I’ve been listening to podcasts lately, Seth Godin for one, he talks about how we are in the age of connecting. Interesting. Yes, we are very connected via our cell phones, the internet, leaps and bounds than we use to be, especially to complete strangers if we want to be. At the same time, these same devices make some of us less connected, like when you answer a cell phone call, text while on a date or at a family dinner. Who has seen teenagers all sitting together, involved with their cell phones but not communicating with the very people they are sitting with? Yet, as I write this I realize a complete stranger may be reading my thoughts on this blog. Such interesting times we live in.

The other evening, I was invited to supper at a friends home. His wife, is also part of a ladies dinner club I started many years ago now. He jessed how he wasn’t invited, and then commented that he realizes how time women spend together is a special bonding time that if a male was present we may not feel as at ease to talk as we normally would. “True,” I replied that there were few couples I had come across, where I personally felt as comfortable talking to either as I did to both. Even those, would the conversation change because the other was there? Probably as though it might in any conversation circle, conversations often change to adapt to whom is listening and participating, and yes, some topics may be dropped or not brought up because a certain person joined the circle.

More importantly though I commented is that very few men have circles of friends that would talk and count on each other as the ladies in our dinner group do. Recently when I hurt myself, playing a sport I love, and with no family in town, I just needed to make a few phone calls, texts and they were there. Arranging a wheelchair, etc. Wonderful friends. It is great to have friends that care about you. While men, as this husband said historically being brought up to be the provider, defender, not to show emotions or admit weaknesses don’t tend to share their feelings especially with other men. Which had me wonder what are males suicide rates compared to women? We asked Google. Two thirds of suicide are males. Wow!

Here’s hoping the younger generation opens up more about how their lives are going with friends, that they share laughs, and that they all have someone they feel will be there for them when they need someone. It’s never to late for the older generations to start that as well. Maybe that would solve the supposed “Grumpy Man” syndrome as well. ūüôā

Lost? Is not necessarily bad or scary.

When I was 19 and heading to Europe for 2 months, with my sisters 17 and 16, my Dad asked me on the way to the airport, if we knew where we were going when we arrived in Amsterdam? I replied, “Yes”, and pointed to an address in a book I was taking. He asked again, “But, do you know how to get there?”. To which I replied, “No, we are going to be lost the whole time we are in Europe.” This was long before there was such a thing as internet or cell phones, or GPS. We were going to be lost, but we had a goal, and we were sure we would find it, and everywhere else we intended on going.

That trip was wonderful, for so many reasons, one being that my youngest sister died the next year, and I am so grateful that we had that experience with her before she left, we didn’t know she was sick at the time. Even more importantly I suppose, was that we were brought up thinking we could do things, anything if we wanted to and that we should always try things even if we thought we might not be successful, because we also might be and would never know unless we tried. Once you have achieved something, gotten over a hurdle, whatever it might be it gives you even more confidence that you can do, overcome, create whatever comes up next.

I have travelled a lot since that backpacking trip in Europe. The last time with a rental car in Europe with three, GPS’s!! And with the crazy road system, or lack of road system they have there, more often than not, each GPS would give a different set of directions. There are many ways to reach your goal. For us on this trip, the journey was almost always more important than the destination, we wandered, and explored, as things grabbed our attention, taking time as we desired. It was a wonderful trip.

The friend I went with this time, her first language is French, handy while in France, but we also popped into Belgium. This made her anxious as she couldn’t read the signs, but as I said to her, basically on the highway the signs are place names, it didn’t matter if she had never seen them before. Basic traffic symbols are still the same.

While in Europe when I was 19, I knew a bit of French, but I was far from fluent, it wasn’t a subject I excelled in. Really I knew no other language but english and body language. We were in several countries where people didn’t know english. I recall the last few days when we finally arrived in England and we were riding the subway, when I glanced at some body’s newspaper and was so surprised that I actually knew what it said!!! Later that day while in the market buying groceries, I pointed at a tomato and held up 2 fingers, my sister looked at me and said, they know what a “tomato” is, LOL.

I recall us being in Germany and my sister needing a tension bandage for her knee, we went into a pharmacy to buy one, but couldn’t find one on the shelves, so we asked, in English, that wasn’t working, so we tried charades. Lots of laughs were had but eventually they understood and we walked out with what we went looking for.

A few years ago I took an “Interpreters” workshop, an all day class, there were about 12 of us. The first thing the instructor did was have everyone introduce themselves and tell us what languages they spoke. I still only knew English, a few words in French and Spanish, emphasis on a “few”, but I said I also know body language. Which as the instructor said is a large part of what communication is about. That was a really interesting workshop, even though I only knew the one language. I really learned how important it is for translators to translate “exactly” what the person is saying and not to paraphrase, and why.

