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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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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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


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 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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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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The news Jan 21 2015

RBC employee arrested for pulling off a large heist

Police officer caught dealing drugs

Child protection manager arrested for producing/distributing child pornography

Trader caught in enormous Ponzi scheme executed over 10 years

Unbelievable, what is going on? What is the process of corruption that led employees in responsible and public positions into doing the opposite of what their jobs are supposed to be? What is happening?
Were the people, initially hired because they had the right qualifications for their job, changed through experiences in their lives, or experiences on the job, became disgruntled and disappointed?
Or maybe did they get dissatisfied with their salaries and saw ways to subsidize their rather poor wages in an easy and undetectable manner, taking advantage of their position of trust?
Where they put under pressure by others to deliver and pay up, maybe a nasty divorce, or from greedy children, or possibly, their dealer, or other creditors?
Or where they from the start the same people that were just biding their time, until they could strike, with anti-social personality disorder from the start, who finally showed their true colours?

Then the case of the dental students comes to mind who posted misogynistic (woman hating) messages and photos on Facebook, slandering co-students, all people that are not even in their positions of trust yet and already losing sight of their responsibility before entering the work world. God help us; lucky for us that they already showed their true face. Were these students afraid for the competition they got from their co-students, or were they rebuffed in their attempts to bed the young women, taking revenge by their unfunny jibs and slandering? Or were they challenged into showing how “manly” they are, when faced with questions of their sexual preferences? Or maybe they were just drunk.

I would love to do some research in each of these examples that were all on one day within the news hour on TV today. I can’t remember the corruption being so blatant and frequent as reported today.

I sure hope that this day is NOT symptomatic for the year we are going to face.

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Pegi Morton Young

Pegi Morton Young

I heard in a belated catching up session with friends on last year’s significant events, that Neil Young has traded in his wife of 36 years (and partner in his band) for a younger model. I could not believe it and was shattered by this news. I don’t know why exactly, but part of it is that I had put Neil on a pedestal and thought Neil to be above this trendy and superficial, but apparently inherent benefit of rich and famous men.

I find it a shame that Neil was unable to stay grounded and loyal to his family and his wife of many years, although this seems to be a fate of many celebrities: they cannot handle the temptations. Only Love Can Break Your Heart. Neil made it come true for Pegi. I am with her and on her side, when sides need to be chosen.

I suspect (hope?) that he will be one of those men that when it is too late, when he is lonely and dissatisfied with life, old and cranky, he wished he would have never left his wife. Loyalty and commitment is hard to find these days…

On the other hand, maybe she threw him out, tired of all his escapes and narcissistic antics, after all these years under his controlling ways. Who knows? Just saying, that picture might be another reality. What do you think has happened here? I delved in and found some public facts known about Pegi on the Internet.

Initially, my company and I spent some time on determining that the names of the celebrities were correct and that we were all talking about the same people. You know, as we get older, retaining names in our memory gets less reliable, so we had to make sure.

The Internet had to be recruited for the final determination and yeah, there were the photos of Neil and the new woman, a mediocre actress with a light-weight (in my eyes) affinity with ecological matters including the seal hunt, an issue where the parties divide themselves in a simplified “pro seal” versus “pro Inuit”.

Pegi Morton Young just turned 62 in December. She is an American born singer and song writer, an educator and environmentalist, and a philanthropist. She has a step-son with Neil who was born with cerebral palsy. Zeke was the reason she and Neil have extensively fundraised over the years for the cause of physical disabilities, in particular for children with speech and severe, physical challenges, putting the supports in place for those who need it, as there were not any when Neil and Pegi were looking for support for their son.

Her son’s CP affected his ability to speak and he has severe physical challenges.  Together with Neil, she has two other biological children, Amber and Ben. She entered the world of music publically, when she was one of the back-up singers in the Academy Awards event in 1994 for the song Philadelphia that Neil had written for the movie.

Pegi and Neil were married for 36 years and a lot of Neil’s love songs were inspired by Pegi. They met when she was waitressing in a cafe in his home town; that must have been in the early seventies; they married in 1978. (Song: Unknown Legend, 1992). Since the 1990s, Pegi performed with Neil on stage in the band. That’s how I saw them in concert together a few years ago, in Kelowna. The couple impressed me then with their performances, as well as that of the rest of the band: a tight group, completely professional and supportive of each other, to bring the best life concert to the audience, even in this relatively small venue in a small city.  The whole event was run like a well-rehearsed show. Two other facts were obvious: Neil is one of the ugliest looking front men on a stage, at least in my mind, and that he is completely in control of the band, as the ultimate conductor. According to Rolling Stone, Pegi last performed with Neil and his band in October 2013.  Neil filed for divorce in July 2014, according to the Internet source, Wikipedia.

