Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Word Wonder -- touch

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

1. To place the hand, finger, etc., in contact with.  14. To affect the emotions of; move, especially to pity, gratitude, sympathy, etc.  -- Funk & Wagnalls Canadian College Dictionary

The word "touch" comes from the late 13th century French word touchier which meant "to touch, hit or knock." The French touchier came from the Latin word toccare, meaning "to knock or strike," as in to strike a bell or other object to create a sound. "Toccare," in turn, probably came from ancient imitative sounds (as many words do -- hush, buzz, clink). Imagine the sound made from striking a hollow wooden tube or wooden blocks: toc toc toc...

So, touching an object to get a sound became toccare, which became touchier, which became touch. And then it's only through the wonders of human communication and time that the current 106 related meanings (that I could find) came into use in English. Here are a few of them:
  • get in touch -- make contact with someone
  • soft touch -- a person who is easily manipulated. This term is first recorded in 1940.
  • touch -- to stir emotionally. First used in the mid-1300s.
  • touch -- to feel with the hand or other body part, from the late 1200s
  • touche -- an exclamation that comes from fencing, 1904. Has also come into general use to mean someone scored an emotional or intellectual point.
  • touched -- stirred emotionally, since the mid-1300s
  • touching -- affecting the emotions, from 1601
  • touch off -- usually means to set off an argument or sensitive feelings
  • touchy -- too sensitive, from 1605. This is probably an alternate form of "tetchy," which means the same thing.
Touch -- a plethora of meanings, most of which have something to do with human relationships and endeavours. We are all connected, or we distance ourselves, through touch.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Yesterday I heard part of a radio program on the theme of "touch." The host interviewed guests about the importance of touch in their personal lives, careers, and so on. It got me thinking of moments of physical touch that have, well, touched me. Many of them have to do with my children -- holding hands with them, feeling a small hand on my cheek. I always felt a little guilty when I'd hold them when they had a temperature because I loved the heat their small bodies radiated.

Another memorable touch was the first time I kissed a boy. I was fourteen. We'd been patients together in a hospital, me for eye surgery, him for something I've long since forgotten. He was being discharged, and I was pretty sad to see him go. I rode down in the elevator with him (I can't think where his parents were), and he kissed me just before the doors opened. Wow.

This idea of touch has "touched off" many thoughts and ideas, so I imagine I'll be writing about it again. In the meantime, slow your life down a bit and muse about touches you remember...even from five minutes ago. Be present in your body as you meander through the past. It can be a lovely journey.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Your Inner Voice -- a journalling exercise

Friday, March 26, 2010

I call this journalling exercise "Listening to your Inner Voice." That voice is sometimes called intuition or a gut feeling or gut instinct. Many, many of us have been taught to ignore that voice by being taught not to trust our own take on things, our own feelings and thoughts. "That's stupid; you can't do that." "Stop crying; there's nothing to be scared of." "Don't be silly; he's a nice man." "What a ridiculous idea."

We're taught to keep busy, not cry, ignore our own needs to help others, hide when we feel bad. We get sent to our rooms, hit, told to keep destructive secrets and silenced by others' silence. Many people aren't taught how to recognize and name feelings or how to listen to inner discomforts in uncomfortable situations. In many families, any response more subtle than a slap or screaming or crying is lost.

So although helping others and managing our emotions and keeping busy can all be positive actions, they can also get in the way of self-knowledge which, in turn, gets in the way of understanding others. When we don't understand ourselves and others, true compassion is difficult. We may be able to act like a nice person without actually feeling anything at all.

This journalling exercise can help you listen to your own inner voice, your gut. It can be a helpful tool for getting familiar with your true self. So grab a pen and notebook, or a computer, and get comfortable for a while. This exercise can be done in one sitting or in several shorter bouts. Remember that with journal writing, there is no wrong way to do it. Spelling, punctuation, handwriting and organization don't matter. Listening to yourself does.

Listening to your Inner Voice

Write about a time when you did or did not listen to a gut feeling about something or someone. Maybe you didn't make that phone call you thought of making, or you wrote to somebody and found out later how much it helped him. Maybe you heeded the tug prompting you to apply for a job, and as a result you met someone who became important to you, or you got the job.

