This Blog is a creation of the Confederation Park 55 + Activity Centre's Writing Club, No Dead Horses.  All Views expressed in this blog are strictly views of the writing club and not the Confederation Park 55 + Activity Centre. If you have any questions about the blog or would like to be a guest writer, please email info@yycseniors.com.

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  • 18 Jun 2021 8:51 AM | Anonymous

    I Owe You One

    Dear Rael,

    I have been meaning to put pen to paper and write this letter to you for some time now. I have always struggled with my writing. Perhaps it’s because I lack opposing thumbs. Sorry I couldn’t help that.

    I want to tell you how grateful I am to you for saving my life recently.

    Remember when you took me to visit that office in the building where you work and that lady dropped a Ritalin pill on the floor and I thought it was a treat so I swallowed it.

    And then she told you not to worry because her dog had swallowed a similar pill and nothing bad had happened and she said that I would probably be a little drowsy and would sleep for a few hours.

    We didn’t know then that her dog weighs 55kgs and I only weigh 4.5kgs.

    I am so glad that you didn’t accept what she said at face value and that you took me back to our office and called my vet and they told you to induce vomiting and you didn’t want to do that until you realized they meant in me and then you panicked when you realized we were out of hydrogen peroxide so you stuck your finger down my throat and I bit you and then we both had to go to the doctor and they made me puke my guts out and then they made me stay me for eight hours and they kept giving me charcoal, which tastes like s*%t and then you and Gimalle came and took me home and we went for a walk and I pooped that black stuff out of my bum and three weeks later after much rain and snow it was still on the pavement.

    The next day when the vet called to check up on us she told you that the lethal dose of Ritalin for puppies is 1mg per 10kg of body weight which means that if you hadn’t rushed me to the ER I would have died twice.

    I’m so glad you didn’t listen to that lady because, even though she is a sikolijist (I don‘t think I spelled that right), and she meant no harm, she didn’t know what she was talking about.

    Rael, this is really important so I want you to tell everyone. Please tell people that it is a really bad idea to give advice when you don’t know what you are talking about, even if you are well edjewkayted (oops). The consekwenses (that’s a tough one) of bad advice can be devastating.

    I know everyone has an opinion (God knows, you sure have a lot of them) but I really want people to learn that just because something is their opinion, doesn’t mean it is right.

    Anyway, I just wanted to get that off my chest. Also, sorry about that little incident on the carpet right after you had it cleaned. Also, before I forget, your wallet is behind the couch in the reception area.

    Thanks again. You’re my hero.

    Don’t tell Gimalle this, but you’re my favourite.

    I love you,

    Malka.

    Till we read again.


  • 14 Jun 2021 8:38 AM | Anonymous

    Silence

    What do you say when you have nothing to say? I have been pondering this week’s blog for some time now because I felt like I had nothing to say. And then it hit me! Silence! Ironically, silence is an important art in conversation and communication and, as with most quality art, most of us are not very good at it.

    For one thing silence is awkward. Have you ever walked up to someone you haven’t spoken to in some time and after the required, “Hi” and “How are you?”,  there is silence. Time and distance has created a void defined by silence. At this point I blather on about some inane, non-relevant thing that no one really cares about but it fills the dreaded quiet.

    I feel responsible for correcting silence. No one is talking. Yikes! Let me don the jester’s hat and start to entertain. I am desperately trying to cure myself of that sense of duty. After all, isn’t conversation a shared endeavour, a balance between all parties? When one joins a conversation, there is an implied obligation to contribute. First, one should contribute in a meaningful, respectful way. We should be conscious of one another and make sure that we are neither monopolizing the airtime nor sitting back an aloof observer who could be perceived as judgmental or dull.

    I like that idea of a Talking Stick. The person with the Talking Stick is the person who speaks. And, don’t hog the Talking Stick? Some people are very artful conversationalist. They know when to talk and when to listen and also, how to get others to join in.

    Practicing silence during a conversation enables you to practice listening. Silence does not mean listening. You could be daydreaming. I read once that a person thinks about sex every seven minutes…I digress. Listening involves being interactive with the person speaking not just preparing for the pause that you can jump in and speak again.  Some people don’t wait. They start talking right over the initial speaker. At that point I usually stop talking but lately, as an experiment, I just keep on talking to see how long the conversational duet lasts.

