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Thursday, March 31, 2011


My life is full of love.  I have five grandsons and five grand-daughters, each one charming, delightful and lovable.  This year, two of my grandsons are two years old.

What are two-year-old little boys made of?

  • Climbing into closets and cupboards
  • Hiding in drawers and dryers
  • Eating markers (washable, what luck)
  • Sitting on a small step stool to snack
  • Playing with make-up and kitchen tools
  • Darting away in department stores
  • Losing Teddy at the Mall
  • Sleeping anywhere but in his own bed
  • Squealing with laughter, loud and long
  • Testing every boundary, every limit, every rule
  • Hugging and falling asleep in your arms

  • Wearing rubber gloves to bed
  • Loving new sneakers with heel-squeakers
  • Cleaning crumbs with the vacuum
  • Watching “Cars”, “Pingu” and “Toy Story”  
  • Screaming inconsolably when things disappoint
  • Pulling the play-kitchen down on himself
  • Needing stitches again and again and again
  • Climbing the outside of the escalator
  • Chasing the cat round and round
  • Learning to talk and making up words

  • Getting into the tub with pyjamas still on
  • Pounding the piano keys and singing
  • Getting into everything, yes, everything
  • Grinning such huge happy smiles
  • Looking like an angel while sleeping

That’s what two-year-old little boys are made of!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Laurence Marie, Therapeutic Musician

Laurence Marie, Therapeutic Musician

Laurence Marie’s website at www.harpsylon.ca  opens with her harp music playing gently in the background, and the soothing colour of spring green pages describing her services as a Therapeutic Musician in the south-east New Brunswick area.   I have known Laurence for years, personally and professionally, and recommend her skills and her services.

 Laurence Marie's life journey took many twists and turns before culminating in her vocation as a certified harp therapy practitioner. She was born in Aix-en-Provence, France, where she took piano lessons until the age of 14.

After high school, she trained as a registered nurse in England, moved to Corsica, then Canada, living in Ontario for five years before arriving in New Brunswick. By then she was a wife and mother, and with her young daughter, attended Suzuki violin lessons, which led her to the Université de Moncton for a music degree.

Some years later, as Laurence was dealing with personal health issues, she studied natural therapy and homeopathy. She then began looking for a way to combine her knowledge and skills as a nurse, a musician and a natural therapist, or as she says, "put all of the components of my life together. I found a program in California, but first I needed to learn to play the harp. I began with Esther Underhay in Riverview. After she returned to the U.S. in 1997, I studied for 10 years with Dorothy Brzezicki and during that time I was accepted into the International Harp Therapy program in San Diego, completing an intensive year in 2000."

Therapeutic music is an art based on the science of sound in which acoustic music is played and tailored to the immediate needs of the client, using the intrinsic elements of music: that is, vibrations, resonance and entrainment.  Since the harp is the musical instrument that vibrates the most, it affects the entire body, allowing for relaxation, or focused concentration, depending upon the mode used by the harpist.

Notes and scales tend to resonate with different parts of the body, relieving pain or discomfort. Entrainment involves the use of music that will encourage brain waves of 7 to 12 cycles per second for alert relaxation or 12 to 18 cycles per second for optimum working efficiency. People who are stressed or anxious may have brain waves as high as 30 cycles per second, indicating a mind that is literally "racing." Music played with a regular tempo also encourages a regular heartbeat.

Therapeutic Music is for everyone from birth to end of life.  It can be used before, during and after birth and also for premature infants. Hospitalized children and those with special needs (autism, CP, ADHD, Down syndrome etc.) also benefit from Therapeutic Music. 

It can be used for adults with special needs (CP, MS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s etc.) or those in rehabilitation following a cerebrovascular accident. 

Therapeutic Music can be used for people in Intensive care, Post-Operative care, Oncology, Palliative care as well as for end of life vigils.

