Birds really do migrate by airplane … sometimes

Picture by Kim Smith,

Last week, in the midst of this record-breaking cold snap (in a region that thought it was used to cold snaps), my husband looked out the winter and exclaimed that Robby Robin had forgotten to go south with his family again. There was a forlorn robin drinking what had to be exceedingly cold water in our snow- and ice-lined stream. When we see robins or other birds staying longer than can be good for them (one year, a duck hung around until it was too late), we think of my “literary creation”, Robby Robin, and what I had thought was a whimsical and completely impossible story about Robby trying to spend the winter in the north with his winter-loving friends, the chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, cardinals and crows.

Robby Robin stays with his friends while his parents head south

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Reflections from a week of doing nothing

The title of this post may sound like I have started getting serious about meditation and am about to reveal some intriguing beginner’s insights. Sorry, but not even close. I have spent the first week of the New Year doing nothing because I contracted the cold of all colds, which has put me well and truly out of commission. Considering that in eastern Canada (and most of northeastern North America) this week’s weather has also contracted the cold of all colds, it wasn’t a bad time at all to stay inside and do nothing. It means, of course, that I have already lost one of the 52 weeks I had in which to carry out my 2018 resolutions/goals. Yikes! But it did allow me a week to lie on the sofa and aimlessly scan articles of interest on the Internet, a few of which held my limited attention. Consider these titles and see if any of them intrigue you as much as they did me:

They may seem to be quite different topics, and in some ways they are. They certainly offer very different perspectives. But they all share a common thread: During our working years we are too busy being busy to be as productive (or as content) as we might be, both in our work lives and in our lives overall. That translates into being very busy and yet not being fulfilled. And perhaps all we need to do to change that is to work less! Either work less or wait until we’re very old and finally realize that there is much to appreciate and that we don’t have to try to have it all, all at once. That we don’t have to worry about what others think. That it doesn’t have to be a win-lose world. That being perpetually busy isn’t by definition a virtue. But it would be awfully nice to figure this out for ourselves before we become very old, wouldn’t it? Continue reading

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A New Year’s tradition: reflections, resolutions, and dreams of fresh starts

What a lot of articles and blog posts about New Year’s Resolutions these days. How to have realistic resolutions. How to stick to your resolutions. Use a fortune cookie to frame your resolutions. Set goals instead of establishing resolutions (I think maybe I’m doing this without knowing it). Don’t make any, because … well, why bother. One option is to adopt the excellent suggestions in this cartoon from Incidental Comics, although personally I’d leave out the sunrises, worse dancing, and longer parties.


I’m not sure what there is about turning the page of a calendar ahead by a month (a very dark, cold month in the northern part of the northern hemisphere), but it turns out that New Year’s Resolutions are not a new concept, not by a long stretch. It seems that way back with the Babylonians 4000 years ago, making resolutions at the beginning of a new year was already an entrenched tradition. They made their promises to do better and be better to their gods instead of to themselves, but it was the same idea. And throughout the millennia, throughout many cultures, the tradition of conceiving of the start of a new calendar year as a time to reflect on what you could or should do better or differently has existed. Previous generations and cultures were more likely to promise results from these resolutions to their gods, to their church, or to God, and to back up their promise by giving offerings if they broke their resolutions. So we definitely take the easy way out these days. We just make our promises to ourselves and then don’t worry too much about accountability! Continue reading

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Things I’ll do differently when I’m old: an alternative view

You’ll forgive me for perhaps overreacting to Steven Petrow’s recent New York Times article “What I’ll Do Differently When I’m Old”; his observations struck more of a nerve than a chord. Hey, that’s me he’s talking about!