    I have seen situations where the conversation fell just short of being a contact sport. In some circles one must steel themselves for the sparring for audio space, filling your lungs to capacity and entering the ring with determination and vigor. Don’t pause or you will find yourself on the mat.

    Guilty of being a long talker, I have put myself in conversational rehab observing the best and trying to emulate their refined art of conversation. The bottom line is our reputations include the kind of conversationalist we are. (A hint is people tend to go down the other aisle in the grocery store when they see you.)

    Silence should be easy but it seems to take a lot of effort. Which brings me to the value of silence as a learning tool. I don’t learn much when I am talking. Chances are though there’s opportunity to learn when I am listening. In other words, silence opens us up to hearing others and, sometimes, we have to wait quite a while for some to speak. The quiet ones are often the ones who have the most valuable things to say because they have been doing most of the thinking while we were talking.

    Good relationships depend on good conversation of which silence is an important element. The best relationships can sit in silence and know it is ok.

    By Dawn Anita Mann


  • 4 Jun 2021 8:56 AM | Anonymous

    Old Fogey

    I ran across the definition of Old Fogy the other day and realized that I was now a charter member of the club. How could this have happened? There I was, only yesterday, in my 30s-activist, rabble rouser, defender of unpopular causes. And now, at 80? If I hear one more 13 year old telling me how I have ruined the planet and destroyed her future, I will do something that has serious legal consequences.

    The definition of an old fogey is “a derogatory term often used to refer to older or elderly people who are no longer act in current socially-acceptable ways or who are not aware of what is hip but instead who are out of touch with contemporary thought and activities. The term can also be used to describe a younger person to imply that they are acting old and no fun.”

    While I have not yet taken to yelling at kids to “stay off the damn lawn”, it is clear that I have taken to behaving in a currently socially unacceptable way without one bit of remorse. 

    I’m hopeless at hip, and while I am not so far gone as to think that hip is something that either aches or needs to be replaced, my musical tastes are firmly rooted in the 60’s (I wonder if Michael ever did get that blasted boat docked); believe that Mash was the last television show worth watching; couldn’t identify any modern movie stars that came onto the radar after George Clooney; and was grateful to be able to watch All in the Family before the Politically Correct nonsense became de rigeur.

    I don’t understand folks who never read a newspaper or listen to news other than Entertainment Tonight. I have never watched an episode of Friends (so tuning into the latest reunion seemed pointless) or The Simpsons.  And where on earth did they find that scrawny little runt to play James Bond?  Ian Flemming must be spinning in his grave.

    When I was teaching adults, it was not unusual to find blank looks and puzzlement when I used some phrases or references that clearly predated their age or education.  Now I find myself in that same predicament. Not only do they seem to have a vocabulary that is incomprehensible, but they talk so damn fast I don’t know what they are saying, let alone understand it. Context is not a lot of help either. I keep seeing the word “bae” in print, as in “He’s my bae.”

    To be honest, it was surprising to realize that I was now a member of the Old Fogy Consortium. I always considered myself as one of the people marketers defined as early adopters.  I was early in for such things as Lasik eye therapy, and any new technology, although I will admit now that I was slow to buy a fax machine.  I figured that it cost $4.05 to send a fax to Toronto. “It doesn’t cost that much” protested a friend. “Sure it does” I replied. “5 cents for the fax and $4.00 for the follow up phone call to see if it arrived.” And who, I ask you, uses a fax machine today?  Old Fogies, that’s who.

    Most young adults think their parents are Old Fogies.  They see us set in our ways and unwilling to change.  Have supper at 7:30? Don’t be ridiculous!. We’ll eat at 5.  We have always eaten at 5. Air conditioning?  Whadda ya need air conditioning for? Just open a window.

    But it seems to me that in order to truly be an Old Fogy you also have to be cranky.

    How do you know if you may be turning into an Old Fogy?

