The sky is falling!

After writing a couple of somewhat controversial posts over the past few days, it’s time for a more lighthearted one.

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Richard was recently accused of name calling when he used a common English idiom in a comment on Facebook. In response to a doom and gloom posting expressing a friend’s fear about what the newly elected NDP government would do to our province’s economy, he wrote “I just checked again. The sky is still safely in place, it did not fall.” He was, of course, making reference to The sky is falling!, an idiom which had it’s origins in the ancient folk tale, Henny Penny, or as it’s sometimes known, Chicken Little, about a chicken who believes the world is coming to an end. The phrase features prominently in the story, and has passed into the English language as a common idiom indicating a hysterical or mistaken belief that disaster is imminent.

I don’t know if our friend truly believed that Richard was calling her Chicken Little or if she was just very upset. The idiom is one that has been used frequently in discussions and articles in Alberta since the May 5th election. In fact, it appeared twice in one article that we read today. In any case, the misunderstanding reminded me again what a challenging language English is and how much fun we had teaching it in both China and Japan.

Some of our adult students in Japan were particularly intrigued by idioms. Kyoko was a librarian who was already quite conversant in English and who wanted to study nothing else! In my opinion, she was an adult student paying good money for private lessons and should have been able to choose what she wanted to study, but the school had a different philosophy and I couldn’t get away with that. We agreed to compromise. She would study the prescribed curriculum if I would include one or two idioms at the end of each lesson.

So what is an idiom? It can be defined as an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words, but that has a separate meaning of its own. The origin of many have been lost in antiquity, but our language is littered with them. Some people, Richard included, use them frequently in everyday conversation. I use them much less often, but I thought it would be fun to do a bit of research and share the stories behind a few of the more common ones here.

raining c & dIt’s raining cats and dogs! simply means that it’s pouring rain. There are many theories about the origin of this one, but the most probable is that it had it’s beginning in 17th century England. Public sanitation wasn’t what it is today and during deluges, rainwater coursing down the streets would often carry dead animals with it. As a result, even though cats and dogs never literally showered down from above, they became associated with severe rainstorms.

pintMind your Ps and Qs means to watch your manners or be on your best behaviour. It dates back to a time when local taverns, pubs and bars served their patrons drinks by the quart and the pint. Bar maids had to keep an eye on the customers and keep the drinks coming paying special attention to who was drinking pints, and who was drinking quarts.

 horse's mouthWhen someone uses the phrase, straight from the horse’s mouth, we know that they have heard something directly from the source. They are, therefore, to be believed. Horses have been a prized commodity down through the ages. In the past, a dishonest seller might lie about a horse’s age, but a potential buyer who knew anything about horses knew that you could tell the age by examining the size and shape of its teeth, literally getting the truth straight from the horse’s mouth.

side of bedDo you ever get up on the wrong side of the bed? If so, you start the day in a less than pleasant mood. In Roman times, it was considered bad luck to get out of bed on the left side. Hence if you got up on that side, your day was destined to be a bad one.

redWhen you paint the town red, you go out and celebrate in a somewhat wild and flamboyant way that likely includes imbibing in alcohol. There are several suggestions as to the origin of this one, but the most common dates back to 1837 and a well-documented story about the Marquis of Waterford and a group of his friends running riot in the Leicestershire town of Melton Mowbray, painting the town’s toll-bar and several other buildings a bright red.

stagecoach11Do your kids like riding shotgun; running to jump in the front seat of the vehicle with you whenever you go out? If so, they are replicating a historically important role. In the days when stagecoaches were the primary mode of transport, the seat immediately next to the driver was reserved for an individual with a shotgun whose job it was to ward off any bandits attempting to loot passengers.

axeDo you ever fly off the handle? In pioneer days, handmade axes weren’t always the best examples of craftsmanship. Occasionally, a particularly poor design would result in the head unexpectedly flying off its handle. This became an apt metaphor for passionate bursts of rage or losing one’s temper.bite bullet

If our friend’s predictions about Alberta’s NDP government come true, we may have to bite the bullet, accepting the impending hardship and enduring the resulting pain. This idiom has a straightforward history. In days gone by, when doctors were short on anesthesia, they would ask the patient to bite down on stick of wood or a bullet during a medical procedure to distract them from the pain.

tighten-belt-100x100Or perhaps we’ll have to tighten our belts, lowering our standard of living because we’ll have less money than we had before. This saying comes from the depression era when there was little money for anything including food so people had to tighten their belts in order to keep their pants from falling down.

