Thursday, February 23, 2006

Joyous celebration

A quick note before I dash out the door for work this morning:

Dear fellow hockey-mad Canadians,

It's not the end of the world. The men lost at the Olympics and were eliminated from further rounds. They played poorly. They didn't play as a team and they couldn't score. In other words, they deserve to be sent home. It's a game. For all the moaning, teeth-gnashing and talk-show second-guessing, you'd think a major cataclysm had occurred. It's just a game. A game where the playing field has been levelled. What's wrong with that? It's better for the game - remember all the bleating going on about how our Canadian women's team was TOO dominant?

Let's all get over it and move on.

I'd rather celebrate the Canadian women who won four medals yesterday - in particular, Chandra Crawford, who won gold in the women's 1.1 km cross-country sprint. She wasn't a favourite. I'm not sure people thought she'd even qualify, let alone get into the finals and win. But win she did. Her exuberant, joyous attitude was infectious. She made me smile and laugh along with her through all her interviews. Her joy was so genuine, her personality so ebullient that I couldn't help it. She made my day!

Pure joy. It was great to see.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The "R" Word

This blog has been percolating in my brain for awhile now. It finally bubbled over when I read this post on Fat Red Ant's 44x365.

I wasn't sure I'd ever address the issue of racism on my blog. Some of you who've known me from other places on the net may (or may not) know I'm not white.

One of the reasons I like the internet is that I'm perceived by my words and ideas first and foremost – not by the colour of my skin. My writing and recollections sometimes have clear allusions to my ancestry and sometimes, they don't. I don't make a big deal about it, nor do I avoid it. It all depends on what I'm trying to convey.

Anyways, back to FRA's post. It clearly illustrates to me how far we (I'm speaking of the global we) need to go before racism is eradicated. It's hard for people, no matter how caring, liberal-minded and accepting to understand the deep pain and frustration felt by those of colour. I've come to hate that term, "people of colour" – but I guess there's no other term that fits.

I know there are lots of people like FRA who look beyond colour, but there are just as many like her boyfriend. The thing is, if you were to speak to someone like her boyfriend, chances are they'd be the first to say they aren't racist. I've heard all the denials and arguments: I'm not racist, but . . . . My co-worker is (black, yellow, green, purple) – we get along fine, but . . . .

See, you seldom hear racial epithets in polite conversation anymore, unless it's within the confines of a monochromatic gathering. And here, I'm not talking about whites only. Non-whites are just as guilty of racism. The problem with racism these days is that, more often than not – other than at skinhead rallies or drunken brawls - it's hidden, discreet, but nonetheless insidious.

For those of you who think, like FRA did, that it's all in our heads – that we're imagining slights that don't exist – may I offer just a smattering of some personal experiences:

  • Standing at a crosswalk with my two young children, waiting for the light to change, a man walks up to me; looks me up and down; and says, "Why don't you people leave. Go home where you belong." - I'm quite certain he didn't mean home to our house, two blocks away.

  • I'm in a hurry, rushing to an appointment and bump into a woman. I apologise. She just glares at me and says, "Watch out! You're not back home, you know." - because she's never bumped into anyone by accident.

  • I'm standing at a counter, waiting patiently for service. The counter person has seen me, nods acknowledgement – he's with another customer at the moment. A couple comes into the store. The counter guy finishes with the first customer, then turns to serve the newly arrived people first. – What? Have I become invisible? Isn't my money as good as theirs?

  • At a sporting event: I'm beaming with pride because the guy in front of me is admiring the play of my son. His friend asks him who he's talking about and the guy answers, "The Chink. Over there . . . "

  • And the one memory literally seared on my brain and psyche when I was seven years old: - having rocks thrown at me and being chased home by a bunch of Chink-calling ten, eleven year-old boys; the feeling of humiliation; the feeling there was something wrong with me that they'd hate me so much without even knowing me.

    Yes, it was a long time ago, but I often wonder where these boys and their parents are now. Are they still the bigots they were then? Have they changed? Or have they just gone underground?

