Monday 28 November 2016

Missing Photos

I am still working my way through articles and TED talks and opinion pieces trying to understand the issues involved in the Brexit vote and the American vote and the situation in our community, and indeed in my country of Canada.

Here's what I've been reading, in case you are interested. (And I understand if you're not. Everyone comes to the table with different experiences, and what I find helpful isn't necessarily of any use to the next person.)

Elizabeth Lesser: Take "the Other" to lunch   (TEDWomen 2010)  Suggestions on talking to those whose views are different from yours, including being genuinely curious rather than trying to debate or persuade.

Did Americans vote out the media, too, in this election? Ideas on why the media got it wrong when they predicted who would win the recent American election.

Taking Aim at the Establishment: Why Some of Europe's Top Leaders Are Walking Dead.  Brexit and the US election may be just the beginning.

Donald Trump Could Happen in Canada. It's Already Begun.  The title is self-explanatory.

     *     *     *     *     *

And in this spot right here, I was going to put a picture of my Grandad and me, from when I was about four years old. That's the same Grandad who played the fiddle and worked in the coal mines.

I went to the spot where we store photo albums, sure that I could lay my hands on the picture I wanted in no time at all.

It was nowhere to be found.

One hour later I was still looking.

Actually I'm still looking.

Here's another picture of me instead.

I bet you were expecting a donkey, right? But I'm feeling kind of sheepish today. Thanks, Pixabay. It's a good thing your photos are better organized than mine are.

Are your photos shipshape? or would I feel right at home at your place?

Friday 25 November 2016

Class Is In

My mother was a junior high school English teacher for most of her working life. She has been retired now for about twenty years, but she still has poems and plays and short stories and novels embedded in her brain, and when we talk she frequently references a literary piece that she is reminded of and that applies to the topic or situation.

When Mom mentions a piece, often I'll know what she is talking about because I went through the school system while she was teaching - at the same school, in fact - so I was learning the curriculum while she was teaching it. But every so often she will quote something from her own school days, or something her father taught her, or something she came across while she was upgrading her teaching license in middle age. 

This is one poem she referenced a couple of years ago that I hadn't heard before, and I like its message so much I am now a fan.

And it's been popping up in my brain lately.

The author, according to Wikipedia, was a "popular poet rather than a literary poet" but notes that "...  in her poems she expresses sentiments of cheer and optimism in plainly written, rhyming verse." I say there's nothing wrong with being a popular poet, if it helps make the world a better place.

(Thank you to this source for providing the poem, as published in The Charlotte Democrat way back in January of 1896.) 

Two Kinds of People
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

There are two kinds of people on earth today,
Two kinds of people, no more, I say.

Not the good or the bad, for 'tis well understood,
The good are half bad and the bad are half good.

Not the happy and sad, for the swift-flying years
Bring each man his laughter and each man his tears.

Not the rich and the poor, for to count a man's wealth
You must first know the state of his conscience and health.

Not the humble and proud, for in life's busy span
Who puts on vain airs is not counted a man.

No! The two kinds of people on earth I mean
Are the people who lift, and the people who lean.

Wherever you go you will find the world's masses
Are ever divided into these two classes.

And, strangely enough, you will find, too, I wean,
There is only one lifter to twenty who lean.

This one question I ask. Are you easing the load
Of overtaxed lifters who toil down the road?

Or are you a leaner who lets others bear
Your portion of worry and labor and care?

     *     *     *

I think it's useful to consider every now and then whether I am a lifter or a leaner. Just to check, you know. And maybe make some adjustments, as I've been trying to do lately.

Hope you enjoyed this literary experience, brought to you by Procrastinating Donkey and her mom.

See, Mom? I really do listen to you. (Pixabay Photo)

Happy weekend to all.

Monday 21 November 2016

Fiddle and Piano

After I posted the poem about my grandfather, it started me thinking about the other memories I have of him.

He told great stories - yes.  He played baseball when he was younger, and was good at it. He bowled when he got older, and he threw that bowling bowl like any former pitcher would do - fast and straight. We took him bowling with us a few times when our kids were young; he would have been in his mid-eighties, and he put us all to shame.

After he retired from mining, he taught himself to play the fiddle. He had quite a repertoire, and was continually adding to it.

And I was his mostly-unwilling accompanying pianist. I was taking piano lessons, but they were classical pieces, not Scottish fiddle music. Therefore he taught me simple chords in several keys.

Grandad would come to visit, a couple of times a month. With his fiddle.