Pegi is more than a pretty face and she has an impressive career on her own accord. In 1986, Pegi had initiated a special school program, The Bridge, for children with severe speech and physical challenges. She has ever since fundraised for the program that expanded and became a well-respected international program. Together with Neil, she organized an annual Benefit concert for The Bridge program in Mountain View, California, in which many other celebrity musicians participated.

She served on the executive board of The Bridge, as well of on boards of other institutions for the development of better programs and supports, especially through the arts, to serve people with severe challenges.

Pegi also is an environmentalist and has fundraised for Farm Aid, together with her ex, and joined the board of Directors of The Rainbow Connection in 2013, concerned with deforestation of the Rain Forrest.

Pegi has her own musical career with her band, The Survivors, and has recorded since 2007 three albums at her home studio at The Broken Arrow Ranch in California, where she lived together with Neil before their break-up. (I have no idea if she or Neil got the ranch in the divorce proceedings or whether there is a settlement). She also tours with her band and by year’s end had completed a tour in North America. She was on the performers’ list for the Farm Aid concert in Raleigh, scheduled for September13 2014, but was removed from the list.

I hope that Neil and Pegi can be level-headed in the future for the benefit of the children and themselves, and allow each other an afterlife post-divorce.

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Anything can be taken as an offensive jibe, depending on one’s state of mind. I wondered why the so-called season of cheer and peace is so fraught with angst and the indignant expressions of righteousness for so many people. Is it that they feel inadequate because they lack the financial means to celebrate? It is because the criticize others for not doing the traditions the “right way”, thereby leaving one’s own customs as well open for comparison?
I am sure there are many reasons for unhappiness, even as we shop ourselves to death, possibly for some literally who “shop till you drop” ending up ill, or depressed in the December month. To tell you the truth about how I feel: forever getting more resentful about this basically religious holiday becoming a tyrant and leaving no space for others, who do not want to celebrate it.

The thing I want to keep in mind is that the instigation for any holidays in December in the northern hemisphere is the biological need to start something bright and light in this time of the year. When the days are shortest in the annual cycle, the weather contributes to people feeling sad and cold. This has been going on along as people have inhabited the earth.

I am no historian and the exact time we have experienced and survived through a winter escapes me, especially what that means. The earth began well over 4 billion years ago, scientists have estimated according to the BBC’s website History of Earth. People only evolved a mere 200.000 years ago from a single cell organism over time into our ancestors, the great apes, and from them to human form as Homo Sapiens. Then to know that we humans existed for only a fraction of the time that the earth has existed, is mind boggling. We would do wise to see the big picture and place ourselves a notch down in the hierarchy of the universe.

Now so far our history is clear, where science and evolution are concerned. For some reason we humans have developed powers to think. Funny thing is that Humans always have used this to make fairy tales and create constructions of a higher power, religion, so to speak, developing an irrational side, while we made great strides in science.
We struggled to survive as people, and needed to find meaning in suffering. Here is where Homo sapiens has created religion: as a means to feel safer and find meaning in suffering, and to explain unusual events and planetary processes that cannot be explained with the current information we had at the time.

Modern Christmas…..

The darkness and the shortening daylight of December days were a scary event for humans and our biology reacted, and still does. The hormonal housekeeping reacts and we suffer in various forms under low light conditions. For example, darker skinned peoples have protection from burning in the sun in tropical regions, but when living in the north they need extra vitamins, as the sun doesn’t trigger production of vitamins when skin is not exposed to the sun. Pale-skinned people also need sunshine and get depressed, but get a few rays extra that are not filtered out so much by their white skin. Nowadays we try to evade those feelings of SAD-ness (Seasonal Affective Disorder) by spending time down south on a vacation in warmer and brighter nations, where our hormonal clock gets a reset.

However, the people that live in those warmer (sub) tropical climes also experience a relative decrease in light, as the sun moves away from the equator towards the southern hemisphere. The nights become longer and darkness sets in earlier for them too. Those who live in Australia in the southern hemisphere, have the opposite happening, where they have their summer now. Unfortunately, it’s is hardly doable for Joe Blow or Joanna Blow to move every six months to countries with the unabated sun, although lots of rich people and snow birds just do exactly that and go where the light is longest in a day.