    1.     Everything invented after 1970 annoys the hell out of you.

    2.     You listen to CBC radio

    3.     While listening to CBC you find yourself shouting “That’s stupid”.

    4.     There are some topics your kids will no longer discuss with you.

    5.     You wonder when singing was replaced by screaming in songs.

    6.     You wonder why all action movies are shot in the dark.

    7.     You can’t work the programmable thermostat and simply put on a sweater when you get cold.

    8.     You clip coupons and then redeem them at the busiest time at the grocery store.

    9.     You constantly complain about the government but keep voting for the same party.

    10.  You know you’re not getting old. It’s just that people are talking too softly, print size in books has been reduced, and you’re not napping, just resting your eyes.

    by Pat Pitsel

  • 28 May 2021 10:39 AM | Anonymous

    Thoughts for Today . . .

    I’m sure that you have all become aware of the many inspirational messages that are seen everywhere these days.  They are the kind of thing that our grandmothers might have embroidered on pillow covers to complement the antimacassars on the parlor sofas.  Now we see these words of motivation on posters and even on tee shirts.  I noticed a collection of these encouraging messages on a sign that hangs above the toilet in the Ladies’ washroom at my dentist’s office!

    I slowly read them all and considered how each would relate to those of us in our 8th decade.   For example, “Make a Wish” wouldn’t work for me.  I have learned over the years that genies and fairies can’t be counted on.  To have things change requires communication, dedication, negotiation and sacrifice by more than one person in almost any situation.  A certain amount of give-and-take is needed whether dealing with relationships close to home or internationally.  Maybe the “wish” idea should be replaced with something like “get involved” or “do your part”.

    One of the messages I could identify with said, ”Make Your Own Happiness”.  This rings true for most of us especially during this pandemic.  With social distancing, we can’t count on others to keep us happy.  Many of us have given ourselves a pep talk and decided to forgo the wine and instead have taken up old (or new) pastimes like quilting, crafts, baking, playing an instrument, or even dancing in the living room. With the help of YouTube, we have discovered that there are experts available to guide us in most every endeavor.  We have mastered Zoom and other face - time ways to keep in touch with friends and family.  We are making our own happiness, ergo this Blog!

    At my age, the saying that was the most meaningful to me was “Remember to Breathe”.  Luckily, this is something that we do without much thought. One becomes more aware of the act of breathing when taking part in Yoga, Qi Gong, or other activities that emphasize relaxation techniques.   It is hard to escape the many distractions that we have even when we are alone. Sitting comfortably in a dark room, eyes closed, no electronic devices nearby, will lessen interruptions. Almost like being submerged in a sensory deprivation tank, our breaths  slow down and we would suddenly become conscious of air in and air out . . . remembering to breath.  I know that I’m not ready for the alternative!


  • 21 May 2021 8:44 AM | Anonymous

    Accessing Your Inner Introvert

    If you’ve ever taken a Myers-Briggs course, the first category is extroversion/introversion. If you’ve taken it in the past, and come out as extroverted, when you take it again, you may find that your introverted side has gained some points, because you’re older and have more time to enjoy being alone.

    All the personality profiles and learning styles inventories peg me as extroverted, but not “pointy-headed”; there was some introversion which I discovered as I travelled more on my own. I did what I wanted to do and didn’t need people to energize me.

    When the pandemic was announced and the world went into lockdown, I felt relieved because my time had been too busy and I’d been trying to pare down my activities. I found that I welcomed the time alone. It had a deja vu sense as if I was retiring all over again. I could sleep without setting an alarm. I could get dressed or not. I could eat when I was hungry and nap whenever I was tired. I didn’t have to talk to anyone; there were no commitments. It was an aimless comforting feeling. I was never bored and even doing nothing was doing something.

    People started commiserating that I must be finding it hard to be alone and isolated. I wasn’t sure that I should tell them I was enjoying my time, in case they weren’t.

    Once forced to stay home, with no social contacts, I reverted to the escapism from childhood that was in books. Dozens of books I’d never read sat on my bookshelves. I never went out unless to walk and had groceries delivered. My only human contact was the phone and I was beginning to resent its intrusion. I didn’t even turn on the radio.

    Maybe we get used to a certain level of energy that we think is normal for us, and try to sustain that, thinking that any less would be boring. But really, we can make anything interesting and challenging. My baking took me on adventures when I experimented with recipes. I ordered books by authors I’d never read, and wrote letters to seniors and children with health issues that I’d never met. My exercise was dancing to CDs that could eventually all be played and LPs that have gathered dust for years. My deck was my refuge almost every day this summer, sitting in the sun with my sunscreen and sunglasses, listening to the birds and watching the squirrels play. I had time to enjoy my own company.

