Saturday, March 12, 2011

Reach Out and Touch Someone

Recent world events have certainly dispelled the notion that Twitter and Facebook are a complete waste of time. Google has and continues to play a prominent role.

On the news they said that 80% of Japan's population is connected. Hopefully word will spread of this people finder tool from Google for those who have yet to contact their family and friends.

Of course I am thinking of the victims, but also of those who are there or are en route to aid the victims. For anyone who thinks the military are warmongering aggressors, think again.

Monday, February 28, 2011

An Anniversary to Celebrate or Forget?

This is a photo of me with my mother in 1961--fifty years ago!--on the sidewalk outside her father's stop in Kerrisdale, in Vancouver, the scene of some of my happiest memories. Not long after this was taken our relationship became very difficult to say the least. Some years we had no relationship at all. Mom knows where all my buttons are and pushes them frequently yet I find it nearly impossible to say no to her. Regardless of the many challenges over the years, I still love and admire my mother. Most of my best qualities are learned or inherited from my mother. It is absurd to think I might please her yet my attempts continue. The last sixteen months have been the most rewarding and hellish of our entire relationship.

One year ago my sudden decision to leave home and return to care for my mother a day earlier than planned was most fortuitous. 
I changed my Facebook status to indicate that I was leaving immediately and unexpectedly then started packing. Seconds after I posted, my daughter phoned to ask what was the matter; she had seen my status change! She cancelled her plans for her only day off in two weeks. She stayed with my mother until I arrived, over six hours later. It is only a four hour drive but I packed very, very slowly; I really did not want to give up that extra day at home. My impulse to be a dutiful daughter must have been divine intervention.

The next day Mom and I were talking when I parked her in the wheelchair, next to the sofa. She was too exhausted to transfer and refused assistance. I turned, took three steps, picked up my knitting and sat to face her. In those three steps my mother lost consciousness due to dehydration. My daughter later thanked me for saving her grandmother's life. The thought had not occurred to me but she was right. Had I left as planned, I would have arrived to find her dead in her empty home. My sister and her three daughters live with Mom but they were all out for the entire day.

Mom spent the next few days in hospital; I stayed with her. Once she knew she would be able to return home my mother cursed me for saving her life. Repeatedly. She lacked the energy to enjoy this past year and suffers from debilitating pain. When we speak on the phone all I hear about is the year of suffering. She wonders how much more she can tolerate. It makes my heart ache to know that she has suffered so much and to know that she "blames" me for denying her the peace and freedom from pain she so covets.

It finally dawned on me that this anniversary recreated a pattern from my past; I suffered with back pain for two decades. Then I was reminded of a book that changed my back and my life. The Cliff Notes: Emotional tension causes physical tension. 

Mine always attacks my lumbar spine. Listening to my mother complain about her terrible life--and accepting responsibility for it--gave me a week of sciatica. Once I made the connection my back pain began to ease. The mind is so powerful. 

I have decided that my lesson is to focus on remaining positive after seeing the results of a person who has chosen a lifetime of focusing on the negative. My mind feels clear and my body moves (more or less) freely again.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Time to bring out a few goodies for Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival. I keep to a very few traditions such as the twin "fortune" characters and Lai See, monetary gifts given in red envelopes. Red is an important colour signifying good fortune and happiness.

There are special red envelopes for specific occasions such as birthdays and weddings but many are generic. One must enclose money in an even number, eight being especially lucky but never, ever f-o-u-r, which sounds like the Chinese word for d-e-a-t-h. One must also not speak not so nice words during Chinese New Year celebrations, scold children (and presumably, husbands). As a general rule, lai see are given to younger unmarried family members.

Candy is important to start the new year off with a sweet taste in one's mouth. This year I have not been able to shop in Chinatown for a better selection but these will do: hard candy in red wrappers, chewy mango gummies, and lovely ginger candies.

