Monday, November 19, 2018

Chortling Over Childhood Memories

"Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love,
the things you are, the things you never want to lose."

~ Kevin Arnold

A few years ago, I bought a do-it-yourself memoir book. The Book of Me is designed as a fill-in-the-blank and is made from acid free archival paper. Although meant for writing in and keeping for posterity, I didn't want to write in it, I only wanted it as a reference -- to use the prompts to jostle old memories and help me remember forgotten aspects of my younger self. Since my 60th, I've been working away on gathering my memories, going through old journals, photos, scrapbooks, and other memorabilia. This book has proved its worth and has given much opportunity for gentle musing as well as a good deal of mirth in the remembering of long ago incidents.

I now see that this exercise has provided some great fodder for blogging. So, let me tell you what's been floating up as a result of the prompt "Did You Ever...". I offer them as a little light entertainment to start off your week. And, of course, you are welcome to join the fun. Share a memory here, or use the prompt to write your own post.

"We do not remember days;
we remember moments."

~ Cesare Pavese, Poems about Life


"In some ways, siblings, and especially sisters, are more influential
in your childhood than your parents."

~ Deborah Tannen 


Make something that flopped? Oh yes. When we were girls, my sister and I looked forward to afternoons when Mom was away for a couple of hours. Not to get into trouble exactly, but that's when we'd whip out the recipe books and try our hand at making candy or fudge. Not having a candy thermometer never deterred us; we assumed we could figure it out by the rate of bubbling going on in the pot. That's what the recipes told us, anyways.

We tried to make sponge toffee once, and I probably don't need to mention that it was a disaster. Not only did we not get the sweet treat we were anticipating, but we wrecked mom's good pot into the bargain. We scraped the burnt concoction into the garbage barrel outside and then gave that pot the best scrubbing it ever had. Putting it back in the cupboard, with fingers crossed, we hoped Mom wouldn't notice the permanent weird stains all over the bottom and sides.

Except mothers have eyes in the back of their heads, right? She told us years later about coming out to burn garbage one day and wondered what that disgusting mess was in the barrel. She recognized a baking disaster when she saw one and chuckled to herself. She never said a word. We certainly ventured no confessions.

* * *

Leave out a key ingredient? Sis and I were going to bake a cake one afternoon. Mom was going to see a neighbour for little while. She said we could bake something for dessert for supper. We opted to make a family favourite, Aunty Julia's Raisin Cake.

We must have been fairly new to baking, because we didn't clue in that flour is a staple ingredient in any baking venture. Maybe we were denser than some kids, but we took all recipes at face value. We creamed the butter and sugar, we added the milk, spices, and raisins. It didn't look the way a batter should look, we mused, peering into the bowl with anxious eyes. We went over the ingredient list again, and yes, we had added everything it said, so, alright then, into the oven it went. Fingers crossed, hoping for a 'miracle' in there.

Thirty minutes later the pan, now out of the oven, was filled with something most uncake-like. A hard sugary mess sprinkled liberally with plump burned raisins. We called Grandma -- she would know what went wrong. She asked me to read off the ingredients.

"You didn't add any flour."

We wailed, "But the recipe didn't say."

That's the day we learned that cakes need flour, whether the handwritten recipe says so or not. That incident is now a part of our family folklore, and we've had many a good laugh over it. Sister thinks we fed the charred mess to the chickens, and Grandma no doubt enjoyed a chuckle when she got off the phone that day. The recipe for this old-fashioned raisin cake is HERE.


Doodle on the wall? That long bare wall in the hallway right outside our little bedroom looked so inviting. To a small child, it was a huge chalkboard. Empty, and waiting. Until, one day my little self could not resist the temptation to use her pencils and crayons to fill in that lovely blank space. There was such a feeling of freedom. Eventually Mom came along and the wall was scrubbed clean, but I never forgot that moment of expansiveness and space for creative work. It was a high but brief moment of exhilaration.

* * *

Jump on the bed? Oh yes, we were professionals at it. Up and down, challenging each other to see who could jump the highest. We did that only when Mom was outside, doing chores or working in the garden.