    The last time I had a Myers-Briggs, I was 60% Extrovert and 40% Introvert.  I wonder if I took it now, would those scores be reversed?  Written by: Janet Wees


  • 14 May 2021 8:50 AM | Anonymous

    Gratitude

    Has it been said so often that gratitude has become a cliché? The first time I remember gratitude being touted as a panacea for all of our issues was on the Oprah Winfrey show. She promoted a gratitude journal. Apparently she writes in one every night before she goes to sleep or so she said. I have no reason to doubt her.

    At the time, I tried it but what I found out is that working full-time and caring for a family, I was either too tired or disinterested to take five minutes to write anything. Brushing my teeth took priority with that last gasp of energy. The elegant journal purchased from Chapters became a place for grocery lists.

    Looking back I realize how much I had to be grateful for at the time. When we are in it, we don’t often see how precious the time is. I look now at my daughter who has a young family. She is working full-time and frazzled. I understand completely why she cannot take five minutes to recognize that this might be the best time of her life. Life is miscalculated giving us banquets when we should just have appetizers.

    So I have spent some time coming to terms with the concept of gratitude. There are reasons to believe it is a perfectly reasonable frame of mind. But one has to be very self disciplined to not stray from the parameters set out by gratitude.

    Number one is that you shouldn’t compare yourself to anybody else. Be grateful for what you have. Well, I am grateful for what I have. But there are moments of deep resentment of others who seem so much better off for so much less effort. I believe young people call it FOMO or fear of missing out. Life doesn’t measure up to that portrayed in the social media. The platitudes iterate that you don’t really know what goes on in other peoples’ homes. I do know what goes on in their homes! I see it and I hear it. OK, let’s get past that one.

    The next parameter of gratitude is to look at what you have, not what you have not. I can do that! However, on some days the bar is pretty low. My aches and pains are only a six out of 10. My friend has eight out of 10 pain. Whoops, I slipped into the comparing myself again. I know it’s not a good day when I compare myself to Anne Frank during World War II hiding in her attic. Yes, I’ve been isolated and alone for months. Not quite Anne Frank. Nobody is going to kill me if I poke my nose out the door and I have food and shelter. Too much food.

    Gratitude tells us to look around for the beautiful things we have each day - the air we breathe, the blue sky, the sunshine and fresh air. This platitude was not written by an Albertan. Last Sunday I experienced four seasons in less than four hours. Beautiful blue sky quickly turned into gray clouds, quickly turned into driven snow, quickly turned into rain and then back to blue sky. Gratitude had to do a Covid ‘pivot’.

    Yes, there are days where gratitude is difficult. One has to fight human nature to compare and complain. I may not write in a journal but I do take a moment every day to exercise gratitude. I accept my moments of bitterness and disappointment. I think back to when I was a young mother working and raising children. I should’ve been much more grateful. I don’t want to make that mistake now. Although gratitude has become somewhat of a cliché, some days it’s the only thing that gets me by.

    By Anita Goodman

  • 7 May 2021 1:34 PM | Anonymous

    I have pulled together some communication tips that you might find helpful. Take the word “should” for example.  Most of us have probably said something along the lines of: “You should have done it this way”; or “You shouldn’t have done that”.

    The point is you can’t know you should have done anything in a previous time. Telling people what they should have done often creates anger and frustration. There is a simple fix which can improve relationships AND performance – “Next time, please do it this way”.  People can change behavior in the future; they can’t change it in the past.

    Have you ever had this kind of conversation with your significant other? “Where would you like to go for supper? “

    “I don't care. You choose”

    “How about going to the Chinese place?”

    “Nah I don't feel like Chinese tonight.”

    “Would you like to try Italian then?”

    “Nope, don't think so. H ad Italian for lunch”

    if this sounds familiar then you might want to change the question that you ask. Instead of asking where would you like to go for supper try asking “Where don't you want to go for supper tonight?”

    Did you know that saying, “I need your help with this.” is a more effective phrase than simply asking “Would you please do this for me?”  Most of us like to be of help to others and asking others for their help gives them the opportunity to in fact do that.

