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My Encounter with a High Horse

  My eyes fluttered open as the grey light of dawn filtered into my room. Stretching in the warm cocoon of my bed, I reached into the crisp cold air of my bedroom with outstretched arms. Something important was tugging at my sleepy brain, and slowly I remembered; I had an adventure planned for this morning!  As quietly as I could, I slipped from between the covers. Then, shivering and teeth chattering, I quickly dressed and tiptoed downstairs, careful not to wake my sleeping parents and brother. My parents wouldn't have understood-- and my brother, three years younger, would have wanted to tag along.  Leaving the silent house with a couple of apples in my pocket, I stepped out into a world alive with chirping, twittering bird-song. A short walk from our house was a meadow, and I ran through the frosty grass towards the paddock. There stood my friend Merrylegs, who I often stroked on my way to school. Seeing me, she walked towards the fence, the breath from her nostrils hanging

We Need More of That

Edited version. First published 18/05/2016 The sun shone bright, and the day was full of the promise of spring as our cars converged on the small church standing at the side of a quiet country road. It was a glorious day for our purpose: remembering someone who would have loved to be there but who had more pressing business in heaven. The gathering was informal and simple, just staff of the agency that had supported the person and his friends and family. We simply sang songs that were his favourites and shared our memories. We laughed and wiped away some tears, and we all left with more than we came with. I loved all of the stories, but two shared by one of his support staff stuck with me. To understand them, you need to know two things: he loved to sing and was irrepressible if the moment called for a song, and he had an intellectual disability.  He left his seat at one event they were at, mounted the podium, and took the microphone. Then he sang the song, "Jesus Loves Me,"

On Procrastination

I realize that I am using a chunk of my so-called "daily writing time," 1.5 hours, first thing every morning, in "writing study." I love learning, reading, and, sometimes, practicing, but the buzzer rings and I have done little  writing.  So, I thought of separating both things and building in five hours of strictly "writing time" into my weekly writing schedule to be used in one chunk or several smaller increments. This week is my first trial. Here is some wise advice on schedules that I read this morning: "GO EASY Now that you have your schedules set for reading and writing, don't be too harsh a boss! What's it going to hurt if sometimes you daydream on the job a little or goof around in the kitchen? As long as your working hours are clear, you at least know you ought to be working. You have a schedule to know when you're messing up.  Then again... It won't do to coddle yourself. Not at your desk when you're supposed to be? Call

The Magic Shoe Company

 Yesterday our granddaughter Tori came to pick up a cheque that had arrived in our mailbox and stayed for a visit with her mom, Brenda and me. In the course of the conversation, we talked about customer satisfaction. However, I can’t recall how we got onto that topic, only that it reminded me of my satisfying conclusion of a slipper purchase almost a month earlier.  We were all sitting on the floor at the time to be less threatening to her shy dog, Kevin, so I pointed to my feet stretched out in front of me—and my new slippers with their moccasin-like uppers, cozily trimmed and lined with faux-fur. Tori appraised them approvingly, “They’re nice,” she said.  “I love them,” I said, “but the first pair I bought after spending forever choosing them and thinking they were perfect began to pinch after several hours of wearing them around the house. Thinking I’d get used to them, I kept them on despite the discomfort and even dropped something on them in the kitchen, which I wiped off with a

I Choose

I’m studying a book I’ve had for years: Writing Life Stories, by Bill Roorbach, with Kirsten Keckler Ph.D. I am struck by Bill Roorbach’s endearing personality, which shines through every line. He is helpful, wry, funny, and compassionately understanding of the aspiring writer. His book is not only a pleasure to read but is packed with wisdom. So why did I never apply myself to reading it? Life! Life in all its busyness can rob us of the best that is always there waiting for us to choose it. But I realize more than ever that a choice for something of importance implies excluding much else that is mere filler and froth. How distracting is the foam on the sand of my life—the rabbit holes of Facebook and Google are so addictive. But I realize that I cannot waste precious time and that I need self-control to avoid these tempting trapdoors. If not, they will win the battle for my time and attention. God, I’ve seen mention of self-control in the Bible as a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:

Retrospect

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  Labour Day 2015 was as hot and sultry as high summer. Yet, in the shade of our magnolia tree, I sat on our small north easterly deck, listening to the chatter of leaves in the soft breeze, and smiling at the irony that Labour Day, being a holiday, gave me permission to do nothing at all.  I did it--nothing, that is. I simply leaned back into my bright blue resin Adirondack chair and thought for a while as the cars on the nearby highway zoomed by as though in another world. For me, this Labour Day was the first in 41 years that didn't precede a paid workday. So I had the freedom, now, to choose how to spend my time and hadn't stopped thanking God for that privilege several times each day. The past year had been intense and busy. So much so that I found I couldn't write, even though there was so much to write about. At the end of each day, I had little energy, let alone time, so I focused instead on surviving the stress of my husband, Paul's heart attack; trying to

Do All Good Things Come to Those Who Wait?