But the day of reckoning came. She brought the two of us into our room and asked us to look up at wall. Apparently there were dark patches with fingerprints all over. We couldn't imagine how they got up there, our hands weren't that dirty. With sleeves rolled up, a pail with warm soapy water between us, and a cleaning rag each, we were set to washing the wall as high as we could reach. We both recall feeling quite huffy over the whole exercise -- how could those be our fingerprints up there? We certainly could relate to Tom Sawyer at how long it would take when he saw that fence that needed whitewashing.

* * *

Put something in your ears or nose? Oh yes... we never seemed to learn our lesson. Same Sis and I used to see if bean seeds would fit. Not to mention beads used to make necklaces, oh, and puffed wheat. We would have contests to see how far we could snort them out. The beans and beads worked fine, the puffed wheat not so much as it kind of disintegrated.

Then came the day when my sister got a larger bead stuck in her nostril and it would not be snorted out. We got a little worried -- we'd have to tell Mom and the less she knew about our shenanigans, the better for us. Funny, how children work together to find their own solutions and avoid all adult interventions. We both remember me going for a toothpick to see if poking in there would help. All it did was push the bead farther. Now we were getting scared. Sister remembers eventually it just dropped out with much snorting -- our hearts surely lept with relief. Needless to say that ended our nose snorting contests forever. We think apple spitting contests took its place, a much safer activity. Except Mom used to wonder what made that sticky mess on the floor. We never volunteered any ideas.


Well, that's quite the list of memories for one little prompt, and believe you me, there's more surfacing. But that's for another day. Time is fleeting and laundry awaits. And hubby thinks lunch should be included.

On that note, I'm wishing you a wonderful week ahead. To all our American friends and neighbours, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. And to those still dealing with fires and other disasters, we wish you loving friends to help you through this time. We remember.


Friday, November 16, 2018

Days of Gratitude, Part 1


At the beginning of November my Facebook friend, Linda, posted a list of gratitude journal prompts (courtesy of for anyone interested in marking the month this way. I felt drawn to using the prompts to focus on some specific topics and to write those first thoughts that surface. Sometimes I surprised myself at what popped up.

Years ago, I kept a couple of gratitude journals for myself and always found the exercise inspiring. I first heard about doing this from Sarah van Breathnach when I read about it in her Simple Abundance book back in 1996. It was so much fun to start the day wondering what five things I would find to write down at the end of it. Once I started recording these, everything around me took on a whole new meaning. I began to pay attention to things I had taken for granted, and I began to see from the pages in my notebook how rich I was in every way. I felt truly blessed.

Willie Nelson once said that when he started counting his blessings, his whole life turned around. Oh yes, it was the same for me. Even though I never kept journals after that season to mark down moments of gratitude, it set me on a new path and forever changed how I saw my world. I've never stopped feeling grateful for the thousands of gifts that have come into my life. And to think, there's still so much more to notice and give thanks for with each new day.

I've gathered my Facebook November entries to date as I wanted to share them with you here ...  and so end the week on a high. I hope your heart will soar as you stop to notice the deep richness of your own life and all the good gifts that have come your way. Being grateful for the smallest treats to the largest gifts surely opens the door to living our lives more beautifully.

“In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a
great deal more than we give, and that it is only
with gratitude that life becomes rich.”

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer


While I'm at it, I want to tell you how grateful I am for each one of you. Your presence here, your footprint in my comment box always adds so much beauty and delight to my life. And for that, I am most grateful.

Wishing you a beautiful day and a cozy weekend --
I hear it's snowing all over the place today so be safe too. 


