HAVING BABIES IN THE NORTH


The North

Belonging means to be accepted by those around you. I finally started to have an inkling what that meant as a new immigrant when I was pregnant. Many people began to be so nice to me, even total strangers, their faces became softer when they met me, something I did initially not relate to being pregnant. I just thought that people here were nicer in this part of the province, the north, as they all had come from somewhere else.

After my daughter’s birth, this trend continued and visitors arrived with gifts. I didn’t know what happened to me, all this attention and concern with us, where did that come from? I felt in the centre of attention, it felt as if in a warm bath. What had I done to deserve this? Slowly it seeped into my awareness what had opened the door. Giving birth was the Open Sesame to the cave of all mothers’ hearts. They remembered, they recalled, they softened.

Simply as a person, a woman, nice or not, there is no easy point of recognition with others, especially when she is a foreigner. Getting to know someone is work, it requires a reason to start it, and a clear goal. The intent is there: be nice, don’t say anything at all if you can’t say anything nice, we are polite, but more was needed to break the shell of my foreignness.

Canadians travel, they share stories of were they are from, and how they got where they are. Without it, there is no shared history. My history is not yours, there were no overlapping points, which made it so much harder for the home grown Canadians.

First Nation Canadians recount their family and tribe relationships when they meet, who are their father, mother, and their grandparents, cousins, from where they came, and where they are going. The drawing of the geno map divines the relation; relationship ensures that their children will be healthy and no blood relatives. Kidnappings were sometimes needed to ensure fresh blood in the tribe, and a new mother for children.

It made sense for me to travel to meet my young man, to have children in this far away, cold country. Three years of struggle followed to find some comfort in this foreign land, to build an existence, until my child was born.
I have no words enough for describing this most unrelenting, life-giving force I have experienced in my life: the creation from my own cells over nine month’s time and its final explosion, the birth of my child.

Birth is an overwhelming event, but almost as important was that the women around me mothered me, supported me, and understood me without words. After my child’s birth, I was beginning to understand other mothers on a sensory and emotional level. They shared their own sorrows and joys with me; we became a sisterhood of women with small children: Moms and Tots.

For six long years I felt the embrace of friendship and shared motherhood with a group of women, until a move was unavoidable and my family left for another province. Friendships had formed that proved to be unaffected by the ravages of distance, although our tots now have become the new Millennials. We became family in spirit, sisters in motherhood, and are preparing for sharing time into old age.

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Why Donald Trump is a True American


Why Donald Trump is a True American.

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EVERY DAY COMBATTING CLIMATE CHANGE


EVERYDAY COMBATTING CLIMATE CHANGE

The problem of climate change is enormous and you probably think that it’s outside your power to do anything about curbing its progression. Like you, I have only a faint idea how in my personal life I am contributing to the problem.
We joke about our winters getting warmer, we don’t mind that even the summers are hot and drier than usual. Yeah, let Canada become subtropical, that would be a bonus, right? We wouldn’t have to seek the yearly trips to the caribbean islands or Mexico to survive the winters here. Great.

This year the Nay Sayers seem louder than before: even the pope has an opinion about climate change. I wonder what he could do in his daily life? Would he possibly order the priests, cardinals, and bishops out of their rich digs into smaller, existing homes? Would they reduce greenhouse gasses by shutting of the A/C and set the thermostat a few degrees colder in winter? Maybe we could come up with ideas for them, as well as for ourselves…

This spring, as soon as it was warm enough for my hands to grab the handlebars of my bicycle, I started riding my bike to work. I have a touch or arthritis in my hands and feet, so any temperature below 15 usually hurts me. But June was already sunny and warm.

My home is a 15 minute ride away from the office. My ride takes me for a short stretch on a two lane street, with cars going by me in two directions on Rose Aveenue. It crosses two arteries leading to the main drag, Richter and Pandosy. When I arrive at the hospital, I use the lakeside, multi-use corridor of Abbott Street, through the beautiful lakeshore neighbourhood. This is the most enjoyable part of my daily exercise. Flowers and their scents are everywhere while I move leisurely in the shade of the mature trees. At the end of the swanky lane, I cross Harvey Ave with the traffic lights, and after a 100 yards/meters along the side walk, I have arrived.

Motorbike riders also understand the feel of the outside, the smells, the changes in temperature, the wind, it makes one feel more alive, more one with the air and the environment. I arrive alert and awake, having enjoyed the physicality of the brief trip. I can recommend it wholeheartedly to anybody.

All sensations in the city are more noticeable to bikers. The asphalt roads that are exposed to the sun are much hotter, I would guess easily ten degrees hotter than when I am riding under trees in their shade. That makes me think that we should plant more trees along roads and throughout the city. Not only cause trees the temperature to drop in the summer, but the trees would generate more oxygen and take out carbon from the air. Beside, they are living things and are very interesting, always changing with the seasons.

