Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bird songs

"Mom, the birds were singing this morning!" Markus exclaimed as I dropped him off near his school recently. He went on to imitate the different sounds he heard while walking our dog around our complex. He sounded quite delighted.

"Oh, they're having a worship service," I replied.

After my usual parting words ("Bye, take care, lab-lab"), I drove off and recalled one of my nature walks at Green Timbers Park with my husband. In Green Timbers, you will hear a chorus of bird songs and bird calls any time of day, especially at this time of the year.

"Ano kayang sinasabi nila? (What could they be saying?)" I asked hubby.

"They're having a worship service," he said.

That stuck in my head.

I have no difficulty imagining the birds singing to their Creator, shouting praises from their depth of their syrinx.

"Tweeet tweeet tweeet tweeeeeet."
That might well be Hallelujah!! in bird language.

In Psalm 148 it says,

Praise the LORD from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,

lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
stormy winds that do his bidding,

you mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,

wild animals and all cattle,
small creatures and flying birds...

Practically all nature is praising God. Not just the birds. There's a pure and genuine worship explosion going on around us.

Shhh... stop, look, listen...

But wait, people are supposed to be doing likewise. Read on.

kings of the earth and all nations,
you princes and all rulers on earth,

young men and maidens,
old men and children.

Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.

Praising the Creator should be an integral part of our lives instead of whining, griping, defying, denying, rejecting, crucifying... What thankless creatures we are.

I don't know about you, but I wish I could be more like the birds and the bees, the flowers and the trees...

This spring until the weather permits it, I plan to spend more time outdoors, do more nature tripping. I do not want to worship nature. I want to worship with it.

(Illustrations by my husband published in the book, Encounter With Paradise)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Puzzled, again

I blogged about starting a 1,500 piece jigsaw puzzle in Puzzled last February. I wanted to do something new and mentally challenging in my spare time. It didn't take long before I realized that this one was way too challenging! I wanted to give up. Not once, nor twice, nor thrice... Arggghh! Will I ever complete this?... Stupid jigsaw puzzle...

Although I was overwhelmed at times, I was challenged enough to keep on. Besides, I derived great satisfaction whenever I correctly placed a piece. My dopamine kicked in. That encouraged me to keep going, one piece at a time. More natural dopamine!

I thought that even if I just found 10 pieces a day, I would be done in 5 months. As it turned out, it took me less than 3 months to complete the puzzle and that's because on some days I spent many hours analyzing hues, lines, patterns, curves and partial pictures, and putting matching pieces together.

Occasionally, my family had to miss home-cooked dinner while I was sorting through hundreds of puzzle pieces. "Where's Mom?" "Guys, just eat leftovers..." I guess they were pleased when I was done, but not half as pleased as Mom.

The biggest puzzle I've ever done, 58.8 x 83.2 cms.
Too bad 2 pieces were missing. Bummer.

I read some articles online describing the benefits of jigsaw puzzles to children and adults alike. It's brain food, they say, exercising both the left and right brain lobes at the same time--the analytical part and the creative part. Puzzles are also supposed to improve memory and learning.

According to Free Press Release in "Making Fun and Games of Preventative Medicine", the most well-known longitudinal investigation of healthy aging, the MacArthur Study, found that people who remained mentally active participating in activities, such as jigsaw puzzles and other mentally stimulating games, demonstrated a better quality of life in general and longer life expectancy than those who had less mental stimulation. A study published in USA Today also found links between participating in leisure time activities such as jigsaw puzzles and lowered instances of mental diseases such as Dementia, Memory Loss, and most notably Alzheimer’s Disease (by almost a third!).

At my age, I need to keep my mind stimulated and memory sharpened. Sometimes I forget easily, and I'm not referring to paying bills. Okay, that too.

More than halfway to finishing that dreadful puzzle, someone gave me a new one from Japan. The box said "The world's smallest 300-piece jigsaw puzzle." Isn't that so like life? Before you can solve one problem, here comes another one. But I was excited to keep it for the future after I was finished with the humongous one.

