Friday, July 31, 2015

It's strange but the pain doesn't matter...

I had things to do today. I’m not good at doing several tasks in one trip, I generally don’t have the stamina to do more than one at a time, but things do pile up don’t they? And you get a little desperate. Despite the fact that I was already a little wobbly in the pins and it was 31 C (88 F) as my Dad would say, “I put my foot in my pocket and set out.” I have no more idea than you what that means, but not all of Dad’s idioms made sense. 

I had to go to the pharmacy, well, you know "pharmacies" these days. Yes, they dispense your medications but they also carry everything else from cosmetics to footwear to mops, motor oil, frozen food, and everything in between. Ours gives points with every purchase, even prescriptions, and since we take a suitcase full of expensive medications every month we rack up a lot of points. I needed to replenish the laundry soap, dishwasher detergent, mouthwash, and articles along that line. There was a sale - so much the better. It was time to cash out some points! 

I needed a cart, but that meant I needed a loonie (dollar coin) and all I had was a handful of quarters and toonies (two dollar coins). I ventured into the store and asked the first clerk I saw if she could give me a loonie for four quarters and she ran to the till to do so. I ran into one of the identical twin brothers who own the store, like two peas in a pod, in an aisle, and asked for a supplement they keep behind the counter. No waiting in line. Yay! 

By the time I checked out, with almost $100.00 of stuff for $20, I was beginning to see through a grey Scottish mist, and I must have looked as wobbly as I felt, as one of the clerks followed me out to the car, unloaded my two bags, helped me into the car and told me to wait while she brought me my loonie from the cart. I sat in the little red oven with the windows down until the AC cooled it down, then decided I’d better go next door to the Burger King, sit for a while and get some food and potassium in me before I passed out.  

In the BK the young man who took my order said, “I’ll bring it to your table, you should go sit down.” Maybe the fact that I didn’t have the strength to open the door to get inside was a tip-off. LOL (It’s a handicapped “powered” door, but you still have to pull on it after you punch the button.) 

Next stop, the bank. Not a single ATM working. There was a lot of colourful language, in several languages, in the foyer. The line-up inside was about 40 people long. Ahead of me in line was a gorgeous African man, maybe 50. His boot lace was trailing by about 16”. I brought it to his attention. He retied his laces and then urged me to go ahead of him. I declined saying I was younger than I looked, being only 110. He said he was 111, and we should call the Guinness Book of World Records and they will come take our picture immediately, us being so old and both so good-looking still. He was a cutie. 

But little by little I got pushed to the front of the line, no one would take no for an answer. All these people, tired from a day/week of hard work, many in overalls and hard hat, and some in office wear, smiling and saying, “No, you go you go, you senior, your time for respect, our pleasure.” Not superficial, not simple politeness, but real kindness, and as the last woman at the head of the line said when she insisted I go in front of her said, "It makes me feel good to extend kindness to someone else. I do it as much for myself as for you."

When all you hear on the news day after day is how awful people are, and what terrible things they do to each other, and after the outright nastiness directed at me here in the building in the last few weeks, their kindness was enough to almost bring me to tears. 

As I came out of the bank a neighbour was just pulling into the handicap spot just outside the door and we talked a few minutes. He’s a very nice man, someone I put up a fight for when our last management company charged him a large unfair fee. He always has a big smile for me. 

My last stop was the grocery store. Thank goodness I didn’t have much to get, because halfway through my potassium took another dive. I was spaghetti legs. I grabbed a bottle of water from a cooler and popped a potassium fizzie in it and started drinking but the water was too cold to drink very fast. I was still drinking it as I checked through. The checker packed the bags light enough so I could easily lift them and one of the stockers went out with me and loaded the groceries into the car. I appreciated this a lot and gave him a nice tip.  

I sat in the car and finished my potassium, by now the temperature was 33 C (91 F) and I still had to drive home, unload the purchases into my granny cart and get them inside. But I did it, or I wouldn’t be here, now would I? 

I ran my little marathon and finished. Right now, if it don’t hurt, it don’t work, but you know, it doesn't seem to matter. 


Sunday, July 19, 2015

July's KIVA Loan - Oxen in Armenia

Anahit and her granddaughter 
This month we make our 73rd KIVA loan. It goes to Anahit, who is from Lori Berd, a village of Lori region, Armenia. She lives with her husband, son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. Her shy little granddaughter is in this photograph with her.

Anahit is a nurse by profession and works part time in the local clinic. She and her husband are among the many parents around the world who have to help their adult children care for and bring up their grandchildren. 