When a car passes me on the street, I notice that the vehicle generates its own heat and intensifies the radiation towards me, making my immediate environment a few degrees hotter. Especially darker coloured cars seem to soak up the heat.
Why would anyone want a black car, knowing this? The driver would have to crank the A/C up to make the inside bearable, not only after it sat parked somewhere and you burn your buns getting in, but also while driving does it soak up the heat. It burns extra gas, as everybody knows. So, get rid of black cars, I say, and choose white and silver cars.

Then there are the car drivers that apparently have never rode a bike. They swerve to pass me, as if I am three feet wide, or will suddenly fall off my bike. Some car drivers even cross the median all the way over to the opposite lane, just to get by me. Of course I could attach a sign to my back: BORN DUTCH ON A BIKE, announcing I am a really competent rider, so they can trust that I am not going to throw myself against their door and scratch up their precious vehicle. They are possibly confused and consider me traffic, like a car. In reality, I only need a foot or so of your lane. If you look closely, you can see that I am a mature woman, and not an unpredictably swerving drug courier.

Yes, there are very polite and sweet people in cars who stop for me while I am standing at the right side of the road (in my bike place, even if there is no bike lane), waiting to cross the road. They are apparently not quite sure what I am: a pedestrian or traffic?
Thank you, I do appreciate you, especially because you don’t have to stop for me; I am traffic, like a car, but smaller.

Did I mention I am saving a significant amount of money by parking my car for these summer months, even my small, silver compact car? I guess in total at least $300 in gas.
I did not contribute to the carbon in the air and hotter temperatures in the street. I exercised my legs, my stomach muscles, and maintained, or even improved my balance. I feel better overall and in a better mood on arrival. I do not spend more time on the road, I dare say, less time than had I taken the car.

What would Kelowna look like, if half of the residents in the inner centre, let’s say a circle within the perimeters of Lakeview Heights, Glenmore Road, Rutland Road, and K.L.O. all went to work by bike? I bet the city would be cooler in more than one way.

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ONE YEAR IN THE STRATA COUNCIL


Canada day is coming up. It’s time to evaluate my year of living in my townhouse complex and of being a strata council member. The pool is in full swing, although the new signs that I drafted together with the pool man and completed on May 8, are for some reason not yet ready to be put up around the pool area. Hurray, they at least have arrived, a few days short of two months after the draft was forwarded to the powers that approve and produce signs. No one else has been reinforcing the old rules, so here I am, biting my lip and stopping myself from commenting on the most obvious infractions around the pool.

You ask what could be so bad that I bite my lip? Well, let me get started. In any place there are always some people with a habit of taking over a space without consideration for others, also also in the pool. Such as: one family inviting friends with a number of kids, then hanging a hammock between the only two suitable shade trees, and dragging lounge chairs for each person, thereby occupying one whole side of the pool for them alone.

Parental supervision of their brood is mostly absent, in this millennium of jellyfish parents, who are raising little princes and princesses. Yes, do let your boy of four years old pee on the law. Why bother to take him to the bathroom, or point out to him he should stop and do his number one where he is supposed to? Oh such a darling. I have to watch, like his dad, what a good boy! At least he is not peeing in the pool, thank god.

Also a good parental role model is to let the kids swim alone in the pool. One doesn’t even have to get wet, or put your beer down: just trow a football at them, play fetch/catch, while daddy is standing on shore a fair distance away yelling at the kids.
That other adults are swimming and fearing to get the ball in their face (which happened to me) is no consideration at all. Oh, bully me: I actually dare ask one kid to stay out of my side while I swam my pool lengths.
Although the smaller kids cannot swim yet, that is no problem: just strap them in a life jacket and set them free. Voila, no parent in the pool needed!

This was what happened one afternoon within a one hour window. I only stayed that time for an hour. I waited for the kids to get tired and get out of the pool, but that did not happen, so I cut my swim time short from 30 minutes to 15 and then left.

On other days there were “guests” in the pool without the host (strata occupant) present. So what’s the problem with that? If there are no rules around “guests”, any stranger could use the private pool, as if it was a public pool, but for free! What an opportunity for the wily! We strata residents pay for the privilege of our amenities, handsomely too, I would say, so the rule that guests can only visit the pool in the company of a resident was instated.
The identification of who is who is still a problem, as our strata has 74 units with a lot of people using the pool. It becomes rather difficult to keep strangers out if residents just lend the pool key to their friends. On council we have batted the idea about of introducing resident’s bracelets, similar to what vacation resorts do to secure the pool areas.
Another idea was to hire a sturdy, responsible university student for the high traffic times, on weekends, to check the bracelets, as self-policing does not happen much.
As this is a conservative council, none of those ideas passed.

A year after my start as council member I threw in the towel. I could no longer stand behind the laisser faire attitude of council and the patronizing treatment towards the (2) women that tried to change things. I did no long want to be associated with it.

