Small Annoyance. Noises in the night.

Annoyance - Photo of Rose of Sharon by Belynda Wilson Thomas

 

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie, O, what panic’s in thy breastie! Thou, need na start awa sae hasty, Wi’ bickering brattle! I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee, Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

A small annoyance this morning woke me up at About five o’clock. I heard something outside my window. Scratching or pecking or something. I got out my cell phone and in the darkness I took pictures. I couldn’t see anything in the picture but the pecking or scratching continued. Then it would stop. I went back to bed. The scratching or pecking started up again. I got up a few times and got the noise stopped before my husband got up.

“Why’s the blind up?” he asks. “Something’s making a noise”. A little while later I said, “there it is again”. He could hear it, he took the phone and turned on the torch shining it in the direction of the noise. Eventually the noise stopped. A few minutes later it started again. He took the torch and shone it up at the corner of the window. “It’s a mouse,” he said. Sure enough as he held the torch I could see a little mouse at the corner of the upstairs bedroom window. “It’s gone,” he prounounced.

He went down to make coffee. I got back in bed. The noise started up again. I went downstairs and we shot water from the hose up at the window. That little mouse came running down the side of the house. He or she was a very tenacious mouse. No wonder we can hardly build anything they can’t get into.

That little mouse made enough noise that I couldn’t sleep. I’m glad it woke me up and we shot it down with water. Who knows how long it needs to work on what it is working on to get in the house. Tomorrow is October the mice are looking for a warm place to go.

Is that mouse a metaphor for some of the things that happen in our life? Small things that seem bigger than they are, that can become bigger than they are if we leave them be? They started out as a small annoyance they can become a big problem.

Is there a simple solution for most of our problems? We just haven’t thought of it yet. It took a stream of water to dislodge that mouse from the window. It also, only took a stream of water to dislodge that mouse from the window. I hope the water is enough to keep it from going back to the window or anywhere else near my house.

But mouse-friend, you are not alone In proving foresight may be vain: the best laid plans of Mice and Men go oft awry, and leave us only grief and pain, for promised joy.

To A Mouse by Robbert Burns. I haven’t read this poem in years. We take the habitat of little creatures away and wonder why they bother us while trying to survive. We must look like we have so much; surely there is room for a little mouse in the house.

We aren’t that generous. It’s cold and hard outside but dare you step in here we’ll have to take action. Small annoyances can be anything, we need to keep them in perspective.

Still, friend, you’re blessed compared with me! Only present dangers make you flee: But, ouch’, behind me I can see grim prospects drear! While forward-looking seers, we humans guess and fear!

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Finding love. Love them imperfections and all.

Choose love - Photo of five coral roses photo by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly. Sam Keen

I’ve been watching too much YouTube and have learned about a group of men called Men Going Their Own Way. These MGTOW men dislike feminism so much they are staying away from serious relationships with women especially marriage.

I might be crazy but I think marriage benefits men even more than it benefits women. Married men are healthier, more successful, and live longer than unmarried men. I really think marriage benefits women but we can still have our children and a family without a man. Men may hate this about us; we only need them for a short time in the procreation process.

Now we can make our own money so we can financially support our family. It would be harder alone. It would be lonelier alone. How lonely are these men going to be later on? Society has always managed without some of our men. How could we have had World War 1 and World War 11 and not suffered much as far as population growth. Because the women still had children.

I grew up in an area where we had (or so it seemed to me) a lot of bachelors. They were to me sad, lonely men, who sat on a plot of land and didn’t do much with it, while beside them married men built a life with their wives, had children and prospered.

In Jamaica we were surrounded by a group of happy young people. Most of them coupled in serious relationships. You hurt yourself when you are too picky to find a real person and build a life with them.

Love is not just about finding a good partner. It is also about being a good one. Unknown

I’ve heard of women who wouldn’t go on a date with someone because she didn’t like the shoes he wore. Really, you couldn’t take him shoe shopping? I remember being picked up at the airport by my husband wearing a short sleeved brown shirt. I hated that shirt. It wasn’t a deal breaker. He had it before we got together; he never bought another one like it.

We mostly buy clothes the other likes. If I had met him with that shirt on I don’t think it would have been a big enough thing to not go out with him. We women are overlooking diamonds in the rough because someone hasn’t gotten them the perfect haircut yet, or the best cut of clothes for their frame, or into a fitness routine.