Describe what was going on at the time:
  • What did the inner prompting, voice, urge feel and sound like inside you?
  • What did it suggest?
  • If you paid attention to it, did you act on the suggestion right away or later?
  • If you didn't heed it, how did you answer it -- by telling yourself it was dumb or pointless, by getting busy and forgetting about it, by consciously deciding not to listen?
  • What happened after you did or did not listen to that urge?
  • How did (and do) you feel about the outcome? Regret? Relief? Satisfaction? Irritation? etc......
Given that outcome, what might you do differently another time? Keep in mind that regrets can be useful if we decide to do something differently in the next situation. There's no need to hang on to regrets (in fact, doing so can be harmful), but by all means notice them and make a decision about what you'll do differently. Be grateful for the lesson and move on.

If you're happy with the outcome, dwell on the feelings and results. Decide to listen to yourself again another time. Be grateful for the lesson and move on.

In another recent blog post I wrote about intuition (click here to read it) and about the book Developing Intuition by Shakti Gawain. The post describes one fantastic way in which intuition, my inner voice, was on the right track. I find that the more I listen to my inside self, the more smoothly my life goes and the more serenity I experience. When I don't listen, things get choppy. It's a simple formula, yet I can complicate things and get in my own way, too!

In any case, know that learning to listen to one's intuition is a skill that can be learned (relearned, actually). I encourage you to listen to your inner voice. Learn to trust yourself; you're a great ally!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Grief Websites

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This is a list of four websites related to grief recovery that my family and I have found useful in the past four months. I hope they're helpful to you, too. Keep in mind that mourning and a sense of loss are related to a death, of course, but they can also result from any major change or transition.

Center for Loss & Life Transition -- a site "dedicated to 'companioning' grieving people as they mourn transitions and losses that transform their lives. We help both mourners, by walking with them in their unique life journeys, and both professional caregivers and lay people, by serving as an educational resource and professional forum."

The Compassionate Friends -- a site for anyone who has lost a child at any age, by any cause

Grief Recovery -- "the action program for moving beyond loss"

Webhealing.com -- an interactive site on crisis, grief and healing.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Word Wonder -- chauvinism

Monday, March 22, 2010

1. Militant glorification of one's countyr; vainglorious patriotism. 2. Unreasoning attachment to one's race, group, etc. -- Funk & Wagnall's Canadian College Dictionary

When I was looking up another word in one of my etymology books (yes, I have several. Scary, eh?), I happened upon the word "chauvinism," and the story of the word was interesting enough that I thought I'd look into it further.

Back in the early 1800s, a French soldier named Nicolas Chauvin fought for his country and was wounded repeatedly. He was such an avid soldier that he was wounded seventeen times before he was forced to stop fighting...only because he had so many scars he could no longer lift his sword. He was given some medals, a ceremonial saber and a small pension for his service.

At this point, Chauvin transferred his intense dedication to France's leader, Napoleon Bonaparte. He couldn't say or do enough to sing the praises of his beloved Napoleon. So passionate was Chauvin that he became something of a laughingstock in his village.

His reputation would probably have died with him, except that in 1831 a couple of French playwrights heard about Chauvin and created a comical character based on him. The play was a hit, and several other authors followed their example. Meaning "excessive or blind patriotism," the term chauvinisme worked its way into the French vernacular. From there it spread to Germany as Hurrapatriotismus and to English as chauvinism.

Over time, the excessive, blind nature of the word spread to other contexts outside the national sphere. In the early 1960s, the term "male chauvinism" was coined to refer to men (and some women, actually) who were so adamant about the roles of men and women that they refused to consider greater abilities and freedoms for women. The really extreme chauvinists were called "male chauvinist pigs." In a time when many women were simply not willing to continue accepting old expectations, there was no patience for people who mocked, harassed, even physically attacked them for their beliefs.

