…THINKING ABOUT my friend and neighbor,  Zographini Vlachos, or better known to us as Sophie…


 Sophie suffered for over two years with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) sometimes known as  Lou Gehrig’s disease.  A neurodegenerative disease, people with ALS experience muscle weakness  and overall muscle atrophy, and in Sophie’s case, have difficulty breathing as the muscles responsible  for inflating the lungs in respiration also weaken and atrophy.

 For family and friends, watching a loved one succumb to this disease is a heart-wrenching experience but in all honesty, the despair was in our hearts and not in Sophie’s…when the initial diagnosis was  unclear she tried to understand the nature of her affliction and fight for some kind of cure, trying  conventional as well as alternative medicine.  Once the diagnosis of ALS was pronounced, Sophie was determined to live out her days gracefully, without bitterness and without withdrawing from the world as she knew it…she accepted her fate with great patience as she went from an autonomous and independent woman to one who was dependent on others for her every need…she loved her friends and family and knew how difficult it was for us to stand by, helpless to a large degree.  Sophie always managed a hello or a welcome smile, enjoyed talking to her friends on the phone (no small feat) and even towards the end when it was necessary for her to be fed, she did it with great relish and humor…in short, she is my hero!

Sophie managed to stay at home with all the equipment and caretakers that are required to help someone in Sophie’s predicament. She ruled her own roost and knew who was coming, when and for how long. She was still the boss!

She went to hospital when her breathing was too labored and the portable breathing machine she had at home was not strong enough to sustain her.  She passed away peacefully in hospital with her family around her, and her earthly struggles finally came to an end.  Farewell dear lady…when the figs are ripe on the trees in the back yard where you tended your garden, I will remember you standing at my door with a plate of plump ripe figs for our pleasure…all the flowers around the place remind me of you, Sophia!  Forever rest in peace.




… is a saying not to be taken lightly.  My inner dialogue
on this began when I spied
my browning bananas sagging in the fruit bowl.
Deciding NOT to waste them (by
simply throwing them into the compost or freezing them
for the future, HA!) I departed from my OLD recipe and searched the web
for ‘the best ever banana bread recipe’ and made a NEW one
…go to FOOD to see the recipe, avoid wasting brown bananas and see what
you think…if your recipe is better, share it!

This oft-repeated little idiom came out of my mother’s mouth
often.  She was a young woman during the war when the pinch for food and
necessities was felt in many parts of the world. Those who often felt it most were
those that had the most to forfeit.  Those who hadn’t ever had enough were
more accustomed to the hardships of ‘doing without’ than those who always had
everything. Oftentimes survivors of war or catastrophe are those that are the most
resourceful (and fit).  In general, resourceful people deal with ‘hard times’
more successfully than those who haven’t taken the pains to manage with fewer
resources.   If you don’t waste, you’re less likely to end up lacking.  S’TRUTH!

It’s all very well to talk about not wasting, but I’m often reminded about
how wasteful we are as a species as the fight for our planet’s resources becomes
more easily visible to us.  Because of our increasing use of information technology
we can actively witness the discovery, exploitation, and buying and selling
of our planet’s resources on the world market.  The GFC has been analyzed, debated,
discussed and put under a microscope by analysts and activists alike.  Money, business,
politics and war and peace revolve around the health, availability and ownership
of our resources or the lack thereof.

One thing for sure in all of this is that nothing is a constant…fluctuation is the only constant.  Add natural or man-made disaster (including war) to the mix and we have a veritable game of Russian roulette.  Add a pinch of ‘it won’t affect us’ and a large smattering of our complacency towards the quality of our air, water and natural resources and we have a recipe for annihilation.  I’m not doom saying here.  I really love our world and think there is much to be done. ‘Waste not, want not’ boils down to one thing.  How much do we care about the future?

In order to be fully conscientious about SAVING THE PLANET, we have to put our minds to NOT WASTING anything ever again.  Look around us.  It is the norm to live in denial about the fact that our resources are finite, that certain resources have a ‘best before’ date, and that some resources are only available if the right conditions are present e.g. the availability of water, clean air and sunlight.
‘Waste not, want not’ is not possible unless people put thought into action.

…and there are some pretty clever people out there who want to make a difference and who DO think about future generations.

Coming up next in ‘…thinking about’ will be an exposé of some of the clever practitioners of the ‘waste not want not’ way of life.  (Happily researching for now).


