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Thursday, December 27, 2018

What's your Word of 2019?

You still have time to get in on one of the trendiest New Year’s initiatives in recent years. It’s time to choose your 2019 Word of the Year.
The Word of the Year is the ‘new’ New Year’s Resolution. Rather than making promises you can’t keep beyond January (lose 10 pounds, stop smoking, save money…), the Word of the Year affirms the positive. Instead of giving yourself an almost unattainable goal, and then feeling bad when you can’t achieve it, why not give yourself something uplifting to focus your attention upon.
It has been proven that words have power. And although we often make declarations that we soon forget, I guarantee if you choose a word that truly resonates with you, it will stay top of mind all year long. And if you worry about forgetting your word, you can always put it in a visible place so that you start each day with a reminder. Stick your word on the bathroom mirror, or make it your computer screensaver. Attach it to the front of your fridge and tape it on the bottom of your TV monitor. Make it part of your everyday life.
Words have the power to change lives. We have all heard words that hurt. It’s amazing how much a word can scar – and how it sinks deep beneath the skin, so that you carry it with you wherever you go, from that moment onward. That’s why we have to be so careful in choosing the words we use with others – and with ourselves.
Think of the power of a simple “yes,” uttered at the right time and in the right place – such as an answer to a marriage proposal. Or imagine the freeing power of the word “no” – especially for someone who has trouble saying it, and rarely puts their own needs first.
The power of the Word of the Year is affirmation. You can use it to remind you of the positive things in your life, and the positive that you want to bring into your life. The first time I chose a Word of the Year, it was Grateful. Because it’s always a good idea to remind ourselves of the things we have – so that we can practice being content with our situation.
Last year, my word was Presence. In recent years I find I have had trouble living in the moment. I am always looking forward to a day, an event or a moment, and then when it arrives I’m already worried about when it will end. I don’t take the time to truly connect with the people around me and to enjoy the experience, whatever it may be.
Having that word taped inside my cellphone case last year actually helped me to work on being present. When I flipped that phone open and saw the word, more often than not, I decided to flip the phone closed again (sometimes, I’ll admit, after snapping a photo or two of my daughters, my grandchild, my dog or whatever it was that was happening). The word “Presence” reminded me of the power of connection with the people, places and things around me – without a phone screen between us.
As we come to the end of 2018, I look back and realize what a great year it has been for me and my family. I turned 50, we got a pup, we saw our youngest marry her beau, we saw another daughter engaged, I took a great job in the city, and we started a new way of life as I began commuting every day.
I love coming home to the farm and I know I’m lucky to have someone to share it with, who is so supportive of everything I do. We don’t take our blessings for granted. I’m going to choose my Word of the Year carefully – as if I were having it tattooed on me. I find my word is usually something to do with reflection. But for you it could be Calm, Peace, Fierce, Strength, Love, Focus, Risk, Try. Choose a word that will remind you of your hopes, aspirations and goals for 2019. Once you’ve chosen your word, as the ‘kids’ say, go out there and live your best life. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