The term "male chauvinist" is not heard often anymore. Many men in North America today accept the growing roles of women in the workplace, politics and finance. Of course, many still do not.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Word Wonder -- stable

Saturday, March 20, 2010

1. Standing frimly in place; not easily moved, shaken or overthrown; fixed. 2. Marked by fixity of purpose; steadfast. 3. Having durability or permanence; abiding. [From the French and before that the Latin stabilis, which means "to stand"] - Funk & Wagnalls Canadian College Dictionary

Last week a friend asked me to look into the word "stable." The word comes from the ancient Indo-European root sta-, which means "to stand" and has given us a number of related words:
  • stable -- firm or permanent
  • stable -- a building that houses horses or cattle
  • state -- a political area or standing
  • steady -- firm
  • stay -- remain
  • stand -- to be upright
  • establish -- to set up
It may be that sta- first  meant the stable for horses and cattle. These animals were extremely valuable assets, so they would have been housed in a strong structure, one that would be able to withstand storms, able to protect the beasts within.

Certainly these same attributes apply to other uses of "stable." Today we speak of a stable economy, a stable relationship, a stable person. In all cases, we refer to someone or something that protects valuable assets and can withstand the winds of change and adversity.  Internal solidity and some flexibility combine to create a stable entity.Things remain on an even keel most of the time. A stable entity can be relied up to do what it was intended to do; it can be trusted. It requires maintenance but is established on a firm foundation.

How does a person become stable, firm, solid? The attitudes and skills that comprise stability can be learned at any time. Though a stable childhood can be a help in this, it is by no means a requirement.  I believe the following are examples of the skills and attitudes that lead to personal stability:
  • a sense of one's own value -- not conceit, but an honest appreciation of one's worth
  • honesty -- deep, internal honesty, not just the kind that keeps your hands out of the till
  • openness -- a willingness to consider new ideas and views, no matter where they come from
  • appreciation -- of life, others, and oneself
  • humility -- awareness that one's existence and viewpoint are just one of many and that all are valid
  • flexibility -- knowing that change is inevitable and is not a personal attack or failing
  • serenity -- inner calm, a belief that things will work out, emotional evenness
  • focus -- the ability to make decisions and stick with them
No person, even the most stable person, maintains his or her evenness at all times, in all situations. Stability is by its very nature a flexible, adaptable condition; it implies overall evenness, not absolute evenness.

Just as a horse stable is constructed one hammer blow and saw cut at a time, personal stability is built from a myriad small decisions made over time: the decision to accept responsibility for an error; the decision to open one's mind and appreciate another person's contribution or to open one's eyes and appreciate the beauty of rolling hills or the shape of a tree; the decision to fulfill one's commitments. And so on and so on.

Stable. Firm. Steadfast. Like a four-legged stool, a stable person doesn't collapse easily and can do the job for which he or she was made. Anyone who wants to can learn to do that...one decision at a time.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Forgive Mom & Dad Day

Friday, March 18, 2010

My calendar of observances tells me today is Forgive Mom & Dad Day. Now, depending on your mom and dad, you might be thinking:
  • No damn way. (or harsher words to that affect)
  • There's nothing to forgive; they did a good job.
  • I'm working on it...
  • What parents?
  • They did their best. I can live with that.
  • What mom?
  • What dad?
  • etc.
I certainly can't list all the wrongs a parent can commit. I know. I'm a parent. I had/have parents (one is still with us, while the other passed away many years ago.) I have taught and counselled parents, have loved ones who are parents, and have taught the children of parents. Parenting mistakes come in many, many forms.

Fortunately for the human race, so do parenting successes. Please be assured I do not say this from the viewpoint of someone who grew up in a functional, wondrous household. Quite the opposite, though we did also have some great times when I was a kid.

What I have come to believe about forgiveness is this:
  1. Forgiveness means acknowledging that someone made a mistake. Period. Nothing too esoteric about it, as far as I can tell. I searched for a long time to understand what forgiveness is, and this is the closest I've come. It works very well for me.
  2. I make mistakes all the time, and I'd rather not be condemned for them.
  3. I sometimes learn from my mistakes.
  4. I'm no different than anybody else. So if I can make mistakes and want to be forgiven and might learn from my mistakes...the same is true for every other person.
  5. Therefore, I can forgive another person.
  6. I do not want to walk around carrying blame and righteous indignation and resentment, so it's to my advantage to forgive.
That's how I see it now. It took decades, but I have forgiven my parents for being imperfect and for making some pretty big, painful, harmful mistakes, as well as a whole bunch of little ones. I'm also learning to forgive myself as a mom for my own load of errors. It all gets better if I let it.

