Life’s Wonderful Things

A joke or a song or a handshake,
a letter that comforts or cheers;
a meeting or parting, more precious
because of the smiles or the tears.

A five minutes’ sit after dinner,
a “Thank you” that lends the heart wings;
all these are but trifles, yet surely
they’re also life’s wonderful things!

Author Unknown
From the 1969 Friendship Book of Francis Gay

Traces of Paranoia

We moved back to Saskatchewan from Quebec in 1998 and I soon made the acquaintance of an older lady in Saskatoon. In time she became very dear to me, though she lives in another province now. Over the time we’ve been friends I’ve had lots of fun visits with her. We went out for coffee often and I helped her figure out various things.

You see, she’s what sociologists call “functionally illiterate.” Bank statements, bills, contracts, sales slips: she’s brought them to me and had me figure them out — until she moved away five years ago. She finds it about impossible to figure out her (direct-deposit) pension by looking at her bank statement. She can buy things, but has a hard time looking at the sales bill and figuring what she should have gotten for change. Also, she was often suspicious people were cheating her.

This spring she called me up one day, all alarmed because of the discrepancy in a purchase she’d made. The item cost $6.25 and only got back a dime and a nickel (15¢). It really bothered her to think that sales clerk had cheated her. I did a quick bit of math and reminded her of the 60¢ tax on her purchase, which would account for the difference. Ahh! She was happy again and we had a nice visit.

Concepts like health, nutrition, drugs and their use, all needed to be explained in the simplest terms. Different times I went to the doctor with her and translated. She didn’t ask him, because she didn’t want to appear dumb.

One day she told me her doctor had said she was borderline diabetic. “But how can a person be ‘borderline’ diabetic?” she asked me, somewhat annoyed with her doctor for that dumb diagnosis. “I figure it’s like being pregnant: either you are or you aren’t.”

I went for a simple illustration. “Your body’s pancreas, that makes insulin, is somewhat like a well. A well holds so-and-so much water, but when the well’s almost empty, there’s just a bit of water and the bottom is muddy. That’s borderline. When there’s no trace of water or even mud, we say the well’s gone dry.

“Our pancreas gland makes insulin as long as it can, but when it can’t keep up anymore, we’re on the borderline of having diabetes. When the gland stops producing insulin, we can’t digest sugar anymore. We’re diabetic and need to take pills or injections to make up for what our body can’t do.”

That made sense to her.

Before she moved, being almost eighty and forgetful, she was misplacing things, then was convinced they were moved or stolen. “Someone with a key, ” she claimed, “is coming into my apartment and taking things or moving stuff around.”

With her eyesight not being very good, she couldn’t see the normal wear-and-tear until something was quite worn. Then she’d say, “Look what someone did to my blanket. They frayed it somehow. It wasn’t like this before.” Sometimes the intruder would scatter a few things on the floor, just to annoy her.

She was convinced that “someone” was watching — that is, sitting beside a closed-circuit camera somewhere all day — to see whenever she went out. Then they’d come in and do mischief. She started hiding her precious things (she had nothing of any real value to a thief) like her many rings and watches into suitcases so they wouldn’t be stolen. Which made things even worse because she couldn’t remember which suitcase they were in.

I tried to be a helpful friend and hurried to the city several times to help her find important “lost or stolen” bank card, wallet, credit card, etc. Thankfully they’ve always turned up — in her apartment. I’ve helped her replace credit cards when she’s lost them. I’ve tried to be patient and be there (if I could) when she needed help or transportation, even though it meant an hour-long trip to town.

She bought a motion sensor camera to catch the culprit but, though it’s been set to take a picture every minute, saw no trace of the culprit on her film chip. I tried to convince her that people have more to do with their lives than sit and watch her apartment on closed circuit camera all day, but one thing I’ve learned over the years: you can’t reason with paranoia. Fear doesn’t respond to common sense.

She extracted a trace of criticism from what I said, got angry with me for not being supportive, and wouldn’t speak to me for a couple of months.

I was happy for her when, with the help of her children, she moved to a seniors assisted-living apartment in another city and her intruder woes faded away. I do miss her — just not THAT part of her nature.

