Friday, September 30, 2011

#81 of 100 Simple Suggestions... Jump into a pile of leaves

This suggestion was actually supposed to be #59 in my list, but in the middle of August, there were no leaves on the ground. I saved it until today. On our Terry Fox walk yesterday, the leaves were everywhere, especially in the air as the Grade Five/Six class threw them around. So this weekend is the time to enjoy a simple and fun activity. When's the last time you raked up a pile and jumped in? Or buried yourself and jumped out at an unsuspecting friend? Leaves are great insulation for our tender plants through the winter... and for play. If you don't have leaves in your yard, or if you don't have a yard, why not grab a friend and find a park with deciduous trees, and have a blast!

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

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Harvesting in the dark

My hubby and I attended the annual Master Composter/Recycler appreciation event night last night (some of my colleagues were appreciated for 1,000 hours of volunteering!) and when we got home at 8 p.m., we decided that we'd better bring in as much garden produce as we could. The temperature was supposed to dip to 2 degrees Celcius last night, and when it goes below 3, I get nervous. There's frost on the roofs this morning, but I think the garden would have been safe. Oh well.

As it got darker and darker, Lee helped me to pick cukes, pumpkins, the larger tomatoes, one zucchini, and we covered the cherry tomatoes. It was a little crazy working with no harvest moon in sight, with only the back alley light to help us to see. We may have missed a few veggies, but even so, it was kinda fun. After an hour of work, here's what we brought in.

We're wondering if the green pumpkins might be because we planted them next to the cukes. If a bee pollinates cukes and then pumpkins, do we end up with a cucumber/pumpkin cross? A cucumkin? A pumcumber? Hee hee. My neighbour seems to think it will be an odd tasting thing, but I'm not so sure. I guess we'll have to see if the green ones turn orange over the next month. They have a slight orange tinge around the edges.

The top two pails have oregano and basil for the spaghetti sauce I plan to make today with the three gallons of red tomatoes I've been keeping in our freezer. There's enough help in the Clothing Room that I've let them know that I'll work at home this morning, and do one last Terry Fox walk with my youngest daughter at school this afternoon (next year she'll be in Junior High, and parents aren't invited any more, sigh).

Next week I'll probably have enough red tomatoes for another batch of salsa. Maybe there will be one more batch of dill pickles... and some zucchini loaf -- or zucchini brownies? Oh, the possibilities are endless! Especially since there are three more zucchinis on my counter. Do you have any special zucchini recipes to share??

It's been another abundant garden year; thank you, God! There's more work cut out for me, but I don't mind... it will be lovely to taste summer's goodness in mid-winter!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

St. Vincent de Paul and the mystery of the missing radios

Yesterday was the "heavenly birthday" of one of my favourite saints, St. Vincent de Paul. What's not to love about a guy who was captured by pirates and lived to tell the tale? He also lived to the ripe old age of 79, wrote thousands of letters, looked after the poor of Paris, and started numerous schools and orphanages during and after the thirty year's war in France. Legend has it that he subbed in for a galley slave (you remember, the guys chained to the oars in movies like Ben Hur?) so he could go home and visit his family for a few days. He's also the man responsible for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, with which I volunteer every Thursday that I'm able.

Last night there was a special gathering of volunteers to celebrate the feast day of St. Vincent, and I was "commissioned" to continue in my work in the Clothing Room, after having worked there for at least four years. I've lost track of how long I've been sorting clothes and chatting with our clients, but it has been an education for middle-class me. The most important thing I've learned is something that the Archbishop touched on in his sermon last night -- that people need to be seen, recognized and appreciated for who they are. And when we take time to see, recognize and appreciate the poor, a small but priceless bond is formed that is hard to explain unless you've experienced it. All I can say is that the poor I meet at the Clothing Room have given me far more than I've ever given them.

I appreciate my time at the Clothing Room because it is full of humour and camaraderie. Whether it's the volunteers I'm working with, or the groups of homeless guys who bring their friends to visit, there's a lot of hope and joy even as people are going through hard times. We all do what we can to help each other, whether it's handing out dry socks or a few words of encouragement... or puzzling over the case of the missing radio.

Last week at the Clothing Room, I went to turn on our background music, and the radio wasn't there. I had to chuckle. It's not the first time this has happened; our radios seem to go missing on a regular basis. Not that they are special, desirable or valuable -- we get them from SSVP's small appliance department so that we have music to listen to as we sort clothing. We usually pick the oldest or ugliest one that has been donated to make it less of a target.

What was funny was that this time, the radio was really ugly, it didn't have very good sound, and it had been attached to the counter it was sitting on with cable that had been nailed down, where it had stayed for over a month. It was such a sad-looking thing that I thought we had finally found one that no one could possibly be induced to steal.

I was wrong. How or when it vanished, or on whose watch, no one can guess. My writer's mind would love to tell the stories of the people/person who manages to lift a radio in the middle of room full of "free shoppers." Do they create a diversion and sneak it away when we're otherwise involved? Do they need the radio, or are they just pulling one over on us? What do they do with the radio? Do they realize that we would give them one for free if they just asked? It would almost be interesting to install a little spy cam to track our radios, but really, they're not that important, just a curious mystery.

So, we asked Emile, who has been managing the Distribution Centre lately, for another radio. Our new one is a cheap plastic clock radio, and this time, determined that it will stay put, our friend Emile not only nailed it down, but also affixed it to the counter with a LOT of cellophane packing tape. If someone wants to steal it now, they'll end up with a cheap plastic STICKY radio.

I suspect, however, that stickiness won't put off a thief. This month's Reader's Digest carries an article about shoplifters, and about how many of them have a disorder which is much like an addiction. They become addicted to the adrenaline rush of stealing -- a common characteristic among people with the impulse control disorder known as kleptomania. So whoever gets our latest radio will get a real rush through foiling wire, nails, tape, a bunch of busy volunteers, and Emile. I wonder how long until this radio disappears? Not that it matters. What matters is that the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is alive and well, and is sharing donated radios and other things, just as St. Vincent himself would have were he with us now.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

#80 of 100 Simple Suggestions... Pack trashless lunches

My workmates are very good at this suggestion. When we meet for lunch in the Amigos room, everyone has their little reusable containers, and the only waste is apple cores, orange peels and other food scraps, which are compostable in the City of Edmonton's massive composting system.