Benefits of Therapeutic Music / Harp Therapy

It helps with: 
  • pain
  • insomnia
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • muscular tension
  • stress
  • lowering blood pressure
  • regulating
  • pulse and respiratory rate
  • gentler transitioning 

Vibro-Acoustic Harp Therapy


In addition to the harps, Laurence has a vibro-acoustic mattress which rests on a standard massage table and is connected to her harp through an amplifier. She uses this with adults with neurological issues, such as Parkinson's or MS. While it's not a cure for those chronic conditions, Laurence says the symptoms can be alleviated, as areas of stress and pain are relieved.

While confidentiality precludes naming clients, the mother of one young man, who had suffered brain injury as a result of diabetic coma said, "It was a great relief to know that music therapy, specifically harp therapy, was available here. I had done some research and learned it could be beneficial in many circumstances, including cases of brain injury. My son was Laurence's client for five years. He enjoyed the sessions, responded well to her music and conversation and, quite frankly, the sessions provided peace and comfort to all of us. Our family is thankful to have had the opportunity to work with her and experience first hand how beneficial harp therapy sessions are."

Some of Laurence's clients are children who have been diagnosed with autism.  "The parents find that music calms them," she says, "and the teachers say they see an improvement in their work. One of the children I worked with finally started talking - at age 11.”

"When I work with children with autism, I have them sit on the other side of the harp, so that the strings act as a screen, since they are not comfortable with physical closeness. (Recently), a 10-year old boy put his fingers though the strings to touch mine and I thought I'd melt, as children with that condition usually refuse touch. The harp seems to break through their shell.”

By logging on to Laurence Marie's website, www.harpsylon.ca  you can enjoy a few moments of relaxation as you listen to her play while you read more about her work.

Laurence Marie can be reached by phone at 506- 532-5616 (office) or 506- 533-6856 (cell) or lym@nbnet.nb.ca. 

Note: some private health insurance companies do cover either the entire cost or a portion thereof for Vibro-Acoustic Harp Therapy sessions. They may also be covered by Social Services in New Brunswick.

All information and photos are from www.harpsylon.ca 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I Whine of Housework

Housework irritates me.  I love having a fresh, clean, tidy house but I hate getting there.  I am smugly pleased when it is finished, but I loath doing it.

Avoiding it doesn’t help.  The dust balls gather into tumbleweeds, get together with the loose cat hair and breed.  They twist and plait themselves into substantial dust-fur-spheres, then roll around searching out other bits of debris and dust lurking under the furniture… calling, Come join us!

Embarrassing, if ever someone comes to the door.  Doorbell rings!  I answer!  The sucking air motions made by opening the door mysteriously draw and attract the scuttling accumulations of dust-fur-globes.  There we all are: three cats, me, and myriad enormous dust-fur-balls milling around a visitor who pretends not to notice.   Embarrassing, but when that happens, it really is time to clean. 

Avoiding cleaning doesn’t help for another reason. I am highly allergic to house dust.  If I allow the cleaning to go unattended, distressing respiratory problems arise.  I sneeze repeatedly, hard uncontrollable sneezes, the kind that threaten damage to my ribs.  My eyes stream water, my sinuses swell.  I can’t breathe.

Housework irritates me; not doing housework irritates me, too!

Can writing this blog-entry be construed as avoidance of the dreaded housework?  Maybe, perhaps.  Must go, must clean, must vacuum, must dust, must dust, must dust…

Sunday, March 27, 2011

What Kitties Know

What Kitties Know  

(continued  #10 - #12)

10.    Kitties know that it is wise to let yourself be loved.
11.    Kitties know that self-care is essential to caring for others.
12.    Kitties know that helping feels wonderful.

Kitties are good people.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Walt Whitman

Every moment of light and dark is a miracle.    ~ Walt Whitman

Today is the one hundred and nineteenth anniversary of the death of Walt Whitman, the father of free verse in America.   Born in Long Island New York in 1819, Whitman grew to become a man filled with wonder, mystic sensibilities, a love of life, of words and of relationships.

His flourishing, rhythmic, earthy verse and his fresh use of language changed forever the face of American poetry.  Erotic candour separated him from conventional romantic poets.

I celebrate myself;
And what I assume you shall assume;
For every atom belonging to me, as good belongs to you.