In my not-entirely-Chinese corner are one large and two small gold ingots representing good fortune and wealth. There is also a small gold Maneki Neko (lucky) cat with its right paw raised, beckoning rather than waving as it is interpreted according to Western customs. A raised left paw is commonly seen in shops where it attracts customers (money). Sometimes the paw is battery operated to move the paw back and forth. Other cats have two raised paws.

I also have several strings of decorative firecrackers. Some believe that as the culture was based in agriculture, the noise of the firecrackers woke the dragon which then flew across the sky bringing the spring rains. The other theory is that the noise scared away the evil spirits and ny misfortune, making a fresh start for the New Year.

In any case, the main tradition I enjoy is that the food--and plenty of it--be prepared in advance so there is no work done in the first part of the New Year. My understanding is that this allows time for celebration rather than work as well as avoidance of any mishaps in the kitchen, setting a poor tone for the remainder of the year. And no cutting with knives or scissors, no haircuts or manicures or pedicures either! Cutting symbolizes severing relationships.

We also try to not interrupt the meal--more symbolism. The food is simple and very--you guessed it--symbolic. As there are only two of us, I will make fewer dishes, but I will be cooking all day on New Year's Eve. Noodles and fish are a must. Noodles should be long and uncut and you mustn't cut or bite them; slurping is good! They represent long life so you wouldn't want to cut them short. The Chinese word for fish sounds like the word for "profit" but you must never consume all of the fish. This represents abundance for the new year, that you will have more than you need.

Each day of the (traditionally two-week) long celebration is devoted to specific activities, mostly related to visiting certain family members. Normaly everyone goes home for Chinese New Year; it is the reason for the largest migration on the planet! Sadly, I will not be with my family members but between the telephone and internet we can all be in touch.

Happy Year of the Rabbit!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Very Disturbing News for Dog (and Animal) Lovers

This morning Vancouver radio station CKNW broke a truly horrific story about a preventable tragedy at Outdoor Adventures Whistler. They promote themselves as the largest dogsled operator in North America yet they now face criminal charges of animal cruelty after an employee was ordered to kill 100 of their dogs. The SPCA have previously investigated their treatment of their 200-300 dogs confined in small spaces on short chains.

Normally I prefer to live and let live no matter how much my viewpoint varies from anyone else's but when it comes to the maltreatment of animals I find it hard to stay off the soapbox.

Citing a downturn in business following the 2010 Olympics, the company made the decision to cull their Husky dogsled team. The dogs were shot or had their throats slit and were then thrown into a mass grave. Some of them were still alive. At least one dog was described as crawling out of the grave.

The story came to light when the employee ordered to kill and throw the dogs into the grave sought compensation for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. I don't doubt that his claim was legitimate but I hope to never be so desperately in need of employment that I would follow such orders.

I am not specifically calling for a boycott of such activities but hope to provide information for those seeking such adventures and suggest considering the treatment of animals in such activities. For this reason I am also ambivalent about zoos. Access to wild animals when I was young fostered my love of animals I would not have seen, heard and smelled myself anywhere but at the zoo. It made me aware of endangered and extinct species and what humans can do to aid in the preservation of the animals and their habitats.

Most cities offer appealing horse drawn carriage rides but I often see sadness--real or imagined--in the horses eyes and can't bring myself to hire them.

I am not a vegetarian but have raised poultry and understand that an animal destined for the table can be raised with respect and kindness, even in death. Some people I know do not even buy meat with bones in it. They are quite content remaining ignorant of the reality concerning the origin of their food. I believe it would be life changing for every meat eater to participate in the slaughter of a single animal. They might more fully understand why we gain our humanity in the way we treat animals.