Having a reusable lunch bag is a wonderful, simple thing, too. Mine is already four years old -- from my Master Composter/Recycler course (my undying thanks to those who offered the course, which was wonderful, by the way). Unfortunately, the logo is wearing off from so much use.

This suggestion goes back to being mindful of how the every day things in our lives add up. By avoiding unnecessary packaging and reusing resources rather than tossing them out, we're easing the burden on our planet. Consumerism dictates that much in our society is made to be disposable, but if you think about it, nothing should be. We've reached the Ecozoic Era in human existence, and we're realizing that if we don't start reducing our consumption by reusing what's reusable and recycling the rest, we'll start to run out... and our earth has enough overflowing landfills already!

Packing a trashless lunch is a simple thing, and if everyone takes similar small steps to reduce waste, it will make a big difference in the long run.

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

Monday, September 26, 2011

Simple Suggestion #79/100... Give away kitchen utensils that haven't been used in a year

How many spaghetti servers, rolling pins and juicers does one household really need? And why hang onto extras that never get used? If you have a drawer that looks like this (and don't tell me that you don't!) maybe it's time to go through it and donate extra kitchen necessities to organizations that will give them to people that will use them, or help out a young person just setting up their first apartment.

Less clutter, more free space; less wasted resources, a happier planet!

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

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Moving the Planet... toward a cleaner environment

We were a little slow off the mark this morning, so my daughters and I missed the beginning of the Moving Planet rally on Whyte Avenue. Instead, we opted for riding straight to the Legislature Grounds to meet the procession as it arrived at noon. We heard the drums long before we saw the crowd...

To be honest, it wasn't a large crowd, but not bad for a first Moving Planet event in Edmonton. It will only get bigger as people realize that we need to get our governments to work with people and reduce carbon emissions to slow climate change.

Scientists have become aware that for most of our planet's existence, carbon levels have been around 270 parts per million, and last century they guesstimated that more than 350 ppm would be detrimental to the planet's ecosystems. So, the organization that planned today's worldwide rally, was named for the upper limits of non-destructive carbon levels in our atmosphere. Unfortunately, carbon levels have already reached 392 ppm, and we are starting to see some disastrous results in heatwaves, floods, droughts and bizarre weather in places that used to have moderate atmospheric conditions.

The rally was well organized. Peter Adamski acted as emcee, and there were various speakers and musicians.

Paula Kirman sang a folk song she composed, a lament for the environment that is undergoing so much change because of pollution...

Julian Brimelow spoke about some of those changes, and encouraged us to check out Of course, he was preaching to the converted...

And what would a rally be without the Raging Grannies adding their unique musical perspective?

Or a mascot? (A polar bear on a unicycle is brilliant, if you ask me.)

Invitations were sent to civic leaders, MLAs and MPs, but only Linda Duncan came to show support for 350's initiative. I was glad to see her -- she's my member of parliament, and I think she is a wise one. 

One thing's sure... the weather is getting weird in a lot of places on this earth, and so many floods, droughts, tornadoes and forest fires aren't just weird quirks of Mother Nature. I think it was David Parker, a past Green Party member, who read a brief poem which explained that Mother Nature follows biology, chemistry and physics, and we can't argue with Mother Nature... but we can live and act differently to make biology, chemisty and physics work in our favour. If that's the case, it's definitely past time to get the planet's peoples to reduce our use of fossil fuels and rely more on our own sources of energy.

My prediction? The Moving Planet movement will continue to grow, people will write letters to their politicians asking for climate action, and things will get better rather than worse. But we all have to do our parts!

Friday, September 23, 2011

#78 of 100 Simple Suggestions... Invest in "Micro-loan" organizations

If we really want to "live simply so others may simply live," it's always a good thing to share our abundance with those less fortunate. One of my favourite ways to do this is through a micro-loan organization. The idea of giving small loans with very low interest to entrepreneurs in the developing world is catching on. Even Oprah did a show about microfinance before she "retired."

The thing is that people who are poor don't exactly have any collateral to offer in exchange for a bank loan. Providing proof of steady employment and a verifiable credit history are pretty much impossible for a woman with a family in a small village in Africa, so how can she be expected to apply for traditional credit to start her own business? Just the interest rates alone may sink her. And interest rates applied to the developing world by our developed world are a huge part of the reason that our brothers and sisters in developing countries are so far behind us in their standard of living.

There are those who question charging interest at all... but after years and years of sending donations to people in the developing world, we are realizing that free money creates an unhealthy imbalance between donor and recipient. Giving a loan at an interest rate that is easily repaid, however, allows for both sides to feel good about their efforts. Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank in India, understood that people feel better when they repay a loan rather than receive charity. He received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his pioneering efforts in microfinance, and the award brought his work into the limelight -- after he'd been at it for 30 years! He began in 1976, lending small amounts of his own money at low interest to help rural people start their own businesses. 35 years later, there are many organizations that do the same. My girlfriend's sister started Shanti Microfinance, a successful organization in the UK that encourages socially conscious technology companies to invest in the small businesses of people in Gujarat province in India.

My own experience has been through In 2009, a friend gave my daughters each $25 for Christmas to invest through Kiva. We looked at the website and made loans to three different people -- a hairdresser in Senegal, a would-be shop owner in Togo, and a seamstress in Uganda.  By the following Christmas, the loans had been repaid, and the girls reinvested in people in Azerbaijan, Ghana, and Pakistan. What's really neat is that we can track the progress of our entrepreneurs online. If all goes well, we'll be repaid again by Christmas this year.

Here's our successful hairdresser friend.

What I really like is that we're not sending money away and never hearing whether our donation made a difference. We can see that it did, and that makes us want to continue our microfinance efforts.

If you're interested in giving an entrepreneur in the developing world a low-interest loan, there are many organizations with whom to work. Here are just a few: (Care -- "Fighting Poverty, Defending Dignity") (Women's World Banking -- "Investing in Women, Transforming Lives") ("Empower people around the world with a $25 loan")

I'll add more as I discover them, or if you know of others, let me know. In the meantime, happy lending!