November 1. What smell are you grateful for today? Autumn leaves on the ground and frost in the air.
November 2. What technology are you grateful for? I’m grateful for my very smart iPhone camera.
November 3. What colour are you grateful for? I’m grateful for the toasty brown on freshly baked bread. 
November 4. What food are you most grateful for? Some days, the food that's been prepared by someone else is a gift for which I am most grateful.
November 5. What sound are you grateful for today? Mozart's music is giving me great joy these days. His music makes me feel happy and always gives me a sense of well-being.
November 6. What in nature are you grateful for? I went out for my walk earlier. It was cold and calm, snowing a little. I was enjoying that quietness that comes over the neighbourhood when the snowfall dulls the roar of traffic and bus horns. All I could hear were chickadees and a lone nuthatch. And I felt grateful.
November 7. What memory are you grateful for? My friend the other day confided that she has lost some of her short-term memory as a result of radiation treatment on her brain. She talked about how difficult this has been for her, learning to adjust to knowing that she probably won't remember our conversation the following day.
I felt the jolt of this in my own soul and ached for her. So thinking about this today, I'm not taking for granted that my faculties still function today and that my long-term and short-term memories are still retrievable and doing what they should be doing. For that, I am grateful.
November 8. What book are you most grateful for? I would have to say it's my tattered old bible with words and verses marked, and underscored, and underscored again. Through the years it has been my faithful friend. It's given me courage, comfort, inspiration, guidance. Its beautiful message has challenged me to live a better, kinder life. To love God and my neighbour as I would myself. To walk in the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control.
November 9. What place are you most grateful for? Today I am very grateful for my country, Canada, and for the tiny spot on the map I get to call home.

November 10. What taste are you grateful for today? Freshly brewed coffee and hot buttered toast with raspberry jam.

November 11. What holiday are you grateful for today? Today I'm grateful for Remembrance Day -- a day set apart to remember and honour those who 'fought the good fight' for freedom and peace, and who gave their lives for it. For those who continue to carry on the fight in this day and age. We bless them and say thank you today.

November 12. What texture are you grateful for today? The smooth creamy center of a Purdy's chocolate truffle.

November 13. What abilities are you grateful for today? I'm grateful today for the learned ability to find joy in the smallest gifts. Paying attention to the small treats that have come my way has afforded me thousands of happy moments in my life.
For Iris Murdoch was spot on when she said, "One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats."

November 14. What sight are you grateful for today? I came home from a friend's late yesterday afternoon just as the dusk was settling in. I caught sight of two neighbours who had turned on their Christmas lights for the first time this year -- one had their outside house lights on, and the other had her Christmas tree all aglow in her front window.
I grinned to myself. Yes, it's time.

November 15. What season are you grateful for? Although I love each season when it comes, Autumn has always been my most favourite for all the colours, crisp cooler air, the feeling of new beginnings in keeping with new school years.
But, today I'm thinking not so much about Nature's season, but about the season of my life -- this season of being in my sixties. Since my 60th birthday I've been gathering the memories of my lifetime and writing about them, and I've seen that something has been shifting in me as a result.
When I get the memories out of my head and down on paper, I now find myself feeling freer to explore new things, to consider matters I never had time for or interest in when I was young and busy living my life. I find my mind and soul surging with the desire to learn about new subjects, read new authors, listen to others, find out more about my world and how I fit in it.
It's as if wrapping up the old things and putting them to rest has opened the way for new experiences to emerge. I find that exciting.
With a few health things sorted out, and having more time for self-care, I feel better physically too.
So, yes, this season, right now, I'd guess I'd call it the Autumn of my life, is the one I'm most grateful for today.
November 16. Something about your body that makes you grateful. So grateful for my feet and legs that take me everywhere I need to go, including my walks for exercise.
A lovely friend, Matty, left a note on my FB page this morning in response to this prompt. I found it so precious that I had to share her comment with you:
"Definitely my body. I helped God make another human being. I held hands with those going home to God. I’ve kissed sad and happy faces. And, I am able to enjoy this wonderful world with all my senses. Pretty amazing!!"
* * * 

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Moment For Comfort On A Monday

anita austvika |

Grant me, Oh Lord, a sunny mind—

~Emily Dickinson
a line from her poem, Besides the Autumn Poets Sing

When I listen to the news of these past few days, clouds threaten to cover any sunny spots I might have in my mind. Fires, shootings, even a homemade bomb going off in our local library parkade this past week -- strange goings on seem to be everywhere. It's a world gone mad, and we wonder how to carry on, and our hearts ache for those whose lives are devastated and changed forever.

For today, I am well. My family is well. We are all reasonably happy and at peace going about the business of living our lives. Sometimes I think to myself, selfishly, what if I could just enclose myself in my own little world and shut myself off from the pain out there. Then maybe we'd get through it. But, of course, we can't disappear down our own rabbit holes and hope for things to go away -- we need each other to help share the load. Sometimes we're the ones with the bad stuff, other times it's happening to someone else. It makes me glad we're not alone -- as humans, we are in it together, and together, we can garner some measure of comfort.

