Help, I forgot to ac-cen-tu-ate the positive!

I stand accused of having become too negative. Me, little Miss Glass-half-full. Me, who sang Bing Crosby’s song, Ac-cen-tu-ate the Positive, to my university’s former VP Finance, encouraging him to stop spending so much time dwelling on the negative side of things (which in that job, admittedly, was understandable). What happened to me?

I think we all know. It’s a modern disease that results from spending too much time reading or listening to news and wondering how the world got to be such a mean, angry place, even among people who have no personal complaints. It’s a disease that has infected all of us who had naively thought that beneath all the rancor there were people in charge who believed that kindness and decency to all were accepted aspects of living in a civil society. But, it turns out that from time to time some of these assumptions are sorely tested, and, sadly,  this is one of those times. And news junkies like me, who have 24/7 access to over-the-top stress-inducing world news thanks to our advanced technologies, are left in despair over the state of the world. And despair for the world, it turns out, does have an impact on one’s usually positive attitude!

I haven’t lost my positive attitude about my own life, the lives of my family and friends, or my corner of the world. Not in the slightest. But apparently my preoccupation with the extraordinary disruption of 70 years of an integrated and cooperative world order has coloured my overall tone. I guess it makes some sense than in posting articles on FB that bemoan the current state of the world, albeit with compelling arguments ;), I have been perpetuating the stress-inducing despair that has turned me negative. Hmm. I’d better do something about this. Continue reading

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Is running really 90% mental?

Lately there seems to have been a number of articles talking about the mental side of running. I’ve even seen articles recently on this subject in such unlikely places as the New York Times and the Guardian. As an old, slow but keen recreational runner, the headlines bring me up short each time. Does this mean that if I just think more I’ll be able to run faster, longer, or more frequently?! That would be welcome news, since I am definitely better at thinking than running.

Old, slow but keen runner!

I’m guessing that what they’re really referring to is that if you’re already damn good – and already training hard and steadily – that having the right attitude can make a significant difference in how well you do in a race. It’s like Yogi Berra said about baseball: It’s 90% mental and the other half is physical. [For those of you too young to be steeped in Yogi Berra quotes, you are definitely missing something. Check them out at https://ftw.usatoday.com/2015/09/the-50-greatest-yogi-berra-quotes. You’ll recognize some of them; they are legendary.] Continue reading

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Empathy

And another post from Barry Hopewell’s blog that has continued to resonate with me through many readings over the past few months. So, so relevant to our discordant world, while somehow giving a feeling of hope rather than despair.

I can't believe it!

Following is another great poem by Steve Taylor in his latest newsletter. It expresses in poetic form an important truth behind much of what is ‘wrong’ with the world today. The polarity and separation evident in much of today’s politics suggests that we have a long way to go.

Empathy

If you have no empathy, you see enemies everywhere –
when others come close, you sense danger;
so you strengthen your defences and protect your resources
afraid they might steal what’s rightfully yours.

But if you have empathy, you see brothers and sisters;
when others come close, you sense kinship;
so you welcome them, embrace them, open your life up to them,
knowing they’re entitled to share what’s yours.

If you have no empathy, you feel incomplete
and the goal of your life is to accumulate –
to build an empire of achievements and possessions
to try to make yourself…

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Be Gentle with your Mind

I’ve been indulging in rereading this lovely poem every once in a while since it was posted in “I Can’t Believe It!” several weeks ago. It is so calming. I now realize that I’ve been remiss in not sharing this experience. Thanks for introducing me to “Be Gentle With Your Mind”, Barry.

I can't believe it!

Here’s another poem by Steve Taylor, a message to all of us embedded in the constant involvement with media and other busyness: 

“Be gentle with your mind.
Don’t overload it with demands
or fill it with too much information
or pressurise it with too many deadlines
until it frazzles with strain
and refuses to work for you anymore.

Your mind isn’t a machine; it’s a sensitive artist.
It gets agitated easily, if conditions aren’t right.
And then it can’t think clearly, or give birth to new ideas and insights.

The energies of your mind are pure and powerful, like a clear fresh stream,
but they get polluted easily, if you don’t protect its environment.
And then you feel uneasy, as if your life is out of harmony,
and the world is conspiring against you.