I could go on and on. There are estimated to be more than 25 000 idioms in the English language!

Do you have a favourite?

Slippery slope?

My granddaughter is five. She still sleeps with her favourite purple blanket and believes that she’s going to grow up to be a unicorn, but in some countries her parents might already be looking for a husband for her. Every day, more than 25000 girls under the age of 18 are married worldwide. One in 9 girls in developing countries are married before the age of 15; many by age 8 or 9.

We, in North America, think we’re enlightened. It will never happen here, we tell ourselves. Really? A few decades ago, did any of us expect to see same sex marriage legalized? In 1974, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) removed homosexuality from its catalogue of illnesses. Instead, it became a sexual orientation. Today, there are those who want to see pedophilia treated in the same manner. Until recently, it has been widely viewed as a psychological disorder triggered by early childhood trauma, but no more. Now, many experts see it as a biologically rooted condition that does not change; a sexual orientation. In fact, in the fall of 2013, the latest edition of the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders referred to pedophilia as a sexual orientation for the first time. After inquiries from news organizations, the APA issued a “correction” stating “sexual orientation” is not a term “used in the diagnostic criteria for pedophilic disorder,” but do you see where this is going?

“It should be clear to anyone with any grey matter that pedophilia is just another oppressed sexual orientation or interest, and age doesn’t somehow magically make consensual sex between two people into something evil,” writes one user of a website for self-identified individuals who are sexually attracted to children. So can a 5 year old give consent? What about an 8 or 9 year old? If a man she trusted asked my granddaughter if she wanted to “play” with him, what might she say? Would that be consent? I know this sounds horrifying or perhaps even ridiculous to most, but is it any more abhorrent or ridiculous than the concept of same sex marriage would have been to our grandparents?

Sadly, it isn’t only pedophiles themselves who think that sex with children is okay. A National Council for Civil Liberties (UK) report, written for the Criminal Law Revision Committee in 1976, included the following:

“Childhood sexual experiences, willingly engaged in, with an adult result in no identifiable damage. The Criminal Law Commission should be prepared to accept the evidence from follow-up research on child ‘victims’ which show there is little subsequent effect after a child has been ‘molested’. The real need is a change in the attitude which assumes that all cases of pedophilia result in lasting damage.”

With ideas like that floating around, is it really so outlandish to think that we might someday see marriage between children and adults become legal in the western world? Not in my lifetime, I hope, and not in my granddaughter’s!

Personally, I think that polygamy, which is actually already practiced in our country, will likely come first, but that’s a different topic.

What do you think? Once again, I invite all opinions as long as they are presented in a non confrontational manner. You can even tell me that you think I’m crazy, as long as you do it politely!

Girls Not Brides

Girls Not Brides Website

Why the rainbow?

What I’m about to say will probably be offensive to some, but I’m going to say it anyway because I am also offended. I understand that there are those who are celebrating the US Supreme Court’s historic decision to legalize same sex marriage across that nation, but I am offended by the rainbows that are cropping up everywhere. I was offended when I came to WordPress to write this post and found a rainbow banner plastered across the top of the page. I was offended when I went to Facebook today and encountered numerous rainbowed profile pictures.

Don’t get me wrong. Am I offended because people are using Facebook’s rainbow filter to express their sexual orientation or to show support for gay friends and/or loved ones? No! I am offended in the same way that I take offence to non Christians taking Christ out of Christmas and Easter. I am offended because the LGBT community chose as their symbol something that God used to symbolize something entirely different. Personally, I think there’s significance in that.