I reread his article a few times, trying to decide whether the author was writing tongue-in-check – maybe an attempt at satire – or whether he was being serious. But although he has a few funny examples, happily belittling his parents’ habits, I’m pretty sure he was being serious. He confessed that he had started to write his now long and still growing list of what he would not do when he was old when he was 50. His detailed list is based on what he has seen his parents doing that he clearly doesn’t approve of. It appears that his list is meant to become guidelines he will follow to prevent himself from making the “errors” he sees his parents making. Do many 50-year olds really do this? Is this a huge concern that I have somehow missed? The author is now 60 and, doing some basic math based on how old his father was within the past few years, his parents were of a similar age to mine, my husband’s, and our friends’ when he started his list. Wow. Do our kids have lists like this?! Continue reading

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Such a feel-good story – and, boy, could we use one

This won’t be a long post, don’t worry. But given how much unpleasantness we watch and read every day, much of it giving us such a feeling of helplessness, I thought it would be nice to share this good-news story.

One of the nicest activities I’ve been engaged in this year is visiting with one of the many new Syrian refugee families in our town. Two afternoons a week I visit in their apartment, one afternoon mostly working with the lovely young wife of the family, helping her perfect her English and understand more fully our Canadian traditions, and the other afternoon working mostly with their son, who has just started kindergarten. It is a joy to watch the process of integration of newcomers through their eyes, and to see the enthusiasm with which they embrace the peace, freedom, and welcoming community they have found here. They even manage the very cold weather with a modicum of enthusiasm.

The other day I received an email from the person at our local Multicultural Association who oversees the volunteer services, saying that the association had arranged for the volunteers to receive a box of chocolates made by a new Syrian entrepreneur, a chocolatier. I picked mine up this morning. It is the story of these chocolates that I want to share with you.

This refugee didn’t have much to bring from his war-torn country, but he did have his experience as a chocolatier. He opened his own factory in Antigonish, Nova Scotia just this past September, giving his new company the wonderful name Peace by Chocolate. Continue reading

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Why are straightforward projects seldom straightforward?

My last quilting project of 2017 isn’t quilted after all. And it is significantly smaller than the three quilts I made for our grandsons this year. But although it isn’t quilted … and it isn’t very big, the effort required to overcome one challenge after another surely should make up for its size and lack of “quilt-ness”! This idea all started from a Facebook post I made early last year, showing the world (aka my FB friends) the amazing painting our at-the-time 10-year old granddaughter had given us last Christmas, which we had subsequently framed. It got lots of complimentary responses, including one from a young friend and fellow quilter, saying that she thought this painting should be pieced and quilted, since it was very geometric and colourful. She even gave me a link to free software that allows you to upload a photo, choose a size for your quilt, draw lines on the photo where you want it pieced, and then print the template for cutting your fabric. [The software is called Quilt Assistant:]

Granddaughter’s painting, my muse

I stored this idea and the software tip away until the time was ripe, and then made a start for what I foolishly thought would be a straightforward project. Why do I always make that assumption?! Since my granddaughter had already made her own quilt when she was visiting two summers ago (and she had truly impressive colour sense), I thought I’d make a wall hanging instead. The wall hanging idea morphed into a pillow sham, but that was later. Continue reading

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Retirement or no retirement, that seems to be a question these days

The expression “Freedom 55” has gone the way of the dodo, and there are more and more articles about 70 being the new 60. Retirement age is being pushed back, and (some) people talk about not being able to imagine life without work. What would they do? It’s all they know; it’s who they are (in their own minds). Just last week, Margaret Wente, in her occasionally insightful although often irritating column in the Globe and Mail, wrote about how her husband, about to turn 70, simply can’t get the hang of being retired and keeps going back to work.

There are plenty of reasons for why many people are working longer than they might have expected to. Some need (or want) the money. Some love the interaction with their work colleagues and would miss that. Some sincerely find fulfillment in their work that keeps them at it. I understand all these reasons. But make no mistake, 70 is not the new 60, not unless you were an unusually tired and worn-out 60. It is true that far more people have good health into their 70s, 80s, and even beyond, but not everyone. And a 70 year-old body has had 70 years of wear and tear. Sorry, folks, but that wear and tear does start to make its presence known! Just ask the people in their 60s and 70s who are lined up for hip and knee replacements. Continue reading

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