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

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Simple Suggestion #77... Donate all books you will never read again

There are people who love to be surrounded by books, but as I live in a good sized city, when I want that, I can always go to a library. Even if I didn't have library access, I don't think I would hold onto the novels and textbooks I'll never look at again. They're not something that I want to keep around, simply because I don't like to dust more than I like to read. I also think that a book that's not my cup of tea might be something someone else will appreciate, so why not pass it on?

This morning I'll be at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul clothing room, where we have six shelves of books for adults and children. I've had some wonderful conversations with book savvy clients, and am always delighted to see people of all ages absorbed in something they find in that corner. Without donations from people willing to part with their books, that wouldn't happen.

There are plenty of libraries and used book stores, Reuse fairs and charities that accept used books. Today might be a good day to reassess our bookshelves and share the wealth!

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

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

#76/100... Simplify your furnishings

Do you have any lonely furniture in your house that doesn't get used? Is your home crying out for a little elbow room? Would you like to free up a little psychological space in your life? Have I got a deal for you!

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (where I volunteer on Thursdays) is always in need of donations of gently used furniture items for the many people we assist. More often than not, furniture that is donated to us has been spoken for long before it actually arrives.

So why not help out someone else as you free up your own energies by decluttering? Just think, you won't have to move that furniture around to clean the rug/floor anymore if it's been given to someone who needs it. I think it's time for me to pass along a couple of extra chairs that seem to be getting in the way in my laundry room. There are many agencies that rely on community assistance and gladly accept furniture and small appliances in good working order.

So, here's a link to the City of Edmonton Reuse and Recycle Directory where I live. It's pretty cool. Punch in the item you would like to donate, and find out who needs it. If you don't have a website like this in your area, check with a local church or community centre, as the folks usually know about people in need. It feels good to give when you know what you're giving is going directly to someone who needs it. And it feels simply great to have more space.

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

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Simple Suggestion #75... Listen to your heartbeat

In our noisy, busy world, this suggestion is a bit tricky. First, you need a quiet place. If you can't find one of those, you can always plug your ears and listen for the whoosh of blood flowing around your body, proving that you have a heart that's working. Putting your ears underwater in the bathtub usually works, too, but if you're reading this, the likelihood of you being in the bath is pretty much nil. Failing all of those ideas, if you can't hear your own heartbeat, slow down enough to pay attention to your breathing. Breathe deeply!

Life is a miracle, and unfortunately, we rarely stop long enough to appreciate our own. Hearing my own heart beating or being aware of my own breathing gives me a wee pause to think about the time when those things won't be happening any more, and an awareness of the inevitability of my death of helps me to keep life in perspective. I suspect that if human beings were more aware of how temporary we really are, we would do things quite differently. Rather than spending our time working to pay for stuff we don't actually need, we might do the things we really love, or be with the people who matter most to us. Rather than hoarding, we might share a little more. Rather than holding back our feelings, we might remember to say, "I love you," or "I forgive you," or "please forgive me." Rather than running around like chickens without heads, we might find a little more balance. When we start to think this way, each day is a gift to cherish and use to the fullest for good things.

So, being aware of our mortality isn't a bad thing at all. And listening to our heart beat, to our breathing, gives our body a little break, a moment to de-stress. As we listen, we might stretch a little, roll our heads around a bit, straighten our spines and lift our arms ceilingward as we take another deep breath to release body tension. Doing all these things, we can find our balance, appreciate the life in our limbs -- and remember the blessings in the life we are living.

In one of those lovely God-incidences that happens now and then, I just checked my email and found these words from Jean Vanier. I'll leave them with you:
In order to grow towards a deeper sense of identity and to open ourselves to others, we need times of quiet and reflection, times of inner peace and relaxation. If we are preoccupied with plans and a compulsive need to succeed and be appreciated, or if we are tired, tense and stressed, it is difficult to slow down and welcome and listen to reality and to others. Our internal motor runs too fast. It is impossible to be silent and stand back from what is happening in order to consider our motives and fears. The heart's silence is blotted out by the noise of the motor. Growth demands that we are fit, well rested, and relaxed both in body and spirit. So it is important to find a healthy rhythm of life, and to know how much rest we need and the types of relaxation that give life.

- Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, pp 153-154

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

Monday, September 19, 2011

A happy anniversary

On September 19, 2010, I followed my dear friend's suggestion and embarked on this writing adventure known as Simple Moodlings. So far, I've posted 285 moodlings, published 74 out of 100 Simple Suggestions, received about 80 comments, and had over 6,300 hits. A humble beginning, to be sure. Most of all, I'm evolving as a writer, and it's been lots of fun to share and make new friends this way.

I'd like to thank the members of the academy (well, my followers, official and unofficial), my family (for putting up with me being lost in thought at my computer at times), and all those who have encouraged and inspired me to keep on moodling.

And if you need any encouragement to start your own blog, look no further. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes to share ideas and life with near and faraway friends. I like to think of it as a love letter to the world, because life is amazing.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Short story #14... from a story teller

Canada Writes, formerly known as the CBC Literary Awards, is now open to receiving submissions, a fact of which I am reminded every morning as I wake up to a Canada Writes announcement on the radio. Hearing it makes me smile -- wryly.

By the fact that I write, I am a writer, but I'll admit that my dreams of being a known and celebrated member of the literati got a bit out of hand two years ago, when I decided to submit to the CBC Literary Awards. I picked a short story from my little writing club of two members, polished it until I thought it couldn't shine any more brightly, and sent it and a $20 submission fee to the competition. Then I waited for four long months, hoping and dreaming that my story would at least make the short list, if not first place.

Of course, it made neither, and when I went to read the winning stories, I quickly realized why. The fact is that I'm not cut out for literary awards because I don't make enough use of all those wonderful, poetic and literary devices like allusion and alliteration, metaphor, oxymoron and simile. I'm a plain Jane story teller, simply because I'm a plain Jane kind of person (though I do love it when I find well-used literary devices in other peoples' writing). I've tried writing like a prize-winning poet/writer, and it feels too phony, somehow. I could blame it on the fact that I come from a long line of practical people, but as I'm proud of all those people and their practicality, that would be wrong, too.