What do you think of forgiveness? How does it operate, or not operate, in your life?

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Thursday, March 18, 2010

This morning I was moving around pretty early, trying not to wake anybody up. As I'm on crutches, that's a tad difficult because they click and clatter with every step I take. A thought popped into my head from the other day: instead of having to tip-toe around, I have to "tip-crutch."

This early morning smile made me think of how often people find ways to smile, even laugh in the face of challenges, adversity and just plain horror. Then I thought of how often we pretend we're doing okay when we're actually not. We have many sayings that encourage us to do that:
  • Look on the bright side.
  • Keep a stiff upper lip.
  • Every cloud has a silver lining.
  • Yep, I'm fine. I'm keeping busy.
  • It could be worse.
The trouble with such sayings is that they often encourage us to bypass an important step when we're dealing with troubles -- that of facing and accepting the fact that we are human and that we have feelings for a reason. Feelings serve as a signal that lets us know something needs to be dealt with.

Sometimes people don't want to, or don't know how to, feel what they feel and accept their emotions as normal, okay and part of the situation. I call it "stoptimism." Don't feel, don't give yourself time to adjust, don't deal yourself a break. Just stop feeling, stop "feeling sorry for yourself" and stop  those nasty tears before they escape. Pretend you're alright and that things are fine. Well, like it or not, it's pretty hard to actually get better unless we let ourselves feel what we actually feel.

I heard a line somewhere: "Smile, and the world smiles with you. Cry, and you cry alone." Not a great incentive for honesty.

Life is a balancing act. Sometimes for a while, we might have to pretend, fake it 'til we make it, get up and get on with it. But we also have to allow ourselves to feel and express our sadness, shock, anger and confusion. The problem with a lot of pretending is that we're often pretending with ourselves, as well as with the rest of the world.

So, get real. Get some help. Get some sleep and a decent meal. Get used to the fact that you might not feel 100% all the time, at least for a while....and that that's okay. It's sometimes part of the ride.

Quit practicing stoptimism and opt for realism. Then a little joke just might manage to make you truly laugh and get on with it. Here are some responses you might consider to those platitudes I listed above:
  • Look on the bright side. (Can't find my sunglasses.)
  • Keep a stiff upper lip. (Makes it hard to brush my teeth, let alone smile.)
  • Every cloud has a silver lining. (So why don't I feel any richer?)
  • Yep, I'm fine. I'm keeping busy. (Take the u and the y out of busy. What's left?)
  • It could be worse. (Of course it could, but right now it feels lousy.)
For myself, I've acknowledged that my knee hurts every day, and I'm sick of these crutches, after needing them for over two months (with the light at the end of the tunnel being the size of a pin prick). I've felt and expressed my frustration and concern. So now I'm back to the humour part. As I often say, if ya can't laugh, ya might as well dance.

Well, okay, maybe that one doesn't work. But, still...you get the idea.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Interview re: "It's So Hard to Love You"

Monday, March 15, 2010

I just re-encountered an interview my brother, Bill Klatte, gave on a website called Lasting Love and Marriage in July 2008. I'm linking to it partly because I like my brother and I'm proud of the work he does. I am also proud of the book we wrote (It's So Hard to Love You -- Staying Sane When Your Loved One is Manipulative, Needy, Dishonest, or Addicted) because we've gotten a great deal of feedback saying how helpful it is for people dealing with difficult relationships.

Please check out the 22-minute interview (click here and then click on the MP3 link a little above Bill's photograph) and/or the Lasting Love and Marriage website, which offers much information about relationships and personal growth.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Flowers & Passing it On

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It's been a few days since I made it on here due to Internet glitches that kept me offline. It feels good to be back, though I have to keep this post short. I'm heading off to have lunch with some good friends, one of whom is a beautiful 2-year old whose smile pretty much melts me into total, happy submission when she asks to climb onto my lap and read another story.

The other night a friend came over for our pre-arranged supper. She carried with her a beautiful bouquet of fresh-cut flowers. What a treat! I told her about my blog post earlier in the week in which I'd talked about the healing, refreshing, energizing power of flowers...and here she was, proving what I'd read and written.