Fandango’s prompt today: TRACE

The Song of Enough

by Edgar A Guest

I’m getting along, with a bit of a song
and a bit of a smile for my neighbor.
I’ve managed to grin, with the little I win
day by day as the bit from my labor.

Time was in the past I stood often aghast
as the storms of despair swept around me
but my ship, although small, bravely weathered them all
and nothing I’ve dreaded has downed me.

I’ve not had the luck which some others have struck;
I’ve neither been famous nor wealthy,
but I’ve always had meat when I wanted to eat
and I thank the good Lord I’ve been healthy.

Some things I have missed on the millionaire’s list,
but the friends I have made have been true ones;
I have always had suits, shirts and neckties and boots
though I couldn’t afford many new ones.

I’m getting along , just as one of the throng.
Day by day I have worked for my money;
but in spite of the care and the burdens I bear
I’ve supped of life’s nectar and honey.

My house isn’t large, but love has it in charge
and in peace and contentment I dwell there,
and all men I defy to be happier than I
when a friend puts his hand to the bell there.

I’m getting along, with a bit of a song
for I’ve learned what I knew not at twenty,
that enough for each day—with a bit put away
for the cares of my old age—is plenty.

I have eaten and slept, and at times I have wept,
I’ve done all that the Lord lets a man do;
I’ve made friends on the way, and I venture to say
that is all that the richest man can do.

From his book, The Light of Faith
©1926 by The Reilly & Lee Co.

Sharing the Blooms

We’ve reached that time of year when our outdoor flowers are looking rather weary. The petunias in my planters haven’t frozen yet, but the sensitive marigolds around the edges wilted at the first hint of frost. Their brittle leaves don’t add much to the esthetics anymore.

I know we’ll have to start pulling up and tossing soon, but we’ve enjoyed the colorful display this summer and I was happy to learn one evening that we were sharing. At dusk I was standing on the deck when I noticed a hummingbird moth in the petunias, zipping from bloom too bloom, enjoying the sweetness of my flowers. I’ve seen it half a dozen times since — one evening I saw a smaller version, too.

Thinking of sharing good things, I found this little story somewhere and will share it with you, hoping this thought will inspire you, too, this morning.

A lady who was a great lover of flowers had set out a rare vine at the base of a stone wall. It grew vigorously, yet she saw no blooms. Day after day she cultivated and watered it to coax it into bloom.
One morning as she stood disappointedly before it, her invalid neighbour whose back lot adjoined hers, called over and said, “You can’t imagine how much I have been enjoying the blooms of what you planted!”
The lady who owned the plant looked, and on the other side of the wall was a mass of blooms. The vine had crept through the crevices and flowered luxuriantly on the other side.
So often we think our efforts are thrown away because we do not see their fruits. We need to learn that in the service of God our prayers, our toils, and our crosses are never in vain. Somewhere they bear fruit, and hearts will receive blessings and joy from our efforts.

–Author Unknown to me

The Journey of a Blog

From 0 to 2000 Followers

I’ve had one eye on my stats lately, watching the number of Followers slowly creeping up to 2000. I wanted to mark the occasion but while I was busy with other things this week, my newest followers vaulted over the magic number. Still, here’s my planned celebration and a few historical notes.

Fireworks.pink cropped

2000+ Party

I’m Too Tech-Dense to Blog!

Back in January of 2012 a friend and fellow writer was talking about her blog, and the usefulness of blogs in general as a platform for one’s writing. I already had a website, set up by someone who knew what they were doing, and was enjoying posting on it. But I told my friend, “I could never BLOG. Not me! I could never figure out all that tech stuff.”

She said, “Blogging isn’t hard at all.”

And I said, “Well… Okay. Tell me how and I’ll try setting one up. If I can manage it with my limited technical smarts, anyone can.”

So she rattled off instructions, I wrote them down, I came home and started my blog. And it actually WASN’T hard. And now, 6 ½ years later, over 2000 readers have clicked my Follow button. Who’d’a thunk it!