So I write as I write, and I'll never be published in a CBC/Canada Writes competition because I don't fit their mold. If I did fit their mold, I think the people most important to me would object, saying, "Stop being so hoity-toity!" So, sorry, Canada Writes, but I'm not writing for you again.

In case you're curious about my submission to the contest, here it is. A simple story, told by a story teller who happens to write.

Death Comes to George Bishop -- Short Story #14

When the buzzer went, he didn’t startle as he had expected he would. “Come on up,” he told the intercom. Making certain the coffeemaker was on, he left the kitchen and shambled around the corner to greet his guest, pausing a moment at the full-length mirror to fix his comb-over and smooth the white bushy brows above his blue eyes. He picked a few pieces of lint off the sleeve of his new Arnie Palmer cardigan and nodded at the casual but presentable gentleman gazing back at him. No point in rushing things.
When he looked through the peephole in his apartment door, he was surprised. He had always thought that Death would be black-cowled and faceless like the grim reaper, with a long robe and bony fingers. But this? Death was not supposed to look like this.
He opened the door and the young red-head extended her hand. “Mr. Bishop? My name is Deidre O’Neill. I hope I’m not late. Parking was tricky.”
George nodded and shook her hand firmly, noting that her fingers were warm and strong. He stepped back and gestured that she should come in. At least she was all clothed in black, he thought. When he took her overcoat, however, she was wearing a deep green, leafy, lively-looking dress. Not like Death at all.
He led her into the living room. Ms. O’Neill set down her briefcase, pulled her long curly hair over one shoulder, and looked at the sofa. “Alright if I sit there?” she asked.
“Certainly. Would you care for coffee?”
“Please, just black,” she replied, opening her slim briefcase and rifling through a pile of folders without looking up.
“Black coffee, coming right up,” George said, smiling. Of course Death would take her coffee bitter black.
He was amazed at how steady his hands were as he filled the mugs. Should he have his last cup of coffee with cream and sugar? No, he always took just cream. Why change so late in the game?
Setting the mugs on the coffee table, George returned to the kitchen for plates, forks and a sliced coffee cake he had purchased at the German bakery on the way home from the Senior’s Centre. He figured he could allow for streusel decadence on his last night on earth.
Ms. O’Neill declined the cake. “If I ate all the desserts I’m offered in my profession, I would be twice my size,” she smiled, “though it does look delicious.”
George settled into his armchair with a piece of streusel. He ought to be trembling when facing Death, but then he hadn’t expected her to be so pretty. He began to wonder exactly how she would take his life. Wave her hand and bring on a massive heart attack? Lethal needles? A hidden handgun in her briefcase? He hoped it wouldn’t be messy.
Ms. O’Neill peered through a pair of ebony horn-rimmed glasses that accented her green eyes, opening a file folder on the coffee table in front of her. “Mr. Bishop—”
“George, please call me George.” He was surprised that she had spoken so formally.
She smiled, and he realized that he liked her smile. “Alright, George, if you will call me Deidre,” she said.
“Certainly, it’s close enough.” Perhaps Deidre is Death in another language, he thought.
            “Close enough to what?” Deidre seemed confused, and George realized he had spoken rather cryptically, unless Death Incarnate could read his mind. Thus far, there was no reason to believe that to be the case.
            “Never mind, I’m sorry. Please, go ahead, Deidre,” he said.
            “Mr. Bishop—George, let’s begin at the beginning. How did you hear about our services?”
            It was George’s turn to be confused. “You called me,” he said, “didn’t you?”
            A week had passed since the 3 a.m. call. There was nothing wrong with his hearing, and the ringing phone jangled George awake. Heart pounding, he stumbled from his bed to the kitchen in two rings, lifted the receiver to his ear and heard a raspy voice say, “George Bishop?”
            “Yes?” George gasped, slightly out of breath.
“This is Death calling. George, do you hear me?”
            “My hearing is too good,” George replied, feeling suddenly pale.
            “George, you’ve lived how long now?”
            “Eighty-six years.”
            “That’s a long time, George. Aren’t you tired of life yet?”
            “Not tired of life, just tired,” George replied, immediately wishing that he had chosen his words differently; had said, No, No, I’m not tired at all!
            “Well, George, it’s time for a rest. George?”
            “Don’t you think it’s time for a rest?”
            George didn’t know what to say. The nails-on-a-blackboard voice completely unnerved him. It was exactly as George would have expected Death to sound. But why would Death phone at three in the morning, for crying out loud? Why wouldn’t Death just happen? Suddenly angry, George was about to accuse his caller of playing a stupid prank, but the voice spoke first.
            “George, listen to me. I’m coming to you, one week from tonight, seven-thirty. Be ready.”
            The tone was so malevolent that George took an involuntary step backward and smashed his ankle bone hard against the corner of the stove. Dropping the phone, he grabbed his ankle, hopping on one foot with surprising vigor and cursing with even more. He reached for the light switch and sat down on a kitchen chair to check the already purple bruise. Spotting the phone receiver dangling on the end of its cord, he swore again and grabbed for it.
“That’s enough! Who the hell is this?!” he shouted, but the line was dead.
The caller had not only disconnected; the phone simply would not work. For the next two days, George had to limp next door to Mrs. Yamitski’s place to make calls. He tried not to do it too often, as Mrs. Yamitski was a widow who asked a fix-it favour every time she saw George, and she kept her television turned up so that it was nearly impossible for him to hear the person he was trying to call.
It was the dead phone line that somehow convinced George that Death could be coming for him. And who could he tell? Who would believe him? He was a bachelor with few connections. His sister’s family thought him rather eccentric, and he didn’t want to add to that impression. Pete, Adam and Mike at the cribbage tables in the Senior’s Centre would make jokes about dementia. His doctor would make George repeat odd words and do that silly clock drawing test for the third time in the last six months.