You know what? I think, overall, we've come a long way from rock-throwing and outright segregation – but there's a lot further to go.

I just had to get that off my chest.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Watching the Olympics

I have mixed feelings when I watch the Olympics.

On the one hand, I don’t particularly like the “rah-rah, my country is better than your country, look at how many medals we have” attitude. Yet, on the other hand, I love the notion that nations can come together in a joint endeavour for peaceful, even idealistic purposes; the notion that athletes can compete just for the purity of their sport.

Naïve? Maybe. But I want to look beyond the doping scandals; beyond the politics; beyond the judge-tampering; beyond the egos. I want to forget about medal predictions and the ensuing mega bucks involved in sponsorship deals. I know all of these exist, but I’d like to look beyond all the negatives just long enough to remind myself that there are nobler reasons for the Olympics.

Instead, I want to see those thousands of athletes who attend the Olympics with no real chance of winning a medal, but are happy just to participate on this particular world stage. I want to see the individuals pushing themselves to their limits, further than they ever thought possible, just to see what they can achieve. It’s like people who enter marathons, with no hope of winning, but with the satisfaction of saying they competed and crossed the finish line.

Sure, I'll be there, in front of my TV, cheering on the Canadian hockey teams and gritting my teeth with anxiety as I watch Emmanuel Sandhu go up for his triple axel, but deep down, I like the stories of athletes from some remote village who decided that it would be cool to try bobsledding or ski jumping or some other unlikely sport and end up at the Olympics. I'm a sucker for the underdog.

Yesterday, in the women's cross-country ski team sprint, Canadian Sara Renner broke a pole mid-way through the race (she later described it as being like canoeing without a paddle). A Norwegian team coach saw what happened and handed her a replacement. Renner and Becky Scott ended up winning a silver medal. The Norwegian didn't have to do what he did, but he did it anyway. When thanked and interviewed about it later, Norwegian officials downplayed it, saying it was the right thing to do and why would anyone think it was unusual? You see, it's things like this that give me hope there is such a thing as true sportsmanship and the Olympic ideal.

I want to think of an international event that gives promise to peace and understanding, if only we’d give it a chance - and dare I say it, echo the words of John Lennon’s “Imagine”, sung at the opening ceremonies.

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one.
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one.

Yeah, I know, I’m just an old-school hippie at heart.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Other musings

I've been away a couple of days, but wanted to carry on with my musings of the other day:

One of the reasons I said I don’t believe in absolutes is that we human beings seem to get into trouble when we do.

When I look at pretty much any belief system - when it’s followed dogmatically - it tends to breed contempt, sometimes hatred for others, or at least, a certain holier-than-thou attitude – the patronizing, “oh, poor thing, you just haven’t seen the light” attitude.

Besides which, it seems strange to think one person, no matter how wise, kind or beneficent a teacher is beyond flaw and has figured life out for everyone else. Because I nod my head in agreement with some of Buddha’s or Mohammed’s or Christ’s or Janie-next-door’s words, doesn’t mean I must be wedded to their entire belief system. It comes down to the fact I don’t believe in a ‘one shoe fits all’ school of thought. If it works for others, so be it. It’s just not for me.

Something my grandfather told me: “Beware the man (or woman) who claims to know it all and have the answers to everything.”

I think we’re all on a journey through life, taking different paths. We all may end up in the same place or maybe a different place. What human being knows absolutely and categorically what all this is about? I sure don’t. And sure, I’m content at the moment, but at the same time, I’m aware that I will continue to change depending on life experiences. I will take what comes and do the best I can at the time.

A side note: It’s not contradictory to plan, make choices and still live in the moment. An example: we must eat to survive. Therefore, we can plan, choose to go grocery shopping, choose which store to shop, choose what to buy, choose when to eat AND still be fully present and in the moment at each step. ('Cause I sure as heck hope a surgeon operating on me did some planning, made good choices and is totally present when he cuts me open!)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Conscious and mindful

I like the phrase, “A Conscious and mindful life.”

