Wednesday, August 16, 2017

#holyroodbenchproject update -- two blue benches

Last week I saw SEESA's Executive Director, Kim, when we were both out for an evening walk (or maybe she was heading to the Edmonton Folk Music Festival?). Her neighbourly bench had been missing for a few weeks, and when I asked her where it went, she said that one of the artists at SEESA was repainting it for her. Seems the benches in the neighbourhood, besides giving people a place to rest, have inspired more art too. Here's Kim's bench...

Who doesn't love Van Gogh's Starry Night ... 
this one above with a bit of an Edmonton skyline 
and some hidden objects for the kids to find...

Elsewhere in the neighbourhood, 
this bench (above) recently appeared.
(To see others, click here).
I'm wondering if this latest one is paying homage
to the Arrogant Worms' song about
the pirates on the River Saskatchewan...
If you've never heard that tune, 
here's a humourous cover version 
by Edmonton folk-rock band, Captain Tractor...

Even though our perennials are mostly past their peak,
it's still a lovely day to sit and enjoy a neighbourly bench. 
If you're interested in sharing a bench like this 
with your neighbours, they cost $100
and can be ordered from SEESA at (780) 468-1985.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

God in the sound of silence

are not to be found
in a wind that splits rocks,
the crash of an earthquake,
or the fury of a fire.

You would rather walk on water
than scare away the fish.

You come to us in silence,
not violence.

You wait for us to quiet ourselves
so you can speak to our souls.

And so, God,
we ask you to heal us
of the many forms of noise
that prevent us
from hearing your voice within us.

Incline our ears toward those silenced
by the fear, injustice, and prejudice
of markets, politics,
and the exploitation of your creation.

Help us to find ways to silence
the chaos that keeps us from you.

Give all your people the deep desire
to build a loving, peaceful, just world
that we can create together,
with your help.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017


It's a busy time in the garden these days, and moodling is happening off-screen rather than online. For the first time in ages, I missed moodling a Sunday reflection. So to make up for it, I'd like to share a wonderful prayer by Michael Leunig, from his book A Common Prayer (©1990 Dove - Harper Collins,
ISBN 0 85924 933 6). Even though it's coming on time to harvest tomatoes rather than plant them, it's a wonderful prayer:

It is time to plant tomatoes. Dear God, we
praise this fruit and give thanks for its life 
and evolution. We salute the tomato, cheery,
fragrant morsel, beloved provider, survivor
and thriver and giver of life. Giving and
giving and giving, Plump with summer's joy.
The scent of its stem is summer's joy, is
promise and rapture. Its branches breathe
perfume of promise and rapture. Giving and
giving and giving.
Dear God, give strength to the wings and
knees of pollinating bees, give protection
from hailstorms, gales and frosts, give warm
days and quenching rains. Refresh and 
adorn our gardens and tables. Refresh 
us with tomatoes.
Rejoice and rejoice! Celebrate the scarlet
soul of winter sauces. Behold the delicious
flavour! Behold the oiled vermilion moons
that ride and dive in olive bobbing seas of 
vinegared lettuce. Let us rejoice! Let this 
rejoicing be our thanks for tomatoes.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Simple Moodlings the easy way

A friend recently asked for the name of my blog because she couldn't remember how to find it. I guess if I wanted this blog to go viral (I don't), its title would probably prevent that even if the content didn't. I'll admit that its name is a strange combo of words that doesn't come easily to mind, simply because moodling isn't a word that very many people have ever heard. It was coined by Brenda Ueland, a writer who lived to the age of 93 and who inspired many people to write (or to follow other artistic dreams), me included.

For Ms. Ueland, moodling was "long, inefficent, happy idling, dawdling and puttering." I've come to see moodling as an amalgam of the word doodling, which I often do with pen and paper when my mind is otherwise occupied, and musing, which seems to occur naturally as I walk the dog or work in the garden. For me, moodling is usually done in silence so that my mind is in free range mode with few distractions.

The things that find their way into these moodlings usually come from that kind of space to ponder this beautiful world we've been given and how we need to treat it with the utmost care, to consider the many good people who share this planet with us, and to reflect on happenings that beg to be shared with family, friends and folks I might not know -- just to make them smile or to perhaps see things in a slightly different way.