Anahit’s family has a small farm which requires a lot of hard labour and is not always profitable due to the many problems that can emerge on any farm, but which is especially challenging when the grinding amount of labour required to farm must be done entirely by hand. They don't even have an ox to pull the plow or transport feed or other heavy items. Currently they keep two cows, calves, a pig and some hens, but are limited in how many animals they can keep by the labour required to provide for them. As a result their income is also limited. 

Anahit manages to sell some meat, dairy products and eggs, to customers in their village, but to be able to increase their production and enrich their farm, Anahit has applied for a loan which the family will use to buy four oxen, which can be used to plow and do other heavy work the family finds extremely difficult or impossible. 

As this is Anahit's first loan, it has been approved within the framework of the joint initiative between KIVA and their field partner in Armenia SEF International. The first-chance loan program provides loans to people who didn't have access to credit before because they have no credit history. Through this joint initiative almost 500 borrowers like Anahit have gotten a chance to have their first loans and develop their businesses. This is Anahit's first loan with Kiva, and she hopes that the Kiva loan will bring success to her agricultural business.

SEF International is a microfinance subsidiary of World Vision International. It extends financial services to Armenian entrepreneurs to fund their small businesses and improve their lives. Through its partnership with Kiva, the organization is able to create sustainable jobs and build brighter futures for families and children.

The majority of SEF clients are located in Armenia’s poorest rural communities. Accordingly, the organization offers a variety of loan products for farmers, urban businesses, start up and non-formal businesses and consumers focused on improving quality of life for children.

From a social impact perspective, SEF has delivered visible results since its founding. In total, it has extended more than $74 million in loans to more than 74,000 clients. It has also created and sustained over 64,000 jobs and positively impacted 109,000 children.

When you think of the intensely hard work this couple, probably in their mid-to-late 50s and their son and his wife, endure to survive, it stirs a deep compassion in your heart. To be able to help lift that burden is a privilege offered by KIVA. And there are a thousand more hard-working women and men and families waiting for a hand up, not a hand out, just a loan which will come back to you. Bread cast on the water, comes back buttered with the satisfaction of knowing that it has helped lift someone out of poverty. Think about making a KIVA loan today. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Yea, thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death

Remembered with Love 

   Mary Margaret Isabel born sleeping 17 July 1971

Undercover officer gets the surprise of his life!

Vancouver's Downtown Eastside has a well-deserved reputation for being a violent, dangerous place. When Vancouver Police Officer Mark Horsley went undercover looking for a thug who'd roughed up and robbed a couple of wheelchair users look what happened to him. (when the video finishes hit the escape key to return to this page.) 

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. ~Dalai Lama

The people on the East Side have almost all gone through terrible trauma, some of it self-inflicted, but much of it out of their control. But it's a nasty place to have to live. They aren't there because they work in a downtown office tower and it's a short commute to work. 

People usually have one of two reactions to having living through horrific trauma like the holocaust or residential school, or physical, sexual or psychological abuse by a parent or caregiver. The first group says; I will never do this to anyone or be silent when it happens to others; the second group becomes embittered and twisted and try to "avenge" what was done to them by perpetuating the abuse, again and again on others, as if trying to vomit spoiled food. 

Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds. ~Orison Marden

It's clear that while the people who helped Officer Horsley might not be "successful" by Wall Street's standards, their ethics are far higher than those of the men who run the world's largest banks and corporations, and their compassion is off the chart compared to people like USA presidential hopeful Donald Trump, who seems to think shooting illegal Mexican immigrants from his private helicopter would be a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon and another presidential hopeful, Ben Carson, has just allied himself with a rightwing pastor who advocates killing Gay people and women who use birth control as a way to bring the USA back to "righteousness". Of course Carson would back the KKK if it got him two votes. These two are highly "successful" by the society's standards, but are repulsive as human beings. The members of Vancouver's Eastside Community has them for beat by miles in terms of humanity and compassion. 

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

This Island Earth

I should have waited for an overcast day to take pictures because the full sun on the hot colours of red roses and hot pink petunias make my cheap little Nikkon lens have grand mal seizures, but blossoms are so fleeting, aren’t they? 

We've had a good bit of rain and everything is just bursting into bloom, so I grabbed my camera and headed out to take some pictures of the flowers and shrubs I’ve planted over over the last four years. 

Remember my little run-in some days ago with the woman about dumping 500 pounds of roadfill into the carefully designed and tended Zen garden? Well, her live-in boyfriend is president of the condo board this year, and Monday I received a rude letter from our management company, ordering me to stay out of the flower beds that I have planted and cared for daily for the last four growing seasons.  Since "the work" now primarily boils down to weeding  which hurts my back, I'm not broken-hearted.

