The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

28 April 2009


Do it to me, wind! Do it to me! (Number Four Nephew when we were playing with the sheets hanging out on the line. The wind blew one into my face, and Four wanted a turn, too.)

Number Two Nephew has on occasion wandered in his sleep. One night, as his mom and I were in the living room after his bedtime we heard bathroom sounds of doors opening and closing, and water flushing. Then there were footsteps in the hall in our direction. I noticed him, and asked him what was up. He mumbled something I didn't catch, and snuggled against me. Suspecting he might not be really awake, I asked him if he knew where he was; to which he answered "In my house". I asked if he knew where in his house he was, he said "In the middle" which was perfectly true.

The end! No more story! (Four's version of the grown-up "End of story!" meant to put an end to negotiations)

26 April 2009

The benefits of cheese

I just watched a cheezie old movie. I must draw your attention to those adjectives, for it was both cheezie and old. It is, however, an old family favourite and seeing it again was completely satisfying.

The thing is, life is meant to be lived...well and truly lived. We are meant to be fully alive, not lukewarm and half asleep. So... do the things that you really enjoy doing; spend your time on the things that satisfy you. Of course there are things that must be done -- dishes and laundry, for instance. I don't particularly enjoy them, but they must be done, and so they should be done well. On the other hand, vacuuming does not need to be done...I simply live without carpet and sweep instead. The quality of my life is vastly improved by this philosophy.

One of the things I really enjoy doing is watching movies. The movies need not be highbrow and deeply meaningful, but I find all good movies, even if a little bit silly, always have something to say. For instance the movie I just saw was about a New York City cantor, a jewish son from a long line of cantors. He had a wonderful musical gift, and was expected to take his place in the family tradition of singing in Shul. However, he wanted to be a singer/songwriter, and in persuing his dream, he alienated his wife and father. Both thought it was a waste of talent to 'sing about nothing' and that he should instead use his talent in service to God. I totally agree that our talents are meant to be put to use in ways that give glory, rather than allow them to waste away, or inflict harm. However, would Jess really have given glory to God if he could only sing halfheartedly in the synagogue? He wanted to share his gift with people...the need to do so burned in him.

His story is what led to my little rantlet in paragraph two above. Find the thing that makes you fully who you are, and do that thing really well. Fortunately for me a thing I do really well is cull wisdom from inanity and share it benevolently with all who care to listen.

25 April 2009


The military, while burdened with ungainly levels of bureaucracy (in triplicate)in some areas, is in other areas, succinct and efficient. One of those ways is in communication within its structure. The system is bemusing to the uninitiated: acronyms and shortforms for long names and phrases (such as the familiar AWOL for Absent Without Leave, and the not so familiar D/W for dependant wife), and cryptic codes for the normally short and sweet (such as Zulu for Zed. Instead of helping someone spell my name with 'Tea, Eee, Ess, Ess, I would say Tango, Echo, Solo, Solo...which actually is a lot of fun. I'll have to try that next time I have a chance. A dear friend and I used to quiz each other on the military alphabet -- but only when our very busy and very important jobs allowed) (But I digress).

Some of these military terms are satisfyingly perfect for the situation. You may have heard 'SNAFU'? Situation Normal All Fu...dged Up. There are times when that is precisely what has occurred: a previously under control situation has gone pear-shaped (an expression, which, frankly, I don't understand). You could go into a lengthy explanation of just how bad things are, but just saying "It was a bit of a snafu" sums it up very well.

Another expression I am fond of (it makes me giggle) is HUA. I believe it stands for "Heard. Understood. Acknowledged." As someone who relates with young children, I find this to be a useful word, and I mean to adopt it. Particularly now as Four is constantly repeating himself with the same questions...something One, Two and Three often do as well. (When's supper? Where's Opa? Can I?) With Number Four Nephew still learning speech, I don't always know what the desired response is, but he needs some feedback. Hua gives it all: I heard you, I feel your pain, you are important to me, I'm now getting on with it. The kids could be taught to give the response too, meaning: I heard you, I understand what you're asking of me, I will now clean my room without having to be asked again.

Four and Five have been delivered back home and are luxuriating in the presence of their tanned and relaxed parents, and I am giving an emphatic inner HUA. I received my mission, I knew what I had to do, and I successfully carried it out. Hua expresses my feelings perfectly: phew -- with a touch of thank the Good Lord.

