Thursday, March 31, 2016

It's too quiet

The house isn't the same these days... missing are the happy chirps, chattering and whistles of Pebbles, the little blue and white friend who graced our home and made us laugh for the past five and a half years.

Pebbles feasting on chick weed
The life expectancy of strictly seed-fed budgies is between four and six years -- though Pebbles ate enough chunks of my umbrella plant that I might have expected him to live longer and the girls often picked chick weed from the garden for his enjoyment, his main fare was seed, some of which we recently realized was actually rancid. We replaced it with good seed, but the damage had already been done. For a while we thought he would recuperate, but it wasn't to be. The last weeks of Pebbles' life were bitter sweet -- we were saddened by the fact that he wasn't able to make a comeback, but we were also able to enjoy cuddling him, something he never allowed when he was his usual perky self.

Budgies have been a part of my life for all but eleven years, so it's always strange when a little feathered friend dies, leaving a bigger gap than a person would expect. We won't be getting another budgie while we have a dog -- I always felt a bit sad for Pebbles because he couldn't fly as freely once Shadow joined the family, but the girls would often take him to their rooms and let him socialize there.

Pebbles gave us plenty of laughs, and his life is better documented than any of our other birds, as he arrived after Simple Moodlings was well established. I posted several budgie updates with video in these Moodlings, and they're fun to watch and to remember what a little spaz our bird was. He loved Suzanna best, and every day when she came home, he'd listen for her voice and call out to her. I've gathered the budgie updates here for her to access whenever she feels like remembering, as one final Budgie Update:

#1#2#3#4#5#6#7

It's not hard to imagine Pebbles somewhere in the great beyond now, singing in chorus with Fritzy, Max, Houdini, Sunny, and Buddy, other cheeky little birds from our past. Such a bright little spirit doesn't end here, of that I'm sure.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

An Easter coulee walk

Easter Sunday afternoon turned out to be a bigger adventure than we were expecting. We were in Lethbridge to celebrate Easter with my husband's parents, and after church and lunch we decided to take the dog for a walk in the gorgeous coulees that line the Old Man River as it flows through town. Things are just starting to green up, and we saw some tiny flowers on the slopes, budding trees, and a very low river. It was a dry winter in Lethbridge, too.

Once we got to river level, we were out of the wind and enjoying a pleasant afternoon. Christina brought her gear for making #coffeeoutside. We had a few sips of some very strong coffee, skipped stones, took funny family pics and proceeded to walk twice as far as necessary to get back to where we started. We cut through a NO DOGS ALLOWED cemetery at the end, rather than climb down and up three more steep valleys. It was a pretty good three hour hike if you ask me. Here are a few picture highlights.




Lots of cottonwoods along the river's edge...


and pussywillows...


An old tree that hung out over the river provided a peaceful perch...



Cooking coffee...


heading back... but shouldn't we be going the other way?


Julia is the little spot on top of the middle hill...


this isn't going to get us back...


we're parked a few gullies to the right...


down, and up...


and down and up again...


no more downs or ups -- Christina cheers...


cutting through the graveyard to avoid a few more gullies...


with the little black dog hidden in Lee's jacket...

My good old Canon camera died, so these are rather sad shots from an iPod touch, but you get the idea. If you ever get to Lethbridge, Alberta, a coulee walk is not to be missed!

Happy Easter! We're still in the octave...


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Laudato Si: Easter Reflection


Today is the day when we remember that we are Easter People -- that all the evil and darkness in our broken and messed up world can not overcome light and love.

The anointed one known as Christ helps us to realize that we are all children of God, and as such, we are loved beyond all telling. Even so, we are far from perfect, and our planet is suffering from our particular faults -- greed being one of the main. With 7.4 billion of us inhabiting our Mother Earth, the importance of remedying our greed is critically important -- or life will become unsustainable.

None of this is news -- we have known for a very long time about the poverty, pollution, deforestation, war, global climate change and other destructive problems created by the human race. The difference now is that we are reaching the tipping point. I see it as a hilltop where God's creation sits in a little red wagon, and we either steer safely forward for a happy ride, or roll backwards, unable to steer, and end up crashing somewhere.

Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home is Pope Francis' letter to the world, his insistence and encouragement to steer our wagon in the right direction. But I fear that, less than a year since its publication, it is being forgotten -- or worse -- ignored.

Fortunately, we have the example of a Good Friday that has never been completely forgotten. We know that resurrection is possible, and that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. So as bleak as our environmental outlook is for the moment, there is hope. Especially if the Easter People of Mother Earth speak up for her every chance that we get.

So here's what we do: we take every opportunity presented to us to make choices that help our planet, and remind others to do the same. We talk to our priests and pastors about our sister, Mother Earth, and our concerns for her. We ask them to share the ideas of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home from their pulpits (especially Chapter 5, which we will get into next week). We lobby our elected officials to keep creation and all our sisters and brothers in the developing world at the forefront of their minds as they govern. We think, act, and pray for positive changes in the way resources are shared and managed around the globe.

And we always live in the hope of resurrection -- our own and our earth's. We remember always, as Peter Mayer sings below, that everything's a miracle.


To you and yours, a joyous Easter!

*******
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.

+AMEN.

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

Friday, March 25, 2016

A simple Easter prayer

O God,
you love us.
You want only good things for your children.
But you give us freedom
to make our own decisions,
and our mistakes fill our world
with struggle and pain,
even as they lead us
to acknowledge our need of you.
Jesus showed us by his life and death
how to carry our crosses
with patience, humility, and love.
And so, God, we offer you
all the heavy and difficult things we carry.
We entrust to you our heartaches and hurts,
as well as our hopes and happinesses,
and we offer our lives to you.
Bless those we love,
those we are struggling to love,
and all who really need to feel your love.
Show us how to be your gentle presence
for those who need it most.
Thank you for loving us,
for giving us freedom,
and for walking with us through our calvaries,
into the abundant life
you have promised.

+AMEN.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Good Friday, again

I can't believe how quickly time goes. Here we are, at the end of Holy Week. As always, if you are in the Edmonton area, I invite you to join in two beautiful ecumenical events...

The cross at the top of Mount Tzouhalem
near Cowichan Bay, BC
The first is the 36th Annual Outdoor Way of the Cross, which begins at George Spady Centre (10015 105A Avenue) at ten a.m on Good Friday. I love this way to mark the day because has a strong social justice component, it attracts people of all ages and Christian denominations, and there's just something really amazing about being together and walking with our inner city sisters and brothers for two hours in an atmosphere of prayer and song. This year's theme is "Transformation -- Ourselves and Our World," and will include reflection on the UN's sustainable development goals.

The second is the Good Friday Taizé Prayer Around the Cross, 7 p.m. at Providence Renewal Centre (3005 119 Street). It's a contemplative prayer with music, scripture and silence, and a different way to be open to God's presence in our hustle-bustle world. I prefer it over Good Friday services, because it's a reflective space without so many words. In the community of Taizé, France, you can bet that the young people present will sing and pray well past midnight, but our prayer will run a little over an hour.

All are welcome to both events. Join your fellow Christians to pray and reflect on God's deep love for all God's children. And if you're not in the Edmonton area, have a beautiful Good Friday wherever you may be.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Simple Suggestion #248... Appreciate the gift of water

Today is World Water Day, and I'm glad, because the lowly substance is so under appreciated. We tend to take it for granted, and rarely imagine what life would be like without it.


Imagine...
not being able to bathe
wearing dirty clothing more often than not
trying to cook without it,
or always having to boil out impurities
walking miles to get some
drought blasted foliage and dying crops
outhouses
thirst and hunger
no swimming
dry creek and river beds

...and realize that around the world (including Canada) we are reaching towards a billion people lacking access to clean water, and there are many places in drought conditions because of climate change. I've mentioned it before, but there are many First Nations reserves in Canada that are constantly under boil water orders, which is shameful for a country as wealthy as ours.

Appreciating our own water is just a first step in the right direction, followed by awareness of water's value in our lives, the desire to conserve it, and the insistence that everyone should have access to clean water. Activism for the basic human right to drinkable water isn't far from any of that. It doesn't take much to join the Council of Canadians' #Pledge2Protect our water, and we are all capable of shunning the little plastic bottles filled with something that, as a human right, should be free for all but is making a killing for large corporations.



