leisure.

With this last reflection, our year of study is over, can you believe it? And with garden harvest imminent, it's time to put my dog-eared, water-stained, highly-highlighted copy away (though I'll refer back to it often, no doubt).

I hope you've enjoyed the journey as much as I have. The first time I read Pope Francis's letter from start to finish, I did it in a hurry, without too much thought about how it actually applied to my life. Writing these reflections forced me to slow down and consider the ways to apply Laudato Si's teachings every day, and gave me an appreciation for what weekly columnists go through! Sometimes it was a struggle to figure out how the Pope's words in particular sections translated into action, but there was always something.

Pope Francis and his writing team make it clear that human beings need to change our outlook on life from that of a self-centred, narcissistic, materialistic, and resource-gobbling society to one that is a generous, interdependent community of people who live simply so that creation can simply live. And for a Grand Finale to be really GRAND, we need to remember what we have learned in the past year and continue to apply it. The titles of Laudato Si's chapters (which it seems I somehow mostly managed to ignore) lay it all out:

Chapter One -- What is Happening to Our Common Home -- points out how very bad things have become for our planet and many of its inhabitants.
Chapter Two -- The Gospel [Good News] of Creation -- reminds us that all that surrounds us is God's gift, not just resources for our use.
Chapter Three -- The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis -- underlines human misunderstandings that have contributed to ecological and social dis-ease in our world.
Chapter Four -- Integral Ecology -- encourages us to see ourselves as one small part of the Big Picture rather than the pinnacle of creation, and to take our proper place in God's plan for the earth.
Chapter Five -- Lines of Approach and Action -- offers concrete things we can do to support the common good and to return our planet to better health.
And Chapter Six -- Ecological Education and Spirituality -- calls us to connect our belief in God present in all creation to the lifestyle changes we must make for the sake of our sister, Mother Earth, and all her inhabitants.

As promised last week, here's part 2 of my summary of what we can do to improve life for all creatures on our planet, some directly from and some inspired by our readings:
  • Support small, local businesses. Buy at farmer's markets when possible. If it's necessary to shop at big chain stores, opt for human cashiers instead of automated check outs.
  • Have an attitude of gratitude for the labour saving devices provided by technological advances.
  • Make choices in life with integral ecology in mind: What will this decision cost the planet? Who will be affected? Are fossil fuel emissions involved? Is this sound ecological practice?
  • Help struggling peoples in our world by supporting organisations that work WITH communities at the grass roots to create their own solutions.
  • Focus on the fact that God loves every person on the planet as much as She and He loves you and me.
  • Be welcoming and hospitable to people of every "stripe."
  • Make "fostering the common good" our superpower.
  • Decrease the size of our ecological footprints.
  • Take some simple steps to reduce personal greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Appreciate organisations that works for a planet-saving cause by contributing to their efforts financially or actively and/or offering moral support.
  • Ask those with power to make positive environmental and social change to do so by phone, letter, email, or in-person conversation.
  • Question everything, asking: How does this contribute to an integral ecology? See where improvements can be made and work to bring them about. Take one small step to push change.
  • Sacrifice. Live with less.
  • Reimagine the world with sufficiency as goal. Educate our leaders toward that goal.
  • Participate in ecological/scientific discussions as people who bring a faith perspective.
  • Overcome individualism by broadening personal and local community and bring someone along with you to deepen their awareness. Groups can accomplish more than individuals in most cases.
  • Support ecological causes that focus on fixing ecological problems.
  • Say grace before and after meals. Don't miss an opportunity to give gratitude to God.
  • Do random acts of kindness for the earth and each other.
  • Appreciate and participate in weekly rest as an opportunity to relax and contemplate the Big Picture.
  • Remember that the world is in God's hands and frequently ask for God's help to meet the challenges our planet faces.
  • Remember that "everything will be okay in the end," one way or another, and sing as we go.
I've decided that I'll compile all these ideas into a little "Laudato Si Says" standard-sized paper poster, and if you would like a copy of it emailed to you (as a pdf file) you can email me (my e-address is under The Moodler profile on the sidebar). Anyone who asks will receive a copy to print up and post on the fridge, or at the office. Why not pique the curiosity of others who may never read Laudato Si?

There's no way to do justice to all of the thoughts in the Pope's letter to the world. All I've managed to do is share what struck my small intelligence and pull together some of the inspirations it brought me -- ideas about things we can all do to improve the health of our sister, Mother Earth, who supports all life as we know it (and probably life we can't even imagine). The true Grand Finale is how we do what is necessary to reduce the effects of climate change, fix other environmental and social problems caused by our human lifestyles, create more just and equitable societies, and treat everything with the love our Creator has for every single part of creation.

Over the past year, I have really come to love the prayer which concluded most of these reflections, so today let's pray it together one more time, in heartfelt supplication:

A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.


(A prayer for our earth and all quotations from Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home © Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

English is weirdly wired

My cousin, Dallas, posted this picture and reminded me of something long forgotten...

When I was in high school, my English teacher, Ms. D. (the only Ms. in my life back then -- everyone else was Mrs. or Miss in those days -- she was ahead of her time) passed out the following poem by someone named Charivarius. I have been keeping a lookout for it for years, and finally found it today (amazing what you can find with a good search engine). It's written by a Dutch man named Gerald Nolst Trenité, and I have to hand it to him -- he certainly had a mind for our language's oddities -- or maybe he just kept a list for years and years and finally compiled it into what's below. Anyway, for your enjoyment or exasperation, I give you The Chaos. Keep in mind that each two lines rhyme, more or less.

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
  I will teach you in my verse
  Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
  Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
  So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
  Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
  (Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
  But be careful how you speak:
  Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
  Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
  Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
  Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
  Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
  Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
  Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
  Blood and flood are not like food,
  Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
  And your pronunciation’s OK
  When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
  Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
  And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
  Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
  Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
  Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
  And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
  Query does not rhyme with very,
  Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
  Though the differences seem little,
  We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
  Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
  Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
  Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
  Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
  Mark the differences, moreover,
  Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
  Camel, constable, unstable,
  Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
  Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
  Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
  Sea, idea, Korea, area,
  Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
  Compare alien with Italian,
  Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
  Say aver, but ever, fever,
  Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
  Face, but preface, not efface.
  Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
  Ear, but earn and wear and tear
  Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
  Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
  Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
  Won’t it make you lose your wits,
  Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
  Islington and Isle of Wight,
  Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
  Hiccough has the sound of cup.
  My advice is to give up!