As a volunteer council, its members are not professionally trained. The dynamics were quite unworkable: one person who had been in there off and on for years, was making the decisions in effect. He did not follow through with council decisions, ignoring them completely, especially if he did not agree with it, and frequently wiping other’s assigned tasks off the table, taking over and changing the course of decisions. Often I thought this person has mental health issues, or at least information processing problems. Of course, I had several run-ins with him: it felt like talking to a wall.
It had been done on council this way for years and there was no need to change, according to the main “boss”, also called the treasurer, with slow responses from the new president and other council members.
During the year, we had one elected president quit who did not deal well with dissenting voices, and another council member quit as well, who supported the president blindly. The new president was more collaborative, but slow, and could not keep up with the bossy treasurer. However, when council finally made a decision, and the execution was delegated to the strata manager, he in turn was very slow in following up on council’s directives. At the time I quit, I heard he had quit as well.

Now I can just be a resident again. Easier said than done! I had already acquired a reputation as the rules enforcer and made enemies, apparently. It amazed me that not everybody admits that we residents, all live under the same rules, adults that signed up to the Bylaws when we moved in. The principle of having Bylaws seems a concept not underwritten by a good segment of the residents.

As a result of my year long council job, my initially friendly neighbour had received some complaints against her and blamed me for all of them, after council had sent her notices. One came from me; other complaints come from different residents. Nevertheless, our happy living together had ended, in fact, although we agreed to be civil. But not her boyfriend. He found it necessary to ring my doorbell each time he arrived. By the time I had reached the door coming from the second floor, there was nobody at my door: he had entered the door next to mine. Oh well, it is bearable. I used to do that trick myself when I was in elementary school together with one or two friends: exciting and naughty!
More recently he stopped doing that, I think because we run into each other a lot, since the May pool opening. We seem to pick the same times to swim in the pool.

Last Saturday, I got the wrath of another resident whose guests I did not recognize as occupants. I struck up a conversation with a youngish man at the BBQ, who was completely killing the chicken breasts by repeatedly poking and cutting the tender meat during the cooking process, to see if it was cooked. I asked if he lived here. He did not; he was together with a pregnant you g woman at the pool. I asked if their host was in the pool as well, and whether I might know her, but no, she was not. I shared with them that one of the pool rules is that the resident should be in the pool with their guests. They called the unit occupant who arrived in a huff, addressing me in an angry tone.

She was also (highly) pregnant. She clarified her absence by saying she is pregnant (really?) and had been at home in this heat, making a salad, and that I had no right asking her guests questions, that she had lived here much longer than I had. She concluded that I was extremely rude for asking questions. I had questioned other guests as well. She left with her guests in a huff.

Over the year on council I noticed that there is a difference between me and born Canadians, in this respect. This must be a cultural thing: we Dutch people seem to share our thoughts easier, even if it may possibly lead to a sort of confrontation. It turns out I was the only council member to EVER question and confront people about obvious infractions of the rules and Bylaws that took place right under our noses.

So, now that I am a private resident again, I feel that I might be a little slower with confronting others with their infractions, but I fear I won’t be able to stop that completely. It is part of who I am. I was been taught in elementary and secondary school in The Netherlands to be a responsible citizen, an active community member, and a social being. Rules are needed to govern societies and keep the peace and order. We have in high school a mandatory year long of Nation Building and Law classes that explains how government works at all levels in the nation.
Besides, that, yup, I am a policeman’s daughter as well. You can’t beat that out of me.

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Semana Santa


SEMANA SANTA

SEMANA SANTA is the Spanish phrase for Holy Week, an important week in the life of Roman Catholics around the world and in Ajijic, where the people of this small town in Jalisco, Mexico, reenact the legend of Jesus and the events that led up to his demise. Not that I care much for the religion, but it happens that I am interested in the people and customs of small town Mexico, where I spent quite bit of time, and plan to spend even more time in retirement, coming up for me soon.
The week begins with the Sunday before Easter that is called Palm Sunday. According to legend, the son of the carpenter Joseph and his wife Maria, a man in his early thirties called Jesus of Nazareth (some called him the Son of God), came into town riding on a donkey. He was greeted by his followers with cheers and shouts of joy that their savior had arrived. Some of them waved palm leaves over his head, a custom I suspect in those days meant to honour people, and perhaps to provide some shade?

The country (at one point called Palestine) was occupied by the Roman army at the time, with a Roman governor put in place to rule the city Jerusalem. The Romans had their own religion with multiple gods, while the locals were following the rules as laid down by their forefather, Abraham. The local leaders were generally collaborating with the enemy, including the church leaders of that land, while protecting themselves and their positions. That attitude is nothing unusual throughout the world. For instance, during World War II the Roman Catholic pope collaborated with the German Nazi regimen that was invading country after country. That had the extermination of millions of vulnerable people as a result: the diaspora of Jewish people living in Europe, millions of mentally ill and disabled, the Roma (gypsies), and known homosexuals. Still today, the pope refuses to turn over the perpetrators (priests) of sexual abuse of children. However, the outcome of events long time ago, around 33 BC, when church leaders neglected to stand up for the innocent man, Jesus, had the birth of the largest religion in the world today as its result.

Jesus had been talking about some remarkable theories about himself and promised his followers a future kingdom that was to come soon. He clearly was opposing the practices of the indigenous church leaders–the ruling class of the religion that most locals adhered to. Jesus had also attracted the attention of the Roman occupiers, who saw that he was able to gather with his sermons large crowds of people who talked about miracles performed, with rumours spreading like an oil stain on the ocean that Jesus would save them from the Romans. Was this going to be a rebellion?