People in Cascade Locks have had to organize to protect their water from being exploited. Less is demanded of us, but we can stand in solidarity by drinking our own tap water (which is usually healthier than stuff that is bottled in plastic for long periods) and taking our own water from home with us in reusable water containers instead of supporting big bottling companies. Other people in other parts of the world are not so fortunate.

Today, let's appreciate our water and remember and help those less fortunate by doing what we can.

Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Monday, March 21, 2016

We all want to be loved as we are

In honour of World Down Syndrome Day (today!), the people at L'Arche International have put out another beautiful video in the #AsIAm series. I think this one is my favourite yet. Raphaella's love for her dad and his love for her is a gorgeous thing to witness.



My friends and relatives who possess 3 copies of the 21st chromosome are some of my favourite people. They have a knack for making my day -- Sarah, who calls me her favourite oldest cousin in Edmonton, Bethany, who loves to dance, Miranda, who loves to sing, John, who gives more high fives than anyone I know, and Tim, whose quiet sense of humour and desire to give people a sung blessing at the drop of a hat -- all of them and many others like them make me smile regularly.

Our world would be a sadder place without these beautiful individuals, don't you think?

Happy World Down Syndrome Day to all my special friends...

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Laudato Si: Sunday Reflection #32... For the sake of future generations

I think our Indigenous sisters and brothers have it right -- that we must consider how the decisions we make today will impact our descendants seven generations (140 years) from now. How many things would have been done differently in the history of our planet if that adage had been taken to heart by all its inhabitants?

This week we are looking at paragraphs 159-163 of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis' letter to the people of the earth, which can be accessed by clicking here and scrolling down. The section is called Justice Between the Generations, and it's not just referring to those of us alive at this moment.

"The notion of the common good also extends to future generations," says the Pope, reminding us that
Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others. Since the world has been given to us, we can no longer view reality in a purely utilitarian way, in which efficiency and productivity are entirely geared to our individual benefit. Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us (paragraph 159).
There are many big questions raised by Laudato Si, but for me, the one at the beginning of paragraph 160 is the biggest: "What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us...?" Pope Francis notes that this question is tied in to other questions about the meaning of life and why we are here, the goal of our efforts and our value to the earth itself -- questions whose answers speak volumes about our dignity as God's children.

Paragraph 161 deserves to be read in its entirety:
Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet's capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world. The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now. We need to reflect on our accountability before  those who will have to endure the dire consequences.
Laudato Si doesn't mince words in paragraph 162. Our present consumer culture has bred a society of people who are speeding up the earth's decline through our "rampant individualism" and "today's self-centred culture of instant gratification." We need to curb our "impulsive and wasteful consumption" so that we can "broaden the scope of our present interests and... give consideration to those who remain excluded from development" in both "intergenerational" and "intragenerational solidarity" -- the poor of the future, and those we have with us now.

Such solidarity demands a lot from those of us who live in the developed world. We don't want our standard of living to fall, but if we look at our ecological footprint -- the resources required for our lifestyle, we can discover that if everyone on the planet lived like we do, we would probably need another dozen earths to support the present world population. (Check out your ecological footprint by clicking here.) So what we need to do is to re-examine what we see as essential to our standard of living. Is it the stuff with which we surround ourselves? Or our relationships and values? How can we live more simply and meaningfully without consuming so many of our planet's resources?

We are told that Mother Earth has enough for all her children, but the problem is that some children use up more than their share, which impoverishes those who are living in poverty now, and future generations who may not have enough. It also messes up our planet for all living things. How many species will be extinct when my children are my age? Will future generations ever be able to drink from a mountain stream like I did when I was small?

I feel like a broken record, but Laudato Si is the best commercial I know for simple living. Once we build an awareness of where our greed has gotten the better of us, we can begin to live a deeper solidarity with the poor and those future generations who deserve enough, too. We can choose to use only what we need, and ignore the way consumer culture leads us to want too much. We don't have to live the lifestyles of the rich and famous, though consumer culture does its best to convince us that we do just because it wants us to buy, buy, buy.