But finding Simple Moodlings can be challenging if you can't remember the title. My mother-in-law figured out how to use the bookmark feature on her computer. She was my most faithful reader for a long time -- bookmarking worked well for her because she took the time look at her bookmarks on a regular basis. But for people who can't be bothered to check in regularly and who still use email, perhaps the easiest way to get moodlings is by signing up on the top right hand column where it says, "Get Moodlings via email" -- just plug in your email address and a window will pop up asking you to "prove you're not a robot" by typing a given letter or number combo into a box, and voila! Next time you check your email, you'll receive a verification message asking you to click a link in order to receive Simple Moodlings emails every time something is posted. You can always unsubscribe at any time.

Getting moodlings by email isn't quite the full experience -- because readers don't see the blog's design (which I switch up fairly frequently just for the fun of it) and because sometimes a post gets sent out prematurely (before I've fixed all its bugs or thought things through completely). Email moodlings often have awkward wordings, messed up formatting and outright errors that eventually get corrected on the blog itself. But pobody's nerfect, least of all me.

There are lots of better things to do than read blogs online, but if you enjoy these moodlings, I'm happy to share this email trick, and if you aren't interested, I wish you many happy moodlings of your own!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

#holyroodbenchproject update -- special edition

The SEESA (South East Edmonton Seniors Association) wood workshop carpenters are still making their wonderful benches for anyone willing to part with $100. Call 780 468-1985 if you're interested. If you haven't heard about the bench project, click here for the original moodling about it. And if you want to see some other pretty cool benches, click here.

Holyrood resident Jennifer sent a message recently -- her family just finished painting their neighbourly bench -- with no less than 150 maple leaves! So finally this morning Shadow and I went for a walk and took one more picture for your enjoyment. Jennifer and her elementary school-aged daughters did a marvellous job, don't you think? Shadow thinks so, too.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Book Review: When the Moon is Low

For all the reading I do, I don't leave enough book reviews in these moodlings. But When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi (ISBN 9780062369574) is a book that needs to be shared here. It's written by an Afghan-American pediatrician who tells a fictional story of an Afghan family trying to find its way from a country being destroyed by the Taliban to freedom in England in the 1990s.

I suspect that author Nadia Hashimi has drawn from some of the life experiences of her extended family to tell the story of Fereiba, a young Afghani mother whose engineer husband, responsible for water facilities in their city, is taken away one night by the Taliban. Her son, Saleem, is only 14, and not yet considered manly enough (according to Taliban rule) to accompany his mother on errands around Kabul. Life becomes impossible for Fereiba and her three children. She sells everything and relies on human smugglers to get to Iran, as most of her family left earlier, when the trouble began in their hometown of Kabul.

Thanks to falsified Belgian passports on which much of their money is spent, Fereiba's family makes it through Turkey to Greece, but it is there that Saleem tries to sell some of Fereiba's jewelry to pay for the remaining part of the journey and is caught by immigration police who ship him back to Turkey. Because of her baby's heart condition, Fereiba has no choice but to continue on with the little one and her daughter, hoping against hope that Saleem will somehow manage to make his way to England and rejoin his family.

Saleem's journey as an unaccompanied minor among refugees, farm labourers, human traffickers and contraband smugglers is a harrowing one. It's chilling to wonder how many kids are in the same boat, how many parents have been separated from their children, how many people have died while riding under trucks crossing borders, and related human costs. Nadia Hashimi has offered us, in our relatively peaceful and secure lives in North America, what is probably a fairly sanitized version of what many refugees must go through to reach better places than the war-ravaged countries they were forced to leave behind, and introduces us to compelling characters in Fereiba and Saleem. I would love to know people like them.

When the Moon is Low is worth a read simply to give fortunate North Americans an idea of the challenges faced by refugees and why we need to open our hearts and borders to those being displaced by human-made disasters and conflicts. I didn't realize that, after Syrians, Afghans are still the most numerous people in refugee camps twenty years after their exodus began, and heaven knows there are many other people who need homes because they are unable to return to their own. The news tells us snippets of their stories from places like Lesbos in Greece and Lampedusa in Italy, but since many other European countries have closed their doors to refugees, the patience of the Greek and Italian people who receive so many is wearing thin and it seems the tide of feeling about rescuing people from the rickety boats crossing the Mediterranean might be shifting...

