Book Hippo

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Years Lessons

I am happy a new year is on it's way. My father's death half-way through 2010 gave me a rough year and then there was my step-mother's cancer. There were times I couldn't think straight but only felt sorrow. So I've adjusted to not having my father around and my step-mom is now cancer-free. I'm happy and ready to move on.

I look forward to a year of stability. Mainly so I can look back and see what lessons I've learned. I'll give an example: there is a woman I know from Korea. She told me a little of her background. Her mother beat her with a wooden spoon and with her hands when she was a toddler, by six years of age, she was living in the streets. I won't go into gory detail but I said once, "It must have taken you a long time to get over your anger at your Mom." She looked at me and said, "I'm grateful to her."

I wondered at this and asked how could she be grateful. "She taught me how not to live. Any time something comes up I don't know how to deal with, I think, how would my mother handle it, and then do the opposite." Well, I have to say that this Korean woman has no depression or bitterness or self-pity. She is the most accepting of other people I know and has a lot of friends.

She once introduced me to her brother. I asked when they came over from Korea. He said he was from Northern Canada. How did your brother come from Canada while you're from Korea? She said, "Family is not who you are born to but who you connect with. We are soul brother and sister. I must mention here that this is a man who likes to wear women's clothing. It made me think that if her mother had met him, she would have some foul words for him. So I imagined this woman thinking, 'what would my mother do?' and then accepting him...and finding a soul brother.

I tried her method. Not with my parents who never laid a finger on me but on someone who did hurt me because she herself had been hurt. She was ever hurting people around her. I don't necessarily take opposite actions but psychologically I try to think the opposite. When I'm confronted with an emotion brought on by some incident, I think 'how would this person emotionally deal with this?' Then I do the opposite. I found her method works well.

So during this year of, I hope, stability, I want to look back over my life and see what other people might have left me that I've missed. What other gems came my way that I was too busy to look into. I'd like to apply them to my life and see how they fit. That is my only New Years Resolution.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Teddy Bear

Hi all. It's Christmas day and I'm just waiting for my roommate to arise. We will open presents. It makes me think back to childhood and the Christmas when I was about six and we spent it at my grandparents. We stayed over from Christmas eve. When I woke and saw the tree, there was a beautiful teddy bear under it. I loved that teddy bear on sight and wondered who was lucky enough to get it.

It turned out it was for me!

I was so happy. It had a blue ribbon around it's neck and shining eyes. All day I could think of nothing except how lucky I was to get that teddy bear. I was a big collector of stuffed animals. I had so many that my brother an I called them, 'The Choir'. We used to set them up the way we saw choirs set up and sing in high piping voices all the hits we heard on the radio.

After a time, my brother became the main holder of my teddy bear. He became Superteddy and along with five other 'main' players. Supermonkey, Superhorsey, Superflower dog (a stuffed dog made from flowered material), Superdon (a dalmation piggy-bank) and Superchilipuff which was a toy I found on the beach one evening. There was no one around to claim it and I figured it would just be swept out to sea, so I took it and hoped I wasn't stealing. It had the body of a human but had embroidered eyes and wool all over it's body. I think it was real wool, too because when my dog chewed it up, I found instead of cloth, sheepskin.

Anyway, long after all the other choir members have disappeared, teddy still exists. My brother has him and his children have played with him. I know I should write 'it' but teddy was always a boy to us. He's very, very old and my niece and nephew have grown up, but I have to say, it seems that my brother was a better keeper of toys than I was. I hope teddy lasts another fifty years.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Warming Winter

I'm looking out the window as I sit in my chair, at the rain which is coming down like a waterfall. There was snow this morning but it's all melted and been washed away. The temperature is +4.

I can think back to the seventies when I first began planning to leave BC. The only thing I was scared of was what kind of weather I would come up against. In BC, when the snow level reaches 12 inches, the cities shut down all services. This happened once when I was in school. They sent us home and the banks and offices were sent home, too.

Later, in Ottawa, I found out that 12 inches happened about October 18th and lasted until April. I was crushed and wondered how I would survive, how would the city survive, when everyone would be sitting at home all winter. I still believed that everything shut down at 12 inches. Ottawans laughed at me and had good sport telling me all the horror stories about walking to work when the snow is18 inches. It was all true, too.

Now,  however, for the last five of six years, winters have been  mild. We have even had 16 degrees in November when no one had to wear a coat. Ottawans on the whole love global warming. But this year is the mildest we've had ever. Still above zero in December and rain. Skiers have to use machine made snow which melts but that's not my problem.

I just wonder where it will all end. Will we have a tropical climate about the 60th parallel in my lifetime? Already there are birds showing up in this part of the world which normally live in the Southern USA.