    Do you have a grandchild who continually asks “Why?  Many children go through this phrase and it can drive adults batty. Next time he or she asks grandma “Why is the sky blue?”  you only need to respond “I'm not sure. Why do you think the sky is blue?” First of all, you'll get some extremely interesting responses. Secondly you are teaching them how to look for answers to their own problems, and thirdly you indicate that you are listening to them.

    The next idea is not a specific phrase but nonetheless it is phenomenally effective in building better relationships. Compliment other people behind their back. Things always get back to people- praise or criticism and if people hear the positive things you have said about them from someone else, they are more likely to believe that this is true. There is a type of inborn skepticism that makes us think if you tell me something nice to my face you're just trying to butter me up. However, if you hear what somebody has said about you when you weren't there, you think they are sincere, and it leaves it leaves you with good feeling toward that person.

    Most of us are mature enough to apologize to someone when we screw up. Instead of castigating ourselves and lamenting how awful we behaved, why not express your feelings about what the other person has done? For example, if you're late to a meeting with someone, rather than apologizing for being late try saying “Thank you for your patience.” This identifies the good quality of the other person rather than focusing on your faults

    Ever have a conversation like this? “How was your day? “

    “Uh OK.” Conversation finished.

    If you really want to know how a person felt about their day, change the statement slightly and say, “Tell me about your day.” This is much more likely to give you additional information. Of course, you may still get a response of “Yeah it was ok” especially from teenagers, but asking someone to tell you about what happened during their day sounds more like you are interested in them rather than the tired or old formula how was your day?

    Another helpful phrase to use with kids or young teens when they are being contrary is to ask them which of two things they would like to do? That is, would they prefer to do their homework before supper or after supper? Would they prefer to wear the blue shirt or the red shirt? Children, in an attempt to develop independence, will often object to being told what to do. However, if they are given a choice between two or three things they feel less as if they are being controlled and more as if they have some meaningful input into the decision.

    Finally, if you want some better control over how you feel, put music on that resonates with the kind of feeling you want to have. That is, if you are feeling lethargic and you would like to feel more energized then put on music that is very lively. Although our tendency is to listen to music that matches our mood this is often not very helpful because it serves to prolong that mood. So, if you want to feel better, play music that will help you feel better and not music that emphasizes the negative feelings you're experiencing.

    Small changes in how you phrase things can produce huge results.


  • 26 Apr 2021 2:16 PM | Anonymous

    Two Degrees of Separation

    The theory of six degrees of separation doesn’t apply to people from Saskatchewan. It’s more like two degrees. We are connected to “a small world.” This may apply to all prairie provinces.

    My father, from Saskatchewan, served overseas during WWII. He met Benny, from Manitoba, when they were on leave in London. Of course, they shared photos of their wives. When my dad showed a photo of my mom, Benny exclaimed, “That’s Annie!” They’d gone to school together in Winnipeg! After the war, we lived 52 miles apart and our families visited regularly.

    I grew up in Saskatchewan, but when I was pregnant, we lived in Ontario. My first doctor’s visit was in Lindsay with a Dr. Lindsay. He looked at my file and said, “Saskatchewan! Do you know where Togo is?” Well, I’d spent my childhood there, and as it turns out, had lived next door to his wife!

    At the BC/SK reunion before Expo 86, I met a friend from U of S. We walked over to the Kindersley side of BC Place to find her brother Rob. We found him…with my brother! They were best friends. I didn’t know because I never knew Rob’s last name.

    As a White Hatter at the Calgary Airport, I was helping Burton Cummings one day. We talked about Winnipeg, and when I mentioned my maiden name, he got excited because he was a childhood friend of my cousin.

    A different small world experience was when, also at the airport, I was helping a young man from a KLM flight. Being familiar with Holland I asked him where he was from, and I just felt he would say somewhere I knew. When he said, “Nunspeet”, I almost hugged him. I have a friend there! When I mentioned her name, he said, “She’s my mother’s best friend!” And he called his mother on the spot.

    So, a friendly hint - always talk to people when you travel or meet them. Don’t be afraid to ask “Do you happen to know…?” You may find a connection 2 degrees away!


  • 16 Apr 2021 10:29 AM | Anonymous

    Take a Shot . . .