The next morning when I got up, the first thing I consciously noticed was those flowers on the kitchen table, and they did perk me up and give me a good feeling. Both her kind thought and the flowers' beauty worked their magic, and I decided I'd buy flowers for a friend soon, too. I actually tried to yesterday, but our grocery store didn't have any left, and there's nowhere else to buy flowers at this time of year.

But the seed has been planted -- pun intended -- and I will soon pass on the small delight of fresh cut flowers to someone. And I'll probably buy some for our home, too. What a simple pleasure.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I Choose... - a journal exercise

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

This journal exercise comes from both my own experience and from the book Developing Intuition by Shakti Gawain. About ten years ago I went away by myself for a weekend of R & R. While there, I read and rested a lot, and I wrote. One of the questions I asked myself was, "What do I really want?" With many open pages and hours before me, I started to write. I enjoyed the writing and the whole weekend.

Then about five years later, I happened upon that old notebook and began to thumb through it, reading snippets here and there. And then I came to The Page, the one I'd written on my solo weekend years before. Virtually everything I had written about what I wanted for my relationships, my personal time and my work had come, or was coming, to fruition. I was stunned to realize I was living out what I'd written that weekend.

That experience taught me a lot about my ability to make decisions and then make those decisions come to be. I have since learned that everybody has the same ability to make decisions and make them come to be. Since that first experience, I've more consciously made decisions about what I choose, and many of them have come to fruition. I know others who've done the same. So, give this a shot. Grab a notebook or journal and write about what...

I Choose
Find a quiet place where you can focus for a while -- an hour or so, depending. Try to leave the time open-ended if you can. Ask yourself what you really, really want or want to do. Be specific. (One thing I wrote was "I want to write for a living not just a hobby.") Then -- and this is important -- feel that thing you want. Describe it.

Write about what that dream-plan will look like. What will it feel like physically and emotionally? How will it smell or taste or sound? Immerse yourself in these sensations as you muse and write. If you aren't sure, just imagine it the best you can. Feel it all as if it's happening right now.

Write about what will happen when you do your dream-plan. Where will you be? Who else might be there? If you imagine other people, focus on those who support your dream. Again, feel the feelings, sensations and satisfactions.

Express gratitude for your dream-plan.

As you write, you might encounter negative thoughts or feelings. You might picture other people telling you it can't be done or that you can't do it. In your mind or on your paper, thank those people for their opinions and wave goodbye to them in your imagination (you're not ending a relationship, just an imagined objection). Release them to your spiritual source or to themselves. You can smile at them, knowing your opinion matters more in this exercise.

Once you're done writing, write the date on the entry. Then in the days, weeks, months and maybe years to come, continue to invest in your dream-plan often. Re-read and re-focus on your idea. Re-feel the feelings. Enjoy the satisfactions and express your gratitude, even if you don't see any obvious evidence of it right away. Picture how it will look and be. Keep re-deciding to have or do it.

Mike Dooley, another person I've read and listened to, enlarges hugely on this brief journal exercise. He recommends creating a board or scrapbook full of pictures and words and other items that contribute to the idea you've decided about. I've done this, too, and it helps a lot.

Will you change your life utterly by doing this journal exercise? You could. Will you get everything you've ever dreamed of? Maybe. I don't know the answers to those questions, but I do know that our decisions -- and learning to believe in our decisions -- can take us places we never imagined.

Give it a shot. What do you choose?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Flower Power

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

This is not a post about hippie Flower Power (though I did mention having been a hippie in a recent blog post).

No, today I'm writing about the wonderful power of flowers to cheer us up, wake us up and just generally help us feel better.

On a website called aboutflowers, I found a number of scientific surveys that show how beneficial cut flowers are when displayed in our homes and workplaces. Few people need to be told by scientists that fresh flowers look beautiful and cheerful, whether we've received them as a gift or have cut them ourselves from roadside fields or our own gardens.

However, this research shows that flowers don't offer only pleasing colours and scents. Cut flowers have also been shown to affect our emotional and mental selves. They can:
  • decrease anxiety and depression
  • help non-morning people wake up more happily and fully
  • improve social interactions
  • increase a general sense of well-being and satisfaction
  • enhance intimate relationships
  • foster creativity
  • increase productivity
  • improve learning
  • decrease stress
So do yourself or somebody else a favour. Roam through a field or flowershop. Plant a windowbox. Buy a flowering plant for the kitchen table.