I wrote management and told them what needed to be done, and today two of the landscape crew spent well over an hour yesterday being paid to weed and pick up the garbage in the garden, which I'd have done for free. 

But the situation brings to mind a good story, and I'll share one of my favourite songs from Jonathon Edwards called "This Island Earth", plus a good many pictures of the lovely flowers growing in the garden. Enjoy dears… 

                                              Might as well start with the music. 

Gurdjieff was an early 20th century teacher. Students came to live and study with him on his estate near Paris. There was one man in the community nobody could stand because he was impossible to get along with. He was overbearing and boorish, bullied the other students relentlessly, and had such a short fuse that everyone was constantly filled with tension, knowing that any insignificant thing could cause him to explode. The other students just wished that he would go away.

One of Gurdjieff’s teaching methods was to make his students do repetitive tasks that were completely meaningless; with the purpose of making them awaken to their reactions. It wasn't the meaningless tasks that were important, it was his students' inner experiences that mattered.

One day Gurdjieff’ told his students to dig up the grass on one side of a path and replace it with the grass growing on the other side. This task proved to be too much for the man that everyone disliked. Halfway through the morning he blew up, screamed that he’d had enough of Gurdjieff’s useless chores, threw down his shovel, stormed to his room, packed his suitcase, ran to his car and drove away, swearing never to return. The rest of the community was delighted and cheered as his car disappeared down the drive. But when they told Gurdjieff what happened, he said “Oh, no!” and went after him.

Three days later they both came back. That night, when he was serving Gurdjieff his supper, his attendant asked, “Sir, why did you bring him back? It was so much more pleasant here with him gone,” Gurdjieff motioned the attendant to come closer and answered very quietly, “Between you and me; you must tell no one. I pay that man to stay here.”

People like Gurdjieff’s professional irritant and experiences like him, are what are called life's therapeutic irritations. They exist to wake us up. Like the sand in the oyster that is the seed of the pearl, therapeutic irritations stir a reaction in us. They pull off our blinders and teach us what is not possible to learn when surrounded with admiration, peace and harmony. 

Buddhism teaches that the difficult is the best teacher, and that all of us suffer from the same kleshas, mental states that cloud the mind and manifest in unwholesome actions. 

The kleshas are also called the five poisons and are:

1: Passion (craving, greed, lust etc)
2: Aggression: (anger, hatred, resentment etc)
3: Ignorance: (confusion, bewilderment, apathy etc)
4: Pride: (arrogance, conceit, low self-self esteem etc)
5. Jealousy: (envy, a lack of self-worth, paranoia, etc) 

Buddhism teaches that while the kleshas can never be completely eliminated, they can be pacified. Once you realize how these negative emotions are poisoning your health, happiness and well-being you can train yourself yourself to reject them when they arise, and gradually they lose their power over you. 

 This is a universal struggle faced by all of humanity and one that calls for compassion rather than anger when you are faced with “therapeutic irritations”. 

As Jean Vanier, who I admire so much said, “We human beings are all fundamentally the same. We all belong to a common broken humanity. Each one of us needs to feels appreciated and understood. We all need help.”

Let’s face it. Happiness is an inside job. 

Story about Gurdjiieff for Pema Chodron’s book, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living, Shambala Press, 1994 

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Thoughts that go bump in the night

If you've followed this blog for any length of time you most certainly are deprived of any quality reading material, but you also know I have been an avid genealogist for over 40 years. 

My 4th g-grdmother Catherine Dorneberger
Genealogy is interesting for a variety of reasons, one of which is that it quickly teaches you that no one gets out of here alive. When 90% of your family photos are of tombstones, you soon understand that the Grim Reaper walks one step behind you, and that rustling you hear is his robe catching against his bony knees. 

Genealogy isn't a hobby with me, it's more like an obsession. Maybe I was called to it, because I was born what the Irish call "sensitive", not that I am an overly emotional person, in fact one of my doctors referred to me as "stoic" recently which made me laugh afterwards considering how much I moan and groan about my pain levels. But sensitive in the woo-woo sense.  

For example, my Dad was a rig supervisor in the oil fields of West Texas.  On any given day he could be on any one of half a dozen rigs, over a 200 mile area. There were no cell-phones or ways to communicate in the 40s and 50s. But several times, beginning when I was about two, when Mother needed to reach him in an emergency, she sat me on the front seat of the car, where I couldn't even see over the dashboard, and asked me to tell her where Daddy was. And I'd listen for him, or feel for him. It's hard to describe. I would open my heart, or that's how it felt, and I could feel where he was, and I'd tell her to go that direction. And we found him every time. 