So, how did the rainbow become a symbol of gay pride? For some, it’s many colours simply represent diversity within the LGBT community. The rainbow flag was originally designed by San Francisco artist, Gilbert Baker, in the 1970s and had eight stripes: hot pink to represent sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for the sun, green for serenity in nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony and violet for spirit. The pink stripe was eliminated first when Baker approached a company to mass produce the flags and discovered that hot pink fabric was not available commercially. Given what the flag stands for, I find it quite hilarious that he simply chose to eliminate the stripe representing sex! Indigo was later removed to give the flag an even number of stripes. Again, I find it a bit odd that the stripe representing harmony was removed. If there is anything that’s needed where this topic is concerned, it’s harmony!

But, why am I offended by this use of the rainbow? Christian or not, you are probably familiar with the biblical story of Noah’s ark. According to Genesis 6, a time came when “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” Perhaps, a time not so different from our own! We are told that God “was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.” As a result, He decided to send a flood to wipe out mankind, but He chose to preserve one family, the family of a righteous man named Noah, to begin again. When the flood waters finally receded and Noah’s family, as well as the animals that had been preserved with them, were able to leave the ark, Genesis 9 tells us that God made a covenant with them that never again would flood waters destroy all life on earth. Then, He set a rainbow in the sky as a sign of His promise.

“Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”  Genesis 9:16 NIV

That’s the rainbow I’m thankful for; a symbol of hope in a world that often seems devoid of hope! We live in a time of moral decay and depravity, but our God has promised not to send the flood waters to swallow us up! I take offence to the symbol of that promise being used for anything else, most especially something that I do not believe my God would celebrate.

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As always, I invite you to leave a comment. Given the controversial nature of this topic, however, I urge you to do as I have tried to do and express your views without attacking anyone.

It’s Wink Day!

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June 18, 2015 is Wink Day! The Canadian beauty industry, through their charitable foundation, Beauty Gives Back, has been encouraging women to post pictures and videos (with the hashtag #winkday) of themselves wearing blue eyeshadow today in support of women going through the emotional trauma of the Cancer Blues. The Cancer Blues is a term, coined by Beauty Gives Back, for the emotional distress caused by cancer and its treatment and is an often ignored consequence of the disease that can affect a person’s ability to fight and thrive through the ordeal.

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For over 20 years, Beauty Gives Back has supported tens of thousands of Canadian women through the Cancer Blues with programs such as Look Good Feel Better and FacingCancer.ca. “We are a ‘feel good’ industry – colourful, sexy and fun. We use colour to make women look good and feel better every day, so no one knows more about how women feel about themselves than we do,” says the Beauty Gives Back website. “We count over 95% of Canadian women as customers in their lifetime. And we cannot, and will not, abandon those same women when they are fighting for their lives against cancer. Therefore, the mandate of Beauty Gives Back is clear, real and relevant: We dedicate ourselves to treating the emotional fallout from cancer. Using the sum total of our knowledge, experience, expertise and resources, we do what women trust and rely on us to do – to make them feel human again in the face of the ravages of cancer and its treatment. In doing so, we help restore their confidence, and the confidence of those around them, to continue fighting with conviction and living with dignity.”

That’s definitely a cause that I could get behind, especially when all it took was a bit of blue eyeshadow, a camera and social media! Since we’re visiting in Calgary, daughter, Melaina, and granddaughter, Jami-Lee, joined in the fun. Even Jami’s cat, Duncan, with his blue collar, had to get in on the action!

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In spite of dealing with two completely separate cancers over the past two years, one of them incurable, I can honestly say that, though I have, of course, faced some emotional symptoms, I have not really suffered from the Cancer Blues. I can easily understand how it could happen though. I feel blessed to have had the amazing support of family, friends and a fantastic medical team. I have the good fortune of living just two hours away from the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton, Alberta, a world class treatment centre that is truly dedicated to treating the whole person. A Look Good, Feel Better workshop early last year was fun and a very helpful diversion from the more serious sides of dealing with my illness, but above all, I attribute my lack of mental distress to my undying faith in God who assured me the day after I learned that I had cancer, “I’ve got this in my hands. I know what’s going on. I’m going to take care of you!”