What a simple way for everyone to win.

Monday, March 8, 2010

International Women's Day

March 8, 2010

Today is International Women's Day.

If you are a woman, I encourage you to examine your life as a woman in your place, your time. What can you do, today, to inprove your own sense of equality in your daily life? Do that thing. Start small or start big; that's up to you, but please start. Use your voice to speak up for yourself. Use your feet to carry you into a new challenge. Use your hands to make one change today, to set the stage for other changes in your future. Ask yourself the same questions I ask of men in the next paragraph.

If you are a man, I encourage you to examine the lives of the women you know and have known, as well as your own life. How have you related to women thus far? What jokes do you tell that feed old assumptions and attitudes? Do you see yourself and the women around you as being on the same level? Ask a woman how she feels when she walks down a dark street at night and compare that to how you feel doing the same thing. Notice how many jobs you see as "women's work," even if you would never use that term. Ask yourself the same questions I ask of women in the paragraph above.
You know the issues:
  • sexual abuse and assault
  • work safety
  • equal pay
  • education
  • safe health options and practices
  • domestic assault
  • minimizing women through "humour"
  • sexism in books, magazines and textbooks
  • elder abuse
  • access to training and jobs
  • lack of safety in our communities
  • cultural practices that harm and limit women and girls
  • lack of female-specific health research and treatment
  • assumptions of weakness, timidity and inadequacy
The list is longer than that, but this is a start. No matter where you live, I guarantee that at least some of these problems are common to the women and girls around you...and just because they are female, not because of general poverty or other situations.

There's so much information out there about women and oppression and rights and equality that I will not write any more about them here. Instead I refer you to some useful resources, adding to the list I gave in my March 3 post, "4 Sites for Women (and Men)," which you can find if you click here.

A very few online resources:
  • WomenWatch, the United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality
  • Check out this ezine, Modern Feminism's information about International Women's Day and other topics related to women. (If you're having a negative reaction to the word "feminism," I encourage you to consider your assumptions and see what is being offered.)
  • Watch this short UTube video of the Secretary General of the United Nations giving his message about the UN's work to help women.
  • Wikipedia's article on International Women's Day, giving a history and brief discussion of the ways it is celebrated around the world

Think about it. Inequality is all around you. What will you do to change that?

Friday, March 5, 2010

O Canada!

Friday, March 5,  2010
I heard on the CBC Radio (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) today that the government is considering changing the lyrics of our national anthem because a number of women are protesting the use of the words "our sons." Given that I've been writing something daily for International Women's Day, I thought I'd throw my hat in the ring on this topic.

I happen to love the "singability" and most of the sentiments contained within the official English version, but I have to say I like some of the changes proposed by Kim Campbell and others. Though I like singing our anthem, I know of others who don't -- some Native friends and some women. Ever the fence-sitter, I can also see the arguments of those who say it's all a bunch of whoo-hah -- and expensive, time-consuming whoo-hah at that.

In any case, here's my proposed version, briefly considered. The current version is on the left, and mine is on the right, with my changes Bolded.

O Canada!                                                                  O Canada!
Our home and native land!                                           Our home on Native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.                   True patriot love in all of us command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,                           With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!                                   Our True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,                                      From far and wide, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.                                         We stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!                            Let's keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.                          O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.                          O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Canada is a great country, though, whatever we sing and however we sing. I'm delighted and grateful to live here.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Word Wonder - woman

Thursday, March 4, 2010

During the 1970s I was in my twenties, and women's liberation  was gaining a foothold. Many young women were not content to follow their mothers into what were seen as narrowly defined and restrictive roles of housewife and mother. More women were seeing that as workers they were often -- I think I can safely say, usually -- paid less than men were for doing the same job. In addition, women weren't "supposed" to aspire to be carpenters or doctors or backhoe operators; they "should" be happy to be the secretary, the nurse or the teacher, if they were going to work outside the home at all. Women rebelled against sexual mores that restricted, judged and punished actions that were acceptable for men but not for women.