How do we escape that kind of brainwashing? Perhaps we can ask ourselves the four questions on this poster on a regular basis. If you want a copy of it, I can email it to anyone who sends me a note through the email address that lurks behind my profile on the side bar -- or you can make your own version with your own awareness-raising questions.


We all need enough to live, but we don't need too much, especially when our greed pollutes our planet, impoverishes others, and harms the seven generations that come after us. I don't know about you, but I hate feeling greedy, especially when I know I'm hurting others, present and future, by my choices... and I want to make my ecological footprint smaller for their sake.

*******
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.

+AMEN.

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

Next reflection: Digging ourselves out

Don't forget Earth Hour!

It's been a busy week here, thanks to a computer virus at work (grrr, why do people create these things?) so I forgot to mention Earth Hour, which runs this evening between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. wherever you are. The idea, of course, is to cut the electricity for that time and give some thought to how we can live more lightly on the planet and spread the message that it's time to make a change.

So, enjoy a little quiet candle light. Turn off the TV and/or computer, and live simply. Consider how that can translate into every day life, and where it's possible to be more of an environmentalist in your own environment. Have a happy Earth Hour -- let's do something good for all of us who depend on Mother Earth.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A question worth considering...

If we had to walk a few miles in the shoes of those in the less desirable position in all of these different categories, would we fight harder for justice?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Laudato Si: Sunday Reflection #31... It's all about the common good

I'm hoping to keep it short today. We've reached the heart of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, though I don't think it does enough to include all of creation as part of the principle Pope Francis and friends underline in this short section.

This week we are looking at paragraphs 156-158, a short section called The Principle of the Common Good, which you can access by clicking here and scrolling down.

Paragraph 156 begins by stating, "An integral ecology is inseparable from the notion of the common good, a central and unifying principle of social ethics. The common good is "the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfilment." This last little snippet of a quotation comes from Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution of the Church, written during the second Vatican Council.

Paragraph 157 underlines the necessity of respect for the human person and his or her rights, the importance of distributive justice--something that is sadly lacking in a world where 1% of the population owns fully half of the world's wealth--and society's obligation to defend and promote the common good, which I read as "the good of all."

The first line of paragraph 158 almost covers the entire point of the encyclical:
In the present condition of global society, where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable, the principle of the common good immediately becomes, locally and inevitably, a summons to solidarity and a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters.
Except that common good defined this way forgets to call us to solidarity not only with human beings, but with all of creation. Yes, we need to recognize "the implication of the universal destination of the world's goods" and "appreciate the immense dignity of the poor in the light of our deepest convictions as believers", but we also need to recognize that the earth and its resources belong also to the rest of creation. And the decisions we make to care for humanity must also be extended to the rest of God's creatures as much as possible.

I often wonder what the world would look like if God suddenly appeared, waved a magic wand, and distributed earth's wealth evenly to all 7.4 billion of us, plus the animals on land, in air and ocean. I suspect we wouldn't have a 125 million dollar hockey arena going up in my city's downtown, but we might have more small outdoor neighbourhood rinks where everyone could play. We might not fly around the world for tropical vacations, but maybe we'd have better transportation systems that use fewer fossil fuels to take us to visit the people we love. Would shopping malls be more important than community halls? Would terrorism be undermined by communal sharing? Who would actually be poor? (The rich and famous would be forced to live an ordinary life -- how I love that thought!) And if the common good extended not only to human beings but to all God's creatures, would we need zoos or nature reserves to protect endangered species? Would there even be endangered species?

The thing is, we can all participate in creating the common good by asking ourselves whether our actions, every day, are benefiting the earth or harming it. We won't always be able to answer that question in positive ways because many of the systems that support our present lifestyles were built to make money for consumer culture rather than to support the common good. But once we become aware of how our own lives impact the life of our planet, we can change the way we live, and encourage others to make changes too, so that the planet's wealth can be distributed more equitably to all. But first we have to tap into the power of the people.