In the end, George could have replaced the spiral phone cord himself and saved the repairman a visit. Why hadn’t he thought of it? The fact that his 3 a.m. phone fumble had shorted the line should have set his mind at ease, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that perhaps the whole occurrence was one of those supernatural experiences like on Ripley’s Believe It or Not, one of his favourite TV programs.
George wasn’t home much during the week following the call from Death. If Death was coming, there was just too much to do in preparation. George visited his lawyer to update his will. He invited himself over to his sister’s house for supper. He cleared out closets and cupboards and took things to the Salvation Army bin. If he walked past a church that happened to be open, he went and sat in the back pew for a few minutes. He’d never been a church-goer, but he figured he might as well spend some time in God’s presence just to get used to it. And he played a few extra card games with his buddies, finding little ways to say goodbye without being too obvious.
            Now his visitor had shown up at 7:30 on the dot, but George was finding it hard to believe that she was Death. Sitting in his armchair eating delicious streusel cake—and wishing he had tried it much sooner in life—he was somewhat befuddled by the attractive young woman, puzzling over why she didn’t sound like the voice on the telephone. Ahh, but perhaps Death was a corporation these days, like any other business, with more associates than a fellow could shake a stick at.
            “We called you?” Deidre was saying. “Yes, it’s possible that you were contacted by one of our representatives. Did you receive any follow-up information by mail?”
            Follow up information? What would that be? Would he be allowed to choose how he was going to die? George had always wanted to die in his sleep, with a smile on his face. That was how his father went, and it seemed like the best way to go.
            “Is this not a good time to be discussing your options, Mr. Bishop? You appear to be a little distracted.”
            George suddenly realized that he had missed much of what Deidre had been saying. “No, no, now is fine, Ms. O’Neill. Please continue.” Perhaps it was better not to be on a first-name basis with Death.
            Ms. O’Neill had laid out some restful-looking brochures about funeral homes, cremation services and burial plots. George leaned forward to look, amazed that she would be so considerate as to help him make his final arrangements. How had he forgotten something so important?
            “We can take care of every detail, George,” Ms. O’Neill was saying. “All your loved ones will have to do is let us know that you have passed on, and your last wishes will be fulfilled.” She led George through the details of funeral service planning, the selection of his casket, the purchase of a burial plot, and the calculation of fees, all in the space of a pot of coffee and three pieces of heavenly streusel cake—which George ate.
            “I didn’t realize Death was such a big business,” he said, as he shuffled toward his desk to find his cheque book. “May I post-date the cheque?”
            “Certainly, if that’s easier,” Ms. O’Neill replied with a smile, sipping the last of her coffee.
            “And how am I to die?” George asked. “Do I get to choose?”
            “Well, now, George, not many of us would want to do that,” Ms. O’Neill said, her smile vanishing. “If you are feeling depressed or having suicidal thoughts, I can recommend some wonderful doctors and therapists, or have homecare pay you a call.”
            “No, no, of course not,” George said, chuckling to reassure her. “I’d really like to live as long as I can. I was hoping we could negotiate when you came.”
            Ms. O’Neill laughed uncertainly. “Well, George, I may be a good funeral consultant, but when it comes to the moment of death’s actual arrival, I’m afraid I don’t have much say. I’m guessing you’re pretty healthy and I’m hoping you have your will in order. So, now that we’ve taken care of these other details, you’re finished with me.” She handed George a slim folder and slipped his file into her briefcase, snapping it shut.
            “I’m finished with you,” George repeated, blinking. “Finished?”
            “Finished,” Ms. O’Neill replied. “Did you think it would take longer than an evening?”
            “Well, I was hoping that we could come to an agreement to extend my life a few more years.”
“Not in my power, Mr. Bishop,” Ms. O’Neill laughed, seemingly having decided that George was teasing her. She got up from the sofa and he followed her to the hallway, where he helped her into her coat, marveling that he could have imagined that this fine young woman might do him in.
            “Thank you, George, for your confidence in Golden Shores Funeral Consulting. If you know of anyone else who might be interested in meeting with me, please feel free to pass on my business card. And you’ll want to give one to your family so they’ll know who to call when the time comes.” Ms. O’Neill handed him several cards, shook his hand once more, and went out, flashing one more smile and closing the door behind her.
            George stood there, looking at Ms. O’Neill’s business cards. What a coincidence that she should come this evening. He couldn’t remember having engaged her services, but perhaps the lawyer had put her on his case. George laughed aloud. It would have been child’s play for a crank caller to pick his name out of the phone book, but whoever it was, he had unwittingly done George a lot of good. His apartment was emptied of excess things, he had spent a little more time with friends and family, his will was up to date, and his funeral planned.
            Slipping the business cards into his wallet, George decided he would take them to his next card game with the boys and tell them all about his meeting with Death. They’d get a charge out of his overactive imagination, and perhaps they’d call the charming Ms. O’Neill to plan their own funerals. Suddenly, the foolish wisdom of his behavior over the past week made George guffaw. The echo of the sound brought on a belly laugh that went on and on, until tears were rolling down his cheeks and he could barely breathe. He hadn’t laughed so hard in years. 
Wiping his eyes, George put away the coffee cake and washed the dishes, emitting a chuckle now and then. He sat in his armchair to watch a rerun of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, followed by the national news, and went to bed at his usual time.