This movement included the examination of language -- the words that were used to describe women. It became unacceptable to refer to an adult female as a "girl." Other previously ordinary terms came under the microscope of social change. Why "man and wife" instead of "husband and wife?" Why use male pronouns to describe all of humanity? Why use the term "chairman" when that position was held by a woman? And so on. Usages that have become more or less the new normal in the 21st century were changed during the turbulent decades since the mid-1960s.

I was one of those young women who questioned old expectations. I examined my thinking and my language and my goals. I talked with friends, family and coworkers, encouraging them to do the same. "Just think about it," I'd say. "There's a lot of inequality going on here." In the early 70s I did a research project called "Sexism in Children's Literature" and was surprised at the overwhelming lack of female characters as protagonists and heroes in those books. Like many in my generation, I became a parent who sought gender equality in my kids' upbringing, through books, toys, pastimes and conversation.

As a lover of words and equity, I decided today to look for the origin of the word "woman." I was surprised by much of what I found. It turns out that, contrary to what I always believed about the word, it was not originally a derivative of or an attachment to the word "man." It is certainly not a combination of "womb" and "man," as I've sometimes heard. Etymologically speaking, the words "woman" and "man" are connected only in their earliest histories.
In fact, the story of "woman" begins with the ancient Indo-European root mem-, meaning "to think." Mem- lead to the Latin mens, "the mind" and to the Old English mann. These words referred to male and female humans of all ages.

Speakers of Old English wanted to be able to distinguish between a female human and a male human, so they came up with wif-man for female-human and wer for male-human. By the way, it was only later that wif (meaning "female") became our word "wife."

During the Middle Ages, the pronunciation of wifman slowly changed into  wimman, possibly because it was easier to pronounce without that f in the middle. Various dialects changed the spelling to wummon, wumman, wommon and womman. These changes probably account for the spellings we now see: woman and women. Through those same years, the male wer was supplanted by mann to refer to a male person. The only common vestige of wer in English today is found in "werewolf."

Just as mann started as a gender neutral term for "human" and only later added the specific sense of a male person, the word "girl" followed a similar path. It also started out as a gender neutral word, though for a young person of either sex. It wasn't until the late 1300s that it came to mean a female child.

This little investigation has led me to drop my assumption that the word "woman" is another example of the many ways women have been seen as secondary, afterthoughts and "also rans." Though oppression of women cannot sanely be denied, I know that some things have changed in the last few generations. Some things most certainly have not.

The point for me is to remind myself that I can only help myself (and others) move forward if I open my heart and mind to new information, to changing realities and ancient truths. Being willing to examine my assumptions helps. Drawing on youthful enthusiasms as well as aging perspectives helps, too.

I'm proud and grateful to be a woman. This was not always the case, but it is today.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

7 Actions for Women

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

On March 8, International Women's Day, many women and some men & children will gather in various places to listen to speakers, maybe march or eat a nice meal. They will don IWD buttons or t-shirts. And then, the chances are pretty good that what was heard and learned will blend into the demands of everyday life or just be forgotten.

Days such as March 8 are definitely important, so please do support you local event(s). To prepare for that day, here are some suggestions for things you can do  beforehand:
  •  Take 15 minutes a day until the 8th to explore a website on women's issues. I posted four yesterday (click here), but there are probably thousands.
  • For five minutes really give some thought to one woman you know and imagine what she might have dealt with in her life simply because she is female.
  • Now imagine a woman living on another continent than yours. What do you know or what can you imagine about her struggles and triumphs simply because she is female?
  • List five women living near you, even if you don't know their names. Make a point of doing something kind for each one -- a smile, a small gift, a visit.
  • Look in the Yellow Pages. Count the number of women lawyers and the number of men lawyers (or any typically male occupation).
  • Go to the library or look at your own children's books. Count how many books have a main character who is female and how many have one who is male.
  • Pick up any general interest magazine. Count how many people in the ads and story photos are male and how many are female.
Do yourself and your world a favour. Educate yourself about the realities of life for millions of women in the world today. Be conscious of your own realities. How do you discount women in your thinking and words. How do you discount men in your thinking and your words?