They might need to get their teeth fixed. George Clooney needed to get his teeth fixed. We need to look past the imperfections to the real person and the possibilities in a potential relationship. I think both men and women like what they see when men and women are in happy relationships. They don’t want to take the chance and build that happy relationship out of the person in front of them who isn’t in one yet.

We have to see the potential in people. Many women who are married to successful men didn’t get him when he was successful. They married or at least started dating the guy with potential.

It seems to me if by the time we are thirty we haven’t found a good potential mate then what are we looking for? From sixteen to thirty and I think twenty five more like it, we meet a lot of people. How could one of them not be a good potential partner?

I understand people who haven’t been married by a certain age have less chance of marrying than a divorced or widow/widower has of remarrying.

According to a National Health and Social Life Survey, 51 percent of married men were extremely satisfied with their sex lives, while only 39 percent of cohabitating men and 36 percent of single men could say the same. Research shows that men are more sexually satisfied when they are in lasting relationships because both spouses are making a long-term investment in intimacy.

I understand that six men to one woman want non committed sexual relationships. Six women to one man want committed relationships leading to marriage. We have a serious conflict here. Women need to make sure they are getting into relationships where both partners want the same thing.

Perhaps women have to quit having sex with uncommitted men to screen out the potential marriage partners from just sexual partners. There are numerous books advising women how to do this.

Men and women need to go after what they want. When I was young I thought men and women mostly were after the same thing. Finding a partner to build a life with. A lot of young people still feel this way at least this is what I hear from my two kids. The problem arises I think when they don’t find the partner before thirty and are now jaded, wounded, and disillusioned.

When I was growing up my mom used to say “don’t get married too young.” She doesn’t say that any more as she sees some young people not bothering to get married at all. I don’t say it anymore either. Young people don’t need to get married so young as find the partner when they are young. When they decide this is the person, plan a wedding, don’t  just move in together.

I think both men and women thought when we got the risk of pregnancy out of the equation we could play with relationships. The bitter harvest of broken, hurt, disillusioned men and women shows me we are more fragile in this department than we thought.

You don’t need someone to complete you. You only need someone to accept you completely. Unknown

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Prayer is talking to God. You’re not alone.

Talking to God photo by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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God is always ready to listen anytime you are ready to talk to him. Prayer is simply talking with God. Unknown

Last night a new Toastmaster gave his first speech titled My Spiritual Journey. He talked about the conversation he had with God when his mother was dying of cancer when he was 15 or 16. God told him he could have ten more years with her. She recovered and he forgot about the conversation with God as he went about becoming a young man going to University and building a life. His father called him and told him his mother was very ill. She died ten years after his conversation with God.

It made him start having conversations with God again. This time he felt the conversations were one sided. He was talking to God but God wasn’t talking to him. Years later he felt God talked to him again, telling him that God was everywhere with everyone, all the time.

I’ve never had the experience of thinking God talked to me. An Aunt of mine was dying of cancer when I was about 16. My father and his brothers flew to Los Angeles to see her on her death bed. Her son was about 16. She prayed she would be granted enough time to finish raising her son. She got that time and much more. Later she accompanied her son on missionary trips to China.

If we can talk to God we are never alone. What do you need to talk to God? I don’t think you need anything just voice your thoughts, or meditate, whatever you find comfortable doing. I think this is the tricky part. Many people don’t feel comfortable talking to God.

When you pray, be sure that you listen also. You have things you want to say to God, but he also has things he wants to say to you. Joyce Meyer

I’ve always felt comfortable talking to God. I was very young when I started and that might make a difference. When we are young we don’t question if we can, or if we should, or who are we to think we can, we just do. It becomes comfortable. It is what we do in time of need, when we need answers to questions no one else can give.

In a strange way this relationship with God seems divorced from Church. I don’t know how to explain it. Walking in a forest, being by myself, out in nature or by myself at home is when I talk to God.

It is the most comforting thing in the world to talk to God when things don’t make sense, seem overwhelming and out of control. Being able to talk to God gives us strength to deal with what is. Whatever will be. We don’t have a choice, we have to deal with what is, the good the bad, the happy, the sad. Knowing we can get through it is different than thinking we can’t. We must get through it, the only way forward is through whatever lies ahead. Talking to God can make it better.