But we are one human family. Nadia Hashimi's story of ordinary people -- with hopes and dreams like our own -- trying to survive extraordinary times is worth a read, if only to remind us of the needs of our sisters and brothers around the world. Everyone needs a home where they belong, and if the tables were turned, we would hope and pray for help just as they do. It's incumbent on us to be their source of help and hope. I can't recommend this book enough, especially if it moves us to get involved by giving what help we can...

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A prayer for an understanding mind (and heart)

there is so much
that my small mind cannot fathom.

This world
with all its intricacies
and your created beings
with all our complexities
are more than I
will ever comprehend.

Some of the black and white judgments
I was taught to make in the past
have turned out
to be so many shades of grey
that I am just beginning to embrace.

So, like Solomon,
I ask for a wise and discerning mind --
not so that I may judge
things or people to be right or wrong
but so that I may hold the tensions
you want me to hold
and remain open,
leaving judgment to you alone.

I trust that
as I embrace life and love in all their many forms,
you will lead my heart
down paths of beauty and goodness,
truth and simplicity.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

As I Am #9 --19 paper cranes

L'Arche Internationale's little videos about the beauty, goodness and truth of people with disabilities and their caregivers never disappoint. The most recent comes from L'Arche Japan and features Sachiko, a woman who lives a beautiful life and creates beautiful paper cranes to carry beautiful souls to paradise. If you haven't seen this yet, I highly recommend it.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Grandma, it's not as easy as you made it look...

Last night, my sisters and I reminisced about picking the raspberries in Grandma's garden. She had approximately 100 rows of bushes, each of them stretching at least a mile to the back Saskatoon berry hedge. Or so it seemed to us three little girls. And no matter how fast we picked, we couldn't keep up with Grandma, who always seemed to have a full pail to our scant handfuls (and I don't think we were eating more than we were picking...)

Today I made my first-ever batch of raspberry jelly. Yesterday I picked a lot of backyard raspberries, and though I usually freeze them for breakfast smoothies, I thought that people might want ice cream and raspberries for dessert at our family barbecue last night. But my mom brought a bee-eautiful rhubarb/apple/saskatoon berry crumble, and my raspberries were forgotten. In the middle of the night, I remembered the pail on the counter, and decided that today I'd have to try a batch of raspberry jam or jelly.

Realizing that my family would probably prefer not to have raspberry seeds stuck in their teeth at breakfast, I started researching how to make jelly online, and as I did, some dimly lit corner in the back of my mind flashed that I had inherited some cheesecloth for straining juices. When Ruby, my oldest-ever neighbour -- who lived in her home until she was ninety-seven and kept on for five years after that -- moved into seniors' housing, her niece passed me a lot of Ruby's canning jars and a few other things. So I went hunting in our cold storage room, and glory be! There was a whole forgotten collection of berry juicing equipment from Ruby in the far back corner!

Once I washed everything and figured out how to put the antique WearEver aluminium strainer together, it was just a matter of time before I would have enough raspberry juice to make a beautiful batch of jelly. I was so excited! But of course, I had forgotten two important things:

#1 It's a good idea to reinforce the seams of ancient cheesecloth bags before using them.

#2 It's an even better idea to wear dark colours when making raspberry jelly.

Somewhere at the halfway point of the juicing process, as I was squeezing the raspberry pulp left in the cheesecloth bag, a seam gave way. Raspberry seeds and pulp sprayed across the room and my lovely flowered t-shirt. A passing stranger looking in our front window could have easily called 911 to report a mortally wounded woman standing over a berry press because it certainly seemed that way. My left side looked as though I was a victim from a chainsaw massacre.

Fortunately, no one looked in at that moment. I changed my clothes, scrubbed the floor and walls and fired up the sewing machine to reinforce the damp cheesecloth bag's seams, and the rest of the canning process was uneventful, thank heavens. The jelly set beautifully, and it tastes like summer. So if you're in the neighbourhood, drop by and we can have raspberry jam on toast anytime, at least for as long as it lasts.