    Did you know there are a number of people who say they will not get a vaccine to help slow down or even eliminate Covid 19?

    Here I am, a Canadian, an Alberta  Senior who is usually pretty laid back about things that our Governments do or don’t do.  I might complain to my friends about things like lack of a Pharmacare program, the scarcity of affordable housing, the cancelling of Provincial bus service and so on.  These things are  difficult, but for the most part are not life threatening. Covid 19 is a danger to us all.

    I look on myself as a moderate in many ways.  However, the reaction some people have toward steps taken to thwart the Pandemic has brought out a hard-nosed, unsympathetic side of me.  Refusing to wear masks as recommended is bad enough, but some of the reasons for avoiding the vaccine would be laughable, if not so startling and dangerous.

    One lady told me that she wouldn’t get the vaccine because she had been around lots of people who had tested positive and she ”didn’t get it”.  Another said she didn’t need the vaccine because she took Vitamin D which lessened the chance of becoming very sick if you contacted the disease.  The explanation that really made my jaw drop was that the idea that the government was injecting tiny microbes (?) into us so that we would be under the influence of mind-control!

    I have now come to be absolutely convinced that there should be no “right of refusal” to the vaccine.  Each of us must do  our part in defeating this disease.  Sometimes the driving force must be the greater good . . . laws to ensure the safety and well-being of the population.  I would go as far to make sure that existing vaccinations for ALL communicable diseases would also be compulsory.

     I am looking forward to the issuing of a Covid 19 “Passport” for travel both in- country and internationally.   This would be no more trouble than having a license to drive a car.  I imagine this document could be required by airlines, cruise ships, and other modes of transportation.  Will I feel that my personal freedom is being denied?  Not at all! 

    We are all in this together and we must do our part to keep each other safe.  Please wear those masks and get vaccinated so, hopefully, we can once again get together and enjoy life.

    Submitted by: Bev Cumming

  • 12 Apr 2021 9:54 AM | Anonymous

    Sunshine and Shoe Leather

    My happiness is weather dependent. Now, living in Alberta that leaves me quite vulnerable. The pandemic has added another level to weather watching. No question, the pandemic has affected us. But I find that I can cope with it much better when the sun is shining, the temperature is above at least 5°C and I can get outside for a walk.

    I’m not alone. Recently on the 6 o’clock news, my favourite anchor reported that psychologists and doctors are now prescribing going outside for a walk. That is, when people get out in nature for a walk, their mood improves. We are so fortunate that in Calgary there are multiple walking paths never mind the trails as close as twenty minutes outside the city.

    Throughout this pandemic, I have walked many, many kilometers. And I’m not alone. My normally quiet neighbourhood is bustling with walkers. I heard rumours that when we were in early lockdown and allowed to go outside only for groceries or to walk the dog that there was a hot market for canines. My somewhat chunky dog is now a lean, mean, walking machine.

    I’ve lost 17 pounds. For the credibility of this blog, I cannot credit solely walking for this achievement as I also watched my calories. But I think going out for a long walks has taken me away from the kitchen and away from the call of food. “Feed me!” as Audrey II, the voracious plant in the movie, Little Shop of Horrors would say. “Walk me!” pleads my pooch.

    Going outdoors has also allowed me to socialize with my friends. Protocols say no indoor gatherings. So, let’s go outside for a walk. At first the conversations were a little breathless as we huffed and puffed up the inclines. Now, the hills don’t seem quite as steep nor the pauses, quite as long.

    The simple act of one foot in front of the other offers so much mental health benefit, socialization and physical fitness. A ‘young’ friend of mine (60) speaks of her father who is 86 years old and in good health. She credits his two hours a day of walking.

    I am grateful that my legs still faithfully carry me without too many aches and pains. I know there will likely come a day when walking will be too difficult. Some of my friends are in that place now and the flights of stairs in my walk-out home act as a warning sign.

    I realize it is a bit of a chicken and egg situation. One walks to maintain health but needs health to walk. Maybe one day I will be going for a ‘roll’ but I know as long as I can I will be getting outside. In the meantime, you will see me strutting, a sure fire way to help cope with this pandemic. So here’s to a sunny day, dry pathways and a good pair of shoes. See you out there!

    Anita Mann

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