These lines are from Leaves of Grass.   This poetry collection was revised and reprinted many times throughout his entire life and remains notable for its delight in and praise of the senses during a time when such candid displays were considered immoral.  Leaves of Grass exalted the body and the material world, nature and the individual human’s role in it, as well as the mind or spirit, to offer an inclusive rounded vision of human life in the natural world.

Whitman worked on Leaves of Grass from 1855 until his death in 1892, growing it from twelve poems to nearly four hundred; the poetry collection became an American classic.

Learn more about Walt Whitman here.

"Who Learns My Lesson Complete?

And that my soul embraces you this hour, and we
affect each other without ever seeing each
other, and never perhaps to see each other, is
every bit as wonderful;
And that I can think such thoughts as these is just
as wonderful,
And that I can remind you, and you think them
and know them to be true is just as wonderful,
And that the moon spins around the earth and on
with the earth is equally wonderful,
And that they balance themselves with the sun and
stars is equally wonderful."

Excerpt from Leaves of Grass

Friday, March 25, 2011

I'm in Love

I’m in Love

It’s spring and I’m in love with:

  • The last softly floating snowflakes
  • The raw smell of persistent spring
  • Fresh pale green shoots…sprouting
  • Rapidly melting snow heaps
  • Children laughing and shouting
  • Riders in shorts on bicycles
  • The caressing heat of the stronger sun
  • Squish of fresh mud hugging a shoe
  • Tree buds swelling, ready to burst
  • The gurgle of storm drains racing
  • Gentle mallards ardently pairing
  • Dazzling days, longer illumination
  • Cheerfulness in all I meet
  • Motorcycle polish, fragrant and hopeful
  • Pheasants squawking their desire
  • The damp hungry earth re-emerging
  • Stars in the clear, deep darkness
  • Expectant energy everywhere, in everything
  • Teens floating by on skateboards
  • Neighbours walking their excited dogs
  • Crows stealing string for nests
  • Cats running circles for sheer fun
  • Wafting aroma of barbeques
  • The river swallowing its ice cakes
  • Packing away winter clothes
  • Feeling bubbly blissful inside
  • Tiny birds warbling their spilling joy

I’m in love with spring!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What Do You See?

“Art does not reproduce what we see; rather it makes us see.”

And, as well, ordinary parts of our every day life “make us see.”

Just for a few moments today, choose something you take for granted every day… something you see, and yet don’t really see because it is part of your routine landscape at home, at work, at school or on the train, in the car. 

Humour me: choose one object, one scene or one familiar face.  Really look at it, study it for a few moments, give to it all of your awareness.  Slow down and concentrate.

What do you see that you have never noticed before?  What new aspect surprises you?

S-l-o-w  d-o-w-n and truly welcome the newness, the freshness that is right there in front of you each day.

Tell me about it.  Post a comment.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

World Water Day 2011

When my oldest grandson was seven, he was watching me brush my teeth one morning and unexpectedly burst into tears.  "Will there be any water left when I grow up?" he sobbed.

I had been running the water continuously as I was brushing.  They had been studying water conservation in school and he was distressed about the future.

It was a startling lesson for me.  I hadn’t thought about what I was doing.  I am normally vigilant about conserving natural resources, yet my momentary carelessness deeply disturbed each of us.

I dried his tears and hugged him.  We sat and talked for a long time about wasting water and what helps or prevents that situation.  He told me how circumstances looked from his 7-year-old perspective.  I promised not to become distracted ever again while brushing my teeth and needlessly waste water.

My grandson also questioned me about what I was doing to make certain that there would be enough water in the world in the future, not just for him but for his children and his grandchildren. 

A heavy question from a small boy with big worries…real worries and a question that sticks in my mind every time I turn on a tap.

We talked and talked and talked about that question.  Options and possibilities and what more can be done.

An article in the Times-Transcript this morning refreshed this memory.

It is World Water Day; learn more here.  The T&T article highlights a three-day conference in Toronto dealing with global water issues.

We appreciate the enormous amount of fresh water that exists in Canada, but are quite careless about wasting it through unnecessarily disposing of hair, bugs, household dirt, cigarette butts and food by flushing them down the toilet.