So, make no mistake: at our core, we are all pagans, as we seek light and distractions from the darkness and cold. We incorporated religious myths and stories in our lives and these are as diverse as peoples are. From the Aztec and Celtic feast of chasing away the bad spirits by creating big fires and ceremonies, much ritual dancing and inebriation, to easier reach the good spirits — all is meant to feel better.
The feast of Saint Nicholas in the Netherlands, the day of the Virgin de Guadalupe, in Mexico, the processions with lights and singing, gift giving, as well as the midnight Christmas Eve mass that is celebrated all over the world, all parties of some kind. The Yule celebration, feast of light, and the winter solstice celebrated by Zoroastrians and Scandinavians, Wicca: same thing, it’s all about the party!
The need for comfort and closeness, and spiritual practice, is an attempt to try to control what is uncontrollable, and led to the myths of Christmas, Chanukah, feast of Eid, and Bodhi Day, and of other religions, such as modern Africa’s Kwanzaa believers, what have you.

Dia de Virgen de Guadalupe

And yes, you Christians, no need to become so defensive in refusing to wish others Happy Holidays as a way to be more inclusive in Canada, where other religions also thrive, but have not made it yet to official statutory vacation day. Don’t be so afraid; there’s no direct danger on the horizon that your religion will be wiped out any time soon, as the richest countries in the world adhere to that religion. North America is one solid, religiously Christian block.

The pope touches the Virgin’s image at the Vatican’s cathedral. The original is in Mexico City.

No reason to be fearful of Muslims taking over the Christmas “shopping” holiday, as that religion is overwhelmingly adhered to in developing countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia that do not have the shopping power of North American and European industrialized nations. Their winter events changes its day each year with their calendar that is different from the Georgian calendar, and is not adhered to by all branches of the religion. The major Muslim celebration is Ramadan that was in June in 2014, which is a time of fasting all day for 30 days. Families get together after sundown to finally eat that day. This practice is meant to get closer to spiritual values, and to remind the believer of the fate of poor people who do not eat each day. Eid al Fitr is the celebration to end the Ramadan and is the most significant event in the Muslim religion all over the world, but does not take place in winter. The Muslim religion is the second largest (and still growing) religious belief system in the world, with 1.2 billion believers. In 2015, December 28 will be the Sunni day for Mawlid-an-Nabi and Dec 28 for the Shia Muslims. Some also celebrate other significant days in their religious calendar in December. Their holiday of light is still largely a religious family holiday, just like Christmas used to be, when I was growing up.

Chanukah is the only real competition for Christmas from Dec.16 to Dec 24, 2014 and its feast of light means eating and gift giving, to remind the Jewish people, when they were one of the native peoples in the Palestinian region, how they won in a battle 162 BCE against the Syrians, back in the days before it became a British protectorate. They believe that a spiritual miracle happened when a tiny bit of consecrated oil sustained an oil lamp in the Temple throughout the battle. In general, the survival of the Jewish diaspora is celebrated as well on that day.

The Sikh, Hindu, and Buddhist Eastern religions of course have their celebrations as well. The Bodhi day is the most significant one for the Buddhists, celebrating the origin of the religion, that the Buddha (Lord Siddhartha) reached enlightenment when – a mere mortal and son of the reigning king – he was sitting under a tree, trying to find the meaning of his life, as he meditated himself into enlightenment.

Diwali – Huffington Post

From the Huffington post: Diwali is one of the biggest festivals in the Hindu calendar and there are multiple reasons why Hindus celebrate this festival. The most popular narrative, based in the ancient Sanskrit epic the Ramayana, is of Lord Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana returning to their kingdom Ayodhya after defeating the demon king Ravana. On that dark new moon night, the residents of Ayodhya joyfully lit oil lamps to welcome Rama, Sita and Lakshmana back to the kingdom. It is celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs. This was celebrated this year on October 23.


My message for December is: enjoy in enlightenment of the pagan rituals of the ages.

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Love, Marriage, and Other Bad Stuff

BABYBOOMER johanna van zanten:

An astute observation from another blogger that I am re-posting from Lifeintheboomerlane…..

Originally posted on Life in the Boomer Lane:


Since 1990, the divorce rate for Americans over the age of 50 has doubled, and more-than-doubled for those over the age of 65.  Over half of all grey divorces are to people in their first marriages, who have been married at least twenty years.  This can either be interpreted as an attempt to avoid costly, and completely unnecessary,  50th wedding anniversary parties, or it can be something else.

Part of the rise in grey divorce is due to there being so many darn boomers.  They are everywhere.  It’s impossible to go through one’s day without seeing at least on of them out in public.  And those infomercials that sell music from the 60’s and 70’s are mind-numbing.  Just thinking about all those people calling in to order Sly and the Family Stone CDs is enough to give one the willies. But the bottom line is, more boomers means more of…

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