'Twas the Night Before Christmas, on the Farm

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all of the sheep
Were tucked in their hay-covered beds, fast asleep
All except one little lamb named Lily
Who often got scolded for being so silly
The first to run out, the last to come in
Lily thought life without fun was a sin
She skipped through the fields and climbed on the rock
She never came home until five o’clock
Each night when the sun said goodnight in the West
Donkey knew Lily would give him a test
She’d hide in the fencerow behind a thick bush
Donkey would have to kick and push
Through thickets and thorns to find the wee thing
And soon as he did, Lily would sing
She’d bleat and she’d baa in terror and glee
Dart through his legs and off she would flee
To the barn where her worried mother stood
Snorting and stamping one little hoof
Into her pen Lily would race
Laughing as Donkey gave up his chase.
But on that December 24,
Donkey returned alone to the door
He looked at the ewe and shook his big head
The look that he gave her filled her with dread
A coyote was seen early that day
Stalking and searching out his prey
The wild dogs often came back at night
To catch what they saw during daylight
“I can’t find your Lily,” said the old beast
“Oh dear,” said the ewe, and she looked to the East
The coyotes’ song hung in the air
So eerie but sweet, it gave them a scare
And then, a flash of something so white
Dashed into the barn like a shooting star bright
Lily! The barn cat started his hissing
And mother ewe noticed something was missing
Lily had returned without fail
But somehow she had lost her tail!
Out in the dark, a coyote or fisher
Had tried to steal the lamb but had missed her
All Lily wanted to do was play
But she almost lost her life that day
As Donkey trudged back up the hill
To watch the farm by night
He thought of Lily – now she’s Lil
Who’d given them such a fright
The sun rose high on Christmas morn
As the animals gathered ‘round
To see what the Farmwife was placing on the ground
The scent of molasses filled the air – a very special treat
For animals in wintertime, a snack that is so sweet
But when she looked around she saw that something was amiss
She scooped up the smallest lamb and gave her a big kiss
“Oh my,” she scolded, “come on now, you’ll have your very own pail.”
“It seems that someone in the night has stolen your wee tail.”
Donkey started to wind up his own familiar song
And soon his bray was ringing out, like a bell so strong
“Hee haw, hee haw,” he sang, loud and clear
And all around the barnyard, coyotes shook with fear
The beast was declaring his watch over the sheep
All they had was one tail that they could keep
“I guess,” said the big dog, “we could eat mice,”
“They are here all around and they are very nice.”
And so, with Christmas, we marked one more year
Of life on the farm, which was safe without fear
“Watch out,” said Donkey to the lamb, “I want to be clear,”
“Listen to me or next time you will be missing an ear.”
Life on the farm is never boring
Animals do not rest
Farmers are awake at sunrise
Giving it their best
And so we want to send a wish
To all that may hear
To each Farmer, Merry Christmas
And to all a good year!

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

If I should die before I wake

"Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take."

 And as for the rest of me, you can take that too. I won’t need it where I’m going.
Most people don’t talk about death with their loved ones. It’s just not a topic that comes up in conversation, unless you are taking on some risky venture like swimming with the sharks. But perhaps we should have a chat with the people closest to us, because you never know what tomorrow will bring.
We need to have a talk about organ donation, with the ones we love. Basically, we have to make our wishes known, just in case. Do you want to have your viable organs harvested and passed on to someone who can use them when you die and don’t need them anymore? If so, you need to do more than just sign an organ donor card.
I read that more than 450 people declined to have their loved ones’ organs donated in 2018 because they were uncertain of their wishes (and that person was either deceased, on life support or otherwise incapacitated and unable to clarify). So not only did those people pass on, but they were not given the opportunity to save a person – or several people – through the gift of organ and tissue donation.
Your view of the hereafter may be very different from mine. Not everyone has a belief system that allows the concept of organ donation. But if you aren’t certain you are against it, I would encourage you to consider being for it, and to make your wishes known by doing a few things.
Sign the card that comes with your driver’s license. Put it in your wallet in case, heaven forbid, you are in a horrific crash and your organs need to be harvested without delay. Many a tragedy has turned into a miracle for a family in need, because the victim of a collision had signed a donor card.
Next, go to the government website: Be a Donor and check to see if you are a registered organ donor. All you have to do is enter your health card number and birthdate and you will see if you need to update your information.
These are great ways to let people know your intentions – that you wish to have your organs harvested and donated upon your passing. Unfortunately, this may not be enough. We are learning that hundreds of people pass away every year and their wishes are not honoured, because they didn’t make them clearly known to the family they left behind. When asked by medical staff about consent for organ donation, many people are saying no, even if a card has been signed by the deceased person.
To avoid this situation, I would urge you to make a point of writing a note in your own hand, stating your wishes to have your organs and tissues donated upon your death. Put that note somewhere safe, with your will or important papers, and make sure you tell someone that it’s there. They need to be aware of it before you die.
Now, I have to apologize for writing about such a difficult subject in what is typically a lighthearted column. I just was surprised to learn that signing the donor card – even registering with the province – may not be enough to ensure your wishes are upheld. If your family has any doubt that you want your organs donated, they can decline on your behalf.
Don’t leave any doubt in their minds. Make sure they know the answers to the difficult questions. Do you want to be an organ donor when you die? And beyond that - do you want to be buried or cremated? Do you want your ashes scattered somewhere in particular? Write it down, and tell those closest to you what you have written.
None of us know the hour or the day when our lives will come to an end. We also can’t know for sure what happens after we die. My father, who was a science teacher, often said “there are some things we just aren’t meant to know.” But on his deathbed, when asked if he wanted his organs donated, he said, “I don’t know if you will find anything worth saving, but you are welcome to it.”
In memory of the donors.
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Let's K.I.S.S. (Keep it Simple, Silly) this Christmas