Here's a wee example of what I'm talking about: A grocery chain decided that it would market pre-peeled oranges last week. Someone posted a picture of said oranges in their new plastic packaging on social media, and the outrage that followed convinced the store to leave the oranges "in their natural packaging -- the peel." You won't see these around any more, I hope! Plastic is one of those things that we've gotten used to having around, but the problem is that it never goes away. Orange peels don't last long in my compost pile, but every little plastic fruit sticker sticks around for ages!

There are many ways that we can foster the common good by living in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the developing world through living more simply ourselves, and preserving God's creation through boycotting and protesting those things that undermine life in all forms. That's our superpower, as my kids might say.

When is the last time you let someone with power know your feelings about an issue that is undermining the common good? This week, let's challenge ourselves to write a letter or sign a petition (or talk to our local grocer) about making positive change for all, and perhaps make one step toward changing our own lives. Here are just a few possibilities... choose one, or all...

Could I take a shorter shower to conserve water?
Could I walk instead of driving?
Could I wear the same Easter outfit this year as I did last year?
Could I make and eat one more vegetarian meal this week?
Could I use my own grocery bags instead of getting more plastic from the store?
Could I buy fair trade, organic, or non-sweatshop items?
Could I go to a library instead of buying another book?
Could I grow some of my own food? Even in a little windowsill pot?

If you want more ideas, click here for other Simple Suggestions... and have a good week of considering how to simplify for the sake of the common good in your life.

*******
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.

+AMEN.

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

Next up: #32... For the sake of future generations

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

REDressing wrong

If you look up the word 'redress' in a dictionary, you'll find something like this:

re-dress  v. (1) to set right : REMEDY. (2) to make up for : COMPENSATE. to remove the cause of (a grievance or complaint). (3) to exact reparation for : AVENGE. (4) to requite (a person) for a wrong or loss. (5) to heal.

A recent art installation in our city made me examine the meaning of the word more closely. On Friday, my eldest daughter and I went to see Ni Wapataenen on Alberta Avenue here in Edmonton. Organized by Lori Calkins, a Metis woman and Anglican Priest, and others who offered input and assistance, it was a simple but powerful effort to redress the many wrongs done to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women of our country. A single, bare greenstick tipi stood in the middle of a park space, surrounded by 40 stripped trees on stands, and on each tree hung a single, empty red dress. Some of the trees bore poetry, others, bits of wisdom from Indigenous elders, mentioning the seven sacred directions, spirit animals, and colours. The display was called Ni Wapataenen, which means We See.


And see we did. It's hard to miss 40 red dresses. And understanding that every dress represented approximately 30 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and their families brought a sob to my throat. Only my daughter and I stood among the trees and dresses reading poems commemorating some of the beautiful women that the dresses stood for, but it was as though I was surrounded by a host of missing sisters. One of the dresses reminded me of a dress my own sister once wore, and the loss of my Indigenous sisters became real in a way that it never had been before.

Nine months ago, I was fortunate enough to reconnect with my first best friend, a beautiful Indigenous woman who has made her way through life in spite of incredible challenges from a society that suffers from racism against its First Nations Peoples. There may be those who take issues with my belief that society suffers from racism -- but it's the simple truth. Wherever racism exists, its victims suffer deeply, and perpetrators also forfeit the possibility of real and loving relationship, which is a different kind of suffering. Pain abounds. But redressing racism's wrongs and rebuilding relationships is possible, and there is nothing to stop us except our ourselves.

If this is the first time you've heard about red dresses being used this way, check out Jamie Black's website, The REDress Project. And if you have a chance or if you are a photographer, please click here for a wonderful story about Mufty Matthewson, who developed the REDress Photography Project to honour our the 1,181 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, including my first best friend's cousin.

On this International Women's Day, when we celebrate women's social, economic, cultural and political achievement, we must also be aware of the progress we can still make, especially when it comes to redressing the wrongs still occurring. Thanks to people like Lori Calkins, Jamie Black and Mufty Matthewson, awareness continues to grow and spread. We dream of a better day.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Laudato Si: Sunday Reflection #30... Respect for home

I have to hand it to Pope Francis and his writing team. I can't think of much that they've missed in addressing concerns related to the health of Mother Earth in Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home. This week we even get into the importance of public transportation rather than personal vehicles...