SUMMER SOLSTICE 2013 – including the Supermoon

This year, the summer solstice, June 21st, fell on a Friday and marks the time of the year when the sun has reached the farthest point North of the equator.  In Vancouver, the light stayed in the sky till past 10:00 pm, and stretched longer into the night because of the SUPERMOON – when the FULL moon is closer to the Earth than at any other time of the year.  Solstice AND super moon day – a day on the calendar at its longest, brightest, and wishfully, warmest time of the year.


courtesy  NASA


O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O   


June 6 rolls around every year and it undoubtedly signifies different things to different
people. June 6th is a time when I commemorate the life of

Scanned Image

Lillian, in happier times, Morocco

June 6th is most commonly remembered for D-Day, in the 2nd World War.

(Wiki) “In the military, D-Day is the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. The best known is D-Day, June 6, 1944 — the day of the Normandy landings — initiating the Western Allied effort to liberate mainland Europe from Nazi occupation during World War II. However, many other invasions and operations had a designated D-Day, both before and after that operation.[1] ”

On June 6th, 1998, my mother gave up her battle with heart and lung disease.
Thanks in part to tough times in England during the war, my mom and dad and millions of others overseas, in service to home and country, offered up their lungs to cigarettes which were plentiful and seemingly the only ‘treat’ for people in the trenches, or working in army hospitals during war. At the time smoking seemed like the thing to do, and so, the lucky who got to come home with their lives in tact came home with a nicotine habit. As any of us who have smoked cigarettes know, they are really difficult to give up…and in the early 50’s, no one was really talking about ‘lung cancer’ –  in actuality, it was considered ‘rather cool’ to smoke.
(I know there were people during the day that were not duped by ad campaigns and Tobacco lobbies to promote smoking ‘coolness’.) All you have to do is watch an episode of ‘Madmen’ or leaf through the photo albums of the day to see what a huge impact smoking had on the population.  It seemed that everyone had ‘a ciggy’ in their hand.

Meantime, I digress, although I do lament that smoking was a large part of my parents’ lives and in my mother’s case, it was what killed her at age 79. My father, on the other hand was able to quit smoking, and lived till the ripe old age of 91. The war AND nicotine wrought havoc on lives of many of those serving overseas. Lillian served in the Red Cross and worked in London during the bombings…she suffered Gum disease from lack of proper nutrition, and undoubtedly she had some PTSD after caring for soldiers with missing limbs, severe burns (The Guinea Pigs), PTSD…injuries on the surface and buried deep down inside. Both my mother and father were nearly skeletal when they returned home, and one can only imagine what toll that had on bone, teeth, blood – when you are severely lacking in micronutrients, vitamins and a ‘balanced’ diet, including protein, fresh vegetables and fruit. My mother didn’t have me until her 30s, which in a way is a good thing because biochemical studies conducted on pregnant women in England during the war show:

“studies conducted on pregnant women: the first comprised 120 working-class women
who were studied in the spring of 1942, and a second group of 253 women in 1944.
Both groups were followed up until after delivery. Detailed biochemical assessments were performed on each subject. Our statistical analysis of the haematological data showed that nearly 25 % of women from the 1942 group were deficient in protein, over 60 % were deficient in Fe and vitamin A, and over 70 % had severe vitamin C deficiency.” British Journal of Nutrition (2000), 84, 247±251

Consequently, babies born from mothers with such deficiencies often had deficiencies as well, although it has been shown that babies in utero are very tenacious little creatures, and would likely first deplete the mother of any of her stores of vitamins etc., thus leaving the mother anemic or worse and the baby thriving until born. It was a good thing that she waited some years to have my brother and me.

How did I get so far ahead of myself? All I really wanted to say is that on June 6th, I remember my mother’s passing and think about her life in a more reflective way as the years go by. She was smart, strong and funny. Serving as a nurse in the Red Cross, she contributed her skills, brains and energy to ‘help fight against Naziism’.  Initially it was glaringly obvious that she was no longer around…no more phone calls, or birthday cards, or Christmas presents for the kids.  No more letters written in her remarkable penmanship.  No more her.  Just memories of the way she used to be, and lots of photos to remind me of the effort she put into so many things.  I hope you’re happier where you are now, mom,  because you sure were not a happy camper towards the end.  Thinking of you always!



…HAIKU.  For as long as I can remember, I have loved Haiku verse and Haiga (paintings). The art of paring down words to convey the very essence of a scene, an action, a memory, a season is a feat in itself. Each Haiku is a miniature painting with words. For a while, I tried to write ‘A Haiku a day’, a kind of meditation and a discipline, to see if indeed I could capture slices of life with quick and imaginative word strokes. The rules for Haiku in English are different from those in Japanese, which makes sense because the syllable structure is different between Japanese and English.  For example, in English the common rule for Haiku is a 3 line, 5-7-5, or 17-syllable structure. Those who translate Japanese Haiku must decide on whether or not to follow the strict grammatical rules of Japanese, or to follow the order of thought.  Order of thought in Japanese is quite exactly the opposite of English!  I. A. Richards comments on Harold Henderson’s translations in his book  “An Introduction to Haiku”, claiming that Henderson shows that ‘Haiku is a very exacting form, requiring compliance with the strictest aesthetic standards of concreteness, objectivity and suggestiveness.” ” …a great Haiku must be not only lucid but richly suggestive to the attentive reader.”