One night I dreamed I was walking along the Beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was only one. This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat. I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord. “You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me? The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child is when I carried you.” Mary Stevenson

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Listening to loved ones. Healing the breach.

Lulu Listens Photo of Lulu by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them. Ralph Nichols

“No one listens to me but you,” I heard my son say to our Scottish Terrier. Lulu is our second dog and she listens just as well.

Listening is the cornerstone of a good relationship. We need to feel heard to feel understood. When we don’t have the time, patience, skills or interest to listen to people they can become lonely and depressed. During a time of depression feeling listened to can seem as critical as breathing air.

Sometimes it takes one person in someone’s life to listen to them that helps them move on. We hear about students who found that teacher.

I had a conversation with my husband the other day. He doesn’t see the reason for long conversations with strangers. My response is you usually don’t have short conversations when they are short that’s just chit chat. Real conversations that impact people take a little longer.

If you have lots of people in your life you may not need conversation so much. You get it from everyone. Some people are not so lucky, their circle is small. People don’t always have someone to talk to. Sometimes the most important things are said to strangers because they don’t feel they can talk to their family. They would be judged, ridiculed, ostracized.

Listening is not “Yes, but.” Listening is not, “this is what you should do.” Listening is not getting defensive. I need to work on this and not giving advice. Sometimes we only work out our thoughts in conversation. They are all jumbled up in there waiting to be released.

We often misinterpret each other’s messages while under the illusion that a common understanding has been achieved. Larry Barker

Sometimes people feel they can only talk about safe subjects but it isn’t the safe subjects they need to talk about. I’m reading a book called “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. It is her journey of finding herself as a Christian woman and writer and the conflicts of how women are portrayed in the bible and in Church. The second created and the first to sin. The woman is man’s glory and her glory is her hair. Let women learn in silence and be submissive. I permit no woman to teach or have authority over a man.

I remember learning those things and how they impacted me as a girl on the cusp of womanhood. When you learn these things, who do you talk to about them? When I expressed it to one of my Aunt’s and I don’t know what I said. She replied, “there are gifts, or joys or something in being a woman.” It was probably the best answer because it was true, and she didn’t make me feel stupid for not liking what I was hearing.

It seems like a small thing, to acknowledge what someone is feeling and not diminish it. She could have said I didn’t have a right to not like what I was hearing, or to question the bible, and it would have affected me in a completely different way.

When someone listens to us, really listens we feel accepted, understood, valued and validated. We don’t feel invisible or alone and it gives us a voice to help us find our self again.

It is very powerful to be a listener. It is a skill worth developing. I’m trying, it isn’t always easy especially with some of the people we need to listen to the most. That is when defensiveness rears its ugly head. We feel if we let them say what they are saying we are agreeing what they are saying is true. A lot of the time we don’t agree with their side of the story, not completely.

We need to save our side of the story for another time. If we are telling our side of the story and they are telling their side of the story at the same time, no one is listening. No one feels listened to. There is no understanding, there is no healing. This is how a lot of problems don’t get solved and yet are talked about endlessly. But, we do communicate, we do talk we protest, it just isn’t working.

We can tell ourselves we listen endlessly, but our “yes buts,” and telling our side of the story doesn’t move the relationship along. It becomes an endless loop of conversations that go nowhere, change nothing, they are not effective.

We need to learn to listen. If we have rifts in our families listening is the likely antidote. Listening is the key to understand and understanding is the key to healing. It isn’t easy but it’s worth it.

The biggest mistake made by most human beings: listening to only half, understanding just a quarter, and telling double. Unknown

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Understanding each other. Understanding our self.

Understanding - Photo of African Violet taken by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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There would be no society if living together depended upon understanding each other. Eric Hoffer

Understanding each other sometimes seems in short supply. It doesn’t shock me that we don’t understand each other. I think most of us don’t understand our self. We are made up of many layers and understanding our selves is a lifelong project.

It’s hard to fit that in while doing the laundry, feeding kids, helping with homework, taking children to activities, being a loving and supportive wife or husband and each working full time at gainful employment.

Gainful employment, that’s loaded isn’t it. Any of you who have stayed home and raised children have been made to feel less because what you did was not paid work. Raising your own children we’ve somehow made less than doing something else. When you are looking after other people’s children it becomes worthwhile again, because of the pay.