During the funeral eulogy four days later, his nephew told how George Bishop had followed in his father’s footsteps, dying in his sleep—with a smile on his face.

Friday, September 16, 2011

#74... Avoid collecting things

A few weeks ago, my friend had a garage sale. Not only was she selling her own items, but she also had several boxes of Norman Rockwell collector plates from The Bradford Exchange that belonged to the home's previous owner. Mrs. Previous Owner had moved on, but my friend somehow got stuck with the Rockwell collection, and it certainly didn't sell for the original price. It didn't sell, period.

Sometimes I think human beings have a hidden magpie gene somewhere in our chromosomes that makes us want to collect and surround ourselves with trinkets. My own home has enough trinkets to stock a store, but a lot of them have been given to us, and we've managed to avoid investing in The Bradford Exchange's "timely treasures."

The thing about starting a collection of any sort is that everyone's tastes are different, so all those plates Mrs. Previous Owner bought held no appeal for her children -- or anyone else. And my friends at the St. Vincent de Paul Distribution Centre tell me that most young people these days don't want to inherit china or real silverware that needs to be polished. Marie and Marlene would know -- they unpack all the donations of household items that no one wants anymore. Including Rockwell plates, I'm guessing.

Tastes and trends change, so it seems that it's better not to collect stuff at all, unless it's useful. What I would like to know is how The Bradford Exchange can be so convinced of the value of its "I Love Lucy" collector's items when it mass produces them and markets them to a wide baby boomer audience -- can it guarantee that my great-grandchildren will be watching Lucy reruns when they're my age? Is there a conspiracy to keep Lucille Ball current forever? Somehow, I can't buy into that one!

So rather than having a "collection," why not be ecclectic? It's much better to surround ourselves with USEFUL things that mean something to us than to buy what The Bradford tells us is beautiful and of lasting value as an investment. Our home is definitely ecclectic, bucking the trend that everything must match. Most things are useful, but not all. Mrs. Previous Owner here had a collection of Dutch Delft plates hanging around the top of her kitchen walls, but I have little things that have been given to me -- an Aids Angel from Africa, a wheat weaving, a clock, a crucifix and a few other hangable items to fill those hooks. They're definitely not a matching set, but they mean something to me, and perhaps someday, they will mean something to someone else. But if not, no sweat. I like them, and I didn't buy any of them from The Bradford Exchange.

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

Thursday, September 15, 2011

#73 of 100 Simple Suggestions... Be grateful

A friend of mine used to talk a lot about how we can't create our own happiness, force someone to be our friend, or make a flower grow. Yet we are happy, we have friends, and there are flowers. My friend helped me to realize that there is no such thing as a self-made person. We don't run our lives the way we like to think we do. The fact that the universe, our world and we exist at all is a cosmic gift beyond our limited understanding.

So even though I've said it before, I'll say it again: No matter our belief system, being grateful is necessary because it keeps us from taking everything for granted. Appreciation keeps us down-to-earth and helps us to value the enough that we already have. And hopefully, that means that we leave enough for our brothers and sisters who aren't so fortunate as we.

So today I'm grateful to be here at home, recuperating from a head cold, even though I'd rather be at the Clothing Room as I usually am on a Thursday, chatting with my mom, sorting clothes, and kibbitzing with the homeless friends who visit. But it's only a head cold, and for that, I'm grateful. There's always next week.

For what are you grateful today?

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

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

#72/100 Simple Suggestions... Recognize your true riches

I don't know about you, but my true riches aren't in any bank.

One of them kisses me every morning and every evening -- and other times in between.

Three more sleep in the beds in my house -- and complain about my cooking sometimes.

One of them flies around the living room -- and eats my houseplants when I'm not paying attention.

Several of them live within a few blocks or miles from me; a lot of them, quite a bit further away.

One has been with me since the first day of Grade One.

Another seems to have ESP, often sending me an email just as I'm thinking I should send him one.

A couple of them take me for walks in my neighbourhood.

Others laugh with me at the lunch room at L'Arche, or walk the hallways to pay me a visit.

One of them lets me visit her on quiet Tuesday afternoons.

Another brings me a big smile and maybe even a hug when he visits the Clothing Room for new socks or underwear.

I pass the sign of peace to some of them at church on Sunday mornings.

Others help me to make beautiful music.

A lot of them are in photo albums and diaries.

A very wise man once said, "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt 6:21)."

Where are your true riches?

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

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

In 23 hours or so...

I don't usually post two moodlings in a day, but an interesting piece of information just came to me from a Voluntary Simplicity friend. It seems that on September 14th (tomorrow, as I'm writing this on the 13th), starting at 7 p.m. in my time zone (MST), a reality internet video stream about climate change is coming to a computer near you, put together by the same people who are working on Move the Planet on September 24th (remember, the alternate transportation events designed to tell our governments we want action to reduce carbon emissions?) Here's a little blurb about tomorrow's internet event.

I'm not an Al Gore fan, but I do believe that it's time something is done to reduce carbon emissions, as we're already past the 350 ppm, and we're seeing too much climate instability in too many places. I keep thinking about Slave Lake going from fire to flood within a month. I wonder if someone from up there will appear on 24 Hours of Reality?

And in case you haven't heard about Move the Planet, you can check it out here. I'm looking forward to it!

Pears, anyone?

One of the features that sold me on my dream home is two pear trees. The wonderful people who were the original owners were a gardener and a grafter. Years ago, John Makar planted two young apple trees and somehow got some pear grafts for them, and every year at this time we bless him for them. (I also bless his wife Ann for the wonderful perennials in our yard).

On Saturday morning, I went outside with my morning coffee, and as I sat in a patio chair, a pear fell to the ground at my feet. So I got up, picked a pear from the tree, and bit into it. As my teeth broke the skin and sank into the soft flesh, a sweet and delicious juiciness trickled into my mouth, and I knew it was Pear Day. I spent two hours up on the garage roof, picking enough pears to fill a large rubbermaid bin while our girls picked from the ground or the tree. After lunch, I got up on a ladder and picked another dozen pails full. Lee pruned the section of the tree that we didn't do last year, and we finished clean up by seven p.m. It was a busy day (that included 5 loads of laundry hung out to dry).

Here's Julia's handy pear picking pulley set up.

Lee, pruning the tree. (Hey, I'm a poet!)

View from the step ladder.

I had to get up on the top step, eventually.

Here's most of the harvest, though there are still some we didn't reach.

So, if you're interested in getting some delicious, juicy little pears this week, there's a bin full sitting on my front step. Bring a pail, and help yourself! The other bin went to The Edmonton Food Bank this morning -- 31 kilos, or 65 lbs worth. We still have that much again, so as for me, it's time to dehydrate pears, and make pear pies, pear kuchen, pear muffins... and anything else pear that I can come up with. If you have a good pear recipe, send it my way!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Simple Suggestion #71... Give up TV for a week

One of the big complaints of our time is that there aren't enough hours in a day. So here's a good suggestion for recovering a few hours: try unplugging the TV for a week. We all know that active participation in life is healthier than passive observation, and honestly, it's not that important to keep up with who's who on the soap operas and sitcoms. World news will go on with or without us, and we may well go to bed happier, worry less, and sleep better if we don't watch The National every night.