I have to admit that I am undecided on whether I like mild, rainy winters or would like a bit of snow. I could get used to it, they have the same in BC but somehow I also feel a loss of some intangible feeling that I used to carry through winter. Almost a sadness that something has passed. I don't know if I'm alone in this but I get I'll just have to live with it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mentally Challenged Meeting Place

I wasn't going to blog again for a couple of days but I saw something on TV and it set me off. In a place named Stittsville, just outside the old city of Ottawa limits, a woman saw a need for a meeting place for mentally challenged kids. Autistic and Downs syndrome can meet there and be accepted and loved and included.

I believe inclusion and acceptance is the most important thing for a child. They can develop only when they don't feel any hate or antagonism against them. Now what set me off is that it made me think of the attitude of most Ottawans, that you don't have to pay attention to the feelings of such people because there's something 'wrong' with them.

I get angry when I hear this and it makes me think back to BC when you heard of mental retarded children poking their own eyes out and such. People considered that a symptom of their condition when it was actually a symptom of the cruel ways they were 'kept' in institutions.

I have a friend whose son was born 'normal' but because of an allergic reaction to a vaccine became brain damaged. The doctors said this boy would never walk or talk. "Just put him in an institution. You can have other kids" This father looked around and decided that all the places recommended for his son were ghettos for mentally damaged kids and decided to quit his job and take care of his son himself. The wife went to work.

I will make a long story short. This brain damaged kid now runs 10K marathons and can talk. Strangely enough being brain damaged didn't affect his musical ability and he can play complicated pieces on the piano. Now this is what you can do with these kids when you take the time to communicate with them instead of just saying 'they can't understand' and such and leaving them sit by themselves.

So I just want to say that just because a kid is mentally disabled doesn't mean their emotions and feelings don't exist and aren't important to them. It's cruel to tell them that because they don't understand right away they are stupid and not worthy of consideration. That's my rant for today.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Favorite Christmas

Just because it's December, I've been thinking of favorite Christmas. So many Christmases stand out in my mind, there was the one where we couldn't afford presents. We enjoyed it anyway because my mom really liked Christmas and made it fun. I was a teenager then and I find my favorite Christmas happened in my teen-aged years, too.

I decided one year to spend as much as I pleased. I would buy everyone in my family a present. I bought my grandmother an elephant carved from wood with plastic tusks. For my sister I got a sugar bowl made in the shape of a flower. There were other glass pots shaped like flowers, too. I can't remember what they were all for but they were all held up by a strong, steel wire holder made to look like a flower stem. I got it in an import store in White Rock. It was from Russia and like all crafts from Eastern Europe, it was well-made and beautiful.

For my father I bought a sword. I think it was antique, although it might have been aged deliberately for sale. There were roses on the steel on the sword and although the sales lady didn't know where it was from, my father loved it. He 'knighted' the dog with it!

My brother got records he really liked.

The best part of this Christmas was hearing the feedback from my relatives. My Aunt said the gifts were unique. My grandmothers response will always be my warmest Christmas memory. She said that ever since she was a little girl in England she had wanted a carved elephant. She told me of looking with longing into store windows, staring at the carved elephants, but she never got one then. To think that I made a dream of hers come true will always rank high in my happyland thoughts.

My sister, newly married, said it was just what they needed for their home. They did not have all the little things a couple needs to live in a home.

This favorite Christmas taught me something about myself. I'm much happier when I give something to make somebody happy than to get something, although I'm excited about my presents, too. I guess that's what makes Christmas a great time is that it tells us that we're not so bad, that we aren't just a bunch of rude overworked boors pushing others out of our way. We're more than that, we're the people who can be made happy and satisfied by making others happy and satisfied.

I think that's a good thing to remember.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

End Of Camping Trip

Hi, I'll just finish up about my first camping trip in Algonquin Park. At some point one day, I noticed clouds gathering and winds growing. I was alone in my two-man tent. The wind and rain began to come down harder than a drunk falling on the pavement. I remember laying inside my tent, darkness coming and thinking, "there's nothing I can do, so what should I so?" I decided to go to sleep. I'm not sure that's the best action to take in a storm but I thought that if a tree fell on me, I was inside my tent and wouldn't see it coming anyway. So I went to sleep.

The next day a couple of fellows came through. "You mean you spent the hurricane in this little pup tent?" One of them asked me. I assured him I had. "It flipped over a few campers in the campsite and did half a million dollars damage to the towns." I felt very lucky when he said that, as I still do today. They moved on to their hike and I settled back to enjoy the feeling of having survived.

It was a nice day now. Hot and blue skies. Sometime around noon a couple of old people came to swim in the lake. It made me wish I was swimming but I had no one to save me if I started to drown so I didn't go near the water.