It’s not too late to get in on the Wink Day action! Photos and videos can be posted throughout the month of June. Why not wink with us?

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Dowboy

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This is one of my favourite photographs, taken of my older brother, Donald, and I when I was about four months old. Isn’t he cute? He looks like a perfect child and in many ways he was, but what you can’t see is the damage that had already been done to his brain when he suffered from encephalitis as the result of having measles about 10 months before this photo was taken. No, this isn’t a rant about vaccination, but it definitely could be!

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Encephalitis is acute inflammation of the brain caused by either a viral infection or the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacking brain tissue. The most common cause is a viral infection and it occurs in approximately 1 in every 1000 cases of measles. It develops rapidly and requires immediate care; care that was not available in the small, isolated town where we lived in 1952. In fact, it was not until a few months had passed and Donald began to lose his words and exhibit other signs of brain damage that our parents realized that something was seriously wrong.

As I grew up, I came to realize that my big brother was different from other children and I loved him with a fierce and protective love that endures to this day. Though his brain injury robbed him of the ability to speak, I knew he loved me too. In fact, I remember Mom telling me how difficult it had been to discipline me when I was little because if she spanked me, Donald cried too! She also told me that before I could say his name, I called him Dowboy.

Donald has always been a gentle soul and very easy to love, but I remember one occasion when some neighbourhood boys teased me about my brother, the “retard”, a word that I have always hated with a passion. Perhaps, it was then that I learned the power of using my words. I was a timid child, known amongst my peers as a goody two-shoes, but in that moment I must have become a wild and vicious creature! I don’t remember what I said, but I dressed those boys down to such an extent that word got back to my parents about how I’d stood up for my brother, and my father speaks of it admirably to this very day!

Though I do remember my grandmother telling me more than once that I would always have to watch out for Donald, I don’t recall my parents ever making me feel that I would have to carry the burden of caring for him. Regardless, I grew up with a tremendous sense of responsibility for Donald that has remained with me through the years even though he lives a long distance from me.

With two other handicapped men, Donald lives in a fully staffed house in North Vancouver that is operated by the Community Living Society. CLS provides residential and personalized community-based support to individuals throughout the Lower Mainland of Vancouver and the Upper Fraser Valley. As a family, we are so blessed to know that Donald receives excellent, compassionate care and lives a productive and meaningful life.

In his earlier retirement years, my father was actively involved as a CLS board member and served as president of that board for several years. Until recently, he has been the primary family contact for everything to do with Donald’s care, but Dad celebrated his 92nd birthday last week and over the past couple of years, I have been gradually taking over that role. CLS is committed to working with the families of supported individuals so meetings have been scheduled when I’m in Vancouver to visit, phone calls have been made, and when necessary, paperwork shuffled by email or snail mail.

Then came this week! On Wednesday morning, I was approaching the second last green on the local golf course when my cell phone rang. It was Trudy calling; manager of Donald’s house, and a dedicated caregiver who has been involved in his life and therefore, mine, for over 30 years. She was phoning from the emergency ward to let me know that he had fallen and they were waiting for x-rays to be taken. To make a long story short, Donald had a fractured hip and underwent surgery yesterday. It has been killing me not to be there. In my head, I know there’s nothing I could do that isn’t already being done, but my heart wants to be with my Dowboy! Fortunately, one of his caregivers has been with him throughout each day since he arrived at the hospital and they have been texting me regularly with updates. The orthopaedic surgeon and the anesthetist were both in touch with my sister (a medical doctor) by phone to discuss the medical details. Today, the physiotherapists began working with Donald and they already had him standing up. A lady from his church even visited and brought him cookies! Yes, he is in good hands and, though my heart wants to be there now, I will wait until early August when I’ll be in Vancouver to help him celebrate his 65th birthday!