Please bear with me as I think out loud. After my "Be Here Now" blog, it seems my dormant touchy-feely inner hippie is re-awakening. I haven’t consciously thought about some of this stuff for awhile so maybe it’s time to take stock.

Thinking out loud/ affirming beliefs: In other words, a mishmash of my accumulated life philosophy – or how I try to live my life:

- Accept who I was in the past, both the good and the bad
- Accept who I am in the present, both the good and the bad
- Consider what I could become in the future, both good and bad
- Choose to be better

- Appreciate where I am
- Appreciate what I have
- Appreciate those around me

- I only have control over my own actions
- I can’t change others - at most I can influence them by my own actions; what they choose to do is beyond my control
- Make positive changes in my own life

And something I read a long time ago that I recently saw again on another site (sorry, I forgot to bookmark it and can't find it now):

Live in Joy

Live in Joy, In love,
Even among those who hate.
Live in joy, In health,
Even among the afflicted.
Live in joy, In peace,
Even among the troubled.
Look within. Be still.
Free from fear and attachment,
Know the sweet joy of living in the way.
-- from the Dhammapada, Words of the Buddha

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Please hop on over to today's Waiter Rant, Heaven and Hell.

His little vignette embodies so much of what I believe about the world and the people in it. There is both good and bad everywhere.

We can choose to be the four top. Or choose to be the little girl and her father.

Choices. It's all about choices.

Be Here Now

Three words from the seventies that may sound cliché to some. Yet, I come back to them time and again. I was reminded of them by JTL's blog. I've used them while raising my sons and use them to get myself out of a funk and just get on with it.

It's so easy to get caught up in the picayune details of life; to stress over every little detail; to worry about choices and decisions already made; to get distracted from what's actually happening in the here and now. When we do this, we fail to see the beauty around us. When we do this, we ignore or fail to appreciate the people around us. When we do this, we fail to give our entire attention to the task at hand.

When my son was very young, he had a tendency to chase down every curiosity, every minor distraction that crossed his path. - No, he didn't have ADD. - He was just inquisitive and rather obsessive – kind of like his mom. He didn't know how to channel his energy. If we were at the park, he'd be thinking of the latest dinosaurs he looked up. If we were at a restaurant, he'd be wondering what was in the pond at the park. If we were on vacation, he'd be thinking about a restaurant at home. His mind was constantly somewhere else, other than "here". He wasn't present. It took him a while to learn how to set aside the other stuff churning around in his brain and just have fun in the present; and learn that the other stuff would still be there waiting when he was done doing what he was doing.

I think we all have a tendency to be like this. How often are we in a beautiful location, and instead of taking in the view and savouring the moment, we find our minds wandering off to some worry or other. This other might be very important – like an upcoming job interview or exam – but how does worrying about it at that particular moment in time going to help? Wouldn't it be better to immerse ourselves in the beauty of the moment, THEN deal with the other stuff with equal concentration and conviction?

Our lives are made up of brief moments strung together. When our minds are constantly elsewhere, we run the risk of losing some of the most precious ones.

It's not easy - living those three words. I still work at it. But the closer I get to the end rather than the beginning of this particular life, the more importance I place on it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

One of these days

One of these days I’m going to grow up. I’m going to act the way a proper grown-up should.

I’m not going to burst into song when I wake up in a good mood.
I'm not going to hum while brushing my teeth.
I’m not going to skip through the house, just because I feel like it.
I’m not going to make my grown sons roll their eyes when I say something silly.
I’m not going to dance around when I hear an oldie but goodie on the radio.
I'm not going to try the routine on Dancing with the Stars.
I'm not going to dig sand castles at the beach.
I'm not going to sing along at concerts.
I'm not going to yell at hockey games and scream Yee Haw! when a goal is scored by OUR team.

I'm going to be proper and sedate and dignified.

Yup, one of these days I’m going to grow up.
But not today.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Sunday breakfast

So glad that Blogger is up and running again. I was having withdrawal symptoms. Scary how fast I can get addicted to things.

