Saturday, 31 October 2015

The 12 Days of Christmas at Our House

One baby screaming
Two dogs whining to go walking

Three sons playing Warhammer
Four weeks to finish the manuscript

Five o’clock alarm going off
Six kids in the house

Seven dinners to cook weekly
Eight loads of laundry

Nine piping students round the table
Ten tanks of gas a month

Eleven bosses needing attention
Twelve and time for bed.


This week's verse is Doctrine and Covenants 19:23 Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.

Peace is an elusive thing these days. There's war in the world, frenzy at work, and chaos at home. I crave one tiny, green corner where I can put my head down and sit in absolute stillness.

I once took a theology class at the U of T where we students were each given a copy of a psalm and told to go into a private portion of the classroom and read it, in whatever manner we wished, for about fifteen minutes. Just read it over and over, or meditate over one phrase of it, aloud or in silence, sitting or standing, whatever we preferred. I found myself dovening, rocking gently back and forth in rhythm with the words, and over one phrase in particular about there being no peace in the world. The room was filled with hushed murmurs, and you could almost feel the collective power of thought going on around me. After fifteen minutes of pondering this psalm, I had quiet tears rolling down my cheeks, and the thought came to me that if we could get the whole world to stop and dwell on that particular psalm for just a few minutes, it would bring peace to the world. The earth is made up of individuals, and if each stopped to really soak up that thought, that would be the end of strife, at least for a moment.

I used to sort of think it a bit useless for people to tuck themselves away in monasteries isolated from the rest of society and spend their time in meditation and prayer. I mean, there is so much need in the world, and wouldn't their efforts be better spent manning soup kitchens and distributing medical care...? Well, that class changed my perspective. Yes, there is a need for some people to do those things. But there is also an equally important need for a part of the population to generate thoughts of positivity and peace and send them out into the universe. There is something powerful, almost tangible about it. If we could direct that kind of power into the world, it would change things. That contribution has just as important a place as any other kind of service. And ultimately, I think prayer probably has a longer-lasting impact on the individual soul than a bowl of soup. Though, it can be argued, you can't think of things of the heart when your stomach is empty.

Can the collective yearning of an entire community of people cause a shift in the world at large? Can it batter at the doors of heaven and provoke God to action? Can thoughts occurring on one side of the world affect things happening on the other side of it? (Well, I suppose [she says wryly] nowadays it would all be on Twitter and launched into the ether for the whole world to access it, anyway!) Maybe that is how the Second Coming will happen -- we'll all watch it on YouTube, with live coverage on CNN.

I have re-read the entire book of psalms and hunted and hunted for that particular phrase over the years since that class, but I've never found it. Either my professor made it up, or it was such a different translation that I don't recognize it among King James's phraseology. I wish I could find it again.

Monday, 26 October 2015

A Family Reunion of Sorts

On Saturday we went to the 65th birthday celebration of my husband's cousin-once-removed. It was a lovely setting at a lake, the food was good, and the turnout was great. But here's an interesting thing -- her father's side of the family, of no relation to us whatsoever, immediately felt like our own family. People we had never met before drew us in and made us feel welcome, greeted us like old acquaintances, and swapped family stories. By the end we were hugging and exchanging email addresses and pledging to help each other find photos and information on I genuinely liked these total strangers, and I hope I see them again.

Sometimes in life you meet people quite by accident and find yourself enriched by the experience. Your sense of connectedness expands. You catch glimpses of yourself as part of a larger network, a family of more global scope. I tend to be solitary by nature, but now and then it's nice to feel part of that larger community.

Happy birthday, Bev!

Friday, 23 October 2015

Harvest is in!

I spent nine and a half hours on Thursday putting my garden to bed for the winter. My terrific daughter-in-law helped with some of the fiddly parts (like stacking tomato cages without losing patience -- it's like trying to put tight pants on an octopus) and my wonderful husband stood at the sink with me for hours washing and peeling carrots so I could slice, blanche, and freeze them. So now the garden is empty, the freezer is full, the house smells of drying apples, the bottles on the shelves gleam like jewels, and there's a deep sense of satisfaction. Another year done, another harvest in, and we get to eat again this winter. Aren't we lucky!

This time of year always makes me feel blessed with abundance. And my body feels about ninety.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Niqab Debate in Canada

In all this idiotic talk about whether or not Muslim women should be allowed to wear the Niqab at citizenship swearing-in ceremonies, I haven't heard anyone ask this question: Since women are legally allowed to go topless in Toronto, would they be allowed to go topless to their swearing-in ceremony? So let me get this straight -- they can't cover their faces but they can bare their breasts?

Does anyone else see anything wrong with this?

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Look what my son can do

My 17-year-old works for a pizza place now. He took a picture of one of his creations. I think he's can rightly be proud of it!

"By their fruits ye shall know them..."

The fruits of our labour:

Why is it that I can get 38 jars out of 1.5 bushels of apples, but only 18 jars out of 1 bushel of peaches?