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A few years ago, it was my granddaughter’s first Christmas. The first grandchild of the family. To say she got spoiled is putting it mildly. And that’s not all – we didn’t just spoil her. We also spoiled each other. We went right nuts, buying gifts for each other. We gathered at my sister’s house on Christmas morning as we have been doing for the past few years. After brunch we turned around and looked at the piles upon piles of gifts. We couldn’t even find a place to sit down. That’s when we knew we had a problem. Like many families, we had out-Christmas’d ourselves. We had too much.
Christmas is about getting together. It always has been, for us too. But we have decided we are going to make it more about spending real time together and less about gifts from now on. We will be sharing a meal, with conversation. Giving time to that elderly uncle who just got sprung from the seniors’ home for the day, and listening to every last one of his long stories. Sitting together in the living room in front of the fire and attempting to sing along as the real musicians in the family give us their rendition of Joy to the World and O Holy Night. Trying old family recipes out on each other, and staying long enough to do the dishes. Singing some more, as we clean up the kitchen. Documenting the event in photos.
It will take some doing, to break the customary holiday spending habits but we are in agreement, it has to be done. I don’t want my family to be stressed, still trying to find the perfect gift for the last person on their list late at night on Christmas Eve. I don’t want them maxing out their credit cards so they can’t afford to do the things they enjoy or buy the things they need themselves. And this Christmas we are also looking out, beyond our family.
This year we have to focus on the people in the world who need us to share a few of our blessings with them. We have enough. We can buy extra groceries and give donations to the food banks. We can take a few hours to ring bells and fill kettles with cash for the Salvation Army. We can buy a gift for a child or senior on the Angel Tree. Fill a box for a woman at a shelter. Bring some warm clothing to a man at the Mission. Goodness knows they need the things more than we do.
For those few, simple and meaningful gifts that we are going to buy, let’s make them memorable, and environmentally-friendly. Let’s wrap our gifts in wearable scarves, cloth grocery bags, or socks! And let’s think about who is benefitting from our purchases. Who is getting our hard-earned money this year? Another big-box store? Nope. We are buying small-batch, handmade, and local gifts this year. Make a small business owner do the happy dance when you buy gift certificates, products or services – or take a loved one to lunch at a local restaurant. Make your Christmas count.
We ‘foster’ a child in a developing country all year round but at Christmas we top up the donation a bit to have more of an impact in the community. This year we are ‘stocking a medical clinic.’ One year we bought a goat for a family. I don’t care if they actually got a goat or not – it’s the thought that counts, right? And I understand the charitable organization in charge of distributing the wealth has to make sure that no family is receiving an obvious surplus of benefits over another family. They share the wealth. So my goat might have been translated into a clutch of chickens, or something else. But I like to think my goat was real. She was female, she was pregnant, and the woman who received her then had a bit of control over her own destiny, with either goat meat or milk to offer in trade.
A Canadian man attempted to track down his gift goat on a documentary in 2010. You can read about it here.
Whatever you decide to do this Christmas, don’t let the hype carry you away and rack up your Visa bill. I know many families are even just deciding to limit themselves to the simple “something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.” That sounds like a good place to finish. Here’s to not going overboard this holiday season.