Today, I've got a wee rant.

My husband and I went out to the local White Spot for breakfast. It's something we like to do fairly often. Usually there's a mix of young families, couples and older folk who get up and going early.

Seated at the table across from us was a couple with their son of perhaps nine. Nothing unusual about that. Dad was showing some travel brochures and he was talking about vacationing at Puerto Vallarta. Okay. But what got my attention was the behaviour of the mother.

She was on her cell phone for the entire time - or at least for the time we were there. She was still on it when we paid our bill and left. She put the phone down briefly to order her meal, then continued talking after the waitress left. When her meal arrived, she just shifted it to her left hand so she could eat with the right. Was it business? I don't think so - it sounded like 'girl' talk to me. I wanted to get up and rip that thing out of her hand.

Presumably, she went out for Sunday breakfast to spend time with her family. Well, as far as they were concerned, she might as well have stayed home. What does her behaviour say to her son? - Mommy would rather be on the phone talking to a friend than talking to you and dad. - Maybe this was her idea of quality time. She just has a different definition of quality. It was very sad.

So why should it bother me?

I don't like to see parents wilfully neglect their children. I've seen the negative results. I feel that if you make the conscious decision to have children, there are certain responsibilities that go along with that choice. One of those is to be present - not just in the physical sense, but the emotional one as well. I know it's not easy being a parent. It's physically and emotionally draining - but it can be amazingly rewarding too if you put some effort into it.

Maybe it's where I live. I see families and children with all the material goodies, but no sense of connection to each other. The kids are dropped off and picked up at scores of activities; they go home to X-Boxes, computers and surround sound TV; the parents work, come home tired and impatient. More often than not, everyone has dinner separately. When they do get a chance for an outing together, mom sits with a cell phone glued to her ear! As I said, it's sad.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Very odd goings on at Blogger since last night - posts appearing, then disappearing and appearing again. I'm glad I had my last couple of posts saved in Word documents. The last piece I wrote and posted on First Drafts has vanished again (after re-posting twice). This is a good reminder for me to save things offline before I post!

I did, however get my x 365 Blog up and running. Just hope it stays put.


I thought of Anna as I was compiling my list of x365 and realized I needed more words to recall her properly.

Anna was seventy years young, as she liked to say. She lived in a tiny one-bedroom bungalow - a cottage, really - in the middle of a quiet urban neighbourhood. The houses on either side of her were two-story family homes with immaculately manicured lawns and nice flower borders. Anna's garden was weedy and overgrown - to such an extent that you could barely see the walkway to her front door. The windows were dark and grimy and the draperies were perpetually drawn. If you didn't know better, you'd think the house was abandoned.

Anna was also what people called a "character" - Yes, with the quotation marks.

She'd been a British war bride and had come to Canada with her handsome soldier husband to begin a new adventurous life. Somewhere along the way, he died - she would never say how or when - and she ended up alone in this house.

I met her when she was referred to me by concerned neighbours. They thought she wasn't eating properly and might have other health problems. On my first assessment visit, she answered my knock by peering warily at me through the partially open door with chain lock still in place. She examined me up and down as I explained why I was there and that I wanted to come in and talk to her. I guess, by whatever standard she used, I passed the test and she let me in.

It turns out that she was quite eager to have a visitor. She insisted on making me tea and serving me some tinned biscuits. This may sound very sweet, but she had a problem with her eyesight. - It wasn't very good. - She was blind in one eye and the vision in the other was bad and getting worse. This resulted in her being unable to see well enough to keep things clean, or at least notice the dirt. Let's just say we had tea with some unexpected crusty floating things and biscuits with a bit of fuzz.

Anna's neighbours were rightly concerned about her. She was a tiny slip of a thing, probably no more than eighty pounds (36 kilos) and a chain smoker. The latter addiction evidenced by a hacking cough, ashtrays overflowing with cigarette butts, and nicotine-stained nails and fingers.