Each flush of a toilet uses six to 20 litres of fresh water…plus the energy used to move the water.  Almost half the water Canadians use is flushed down the toilet.

Think about this on World Water Day and every day. 

What are we doing to ensure that there is enough water in the world for everyone, now and in the future? 

My grandson wants to know!

In response to a comment.   Refer to article on Canada's Water :  http://www.portaec.net/library/ocean/water/canadas_water.html.

The question still remains:  What are we doing to ensure that there is enough water in the world for everyone, now and in the future?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wendy's Art

When we visited with my sister yesterday, she had just finished a watercolour painting.  Before she frames and sells each piece, she takes photos for her records.

This is the photo of the painting she finished on Sunday.

Wendy doesn't always paint flowers, though she does love them.  Her work spans a wide variety of subjects from images in nature and to whimsical interpretations of serious themes.

You can read more about Wendy and her stroke recovery by referring to my blog entry of  March 8, 2011.

Chickadees and the River

We went visiting yesterday.  Though it was sunny, there was still a chilly, raw wind.  What a happy surprise when we drove in the yard and saw him barbecuing; first one of the spring season at the river.

Luckily, there were a few sheltered sunlit spots in the yard where we could stand and be warm enough to enjoy the fresh air, the river and the chickadees.

The river is still completely frozen which is good for the bobcat who roams there.  The trees haven’t yet showed any signs of swelling buds, but the chickadees were full of vigour and busy feeding.

My photos were "just OK" as I had used a longer lens and the tripod, but had forgotten to change the settings to allow for the birds’ rapidity of movements.  I took many that were all spinning bird feeder and blurred wings.  I’ll do better next time!

It was invigorating to be at the river on the first fresh day of spring for a BBQ and bird-watching.  Thank you!   It was truly lovely.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Arrives With Soup

Last Sunday, the time changed; clocks moved ahead an hour.  Today, the season changes; spring arrives.

While the weather too is shifting appreciably; mostly it remains cold, windy, and bitter with temperatures hovering in the vicinity of the freezing point in South East New Brunswick.  The enormous snow banks are shrinking, metamorphosing into rivulets of water slipping and gurgling down the storm drains, as the spirited sun now warms the mid-day hours.

Each day still brings sporadic snow flurries and each night produces temperatures that sink below freezing.  It would be unwise to put away the boots and the winter coats just yet.

However, despite the crisp air, there are longer days and promising blue skies, harbingers of warmer times.  We’ve decided that it is a marvellous day for a walk.  The roads are bare, at last.  Walking, in winter wear but with the luxury of sneakers, is possible.  We’ll come home after our brisk stroll around the neighbourhood, to warm ourselves with hearty homemade leek and potato soup, steaming fluffy biscuits and a welcome fire.

The leek and potato soup recipe is from Bon AppĂ©tit, May 1996.  I added green onions to the soup and also used them as a garnish, instead of the recommended chives.  I chose Yukon Gold (yellow) potatoes instead of the russets and added a few more of them than the recipe suggests.  The soup is beautiful, a buttery gold colour under mini circles of chopped green onion; thickly substantial with subtle, delicate flavours.  The biscuits come from an old recipe of my grandmother’s - - whole wheat flour, shortening, egg and milk with a bit of baking powder, salt and sugar.  Here is a comparable recipe. Our warm-up brunch will include a mixed salad of organic greens tossed with orange-ginger dressing.

An immensely enjoyable brunch in front of our fireplace; tummies and toes warmed. 

Though it is still cold, the weather is rapidly changing, drawing closer to exhilarating spring.  From inside, it looks warmer than it really is.  Petite hopeful bits of fresh green peek from under the melting crystalline snow.  The gaining sun warms the damp earth and coaxes fresh life… births another spring.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

Emilie-Claire Barlow

Emilie-Claire Barlow performed at the Capitol Theatre in Moncton last night.  It was more than wonderful!

A Canadian jazz songstress with a powerful voice, she gave a warmly rewarding and energetically inviting performance.  Emilie-Claire's innovative arrangements of familiar music pieces enticed the listeners to experience them in a fresh way.  You can learn more about her and see her website here.