After supper, he'd warm up by playing a few tunes on our piano. Then he'd open up the fiddle case and rosin his bow, and nod for me to join him. He'd play for anywhere from a half an hour to over an hour.

I was fourteen.

I did not want to be at his beck and call when he came to visit.

I never refused to play, but I was a reluctant participant.

How I regret my begrudging behavior at age fourteen. And my foot-dragging at fifteen. My eye-rolling at sixteen; I especially regret that. And my wooden, duty-warped performances at seventeen.

By the time I was eighteen, I was away to university. I may have chorded for him at holidays, but I can't remember.

Anyway, I'd give a whole lot to hear him play again - and this time, I'd play willingly alongside him. And I'd put my heart into it, and smile at him.

Here's one of the tunes I remember.

For the record, I danced with my Grandad, too, something similar to the video - but none of us were in kilts, and we sure weren't in a castle.

Only once, but I did. And I truly enjoyed it.

Friday 18 November 2016

Friday Cheat Day

My week has been hijacked by the need to produce more craft products for a second sale.

That sounds like I churn out projects by the hundreds, doesn't it?

That would be a misrepresentation of how many things I've made. However, all my available free time has been taken up.

Hence, a LOLCAT post. It's fun to do and requires no thinking.

Most people need no introduction to LOLCATS. For anyone who does, all the following images come from The content is submitted by the site's readers, and includes both pictures and videos; there are various sections, including my favourite, cats. Readers can then caption the photos and vote on best images. For more information, see wikipedia's entry HERE.

This is my escape. This is my chocolate. This is my romance novel. This is my mindless TV. In other words, this requires less than one brain cell to take in, and it makes me forget everything else for awhile.

So, with all the apologies that admission requires of me, and with the additional cringe-inducing confession that I looked through more than 100 pages of images (7 per page) in my search for the best of the best FOR YOU MY READERS, here is Curated Collection #1 (10 photos long) for anyone who is still reading (please note I am poking fun at the word curated, as it seems to be in line to become one of the most overused words of the year. It is a perfectly good word in the right context but the uses I've seen it put to have sometimes made me rest my head on the desk and cry real tears):

Hope you had at least one LOL.

And I have no idea how that dog got in there, but that's okay - he's adorable.

Until Monday, keep your happy face ready to go.

Thank you, icanhascheezburger, for your contribution to this post and to my life. When my kids were teenagers, this website was a place we could laugh together at length. Anything with that kind of power is not to be taken too lightly.


Monday 14 November 2016

Update, and Visitors

The post I linked to on Friday, on Tim Urban's website Wait but Why, called "It's Going to be Okay," has been followed up with another post, HERE.

Tim acknowledges that he wrote his initial post quickly and without taking the time he usually does to let all the nuances of the election results seep into his brain.

If you read the original post, it would be worthwhile reading the follow up. In it, he addresses some of the points that turned out to have needed more thought, but I believe his central point is still valid and is the only way to move forward in any case where there is such division: no matter which way we vote or which "side" we are on, ALL of us need to try to learn why "the other side" voted the way they did. My Friday post was referring not just to the division in the United States, but also in Britain (the Brexit vote) and in my own community.

There has also been a new TED talk released since the American election that I found gave me some clues to how to move forward. That video is HERE, if you care to follow me down the rabbit hole of learning.

And now for a complete change of topic.

Every autumn, I've noticed that there seems to be one day when the leaves drift continuously from the trees. You could watch them drop for hours, if you had the time, and by day's end the trees are virtually bare.

That day happened here last week. We had frost the night before, and the cold snap may have been the trigger for the leaves to fall en masse. As I was filming them, our three deer wandered into the yard. I say "our" because they are the same three who visit us frequently - a doe and two smaller ones who we think may be her twins of last spring.

I hope you enjoy seeing the leaves fall around the deer as they graze, happily oblivious to me - who by the way was standing on the very cold deck in my sock feet.

And look who came to the front yard later in the day - the nearer deer was only a few feet from our front door, while the far one was in the neighbour's yard. They have very little fear, but after all, they did grow up in town. This is their home. They've never known a truly wild place.

Until Friday ... be well, my friends.

Friday 11 November 2016

My Pledge on this Remembrance Day

There have been significant issues in my home community over the past year that have led me to do a lot of thinking about a number of things, including staying engaged between elections. The issues were eerily similar to many of those that arose during the Brexit vote and the American election, albeit on a much smaller scale.

I am not by nature an outspoken person or a fighter. I would rather be quiet than speak up. I would rather go along and get along. I don't like confrontation, I don't like being the object of public criticism, and as much as it pains me to admit it, I've never enjoyed having to think long and hard about topics that can frequently be dry and complex, such as governance and politics and democracy and economics and taxation and leadership and so much more.