I looked forward to my rice; by now all my mashed potato flakes were gone. It's funny in the woods when you bring your own food how bland meals begin to seem tasty to you. Brown rice was now my favorite meal. I ate it without butter or any topping. That night, when I went to bed, I found I had a 'pizza attack' I could not think of anything else but having a pizza. I wanted to phone out but of course there's no phone at Provoking Lake. I slept and in the morning decided to hike into the store and buy some food. I hoped the the money I had, that I'd spilled mosquito repellent on, would be accepted by the store. Mosquito repellent takes the ink off of the money.

I enjoyed the hike in, even though I was anxious to have something really tasty. I bought peanut butter and cookies and a few other things and hiked back. Some people had set up a camp when I got back. Three young girls. I opened my peanut butter and found that although I hadn't seen any squirrels up to that time, peanut butter brought them all to my camp. They were aggressive, they probably didn't get peanut butter too many times, and wouldn't leave me alone when I ate it. I did put some out for them but that made it worse, they got bold and would crawl on me just to get some of it.

I have since read that there are few things that can resist peanut butter and  let me just say that it makes the best trap for cockroaches. I unfortunately lived in a place with roaches. I found that if you put an empty peanut butter jar half-filled with water and peanut butter on the insides, by the time you wake in the morning, Your jar will be full of drowned roaches because they can't resist peanut butter.

Back to my trip. From then on, I had to fight with squirrels to eat my breakfast and lunch. I spent a lot of time painting the scenery and reading the one magazine I'd brought with me. A MAD magazine. They had a spoof of the movie 'Tootsie' in it and I read it over and over again. I hadn't seen the movie but thought the spoof was funny.

Time to leave came up on me. I didn't want to carry so much out, so I dumped my Quaker Oats out for the chipmunks. I found I was carrying quite a lot of weight anyway but did manage to make it out finally. It was slow going. I camped for one night at a roadside campsite, eight dollars a night back then, and in the morning caught a ride to Toronto. It's the opposite direction of Ottawa but I hadn't been there for a while and wanted to visit the zoo.

The people driving me were very nice and bought me a soda to drink on the way. They dropped me off downtown and I made my visit. I caught a greyhound bus home two days later. I rented a room in a building and picked up the stuff I had in storage. I would go again in two years and have many other experiences. That's all for now. I will write of the next trip later.

See ya.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Peace Or Tolerance

Now that it's December, I can feel 'right' about thinking of Christmas. I love Christmas and all the decorations and lights. The way people are so kind at Christmas warms me and makes me happy to be part of the human race. But there is conflict at this time of the year for me. It stems from the idea of peace on earth and spirituality.

I'll regress a little. In the eighties I was an artist. A sculptor and painter. Ottawa's art scene at that time was filled with people who thought the sixties were still alive. They were what is called peace freaks and still spoke of the Vietnam war and talked of their opposition to nuclear war and violence.

Now, all that sounds fine. But in practice I found that if there was a person near them who was wearing an army uniform, they would invariably talk of how stupid he looked. And how his type should be done away with for earth to advance. I would make the point that earth would not advance if we were all engaged in killing each other. They would stare at me. "You don't believe in peace?" and then, I, too would be on the bad list with them. Once on the hit list they felt free to be rude and to shun a person. They would not talk to you, some even threatened. All their talk consisted of how stupid everyone was who did not believe in their philosophy of love and peace, how these people ruined the world. Again, I would find myself saying that the way to better the human race was to accept that we are all different and not to strive to have everyone think the same, but they would anger and again I'd be on the outs with them.

No argument worked with them. All things should be done away with so their beliefs could flourish. No religion. I'd say, "One of the basic ideas of a free society is to have freedom of religion." Anger from them. No war. "Sometimes to stay free one has to fight. You have the right to your opinion because people laid down their lives." They wouldn't hear of it. All I could see were people who wanted to destroy everyone they thought stupid.

Now, a few years later, after I had left art, I found myself at an exercise club. The YMCA/YWCA. At this club there was a group of people. Some whom I thought were stupid. Probably because of some psychological disorder interfering with their minds. But they were part of a religious club. I saw them being treated with tolerance and love. With goodness.

I thought back to those peace freaks and thought how much better to treat people with tolerance. Their lives do mean something. I discovered that as intolerant as the left wing is, the religious people had the idea that to give people care and concern and help, forgiveness and patience was to do the work of God.

There was no contest to me of what was the better way. There are billions of people on the earth. We need to tolerate each other. Besides, people can change and flourish with understanding.

So there's my fight each year at Christmas. When they talk of peace on earth, I think of the intolerance of the peace freaks and get upset again. But when I think of how spiritual and good people are to each other at this time, I happy again.

See you all next time. Over and out for now.