Some days, I swear I can feel my Grandma laughing with me as I try out the things she used to do so effortlessly. And I suspect that just as she would chuckle with me over the big red blotches on my shirt and the floor, she'd also be pleased with this first attempt at raspberry jelly.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Sunday reflection: Sighs too deep for words

Reflection based on Romans 8:26-27

O Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Maybe it's not so much 
that we don't know how to pray as we ought,
but that we are unable to find words 
to express the inexpressible:
or a feeling of hopelessness --
or a strong sense of hope.
It's just good to know
that when we stand, tongue-tied,
in the chaos of our lives,
you intercede for us
with sighs too deep for words.
Really, that's all we need --
and to trust 
that you've got our backs.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Mary, mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

Not with silver bells and cockleshells and pretty maids all in a row, but I prefer food with my flowers, don't you? And I can't complain about the growth -- it never ceases to amaze me once we reach summer solstice!
June 21 
July 21

June 21

July 21

June 21

July 21

June 21

July 21
Thus far, we're enjoying lettuce, cherry tomatoes and snow peas, and it won't be long, God- and weather-willing, before we can start eating even more organic, 50-foot-diet vegetables. The squash are blooming, and it's just amazing how things change, even overnight. A garden is a good place to be this time of year, but if you don't have one, try a farmer's market because it's awesome too! Or visit me... I have more lettuce than I know how to handle! You've heard of crazy zucchini ladies...???

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Everything's a miracle

As you may have guessed from the changes in the look of my moodlings, we're back from our summer vacation... a trip to Waterton Lakes National Park, a visit to Lee's parents in Lethbridge, and a week at Radium Hot Springs. The weather was great, if a bit too hot, and we enjoyed a lot of outdoor time, appreciating our beautiful environments. The smoke from the terrible forest fires a couple of valleys over in BC wafted across occasionally, reminding us that not all is well everywhere in God's gardens.

On our way home, driving past some of the most beautiful places in the Rocky Mountains, we listened to my favourite tune by Peter Mayer, Holy Now (if you haven't heard it, click here) that reminds us that really, everything's a miracle.

Here are some miracles from the past few weeks...

Lundbreck falls near Pincher Creek...

Hanging out with my gang at Waterton Lakes National Park...

This "living lawn ornament" in the town of Waterton...

Wildflowers and a newly engaged couple...

The view from the heights...

Wildflowers as the sun sets...

The strength of the wind...

Natural hot springs...

Roads (extremely bumpy!) into the wilderness...

Emerald green lakes... (White Swan Provincial Park)

How nature rejuvenates itself after a wildfire (2003)... (Marble Canyon)

And the love of a good man for 26 years (today's our wedding anniversary).

I've never quite understood people who don't believe in a Higher Power of some sort. Yes, there's a lot of trouble and pain in our world, but there's also so much beauty, goodness and truth, and not everything can be rationally explained by science. Miracles abound. As Peter Mayer sings, "the challenging thing becomes not to look for miracles but finding where there isn't one."

I hope you're finding many miracles around you in these summer days...

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A prayer for rain

We've been away since July 1st, and in that time we have been following the situation in BC's interior with increasing concern. The smoke from the forest fires that are threatening communities in the Cariboo region is drifting across the western provinces now, and there's an out-of-control blaze near Banff, reminding us that all is definitely not well with our environment if large swathes of forest are burning and adding greenhouse gases to our planet's already overburdened atmosphere. And for most of us, there's nothing we can do about it, really, except pray for those most affected by the fires, for the fire crews, and for our earth as a whole.

So I offer, once again, a prayer for rain:

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Simple Suggestion #266... Sing with a friend

I think it began on my 17th birthday. My best friend, Cathy, happened to be in town, and we went for a long walk together. And somewhere on that walk, she taught me to sing "When I first came to this land." I still remember all of the words, I think. I probably taught her a song, too. So there we were, two seventeen-year-olds, walking along the North Saskatchewan River, singing two part harmony.