Working women are pitted against stay at home mothers. Men are pitted against women, people of other backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, and pigmentations are pitted against each other.

If we could look into each other’s hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance, and care. Marvin J. Ashton

Some writers are writing about the feminine and the role of women in our present time as if women are the answer to all our problems. Women are for sure part of the answer. We need to work together, all of us. The problems of the world are not a male problem, white problem, or any particular religions problem. The problems of this world are here for all of us to do our part to make it a little better.

One of the big problems I have with the religions I have a little knowledge of is they are waiting for the end, the rapture. It matters that scientists forecast that with our current agricultural methods the amount of harvests we can have is limited. It matters that sea life is declining.

Thinking that women just have to get enough power to fix it, is wrong thinking in my opinion. It isn’t because we are women that we might come up with an idea to make things better. We need everyone’s ideas, everyone’s contributions.

If we become a matriarchal society I don’t think that will be better than a patriarchal society. We work best together. We help each other best as partners, husbands and wives, same sex, or opposite sex. When we find a partner to share our lives with and go through all life has to offer, that is the meaning of a well lived life.

We need to quit fracturing ourselves into ever smaller groups. This is why I’m with Jordan Peterson 12 Rules For Life in his belief of equality of the individual. That is the smallest group and when we have equality of the individual we can get on with doing what needs to be done. As an individual with equal rights, where you live, who with, what religion you belong to, what political affiliations you have is your choice. Your rights stop where they infringe on someone else’s.

When we find the person we want to go through life with we have found something worthwhile, we shouldn’t give up on easily. It is this relationship that builds families, communities, fixes problems, and makes things better. It is the family that understands what is good for my kids is good for yours. If your kids don’t eat, mine won’t either. If it isn’t safe for your kids it won’t remain safe for mine.

Many couples get together and think, two of us against the world. How about thinking two of us for the world? What is the small thing we can do to use our talents, creativity, people power to influence our corner of the globe in a positive way? We need to think win/win.

How can we harvest crops and better the soil? How can we harvest from the sea and not deplete it but keep it ever healthy and in balance? What economic platform is good for growth and sustainability, people and corporations? There are questions to be asked and work to be done. We are better when we do it together.

The easiest thing in the world is to become bitter and disappointed because things haven’t gone as we hoped, planned, expected. We are here, in our relationships, our world problems, our local problems, our cross cultural divides, our religious schisms. We need to find a way to share our homes, our planet, our countries, our cities.

The world needs us to work together not pitted against each other. We are stronger together. We need to work through our problems and put our differences in perspective. It doesn’t matter if this relationship is between husband and wife, parents and children, employers and employees, native born and immigrants, different races, nationalities, religious affiliations, sexual orientations. We can and must learn to work together. If we are all equal as individuals, that is true equality. It is, I believe the only equality we can achieve. As individuals we can learn to understand each other, and make a difference in our corner of the world, our sphere of influence.

Life is the first gift, love is the second, and understanding the third. Marge Piercy

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Courage to grow and change. Nothing new under the sun. Rehashed words, worn phrases.

The Power of Groups painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear. Mark Twain

It takes courage to live a good life, a life that is true to yourself. I am not writing anything new. I didn’t expect to. We read to see ourselves and situations that make us go, yes, I’ve been there, I’ve thought that, I’m not alone.

It’s our turn to do what hordes before us have done. We don’t do anything new except use technology people didn’t have. The fundamentals are the same we are born, we live, we love, we reproduce, we raise our young, we die. If we do it well we live a full life filled with purpose, meaning, joy, wonder, creativity.

We want to be special and different, and we are different like snowflakes are different. Some people believe our lives are ordered by a greater power, dharma, luck, chance.

There is power in focusing our thoughts in prayer, mantras, gratitude. When we tap into the energy that runs the world for some that is God, for some it is unnamed, we tap into a source of power that can lift us up and help us deal with the dark times.

Nihlism is a word being bandied about to explain the general mood of despair at a perceived pointlessness of existence that one may develop upon realizing there are no necessary norms, rules, or laws. As I understand it nihilism relies on rage, intellectualization and depression to exist. How do we overcome it, or help others overcome it?

