Sloths have become enormously popular in recent times. Cute, fluffy sloths adorn pyjamas, tee shirts, and accessories. Plush sloth toys adorn bedrooms and living rooms of kids of all ages. In this era of COVID-19, I even have a face mask with sloths on it.
Native to the rainforests of Central America and South America, they are fascinating animals. Although not conventionally attractive, we still tend to think of them as “cute”. They appear to smile all the time, and they appear to have a more relaxed attitude to life than most other animals with which we are familiar. When life is stressful and busy, being a sloth for a little while might be an attractive option.
These animals were first called sloths in the early 1600s. It came from a translation of the Portuguese word preguiça which meant “slowness” or “slothfulness”. This, in turn, originated in the Latin word pigritia which meant “laziness”.
Sloth is a Middle English word that evolved from an Old English word that meant “laziness” or “indolence”. The sense of meaning that relates to moving slowly or being late dates to the middle of the 14th century. The King James Bible of the early 17th century uses the word sloth as one of the seven deadly sins, being the sin of laziness .
The animal, then, took its name from the behaviour rather than the other way round.
This poem uses imagery of sewing, fabric and clothing to express the emotional realities of the grieving process: it doesn’t get easier, it changes over time. Each experience of loss adds another trauma that we have to try to mend.
Your feedback on my poem or on my introductory thoughts is welcome.
I have sewn these seams a hundred times: Letting out, Taking in,
Adjusting for change, Suturing wounds And mending the tears Through which too many have left, Exposing for a moment That which I wish to keep hidden: Tender flesh, secret places, A soul worn and tattered; Safely concealed Beneath the careful tailoring And confident colour Of that which I display to the world.
Today, In the quietness of my sanctuary, I gather my fraying finery Close to my breast, Protective of its frailty, I weep, Overwhelmed by the agony Of an injury so profound It may never be repaired.
And then, Because I have no choice, I begin to stitch, Yet again.
It’s the first time in my life that I will not be able to wish him a happy birthday. It’s the first time in many years that I will not hug him, kiss his cheek, and provide the cake, complete with candles for him to blow out while we sing that silly song.
I miss him so much. I miss his big laugh, his cheeky grin, our talks when I got home from work, our hugs, our days out together, shared dinners and coffees, cheeky afternoon teas at the bakery, and holding his hand just because I could. He was part of every day, whatever else I might have been doing.
The “firsts” are pretty awful, to be honest. The absence of someone you love on a day which you have always celebrated with them is jarring. It feels as though the world has tilted again, and everything is just a little more out of kilter. It feels… wrong.
My siblings have all experienced their first birthday without him since he passed away in June: two in September, and one just last week. I called and wished each of them happy birthday, but I also wept for them because I knew what they were thinking and feeling, even if they didn’t admit it. Some things don’t need to be put into words.
And yet, for children to bury and grieve for a parent whom they loved dearly, and who has lived a long, happy and faithful life is also so …right.
Therein lies the awkwardness of it all. We are all glad he is no longer suffering, and we would not have wanted him to linger in a realm of pain or disease or anguish but, at the same time, I miss him so very much. The emotions are so powerful that they threaten to overwhelm, but not one of us would bring him back to go through it all again. That would be cruel and selfish.
On the first Father’s Day since his death, I chose to do positive things in his memory. Now, on the first birthday, I find myself trying to achieve that again. There is still pain and grief, though. regardless of how I try to window-dress the day, and it’s important to acknowledge those feelings and not suppress or deny them. The healthier choice is to experience them and work through them in appropriate ways.
So, a visit to my parents’ grave with flowers was my first priority for the day. I made a video message for my siblings and their families, all of whom are long-distance from me, from the final resting place of our parents. At least that way, they could share in the visit too. I chose yellow roses, because Dad loved his roses. Yellow roses are symbolic of friendship, but also of remembrance and new beginnings or rejuvenation of spirit, so they are perfect for Dad’s first birthday in heaven.
My best friend and I visited one of Dad’s favourite bakeries — the same one where I took the picture of him enjoying his coffee — and drank coffee and ate sweet things in his honour.
Later on, we will be having Dad’s favourite thing for dinner — pizza — followed by birthday cake, because there has been one on every other November 17th that I have known.
I have also spent some time in quiet contemplation and giving thanks for my Dad. I know I am incredibly blessed to have had such a loving and supportive father with whom I got along so well, when so many people don’t ever get to know what that’s like. I am thankful for my family, for my husband, and for my best friends, whose support helps make days like today a tiny bit easier. Again, so many people don’t have that, and I know I am incredibly privileged to have those people in my life.