But I had a coincidental and unrecognized at the time encounter with a family member long since in the spirit world in the late 1970s. We decided to return briefly to the US because my Mother was terminally ill and we wanted her to have some time with our two boys.  

We decided to buy property in Arkansas, a few hours drive from my parents, and build a small house. Land was very inexpensive, and we wanted to be out in the country. We drove through a tiny town in the northeast corner of the state called Berryville. We looked around a little, thought 'not for us' and drove on. But in the night I woke up and felt a strong compulsion to go back to Berryville. 

Long story short, we went back. A realtor drove us around and there was one piece of property that grabbed us, me especially. We bought it, built a tiny house and lived there for about a year. 

At the time I had no idea that my paternal grandmother and her mother had both been born in the next county. There's an excellent genealogy library in Berryville. I would go in there and literally ache, because I could feel family all around me, and all I could do was look at the files in frustration. I even walked the graveyard, with the same feeling of frustration.

Thirty-five years later the bird comes to the nest. With DNA testing I've made contact with a 3rd great-grandson of my 3rd great-grandfather's Lawson's brother Jacob. And with it his family tree.  

In 1850 both Lawson and Jacob and their families were living  side-by-side in Ripley Co Missouri. By 1853 both had moved south into Arkansas. Jacob's son George Washington Smith moved to Carroll Co, just outside of Berryville, next door to the Sisco family. And in 1883 George Smith's daughter Lucretia married William Emberson Sisco and produced eight little Sisco kids. No Lone Rangers apparently.  

On the way to our property, we left Berryville on Sisco Rd. The Sisco farmhouse stood at the junction where we turned to get to our property. in 1979 it was well-maintained and still lived in. 

George Washington Smith and wife Sarah Jane Frederick
The 20 acres we bought may well have been part of the property which belonged to my 4th cousin George Smith 100 years before us. We disassembled an old square-cut log house up the road from it. The logs were not milled, but cut with an adze. The nails were hand-forged. I still have one of them in  a drawer somewhere. Was it the home of George Smith?  I wish there was a better picture of him, this one is torn across his face and no amount of photoshopping will fill in the missing gap. 

But my 3rd great-grandmother Priscilla, and 4th great-grandmother Elizabeth both died between 1850 and 1853, the same time George Washington Smith moved down near the Siscos. Did Lawson and his family go with them? Did Priscilla and Elizabeth die in Carroll County? For the life of me I can't understand why a 4th great-uncle would exert such an emotional pull, while I have searched for the identities of these two women for three decades. 

You have to wonder what ghosts lead you back, but I've seen "coincidences" happen to genealogists I know too many times to discount them. Henry Jones, expert on the Palatine migrations, has written two books based on genealogists finding their ancestors through almost unbelievable "coincidences".
"They want to be found," he says.  


Friday, July 03, 2015

Flickers and Flowers...

Northern Flicker
Yesterday was Canada Day, and the weather was perfect, so in the afternoon Ian and I went for a walk in a local park. We walked to a high point, where we had a view of the entire park, which is a former industrial area that has been cleaned up and left to go back to as wild a state as possible. It's prairie, with grasses, and a bit of marshy area, so the grasses were billowing in the wind. We sat and talked for a long time, and he took pictures of some of the flowers, grasses and vistas, plus a Northern Flicker, a member of the woodpecker family.  

Hackelia floribunda
One flowering plant growing in profusion along the path was so beautiful we stopped and Ian took several picture of them. 

The flowers are hardly bigger than the head of a pin, and the plants themselves were 4-5" or about 11 cm tall. Many were covered with flowers but the little burrs the flowers mature into were already visible. These are Hackelia floribunda, a species of flowering plant in the borage family known by the common name manyflower stickseed. 

Yes, well-named. Walk along a path lined with these later in the summer and your socks will be covered with the little egg-shaped burrs which are covered in velcro-like hooks. Like a lot of bad habits and crazy ideas, they start out looking very attractive, but it isn't long before you can't get the "burrs" out of your life.

We followed our walk with a visit to the grocery store. I had started a yummy chicken soup made from fresh vegetables and roasted chicken in the crockpot before leaving home. So we bought fruit and salad and cat food, and the three of us had a nice meal together and Ian visited with his Dad for a while.

It was lovely to spend time together. He's always so busy, that I miss the long talks we used to have when he was younger and we'd often talk late into the night. Seeing your children grow up into competent, compassionate human beings is the best feeling in the world.