Emilie-Claire shared that she had family members spread out in the theatre.  Her husband Daniel’s family had attended en masse to hear and support her.  We were fortunate to sit close enough to her father-in-law, Gerry to hear his comments.  During the intermission, his conversations with his seatmates glowed with the obvious love and pride he has for Emile-Claire. 

Emile-Claire was excited to share that just prior to this show, she had received an email from Neil Sedaka.  She brought her I-phone to the show and read to us the message that he had sent, telling her: “You are very good!  You have a fresh jazz voice.”  She exclaimed that his words gave her goosebumps.  His message went on to say that he was extraordinarily pleased with her cover of his hit, Breaking up is Hard to Do, which she then sang to the enthusiastic delight of the audience.

After song offerings from the American-songbook, slinky, sexy ballads and rhythmic variations of favourites from the 60's, Emilie-Claire ended the evening with Bye Bye Blackbird, one of Gerry's favourites.

It was an amazing enchanted evening at the Capitol Theatre and we can concur… Emile-Claire Barlow is indeed “very good!”

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mysterious Wooden Chair

Sometimes life offers unanticipated blessings.

My sister and brother-in-law are rearranging their furniture and have loaned us this mysterious chair, until they decide what to move and where.

The chair is very old.  How old?  I don’t know.  Where did the chair originate?  I don’t know.  What was the original purpose of the chair?  I don’t know that either.
Could it be an old-fashioned sewing chair? 

It is sturdy, roomy and comfortable, well padded, and remarkable.  It has an attached sliding foot rest that adjusts to whatever distance I need it to be from the chair and can also slide underneath the chair to hide.  The chair back adjusts by means of a metal rod and brackets located behind the chair.  The rod moves manually to any of four positions.  More surprises; the chair has wide wooden arms, each of which flips open at the top to reveal rectangular storage space.  Carvings decorate the front legs.

Fascinating mystery!

This I do know.  I am using the chair as a place to knit.  It works perfectly well, great leg and back support, plenty of comfortable space, and handy storage which keeps the cats away from my yarn during the current work-in-progress.  When I’m not knitting, I can place on the chair's wide arms, a tranquil glass of wine. 

I love the mysterious wooden chair!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sour Dough Bread Starter

Prospectors, explorers and early travellers of all kinds were wise in the ways of sour dough.  Their starter or yeast base was a precious commodity carried in a jug or jar from one camp site to another.  When this strong-smelling mixture reached a highly fermented stage, it was made into hot cakes, bread and indeed any food item that could be made from flour and other crushed cereals.  A portion of the indispensable starter was always reserved for the next batch.  Collett, Elaine. The Chatelaine Cookbook. Toronto. Maclean-Hunter Limited, 1965.

Creating starter traditionally involves dissolving yeast in warm water, stirring in flour and sugar or honey.  Using wooden utensils and non-metal containers, stirring every day, the mixture is allowed to sit for 5 – 10 days until it has a fermented aroma and the vigorous bubbling stops.

In 2011, starter gets passed from person to person in neatly labelled re-sealable bags, such as the one I received from my daughter-in-law ten days ago.  Daily stirring has been replaced with “mashing” the contents in the bag and burping the bag to allow escape of built up fermented gas.  Along with the baggie of starter, my thoughtful daughter-in-law gave me a recipe for making Cinnamon Bread and /or Cinnamon Muffins.

Today, we ate delicious Cinnamon Muffins with our steaming morning coffee.  With fruit, cheese and yogurt, it was a balanced breakfast, and oh, so yummy!

There is fragrant bubbly starter left over, too.  Now it’s my turn to fill tidy, efficient starter baggies; one for me and three to give away.  I’ll label them, and date them for Day 6…when you’ll need to add a few ingredients and for Day 10…when the recipe can be made.  Anyone want a bag of starter to grow into the base for Cinnamon Bread or Muffins?  I’ll photocopy my daughter-in-law’s recipe sheet for you, too.  Anyone?  Anyone?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On Writing and The Dinner Party

My best friend gave me the gift of “seeing me”.  The gift was actually a matte black postcard with a single photograph of a 14 inch dinner plate in basic cream, various greens and rich reds.