And it grew from there. In October, the day our trains got all messed up, we unexpectedly found ourselves at a train station in rural France... learning another song in two parts. We've got several duets that we like to sing together, and one evening not so long ago when I was really missing her (she lives 1284 km away), I called her up. When she said "Hello?" I launched into this song, and of course she joined right in:

I have been fortunate to have sung with many friends through the years. I'm particularly pleased to have reconnected with a fellow I used to sing with in a youth group as a teenager. We're both three decades older now, but somehow our voices still fit together like lego blocks. It gives me so much joy to sing harmony with him at church once a month because somehow I can just feel in my bones when he'll begin and what my next note should be, thanks mostly to our early years of collaboration, I think. And there are other friends whose voices are imprinted in my soul from other times, people  with whom I'd like to think I could pick up a tune at the drop of a hat.

Then there are my sisters. We sang together in the car on long trips when we were little... and learned a few melodies in three part harmony in our teens. I loved singing with them, but our regular monthly gig at church ended about ten years ago and has never been replaced by anything else. Sisters, if you ever want to sing non-church music together, just the three of us, I'm game! A capella if you want!

Today's simple suggestion to sing with a friend doesn't mean the music needs to be high quality or aired in public. Even if you don't consider yourself to be a musical person, it can be fun to find a friend and sing along to the radio or attend an in-home karaoke night. All that's needed for guaranteed mood improvment is a friend, a fun little ditty, and a willingness to sing your hearts out. Singing along with Sharon, Lois and Bram or Charlotte Diamond with our kids when they were small made a lot of car trips a lot more pleasant!

Sing with a friend, just for the health of it. And if you have a favourite song that you like to sing with a favourite someone, I'd love to hear about it!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sunday reflection: I will give you rest

Image borrowed from a lovely blog
called A Glimmer of Sunshine
This Sunday's gospel reading seems like it's chosen to go along with summer vacation mode. Jesus says, "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

A yoke isn't something we understand very well in North America with our mechanized farming and John Deere tractors. But my grandpa used yokes on pairs of animals... and this reading suggests to me that if I am yoked with Jesus, he's carrying the large ox share of the weight. A perfect image for summer relaxation, just walking along beside the One who lifts my burdens.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The #holyroodbenchproject - An update

One recent sunny morning, I decided to ride my bike around my neighbourhood to discover how the #holyroodbenchproject had turned out (click here for the original moodling on the subject). And I have to say it was a wonderful ride because of the anticipation I felt with every corner I turned. Coming across a bench I hadn't yet seen was like finding an unexpected present under the tree on Christmas morning. Thanks to all the wonderful woodworkers at SEESA, and to my neighbours who took responsibility for giving these benches homes -- and some creative paint jobs!

Let's start with the original bench, the one that 
spawned the idea for the #holyroodbenchproject.
Note the lovely curved armrests and the shape of the back pieces,
plus the message to indicate that anyone is welcome to sit:

Below is a bench in its original state,
awaiting a coat of paint or varnish...

Then there are the simple beauties, 
finished with lovely stains...

Some people gave a bit more thought to colour and design...

The bench above goes with a red-and-white themed flowerbed 
for Canada's 150th anniversary, I'm guessing...

I'm happy to see these bright colours above on display...
as I'm guessing members of our LGBTQ community might be...

Above, the butterflies are padded decals...
and there are a few benches below with well-designed messages...

Including the special bench above, which sits right outside 
the South East Edmonton Senior's Association building...

Above is a closeup of one that says 
"Break time -- enjoy the day from your friends at SEESA"
and the flamingo is having a wonderful vacation, 
visiting Alberta's golden prairies and snowy mountains...
or at least that's how I see it. See the ducks?

Below is a brilliant activity bench,
with a ziplock bag of chalk included.
Clearly the kids' choice!

But I think my heart's favourite is a bench purchased and painted 
by a neighbour for her neighbours down the street...
with piano keys for a piano teacher,
 and see the beloved pets in the trees?

