Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A New Reason to Visit Heaven

For the second night I am haunted by the pictures in that Life magazine. I dreamed of the girl carrying dozens of loaves of bread. I dream of her and the boy who confronted his violent father. The eight year old boy called the cops on his dad when his dad threatened his mom with a knife. In the photo the boy hollers in his subdued father's face, "I hate you. Don't you come to my home no more".

In the dream, that boy smiles at me. I want to talk to him in the baddest way. Did he grow up strong and good? And the girl. Was she able to skirt bitterness and the weariness, and find joy in life?

So these two kids are added to my list of people I want to talk to in heaven. There's Moses, a humble man who walked his people out of slavery and along the way wangled a friendship from God. And Florence Nightingale who patiently changed her world forever with application of sanitation in the hospitals and respect for the common soldier.

There's a quality in survivors that I deeply connect with. Researchers are finally tracking down that elusive quality. It has something to do with resiliency. An ability to look at a blow in a different way; to see opportunities; to determine a different future.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Despondency is a luxury of the rich

Or rather, despondency that leads to inaction is a luxury the poor can't afford. What brought this on was some photo essays from Life magazine. We picked up a discounted copy of their seventieth anniversary edition, and I spent hours absorbing the photographs. Two images are imprinted forever. The first is of a girl lugging twenty-four loaves of bread to the public ovens (page 58). This bread will feed her family for a week.


The second is a twelve year old boy feeding his baby sister beans and rice, and later lying exhausted on his mat (page 65). He feeds the family while his parents work, and suffers from bronchial asthma and malnutrition. He says, "I am not afraid of death. But what will they do after?"

It is horrifying in our modern society to see such stark examples of poverty and child labor; of life reduced to it's fundamentals. Our world is at a crossroads, facing the consequences of our excess. It may very well be that our children and grandchildren will have to work harder and make do with less. They may never experience the luxuries we take for granted. Will it get so hard as these two examples? I don't think so.

Can we afford to lay down?

Only if we have excess. At our most fundamental, we must get up from our mat and determine a better day. Every day.

Friday, February 13, 2009

About Hope Again, About Living Fiercly

I picture grabbed me yesterday, a picture from the Obama campaign. It is a picture of the Cooper girls from North Carolina, on their first sight of Obama.

Maybe they grabbed me because the little girls look so much like my granddaughter. Maybe I want my little girl to have the same hope shining through her eyes as these girls have.

The photographer, Scout Tufankjian, describes the great excitement in that state where the grandfathers had lived through Jim Crow and the young men desperately needed to believe they have a future. Obama's success opens up all sorts of possibilities, doesn't it?

When I see this picture, I imagine the future for these little girls. It seems that the sky is the limit, doesn't it? I want my little granddaughter growing up with such hope, even as she grows up in a world groaning under the weight of our excess.


Edited to add: I've printed off some copies to inspire myself and others, and while I was at it, I paired it up with a quote from Theodore Roosevelt. Living fiercly.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit
belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust
and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and
again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does
actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great
devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the
end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least
fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and
timid souls who neither know victory or defeat. - Theodore Roosevelt

Thursday, February 5, 2009


A week ago I passed out a dozen "thank you" cards to those people I consider part of my support team. The list included family, health care supporters, and colleagues. It only took an hour, and each comment was individual and heart-felt. On most of the cards I thanked the person for helping me be "more than I am". At the same time I was able to clear out my odds and ends of note cards in my drawer that had been building up.

I don't know why, but I was surprised by the warmth got back, almost right away.

My daughter, "You really think of me as part of your support team?"

My hubby, a warm kiss.

My colleague, "You said very nice things about me". I replied, "They're all true, aren't they?". And she added, "You have a great way with words". From other colleagues I received hugs, smiles, and thanks.

My massage therapist, an enthusiastic welcome, "You rarely get thanks in this business. All my colleagues are so jealous." Maybe I am imagining it, but I noted she took more time to coach me through the process to make sure I was benefitting from the results. She's helping me to read my body in ways I've never noticed before.

Perhaps in my lifetime campaign to improve intake experiences, I will also encourage people to carry along note-cards to thank people every day that make a difference. It pays forward, sideways, and right away too.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Taste Testing Tripe

You gotta hand it to the Special K marketing team. They've established a brand of diet breakfast food that lives large in the North American psyche. Too bad it's bad for the dieter. Why? It's got a glycemic index in the stratosphere. This adult version of "Rice Krispies" is absorbed nearly as fast as sugar. There's no fiber to slow it down. But it's so light and crispy...and thin sounding. I am sure people feel thinner just by buying it.

So you can imagine my excitement when Special K releases a low glycemic version of it's product, called "Satisfaction". (I see that "Satisfaction" is not mentioned on it's national site, www.specialk.com . I wonder if this is a Canadian release, to check out it's popularity?)

One bite of "Satisfaction", however, and I was flooded with disappointment. They've loaded it with sugar! I felt my insulin defences rallying to put off the invader. Why, oh why did they add extra sugar?

I'm sensitive to added salt, sugars, and fats now. I've been weeding these tasty extras from the diet, and slowly learning to appreciate the underlying texture and tastes of the foods they are hiding. Of course, as an abstainer of these delightful additives, I now have a heightened awareness of when they are included. And I have a deepening suspicion of why the manufacturer bothers. What are they hiding? Are they masking an inferior product?

I am similarly peeved when a manufacturer removes one "baddie" only to raise another. For instance, "low fat" peanut butter is given an extra dose of sugar. The same with mayonnaise. What? They don't think serious dieters are going to read the label?

Also deceiving is to declare a product "low fat" that never had any, like puffed wheat. Puffed wheat is great. It's a plain cereal, puffed up. No hidden agenda there. Again, how dumb do they think we are?

I wonder as consumers if we are inadvertantly biting the hand that feeds us. I can imagine with any new product that is not loaded with sugars, fat, or salt, the tester is going to notice. Especially if they have not weaned themselves from these three. The first reaction, and I can dearly remember going through it myself, is "yuk". Is this what the food really tastes like? With time, however, the tastes adjust. I now enjoy vivid food flavours, the natural tastes formerly hidden.

I wonder how much time is given for a new tester (consumer) to adjust to a new food? Is it on first taste? After all, a single "yuk" incident might result in the product never being tried again. I would dearly love the manufacturers to re-think their taste testing and allow the testers to try the food over several sessions. Perhaps also their use of other marketing incentives will encourage consumers to stick with a product past the first taste. After all, good is good.