The future happened two days ago. It's been weeks since I completed the King Tut puzzle. I was ready to begin again. Isn't that so like life?

Cute one, only 21 x 14.8 cms. big, but still quite a challenge.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The tree

I had a dream when I was a little child. I must be 7 or 8 years old then. I dreamed I was in front of God's mansion. It was huge and beautiful. I so wanted to go inside, but the big doors were shut.

I stood outside the door wondering how I could somehow get in. There was a balcony, and I thought if I could just climb it, I might have a chance.

Fortunately, there was a big tree with branches stretching towards the balcony. I could climb this tree! I thought. At that age, I had been climbing trees in real life around our neighbourhood and within the campus we were living in. "Yes, I am going to climb this tree.."

I climbed up the trunk and crawled on one of the sturdy branches as far as I could get. I was determined to inch my way and hop over the ledge. Crawl, crawl, crawl...

I reached the end of the branch. It was close but not close enough for me to cross over into God's balcony.

In my dream, I climbed down the tree utterly distraught. I cried and cried and cried.

That's how my dream ended.

I didn't think much of this dream, but looking back, I believe I carried that strong desire within me to enter God's mansion until many years later. Likewise, I carried the same sense of frustration and helplessness about my inability to find my way in.

That tree that I climbed, it could well represent the many ways I thought about and attempted to get into God's presence and be inside His household.

Being good, doing good, going to church occasionally, saying prayers repeatedly, studying well... Those were the "trees" I thought would somehow make me enter God's mansion.

But nothing crossed me over the empty distance between the tree and God's balcony. Everything felt short.

Years later, in my teen years, after a series of mini-"spiritual awakenings", I experience the big one. Call it an A-ha Moment that would change my destiny forever.

I began to understand that there was no tree that could take me inside God's mansion except the tree on which Christ died. The tree was already there on the front door in the shape of of a cross! No need for me to strive hard and enter through a backdoor or a window or the balcony for that matter. I can enter through the main door!

That's the message of Good Friday.

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Gardening tips from a pro...

...who happens to be somebody else. I'm on the receiving side.

I like getting tips and advice from real gardeners who know what they are doing. Last September, I came across a great article by Anne Morrison entitled "September good for gardening" and decided to email her some gardening questions. Below is her reply, which she let me post here on my blog.


Some of your herbs are evergreen through the winter so if you want to use them you can just pick them. This is true of parsley, thyme and sage. If your garden is in a warm and sheltered area the rosemary (which is semi-tender) may stay evergreen too.

Sage needs to be pruned back in early spring when you see new shoots starting on the stem. Cut back to a strong shoot. If you don't prune sage it gets huge and very leggy and ugly.

Thyme needs a shearing all over in early spring, but only shear into the green. Dead brown stems may not reshoot.

The dill is an annual, will die in winter and need to be planted anew each spring.

Tarragon is a perennial, but dies down to the ground in winter and re-shoots in spring.

If the onion you mentioned is chives, that also is a perennial that dies in winter and comes back in spring.

It's possible to dry chives, dill and tarragon by bunching up a few stems of each (not more than 10 or they won't dry in the middle) and hanging them in a warm, dry place (beware of putting them anywhere where there are spiders!). Later you can crumble up the leaves and put the leaves in a jar. But having said that, if you don't use them much anyway, you may not want to go to the work of drying them.

Vases with fragrant herb branches in are lovely to have inside in winter because the leaves are so scented. You don't have to have big bunches - little bunches last a long time, and if you're a supper guest, people love it if you bring a little bunch of fragrant herbs (they may use them in the kitchen instead of admiring them in the living room).

You would like Bergamot. This is a very fragrant perennial herb with big mopheads of red, mauve or pink flowers. Easy to get in nurseries.

Peppermint is very fragrant and has spikes of mauve flowers in late summer (but grow it in a pot because it's very invasive). Both die down in winter and re-shoot in spring.

Chamomile is also useful and pretty with filigree evergreen leaves and yellow or white daisy flowers.