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Verse for this week

Doctrine & Covenants 90:15 "And set in order the churches, and study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people."

I should have thought this through first...

My granddaughter's co-op nursery school is fundraising by holding a "trikeathon" and taking pledges. I took the pledge sheet to work with me, but I'm always shy about asking people outright for money. So I thought I'd up the ante a little by offering to avoid elevators and take the stairs for one day for every dollar that was donated. I guess my coworkers are a bit sadistic, because they gleefully donated $102. So now I can't use the elevators for 102 days. And my office is on the 5th floor. I was conflicted, welcoming the donations but feeling my knees already begin to protest. Ah well, it's in a good cause. Maybe I'll lose some weight for the holidays.

Of course, to add to the inner conflict, today's activities don't lend themselves toward losing weight---I'm bottling apple pie filling today. Northern Spy apples are the best, big as softballs and just the right tartness. The temperature is dropping outside, they're predicting snow (so much for my Cape gooseberries, which didn't ripen in time again), and inside the golden kitchen will be filled with the scent of cinnamon. Another perfect weekend!

And then there will be Monday...and all those stairs...

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Congratulations to my Friend Michael

I met my friend Michael Hornsby about thirty years ago (my goodness, that sounds like a long time) when we were both studying in Wales. He's an Irish Jewish Englishman, a professor of Celtic languages, lives in Germany, and teaches Welsh in Poland. You can't get more interesting than that! He has had a book come out this month, Revitalizing Minority Languages, a study of new speakers of Breton, Yiddish, and Lemko -- and that mixture alone tells you something about the breadth of his knowledge and the scope of his expertise! From the summary of the book, it appears it discusses how learners who are not raised speaking a language purposefully acquire it, and how these efforts are affecting the survival and promotion of languages that may otherwise be in danger of dwindling. Michael is the perfect person to conduct this research, and it's a pertinent topic for Canadians. There are pockets of Gaelic and great swaths of French and a jillion other languages spoken here, with sometimes more speakers of the language in Canada than there are in the language's place of origin. The differences between a language as it is spoken in Canada and how it is spoken in other countries has always intrigued me. When a language is brought to a new place and isolated from its parent tongue, it becomes a new creature. Or rather, it evolves along different paths than its parent.

I moved to Canada in 1989, and at the time I had undertaken extensive French training, all through high school and university. I fancied myself fairly fluent in it, and after all, I could read Maeve Binchy novels in French -- what more proof did I need of my own ability? Well, I got a job when I arrived in Canada doing word processing for a pharmaceutical company, putting together a French newsletter with contributions from about forty French sales reps. The written stuff was okay, but when I had to speak to any of them on the phone, it was a disaster. They may as well have been speaking Hungarian, for all I could understand them. How could this be? I spoke French, didn't I? It wasn't just the speed, it was the odd vowels, the slang, the abrupt cutting off of syllables. I was humbled pretty quickly, let me tell you. The French I'd learned was Parisian (with a touch of Tahitian thrown in), but this Quebecois stuff was a different bird altogether.

When I met Michael all those years ago, I was attempting to learn Welsh generations after my family had ceased to speak it, and I have a keen interest in seeing that beautiful language survive and thrive. So the topic of his book appeals to me on that level. It's been decades since I studied linguistics, but after reading the reviews of this book, I can feel that little itch to get back into the field. There are so many interesting things to learn around us, and language is such a vital part of our identities. And here in Toronto I am living in the absolute best place to study languages.

Llongyfarchiadau, Michael! I can't wait to read your work.

Better Late than Never

So I just realized that it's Tuesday today and I have already failed in my goal to meditate on a different scripture each week. Last week's verse from 2 Nephi was posted on my fridge and I read it often and memorized it. And then this Saturday I got caught up in bottling grape juice and I forgot to choose another verse for this week. So I'll choose one now. Back to 2 Corinthians again, because it seems to suit things lately: Chapter 4, verse 8: "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair."

Monday, 12 October 2015

2 Corinthians 1:24

I was sitting in Sunday School yesterday and stumbled across this sentence in the Bible: "...[we] are helpers of your joy..."

It was a lovely turn of phrase, and it resonated with me. That's what we are here on earth to do -- help each other be joyful. Promote happiness in the earth. We forget it, sometimes, and get caught up in running around being busy and making money and building a life. But ultimately that life is meant to be happy, and the best way to gain that happiness for ourselves is to lift and serve and care for others. A life turned inward can never attain the kind of joy that opening to others can bring.

As another scripture says, "Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy." If that is the goal we are aiming for, if that is what I want for my life, then each day's activity needs to reflect that and I need to watch for opportunities to do that. So I sit here (at 5 a.m.) reflecting on what I have planned for today, and I've decided that planting garlic does promote people's joy, so it's worth doing. I mean, really, what's more happiness-promoting than a plate of garlicky, pungent, aromatic carbonara thick with fresh parmesan? So yes, I can safely say today will take me down the path of happiness, and my family too.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

A Lovely Thanksgiving Weekend

Farmers' Market this morning. Bottling grape juice today, while the turkey cooks for tomorrow's family dinner. Beheading the catalpa trees and planting garlic on Monday. Spy apples ready to bottle too, but they'll have to wait until next weekend. The kitchen smells heavenly. The maple trees are a brilliant red. Celtic music playing. I couldn't ask for a better day.