 This plate is the Christine de Pisan plate from “The Dinner Party” exhibit of 1979 by Judy Chicago, now housed in the Brooklyn Museum
in New York.

On the back of the postcard are these words:

            Christine de Pison       1364- 1431      France
            First professional female author; wrote a book about a
            mythical city populated by the greatest women in history;
            initiated the first feminine discourse in Europe.

And my friend’s distinctive handwriting with this line:  “For my amazing writer friend.”

How supportive and encouraging, to be so clearly seen and recognized!  Humbling and reassuring.

Thank you.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Tsunami in Japan, March 2011

Did you know that the word “tsunami”, which is now being used worldwide, is a Japanese word?  This is indicative of the extent to which Japan has been subject to frequent tsunami disasters in the past.  These words from Junichiro Koizumi, Prime Minister of Japan from 2001 – 2006, reflect an eerie presentiment to what has just happened in Japan since the early hours of March 11, 2011.

Watching and listening to the tragic news is overwhelming, heartbreaking and numbing.  I feel it deep in my chest and there is no way to reduce the anxiety.

The tragedy in Japan is vast, crushing, worsening and horrific.  I can scarcely wrap my mind around what has occurred.  I have a friend whose children and grandchildren live and work in Japan.  I don’t know how they are or even if they are still alive.  I hope they are and that they will survive this catastrophe, this devastation, this disaster.

My heart aches for them and for my friend.   I hold them in light and in love.

This photo is from Reuters.  The wave from a tsunami crashes over a street in Miyako City, Japan.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Blue Skies and Riding the Harley

The color of the springtime is in the flowers,
the color of the winter is in the imagination.

Winter is almost gone!  Still, there are days when I wake to massive snow flakes floating, drifting, riding currents of air.   And to soiled snow banks breathing curtains of fog, but winter is almost gone.

Spring surges through my eager veins, swelling my energies and leaving me breathless, impatient for balmier weather and for bright flowers.

Gary is impatient too.  All winter, his imagination has germinated longings for the colors of springtime, but not of flowers; he dreams of crystal blue spring skies and of his pearl blue Harley.

Finally today, the roads were dry enough for him to go out for a short drive around the neighbourhood on his motorcycle.  He is so happy on the Harley!

And, this means that winter is almost…gone.

The photo was taken last Fall, 2010.  It is mine.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Mary Oliver, Comment on Creativity

“The most regretful people on earth are those
who felt the call to creative work,
who felt their own creative power restive and uprising,
and gave to it neither power nor time.”

I love this quote.  It inspires me.  It admonishes me to relinquish my self-imposed craving for perfection and propels me to release what churns inside of me, regardless.

Part of me has always dreamed of being a great writer; part of me has always been terrified of publicly sharing my writing.  I recognize the vast difference between great writing and average writing and have not wanted to be discounted as mediocre.  For years, for decades actually, all I wrote on a personal level were thoughtful notes, interesting letters and soul-searching journal entries.  On a business level, I crafted pleas for crucial funding, wrote substantial reports and weighty grant proposals, and plenty of those.

Nevertheless, I need to write!  Something in me struggles to be heard, to be seen in words.  Something in me desires and loves words – adores shades of meaning, the play and juxtaposition of sounds in a sentence, the vibrant images, the palpable feelings, the delectable tastes and invigorating fragrances that words evoke.  Like painting or photography or creating pictures in any medium, writing crafts bursting-ripe word images.

Writing skills will improve with constant use, with relentless re-writes, with diligence and discipline and self-acceptance.  My writing cannot be termed “great”, but it is essential and deeply satisfying to me.  However, I believe in myself and in my own gifts and abilities.  As I generate my own words and thoughts and stories, asking for direct criticism from others, I will discover and nurture my own creative work.

I need to write; I feel my “own creative power restive and uprising”, as Mary Oliver says.  Writing pulls me along into the muddled mystery of life, pushes me into chaotic creative exertion.  When I provide vigour and time, my writing urges an artistic spirit to spill out from me and to flood my life.  Juicy joy!

