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A close-up of a newly opened delphinium flower (Summer 2013).

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Is a Joy

The act of giving is life-nurturing. It doesn’t matter whom, what or when. What is important is that you give. Giving could be accomplished in many forms: giving a book to a wonderful friend, giving time to someone who needs you to listen and understand, or sharing one’s talents and resources to others who would benefit from them.
Giving allows you to feel a certain sense of abundance in your life. It gives you moments to cherish when you make the movement from your self to others that says, “I Care”. This movement is as natural as the sun giving its rays to everything on Earth.
My experience in giving consists of giving gifts to families and friends. My heart is filled with joy every time a simple gift is appreciated. Even though I am located halfway around the world, my sons and their families, as well as my friends, feel my presence in those gifts.
A somewhat unique kind of giving I have experienced here in Calgary is to help the creatures in our backyard survive, especially during the cold, winter months. The water, bird seeds, and peanuts are always appreciated by dozens of birds (sparrows, mostly) and some squirrels. My heart quivers with joy just by looking at these creatures eating and feeding themselves. I feel close to them. They are part of my everyday world.
Perhaps my experience of these creatures and how they need human support especially during cold winter months has led me to design my dissertation around connectedness. For me, there is no separation between humans and the world. Everything is interconnected. We are not only connected as human beings, we are also connected to our environment and to the larger cosmos. In this paradigm, there is no space for cruelty, violence and indifference. There is only space for love and care.
And so every morning this winter, and without fail, I go out and place bird seeds and sunflowers in the feeding area in our backyard. My husband, Deane, has been a big help, too, now that winter is here. He has taken the responsibility of placing bird seeds in two bird feeders in the backyard every evening, also without fail. 
I may have to change their water every two hours if the temperature is wickedly frigid. Sometimes, I feel my hands burn in the winter chill. I have been doing this for 10 years. Why? Perhaps I feel good in seeing the birds and squirrels eating happily. Or maybe there is something in me and about me that wants to care. What I know definitely is I experience joy in giving and it makes me appreciate life better.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Of Lemons and Lemonade

Lemons. Lemonade. Lemon cubes in a glass of steeped green tea. What could be more refreshing than a glass of iced tea as you relax and take a break?

I have high praises for lemons. I buy them often at Safeway so I could use them when cooking fish and red meat (beef steak, for example). Aside from its many uses as food condiment, I also convert them into iced lemon cubes for a refreshing cold tea during summer afternoons.
There is another way of understanding lemons–- as a metaphor for the tough, painful aspects or events in one’s life. If you have a slight cut in your finger and lemon juice gets into it, the result is a painful, stinging sensation. That is what we sometimes experience in our lives–some painful experiences. If we use the metaphor of the lemons, we could honestly say that life throws us a bunch of lemons regularly:).
What do we do if we are hit in life by a pack of lemons? The sure answer is obvious–make a lemonade!
I remember lemons were thrown in my direction when my first supervisor decided to retire abruptly in 2005 when I was a Ph.D. student at the University of Calgary. If you have been a graduate student in North America, you will agree that your supervisor is the most important person in the world until you finally get your diploma.  
My first supervisor was to be credited for helping me with the conceptualization of my research topic on connectedness as well as the making of my survey. He was so good with brainstorming with me. Just when I was in the process of doing my preliminary statistical data analyses, he abruptly retired from the University of Calgary and went back to the US with her also American girlfriend whom he later married in the Carribean. Afterwards, my supervisor and I tried to come up with a system through email wherein he could check my progress and edit some of my chapters. After trying for more than a year emailing each other, we both became frustrated and we decided I better find another supervisor who is based in the university and is currently teaching. I found a new supervisor in late 2006, an excellent one who has published more than two hundred journal articles and some books. After reading a couple of my chapters and writing comments on them, he just became inaccessible–he didn’t answer emails and my chapters were put in hold for many months.
My new supervisor didn’t get back to me after 6 months, around June of 2007. By this time, I had learned how to create beautiful Swarovski bracelets, just by reading books on jewelry-making. Some of these bracelets were sold at a Brentwood jewelry store, some have been given to my daughters-in-law, my grand-daughter, and a few to close friends. So when my new supervisor got back to me, I was a different person–I had learned something new! This was how I dealt with the lemons thrown at me when I was a graduate student. I have always had this belief that for every negative event or situation in our lives, all that we need is to come up with something positive. There are always new lessons to learn from even in the most terrible of human condition.

I am grateful to my two supervisors. I might have taken longer to finish my Ph.D. but they helped me figure out how to turn lemons into lemonade.
Have you received life’s lemons lately? Then for goodness’ sake, make a lemonade!