I am trying to convince my friend to go to Italy next year, but she is afraid because she doesn’t know the language. I am trying to convince her that that is not a good enough reason. Again when I was 19 and in some small town in Italy, I approached a traffic policeman with my address book, could he tell me how to get there, I pointed at my book? He spoke no english, but he knew what I was asking he, he pointed and spoke in Italian, and gave me many directions. I went back to my sisters and they asked did I know how to get there now? No, I said but we start by going that way, and we will ask someone else down the road, where next we go. Off we went. The police officer watched, then he flagged down a bus, told the bus driver where we wanted to go, motioned to us to come to the bus, on we got, and off we went. A long bus ride and the driver dropped us off exactly where we wanted to be.

Have faith, people in general are very kind, and helpful if they know your goal. Yes, in some countries, you shouldn’t ask just anyone for help, shopkeepers and police are good bets pretty much anywhere. Truthfully most people are amazingly helpful and a smile goes a long way.

Being lost is not necessarily a bad thing at all if you have a destination in mind. Fearing getting lost is definitely not a reason not to try and get to a destination a goal. That goes for life accomplishments as well. If you want to learn something, get somewhere, do something and are not sure how to get there, just start moving that direction and ask people for help along the way. And, don’t forget to smile, and thank people that help you get closer.

Grow, take a chance, your life can be so much richer because of it.


Be like a Symphony or Professional Football team

Football and a Symphony seems a strange juxtaposition? I went to a most interesting talk yesterday at the Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg, a “Conversation Circle” about¬†Identity and a sense of belonging, a discussion inspired by the Time to Act: Rohingya Voices exhibition.

A group of strangers most with very little knowledge of Rohingya but wanting to learn more about it and humanity, and a facilitator, or two.

Refugees, their experience, how does it happen? What can we do about it, before, after, during?

We spent some time looking at the exhibit, talking and learning about the situation. 600,000 in a refugee camp, the largest in the world. right next door to Bangladesh, north of Thailand, in a country called Myanmar. “Officially, on paper, the country’s name is¬†Myanmar. In 1989, the ruling military government changed the name from¬†Burma¬†to¬†Myanmar¬†after thousands were killed in an uprising. The city of Rangoon also became Yangon. … The name¬†change¬†was also a way to rid the country of British colonial influences” This country has over 100 ethnic groups, yet one, the Muslim Rohingya have been targeted as unwanted, even though they have been there for 1000’s of years. Who is doing this? The Military under Buddhist extremists. I always thought Buddhists wouldn’t hurt a fly, literally?

It seems there are many refugees worldwide being displaced, forced to flee their homes because they fear for their lives. People in positions of power often through violence deciding that another group of people is not wanted in their area, a “cleansing” a “genocide”. How does it often happen? Sometimes a telltale sign to watch for is “Identity cards”, when we signal out by class, by ethnic group, possibly by health, gender, religion, one from another and we make these identity cards, symbols in the case of the Jews in WW11 being made to wear yellow stars on their sleeves. People use these symbols, these identity cards, to paint a generalized picture of these people. Often those in power then start to blame their area’s current issues on these “identified people” and they become the common link, the target to fight against. They are de-humanized.

De-Humanized. Seen as unworthy, not even valued as much as an animal,¬† how else could people carry out such barbaric crimes against them? Atrocities. How did they convince themselves that these “identified people” are no longer their friends, their neighbours, but the enemy?

So many thoughts were shared during the Conversation Circle. One stated early on they were there to see how it related to our own indigenous people, and it does in many ways, unfortunately. They have been given identity cards, plots of land they can live on. Many were not allowed to vote until 1947 or later. On 31 March 1960, portions of Section 14(2) of the Canada Elections Act were repealed in order to grant the federal vote to status Indians. First Nations people could now vote without losing their Indian status.

Our conversation circle ended, with what could we do, or us as individuals do to help with the refugee situation? Should you voice your concerns to others, to others with differing opinions or stay silent, one asked? Speak up I said, or if everyone stays silent we will believe that their silence means they agree with oppressors.

It comes down to the bullying on the playground, to peer pressure and not speaking up for those that need to be defended.

One said if we could all strive to remember to treat people with the human rights they are entitled to as humans. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. To be kind, to treat others as we wish to be treated would do a lot.

Later that same day I went to the symphony, different groups of instruments, all playing together for a common good, instruments like ethnicities or characteristics, can we not have leaders that bring out the best in us all? So that together we make beautiful music together?