I answered the question in the title as a response to today's assignment for my writing group, in which we  were asked to argue against a common cliche we chose from a list. I hope you enjoy mine.  For most of my life, I’ve been the kind of person who made a change only when circumstances forced me to. The philosophy of “all good things come to those who wait” seemed to work. But I have come to doubt this philosophy. It’s not that I’m discounting those who patiently wait or entrust their hopes and dreams to God and leave them there. On the contrary, my life following this way of thinking was happy and blessed. But I have taken on a more active and engaged approach lately and found it invigorating, fruitful, and even more honouring of God. Change is deeply uncomfortable for me, although I have friends who thrive on it and are energized by it for its own sake. I am learning to embrace change actively instead of passively, though. Perhaps because realistically, in my seventies, my f

Four Cookbooks and a Yellow Giftbag

Over this weekend, I inherited four cookbooks. Three came from my friend, V, who is also the mother of my much-loved son-in-law. V's force of nature Russian mother, Julia, also a friend I used to visit occasionally, moved into a retirement home some time ago. One of V's parts in sorting through her mother's belongings that couldn't move with her included a small library of cookbooks. She gave me the first refusal at several she thought I might like and sent photos of their covers so that I could select the ones I'd like, including a selection last week. Then, on Friday, she came for dinner with her son and our daughter in our downstairs apartment, which they're renting for a few months. She brought the three books I'd chosen in a repurposed cheery bright yellow gift bag: The Oy of Cooking, a treasury of a Jewish grandmother's recipes, complete with stories; Baking with Julia (no need to add the last name!) and a book of Amish cooking. Yesterday my friend

More on Listening

 Yesterday was a day of sleepy exhaustion, and I reluctantly dragged my feet to start our first Life Group meeting of the year in the evening. Trying to prepare by reading the chapter for discussion felt so difficult. I repeatedly tried over two days to get through it, but I was so tired that I fell asleep every few minutes, and as a result, it took so much longer than it should have. The topic, “The Art of Spiritual Dialogue,” was a good one and connected to Brenda Ueland’s essay, “Tell Me More: On the Fine Art of Listening,” which I had read the day before, the topic of which was the importance of really listening to others. I do that poorly, I realize, and maybe everyone does in general. Sometimes it’s because it is an art, and I need to work at it deliberately, as we must do to acquire any skill. Still, underlying anxiety often causes me to fill conversational space too quickly instead of drawing out the other or others around me. I can see this so easily when someone else does it,

Listening

Yesterday I read an essay on listening by Brenda Ueland, a writer whose book, If You Want to Write, inspired and instructed Edna Staebler, lately one of my writing heroes. I loved and learned from Brenda’s beautifully written essay on listening. Still, I will reread it today, and perhaps many times in the future, to absorb it well enough that I can practice what she describes so brilliantly; to listen intentionally and well. I remember from my first quick reading that she learned to really listen in a way that draws something of the speaker out. But, of course, this doesn’t happen automatically, only in the presence of a skilled listener. It saddens me that we miss this—that I have missed this—when each person we encounter has a bright soul and spirit locked up inside unless drawn out into the light to be revealed and honoured. Brenda Ueland writes of how she used to prepare for social occasions by thinking she had to be “on,” She meant by that to be bright and animated—artificiall
Words—what a fantastic thing they are! At the moment, a tiny being is visiting the apartment downstairs. At least twice a day, the door from the apartment opens, and our daughter, Brenda, announces, “We’re here for a visit!” Paul and I drop whatever we are doing, and like iron filings to a magnet, we gather to receive this marvel--a child just twenty-three months in the world. The child’s chief joy at the moment is naming, starting with us, at whom she points, dubbing us with our sweet titles: “Mi-mi,” for Omie, and “Gandad,” for grandad. “Yes!” we say enthusiastically as she looks up at Brenda for confirmation and affirmation. This wonder-child then proceeds to name everything else she notices in her surroundings for the next few minutes. “Tree” (for we still have two Christmas trees standing,) and then the decorations on the tree—the letter “B” which appears a few times, and an ornament that is “pink,” and contains “books,” a gift from a friend to me, a book lover. And we respond wit

New Year Thoughts

A new year feels like writing for the first time in a new journal, one of those special ones gifted by friends who know you love new journals, no matter how many you have tucked away. Those first lines always feel so important and significant! Also, opening a new book adds to the sense of opportunities ahead and a new determination to seize them when hopes to do so before were subverted by other pressing priorities or the mere lackadaisical way in which everyday life can steal our promises. A new year can also overwhelm with thoughts of calls to duty and responsibilities that seem impossible to fulfill when considered as a whole: letters to write, rooms to be tidied, organized and decluttered, relationships to nurture, passions to pursue and latent gifts to practice, polish and hone into true excellence. Yet at the centre is a quiet call to be still and know: “Be still and know that I am God,” writes the psalmist in Psalm 46, verse 10. The psalm is written for the director of music