But I've been trying to change. 

And Remembrance Day seems like a fitting time to set out my revised personal code of conduct that includes both the actions I find easy and the actions that are harder for me.

Today I am promising myself ...

... to be kind to others, because we all have troubles

... to be open to what others are really saying, underneath what they appear to be saying

... to be brave enough to stand up and fight for what I believe in, if/when it becomes necessary

... to be engaged in relevant issues every day, not just when I am marking an X on a ballot

The freedom to do - or not do - these things is part of what our armed forces fought for.

I can live these things every day as a way to thank them, to honour their service, and to help protect that hard-won freedom.

If I believe in goodness and equality and fairness and freedom for all people, I must live them every day.

Not everyone can make big sweeping changes in the world.

But every single one of us can improve our small sphere within it.

For a thoughtful, concise, and encouraging essay on the results of the American election, titled "It's Going to be Okay," written by Tim Urban of the blog Wait But Why, click HERE.

Courtesy of Pixabay

Monday 7 November 2016

Winning the Lottery

Something a bit different today ...

It's a poem I wrote years ago about my maternal grandfather.

It's a true story.

And it's a lesson that I often think of, when I've had a close call, when I've had a bit of good luck, or when I've had what seems like bad luck but is really nothing in the big scheme of things.



He was a small man, thin and slight;
Tough in his younger days, but
Frail now, from eighty years of living.
Perched on his heels
On the edge of a wooden kitchen chair,
Smoke curling from a neglected cigarette
Held between trembling fingers,
He gazed into the air,
Brown eyes bright and alert.
"You know," he said slowly,
"I've never bothered to buy lottery tickets.
"And I'll tell you why."
Grandad paused, to make sure I was listening.
I was.  He was a good storyteller.
Stories of his working life, mostly.
He was a coal miner,
Working shifts underground, in "the pit".
His level voice came again.
"One day, we were working the face as usual,
"Planting the shot to bring down the rock and coal.
"But the shot blew too soon.
"It blew boulders the size of a man,
"And I would have been killed, except
"The blast knocked me over, down between two rocks.
"When the noise stopped,
"And the dust cleared a little,
"I opened my eyes to see another rock,
"Balanced on the rocks on each side of me –
"Right over me, but not quite touching me."
He tapped the long ash from the trembling cigarette.
"There was just room for a small man under that rock."
A small man, thin and slight.
Slowly, he added,
"I had my sweepstakes luck that day."
Then he looked at me and smiled,
Brown eyes gentle and deep.

Friday 4 November 2016

TED and Fred

Before starting this blog, I envisioned one of its purposes to be a platform for sharing some of the fascinating stuff I find on the internet.

Aside from linking to worthy blogs, that hasn't happened much. And after trying to write today's post, I think I know why.

It's not that there's a sudden shortage of interesting, moving, or funny stuff out there.

It's that I can't seem to form an original thought to comment on it all. If there's going to be brilliant commentary on the topic, it's going to have to happen in the comments section, by someone who isn't me.

Today I wanted to share a 2015 TED talk (video) by neuroscientist David Eagleman, who researches perception and brain plasticity. He's also an articulate, engaging, well-prepared speaker. His topic: Can we create new senses for humans? It's twenty minutes long, but seemed far less. And I learned a new word: umwelt. It is a weirdly useful word.

Anything to do with brain plasticity grabs my attention. Plasticity describes the ability of one area of the brain to take over the functions of another area in case of stroke or other damage. I first learned about the concept after my father's stroke, when I was trying to find everything I could about stroke rehabilitation. He was desperate to be able to walk again. Unfortunately, there were too many strikes against him in terms of damage done by the stroke, his general health, and available therapies, and re-wiring his brain to allow him to use his paralyzed limbs was not going to happen.

But that explains how I got to the TED talk. If you're interested, click HERE.

If not, you are welcome to look at these pretty things:

mixed deciduous and evergreen forest near my home

a dianthus, one of my favourite flowers in the garden, still blooming
lacework against a grey sky

another hardy soul in the garden - its leaves are turning purple as the weather gets chilly

the sky at dusk

wild berries along the walking trail

wild apples, also along the trail

our burning bush (Euonymous alatus, I believe)

after a rainfall

the butterfly bush is still blooming, but the blossoms are about one-third as long as they were in warmer weather

I hope the owner of this didn't need it anymore

Hope all is well in your corner of the world.

P. S. In case you wondered, Fred is my camera. (See title.)