We don’t develop courage by being happy every day. We develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity. Barbara De Angelis

Every religion has found “the right path,” the one true path in their eyes. There is truth in every religion. I believe if you follow any religious text from any religion you would live a good life with meaning and purpose. Is each one a path leading to the same end? Does it matter which one we choose?

We are judged by our actions, not our words. A lot of us would rather be known by our words. Words are easy they come tripping off our tongue, blog, book, or podium. Our actions, now that’s tough. People can look at our life and see if our philosophy is working. Sometimes they only see the show we are putting on. Underneath the fancy clothes, big house, cars, education, is a seething mess of twisted thinking, stepping on other people to get ahead, broken relationships, bitterness and misery.

Our life is to sort out what we want, get the kinks out of our thinking, find a purpose, find a mate, raise happy, productive and positive children. Life is messy, sometimes we don’t take the straight path. Some lessons are hard won. We can’t know what someone else has to learn or where they are on the path of learning it.

It seems some people are born knowing the rules of living a good life. Their life unfolds as if they knew what they were doing. Maybe they do. Others live as if the twists and turns of fate are against them and difficulties lie at every turn. Why do some people appear to have life so easy and some have life so hard? Why do some people get addicted to alcohol and drugs? While other people can be recreational users?

Why are some people predators and some people prey?

We find our answers through our own and other people’s experiences.  Oral traditions have given way to written word, movies, documentaries and TV shows. Sifting through it all can be daunting. We never know who has learned the lesson we need to learn.

We sometimes think people should watch the shows we think worthwhile. Read the books that shaped our lives. Be part of the religion that shaped us. We are all on a journey. We find inspiration and meaning where we find it. Others need to find their own inspiration and meaning, learn their own lessons, walk their own path. We’d like to make it easy for them. In making it easy for them we rob them of their own experiences, their own triumphs, their own lessons.

It takes courage to live through the up and downs, twists and turns of life. Until we reach the end we don’t know if it will be bitter or sweet. If we will be bitter and broken or an example of a life well lived with courage and humor.

It can take more courage than we think we have to take the next step. We may need to forgive someone, we may need to forgive our self. Our life may need to be rebuilt. We may need to live with the emptiness that was filled by someone we loved. Life moves forward and we need to move forward with it. Deal with what is, whatever that may be. It takes courage, and if we dig deep we find it.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. Winston Churchill

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The Courage to Be Yourself: A Woman’s Guide to Emotional Strength and Self-Esteem Paperback – January 1, 2016


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Commitment and choice. Loving what is.

Good Enough - Photo by Belynda Wilson Thomas of Two Day Lilies

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You must love in a way that makes the other person feel free. Thich Nhat Hanh

Marriage gives us the freedom to explore a deeper commitment than any other relationship. We get to know our partner warts and all. They know our weaknesses and we know theirs. In a good relationship our strengths and weaknesses build something better than either of us could apart. We are stronger together.

When he wins, she wins. Children don’t see a perfect marriage they see two people working things out. They see the peaks and valleys that come in life. Their mother is there for their dad in his grief and he is there for her in hers.

Two people navigate careers, each others families, holidays. This is going to be a challenge for my daughter and her husband this year. Christmas a time of togetherness can pull people in two directions, trying to satisfy everybody they satisfy no one. Not even themselves.

It’s too early to talk of Christmas. First they need to get the thank you cards out. My husband and I had free tickets to a youth choir Christmas Concerto. We couldn’t bring ourselves to go to a Christmas event this early. We went to a movie instead.

Personal freedom is something we foster; it is not something handed to us. It is our emotional work that heals the binds that tie us; we also have to let our partner heal the binds that tie them. This only happens from a place of emotional maturity that owns and accepts, but does not blame.

A strong relationship requires choosing to love each other even in those moments when you struggle to like each other. Unknown

We create confining feelings within relationships to give us a feeling of control. Being “right” often makes us overly controlling. We begin to create prickly borders around our hearts. We put this controlling mechanism in place to protect ourselves from being hurt. That barbed wire fence around our heart hurts ourselves as it hurts others. It’s as hard for us to get out as it is for someone else to get in.

We yearn for connection and freedom. Commitment is that freedom, if we do it right. Through connection to someone we can explore honest, genuine and authentic love.

When we are in denial of our deepest pain we lash out, build walls and blame the world. Our lives and relationships suffer. We need to shift our energy, unlock our heart, give our self the gift of compassion, grace and forgiveness and heal the wounded parts of our self.

