Monday, December 20, 2010

Charge, Please!

With Christmas Day almost upon us, I thought to reprise an article I wrote for a White Rock magazine some years ago.

I am chagrined to note that not much in my approach to the holiday season seems to have changed!

.............................. Charge, Please! .............................


On my list of thing to do, Christmas shopping rates below scrubbing toilets and above gutting fish. It's not that I dislike giving gifts...nor am I immune to the spirit of the season. Christmas morning never fails to find me dewy-eyed with emotion. Dewey-eyed is usually the best I can manage; by then I've shed enough tears to completely wash away the pier at White Rock!

The odd thing is that I manage to forget this from year to year. Seduced by light-bedecked trees and a chorus of carols in the background, I plunge willingly and wistfully into the shopping mall. With a long, generous list in hand and a heart full of good intentions, I convince myself that this will be the perfect Christmas; this will be the year I make everyone's dreams come true.

The good intentions do not last long, and the list grows no shorter in spite of the rate at which my wallet empties. Nothing has prepared me for the prices. I make a valiant effort to resist, but all too soon I'm choking out those ruinous words, "Charge, please!". There is no turning back now.

My undoing is that I may be the only 40-year-old woman who still believes in Santa Claus. To me, he's more than a fat old man who hates to shave and has strange taste in clothes. He makes wishes come true, and in pursuit of that quest, I am his tireless ally.

Even I have my limits, however. Nothing can persuade me to buy a talking toy bear that costs as much as a week's groceries. As I see it, what could he possibly have to say that would be worth giving up Twinkies? More importantly, do I really need another mouth in the house?

For me, the real horror comes when shopping for that most dreaded of the species - the person who has everything. Hours of numbing indecision leave me willing to consider any idea, no matter how bizarre. Perhaps Uncle Bob really does need an engraved brass case to hold his sticks of gum. Maybe cousin Ralph could use a pair of slippers that look like chopped-off bear feet. Desperation tends to cloud good judgment.

Shopping trip follows shopping trip, and as the days count down, I feel the pace speed up alarmingly. Television commercials become longer than the shows; sales are more common than short tempers, and the paper boy is forced to hire an assistant as advertising inserts begin to outweigh the news..

This is when real panic sets in. Stores that have run out of stock keep you dangling with the promise of future orders. Competition becomes fierce for what little is left on the shelves. Even the calmest of shoppers can resort to bared teeth and a warning growl when it comes to a choice between remaining ladylike or getting her little boy what he wants for Christmas. While I have never actually seen blood drawn, I am careful not to go Christmas shopping with people I care about.

Caught up in the momentum, the most important thing I forget from year to year is that when that special morning finally arrives, the amount of effort it took to get there no longer matters. As I exchange gifts with my loved one, what we share goes far beyond the gift itself. We give of ourselves, and out of that giving, a little magic is woven.

Santa and I have pulled it off another year; and even my husband's moaning when the bills begin to pour in does little to dampen my euphoria.

After all, you can't put a price tag on magic!
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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

More Weird Water!


As is normal in the Fall, Vancouver has turned gray, damp and cold. Sunday afternoon found us taking a chilly walk through Surrey's Serpentine Fen.
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Because I was unimpressed with the photos I got, I thought to flip a few and see what happened.

Above at left is the original shot, taken across the river. When I turn it upside down, the sky seems to shimmer with light.


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Mallard Ducks were
lazily swimming up the Serpentine River.

Turning the picture upside down gives me a mirror image of the ducks.





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The Fen is a waterfowl sanctuary, so there are many birds to be seen. Several viewing towers around the property allow one an overview of the area.


The watchtower takes on a whole new look when reflected in the water.








Great Blue Heron,
original photo at far left.





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This top photo is the flip side of the one below it. I like the ghostly look of the trees, as if a heavy fog was rolling in.












The sun showed itself briefly, and lent colour to the day. I quickly snapped a few photos of stunted posts in the river.


The surreal effect created when flipping this shot over creates confusion...one cannot be sure what one is actually looking at...



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To see more water, click on the link below...I know you'll be glad you did!
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For Weekend Reflections on Friday, click on this link:
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http://newtondailyphoto.blogspot.com/
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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Wired and Weird


In our wired world, where
wily words wield weapons,
weird
is the new normal...
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I am linking this post to Poets United Thursday Think Tank, where the prompt for today is 'weird'. For more weird poetry, do check out the following link...
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The photos are a few of my abstract Artist Trading Cards...
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

World AIDS Day 2010

As today is World AIDS Day, I thought to repost a piece I put on my travel blog some time ago. It is a day to look outside the safe and cozy lives so many of us are fortunate to live....