19 April 2009


It is a little ironical that I have been meaning to write about motherhood and what moms and mothering means to me, a single woman of certain years, and childless. A friend suggested I submit some writing to a contest, the subject of which being moms and motherhood. I've been mulling over lately, whether it is being a mother to someone that makes a woman womanly. How much of being a mom is there in femininity? Can I have those qualities fulfilled if I am not a mom?

This week I am playing at being mom. I am (with the very able assistance of my own experienced mom) looking after Number Four and Number Five. I find myself with shockingly little time for sloth or idleness eh Phipps...or for writing about motherhood. (Did you catch that quote?) So, while I am elbow deep in diapers, runny noses and inspiration for things to write about, I am not likely to get much of it down on paper, or tapped into a keyboard.

As I wade, elbow deep in these fundamentals of life, I offer prayer upon prayer for all you moms who do this for real. God bless you! God bless you! God bless you!

08 April 2009


Look at that face: see that chubby goodness? Don't you want to pinch him, and coo over him...maybe squeal a little at how cute he is? At the same time, don't you feel like you could sit and absorb him for hours, hoping you'll have the chance to get to know him, who he will be, as a big person? I know myself to be a very fortunate person, to be able to see him every day, to feel his plump solidness sit ergonomically in my arms, to smell his slightly sour I-need-changing smell, to watch his face as he discovers something new, to see his eyes light up when he's pleased...and even hear his baby dinosaur screech when he's not.

Fortunately, for every one of his 365+ days he's been in the prime of health. He sleeps well, is prepared to be content, and shows no fear of life. Somewhere in Toronto tonight, are two families who are anxiously waiting to find out the fate of their own little ones. One was supposed to live because the other one died. One of the baby girls was going to be taken off her respirator and allowed to die. Her parents wanted to donate her tiny little heart to the other baby who apparently has only weeks to live because of a heart defect.

How can this story not break your heart? Both families are saying goodbye to their one and two month-old babies. The 'donor' family has been told their daughter, because of an obscure disease which has affected her brain formation, can expect to experience breathing failure, kidney troubles, and possibly other complications. So they decided to take her off the respirator to allow her to die in her sleep. Doctors prepared the 'recipient' baby for the transplant procedure, but guess what? The plucky little donor baby survived the night, breathing entirely on her own! And instead of rejoicing, the press has been talking about it in terms of a failure, that baby Kaylee is no longer able to be considered an organ donor because she failed to die. Biological anomolies are born and survive all the time. I really hope and pray that this little wonder will live, and live a full and happy life.

And yet. And yet, I really am sad for the other little one and her family, who came so close to having their hopeful dreams realized, and now must brace themselves all over again for having their bleakest dread come to pass. I cannot begin to fathom how hard it must be to see such a tiny little person having to fight for every day of life.

Miracles happen all of the time. This strikes me as a very propitious time of year to be asking for a special miracle or two. I will be praying for these little girls and their families.

07 April 2009

Oh my good gosh

Someone shook the snow globe. We have travelled back in time and are now in the grip of winter once again. The temperature comes in negative numbers, and the birds are chirping "What the dickens? What the dickens?" This isn't merely a picturesque sprinkling of picture postcard snow...we have accumulation and I am not impressed.

I'm going back to bed.

06 April 2009

Funky economics

It's impossible to be alive in the Western Hemisphere and even only partially conscious and not have heard about the Global Economic Downturn. Which basically means that banker-type schmucks and other greedy corporate uberschmucks have milked the system for so long that there no longer is real money to cover paper debt. (Don't quote me on that, for heaven's sake. As if I understand economics)

It's also impossible in these days of Global Economic Downturn to read a magazine or newspaper of almost any genre and not be gently coached on how to stretch your pennies in this Financial Crisis. Today's newspaper, for example, has a helpful article on a money saving approach to clothes shopping. It advises women (I suppose men as well)to buy Investment Fashions. This means buying bespoke or couture designs, or having a handy little seamstress tucked away who can customize that fab little velvet jacket you bought, or in fact design and sew for you an outfit to go with that fab little velvet jacket you bought which doesn't actually go with anything you already own. Though you take the route of paying designer-sized prices for your clothes, you are in fact saving money in the long run. The article suggests this is because the quality of the clothes is such that they will last you many seasons. However, my theory is that you will spend so much money on altering that fun little jacket that you will be impoverished, and so unable to pay your bills, will be visited by the collections people, wanted for tax evasion, and reduced to stealing lip gloss from Walmart, arrested, sent to which time you will no longer be buying clothes, and voila! Saving money!

