Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Compassionate Friends

Last night I went to my first meeting of The Compassionate Friends (TCF), an international organization dedicated to those who have lost a child of any age, by any cause, at any time. Our youngest son, Daniel, my stepson, died in November 2009, at the age of twenty. His death was a deep, stunning shock. The repercussions of his death have been broad, deep, wide...exceeding practically every strong adjective I could possibly come up with.

For the first several months, we did the best we could just to make it through each day. Many times I've told myself, "Just do what needs to be done and make time pass until you can go to bed." Sleeping is sometimes the only way to make time pass without pain.

I've felt at times that I could suffocate in my own sadness. At other times, we've laughed and told "Daniel stories" and have been able to feel grateful and happy about having had him in our lives. Those laughing times don't happen often, but at least they do happen, and I believe they'll increase as the years pass. But I miss him. We all do.

Daniel's death, like any death, is changing family relationships. This reordering can be hard and is often not welcome. But it happens anyway, sweeping up the grievers in emotional and physical whirlwinds. In the past 17 months, other life changes, such as the death of friends and a pet, and health challenges, have added to the stressful mix.

So, after pushing the tough feelings down for a while, I finally feel ready to take a deeper look into myself. I needed a time not to feel, but now I need to deal with those feelings. So, after hearing high praise from a family member about The Compassionate Friends, I decided to check out the meeting in our area.

A small group of us gathered in the quiet of a Wednesday evening. The organizers, themselves bereaved parents, started us off by telling their own story. From there, the rest of us talked, if we wanted to, about our child's story. In some ways it was hard to witness other families' sorrow, and it was also affirming to hear them express feelings similar to my own. We cried sometimes and smiled in understanding agreement at other times.

What I like most about The Compassionate Friends approach is that no one tells anyone else how to feel, how to act, when to talk, when to be silent. No one interrupts. No one lectures or preaches or drapes others in expectations of what they "should" feel or do. All beliefs and experiences and feelings are honoured.

To gain a better understanding of someone whose child has died, or to help yourself in this situation, look for help with The Compassionate Friends. Explore their website here. In future posts, I'll share other resources that might help with bereavement.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Word Wonder - honey

1. A sweet, viscous substance made by bees from nectar gathered from flowers.  2. Anything resembling or suggestive of honey.  4. Sweet one; darling: a term of endearment. [from the Old English word hunig] -- Funk & Wagnall's Canadian College Dictionary

When it first occurred to me to explore the word "honey," it seemed a bit too obvious to bother with. However, I decided to check it out anyway. I found so much has been done with honey that I decided to write about it despite its (possibly) small impact on healing, relationships, and personal growth.

As a term of endearment, honey is sweet and simple. Although overuse can render it as meaningless as any other word, adding honey to daily utterances does often sweeten them up a bit. "Honey, will you do such and such for me?" adds a love-reminder to the basic request.

As a food, honey is so delicious, so nutritious, that it's a wonderful addition to many foods and beverages. It also feels excellent sliding down a sore, raspy throat. Though I've never tasted mead, I understand it's a tasty drink made from water and fermented honey.

Honey has had a far-reaching affect on language and daily life. Take a look at this  honey of a list from modern and ancient English:
  • honey-apple -- a fruit created in ancient times by grafting some kind of apple onto a quince stalk. The resulting fruit was used to make marmalade.
  • hinny -- a British form meaning "darling"
  • honey-tongued -- can be used as high praise, for one who uses words beautifully or as a sarcastic phrase for one whose words cannot be trusted
  • honeymoon -- After the wedding, life and the beloved are as sweet as honey. But a cynic might say this joy lasts only as long as one cycle of the moon's phases.
  • honey-bucket -- a receptacle used in a latrine
  • honey-bun or honey-bunch -- a term of endearment or a pretty girl
  • honey-do list -- a facetious name for the list of household chores a wife wants her husband to complete
  • honey wagon or cart -- the vehicle that empties latrines and carries away the contents
  • honey-pot -- in Australia, a way to jump into the water. This is the same as the North American cannonball jump.
  • honey-star -- a mistress!
  • honeydew melon -- a sweet melon
  • honeysuckle -- originally misnamed when ancient people thought that bees drew honey directly from this woody vine
  • honey thighs -- a term of endearment to a girl, since about 1945
So, I don't know. Maybe this post has made you more aware of how sweet your loved one is and will encourage you to say so to him or her. Maybe you'll just eat a bit more honey and be a little healthier as a result. I honestly just wanted to write about honey, even though it has no deep, profound meaning. That's it, that's all, sweetie.