It might feel a bit weird, but if we abandon our usual couch potato time -- for a walk around the neighbourhood (I was surprised last week at the renovations and new homes that have gone up in my neighbourhood during the summer), or a trip to the library, or a game with the kids, or a chance to listen to some new music and flip through some unread magazines -- maybe we'll find that we have more time than we knew!

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

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten years ago...

... my husband woke me to kiss me goodbye, and mentioned that a plane had just hit the World Trade Towers in New York. I immediately thought Cessna and got up to make coffee. As we said our morning prayers at the back door, the second plane hit. When I turned on the radio five minutes later, it became clear that the planes were not Cessnas and I wondered what kind of world our children would inherit.

We walked my daughter to school, then I took my two kindergarteners (I looked after a friend's son at the time) and toddler to the local IGA for a few groceries. As we walked in the door, I saw people standing stock still in the aisles, listening to radio news blaring from the PA system, announcing that the first tower had just fallen. A thousand questions from the kindergarteners. We walked home with our groceries, I set the kids up with a game, and went to the basement to turn on the TV...

Two days later as I was reading a library book to my youngest about "what love is," I burst into tears. Julia went to get me some tissues, too little to understand why Mommy was crying.

Ten years and two wars later, what can we do but work for the equality that doesn't breed terrorism and pray for peace? I still love St. Francis' prayer the best:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Man Who Does the News

It's a busy day. Doctor's appointments, watering plants for people who are away in this heat, and I have three yards of compost to move off my front boulevard. So Simple Suggestions will wait, and I'll leave you with a little song to entertain you. It was written and sung by one of my favourite folk singers -- I was a regular groupie of Joan MacIsaac's in my teens. Of course, when she sang this song, she mentioned Harvey Kirck and Knowlton Nash (remember him?) and I always wondered who her favourite newscaster was, but never got to ask her, or if I did, I don't remember her answer.

Have a good weekend! I'll be shovelling, shovelling, shovelling... and maybe singing The Man Who Does the News to myself...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

#70 of 100 Simple Suggestions... Have a picnic

Here's a great suggestion for today in Edmonton, with a temperature to reach 31 degrees C (88F). Pack up some sandwiches and a salad, find a park, and have a picnic for supper. We won't have warm weather for much longer, and it's not a good idea to heat up the house even more by cooking, so why not enjoy the great outdoors? I made some wonderful Tabouleh last night from garden stuff, and I'll pick up a loaf of French Bread and some cheese, and drag my daughters (and their homework) to a river valley picnic table, I think. Or maybe we'll just sit at the table under our pear tree and hope the pears don't fall on us (they're not quite ripe yet...)

In the meantime, have a great day, and remember, life can be a picnic if you look on the sunny side!

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

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

#69... Make something new from something old

My grandmas were great at this... Grandma Dorothea had nine kids, and Grandma Eugenia, twelve, and they were raising their families through the depression and the wars. So they did a lot of "re-creation" in the literal sense of the word -- repairing clothes, darning holes, renovating hand-me-downs, fixing toys and furniture, and making quilts. I still have my graduation quilt from Grandma Eugenia (she made one for each of her 77 grandchildren!), though it's getting a little tattered. Grandma made it from patches of my cousins' outgrown dresses. I'll never forget how when one of those cousins came to visit, we sat on my bed and she identified bits and pieces of dresses she and her sisters had worn.

I also have a couple of quilts from my grandma's daughter, my mom. Here's a picture of grandma's quilt, right, and a purplish one my mom made me from scraps of a maternity dress I once sewed for myself.

One of my favourite children's story books when my girls were little was a book by Canadian Illustrator Phoebe Gilman, called Something from Nothing. I'm sure it's still findable at most libraries, as it should almost be a classic by now. It's the story of a little boy whose tailor grandfather makes him a coat, then a vest, then a tie, then a handkerchief, then a button -- all by restyling the original coat. And with every adjustment, a little mouse family who lives under the tailor's floorboard uses more and more of the scraps to furnish their home and clothe their little mice.

Would that we were all so resourceful! I know what my next renewal job will be: repairing the patches that have worn out on my precious quilts... In the meantime, why don't you tell me about a "redo" or "recycle" success of your own?

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

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Simple Suggestion #68... Lie on the grass and watch the clouds

Watching clouds has been one of my favourite simple things to do ever since I was in Grade Eleven. One of the books in the Catholic school Religion 25 curriculum at that time was Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah (1977, Dell, ISBN 0-440-34319-4) by Richard Bach, the guy who wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull. The book is still one of my favourites because it contains the "Messiah's Handbook: Reminders for the Advanced Soul," which is a series of wonderful quotations like, "Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they're yours," and "The bond that links you and your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life. Rarely do family members grow up under the same roof." And dozens of others. But I digress.

At one point in the book (p. 116) the two main characters are practicing vaporizing clouds. Richard challenges Don to vaporize the biggest, meanest looking cloud, and they have a five second discussion about it, and by the time their discussion is over, Don has completely vaporized the cloud. Richard looks up, sees that it's gone, and is miffed. Funny. So that summer I spent a lot of time vaporizing clouds. Just little ones, mind you. I'd pick a wisp on the edge of a fluffy white cumulus, and just watch it dissipate from the power of my concentration on it.

No, I don't really imagine that I can vaporize clouds, but it's a nice thing to try to do on a warm summer's day when nothing is pressing. We're so used to being busy, doing so much, running so hard. How often do we give ourselves permission to do nothing? Not often enough.

So even if you don't feel like watching clouds, give yourself a little break today, permission to do nothing for a little while. You deserve it! And if you've never read Richard Bach's book, I'd recommend it. Here's one more quotation: "You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it come true. You may have to work for it, however."

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

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labour that leads to a good kind of tired

I was going to sing you another Joan MacIsaac song for Labour Day weekend, but I've run out of time and energy. Yesterday, we went for a three hour bike ride, stopping at a splash park and at DQ for a treatzza pizza so we'd have the energy to get home for a family movie night (Rio, which was cute). And today, I decided it was finally time to do something about compost.

My lovely "Happy Birthday" composter that Lee built somehow managed to become a home for wasps this summer. The exterminator guy had to come twice in August, and after that, the month just got busy with back to school and my mom's big birthday party and work and putting garden stuff away. So today I had a big job ahead of me. Took all afternoon to empty out the composter and relevel it so there would be no wasp hidey holes. Then I had to put everything back where it belonged. But I am so happy to have it in proper working order once again, as there's a lot of stuff to be composted in the next few weeks.