The bench outside our house appears on my original moodling... and counting it plus all of these, I'm still a couple short of the 20 that were built for the #holyroodbenchproject. I know that the SEESA seniors have had quite a few extra orders, so if you would like a neighbourly bench of your own, they're now selling them for $100, a great deal. A friend of mine bought two, one for her boulevard and one for her children's school. 

If you have a bench that I missed in this moodling, let me know, and I'd be happy to come take its picture too. I've never ridden my entire neighbourhood on my bike before, and I found that tracking down benches made it even more enjoyable. And if you're looking for a walkable neighbourhood with big trees and shady benches for rest, come visit us in Holyrood.

Friday, June 30, 2017

2017 Canada Day Reflection: Thanksgiving more than pride

In my mind, it was turning into The Mystery of the Missing Canadian Flag. Last fall when I was out of town, an unexpected snowstorm hit... and it was up to my husband to put away the garden. It was a good thing that he took down the Canada flag from our flagpole and put it away, but because he had so much to do in the storm, he forgot exactly where he put it.

Needless to say, we've spent a fair bit of time looking for it this spring because it wasn't in any of the usual places, or the unusual ones. I had pretty much given up searching, saying, "Oh well," but yesterday, when I was looking for something in my laundry cupboard, I moved something aside... and suddenly realized that I was holding the missing Canadian flag! I dropped everything and went to run it up its flagpole over our garden.

Canada celebrates the 150th anniversary of Confederation this weekend -- a space of time that is a drop in a bucket when you consider the history of countries like India or China, or those in the Middle East and Europe. Our young country of Canada is blessed in so many ways -- but some of the lead up to the 150 celebrations has made me wonder what we are actually celebrating.

The consumerism associated with this celebration leaves me rather depressed -- Canada flag paper plates and napkins, red plastic cutlery, plastic flag garlands, pennants, balloons, t-shirts, ball caps, and more stuff that I don't even want to think about, enough to fill our landfills... Oh, and if you cut yourself while preparing the Canada Day barbecue, there are Canada flag bandaids. The government is already spending millions on celebrations, and how much will ordinary Canadians spend on flag-labelled junk made in other countries? Sheesh.

Of course, my hesitation isn't just about the stuff. There's a lot that has happened in this country in the last 150 years that make us proud to be Canadians -- but there's also a fair bit to deflate our spirits. I'm thinking particularly of the treatment of our Indigenous sisters and brothers over those 150 years. Racism has kept us from becoming a truly wholesome society -- imagine what our nation would have been like if European settlers had been willing to cooperate with the First Nations rather than segregating them and forcing them to give up their culture in what turned out to be a residential school-based genocide. Our challenge now is to heal the entire nation. I hope there will be many Canada Day blanket exercises or other opportunities to bring Canadians to understanding and reconciliation.

Taking pride in our country is probably a good thing on many fronts, but we need to keep in mind that many of us live here simply by accident of our birth, not because we have done anything special to deserve our nationality. I suggest that rather than making Canada Day a consumerist celebration of the sesquicentennial with misplaced pride and all sorts of silly red-and-white paraphernalia that needlessly use the earth's resources, we make it a time of thanksgiving. Let Canada Day be a time to reflect on and be grateful for the gifts our land has bestowed upon us, a time to come up with ways to heal divisions within our society, to work for justice and to welcome those who need a home.

Yes, sing O Canada with fervour at some point on July 1st, but also consider psalmist's words about dwelling in God's house and how they can fit with our feelings about living in our beautiful country:

**How lovely is your dwelling place, O God.

My soul longs for the courts of my God:
my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home
and the swallow a nest for herself
where she may lay her young at your altars.
Happy are those who live in your house,
ever singing your praise.
Happy are those whose strength comes from you,
in whose hearts are the road to your home.
They go through the dry valley
and it becomes a place of springs and oases.
They go from strength to strength 
because of their God's great love.
Hear our prayer, O God!
Be our shield,
and anoint us all with your grace and blessing.
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in God's home
than live in a rich palace away from God.
You, God, are our guide and protection;
You are the one who bestows favour and honour.
You walk with us when we act with justice, compassion and humility.
O tender God, happy are those who trust in you.

Here God lives among God's people.

Happy Canada Day!

**(my paraphrase of Psalm 84)