We need to deal with our feelings of insecurity,  being unlovable, pain, and shame.  Life has let us down. We have let ourselves down. The people we love have been let down. We are human. We are not perfect.  Still, we are worthy of love from our self and others. Often before we can accept forgiveness from someone else we need to accept it from our self.

We are enough. We are not perfect; we don’t need to be perfect. We need to be accepting, warm, compassionate and vulnerable. We may get hurt if we love. We hurt our self when we don’t open up to the love being offered. If we rebuff the other person often enough they no longer offer.

They start to pull into themselves, protecting their heart. Soon you have two lonely, isolated, hardened, unfeeling people sharing a space. Some couples live their lives together two broken souls, hardened, bitter, unloving. Other couples are still two broken souls but they help each other mend the broken pieces, they are open, loving, vulnerable. They become strong in the broken places. They don’t expect each other to be perfect. They love what is. They find it’s enough.

Love is a decision.  We need to honor our commitment. When someone does something wrong we need to be careful we don’t forget about everything they’ve done right.

A true relationship is two imperfect people refusing to give up on each other. Unknown

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The Marriage Mantra: 10 Guiding Principles to Build a Beautiful Marriage Paperback – July 14, 2016


 

Dancing with Dementia. Making the best of what is.

Attitude Is A Choice - Photo of sweet pea by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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One person caring about another represents lifes greatest value. Jim Rohn

This morning I stop and watch a clip on TV before I come to write my blog. The topic is dancing with dementia. The muscle memory remains and the music enables people to regain closeness when dementia is closing doors. The goal is to have fun, physical movement, closeness. It looks like it’s working on TV.

We need to build closeness into our relationships at every stage. Sharing activities, accomplishments, friends, relatives these are all strings that bind us close. Music connects us in a way that few things do. Old age homes should be filled with the music the residents grew up with and danced to in their active years. Are there any fun old age homes?

I haven’t been in many. The one I was in, visiting someone with my mother was hospital quiet. When my late aunt was in a home she said she had to get out or she would become just like the other residents.

I hear we have romances and dare I say it, “sex” going on in some of these places. Why wouldn’t we? People are still people at the end of their lives does it matter so much if people have a little fun and excitement in their life? No one is getting pregnant, there are no social issues coming out of having fun in a retirement home.

The belief that all we need to do for the elderly is keep them clean, fed and safely tucked away is destroying lives. I’m reading there is a better way and it is being implemented in Ontario, it is called the Butterfly program. The man responsible for this program is Dr. Sheard from Britain.

They start in one long term care home. The walls go from beige to bright retro colors chosen by Sonja Hidas curator and educator with the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives. The bright blocks of color help the residents with spatial problems navigate hallways that in beige look like endless confusing tunnels.

Sonia Hidas learns about the residents, where they come from, and interior designs that were popular in the decades when they were raising families or working. Brilliant colors are key because they are bright and happy. As children we enjoy bright and happy colors. When we become seniors colours come back to us. It’s part of being in the present moment and just enjoying what is.

What happens to a person is less significant than what happens within him. Louis l. Mann

People who are lonely and bored become frustrated and sometimes angry. The industry calls this “responsive behaviors,” saying it’s an outcome of dementia and other neurological problems. Sheard disagrees. He says it’s the result of frustration, loneliness and boredom, created by cold, clinical care.

A keyboard is brought in and one of the residents flips through song sheets, taking requests. The response to the music is that manic walkers no longer pace endlessly, everyone is calmer as the music taps into deep emotions. In the dining room cd’s are played.

A mini fridge is brought into the dining room. Residents are allowed to serve themselves any time of the day. Small pleasures bring back the humanity. There are other changes they want to make. They want to split the dementia unit into two. One side for residents still mobile. The Butterfly project realizes small homes are key. Most nursing homes are built to house 32 people per unit, an arbitrary number chosen years ago in the belief that bigger is better, particularly for operational efficiencies.

The staff has dropped the scrubs, street clothes are a requirement in the unit now.

Butterfly’s David Sheard says people with dementia can’t explain their emotions. Their emotions are best understood through metaphor. If the elderly woman is calling for her mother, what is she really seeking? It’s probably comfort, love or reassurance, so the Butterfly program says give that to her instead of the truth, “your mother’s dead.”

