Posts tagged seasons

This is not farewell

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I recently spent an evening listening to a 90-year-old woman talk. If you’ve never listened to a 90-year-old person talk about his or her life, you really should. Our conversation gave me a lot to think about.

Aunt Susie told me about her life; about her decision to marry a widower with 13-month-old twins instead of pursuing her own dreams, about raising 8 children while working in a nursing home to make ends meet, all the while taking care of a child who was in and out of the hospital. She told me of the pain of losing that son at the age of 18 after 13 years of illness. “I still miss that boy,” she would say. She has buried two husbands. She has housed and nurtured foreign students, been the live-in companion to the developmentally challenged, and adopted the 30 descendants of her deceased sister, in addition to her own large extended family.

Now in her 90’s, she starts her day by praying for each family member by name. There are over 200 people on her list, so this takes a while. People will approach her with personal needs and she prays for them. She calls one friend on a daily basis to pray with her over the phone. Aunt Susie has no idea how her friend’s problem can be solved, but this doesn’t stop her from praying for her. She’s confident that God knows the answer.

She journals. She writes down the minutiae of life: the phone calls she made, what she had for breakfast, which appointment she had at 10:00am. It keeps her mind sharp. I wonder what she would think if I told her that people are doing this on something called the internet for the whole world to see. She would probably think me insane.

She also journals about sermons she’s heard. Helps the teaching to sink in, she says. One would think that someone who spends that kind of time praying and reading her Bible would have no use for the sermons of people 30 to 50 years her junior, but she does.

And finally, Aunt Susie makes cards. Personalized birthday cards for the people in her life, complete with dried flowers arranged on the front and a verse or poem chosen just for them. Sometimes she makes up to six cards a day. She probably uses more stamps in a month than I have in the entire last decade.

Aunt Susie spends her time serving, praying, and counting her blessings. She is blissfully unaware of reality TV, which movies are now playing, what Lady Gaga tweeted about today, or who has posted new photos on facebook. She never has to check her e-mail, pay a cell phone bill, or install a firewall on her computer. What matters in her life are relationships with people and her Lord. That’s it. And I envy her for it.

Having said that, I already hear the rebuttals: “She’s 90 and living in a retirement home where all her needs are met. You’re 32, caring for a young family, networking with people, paying a mortgage, saving for retirement and your kids’ education, and trying to keep your ear to the ground so as not to appear totally stupid in a conversation.”

I get that. And still I envy the simplicity of her life. I envy the peace that emanates from her well-organized mind. I envy the discipline she has developed in her formative years and maintained in her later years. I envy the quiet of her inner being, the attitude of rest in her manner. Her contentment with her situation. The total absence of striving after meaningless things. I cannot help but compare her simple life to the social networking noise, the frenzied pace of technology, the worship of the environment, and the pressure to do it all because you are Woman!

So for this reason (and because it’s gardening season) I have decided to take a hiatus from blogging and unnecessary use of technology. This does not mean I will not return to this place to write down my thoughts in the future. This blog will still exist. But I have decided not to care about how many people follow my blog, or whether they care about what I care about. I have decided that, for now, I’d rather invest my time in training my children and being with my family than writing about it. I’d rather be in my garden than sitting in front of my computer writing about it. I have decided to invest my precious time in the relationships that are right in front of my nose instead of bowing to the pressure to “follow other blogs so that someone will follow yours.” This is the reason I left the juvenile medium known as Twitter, why I can’t be bothered to post statuses on facebook, and why I leave the computer off on evenings and weekends. As far as I’m concerned, this metal box full of chips and wires gobbles up too much time that could be spent doing other useful things – like riding my bike to visit a friend.

To be clear, I am not bringing my laptop to the curb. I rely on it for everything from banking to e-mail communication to running my piano teaching business. With the change of season, however, I am once again putting it in its proper place of servitude, and elevating relationships and real-world, tangible, sensory-stimulating things and activities to their rightful place of importance in my life.

The very first blog post I ever wrote began like this: Technology and I have come to a tenuous agreement: though I hate it and it hates me, neither of us are going away, and so here we are, coexisting in a space called Debbiesblog. (Now creationcarekids) As any shrink will tell you, a relationship where both parties are seeking their own advantage is doomed to failure, and so it is when I attempt to coexist with technology. My dear readers, do not let this temporary separation distress you, however. This is not good-bye, but merely see you later…

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Why I hate August 31

I always thought “September Dread” would end with my childhood, but I was wrong. Now that I’m a parent with children entering school next week, I am downright grieved that the sun is setting on yet another summer holiday. I’m not sure what the people at Staples were thinking when they chose Bing Crosby’s It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year to usher in the Back-to-School season. Come to think of it, their accountants are singing and raising a glass, but I certainly am not. Here’s what my children and I will miss about the carefree days of summer:

  1. leisurely mornings without a deadline
  2. swimming in neighbours’ pools
  3. endless hours to devote to the sandbox
  4. gardening together
  5. beach days
  6. family bike rides to friends’ houses for barbeques
  7. petting neighbourhood dogs at the park at 11:00am
  8. camping
  9. reading bedtime stories outside
  10. being together as a family

 I would love to hear what my readers would add to this list (please leave your thoughts at the blog [not facebook] so that everyone can see them).

 Here’s to carefree summer days, innocent childhood years, and lasting family memories…


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Real Life in HD

It’s spring, and the world outside your back door is changing. Have you noticed? I mean really noticed. Really noticing means sitting outside to watch the sunrise/set, putting a few flowers or vegetables into the soil or a pot, quietly watching the early-morning bustling of the birds as they prepare their nests, or going for a stroll to take in the plethora of sights, smells and sounds of this season that is characterized by new life and unstoppable growth.