Thursday, 8 October 2015


It is 3:30 on a Thursday morning. I don't have to head to work until 5:30. I was awakened by a whiny dog who needed to go out, and of course that woke up the other dog, and once you've wrapped up in a bathrobe and stood out in the cold under the frigid stars it's impossible to go back to sleep. So here I am, staring glassily at the keyboard and thinking I really ought to be working on my next manuscript, but I can't seem to put a coherent thought together. Go figure.

It's aggravating to have an hour all to myself, free and quiet, and not be able to use it productively. This is a gift out of the blue. I haven't had a quiet moment to write in weeks...but no. It's no good. Though I'm a morning person, it has its limits, and right now my brain is Jell-O.

I wonder why it is we feel we have to be productive and useful and accomplish something every moment of the day. I can't just sit and watch TV -- I have to knit while I'm doing it. I can't just have a conversation with someone on the couch -- I have to shell beans while we talk. If I sleep on the bus during my commute, I feel as if I've wasted time and need to apologize to...well, somebody! And yet I feel strongly that sometimes the most useful and nourishing times are those moments when you stare into space and seemingly do nothing. Creativity needs those moments. Your soul needs those moments. And I don't think as a society that we get enough of them. If we're not rushing around accomplishing things and multitasking, we're staring at our electronic gadgets and wiggling our thumbs. The buzz words are efficiency and productivity. If you are caught staring out a window at work, you are seen as a slacker. Our labour-saving devices have made us busier than ever. Even our children are overloaded with organized play and noisy input at every moment, and I bet most of them wouldn't know what to do if you gave them a sunhat, opened the back door, and said, "Come back by suppertime." We have become inept at self-entertainment and unstructured play. We've lost the knack of exploring -- nature, our world, our own imaginations.

I want to find a school that offers a program in becoming an inefficiency expert. I think that sounds like my sort of career. I could be a consultant, traveling across the country to help organizations make their staff slow down, cool off, relax, and stare into space a requisite five minutes every half hour. And you know, I bet if we all did that...productivity would go up.

Ah, there's the baby crying upstairs. So much for the peaceful hour. I guess I'm off the hook -- I couldn't possibly write with all the caterwauling. A perfect excuse to go lie on the couch and stare at the ceiling...with my eyes closed.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

What I gleaned from Conference

Two lovely days listening to LDS General Conference, and I've come away from it feeling calmer, more peaceful, more gentle and tolerant, and ready to be more patient with my grandchildren. I loved Elder Bednar's comment from Elder Hales, about how, if you can no longer do the things you used to be able to do, just do the things that matter most. How a decrease in stamina can help you prioritize things better. That gives me food for thought, and I intend to spend the next little while reviewing how I'm spending my energy and figuring out if what I've been focusing on really is the most important. I feel pulled in many directions at once, and it's good to stop and take stock for a bit.

Elder Holland's address to mothers was touching and overwhelming and made me feel simultaneously inadequate and energized, comforted and inspired. Have I been that unconditionally loving? Would I really give my life for my kids? Well yes, of course. But you never stop to really think of it that way, do you? I always find Elder Holland comforting.

The three new apostles that were called struck me as very prepared and strong and I'm excited to get to hear them some more. Elder Renlund is very soft-spoken and I warmed to him immediately. I was reflecting on how nervous I would be if I had to get up and speak with only a week's notice...and then I thought, "At least if I had a heart attack, I'd be surrounded by two good cardiologists!"

I also enjoyed hearing Devin Durrant, who used to be my seminary teacher back at Timpview. (And I liked how they had to hike the pulpit up so high for him. He is, like, seven foot two or something.) I have decided to take his advice and ponder a scripture a week. I may not be able to memorize them or remember where to find them, but it's a way to boost my thoughts to a different, daily level. If your brain is busy thinking good thoughts, it can't become cluttered with other, lesser things or so easily distracted from what's important. So this week's scripture, starting tomorrow, will be:

Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves - to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.  2 Nephi 10:23

Saturday, 3 October 2015

I survived today

Today I babysat the grandkids all day while their parents were busy elsewhere. I worried that it would be overwhelming, but it turned out to be okay. More than okay. Other than a couple of "Jack-Jack" moments, they were good as gold, and we even got a quick walk in to the library before the cold rain started. The trick to it is not to try to accomplish anything else -- just focus on the Grandma role and let everything else go. And we ended up making cookies together and making chili and putting together spaghetti sauce for dinner and I still managed to watch Conference in snatches and dabs. So all is good.

I find frustration is usually caused when I try to do something other than what is before me at that moment. If I just focus on the matter at hand and let the rest take a back seat, it's fine.

I don't know why I don't remember this simple lesson more often!