Palm Sunday is an evening event in Ajijic. About six at night, the residents of the main route of the event start cleaning their sidewalk and the street, with brooms and pails of water and the occasional hose. Around a half an hour later, a rickety pick-up truck comes by loaded up high beyond the wooden slats with fresh alfalfa hay and young men throw a few bales of hay in front of each house. The residents start spreading the hay and the photo shows the results. One is supposed not to walk on the hay until the actors and the crowds have passed. Within the hour, the hay gets collected and becomes food for the animals.

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The procession starts at the Seis Equinas (six corners) neighbourhood, the oldest part of town with a reputation for authenticity and traditional customs. The priest first needs to bless the bouqets of palm fronts, frequent rosemary twigs and chamomile bushes that are sold for a few pesos along the route by local crafters (or their kids): beautiful bouquets interspersed with woven grass bows, twigs and grain stalks, often with a straw image of Jesus at its centre. The crowd gathers around the priest who blesses the people, and especially their artifacts, to take home and spread their good scents and spiritual powers at home for a few days. Then, the procession travels to the main church in the centre of the town close to the plaza: the donkey with Jesus up front with his disciples, followed by the believers. On arrival at the church, there is a mass for the practicing believers, outside the church while the sun sets.

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Instead of mass, we choose to get an early start on food, and stroll to the plaza where local entrepreneurs in traditional costumes sell tamales, sopas, and other food at the stands. The town plaza is decorated with paper garlands that last just one day and will have disappeared the next morning. All apparently have a nice time, while bands take their turn playing on the band stand in the centre of the plaza, surrounded by tables full with visiting people, and the plaza looks fantastic.

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On the following Thursday, the crowd of believers gathers on the edge of town at dusk, on the site that stands in the gardens of Gethsemane, to witness Jesus struggle with his conscience, anticipating his death. The actors do a good job, although the P.A. system has some challenges. The actor Jesus and the disciples have some conversations that are hard for me to follow in Spanish, although I get the drift (I was raised in a strict religious home).

Jesus gets arrested by Roman soldiers and the the crowd returns to the town them. Jesus gets dragged in front of the Jewish church leaders and the high priest (Caiaphas) who make fun of him and taunt Jesus who does not defend himself. As it was dark and I don’t have the equipment for making good stills of the theatrical scenes in the dark, the rest is left to your imagination. Alternatively, you might watch the videos and photos on line that are readily available if you type in the search box Passion Play in Ajijic.

I attended the next morning, on Good Friday, when the scenes take place in the church plaza, converted to a sort of palace of justice, where Jesus gets charged with treason. The trial takes place under the supervision of Pontious Pilates. The crowd gets a say as well, but by now, Jesus does not look like a king, meek and exhausted, in a dirty robe and soft spoken. The priests and the crowd denounce him and yell that he should be crucified. Following the trial, the cross is hoisted on the actor and a real crown of thorns gets pushed on the actor’s head. ( I did not take photos, as I previously had a blog post about this part.

The actors, crowds and believers now return to the site of the Gethsemane garden that in this scene stands in for the Golgotha hill. This time, I witness the crucifixion (with ropes only)l last time I found the scenes too realistic and I gave up right then.
The actors do a believable job; at some moments I watch with a lump in my throat. The crowds are quiet and respectful; the atmosphere is indeed holy. I have seen that this community effort (with half the town volunteering) year after year, brings the community together. It is a time of togetherness and family reunions.The diaspora of Mexicans living in the US and elsewhere try to go home for Easter. Of course eating and drinking is also part of it, and always music.

I resolved to read the Passion story again once back home, just to read the details of the political maneuvering that took place, so long ago, the fickle crowds that one day want to crown a prince and the next day kill him. The tension between the goals of the oppressors, trying to avoid a rebellion, and the kowtowing church leaders and their struggle for survival, sacrificing an innocent man, while playing to the crowd, is like a Shakespeare drama. The interactions of Jesus with his relatives and his followers, the disciples, and in his trial, lots happening, all with interesting dialogues. Betrayal, love, denunciation, abandonment, grief and death, all the elements of a great story are there. Good for authors to read the story again.

Then back home, I discovered a new series on TV that tells exactly that story, called AD The Bible Continues, that shows the events and the crucifixion and continues with the developments of this Story. In my view the actor playing Jesus is altogether too handsome and beautiful and looks more like a Hollywood story, but to each its own….

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iPAD FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY


The iPad – first generation.

This iPad I am writing on was released April 3,2010, and is now almost five years old.

Back then, I stood in a very short line of two people at the computer department on that morning’s opening time at my local London Drugs store, my favourite go-to store for just about anything.

Who could know then that this small thing that wasn’t a laptop and responded to touch, would be the start of a whole new generation of tablets and touch generated gadgets? It had a lot of potential, but was unproven at that time, but has proven its worth to me since. I have still only used 48 GB from the 58.1 GB available.