I wrote this essay for an anthropology course some years ago.

Little has changed for the better and the numbers quoted have escalated drastically...
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An estimated fourteen million orphans throughout Africa live in poverty because AIDS took their parents’ lives; yet the globalization that opened up the world to many, has effectively cut these children off from the help they so desperately need. Without adequate food, health care and education, they cannot change their lives for the better, and stand little chance of survival. For 315 million Africans living on one dollar a day, resources are nearly impossible to access. Brand-name medicines are costly and without them, an entire generation of adults in the childbearing years is losing its fight with AIDS. Those orphaned by this disease must watch one, or both parents die a slow and agonizing death. Grandmothers take in their grandchildren whenever possible, and when the grandmothers die, the eldest child in a family becomes head of the household, looking after younger siblings. Penniless, parentless and forgotten, the orphans of Africa fall into obscurity, their needs unmet by the world, their futures devoid of promise.
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Child-headed families struggle daily to find food and shelter. Attending class is not an option; they cannot afford the mandatory user fees imposed by aid agencies; and even in countries where those fees are waived, the cost of books, supplies, and uniforms remains outside the reach of most. As a result, roughly 44 million children are excluded from primary education in Africa. Those without parents or teachers lose valuable access to the knowledge and tradition normally passed along from one generation to the next, and to the absorption of family and group values that provide children with confidence and a sense of place. World governing agencies agree that education is key to the survival of these vulnerable children; yet funds donated to local governments for use in health and education rarely reach their target. Budget cuts, corruption and mismanagement mean that up to 90 percent of the national budgets in some countries goes toward government salaries, leaving little else to cover the larger demands.
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Education and health care are equally hard-hit by international policies put in place with good intent that still miss their mark. A loan to Africa by a body such as the World Bank often comes with binding conditions. This impacts medical care when severe pay restrictions and hiring policies force many health-care professionals to seek work on other continents. Additionally, AIDS takes not only the lives of Africa’s mothers and fathers, but those of its doctors, nurses and teachers, leaving in its wake a modicum of trained personnel to cope with the millions of families affected by the disease. Mass privatization of resources dictates that only brand-name drugs be used, and patent restrictions prohibit the development of generic medicine that would be a fraction of the cost. Many orphans left behind are themselves HIV-infected: 90 percent of all children with the virus contract it from their mother at birth. A single dose of a drug called nevirapine given to the mother in labour and to the child at birth, along with a Caesarean delivery and formula feeding, lowers the risk of passing on the virus to less than 2 per cent. Even if the drug was more affordable, limited access to health facilities means that 700,000 African children are still born infected each year to potentially become the next generation leaving its orphans behind.
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The African continent has serious economic and social issues to address. Eradicating AIDS remains its main challenge, because while this disease continues to spread uncontrolled, it compromises every other aspect of development. Following decades of colonialism, sub-Saharan countries struggle to take their place among the family of democratic nations. Debt, corruption, and tyranny have left much of the continent crippled with overwhelming debt. Resources generated by global governance are often mismanaged, rarely translating into improved infrastructure or technological development that would facilitate Africa’s move toward self-sufficiency. In the midst of widespread machination, the plight of AIDS orphans escapes notice.
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Tucked away in villages far from main roads, bereft at the loss of parents and grandparents, families of small children are malnourished, lonely and afraid. Their needs appear simple; yet remain well beyond any chance of attainment. As well as education and health care, providing basic resources like water, nutrition, sanitation, and instruction on the tending of small crops would drastically improve the lot of these youngsters and offer them the chance of a future. Most African countries do not have a tradition of orphanages in the Western sense we have come to understand. Family and community once formed a safety net to care for orphaned children, but AIDS has ripped away this net and destroyed village life, as it was known. We must make constructive resources available to these children if they are to build new communities, forge lasting connections, and develop the means to get on with their lives.
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Twenty-five years into the pandemic that has ravaged the African continent, there is still no master plan in place to help its orphans, in spite of global efforts to improve finance, health care and education. The chaos created by this disease has gone on so long that the original orphans are now adults, who risk the same fate as their parents because they lack information and services that would help them to make safe choices. For children orphaned by AIDS, schooling is vital. Beyond its traditional role, a school is a centre for immunization, for meal programs, and for much-needed education on HIV/AIDS. Without primary education, children cannot go on to university or acquire the trade skills needed to support themselves as adults. The wealth of creativity, intelligence and innovation these resourceful young people might contribute is beyond measure; tapping that potential may be the best tool in reshaping the future of their continent and the upcoming generations who will inherit its problems.
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Stephen Lewis tells us pointedly...“Allowing world economic problems to be taken out on the growing minds and bodies of young children is the antithesis of all civilized behaviour” and “it shames and diminishes us all”.
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Africa is a continent wherein children are raising children. If the world has become a global village, these are our children in this new extended family, and they need our help to learn to help themselves. Their lives are in our hands now; we cannot, and must not, let them down.
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Friday, November 26, 2010