So here's my happy three bin system:

Bin #1 is full of green stuff and kitchen scraps that are compostable,
layered with leaves and a bit of the stuff in Bin #2.

Bin #2 has some partially composted stuff that was in bin #1.
It just needs a little time to get more composty.

Bin #3 is my favourite. It has sifted compost from bin #2 plus 
some well composted stuff that was in the bottom of bin #1.

In a couple of weeks, when most of the harvest is in, I'll be spreading
 this wonderful stuff all over the garden to make the soil happy for next year.

In addition to taking care of all that, I dug some carrots and made some pickles. My wonderful husband made an awesome supper out of veggies and leftovers (he can be very creative) and I took a break and enjoyed the evening on the back step with Chloe, our neighbourhood cat. She's a sweet furry calico girl who loves to cuddle.

All in all, I'd say it was a perfect Labour Day,
with a good, satisfying kind of tired to take me to bed.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

And the number one reason to have a garden is...

Yup, here it is, one of my favourite things on earth (doesn't take a lot to please me)! A cheese sandwich with homegrown tomatoes and cucumbers. A little mayo, some salt and pepper, and mmmm  mmmmm!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Go, Penelope, go!

You've gotta love it when a child takes the lead. I know, I know, the Environmental Defense League is probably run by adults, but they and Penelope are making an important point.

It's future generations who will have to deal with climate change more than our present, slow-moving politicians. So why wait for them to make changes? If we don't get something like "pant suit serious" and let them know the environment is a critical issue, they'll miss the boat, and we'll all be in trouble.

When I first watched this video, my kids stood behind me and said, "YAY!" I hope Penelope and her like-minded friends go far in all they do! I'll do all I can to support them from here...

Friday, September 2, 2011

#67/100 Simple Suggestions... Attend a local High School play

The excitement is building at school these days. It's been announced that Grades 10 to 12 will perform Cabaret at the beginning of December, and my daughter and her friends and classmates are auditioning next week. The school has done very well with its drama and musical productions over the years, winning many "Cappies" awards (the equivalent of Tonys for local High School productions), so there's a lot of buzz about this year's choice, too. Cabaret is a very challenging musical, no question.

I don't know about you, but I love High School plays. I got to participate in three when I was in High School, Oklahoma! being the only one of which you might have heard. The camaraderie of the cast and crew, the fun of opening night, the bloopers (like when the lead guy fell off the edge of the stage) and the cast parties -- all were a very exciting and enjoyable experience for me as a teen. And now, sitting in the audience, I still feel the excitement and enthusiasm of the young performers. It more than makes up for the moments when... well, you wish you had more enamel on your teeth. And if you know the kids personally, and can share a moment when something really goes right, it's more than worth admission! School performances rarely cost more than an evening at the movies, and we've all seen our share of duds at Cineplex or Famous Players. I'd prefer to dish out for live student theatre anyday!

Especially Crazy for You in 2010. What a hoot!

At the moment, it's a bit early to get tickets for school shows given that the kids just returned to classes yesterday, but it's never too early for me to suggest attendance at performances and encouragement of our school drama/dance/music programs through supporting them with our presence. So here's the challenge: sometime during this school year, attend a non-professional, preferably school-offered production, and cheer on some local talent. If you haven't got a High School performer of your own, adopt a friend or neighbour's -- take in someone else's kid's show. You'll be supporting community entertainment, and you never know when you might run into the next... (insert name of famous talented teen here)!

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

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Two little cuties on the first day of Grade One

Cutie number 1: She knows what she's about that first morning of Grade One, as she's had two brothers in school ahead of her. She's dressed in her snazzy red and white polka-dotted pant suit, with a Latin American woven bag given to her by Great Aunt Martha, and a new orange lunch box with a picture of horses on the front and her name in marker on the side. Her school life is spent at Stewart School, Plenty Elementary School, and NWCHS, or North West Central High School, which draws kids from all over the area, and the next town. She becomes a letter writer when a classmate moves away in Grade Four. She's a farm girl who knows about animals, books, fall suppers and snow days. She goes away to university to train as a Registered Nurse, and spends her summers working at Camp Easter Seal. She leaves her home province to live in exotic places like Vancouver, British Columbia, London, England, Zaragoza, Spain, and Turner Valley, Alberta, and ends up a road runner nurse offering palliative care to people in their homes on Vancouver Island. She dabbles in music, teaching English to immigrants, writing, and quilting, and eventually finds herself married to a wonderful, funny and artistic man in a lovely home with two cats.

Cutie number 2: As the eldest in her family, she's quite shy and a little bit nervous that first morning of Grade One, especially when she sees how upset some of the other kids are. She's dressed in a purple fortrel pantsuit with white collar (made by her mom) and a stylish coat, and carrying a fishie bookbag purchased especially for the occasion to hold her new Crayolas (oh bliss, unbroken crayons!), but no lunchbox because she's a town kid and eats at home. Her school life is spent at Stewart School, then St. Kevin and Austin O'Brien High School in Edmonton. When she moves to the city, she writes letters to classmates left behind, one of whom replies. She's a city kid with a rural heart who learns all about books and church supplies. She goes to university to train as a teacher, and spends her summers working at Camp He Ho Ha and group homes for people with disabilities. She leaves her home province to travel Europe and North America with a performing troupe, and ends up teaching in the exotic locale of Ponoka, Alberta. She dabbles in gardening, music, volunteering, and writing, and eventually finds herself married to a wonderful, funny, and handy man, in a lovely home with three daughters.

The pictures of these two cuties were taken the same morning, about ten kilometres apart. Here's a picture of them 30 years later, in dresses the colour of their first-day-of-Grade-One outfits:

Now they live 1,296 km from each other, but there is very little distance between their hearts. Who'd have guessed that would be the case on that first September first, so many years ago?

When little girls still had autograph books, cutie #1 wrote in mine:
There are silver ships
And gold ships,
But no ships
like friendships.
A million thanks, Cathy, for the gift of your friendship. Here's to another 40 years at least!