From the first day I loved the little thing. Nobody really knew yet how useful it would be; plenty of people saw many drawbacks for this not-a-desktop computer. It was a toy, they said.

I am really, really happy to have taking the risk and for purchasing my little companion to everywhere. It never has needed repairs and did not break, even when I dropped it, numerous times. The metal back and sides are very sturdy.
For a while I had a rigid plastic, blue clip-on cover for the screen, until I left it behind somewhere at an airport. I have not even bothered replacing it. The transparent vinyl stick-on screen protector seemed to do its job very well. I never have had to replace it yet.

I use my iPad to write short pieces while sitting on my couch, in an airport lounge, or at a hotel, or a cafe, anywhere I want to write. I don’t need a light to see what I am doing. I can read books without bothering anybody else, listen to my music anywhere with ear buds with an excellent quality of sound (I guess also depends on the earbuds), don’t need a wireless connection for my play list, as its battery lasts forever. On my last plane ride it drowned out the crying of the toddler on his mom’s lap beside me with my fave tunes.

When I am at home using my home wifi, answering my email is easy, and even posting on my blog is simple, except for adding photos from somewhere else than from my iPad. So I have ways around that: I look up any photo I want to copy on the internet-Safari first, then save the photo to my iPad.

I took a chance and paid for the top of the line version with option for 3G, in case I would be outside the country without Internet/wifi.
I used that option only on 1 trip to Mexico and bought the Bell sim card for the iPad and put that into the in my tablet with a short term contract, for a month’s duration. It worked great and I felt quite privileged accessing the net, while riding on the ETA bus through Jalisco towards my destination, Guadalajara. The bill came later. I have not repeated that contract, also because most places now seem to have free wifi.

And not to forget, the iPhone had already been developed in 2007 with cellular connectivity, followed by a buying frenzy, which has not stopped yet. Revolutions were video taped on iPhones, criminals as well as the good ones were observed. The demand for Internet wifi and digital data exponentially took off everywhere on the globe with the advance of the iPhone; digital data services are in competition for customers while offering cut rate prices. The date are sent through satellite networks and towers everywhere on the globe at unbelievable reasonable prices (except in Canada, where cell phone rates stay extremely costly for some unknown reason).

Yes, we are connected through our gadgets on a constant basis, all day and all night long, if you stay up late. The gadget has become the biggest time waster in the history of man and woman, and also the biggest time saver, if work needs to be completed at home. It has made an appearance on almost every TV show, even in hospitals and offices, as it is so handy and portable.

The verdict is still out on which side the tablet and iPhone frenzy will end, good or bad for our social life. I only use my iPhone for phoning: I turned off all my data functions and I wait till I am at home to do my Internet accessing and data processing.
I try to limit my time connecting with friends and family through gadgets, I like meeting face to face better, as gadgets quickly can become a substitute. I prefer contact with real people, for which you have to leave the warmth of your cosy home and brace the weather. And for which you have to get off the couch and put some decent clothes on. I fear that isolating oneself with lack of social functionality is too easy to do with spending much time on gadgets.

The first generation iPad had no camera; since that first version, iPads have now all a built-in camera. One can Skype someone now from your iPad, how great is that? For now, I want to go home and see my friends and relatives that are far away through Skype on my home laptop. Skype is fantastic: the FREE alternative to visiting in person. It is imperfect, but great to keep up and talk for a few hours, if so inclined.

A drawback of tablets and smart phones is that people looking down at their iPhone or tablet, regardless of what other activity they are involved in, causing many accidents if they were driving, or walking into cars if a pedestrian. Another drawback is that the headaches are starting, as your head is attached with ligaments and muscles to your body and the strain of extending them for most of the day will cause physical problems.

I am of that generation that feels it is an insult to present company, when you show that others (on your iPhone) are more urgent or important than me, and you have to look and respond immediately. Unless you expect a call to serve at a war, or a riot, or are a first responder of some kind and get that call for your attendance at an accident or a murder, you are NOT excused. Aside from those issues, the iPhone is a great gadget in my book and eases life greatly. I just love watching Netflix on my big screen TV monitor, just so great!

Apple sure changed the social landscape in those five years.

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INVASION OF THE BOOMERS


INVASION OF THE BOOMERS

Help, the boomers are invading life everywhere.

I used to go to a yoga studio for years. The teachers were all properly trained and the owners adherents of the Yogi preacher whom provided the background for the yoga philosophy. It was all very proper and ethical, and the was studio decorated with great esthetics as well.

I took in the mildly religious aspects together with the health aspects as part of the whole yoga environment without it bothering me. The folding of the hands into the palms touching while seated cross legged, singing the word “aum” for a few seconds, at the end or the start of the class, lent a sweet aspect to the whole event for me.
After the peaceful Svassanah minutes at the end of the class, (integrating the physical exertion with stillness of the mind) the instructor wishes her class with a deep bow “namaste” acknowledging a spirit in us: the spark (of the soul) in me reflects the spark (of the soul) in you. Students then bow their heads in the direction of other students, making eye contact and repeating the gesture to each other. Most seasoned yoga students take time to go through this respectful greeting, although some are otherwise occupied already.