Stormy Utah Skies

Because I love storms, I was delighted that thunder and lightning traveled with us on a recent US road trip. Throughout the National Parks in southern Utah, rain was our constant companion...it served to heighten the colour of the red sandstone formations and provided me with hours of blissful sky-watching!Visiting Monument Valley was a special treat...it has been on my travel wish list for years. When black clouds gathered and thunder began resounding through the valley, I knew this was the perfect time for me to have come.





I have never seen rain come down with such power and volume. I was rendered breathless as I watched and listened.


Then as suddenly as it began, the rain came to a stop. Before long the sun poked its way through again, illuminating the valley floor, now richly red, and reflecting off the rivulets that streamed from the mesa tops.





The thrill of watching a storm rage through this magical place
is something I will never forget...


I'm linking this post to Looking At The Sky on Friday, graciously hosted by Tisha of Crazy Working Mom. For more sky pictures, do check out the link below.
http://www.crazyworkingmom.com/hosted
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Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thankful Haiku












Our thanks bestow on
the children of the world, who
teach us how to love…


I was fortunate enough to spend time with these wonderful children while visiting a Masai village in Kenya in 2006. Like youngsters everywhere, they were giggly, shy, curious and keen to be noticed.
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While families had little in the way of material possessions, the children were bursting with joy, eager to embrace the excitement each day brings. I was humbled by their spirit, and am still learning to be grateful for what I have, instead of pining for what I lack...

I am linking this post to Poets United Thursday Think Tank. This week's prompt is 'thanfulness', something we surely have in abundance. To see more poems about gratitude, do check out the link below:
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http://poetryblogroll.blogspot.com/2010/11/thursday-think-tank-25-thankfulness.html

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Watery Reflections


For this week's Watery
Wednesday, and Weekend Reflections, I'm posting shots of a place I love. This is Finn Slough, a small fishing settlement in Richmond, British Columbia.
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The tide was in the day I took these photos, and the clear still water provided wonderful reflections.




I have posted about this unique community before...if you'd like to know more about it, you might check out this link: http://imaginationlane.blogspot.com/2010/07/finn-slough.html
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This photo may be my favourite. I had the thought that it would look much the same if I turned it upside down, so I zoomed in for a closeup and inverted it. It's an interesting effect, don't you think?










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To see more water, click on the link below...I know you'll be glad you did!
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For Weekend Reflections on Friday, click on this link:
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Autumn's Farewell

This is one of the first pieces I wrote when I began blogging last November. I thought to repost it, both in celebration of the joy my first year of blogging has brought me...and as a gentle farewell to my much-loved autumn as she now steps gracefully back to make room for winter's chill...
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After days of driving rain, the sun shows itself briefly. The sudden brightness boldly illuminates the russet leaves on the steps, and fills the air with a luminous hue that is almost mystical. In my awareness that winter creeps in closer with every hour, I allow myself to be lured away from work and out into one last brilliant burst of my favourite season.
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Life in our west coast rainforest means that greenery abounds in the giant Douglas firs and in the sword fern and salal that crowd around their feet. In my suburban neighbourhood, it also means that lush lawns swiftly turn into beds of mud, and patchwork-bright leaves turn sodden and gray in puddles that last for weeks on end. Blue skies give way to fierce, dark clouds that hang heavily above our heads, and force us into rubber boots and fleece vests. The indoors beckons with its promise of warmth and security, urging us to eschew the dark, unruly outdoors.
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Still, we have only to wait a while. Winter will turn into spring again…and spring into summer in the endless, reassuring cycle of seasons. Time goes quickly enough…I need not rush it further. For now, I will stand quietly and enjoy the sunshine, warm on my face. I will soak up enough of the golden light and the smoky scent of wood fires to shield my soul against the bitter winds that lie in wait.
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For now, I am content. For now, this moment is all that I need...
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Winged Haiku