She claimed to have three meals a day plus tea, consisting of buttered toast and tea for breakfast; jelly on toast for lunch; afternoon tea with biscuits; and bread with some canned tuna or meat and canned peas for dinner. Occasionally she had canned peaches or a potato in place of the bread. She ordered her groceries from a nearby corner store and had them delivered. She never left the house.

She also had a nasty, oozing sore on the front of her leg.She insisted she was fine.

I said that she should have, at least, the sore on her leg looked after, and that if she didn't mind, I'd like to drop by and see her from time to time. She happily agreed to the visits, and only grudgingly agreed to the treatment. I decided to broach her diet on another visit.

Over the next couple of years, I visited regularly and she regaled me with stories of her youth in England. She insisted on saying "England" not Britain and that she was English NOT British. She was very specific about these details of Englishness and would correct me if I ever got it wrong. Once we were talking about the church and I used the term "Anglican". She scolded me, saying it was the "Church of England", NOT Anglican. Come to think of it, she did a lot of scolding and criticising. Nothing was ever done correctly in Canada; the neighbours were busybodies; there wasn't decent food to be found anywhere; and doctors didn't know what they were doing.

But most of all, England was the centre of her universe. She missed England with every breath she spoke. She dismissed the beautiful countryside and farmlands around Vancouver, stating categorically that the patchwork farmlands in England were much prettier. She didn't care for our mountains - the rolling hills of England were more soothing.

I think she felt cheated coming to Canada.When she first arrived there seemed to be parties and a house full of friends and laughter. She showed me her old photos of a pretty smiling young woman surrounded by other happy people in a room I recognized as the very living room we were sitting in.Whatever happened to her husband, left her lonely and bitter.Yet she never returned to England. Maybe she didn't have family to return to. She certainly didn't have family in Canada and the friends in the photos no longer visited - whether driven away by Anna or desserted on their own, I don't know.

She was stubborn and aggravating to deal with but charming in her own way. We eventually got her to accept 'Meals On Wheels' delivered three times a week, a homemaker to help tidy and clean her house, as well as home nursing to help with personal care. But what she really looked forward to were the social visits of tea, biscuits and conversation.

I eventually moved away and someone else took over my district and Anna's visits. When I moved back to Vancouver, I went to look her up in the phone book. She was no longer listed. Did she move into a nursing care facility? Did she remain in that house to her last breath? It's been more than twenty years since I last saw her, but I wonder what became of her.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Remembrance of people past

I haven't posted a blog in a couple of days, using various excuses like getting home too late from work, feeling tired and not feeling up to it. I was going to pass again, but decided to do what Wenda does - just write something.

I've been considering a new blog site for my own x365. The original one is 40 x 365 that I mentioned a few days ago. In brief, the goal is to write about one person per day for one year. It must be someone you actually know (now or in your past) that's made some kind of impression on you. You must know their name and the number of words you use to describe the person is determined by your age in years.

It's been interesting looking at other bloggers who are trying this. The younger ones have resorted to some pretty creative short-hand, cryptic phrasing and word-play in order to get in under the word allotment.

This is one time I can see my age as a definite advantage. I can be wordy, so it'll be helpful to get the extra allocation of words for my years. On the other hand, people will know my actual age - something I've never divulged online before. I rather like a degree of age-anonymity to combat the ageism that exists, although I'm sure most people who've known me for awhile online have a pretty good idea just how OLD I am.

My BD's coming up in about a month, so maybe I'll wait for it to roll around and have that extra word to work with. Don't laugh! You never know. It could make the biggest difference in the world. I might be able to work in the word vacuous or something wonderful like antidisestablishmentarianism (a word I won a spelling bee with).

Dan (40x365) suggests you start by making a list to see if you know 365 people. I started making my list and discovered a couple of things: Firstly, the initial one hundred or so came fairly easily and secondly, thinking about who to put on the list brought back all kinds of memories that I haven't had in years.

So, at the very least, it's a good exercise in reminding ourselves of the people who have passed through our lives and the impact they've had on us. Even if I don't go through with an actual x365, I need to thank Dan for reminding me of some significant people in my life.