It so happened that I attend Sunday class. Raised in a strict religious family with church attendance twice on Sundays, this all felt strangely familiar to me. Getting up on Sunday morning, dress, and quickly eat something, and while most people are still sleeping or having leisurely brunches, I left home and drove through empty streets to class. What a nice replacement of rituals. After class I felt great, relaxed, aware — a bit of a difference with church, as I back then I was always thinking of ways to get out of church.

Over the last ten years, the class composition has changed, as well as the instructors. I used to be one of the few “older” students, and felt OK being there, but glanced occasionally at my fellow classmates who were much more agile, and lean and well, more beautiful. Now I am one of the crowd, since most there now seem over 50, have discovered yoga, and taken over the class. My Sunday class is now much larger with only members of the “silver wave”…and the number of men have increased too.

Not that men are the majority: they represent about 25% of students, but oh boy, are they ever the presence! They claim the public stage, as men always seem to do. They have an urge to make jokes, ask attention from the teacher, make unnecessary comments, etc. all perhaps in an attempt to breach the silence that might be uncomfortable to them. Before men, the brief time before class usually was spent by people relaxing, lying down, or holding some poses to loosen certain muscles or joints, without much talking, or only whispering. Not anymore since the men arrived. The six men count for about twenty women in noise and presence!

The dynamics of mixed company in this generation is always the same wherever you go. Men claim the public stage as their own, while women defer to them and play a supportive role, generally speaking.
The first time that more than the one (or two) token male attended class, the men all sat in a row, side by side to each other in the back of the classroom. How odd…. the last vestiges of their school memories made them repeat that childhood pattern. They were very vocal and obviously sought strength in numbers. I guess that most of these men are dragged to class by their partner, but separated from her, claiming independence, and sat in the back row all together. After the teacher pointed out their “bad boys on the back” behaviour to them, that pattern was broken. Good for her: young and assertive!

The teachers also have changed: from the more mature forty-somethings they became younger; they could be the grandchildren of the current crew of students. My current teacher is maybe at the most thirty, if that, although she looks 12 to me. You need to know that the type of class is “gentle”, and ability of any level is suitable for this class. In any case, instructors always encourage to adjust the poses to a level one is able to comfortably do without pain. If it hurts, don’t do it. Always good advice.

The teacher presents a bit as if she were teaching a Kindergarten class, tone of voice gentle, patient and simple, ensuring the class repeatedly that we were doing “beautiful work”. It seemed that the younger the instructor, the more they talk down to us, seniors, although not intentionally. My teacher does not have kids, and when she shares some of her life, it is uncomplicated – yet.

At grade school I was a chatterbox distracting others in class, so teachers always put me on the first row, so I have gotten used to being in the front of any public event. Automatically I seek the front position, now having ulterior motives: one ear is deaf, so I position myself strategically. So also in yoga class, which is the reason that I seldom see others perform their poses. Today I ended up in the back of the class, due to lack of spaces in the front. I had the view of the class, and very interesting it was!

There were new students that brought in her coat and handbag; one of them was fiddling before class with her cell phone, until the last moment possible. Actually, there were two students who brought in all her belongings into the classroom, handbag, coat, except shoes that we must take off in the lobby. All others leave their stuff usually hanging in the reception room, which is then supervised by the receptionist: no need to think of theft. Bringing a cell phone in this room of serenity is,close to blasphemy. I have never seen one or heard one ringing during class.

Another person was taking the most floor space she could, by positioning her mat so generously in the middle of the space that no third row was possible. Obviously, she is asserting herself, or possibly, is really afraid of getting too close to others. Then a few others spaced themselves within their row of mats, but far away from the next person beside them, by taking a space-and-half, to prevent others from positioning in between ending up too close beside them. Same message: “please don’t touch me.” When in the pose, with the mind focused inside, eyes closed, and if you suddenly touch a life person when you stretch out a limb, yes, that can be distracting, but for only a second.

The teacher often reshuffles the class to move those “spreading” students, forcing them back within their allocated spaces by insisting that we make space for three rows and move closer to each other. The class easily can accommodate 25 students. Good for her, I say. Most Sundays there a that many; our church is full!

I could not help noticing the student that quickly moved through the poses, as if she had done it many times before, sloppy and half-assed, not deliberately moving her muscles, but in a lets-get-through-this-quickly-since-I-am-here-anyway kind of way. She was maybe in over her head; I noticed when a longer held pose was too much and she had to come out of it; she stopped participating for a while. Had she saved her energy and been slower with less movement and more deliberate, she might have gotten more more out of the class. She was oblivious to the greetings and the namaste closing rituals; she was already preparing to leave. I hope she will come back and slow down next time to experience the benefits of focus, deep breathing, and intentional body moves. I love my yoga class. I will go early next time, so I can be in the front row of my church again.

Do you have any experiences in yoga to share? Please write a comment, rate this piece at the top of the page and pass it on to whom you think might like it, and please, Like me on Facebook.