Season of the Rodent

Mouse rodent cute, animals.

I had a dream about rats the other night. It’s no wonder. Rodents seem to be popping up all over the place these days. First, at the cottage. My husband bought us a lot on Bass Lake and he is building a cottage there. He uses an old trailer on the lot for shelter from the elements. He eats his lunch and waits out the rain on the screened porch. It’s old and worn out but it’s quaint.  I tried to convert that old trailer into a summer cabin earlier this year. The resident mice were against it.
I did my best to make the place hospitable. I swept and cleaned the cracked linoleum floor. I washed and disinfected inside all of the cupboards, closets and cabinets. I put fragrant fabric sheets inside all of the drawers to deter mice building nests within. I cleaned windows, stocked the kitchen with camping dishes, pots and pans and utensils, and I strung up my porch lights.
We stayed one night. It was pleasant enough, and there is nothing like waking up on the lake, to sip your coffee on the porch, listening to the birds. But one night was enough, because the mice were only mildly put out by my fervent sanitizing activities. They returned, full force, and they brought their friends.
“I don’t know why you bother cleaning,” my husband remarked as I once again emptied the cupboards and scoured the shelves. “The mice will just come back when we leave Sunday afternoon.” I looked at the mouse droppings in the towel closet and realized he was right.
I have only made it back to the lake for short visits since then. The Farmer is there nearly every second day, working away on his cottage. He sweeps out the trailer and eats his lunch on the porch. I think the dog sneaks up onto the bed because no one is watching him. I shudder to think what is happening in the cupboards.
“I opened the cupboard to get the tin of soup crackers and the mouse was in there,” my husband reported one day.
“What did you do?” I asked.
“I asked him to pass me the saltines,” he laughed.
I told him to make sure he builds that cottage in a way that is decidedly rodent-proof.
Back at home on the farm, I can hear something in the sloped ceiling right above my pillow. I may not have bats in my belfry but I do have squirrels in my attic. The Farmer emptied my closet, climbed up into the attic and set live traps for the little creatures, who are obviously busy preparing for a long winter. I can see them running across the yard, huge beechnuts in their mouths. We have dozens of nut trees on this farm, so they won’t go hungry. But it would be really nice if they would store their nuts in hollow trees like they are supposed to – not my house.
The squirrels are able to take the food that my husband so generously leaves for them, without tripping the traps.
And now there are mice under my kitchen sink. I came down to the kitchen at 2am and there were my cats, lined up in front of the sink, staring at the cupboard door. When I opened it, Sammy darted in and grabbed something. He popped back out and ran past me toward the basement. A long gray tail was dangling from his mouth. I closed the cupboard door, and heard a ‘snap’. The next morning I told my husband he had a mess to clean up under the kitchen sink.
“Sammy caught one and you caught another,” I reported. But when the Farmer opened the cupboard he saw that the trap was empty. Either the rodents are getting smarter or the traps are getting worse.
This evening we were watching Netflix when I noticed a puddle forming outside the dishwasher. We turned the machine off and emptied the cabinet under the sink, again. We found the source of the water. A mouse had nibbled his way through the hose that feeds the water from the sink to the dishwasher. Tonight we won’t put the cats to bed in the basement. They have been given strict instructions to eradicate the house of rodents. I’m not kidding. This means war.
My daughter is storing her sports car in our barn for the winter, and I was worried about rodents getting inside the vehicle and nesting in her leather upholstery. I don’t know what I was worried about. Clearly there are no more mice in the barn.
They’re all in my house.