I have thought, too, about what comes next. Soon there will be the first Christmas. The first New Year’s Eve, and the first calendar year that hasn’t had Dad in it. And 360 days after his graduation to heaven, I will have my first birthday without him. And then, soon after, the first anniversary of his death, and then of Helen’s.
These anniversaries and the emotions that go with them may be painful, but they are poignant reminders of deep love and the profound blessings of knowing and sharing life with such amazing people.
On such occasions, there should at least be cake. Dad would have insisted on it.
I’ve been thinking today about different words we use to communicate to others that we are grieving. It seems to me that in the 21st century, we talk more about ‘personal loss’ and one’s ‘grief journey’ than we do about bereavement.
Bereavement, although old fashioned, is a beautiful word. To me, it evokes a sense of that sense of deprivation that remains after the immediate, more aggressive emotions of immediate have subsided, and acknowledges that phase of grieving in which deep sadness fills the space left by the person who has passed away.
‘Bereave’ is a very old word. In Middle English, the word was ‘bireven’, and before that, the Old English word was ‘bereafian’, both of which meant to deprive, to steal, or take away by violence. It shares a common Germanic root with similar words in many other old languages. Old Frisian had ‘biravia’; Old Dutch had ‘berooven’; Old Saxon had ‘biroban’; Od High German had ‘biroubon’ and Gothic had ‘biarubon’.
Today, Dutch still has ‘beroeven’ which means ‘bereavement’. German still has rauben meaning ‘to rob’ and ‘berauben’ to mean ‘deprived’.
In English, ‘bereave’ has come to refer primarily to loss of life or loved ones. It can also be used in relation to the loss of something that has immaterial value, like love or hope or joy. It has been used that way since the mid 17th century. The past tense form ‘bereaved’ applies to these senses of loss.
English also has the past tense word ‘bereft’ which is used to describe the kind of grief and sadness that comes from loss or diminution of one’s personal circumstances, such as the loss of wealth or home or possessions.
I was watching a documentary with a friend on Wednesday evening. I nearly spat my drink out when I heard the presenter say, “There was just a slither of a new moon…”
I looked at my friend, only to find she was already looking at me. We were both wondering if we had misheard, but we had not.
What should have been said was, “There was just a sliver of a new moon…”
‘Sliver’ and ‘slither’ may sound similar, but they are neither homophones nor synonyms. They are very different words indeed, and therefore should not be confused.
‘Sliver’ is a noun that means a very thin slice. There can definitely be a sliver of a new moon in the sky. One can have a sliver of chocolate, or a sliver of cake, although they may wish for more. A sliver of a chance is also likely to leave one wanting for more. A very slender piece of wood or metal – such as that created by shaving or planing– may also be referred to as a sliver.
‘Slither’ is a verb that means to slide or to move in a squirmy way, as animals without legs do. Snakes and eels contract their muscles so they look to move sideways. So do some worms. Snails and slugs slither in a different way again, looking as though they simply contract and then stretch forward.
So, If someone claims to see a slither of a new moon, they may need to either get their eyes checked or give up drinking.
Easily Confused Words: Slither v. Sliver #words #language #blogpost
A friend asked me recently how to write a book review that goes beyond whether or not they liked and enjoyed the book.
Having posted some time ago about things to avoid when writing a book review, I thought it high time I wrote something more positive and helpful in the interests of helping people review books more confidently.
A good book review doesn’t have to be long or academic.
Using everyday language is absolutely fine. You don’t have to write like a professional reviewer or an English teacher to write a meaningful or helpful review.
Some websites where readers post book reviews require a minimum length, which gives you room to say whether you enjoyed the book and why. One or two sentences will do the trick. There is no obligation to write any more than that if you don’t wan to.
If you do want to write more, try these ideas:
Why did you like or dislike the story? Remember that others may like what you disliked, and vice versa, so always try to be kind. Feel free to say a book wasn’t to your taste – and try to identify why – but avoid comments like “this sucked” or “I hated it”. They are not helpful. Similarly, “Best. Book. Ever!” is of limited use if you don’t say why.
What important ideas did the story make you think about? Themes such as love, anger, justice, revenge, pain, fear, overcoming… anything that is relevant to you or to a lot of people are helpful points for comment.
Were the characters likeable? Where they relatable? Why or why not? Was there something we could learn from them?