I’m thankful for all those votes of confidence, and I really appreciate those of you who have stayed, liked my posts, left comments, and helped me to become a more dedicated writer. To those of you who make up my readership today, thanks so much and bless your dear hearts. 🙂

Faces.jpg

Through the years I’ve learned a lot about blogging. Here are some things I wished I’d known when I started out:

#1. For my first blog address I picked christineevelynvance, which made a too-long web address. It’s getting tough to find short-and-simple names; the easy ones were taken by bloggers years ago. And so many wannabes only posted once or twice, then quit. But newcomers who choose themotherofjosephsabrinaandcrystal or theavidreaderofhistoricalromances as their web address aren’t doing themselves any favours. Fine for a blog title, but for a web address, stay as simple as possible. Be creative if necessary. I called my last blog “Waverations.” Simple; easy to remember.

My second blog, set up to divide my longer prose from short anecdotes and poetry, was “Swallow in the Wind.” In time I merged it with my first. My third blog was “Tree Top Haiku”, which is still going — when I get over there. After trying to keep up with three blogs for awhile, I saw the error of my ways.

#2. You don’t need a separate blog for every genre. Keeping up several blogs can be mega-stress. (Plus I got leukemia, so was dealing with that for several years.) My first blog fell by the wayside and I started “Christine’s Reflections”, with my domain name as the address. Two years ago I renamed my first blog “Friday Tales” and posted flash fiction when I was doing the Friday Fictioneers challenges.

Waverations I set up as a private site to try out new themes without messing up the look of my active blogs. It has morphed into this one. I applied my domain name to this and had the folks at WordPress beam the Friday Tales and Christine’s Reflections subscribers this way.

#3. Use proper categories and tags from day one. A subject all its own — I’ve written about it HERE — and the reason why I felt the need to start over from scratch. Now I’m in the slow process of reblogging all those past posts into this blog. Tree Top Haiku will stay as is.

Over the years I’ve tried to “share the love” by letting my readers know about other great blogs and posts. I could — and plan to — do more of this. Which is why I got enthused about the new “From the Heart” blogging award. You can tell your readers about other interesting sites without putting any obligations on those bloggers. (In fact, my brain is concocting another idea along these lines as I’m writing this. 😉 )

Since I started out, my husband has also gotten enthused and now has his own blogs, one in English and one in French.

And now…here’s my virtual Happy 2000 cake. Cut yourself a piece (it’s zero-calorie, no preservatives 🙂 ) and celebrate with me.

Birthday cake.rainbow.jpg

A Fellow Who Brightened His Corner

Back in the 1960s a man named Jimmy Hamilton was going about his small region of Scotland doing good. He was travelling miles every week to make his rounds of nine hospitals, spreading sunshine. He’d go through the wards, taking a few minutes to stop and chat at the bedsides of those who seemed to need a visit. And folks blessed him for it.

He began this interesting “hobby” after he, as a young man, had to spend some time in a local hospital himself. While there he realized what a lonely place a hospital can be, especially for those with no close kin to pop in and see them, and he resolved to do something to what he could to cheer up a few of these folks. After he was discharged he began coming back as a visitor.

Thus his little mission started in a small way, but soon grew as he visited various hospitals in Motherwell, his own home. Jimmy was a ray of hope: he’d sit by a patient’s bed; show a kind interest in the folks; share little stories to make them smile again. His visits were so effective that surgeons would send for him to visit a depressed patient.

When he first began he made use of the local buses. However, as years went on he expanded his efforts to other hospitals farther and farther away. The many grateful recipients and their families clubbed together to help him with this; they bought him a special car so he could go even farther.

Perhaps Jimmy had a special inroad with folks who feel there’s no hope, for he himself was seriously handicapped. As a boy of three he lost both his legs in a railway accident. When he talked to other patients folks about courage and healing, they knew he’d been there, done that himself. When in despair they felt their useful days were past, Jimmy’s example of finding a small corner and filling it cheerfully was a quiet rebuttal.

Someone may say, “It seems my life has no purpose.” Rest assured, there’s a little task for each of us, something useful we can do for others that will boomerang and cheer us up, too.

Where there’s a will there’s a way. Jimmy has proved it.
.
Story taken from an account in THE FRIENDSHIP BOOK of Francis Gay, 1969 Edition