We're looking at paragraphs 152-155 of the Pope's encyclical, which can be accessed by clicking here and scrolling down. This week's reading is the continuation and conclusion of the section we began last week, Ecology of Daily Life.

Paragraph 152 attempts to address the lack of housing we know exists in many parts of the world. Immediately I found myself thinking of the favelas in Rio de Janeiro... But why did my mind go so far afield? Especially when I walk past homeless camps in our Edmonton river valley more often than I'd like to admit...

The Pope and friends are trying to address the difficulties many people have in affording or even finding a reasonable place to live, and encouraging humanity to find answers because "Having a home has much to do with a sense of personal dignity and the growth of families. This is a major issue for human ecology." The encyclical underlines the point that no matter our good intentions, we can't just demolish slums without making those who live in them part of the rebuilding process, offering them information about how they can participate in changing their living situations and decent housing choices.

While we don't exactly have slums in Edmonton, our inner city is a place with poor housing choices and many homeless people. Housing First is one organization that is working toward putting roofs over people's heads before tackling addictions and mental health issues. EndPovertyEdmonton is a local task force that names the problems faced by the poor in our city, and is working together to eliminate poverty in Edmonton within a generation. Does that sound like pie in the sky to you? With the economic downturn in Alberta's economy, it's definitely a challenge, but we have to move forward in hope. What do you know about poverty reduction strategies where you live? Do you offer support in this task?

I smiled when I read where the Pope gently shakes his finger at how we human beings get around:
The quality of life in cities has much to do with systems of transport, which are often a source of much suffering to those who use them. Many cars, used by one or more people, circulate in cities, causing traffic congestion, raising the level of pollution, and consuming enormous quantities of non-renewable energy. This makes it necessary to build more roads and parking areas which spoil the urban landscape.... (paragraph 153).
He's right... and his further comments regarding "the need to give priority to public transportation" make me wonder how long it will take for human beings to understand that if we want to mitigate the effects of climate change, we need to decrease our dependence on SOVs (single occupant vehicles) and opt for public transportation which creates fewer fossil fuel emissions.

Here in Edmonton, people love to complain about the inefficiencies of our transit system, but if we all suddenly started taking transit daily, increasing the need for it and insisting our municipal leaders improve the way it works, I suspect it might become more efficient in a hurry. Of course, we are too infatuated with convenience and our own vehicles for that to happen. Or are we? How do you get around? Do you ride-share? Carpool? Find ways to avoid driving an SOV?

It's not just urban populations that struggle to maintain an ecology of daily life -- paragraph 154 notes that our concern with highly populated cities "should not make us overlook the abandonment and neglect also experienced by some rural populations which lack access to essential services and where some workers are reduced to conditions of servitude, without rights or the hope of a more dignified life." I think of many First Nations communities in Canada that lack potable water, well-made homes, and health services, especially to deal with the sense of abandonment, isolation and addiction that springs from the fact that their communities lack these basic things. How can we help them? Can we write our elected officials on their behalf?

The last paragraph of this section discusses "another profound reality: the relationship between human life and the moral law..." and continues to explain that "our body itself establishes us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings." According to Pope Francis, "The acceptance of our bodies as God's gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world... Learning to accept our body, to care for it, and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element in any genuine human ecology" (paragraph 155).

I suggest you read paragraph 155 for yourself. It's one that leaves me wondering if the Church's understanding of human life and human sexuality isn't too narrow sometimes. I know that The Bible tells us that "God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27) ... but I can't help feeling that the Church pounds too hard on sexual morality, the differences between the sexes and total insistence on heterosexual love and family life. I know too many beautiful people with beautiful relationships that don't fit that model, and who is the Church to say that those people are wrong to love a partner of the same sex? Or when they don't feel at home in their body because they have never felt like they belonged to the gender with which they are born? It seems to me that God created our spirits with a wider spectrum than male and female.

The thing is, God made us, and we grow in our love for ourselves and each other, and in the understanding that God loves us. Love that gives life, literally and figuratively, is never wrong. So if the fullest meaning of our bodies doesn't fit exactly with the Church's prescribed rules about human sexuality, but we can love ourselves and see God's love present in the relationships that bless us, isn't that enough?