I had posted this only to Poets United, but as it seems perfect for the Haiku Heights prompt of March 13th, I'm adding the link below. Do stop by to read other poems about wings...
http://haiku-heights.blogspot.com/
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When I saw that the Poets United Think Tank prompt was ‘wings’, I immediately thought of Richard Bach, author of ‘Jonathan Livingstone Seagull.’ As a young wife and mother in the nineteen-seventies, I embraced his reworking of words which have with time become clich├ęd:
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‘If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they're yours; if they don't they never were."Because it touched me deeply at the time, I offer my own interpretation of the quote...
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I would wish you wings
with which to soar the world…and
bring you home to me.
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I'm linking this post to Poets United Thursday Think Tank prompt. For more poems about wings, do click on the link below...
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http://poetryblogroll.blogspot.com/2010/11/thursday-think-tank-24-wings.html#more
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I live close to the sea on the west coast of Canada and spend a lot of time watching seagulls. The photos above were taken at nearby Steveston and White Rock. My elusive quest for the quintessential shot of a bird in flight is ongoing!
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Duller The Better...

Given that the last post I did was a serious story about our elopement, I thought to follow it up with a tongue-in-cheek piece. The following is an article I wrote in 1986 for a short-lived White Rock magazine. It should be said that while my husband thinks himself to be a dull man. I consider him anything but!
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Looking spiffy in 1986

The Duller The Better…
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Given my choice, I’d take a dull man any day. I won’t deny that types who dress in high style and know the best sushi bar in town have their appeal. I’ve been known to fall for polished looks and a well-rehearsed line; but in the long run, it’s hard to get serious about someone who squeezes you in between his weight lifting and his facial. .
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Life is saner with a dull man. He will not let you spend your evenings alone while he visits the tanning salon or has his hair styled. If he brings home a curling iron, it will be for you, and you will never have to worry about dousing yourself with cologne that turns out to have a hearty, macho name. The only perfume in the house will be yours; likewise the only purse.
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Blind to advertising, the dull man follows no-one’s lead. He remains oblivious to the latest craze, plodding onward in jeans and plaid shirt, while his counterparts rush to buy pastel sweaters and pants with someone else’s name stamped across the behind. .
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His hair has never been spiked, his ear never pierced, His conversations are not sprinkled with tales of his exploits; he’d rather listen to you than talk about himself. He’s more likely to take you on a picnic than a night on the town, impressing you most by not trying to impress you at all.
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This man may light few fires in the world but he’s the one that keeps them burning. His money is spent on braces for his kids, not on payments for a Porsche. He goes to the beach to swim, not to compete; and if he owns sunglasses, he wears them on his face, not on a string around his neck.
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His closet holds only what he needs; it is not crammed with jumpsuits, bell-bottomed pants, and the accumulated whims of yesteryear. This reassures me: I could never be comfortable with a man who owns more clothes than I do!
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Nor do I wish to fight for space in the jewelry box. Dull men do not wear chains or leave their shirts unbuttoned to the navel.
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They know that romance goes beyond showy gestures and outward appearance. Their hair is soft to the touch, not stiff with mousse, and because they’re more interested in you than in themselves, dull men can, at times, be anything but dull!
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My opinions stem from experience. I married a dull man, and I am comforted by the fact that he has changed little over the years. He has never owned brand name jogging shoes or a book on gourmet cooking. No encounter group has benefited from his experience, no health-food restaurant prospered at his expense.
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In a world where fads breed and die like horseflies, he remains loyal to his own list of priorities – and I’m at the top of the list.
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That’s my kind of man!
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Friday, November 12, 2010

A Love Story...



My marriage began with an elopement..
In the Sixties, twenty-one was the age to marry without parental consent in Canada. While I was of age, Michael had just turned twenty. From the beginning, our partnership was not treasured by either set of parents…in fact there was little common ground for either family to understand the other at all. My Irish emigrant parents were much too fond of whisky, and loved a loud, resounding fight…Michael’s parents had a glass of good wine with dinner and never, ever raised their voices.
.November 12th, 1968


My parents each had to leave school as young teenagers to help support their families in poverty-ravaged Belfast…Michael’s parents were university-educated professionals of some note. The chasm between our perspective realities grew ever wider as we got to know each other. When invited to Michael’s for a meal, I was flustered by the plethora of cutlery spread out before me, and struggled not to gag at the sight of bloody red meat floating on its fine china platter. When coming to my house for dinner, Michael did not immediately recognize the shriveled gray lump on his plate as roast beef, and seemed puzzled that it was served on TV trays in front of the hockey game. The two households were polar opposites in terms of culture, economics, social standing and stability.
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It was no real surprise then, when our announced plan to marry after dating for a year hit a hard wall of resistance. What started out as flat refusal grudgingly eased on my parents’ part when I rose above my normally timid nature and made it clear this was what I wanted, though dire warnings of certain regret were rained upon me night after night without fail. Michael’s parents held out longer, but finally, unhappily agreed to give their consent when it was clear we were going ahead. We planned a very small wedding, immediate family only as all my relatives were overseas, and my future in-laws did not see it as an occasion to celebrate. I bought a pretty white dress…we looked at apartments, and lined up a minister at our local Anglican church.
A week before the wedding was to take place, Michael’s mum and dad rescinded, protesting they could not in all conscience condone this farce of a marriage that would never last. They would not sign the consent forms after all.
.Africa , 2007, after a hot-air balloon ride over the Serengeti.