"To console does not mean to take away the pain but rather to be there
and say, 'You are not alone, I am with you. Together we can carry
the burden. Don't be afraid. I am here.' That is consolation.
We all need to give it as well as to receive it."

~ Henri Nouwen


So, what do we do on a Monday morning? For many of us, including myself, life carries on with the usual routines, including various pleasant pursuits even. I sit here at my desk where I hear the chatter of the birds and am so glad that they keep singing regardless of what is going on. Maybe they are God's little messengers of hope that all is not lost.

Did you happen to see that poignant recording that came out over Remembrance Day weekend? They reveal that moment where the guns were stilled on November 11, 1918 and WWI was over. In that moment of silence after the deafening roar of guns and bombs, near the end of that beautiful sixty seconds of silence came a sweet, sweet sound -- the birds started singing. Amazing. Marvellous. I played it over and over just to hear that last bit again.

So we must keep the faith. We must share the light and pass along the antidote (other antidote thoughts in an earlier POST). Who knows, perhaps in some future decade or century someone will be reading the comforting words you have composed today for someone in a note, blog post, or book. And, there in that future place a woman will sit with that book or 'famous' quote in her lap, reading it aloud so her heart can hear the words, ever grateful they were preserved over the decades and could bring fresh comfort to her then and there.

I get a shiver up and down my spine to even imagine it!

annie spratt |

While thinking about what I wanted to share today, I realized that, first of all, I wanted to invite you to visit Sandra @ Where Inspiration Blooms, to take joy in one particular POST from a few weeks ago. Sandra is a very special online friend, a light in a dark world, and she offers her posts each week with the hope that her words will cheer, console, and gently challenge readers to keep looking for the good and beautiful in this world. I've been cheered more than once from her gracious writing.

If you do find yourself fretting or looking at this coming week with any anxiousness, let me share a word that I have often found a comfort in troubled times. These words that have come down through the centuries offer the same solace they offered past generations. It's encouraging to me, personally, to hear about people who lived through their own dark times and are still able to write down such hopeful thoughts. Surely then it's also possible for me, for us, in our world today to take heart ... and carry on.
"Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or God will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations."
~ St. Francis de Sales (1567 - 1622)

Recently my dear niece was feeling the pressure of her studies at college -- it all seemed overwhelming. Even though my own college days are ancient history now, I vividly remember that angst of studies and homework piling up, wondering how on God's green earth I was ever going to get through it all. Thinking about what I could offer that might give her courage, I was suddenly reminded of something attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt (she'd certainly gone through her share of hardships). It's a quote that has been pinned to my bulletin board for decades now. I quickly texted Becca the words, and a moment later I heard the familiar ping, her reply telling me that those words meant more to her than I'd ever know...
"Every time you meet a situation, though you think at the time it is an impossibility and you go through the tortures of the damned, once you have met it and lived through it you find that forever after you are freer than you were before."
~ Eleanor Roosevelt, former US First Lady

There are those who are grieving for something. A loss of a loved one or something precious to them, like their home or job. I am always drawn to these words that were spoken to the grieving widower, Oscar Blundell, in Rosamunde Pilcher's well-loved novel Winter Solstice. Sometimes words aren't enough to help someone through the grief, but once in a while they make it bearable for the moment. That's exactly what Oscar found when his friend tried to comfort him with these words:
"Life is sweet. Beyond the pain, life continues to be sweet. The basics are still there. Beauty, food, and friendship, reservoirs of love and understanding. Later, possibly not yet, you are going to need others who will encourage you to make new beginnings. Welcome them. They will help you move on, to cherish happy memories and confront the painful ones with more than bitterness and anger."

paola nicolello |

Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit.
Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever,
even if your whole world seems upset.
St. Francis de Sales

I'm leaving you with these last words, also by St. Francis de Sales. It's my heart prayer that you will experience a peace of mind and heart no matter what's going on this week. I'm also wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places. And don't forget to listen for the birds.

With love and a gentle kiss atop thy head,