Many years ago this would have been a silly question. Which Canadian wouldn’t want to spend as much time as possible out of doors in May after having been cooped up for the previous six months? While I still want to believe that this has not really changed, I am afraid that for some people, it has.

In a recent episode of Doc Zone on CBC television I was amazed – nay, repulsed – to learn of the effect BlackBerries and the like are having on our collective brains and behaviours. Texting, though a very recent phenomenon, has taken the world by storm and has invaded every place in our society. A study was done on a university campus to test people’s ability to multi-task. Observers recorded the reactions of students walking across campus to a clown riding around on a unicycle. Not surprisingly, 100% of those engaged in conversation with an in-person friend noticed the clown. Only 25% of those busy texting did. The surprising (and worrying) fact was, that most of those conversing with their online friends in egregious English (can you tell I’m not a texter?) actually claimed to be completely aware of their surroundings while engaged in the act of texting. This obviously raises issues like people’s ability to control a vehicle safely while being distracted by the use of technology.

The issue of texting and driving is not a new one, and I do not wish to discuss it here, although it certainly does need to be addressed. It seems odd to me, though, that the only time we will consider a behaviour harmful or even destructive, is if it takes the life of, or seriously injures someone. Is anyone talking about the broader impact on relationships in a world where people care more about what their friends in a virtual place are doing, rather than what’s going on right in front of their noses?

Although this documentary addresses texting in particular, I would implicate other virtual communication platforms in the same crime of destroying relationships. Before everything I say here gets discredited as being the crazy words of a hopeless traditionalist, let me say that I am not against the use of technology. There is a place for facebook, e-mail, cell phones and texting. We must admit to a collective problem, however, when people are checking themselves into internet de-tox centres to become free of their addictions (ironically enough, the centre I’m referring to in Washington is only a few kilometers away from Microsoft itself…). 

Before we shake our heads though at people who are “so far gone” as to need help to quit an addiction to technology, I would challenge each of us to consider our own behaviour. What is the longest you can comfortably be away from facebook? What if you were to lose your cell phone? Provided you do not need to be reached for work reasons, how quickly would you need to replace it? I would even challenge some of those work reasons, however. We tend to believe that we are irreplaceable, and that all hell will break lose if we are not available for comment. If even Green Party leader Elizabeth May can get by without a cell phone, most of us probably could as well.

I would challenge each of us to consider what would really happen if we were to get off the technology treadmill for a few days – maybe even weeks – this summer. Remember, ten years ago most of us had no cell phone and were not on facebook, and yet the world turned even then. Twenty years ago most of us would have spent long weekends outside in the garden or with in-person friends. Fifty years ago we would have actually sat outside on lovely spring evenings instead of staring at an LCD screen in the basement. Does anybody out there even care, or am I the only one?

The real question is, does all of this preoccupation with technology really make us any happier? I use the term “preoccupation” instead of “use” purposely. Most of the technology we use is not a means to any useful end – it’s a distraction from the useful end. Is a job really that terrific if you’re always “on”? Even doctors have times when they call in a replacement and go on holidays. Are you really that much more in-demand than the person whose mandate it is to save lives on a daily basis? Emergency personnel get days off – lots of them. This is so that they do not get burned out by their stressful professions, and can continue to serve and protect with excellence. Are we, in our everyday lives giving ourselves that opportunity for refreshment?

A compelling point brought up by some experts interviewed for the CBC documentary was that all of this point-form speech and one-dimensional communication is actually making people incapable of having a deep thought. We are becoming a society of puddle-dwellers, incapable of devoting any appreciable time to pursuits such as creativity, which requires time and depth in order to unfold. According to the experts, our capacity for anything more involved than “lol!” and “lmao!” is disappearing. So what are we going to do about it?

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Love at First Sight II

As the weather warms up, so does Sammy’s love affair with the worms. Saturday was the first real spring day here in Southern Ontario, and while we spent the day outside gardening, Sammy spent the day tending to his worms. As I dug up a new patch of dirt to plant my onions, Sammy discovered earthworms in abundance, and collected a handful which he proceeded to carry around with him for the morning.

First he found a small one, which was a baby worm, he said. Then he found a fat juicy one, which was obviously the Daddy. He happily reunited the two who had, it seemed, somehow become separated in different patches of earth. Whether they liked it or not, the two worms spent the whole morning getting reacquainted in Sammy’s little hand.

There came the time when he had to go to the bathroom, so he carefully placed the worms back on the soil and covered them with a leaf. He was in and out of the house in a flash, fearing presumably that his little friends would crawl away. Thankfully the worms were right where he had left them and the game continued. (Let’s remember that earthworms aren’t exactly known for speedy getaways. That’s their big downfall; probably the reason why their species has remained where it is on the food chain.)

At one point the neighbour began washing his car with a high-pressure hose attachment. This generated some noise as the water connected with the car’s metal exterior, which simultaneously generated some concern for our little Patron of Worms.

“Mommy, the wormth are getting thcared,” he worried out loud in his endearing lisp. I notified the neighbour (who was amused) and assured our little boy that the neighbour would be done soon.

One comment he made during the course of the morning revealed why he’s so enamoured with worms. As he spoke to his squirming handful in reassuring tones, I overheard him calling them his “gentle friends.” All of a sudden it all made sense. Sammy doesn’t love flighty grasshoppers. He doesn’t love “in-your-face” and energetic dogs. He loves fish. He loves worms. He loves gentle creatures – just like himself.

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