Resource used for this post:
Thereby Hangs a Tale by Charles Earle Funk
Partridge's Concise Dictionary of Slang & Unconventional English, ed. by Paul Beale
A Word in Your Ear by Ivor Brown
Why Do We Say It? by Castle Books
Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Not a creative bone in your body...?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In the writing course I'm currently teaching, I give my students a creative writing exercise during each class. Since the start of the semester, I've heard several variations of the statement, "I don't have a creative bone in my body."
  • I'm not creative.
  • I don't know what to write.
  • My writing is always boring.
  • I don't have any good ideas.
  • I'm no good at this.
  • I can't tell a good story.
Here are some of my responses to those statements:
  • Hogwash.
  • Yes, you do.
  • Yes, you can.
  • That's old thinking.
  • Everybody's creative, even if they don't know it.
  • ...etc., etc. You get the idea.
What might it mean when people say they're not creative? It might mean any number of things. Maybe they were laughed at for some creative effort(s) in the past. Maybe they don't like a particular type of creative activity and don't recognize that not liking something isn't the same as being unable to do it. Perhaps they believe that if they don't excel at an activity, they shouldn't do it at all.

Maybe this sounds like you. Do you think you can't write a story or paint or act or make a craft? Do you believe you don't have a creative bone in your body?

Well, consider these ideas:
  • Are you a person who comes up with great party ideas?
  • Do you come out with funny one-liners or puns, or do you tell jokes really well?
  • Can you come up with options or solutions for nagging problems?
  • Do you hum or sing while doing some other activity?
  • Are you good at keeping the beat with songs on the radio?
  • Was there an activity you loved when you were a child?
  • Do you cook well or do carpentry?
  • Do you enjoy a hobby?
  • Can you tell stories to children that they enjoy?
  • Do your neighbours compliment you on your garden or yard?
  • Are you able to find the best arrangement of time or objects in order to get a job done well?
  • Do you find yourself wondering how the writer came up with the idea for a movie or book you like?
  • Is there one time of day when you seem to get a lot of good ideas?
  • Do you like arranging food, flowers, furniture, artwork, or table settings in pleasing ways?
  • Can you fix just about anything that needs fixing?
  • Are you good at solving puzzles?
  • Can you find the best/shortest/most scenic route to a destination?
This is a very short list of examples of creative expression. Maybe this list has given you other ideas about what you do well but never considered as meaning much. That's often the case with people who believe they're not creative.

Keep in mind that being creative simply means "having the power or ability to create...and is...characterized by originality of thought and execution." (Funk & Wagnalls' Canadian College Dictionary). Every single person can create something or come up with an original idea. Really. Creativity is not a special gift doled out only to a select few. It is a natural part of being human.

You are creative, even if you're haven't been given a Nobel Prize for Something or aren't published or famous. You are creative because you're alive and it's in your nature to create.

I encourage you to take a look at your attitudes about your own creative ability or that of someone else you've said isn't creative. What words and feelings go along with that limiting belief?  How can you change your words and thoughts and feelings to allow for a new concept? Do you expect phenomenal results, or can you see that creativity is a process to be enjoyed?