This also reminded me of a talk from a football coach, Saskatchewan Rough Riders I believe, he was presenting at a School Trustee Conference in Winnipeg. He spoke of how his team was made up of many walks of life, different ethnicities, different socio-economic classes, different religions, etc, they were strangers and he had to lead these players to play as a team. He needed them to understand that though they had differences, they needed to focus on how they would all work together to be the best team they could be.

We need to work together.


The Shoe Maker and his elves

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You’ve heard the story, haven’t you? An old shoemaker overwhelmed with work, poor¬† I believe too, barely enough materials to make the next pair of shoes. He goes to bed before he has finished his work, tired, knowing he has to get that pair of shoes finished first thing in the morning. He goes to sleep as soon as his head hits the pillow, that’s how exhausted he is. The next morning he wakes up and low and behold the shoes are made! He couldn’t believe it a miracle. This went on for a while and he felt so lucky, it was amazing.

I’ve never been kean on house cleaning, I do it but if there is anything more exciting to do it is easy for me to choose that over house cleaning, which is almost anything but doing taxes. Cleaning does get done though, just not up to some of my friend’s standards.

Anyways I ended up in a wheelchair for about 3 weeks, I couldn’t leave my house unless I could find 2 friends to lift me in and out. I could barely get myself to the toilet and bed, but I did figure out a way. The first time, living on my own, had its drawbacks. Friends checked on me, helped me out when I needed things. My son came out and build me a ramp, so it was easier for people to get me in and out of the house, too steep for me to do it by myself, he installed railings as well. Thank goodness for rainy weather during that time which is unusual, as when it was nice outside I would look out my south window wishing I could just go for a walk in the sunshine.

Due to being in a wheelchair I needed everything close and handy, I had friends pull the microwave to the edge of the kitchen counter, make sure dishes and bowls were on the counter where I could reach them. All kinds of things like that. A few times I had friends come over offering to clean my kitchen, they wanted to put things away and I told them politely, “No” as then I wouldn’t be able to reach things. Then I had a friend come over that was determined to help clean, she decided each spice bag needed sealed? What the heck, it was important to her. Then she started moving things I used away from the microwave which I used every morning with the microwave. Next, she opened my fridge, screwed up her face, and pulled out a small green pepper grown in my garden, “Really, Yvette” she said, “This has to go!” No,” I said, “It was picked from my garden just the day before,” it couldn’t help that it wasn’t a perfect pepper. That was the end of that cleaning.

3 weeks or so later when I was using a walker when I went out but not in my house, we had a huge snowstorm. We never have them that early in the year. It wasn’t very cold thank goodness but the snow was super heavy. Just previous I had managed to mow my own grass, it took me three days, bit by bit so I didn’t hurt myself, I sure didn’t want to go back to being in a wheelchair.

When it first started snowing I thought if I cleared the driveway every time there was an inch of snow, I might be able to keep it cleared and not hurt myself. I managed that twice, concerned about slipping. Then it got dark and it just kept snowing, thick and heavy. The power went out at 5pm, but I had a headlamp and some pre-cooked food to eat. I went to bed early to stay warm under the covers and read a book. The next morning the house was 14.5′ a little chilly, I got dressed and put my housecoat on over top to stay warm, the power was still out.¬† I couldn’t leave because my driveway had a pile of snow on it and I had no electricity, so what was I going to do? Well, I decided, this was the perfect time to clean the house. I walked into the kitchen, I looked around, and I laughed out loud. Here I had had all these elves offering to clean my kitchen, and I had turned them all away, now it was all up to me. Man, I had wished for house-elves all my life what had I been thinking?

I did get a lot of cleaning done with nothing else to do, but it sure doesn’t take long to go back to looking like it did before.

(I was without power for over 50 hours, and we were supposed to limit our use of water as the water treatment plant was struggling. Some friends were without power for a week!)


16722410_10158248774290501_1439403914849664656_oPlanning my trip to Guatemala in the fall of 2014, I figured I should nail down accommodations for over Christmas and New Years before maybe there weren’t any or they were out of my price range. I thought I would like to spend that time in Antigua, Guatemala and a World Heritage site. I found a place through AirBnB I believe, it sounded perfect but it said those dates weren’t available. I decided to send them a note anyways seeing if they might suggest other accommodations for that time. The owner got back to me, that since I was a single lady, I could stay there during that time any ways, she had booked it off as her child “Oliver” was coming at that time. Oh, I thought, and replied, maybe since this was such a special time for her I shouldn’t impose. Initially I understood by how she replied that she was pregnant and expecting her first child, so I offered to help in any way I could with cooking and cleaning at that time to help her. Then when she kept referring him to him as “Oliver” I thought maybe I misunderstood, maybe he was already born, and she just got to visit with him at that time. So I started telling her a bit about my children and how old they were. She replied then, that no he had not been born yet, and indeed was expected to arrive at that time. I had a place to stay. A wonderful family, and her Mom was going to be staying with them as well to help out and be there for the birth.