The staff has been trained in the old ways that dominate long-term care, focusing on systems and processes, not people. Butterfly relies on emotional intelligence, the ability to understand someone else’s feelings and respond with compassion.

The Butterfly project believes if you live in a sterile environment, it will kill your soul.

At the end of a year this care home passes the test and is recognized as a Butterfly home. It still has more changes to make but it has progressed a lot in treating the residents as people. It is now called by the person assessing it, a place of engagement and love.

The Peel council votes unanimously to keep funding the Butterfly project in this nursing home and to add it to a second facility. This Butterfly project has a financial cost but we have Politicians who would like to see the program adopted by the provincial government and expanded throughout all Ontario nursing homes.

This would be progress. Maybe we wouldn’t be so scared of ending up in one of these facilities if it seemed more like a home and less like an institution. We can’t stop the progress of age, disability and death. We can make it a little easier for those going through it. We can act like the people are still people. It is better for the people being cared for and the people doing the caring. Violence is a huge problem in people with dementia, caring for them like they are people seems to help.

We are moving in the right direction. We can put people ahead of profit. One small change at a time. We are learning to do better. We need to look at the positive changes being made. It is the goal of many people to bring positive change into the world. We need to acknowledge it when we see it. We need to be willing to embrace change. Things don’t have to be done the way they’ve always been done. We can make it better. We can fix the problems. We can start small.

There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver. Rosalyn Carter

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Songs You Know By Heart: A Simple Guide for Using Music in Dementia Care

Songs You Know By Heart: A Simple Guide for Using Music in Dementia Care

Feb 25, 2016

by Mary Sue Wilkinson and Teepa Snow
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Love is in the giving. Life is in the details.

Belynda Wilson Thomas painting of "A Place At The Table"

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Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you. Mother Theresa

Love is a verb I tell myself this morning as I stretch in bed, it is a delicious Saturday. I don’t have to get up so early. I spend a few more minutes in my comfy cozy bed.

When I come downstairs my husband has already made coffee. “Our kettle has a problem”, he says. I noticed it yesterday; I think it just boiled its last pot of coffee. It worked until it doesn’t work any longer. When things like this happen, would we rather have a warning or have it good till its gone?

Is this a metaphor for life? Coffee pots, cars, furniture, plants, pets, friends, children, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers. Everything in our life is here for a time; we are here for a time.

Were we good and faithful like my coffee pot? Were we like a TV we had where when we called in a repair man he took a hammer and said as he knocked against the TV, “trust me this is diagnostic.” We could have used the hammer ourselves, although he knew where to place the blows and we didn’t. That makes all the difference. In the end he couldn’t fix it, but we could still watch TV, although we couldn’t watch good TV.

I found a quote by Jessamyn West. It is the loving women not the loved who feels loving. I believe love is a choice, a verb, an action. If we can feel loved by loving instead of by being loved then we are in control. We can engineer our life to fill the holes our self. This is a great epiphany for me. We are more in control of our lives than we think we are. Many women are looking for someone to love them; instead we should be looking for places to put our love.

We can make the choice to love. This can be challenging with children, parents, husbands, wives, and friends at times. I’ve often looked at people who are caretakers of people who don’t appear to be able to give anything back. Perhaps the people who look after them understands the gift of being loving gives you back the gift of feeling loving.

We like ourselves more when we are loving. So many people feel they don’t have enough love in their life. Are we searching for the right thing? Instead of searching for someone to love us, do we need to search for ways to be loving? Romantic love may be the trap here. We expect too much from romantic love and not enough from the rest of our life. People love belonging to big, messy, loud, rambunctious families. There is all this love being shared. Instead of feeling there isn’t enough to give to everyone there is love multiplied and a feeling of belonging.

We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love.  Mother Theresa

If love is a verb and it makes sense to me it is. It isn’t something we get, find, fall into, it’s something we do. We don’t need to be waiting for love. We need to be spreading love everywhere like thick butter on our toast. Slathering love all over the place. When we find the happy people they are often the most giving, generous, open, loving. There is always room at their table for one more. They have time to sit and talk. They have a kind word, a ready smile, encouragement. We like to be around them. They seem comfortable in their own skin.