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SMOKING and Strata Life


SMOKING AND STRATA LIFE

Last week’s newspaper called it the last frontier: smoking in strata and apartment buildings. My home is my castle. Or is it? Do I get to smoke in my own home where and when I want to? Sure you can, and who is going to stop you?

The funny part is that most people do not want to smoke inside their home anymore, as smoke makes their nice-looking home smelly, and turns nice clean walls brown. So, the smoker sneaks off to the deck or the porch and lights one, inhales deeply, and exhales, blowing the smoke away from themselves.

That’s all OK, you’d think. The great outdoors can absorb a cigarette or two, sure. But where does that smoke go, does it not dissipate and blend with the fresh air? It might, or it might not.
In my strata complex, my neigbours’ smoke does not evaporate in thin air. No, it gets sucked straight into my laundry room and also into the fresh air intake of my furnace, so when the heating kicks in, the smoke gets distributed throughout my home.

You see, I live in a high density complex of blocks of townhouse units, with their own entrances and porches and decks. Between each block of four units are corridors leading to the backside of the complex where the lawn, trees and cedar hedges are, and beyond the cedar hedges, a parking lot and the shopping centre.

Those corridors act as a funnel and wind tunnel for all air around the building, thus sucking the smoke right into the tunnel and it doesn’t matter which end you are on. That’s why they are called Breezeways. Between you and me, I think building those corridors, that it was a design flaw.

On the other end of the corridor and at the front of the block of units–street-side–the landscaping consists of a narrow strip of lawn with shrubs and trees, and then a sidewalk and the street, were the people walk their little doggies and let their darlings do their little doo-doo. Some of them even pick up after their companion pet.

You would think that walking the dog would be a good occasion to have a smoke and kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. No, not so! The smoker obviously hasn’t got the restraint anymore to wait for a few seconds more for walking a few paces first. Smokers preferably light their cigarette right outside their front door (and my door and the breezeway) so yes, I get to enjoy a “fag” as well, involuntarily. I am not even talking now about medicinal marijuana either, just tobacco. Could you imagine when “medicine” comes into the picture? I indeed have smelled pot inside my home already too, and I wasn’t smoking it!

It is clearly against the law to smoke in front of doors, open windows and fresh air intakes; the British Columbia Tobacco Act states a smoker has to be 3 meters away, but by golly, does anybody know what 3 meters are? Most Canadians are only metric when it suits us….
By the time smoke has penetrated my home, and I go outside looking for the culprit, the perpetrator is long gone. On stat holidays and on weekends, it is so bad that my clothes smell of smoke when I leave them in my laundry room; I have to wash them again. How annoying.

Last year’s Annual General Meeting of the strata complex saw a no-smoking Bylaw voted down. The proposal was to make the whole complex smoke free. New owners would then know this is a no smoking building and smokers would eventually be replaced by nonsmokers, over time. As an interim measure and a compromise to those still smoking, the option of smoking inside your own home was offered, as a way to grandfather the new Bylaw for the current smokers.
That was fair, at least the non-smokers thought. However, the smokers were not in agreement. Some even stomped out of the meeting prematurely, all in a tiff, obviously very angry. If you smoke and like it, why not smoke then in your home? It seemed reasonable enough to the non-smokers.

It is clear that smokers do not really want to smoke and consider it a filthy habit that they do not want to practice in their own home. Rightly so!
If quitting is no option, why not step away from the building and go for a walk in the street, if you don’t want to smoke inside your home? Dear smoker, if you want to shorten your own life, be my guest, but realize that I don’t want your smoke in my home either! You can’t have your cigarette and smoke it too…so to speak.

Does anyone out there have any bright ideas how to solve this dilemma? Anybody who would share strategies on how to pass a no smoking Bylaw?

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THE SILLIEST TV COMMERCIAL


The silliest commercial–The Laughing Cow/La Vache Qui Rit.

Don’t you hate those ads where animals talk and eat, or food is going to be eaten but is still talking, thinking and feeling, like those M&M ads, and are all happy about being eaten too…although the super-sized M&M talks back to the father who wants to eat them: “You get in’a bowl…” Unbelievable and weird. I wonder who comes up with those things.

The most idiotic TV commercial in my opinion is the one where the cows make cheese from their own breast milk, pack it in cute little triangles, and then happily eat it with the whole family. Who would do that–cows or people!?!

In no way is it feasible that even anybody would like to eat a product made out of breast milk. Who has heard of that? The idea is weird and quite repulsive, don’t you think?

Breast milk is food, granted, but it’s a natural food for babies only. You wouldn’t let anybody else drink it, if you were a mother, would you? That would be a deviant sexual thing, probably.

In the case of cow-mothers, the milk is meant for calves. If you think some more about it, you wouldn’t even want to drink cow’s milk.
That’s why the milk production is sanitized to the hilt in more than the visual presentation: through processing it hardly contains any of the goodness and fats that it naturally contains.
Milk is pasteurized and packed in cartons, so the milk is hidden from view, until it guzzles down your throat, or you pour it from the square box into your cereal bowl.