One of my favorite Haiku poets is Matsuo Basho, (1644 -1694)
Here are a few samples from a book called “A Net of Fireflies”,
translations by Harold Stewart,  Charles E. Tuttle, Publisher, 1st Ed., (1960)


The scene is almost set for spring to come
A hazy moon and blossoms on the plum

Washed by monsoonal summer’s rainy weeks
How chill and white, how fresh and green,
are leeks!

The new moon showed its silver rim of light
I watched and waited since and lo tonight!

Ah the first the gentlest fall of snow
Enough to make the jonquil leaves bend low.


…ALS, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease (aka  motor neurone disease) is a terminal neurological disease and causes muscle weakness and atrophy throughout the body. To learn more about ALS, the Wikipedia link provides information about this debilitating disease.

Etymology: (wiki)
Amyotrophic comes from the Gk. language – A = no, myo = muscle, trophic = nourishment.  It therefore translates as  ‘no muscle nourishment’, which describes the characteristic atrophication of the sufferer’s disused muscle tissue.  ‘Lateral’ refers to the areas in the person’s spinal cord where specific parts of the nerve cells that are affected are located.  With the degeneration of the region, scarring or hardening -sclerosis -occurs.

Our dear neighbour of many years has been stricken down by this debilitating disease.  Prior to her diagnosis, I was only familiar
with Lou Gehrig’s because of the very brave fight that Sue Rodriguez put up in order to be allowed to die with dignity.  Her plight and that of others is so often in the news because it is associated with some patients’ desire to end their struggle by doctor-assisted-suicide.  Assisted suicide is a highly controversial topic that has captured the attention of governments, religious leaders, ethicists, and people who are strongly for or against euthanasia. There is currently no cure for ALS.   The link below is for ALS Canada…and gives information about current research being conducted, some of which might provide hope for ALS sufferers in Canada and worldwide in the future.  Please read about this disease so that when your government asks you how to vote on issues such as doctor assisted suicide, you will know which side of the debate you stand on.  In this country 1- 2 in 10,000 people will die of ALS.  ALS patients need compassion and support to navigate this treacherous journey.  When you try to put yourself in that person’s shoes, it is almost impossible to imagine living from day to day knowing the details of the progression of this disease.  But many people, like my neighbour, are doing that very thing…living day to day courageously and with hope.  My neighbour’s son told me that his mother was incredibly gracious despite the grim prognosis…she was kind, usually had a smile, was understanding and kind to the many people that enter her home to take care of her every day…he said he’d be grumpy and ‘sour’, that she amazes him…and I agree.  We are going to learn a lot methinks, I already am.

“The mission of the ALS Canada is to fund research
towards a cure for ALS and support provincial
ALS Societies to provide quality care
for those affected by ALS.”


….what it would be like to have a photographic exhibition – to spend the next year sorting through all the photos taken over the last 40 years and having an exhibition…a solo exhibition…am I crazy to think I can do this?  So much to learn…it’s daunting, but exciting at the same time.

…T R A V E L

…my good friend Krystyna’s son Kristjan who lives in Copenhagen, will be getting officially married in August of this year to his partner Aleksandra and will be tying the knot outside of Riga in the resort town of Jurmala, on the Baltic Sea…My August will take on a different flavor as I hope to join the wedding troupe for a Danish-Latvian-Canadian wedding. Then, a little hop over to St. Petersburg would be a nice way to finish off the trip. Will need to make travel plans soon.


Maiwa has a 23 day trip in India with Charlotte Kwon, taking the group to some of the most famous weaving villages in Kerala, the Kutch Valley and Rajasthan…this would be a trip of a lifetime, indeed, as we would be visiting villages where Charlotte and her crew have inspired women to set up their own cooperatives to sell their wares to support their families and villages. I have been buying clothing, accessories, jewellery, household items and linens from Maiwa for over 20 years…Charlotte has a longtime and dedicated staff, including her daughter and perhaps some sons…they know these areas so well. If there were any way to see India, this would be a unique look into the lives of the many craftspeople in this mystical place. The trip overland would cost approximately 7,200 USD…not including airfare…I guess I’d be looking at spending $10,000 on such a trip…and imagine sending back fabrics for a SALE! This is on MY WISH LIST for 2014…the trip would take off in January, a good time to be AWAY from winter!

3 thoughts on “THINKING ABOUT..

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