The old farmstead

If you’ve been following my blog for very long, you may remember how much I enjoy exploring the old farmsteads scattered across the prairie. If only walls could talk, what stories they would tell!

Today, we made the one hour drive to Wainwright to pick up a piece that Richard had ordered for the golf cart. On the way, we passed an old abandoned house hiding behind an abundance of beautiful lilacs. As always, I was intrigued.

in lilacs

When we arrived in Wainwright, we discovered that the wrong part had been ordered! Fortunately, the trip was not for naught. We went out for lunch, did a bit of much needed shopping and found eight geocaches before heading for home. On the way back, Richard slowed the vehicle as we once again approached the old house hiding behind the lilac bushes.

“Do you want to stop?” he asked, already knowing what the answer would be. Of course, I did!

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Can you imagine sitting in the shade on the front porch gazing across the open prairie or watching the stars come out at night?

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The floor is rotted out in places, exposing the root cellar under the kitchen, so we didn’t walk around inside but it was easy to take photos through the open windows and doors. Who slept in the two small bedrooms, I wondered, and what did they dream about? I’m sure that many good times were had as well as challenges met under that roof.

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Before we left, Richard took out his trusty pocket knife and snipped off a few sprigs of lilac. I have no idea who planted those bushes, now so overgrown, but their heavenly scent now fills my kitchen!

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Solitude

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Richard and I spent the past couple of days doing three of the things that we most enjoy at this time of year… camping, hiking and geocaching.

Big Knife Provincial Park, located in central east Alberta where Big Knife Creek flows into the Battle River, is less than an hour from home for us. Like many locations on the Canadian prairie, it takes it’s name from our native history. Two hundred years ago, the Blackfoot and Cree who inhabited the area were bitter enemies. According to legend, Big Man, a Cree, and Knife, a Blackfoot, fought near the banks of the creek, which at this time of year is little more than a muddy breeding ground for mosquitoes. Apparently both warriors died in the battle.

Though the campground and day use areas are probably somewhat busier on weekends and during the height of the summer, the park was almost empty while we were there providing us the peace and solitude we were looking for. We spent several hours on Wednesday tramping the River Flats trail system and yesterday we hiked the Highland trails. Though my stamina isn’t quite what I’m used to it being and we stopped to rest more often than we might have in the past, I was impressed that I could quite easily hike for several hours a day without completely wearing out.

The trails were far from challenging, mostly level and grass covered. With the sun shining overhead, tiny wildflowers strewn along our path, butterflies flitting around our ankles, birds singing in the nearby trees, and the sweet musky scent of the silver willow bushes wafting on the breeze, walking was a delight. We did do a bit of “real” hiking though, first leaving the River Flats trails to get a close-up view of the nearby hoodoos, then deciding to climb a steep hill and follow a narrow animal track along the top of a bluff that would have scared me out of my wits a few years ago before I overcame my fear of heights.

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Only one of the eleven geocaches hidden throughout the park eluded us. It was suppose to be at the end of that narrow animal track, though the cacher who placed it recommended coming at it from the other direction. We searched a wide area around the given coordinates but came up empty handed. The view was spectacular though and the trek well worth it.

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There’s a cache up there somewhere… maybe

Not all of the caches were out on the trails. Shortly before dusk, we spotted a beaver in the water’s edge munching on a stick while we were searching for the one that’s hidden not too far from the boat launch. I couldn’t get close enough to get a good photo, but we stood and watched him until he quietly slid into the water and swam away.

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Storm brewing

I love the solitude of nature; no TV, no telephone, and no internet, but I also love the conveniences of modern day camping. On Wednesday night, a storm blew in bringing much needed rain to the surrounding countryside but we were snug and warm in our trailer bed as the thunder crashed and lightning flashed. It had blown over long before morning came and oh, how well I slept!

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