Curry plant is also evergreen - ever-grey actually - (but if rosemary dies out for you, so will Curry plant). This has flat heads of yellow flowers and grey, narrow leaves.

Another pretty and very useful herb is oregano. Gold leaf form is lovely (but also vanishes in winter. Sometimes this golden oregano is also called Golden Marjoram.

Herbs are a lovely way of using small space because you get the fragrance, some use for cooking and with many of them pretty flowers as well. My feeling is that in the space you have herbs will give you much more enjoyment than the tomatoes, peppers and broccoli.

I'm very interested in where your location is. You need to know I'm based in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia and so my information is based on zone 7 and 8 because that's where my columns run - in 9 newspapers, some on the coast and others further in as far as the eastern Fraser Valley. I am answering questions now from as far away as the prairies and Ontario and some of the herbs and the information needs to be a little different in places far away from B.C. (Curry Plant, for instance wouldn't be good in the really cold zones. Would appreciate you letting me know what area you garden in. Thanks for e-mailing.


I will take Anne's advice and plant new herbs this year. (Photo from

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Hair today...

Three of my 4 sons have a distinct hairstyle. One has dreds, the second has a one-sided hair, the third has mohawk.

"Mom, look at my hair," Mickey told me early this morning in our hallway. He is my 21-year-old Oriental looking son who has one-sided hair.

"Wow!" That was all I could say when he switched on the light.

Mick's hairstyle has the right side of his head shaved, the top part sticking out, and the left side, thick. It is very unique. He has had this for at least 2 weeks. Yesterday, he decided to have a design carved on the shaved side. I thought it was really, wow, nice!

I looked at Gabriel who is still sporting a Mohawk hairstyle. Two sides of his head are shaved.

"Let's put a design on your head!" I said. Let's make a tic-tac-toe," I suggested. "That should be easy. It's just 4 lines!" I sensed Gabriel was open to the idea of having a design on his head, but closed to the thought of making me do it. Come on, Gabriel, let's try. First, I need to figure out what tool to use to make those lines.

If Gabriel doesn't like it, maybe I can do it on Markus's head. He is the only one that has a regular haircut. But I think he already has a plan for his hair. He told me last week that he wanted to grow his hair, gel it so that it sticks out to one side. "Like it's wind-blown, Mom."

Stiffly wind-blown. "That's unique. I have never seen anything like it except in cartoons. So when are you doing it?" I can't wait to see how he will do that one-sided windblown look.

MrB sometimes say that our boys all come to an age when they start experimenting with their hair. We just let them. Sometimes I take part in it. When Gino and Mickey were in their early teens, they wanted their hair dyed. So I dyed them blonde, as they wanted.

Gabriel has been asking me lately to dye his mohawk red. He thought of green but some guy in his school already beat him to it. I still need to find a good red hair colour for this one.

"Mom, I will remove my dreds in the summer," Gino said recently. He spent quite a sum to have this done on his straight hair last year.

"Why don't you just shave the whole thing?" I suggested. I thought that would be easier. Even I can do that. He didn't like to shave his head.

"Why don't we unfurl it already?" I volunteered to do it even if I didn't know how this was done. I think this will be challenging. It appeals to my obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Imagine, manually untangling each and every dreadlock that has been waxed and twisted over and over! But Gino wants to keep his dreds at least till June 21, its one-year anniversary.

My sons' hairstyles are something I don't fuss about. Actually, they have fussed more about the haircuts I've given them. So when they start earning their own money, I release them to get a professional haircut of their choice.

For me, a hairstyle isn't worth fighting about with your children. After all, how long will it last? Weeks, months, a year? It is very temporary. Hair grows so fast.

So I will let my boys enjoy their hair. They are males. How long will their hair last? They should be able to enjoy it while it's thick and it's there. It will thin out eventually. The hippies of the 60s and 70s, where is their long, groovy hair now? Most of them might be bald or balding already. Like they say, hair today...gone tomorrow.

Have fun with your hair, boys, and have something to remember or laugh about in your balding years (unless you have my thick hair genes).