A certain Canadian design and decorating magazine (called Canadian House and Home. Never have figured out why it features both houses and homes...and just how do they make that distinction?) this month includes a short article explaining that in these Hard Economic Times, people like to cocoon,choosing to nest and undertake home renovations rather than the cost of moving. The author of this article outlines the projects she has on her agenda this Spring: to renovate the garage, update her water closet, do some painting...etc. That sounds like more funky economics to me. By all accounts we are in an Economic Crisis. Does it make sense to be concerned about the faucets in your powder room? The average reader of the magazine, I'm sure, is crossing their fingers to not be in line to receive a pink slip, and just might be considering new pillows for the living room sofa -- and that might be stretching it when it comes to having to decide between PC or Yellow Label KD for supper. Renovating the garage is probably not a top priority for someone in that situation. Granted, this is a design mag, and it is in the business of showing new designs, featuring new projects etc. But it's disingenuous to make references to 'cost savings' in a time of economic hardship in a discussion of projects that require considerable cash outlay. It would be far better to not make mention of the 'situation' at all, focusing on being a design publication, and leaving the financial advice to others who are a little more grounded in reality.

In both scenarios, considering the people I know, buying couture or custom tailored clothing, or undertaking a home renovation project in the best of times requires a lengthy period of dreaming and planning, followed by some more time of scrimping and saving. Now, when finances are tight, and the fiscal forecast is cloudy, the likelihood of any of us choosing those 'cost saving measures' is pretty slim. Anorexic even.

05 April 2009


Number Three Nephew: Be quiet! I'm reading it by myself!
Number Two Nephew: I was reading it in my head.
Number Three Nephew: But I could still hear you!

I thought of something... I found it in my mind.

Mommy, you smell like you're pregnant. (To a decidedly not pregnant Mommy)

I'll wear this even when I'm in my cabinet. (meaning casket)

You'd better get ready to be a grandma or an oma, Mommy, cause I'm nearly a grownup now! (so says 6 year-old Number Two Nephew)

Why are you upset? (asks Mommy of Number Two Son) Because you said it madly. Even meanly! (he answers)

Oh yes, I luff it! Thank you! Thank you so much! (Number Four Nephew, who can barely talk, but has impeccable manners)


It's such a good feeling to be satisfied. To know that you are full up (with well-being, not necessarily food), not missing a thing and quite content, is very pleasant, and really, quite a peaceful feeling.

To be satisfied is quite a trick, in part because through the powerful influence of advertising we're supposed to keep buying, to keep wanting, to always be needing the latest thing. Products have built-in obsolesence; clothing, for instance, since the inception of moveable type and the advent of printed news has become 'fashion' with 'seasons' which have an increasingly short shelf-life. There is a general mindset in our society to be always striving for more: bigger house, better car, clearer skin, promotion, and so on. Perhaps that mindset is part of our genetic code, but now that we're not striving for survival, we're striving for excess (often mistaken to be success)

To be satisfied is to be free. When you are not under the influence of the little gremlin called Need, you are also out of the shadows of Avarice and Gluttony, and clear of that too-frequent companion called Discontent. To be in a position where your state of being, and your decisions and actions are solely your own...that is freedom -- and I'm sure it results in simplicity as well.

Another facet of satifaction is to be satisfied with yourself. Women in particular have difficulty accepting good things about themselves. We seem to have a mental list at the ready of things that we would change in a heartbeat. Do you want thinner thighs, a straighter nose, to be a better dancer, fewer freckles, whiter skin? I would like to be taller with less eyebrow. When I dwell too much on those brows I spend too much time looking at myself in the mirror - the one that magnifies my face to the size of a pumpkin so I can really see those brows - and I start to believe that my face is really that big and I begin to feel self-conscious in public. "Look, there goes the girl with a face the size of a pumpkin! And look at her eyebrows! Wow!" Isn't that silly? I know it is, and yet I have done it to myself. Dwelling on one 'flaw' leads to the discovery of other 'flaws', and how can you be content with that perception rattling around in your brain? I was in the nation's largest drug store last night, and came across a product called a 'whitener'. It was not for teeth, but for the skin. I believe it may be used by people who want to obscure acne scars or that sort of thing, but the information on the product box addressed itself to Asian women and others of darker skin tones who want to look more white. I was outraged, and then appalled at the price of such an outrageous product, but my sister was nearly in a state of tears at the thought of young girls or women who are so unhappy with themselves, they will attempt to erase who they are to become some false ideal. Sad indeed.