I felt like part of the family, the first day there I got to attend a baby shower at their church. I was there when the priest came to visit at their home prior to the birth. They were not yet married yet even though they had been together for sometime as there were problems due to Daniel being from Germany I believe. (Guatemala is very religious with something like 97% being Roman Catholic.) That was another question I was asked from place to place as I arrived, was I religious? My answer, “No”, but I was brought up Roman Catholic.

Antigua is a wonderful place to be around the Christmas/New Years holidays, lots of extra activities happening. There was the evening before Christmas when a procession went by at night, maybe a rendition of them looking for a room for the Virgin Mary, I’m not sure but the lanterns, etc were a nice surprise, and it was very small scale, intimate.¬†Video of procession

Paola had been hoping to give birth at home with a mid wife, but just before Christmas, she learned that the baby was breech, the midwife tried moving it, but he was too comfortable, or big. Paola tried crawling around a bit as she was told this might get the little fellow motivated to move but it just wasn’t happening. Plan B, a doctor and hospital, to find one in a place that she felt comfortable in. That done, now the doctor was trying to encourage her to have it before Christmas, but she really didn’t want to, even though her husband was anxious to see the little guy. I thought the Doctor just didn’t want to be disturbed during the holidays? There was also the thought of schooling and where that would put him in the school year when that time came. Paola decided she would plan for Jan 2, if the baby decided it could wait that long. (Daniel had painted from time to time, images on Paolo’s growing stomach, the one I remember most, the cat’s back end, and¬† a cracked egg. They also wanted to make a cast of her stomach just before “Oliver” was born. I’m not sure if that happened, but I think so. Very creative.)

On Christmas Eve, which is the day they celebrate or on the stroke of midnight, Paola’s mother Isabelle, Paola, Daniel and myself all sat down to help make tamales, a Costa-rican version as that was where her Mom was from. Quite the assembly line we had going, and by the end we had made over 100.

Making tamales 

(Making cost ricin tamales for new years
Plantain leave, masa with garlic, salt and pork fat, then rice with achiote or paprika , spoonful of peas, pork slice and pork fat, 2 slices of tomatoes and carrot, 6 raisins,1 prune, 1 olive, wrap it all up and bake for 1 1/2 -2 hours at 325′)

Then there was Mass, which Daniel asked why I wanted to come if I wasn’t really religious, part of the experience I told him. A grand church, with a nativity scene that they had brought in dirt from the various areas around so that all were represented.. Then we went home for the meal and gifts, they even got me a journal, with a cover that had local weaving on it. Then I heard it, that strange sound… What could it be? I finally asked, “that rumbling noise, what was it?” It sounded, I said, like someone rolling a barrel of ice down the cobblestone hill. Her brother looked at me, curiously amused. “Only a Canadian would come up with something like that. It was fireworks.”…Okay, I have to admit that did make a lot more sense, and then we went up to the roof top to see. All over the city fireworks were being set off at midnight, not in just one spot, the whole sky was alive with them. I was told that they would set off fireworks at midnight, 6am, noon and 6pm, that’s a lot of fireworks!! I know how expensive they were back home so I asked about that there. Yes they said, they were expensive there as well, but everyone saved up to set off fireworks, rich to poor. On Christmas day I called home to talk to my son on Facetime just before noon, and I was up on the roof top showing him the view when the fireworks started, “Get down, Mom!!!” he shouted, as he thought it was gun fire, no I assured him, just fireworks.

I couldn’t believe all the firework debris along the streets. Then came the New Years celebration, the central street in Antigua was filled with performers, it was alive, and of course a big fireworks display.

The next day, January 2nd, time for “Oliver”, they told me the address of the small hospital, so when I thought enough time had passed, I wandered down, my Spanish not being very good, I managed to let them know what I was there for, and down the hall I went. Very different than our hospitals. There she was with little, or not so little, “Oliver”, one proud father, who I couldn’t believe how much this new born looked like!!!! He seemed all Dad and no, or very little Mom. A mini me, for Daniel. Also a very proud Grandma, and 2 brothers, her younger one was VERY excited even before hand and let Paola know, he already had a car seat so he could take him for rides.

So I was the very first person to hold that first born child, after the Mom, Dad, Grandma and Uncles, pretty special. Such a short time ago now, and he is such a big boy now at 3, (especially for that country, but there comes into play his German father), still looks the spitting image of his dad, who unfortunately, past away last year but will always be remembered, a kind caring person.