So be gentle with your mind.
Give it time to rest and regenerate.
Allow it…

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We should be practicing for retirement our whole life

Recently I wrote a blog post in which I observed that in many ways our 9-year old grandson was practicing being retired during the week he spent with us in August. Of course, it was a tongue-in-cheek comment, a throw-away line. Or was it?!

I’ve written at other times about the strange reality that we spend countless years preparing ourselves to enter the world of work: pre-school, school, post-secondary education and/or training, internships, etc. Then we work for 25-40 years – a long time, sure, although you’d be surprised how quickly it goes by! And then, given the remarkable increase in life expectancy, we actually may have an additional 25-40 years of retirement. Think about it: retire at 55 and live to be 95, retire at 65 and live to be 90. Retirement truly is a second career, and it’s entirely in your hands.

Bizarrely, all we are ever encouraged to do to prepare for retirement is try to ensure that we are financially secure. As I’ve said before, financial security is very important (and it’s also a huge service industry, as is the marketing of those services; just count the ads on TV for “wealth management”). But for many people who have made it to retirement with reasonable financial security – maybe for the majority – the question of what to do with this new-found gift of time once they don’t have to go to work every day has not been given a lot of consideration. Often none at all.

I have friends who simply don’t stop working, because they absolutely cannot imagine another life. This works for some people – in some occupations – but not for everyone. And at some point your body and/or your mind is going to say, “Sorry, I just can’t do this anymore.” Why not beat your body or mind to the punch and consider all your options for retirement in advance. How about well in advance; you can always revise your plan from time to time. Make a list of things you’d like to pursue when you finally have some discretion over what interests you pursue and how you use your time. Once you’ve got a list, consider getting some of these interests started before you retire. It’ll be good practice!

A recent blog post by a fellow blogger introduced me to a book by Julia Cameron that has a simply irresistible title: It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond. Needless to say, I got myself a copy of the book immediately (with thanks to blogger, Molly Stevens,  who is writing humorous posts as she works her way through the book). This book is aimed at retirees and people approaching retirement who may be giving some thought to exploring creative outlets now that they have more time. It’s got some intriguing exercises designed to help you explore your creative side(s) and, dare I say, remind you of the dreams you once had. A kind of, “where was I headed when I got sidetracked”? It’s the kind of book that will become a well-worn manual for living for some people and just won’t work after an initial thumb-through for others. But the concepts presented are worth thinking about, regardless. Continue reading

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A new story for small children: Splash Pads and Peppa Pig

With apologies to the brilliant creators of Peppa Pig. Our small grandsons love Peppa Pig, and one of them loved our local Splash Pad when they visited. It seemed like a logical combination to try in a story line that would appeal to them (well, at least one of them). Too bad about copyright; I’d better leave it as a good idea. Maybe just a few hints of what might have been!

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Peppa Pig and Raphael Make a Splash


So Mummy Pig called Raphael’s mother and a plan was made for them to meet at the Splash Pad after Raph’s nap. Mummy Pig and Raph’s Momma were both excited for them to play together. Continue reading

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Lessons learned from watching our bird families

We have been blessed the past few summers. Bird parents of nearly every persuasion have selected our backyard for their nurseries and our feeders as their restaurant of choice. The result has been a “bird’s eye” view of bird parenting techniques and the endearing if short-lived tolerance of adolescent birds towards other birds.

We have been beyond fortunate to be able to watch bird mothers and fathers (and I love how they share their parenting responsibilities) feeding their adolescent offspring, including an enormous crow parent feeding its equally enormous crow young’un on a tree branch outside our back window. We’ve watched Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers feeding their young from the luxury of our living room as well, and, let me tell you, those young’uns are demanding. If you think your kids are whiny, just ask bird parents what they think!

Greedy Hairy Woodpecker

We have watched as mourning doves, cardinals, finches of every colour, nuthatches, juncos, chickadees, sparrows, and, yes, hummingbirds, have established our backyard as their home for the summer as they raise their families, sometimes even raising two broods in one season. We see robins, but not as frequently, since as they’re ground feeders they don’t ever try our feeders. Just ask Robby Robin why Continue reading

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