We're all on this planet together. I urge you to find ways to even things up for everybody.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

4 Sites for Women (& Men)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I've been all over the map today, trying to focus in on what I'd write about in this post. Nothing seemed to be gelling, but I often find when I'm stuck in some way that doing anything is often better than doing nothing. And now I've ended up liking this post just fine. I hope you do, too.

Here are four websites and blogs by women I know or have happened upon in my webly travels:

Juicy Tomatoes - Ripe living after 51, with Susan Swartz. On February 25, Susan wrote a blog post called "Women's History...Once More with Feeling." Her opening paragraphs read:

Why do we have to keep dredging up women’s history? Why do we need all of March to talk about it? I mean, that was then, this is now. Can’t we just move on? After all, we’ve got Hillary. We’ve got Nancy. We win Olympic medals. Women make history all the time.
Yes, but we still have a couple of thousand years of male-dominated history to balance.
Learning and Violence - "The site is one step towards a long held dream of a virtual international institute for research and innovative practice to understand and address the impact of violence on learning. The vision was germinated by Jenny Horsman with the help of Elizabeth Morrish and Judy Hofer and incubated in discussions with educators and researchers from many different countries."

Native Women's Association of Canada - a message from President Jeannette Corbiere Lavell:
"...I am proud of our association’s distinguished, three decade long history of dedication to restoring the positive social, economic, cultural and political well-being of Aboriginal women in Canada.

Over the years many strong women have dedicated their valuable time to achieve our association’s vision of advocating, educating, and promoting gender equality for our current and future generations. Our work is more important than ever, and as we continue to participate in high profile government and community initiatives we aim to keep you up to date by providing this information on our website. I encourage women of all ages to stay informed by visiting our website on a regular basis."
Center for Women's Global Leadership - "The Center for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL) develops and facilitates women's leadership for women's human rights and social justice worldwide."

Monday, March 1, 2010

Noteworthy March Days

March 1, 2010

Here it is already -- the beginning of a new month and time for me to pull out March's observations. They arise from Canada, the U. S. and other countries. Some have sponsors and are advertised and observed in an official way. Others apparently don't have a sponsor; I guess some individual or group just thought they'd be a good idea.

As I said in my January and February posts, people love to mark special events, days and people, so I've opted to give them a bit of "air-time" on my blog. I only mention observations related in some way to this blog, including the ones I think are quirky or that make me laugh. Balance, people, balance.

So, here are March's days of note:
  • International Listening Awareness Month - We're not talking hearing but, rather, listening...with your ears, mind, heart and spirit. At least that's my very brief take on truly listening.
  • International Women’s Day, March 8. More on this in days to come, but please check out the Canadian Status of Women website. "Strong Women, Strong Canada, Strong World."
  • Well Elderly Day - I actually don't know the date of this one, but surely each of us can contribute to one elderly person's day in some good way. Any day would be great.
  • Companies That Care Day - I find it ironic that no sponsor has been found for this one.
  • Forgive Mom and Dad Day - One of my sons went to a great high school in Ottawa. Every morning, the principal -- who greeted every single kid by name in that very large school -- would finish each day's intercom announcements with the friendly admonition, "And remember...be nice to your parents." He was so well liked that one of the art students painted his likeness and his words on the wall in one of the main corridors. As a parent, I had to love the guy. As a daughter, I was nudged by his gentle reminders to do some forgiving of my own imperfect parents.
  • National Problem Gambling Awareness Week - This American site contains pages and pages of valuable information about problem gambling.
  • National Women's History Month
  • National Ethics Awareness Month
  • National Optimism Month
  • Return The Borrowed Books Week, March 1-7 -- Go ahead. Do it. Root around under the bed and on the floor of the hall closet and find those long-overdue library books you've been too busy to return. Your librarian will love you. So will I.
And what, oh, what would this column of celebrations and observations be without one delightful oddity? March's prize for Wacky Observation of the Month goes to...drum roll, please...National Umbrella Month. I live in snow country, so the idea of honouring umbrellas in March seems a bit crazy, or premature, anyway. So, I figure this one may have originated in London, Vancouver or Seattle. Maybe they have rainy Marches and feel honour bound to celebrate their umbrellas.

In any case, have a great March -- whatever you celebrate.