I’ll coax and entice you to join me on that inventive journey.  And ask…

How are you giving power and time to your own creative work?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What Kitties Know

What Kitties Know   (continued  #7 - #9)

  1. Kitties know that regular routines are comforting.
  2. Kitties know that Spring IS coming.
  3. Kitties know that it is important to spend time appreciating Nature.

Kitties are good people.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

In the Depth of Winter

In the depth of winter, I finally learned
that within me there lay an invincible

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day Centenary 1911 - 2011

On the Centenary of International Women’s Day, I’ll share this story of a very special woman in my life.  Wendy Steel is an artist and art teacher, a uniquely talented woman.  Wendy is also my sister.

After suffering a debilitating stroke in 2003 and losing use of her right hand, Wendy relearned to paint with her left.  She has become a magnificent role model for anyone struggling with disability following a stroke.

It wasn’t an easy transition.  When Wendy had her stroke, at age 51, all the specialists warned that she would never again be anything more than bed-ridden and severely disabled, unable to speak nor to communicate nor to look after herself. 

They didn’t know Wendy! 

She spent the first three months in hospital … fiercely, stubbornly working at regaining physical and mental skills, forcing her mind and body into remembering and re-learning abilities and capacities necessary to care for her self. 

The dire predictions of the neurologist and other specialists were wrong!  

During an additional year and a half of out-patient Occupational and Speech Therapy, supplemented by Physical Therapy in her own home, she succeeded in regaining much of what she had lost.  In spite of her persistent language problems and the permanent loss of the use of her right arm, she lives a healthy contented life with the support of her love, her life partner Brian. 

She jokes that, before her stroke, she was “brilliant” and now though part of her brain died in the stroke, she still feels smart and capable.  She is indeed!

During the 2003 - 2004 years, Wendy relearned to paint with her left hand.  She now works in India inks, occasionally acrylics but primarily in her favourite medium, watercolours.  She produces paintings of extraordinary depth and whimsical delight, cherishing the self worth that being able to continue as a prolific artist offers to her.  Wendy’s art work can be found all over the eastern regions of Canada and United States. 

She cherishes life in all its varied manifestations and is grateful each day to be able to get “into the painting zone” and to forget her aches and pains and challenges as she creates.   Wendy again enjoys a flourishing career.   Her work is vibrant, full of the joy of life in all of its forms and possibilities.

She is grateful to be alive and in turn ensures that each person who crosses her threshold knows that she is grateful for them in her life.   She values and cares for them deeply. 

Life is precious.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Life is Like Knitting a Pair of Mittens

Knitting begins with the spark of an idea.  I see a fine-looking skein of yarn – soft, fresh smelling, nubby and squishy, silent except for the crinkly paper band – and am enticed to create something practical or beautiful or both.

I explore my yarn stash.  Every knitter has one: secret heaps of multicoloured skeins yearning to be wound into tidy yarn cakes or efficient balls, longing to be knit into useful warm socks, sturdy comforting sweaters, striped or cabled scarves, gorgeous expansive shawls, practical protective hats or cozy sensuous mittens.

I choose mittens.  Where can I find a pattern - in a magazine, seductive with glossy photos, or in a book admonishing advice, “knit a swatch first”, or online at my favourite yarn shop’s website?  What size needles do I need?  What do I already have?  Will they work?

I begin, knit, make mistakes, unravel, and knit again.  Adjust my pattern instructions, fiddle with my knitting, measure, fine-tune again and knit.  Click, click, click of needles.

A bit like life, isn’t it?  All of this organizing, venturing, creating, retreating and progressing with detours and adjustments.

Finally I’m finished.  The mittens are lovely, soft, thick, warm.  I like them so well that I wear them in the house for a while, enjoying the pleasantly subtle waxy feel of the thick fuzzy strands.  The woolly earthy fragrance reminds me that these homemade mittens embody relationship between my handiwork and nature’s offerings from alpaca or sheep, goats or angora rabbits.

These mittens are charming and imperfect, not quite the way I had imagined, but delightful, comforting and useful just the same.

Learning from my mistakes, I note improvements for the next pair of mittens, eyeing the tantalizing textures and beckoning hues of the yarn stash … ideas sparking!