Did the writer’s style impress you in any particular way? Were there images or word pictures that you liked? Did it make you laugh, or imagine vividly, or feel genuine emotions of one sort or another?
Was it easy to read and understand, or did you have to really work at it?
What other kinds of people might appreciate the book? Think about interests, age group, and genres or categories here.
Remember that every book is unique, so some things will be more
Writing about ideas like these will help you to write a review that is interesting in itself, and will encourage the right readers to choose that particular book. In that way, you’ll help both the author and prospective readers at the same time.
This will also help you to avoid retelling or summarising the story and giving spoilers that might put prospective readers off or make them feel as if they no longer need to read the story to find out what happens.
Today– November 11th– is Remembrance Day. It’s also called Armistice Day.
It is a day of remembrance of the fact that at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month– November 11th, 1918– the Armistice that brought an end to World War 1 was signed.
Back then, they called World War I ‘The Great War’ and ‘The War to End All Wars’. It was called ‘The Great War’ because of its size and scale, not because it was good in any way. And, being the overachievers that humans are, we have since proven that it didn’t prevent any further wars at all.
Today is a day for acknowledging the devastation, loss of life, and tragedy of the war not just for Australia, or the Allies, but for all the nations involved.
It is a day for remembering the fallen soldiers, and those who came back broken and maimed. It is a day for remembering those who mourned them.
It is a day for giving thanks for their legacy.
Their soldiers’ commitment to fighting was anything but selfish: they fought for their country. Their service and sacrifice was for the sake of defending and preserving our freedoms.
Today, let us contemplate the horrors of war and how we can avoid them in the future. Let us reflect on those who gave their lives in loyal service of their country.
Lest we forget.
Remembrance Day #RemembranceDay #LestWeForget #blogpost
Anyone who knows me well enough to be in my front yard knows how much I love my maple trees that I have carefully and lovingly grown as reminders of my beloved Canada. I can’t get there anywhere near as often as I want to, so the least I can do is have a bit of Canada in my own garden. It’s not too much to ask.
Today, though, someone who was in my front yard — unbeknown to anyone who lives here, of course, heartlessly ran down one of my maples.
Yes, it was a fairly small tree. That is irrelevant, because it was on its way to being big. Big maples cost lots more than smaller maples in Australia, and small ones cost more than enough. More importantly, it was my tree.
The only notification they left of the destruction of my tree was the tree itself, now horizontal rather than vertical. No note. No phone call or text. No apology. No identification of the culprit.
I am so sad. I’m sad for the loss of a tree that actually meant something to me.
I’m also sad that whoever is responsible felt it was okay to not be honest with me.
If I knocked over someone’s tree or broke something that belonged to someone else, I would be guilt-ridden and desperate to replace it.
Apparently, not everyone I know is quite so principled.
Fortunately for them, I have absolutely zero clues as to who is responsible.
Unfortunately for me, that means that my already cynical INFJ mind will not just go “oh well…” and let it go. Self-destructive as it may be, a little voice in my head will wonder ‘Was it you?’ every time I see people I should be able to trust. The question will probably never come out of my mouth, but it will be there, nevertheless.
The group of people in whom I have absolute trust was already a very small group indeed. And people wonder why.
Doomscrolling is the act of continually updating and reading one’s social media feed for the latest news on a significant event. It is closely related to doomsurfing, which is scouring the Internet for the same kind of information.
The term has been around for a few years, but found new popularity as a hashtag earlier this year, predominantly in response to Covid-19. It is surging again on Twitter today as people try to stay updated on the results of the US election.
It may be a relatively recently coined term, but it’s fair to say the activity to which it refers has probably existed for as long as easy access to the Internet, especially via platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, has been available.
It’s an understandable behaviour – we want to stay informed, after all. These things matter. We want to know. However, it can also be a very effective self-torture device, as it compels us to focus on what is actually causing our anxiety and distress. It seems that the worse the news is, the more people tend to keep on watching or reading. Some people even become fixated on that event, to the exclusion of other things, no matter how sad or angry it makes them.
The term also hints at the subjectivity of the behaviour: what one interprets as ‘doom’ is likely to be the exact inverse of what another person interprets it to be. It all depends on what outcome one is hoping for whether the course of events is classified as doom or a reprieve.
A highly relevant and helpful Twitter account is Doomscrolling Reminder Lady, who repeatedly tells people to get off the internet and take care of themselves instead.