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. ~ Roger Caras

You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it. Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace. ~ Dr. Albert Schweitzer - 1952 Nobel Peace Prize recipient

♥ It is man's sympathy with all creatures that first makes him truly a man.~ Dr. Albert Schweitzer - 1952 Nobel Peace Prize recipient

♥ Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened. ~ Anatole France

♥ Compassion for animals is intimately connected with goodness of character; and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man. ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. ~ George Orwell, Animal Farm

♥ There are too many people and too few human beings. ~ Robert Zend

♥ The squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest. ~ Henry David Thoreau

♥ Zoo: An excellent place to study the habits of human beings. ~ Evan Esar

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Purging, The Hypocrite & Purging the Hypocrite

We are still dealing with computer problems. The iMac repair will have to wait but it will soon be time for our next trip to the city. The Dell desktop is up and running faster than ever on Windows 7 and I'm transferring back data saved to the Acer netbook and backing it all up. Again. The Dell laptop could not connect to the internet wirelessly. The obvious solution was a hard connection. The open plan of the house meant I had to drill a hole through the loft floor in a difficult to reach location in my studio. Will I ever get to play in my studio again!?

Squeezing into the storage area under the eaves of the loft was less awkward than emptying it. Only a small part of my craft stash had been disemboweled yet the sight of so many boxes, bags and old suitcases spilling into my already messy studio was overwhelming. Surveying the spewed collection of my children's "special" clothes and toys, supplies for sewing, knitting, painting and other crafts looked filled me with shame. It's possible that I blushed.

Just the other day I scolded my mother for hoarding so much junk in her garage.

Will I ever use any of those Fisher Price toys and that Brio wooden train set for my grandchildren? Will I ever have grandchildren? (No pressure, kids.) Just how special can old clothes be? Exactly when will I have time to make all those projects?

In a previous post I lied about not making claimed to not make New Year's Resolutions but I realized that I do--just not on January 1st.

Every year after the Christmas decorations are put away I feel it's time to clean and organize the house before Chinese New Year, one of the old traditions. I've been mocked for being superstitious--by people who do spring cleaning. Chinese New Year is after all the Spring Festival.

I follow very few traditions, just the ones I like, but I use the house cleaning ritual as a motivational tool, to trick myself into setting a goal. I love it when my house is clean, tidy and organized but it never lasts, it is not natural for me. I am so easily distracted and am more of a starter than a finisher. ;-)

A challenge is always enjoyable and invigorating. Let's see what I can accomplish by February 3rd, the start of the Year of the Metal Rabbit.

The best way to succeed in life is to act on the advice we give to others. ~Author Unknown~

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Friend In Need is a Friend Indeed

We often host a birthday bash in November; some years it's a small group, other years we have a houseful. When we have numerous guests I remove our coats from the coat rack but it never occured to me to remove our shoes or boots. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

The only winter boots we buy are Sorel brand after being somewhat disatisfied with Kamik boots. There was nothing wrong with them but they did not keep our tootsies as warm as the more expensive Sorels. Both lines have changed a great deal since the year of the party in question so that may no longer be true but at the time it was very relevant.

In any case, Lionel had a brand new pair of Sorel boots. They had been worn twice before the party. We had at least three dozen people in attendance and it was wonderful evening with good friends. Or so we thought.

The next day Lionel wanted to wear his Sorels. They were nowhere to be found. We did find a worn and ratty pair of Kamik boots in their place. We were very annoyed to find that the expensive boots had been stolen but far worse, that a friend, someone we invited into our home, had stolen them.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

It Gets Better

There was a bit of nastiness, some rambling and a few drunk acceptance speeches at the 2011 Golden Globes. A few of my favourite speeches were by Chris Colfer and Jane Lynch for Glee, Claire Danes for Temple Grandin, Natalie Portman for Black Swan and Colin Firth for The King's Speech.
Although clearly stunned, Chris Colfer's Golden Globe acceptance speech (here on YouTube) was very eloquent. Here's the best part:

"Most importantly, to all the amazing kids that watch our show and the kids that our show celebrates, who are constantly told 'no' by the people in their environments, by bullies at school that they can't be who they are or have what they want because of who they are. Well, screw that, kids."

I hope that Colfer, Lynch, Glee and other similar programs will continue to raise awareness of tolerance, acceptance, understanding, The Trevor Project and It Gets Better Project.