Sometimes when my husband and I are having people over the guest list keeps expanding as he keeps thinking of more people to invite. I sometimes get upset, why the last minute invites, worrying there won’t be enough food. I need to relax and let him spread the love by including more people. There is always enough food, there is usually too much. I need to relax and enjoy sharing the warmth of hearth and home.

Life is a little messier if you are adding a plate to your nicely laid table. The optics might not be as good, but the fun, joy and togetherness makes up for it. Worrying about the little things can make us miss out on some of the things we wish we’d relaxed and enjoyed more.

I’m going to work on this. I’ll find a way to be more loving, open, accepting, relaxed, and be more willing to set another place at the table.

It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving. Mother Theresa

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Where There Is Love, There Is God: Her Path to Closer Union with God and Greater Love for Others

Mar 6, 2012

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Autumn is here. Reaping and sowing.

Autumn is Coming Photo of pond by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together. For nature, it is a time of sowing, of scattering abroad. Edwin Way Teale

Time to put on a sweater or jacket days are here again. Breathing in crisp cool air, and biting into crisp apples. The leaves are starting to change. Some parts of Canada have had snow already. It’s here.

It’s been a fabulous summer. Only a memory of a treasured time remains. A new time is here to treasure until it too is over. This is our life, we think it doesn’t change but it does. We should be treasuring these happy golden moments. A day holds so much hope and promise. Twenty four golden hours, ours to do with what we want, and what we must. What we must looks after our life and what we want feeds our spirit. A happy dance of the two gives us meaning and purpose.

I haven’t been down to my studio since the wedding except to look, sigh and promise I’ll be back to putter and paint. We never know when it’s the last time we’ll do something until looking back we realize that was the last dress we sewed. The last quilt we made, the last picture we painted, the last swim in the ocean.

It’s already years since I attended the soccer games my kids played. We often don’t know things are ending when they end. The last time you saw a friend you didn’t know it was the last. The last time I saw my dad, I didn’t know it was the last. We don’t know, we can’t know it is the  last phone call, the last touch.

Life is about endings and beginnings. If we are lucky, new people enter our lives as old ones leave. Knowing how to make friends is a skill, a gift that carries through life. Some people don’t know how to make friends, they are alone and lonely. People who know how to make friends may still be alone, but I don’t think they are so lonely. People can even be lonely in marriages. We need to reach out, make a connection to family, friends, husbands, wives, sons and daughters.

I don’t know how you learn to make friends. One of the things I’ve discovered is when you find like minded people, and I have found them in my toastmasters group, it’s easy to feel welcome and accepted.

At the gym I go to, no one talks. We grimly do our workout. If we take a class there is some interaction. Is it the group of people assembled there? Is it the solitary activity? Is it me?

We are social animals and soon we’ll be getting ready to bed down for the winter. In winter I feel it is even more important to have connections to other people. Poems and stories are written about cozy snow covered homes with smoke rising from the chimney.

There is something incredibly nostalgic and significant about the annual cascade of autumn leaves. Joe L. Wheeler

I grew up in a home with too few bedrooms for too many people. Now we mostly live in houses with too many bedrooms for too few people. Some people have show homes inside and out but I don’t think those are the happy cozy homes. The happy cozy homes are filled with bedlam, laughter, jostling for position and bathrooms.

We are all looking for belonging. Is belonging to a family, organization, club easy? That depends on the family, organization, or club. We play a part in that relationship, we can make it better or worse. We can be part of the fun and frivolity or we can be sour and judgmental. This choice is up to us.

I always feel autumn is the time of year for change. Probably because we spent so many years in school and autumn was the beginning of a new school year. Autumn still seems to me a time of new beginnings. After a summer of fun and sun I get back to painting. Back to the gym on a more regular basis. I look around wondering if there is something new I can or should bring into my life.

Life is great in all its seasons. Embrace the changes in your life. Reach out to people, rekindle old friendships and make new ones. Get creative. Become a volunteer. Host a dinner and enjoy fun and frivolity. What would you like to do you haven’t done yet? Could you start now? Autumn is here, winter is coming, there is much to do.

One of the great joys of life is living in a cozy home looking out the windows at snow covered trees and knowing you are happy and cozy with peace and plenty surrounded by loved ones.

I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. L.M. Montgomery

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Ageless Soul: The Lifelong Journey Toward Meaning and Joy

Oct 10, 2017

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