The ecology of daily life is about belonging, caring, sharing, respecting one another, and loving God and creation. At least that's how I'm reading it. How can we create a sense of belonging and care for city dwellers and those living in isolated communities all over the world? How can we offer acceptance and love to the poor? To those in the LGBTQ community?

Feel free to share ideas by clicking on  the link for "comments" below.

*******
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.

+AMEN.

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

Up next: #31... It's all about the common good

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Simple Suggestion #247... Buy clothes that you'll wear forever (shop smarter!)

The other day I bought a new red hoodie (sweater, kangaroo jacket, bunny hug -- there are so many variations on the name, depending on where you live!) I've been looking for a warm cotton one with a zip front since last fall (when my old one wore out) because I like to wear it under my spring/fall jacket when the weather's cool. It was a long search, as clothes go, but I'm finding that it's harder and harder to find really good, long wearing clothing.

Why? Maybe because consumers have gotten used to buying cheap, poorly made stuff at bargain prices, so that's what many clothing stores carry now. And those stores advertise crazy deals that insist we buy more than we need (how often have you seen those "Buy 2 get one FREE!" signs posted lately?) which helps me to understand why, when volunteering at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul's inner city clothing room, I often unpacked clothes that had never been worn. I could tell because the merchandise tags were still attached!

It's so easy to be sucked in by what looks like a great deal... but the 4 minute video below explains exactly why we shouldn't fall prey to that trap. It's can't be any clearer -- please watch!


We consumers need to re-evaluate our shopping habits and get back to buying only what we need and use, good quality stuff that we can wear until it eventually falls apart. And maybe we could also let favourite stores know that we appreciate quality merchandise that lasts. Finally, we need to make peace with the idea that we don't need to empty our closets every spring and fall to make room for new fashions.

For the sake of our planet, we need to shop smarter! (And less!)

Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Kanye inadvertently supports Kenya

I woke up yesterday morning to my neighbour's voice emanating from my clock radio. He was being interviewed on Edmonton a.m. because of Kanye West. It was surprising, to say the least.

I don't know much about Kanye West, really, other than that he's a Grammy award-winning rapper who is married to one of the Kardashian girls that I often see on the cover of magazines at the grocery checkout. It seems Kanye's pretty good at putting his foot in his mouth on a fairly regular basis, and his latest escapade will hopefully benefit the non-governmental charitable organization being run by my neighbour Todd and friends.

Kanye West seemed to be in some financial trouble, 53 million dollars worth, so he was appealing to his fans on Twitter for help, and one of his remarks made it sound like investing in Kanye was better than investing in charities helping people in Africa. That ticked off a Kanye fan in Florida, who set up a website called Help Kenya Not Kanye. It lists ten charities that supply things like food, clothing, HIV kits, and school supplies to people in various places in Kenya. The fifth charity mentioned, under the heading "Famine > Fashion," suggests that for the price of one of Kanye West's $700 designer sweatshirts, donors to One Child's Village can feed a school of 200 orphans and ten teachers for a whole month! Sounds like a much better deal than an overpriced sweatshirt! (Of course, people don't have to donate $700 -- any amount is appreciated!)

Our new neighbour moved in next door last spring, after our dear elderly neighbour, Olga, moved into an assisted-living senior's residence. We don't know Tod very well yet, but I do know that he's the kind of guy who gives his annual garage sale proceeds to One Child's Village, and does a lot of other good work for the organization, helping with various events and fundraisers and overseeing its work.

I would love to see the charity get a real boost from a Kanye's narcissism (he later admitted that he is personally wealthy but wants to use other people's money to fund his next recording), so I share this story here. Kanye, I'm not your fan, so you'll never get any of my money, but I just gave a donation to One Child's Village. I suspect Todd is appreciating the inadvertent support your tweet is giving his cause!

If you are looking for a way to directly benefit Aids orphans in Africa, check out the links above, and check out the video below that was posted on YouTube a few years back...


We in the western world don't realize how far the price of a coffee or a large pizza can go... and Kanye West certainly doesn't need our support as much as our orphaned African sisters and brothers do!