We were in love; we’d bought furniture, rented an apartment…we eloped, flying from Vancouver to Detroit to be married in the City Hall by a Justice of the Peace, because it was the only place we knew with a lower age restriction. It would be nice to say that things improved markedly after that, but such was not the case. It was a number of years before the bitterness between the families softened, and life took on some normalcy. It was definitely not an ideal way to start a marriage. Eventually, gaps were bridged, bonds were formed and our children could have both sets of grandparents in a room together, but a heavy price was paid to get to there…
That was forty-two years ago today, and if I had to, I would do it all again in a minute! I’m blessed to be married to my kind and funny best friend; a man who is truly one of the good guys, someone who consistently goes out of his way to help others and has the gentlest nature of anyone I know. Of course we’ve had our ups and downs as couples do, but not for a minute have I regretted tying my life to his.
For four decades, we have laughed and loved…lived a full life together with all the joy, sorrow and wonderment that building a family entails. It has been an amazing ride and I hope for many more years to share with him..
We staged a quick photo shoot the evening after returning from Detroit, so I might get to wear my little wedding dress at least once, and have pictures to remember the day. It is still a strange mix of emotions I experience when looking at these photos, our obvious delight in each other tempered by so many conflicting factors. But one can’t dwell on what might have been, and while ours is not a traditional love story with the fairy tale wedding and the happily-ever-after, we have made our own story and it is a good one.
You continue to be my hero, Michael. I admire your compassionate heart, your sense of justice and your ability to see what truly matters in the world…and it is no small thing that you still make me laugh more easily than anyone else I’ve ever met.

I will love you forever…
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Family Haiku



Anne and Jack
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Now I too have walked
down roads that led me astray…
and found my way home


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Our family is our home, in the hearts of those we love, and in the bonds we build. Family is not only blood but is forged through the sharing of lives…I have friends I consider to be family as much as I do my brother and sister...
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I made a shadowbox to celebrate my mother and father, and the hope with which they started out. If mine was not an ideal childhood, I have to believe they did the best they knew how to with what they were given, as I myself have done. I’ve learned that family travels best with a liberal dose of tolerance and forgiveness on board…with lots and lots of love…and a healthy ability to laugh at oneself. I can only hope my children will continue to celebrate the journey we’re taking together….
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I'm linking this post to Poets United Thursday Think Tank prompt. For more poems about family, do click on the link below...
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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Another Utah Watery Wednesday

I've been blogging about a recent trip my husband and I took to the U.S.

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I remembered a wonderfully placid lake we'd stopped at in northern Utah, just before we crossed the border into Wyoming. The water was as still as I'd seen anywhere, and the colourful Fall foliage was reflected as a perfect mirror image.
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It seemed a grand choice of post for Watery Wednesday! What do you think?
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To see more water, click on the link below...I know you'll be glad you did!
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Blog Blast For Peace 2010

I am reposting this haiku as my contribution to Blog Blast For Peace 2010. I wrote it for International Peace Day in September and have added it to a Peace Globe background provided by the amazing Mimi of 'Mimi Writes'.

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Mimi is the founder and host of 'Blog Blast for Peace', a movement designed to promote peace throughout the world. Please, please stop by her site and add your voice to the many who advocate an end to war and an embracing of equality for all!
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On this hope-filled day we come together from all over the world to offer up a prayer that peace will prevail, and to make a promise to the children of the world that we will dedicate ourselves to attaining that end, no matter what it takes. They deserve no less from us.....
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November 4, 2010
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To those of my readers who have taken the time to comment on this post, you have my heartfelt thanks. I have discovered that the blogging community is a network of caring, creative souls who make a difference in each other's lives. It is the insight, intelligence and generosity of so many that make me know true peace is possible...
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My original post of this haiku with additional photos is at the link below for those who would like to read more...
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http://theimaginativetraveler.blogspot.com/2010/09/international-peace-day-2010.html
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