02 April 2009

The best blog post since the last blog post

I love being a critic. It comes naturally to me, as I have a sarcastic wit, am sceptical and cynical, and really enjoy the opportunity to mock.

All this comes to the fore when I watch television commercials. They tend to make preposterous claims, or they present the most obvious facts as if they were ground breaking revelations, or they make the most inane statements as if they were profound.

Example 1 - Use our shampoo for healthy looking hair. It won't really be healthy, but you'll be able to fool everyone into thinking that you are omega 3-yoga-girl, even though you never look at a vegetable, you smoke like a chimney and have been perming since ninth grade...because you use our shampoo for healthy looking hair.

Example 2 - This year's Juno. Juno came out last year, was an ok movie but certainly did not shake up the world of cinema; do we need another Juno? Perhaps the original Juno was its year's Juno because it was unique, told its own story and wasn't trying to be the previous year's whatever.

Example 3 - In the same vein: the best medical series since House. Hmmm...isn't House the most recent medical drama on tv? If this is merely the next one to come along, is it fair to say it's the best? (Howsabout telling the truth: this is the best we could do, and don't know what else to say about it. We're pretty thrilled we managed to fill the time slot...won't you join us, Wednesdays at 10? Please? Our sponsors will pull their ad budget if we can't draw the viewers.) This is a joke that has legs. I'm sure my sister and I will eat breakfast tomorrow morning saying things like: this is the best bowl of cheerios I've had since yesterday (in serious, yet ridiculously dramatic anouncer-man voice). This is the best cup of coffee since the last cup of coffee!

Example 4 - An allergy medication advises the viewer to get further details in a particular magazine. They neglect to tell you to bring a camp stool and some coffee as you read the ad in the magazine at your local bookstore, cause the ad covers several pages in very small print, mostly blathering on about how using this medication could result in many horrible things. If it's a med to prevent depression, guarenteed one of the possible side effects will be depression.

Example 5 - Yet another medication advertisement informs the viewer that results wont be evident for one or two weeks. So, you know, if you're going to be allergic to a cat (or have a migraine...don't remember what the med was for) two weeks from now, better pop the pill now!

Example 6 - CLR can remove biohazardous stains from your coffee maker just by swishing around inside it for a second or two. Do not ever use this coffee pot again! CLR is obviously what is used to clean up after oil spills!And those people in the cleaning product ads should be ashamed of themselves for letting the situation get so out of control! And, as if someone who lives in a house that dirty is going to decide to clean it all in chinos and a button down, with a smile on their face! I don't buy it!

Many more examples, but I'm afraid to think about it anymore; I'm losing brain cells just writing about all this.

01 April 2009

Random shoes

There are many species of shoes: dancing shoes, running shoes, safety shoes, fancy shoes, comfy shoes...and so on. And there are random shoes. Random shoes are the solitary strays on the side of the road; the freakish pairs flung over high wires in the middle of the street; the leftovers in the lost and found bin of elementary schools everywhere. This was brought to mind yesterday, in the Chapters parkinglot, where I spied a sad brown loafer. It looked limp and neglected, and certainly had spent the better part of the winter buried in snow. Now it is merely part of the Spring detritus we expect at this time of year - from dress shoe to flotsam.

Whenever I come across a random shoe, I try to imagine how it came to be there. With this particular lost loafer, did a man back in January think he could sprint into Starbucks for a quick coffee, in his light leather, but the extreme snow drifts got the better of him, sucking the shoe right off his foot as he leapt back into the van? Perhaps it was snowing so ferociously that night that he daren't risk getting back out to search for it, and so gave it up for lost.

No matter the tale I spin for myself, I can never manage to come up with a convincing scenario. It's a baffling species, the random shoe. I wonder if there have ever been zoological studies conducted? I'd like to know more, myself.