I guess the producers count on the fact that nobody associates milk with cows’ breast milk. When they watch the commercial I hope for the parent that their kids are still curious enough to start asking questions about this, as it might offer a wonderful opportunity to expand on the miracle of birth and why mothers have breasts, and milk….and maybe make many parents cringe, trying to avoid having to answer….

When we drink milk, dairy producers wouldn’t want us to see pictures in our head of cows being stabled, dropping some patties or other wetness in the process, and having their teats cleaned, before being hooked up to equipment. We don’t see the large amounts of the milk that the robots pump from their teats. We never see a cow feeding a calf naturally, not on TV and not in real life.

Sure, we have domesticated cows at mega-farms (somewhere else in the country) and their calves are never kept with their mothers. Their babies are separated, as soon as they are viable and can be fed without their cow mother. Yet, we don’t consider that cruel or unusual, and accept that without questioning.

In that light, I find it rather surprising that the producer of the Laughing Cow cheese triangles would want to point out that cows do possess motherly feelings, and want to feed their kids, pardon me, calves, and have milk.

Amazingly, our attention in the commercial is drawn to the fact that the cows’ children–the calves—and all the others around too, bulls included–eat the cheese made from the cow-mother’s milk. The only thing that is rather strange: that we do not get to know from the ad that the milk actually comes from the cow’s teats! I guess we’re just supposed to think the milk comes from somewhere else on the farm….

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SCHOOL REFUSED CHILD MEDICATION


SCHOOL REFUSED CHILD MEDICATION

Often, I get inspired by the news cast. Today the news was about a child who was not allowed to take the prescribed medication at school. This kind of news makes me see red. Who are those teachers anyway that they can decide on the life and illness of a student with special medical need, contrary to a physician’s recommendations?

That is almost as bad as an employer who, against a doctor’s recommendations and in spite of the proper form that says this employee is ill and is not able to work, expects employees to come to work anyway!
How cruel and unjustified of the school. What could be behind this insensitivity? Hold a minute! I heard in the next sentence that the medication of the student was physician prescribed marijuana.

Alright then. Maybe this student has cancer and no appetite, and because she is able to walk and talk well enough, and for reasons of not becoming socially isolated, she is allowed to be at school. So what about it?

Maybe the boy has anxiety disorder and just maybe the extra strong BC Bud knocks him out long enough that he is able to be his classroom, instead of running out, even of he does not get too much learning out of it. At least he is with his classmates. We would not want him to be socially ostracized and isolated now, in addition to being anxious, do we?

Another case might involve a girl with glaucoma, another good reason for taking medication that decreases the pressure in the eye and prevents worse, blindness.Traditional medications might not work for this child, because she is allergic.

You see that I am switching gender here, as I don’t want to appear prejudiced or gender-biased, god forbid.

The news flash got my imagination going, and my memory as well. It seemed like yesterday that I met with the vice-principal of my daughter’s high school to discuss the use of marijuana that she was taking for personal problems.

Yes, it was self-prescribed, minor detail, but who knows better than the person taking it whether it helps or not for what ails you? She was just ahead of her time; doctors did not prescribe it them.
Personal problems? Yes, you see, my marriage was falling apart at the time and my daughter was stuck between two warring parents. She had good reason for self medication. Not that she wasn’t as well a rebellious adolescent….

So, how did that discussion go, you wonder? Not very well. That is to say, not very well for me and not at all, as you would expect.

My position was that the school is no place for a student that is out of it, stoned out of her head, and that it would be doubtful that she would get much out of the materials offered, or could be serious, or objective and rational in class discussions. I felt sorry for the teacher as well. I would not be surprised if the VP would suspend her, at least for the day. That might make her think and would make her more careful, more sensible and more serious about graduation.

My daughter’s position was simply that she had not used any marijuana and that her mother was (still) out to lunch.

The VP’s position: he had no evidence for my assertions that less than an hour ago, she showed all the signs and smell of recently smoking up, probably with some friends, when I picked her up for lunch.
“What can I say, it is just your word against your daughter’s. It is not clear who is telling the truth and what is really going on. The consequences would be quite serious for your daughter, if I took your word for it. We treat our students fairly. We have a zero-policy for drug use at school. She is no trouble at school and I will give her the benefit of the doubt.”

The evidence:
Contrary to an hour earlier, when I picked her up for lunch, at that moment in the office of the VP, her eyes were clear and not bloodshot, she smelled nice and of perfume, not of the skunky smell that hung around her earlier. I was obviously an out-of-control mother, a real problem.

So how would that situation unfold if that were today?

“Say, Tina, why is your head on the desk? Are you asleep? Did you go to bed late last night?”

“No mister Clark, I have just taken my medication and need a few moments, I will be alright in a half our or so. How beautiful those birds sing, and what about that sunlight, it looks like gold, do you see that?”

“No, I don’t, but that’s alright. You take your time, you can join us when you are ready. Feel free to take a fruit bar from the bowl, if you get hungry. And my apologies, didn’t mean to put you on the spot. If it doesn’t get better, and you need to go home, just let me know, and the receptionist can call your mom to come and get you.”

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