If you like, try the following:

Every day for two weeks, write or say to yourself,
I am creative. I like to __________ (fill in the blank), and this is a creative activity.
It's very possible that your ideas about creativity will shift. Then go ahead, do your creative activity some more. Allow yourself to enjoy it simply because you enjoy it. It doesn't have to measure up to anybody else's idea of "good." If you want to, expand on it, share it. Learn something new.

Creativity is fun and satisfying. I hope you allow yours to blossom.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Sunday, March 13, 2011

"Be patient towards all that is unsolved in

 your heart and dreams;

try to love the questions themselves."  

-- Rainer Maria Rilke

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Advice to a Daughter

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The other day I found a book on my bookshelf, one of those enticing little nuggets found at a yard sale or some such place. I'd completely forgotten I own The Book of Lists by David Wallechingsky, Irving Wallace, and Amy Wallace. I do remember that it was old even when I bought it, but it just seemed like a good thing on which to blow an extravagant 25 cents, ya know?

Since this is the week of International Women's Day, I thought today would be a good day to list "F. Scott Fitzgerald's 21 pieces of advice to his daughter on living," originally from Fitzgerald's Letters to His Daughter, edited by Andrew Turnbull (New York: Scribner. 1965). I'm not big on worry, but maybe he meant something like "concern yourself with." In any case, I like most of what F. Scott had to say to his daughter, Scottie. See what you think...

1.   Worry about courage.
2.   Worry about cleanliness.
3.   Worry about efficiency.
4.   Worry about horsemanship.
5.   Don't worry about popular opinion.
6.   Don't worry about dolls.
7.   Don't worry about the past.
8.   Don't worry about the future.
9.   Don't worry about growing up
10. Don't worry about anyone getting ahead of you.
11. Don't worry about triumph.
12. Don't worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault.
13. Don't worry about mosquitoes.
14. Don't worry about flies.
15. Don't worry about insects in general.
16. Don't worry about parents.
17. Don't worry about boys.
18. Don't worry about disappointments.
19. Don't worry about pleasures.
20. Don't worry about satisfactions.
21. Think about: What am I really aiming at?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

100 years of International Women's Day

Saturday, March 5, 2011

This coming Tuesday, March 8, is the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day (click here to go to the official site). Look there or in your local newspaper for IWD events in your area.

In my area, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada, I will gather with local women, men, and children at the Manitoulin Nordic Ski Club at 2 p.m. The guest speaker is Ruth Farquhar, writer and activist, whose topic is "Women in Media and Entertainment."

Below I quote from the IWD website where it explains what International Women's Day is about...and the range of ideas and activities it engenders.
International Women's Day 2011 Theme

Each year around the world, International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8. Hundreds of events occur not just on this day but throughout March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women.

Organisations, governments and women's groups around the world choose different themes each year that reflect global and local gender issues.

So while many people may think there is one global theme each year, this is not always correct. It is completely up to each country and group as to what appropriate theme they select.

Below are some of the global United Nation themes used for International Women's Day to date:

- 2011: Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women
- 2010: Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all
- 2009: Women and men united to end violence against women and girls
- 2008: Investing in Women and Girls
- 2007: Ending Impunity for Violence against Women and Girls
- 2006: Women in decision-making
- 2005: Gender Equality Beyond 2005: Building a More Secure Future
- 2004: Women and HIV/AIDS
- 2003: Gender Equality and the Millennium Development Goals
- 2002: Afghan Women Today: Realities and Opportunities
- 2001: Women and Peace: Women Managing Conflicts
- 2000: Women Uniting for Peace
- 1999: World Free of Violence against Women
- 1998: Women and Human Rights
- 1997: Women at the Peace Table
- 1996: Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future
- 1975: First IWD celebrated by the United Nations

I encourage you to give some thought to the issues represented in the themes listed above. How do you support or hinder them in your day-to-day life? What can you do to improve the situation for women in your sphere of influence? What will you do?
Consider checking out these IWD-related websites:

The United Nations:

Canada's list of events:

American list of events:

United Kingdom's list of events: