Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 Wishes Grow Wings

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Dog In A Hat

THERE IS a well-known Cat In A Hat and The Red Hat Society hats but it is a much-loved "dog in a hat" that brings back fond memories of the Christmas season.

Although I agree with those who say putting people-clothes on pets isn’t a good idea, I made an exception one year and put a festive hat on our dog, Bubbles, who has since passed away.

His photo reminds me of how a pet can make a house a home not just on special occasions but on every day of the year. While many thousands of pets are being bought in pet stores year-round, this is the season where hearts are more charitable than usual. There are thousands of discarded animals desperate for homes and waiting to be adopted and they are not necessarily in pet stores. If a live creature is something you are considering as a gift for Christmas, the BCSPCA might have exactly the pet you are looking for to bring joy into your home.

(It should be noted that buying and/or adopting a pet as a sudden emotional response to Christmas can lead to unhappy results if the idea has not been thoroughly thought through prior to the hectic season.)

Thank you, Bubbles, for all the warm and fuzzy memories. We miss you!

Visit Postcards From Penelope Puddle for more BC scenes.

Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Under The God Umbrella

AS CHRISTMAS APPROACHES thoughts about the existence or non-existence of God inevitably appear as they did today on BC Blogger where comments about atheism found their way.

A few weeks ago, Vancouver blogger, Curious Dad, also asked a related question with the focus on children that drew responses, including mine which I am restating here to ask:

Does religion give humanity a sense of morality it lacks or does humanity invent religion to communicate an inborn desire to distinguish between right and wrong? And is it wrong for parents to teach their children moral lessons through their religious or non-religious beliefs?

Perhaps morality and religion are separate issues placed under the same umbrella for convenience sake. History shows that mankind is ever evolving and perceptions of right and wrong are constantly changing, shifting and deepening. But even if morality does not need religion to exist, religion (some say atheism included) can give meaning and purpose to family life. It can offer a social network and places to gather where ideals are refreshed through contact with people of like minds.

For better or worse, small children cannot help but be influenced by what their parents believe. Ironically, even when they break away (as they often will) in teenage or later years, they often return to their religious roots when their own families begin.

Therefore, it is perhaps incumbent on parents not only to explain why they believe what they believe but to also impart non-judgmental attitudes towards what others believe. Being curious about wide-ranging views on spirituality, faith and philosophies in unbiased ways surely enriches a child’s life, if explored in age-appropriate ways.

Of course, live and let live becomes difficult and more complicated with some fundamentalist beliefs that actually put a child’s life or society at risk due to skewed interpretation of dogma.

So perhaps it is not evil to impart your religious or non-religious beliefs on children as much as it is harmful (even immoral) to ignore or facilitate fanaticism, hate and destruction to self and/or others, whether such signs are found within your own group or within the group of others.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Let A Teacher Be Your Umbrella

PENELOPE PUDDLE doesn’t carry her umbrella simply for protection against weather. Her umbrella plays a major supportive role that channels Penelope’s imagination and can-do spirit, especially when they are waning.

The umbrella can be likened to many teachers who play a similar role. Whether learning sports, math or music, a teacher’s presence is particularly important for students who have difficult issues to overcome and need someone (or something) special to “hang onto” for brief periods of time.

Reassuring yet challenging, instructors at the local pool were exactly what I needed to start overcoming my fear of deep water and swimming that developed after becoming seriously disoriented in a pool as a teenager.

Unable to accomplish what many five-year-olds can easily do seems unacceptable for the co-creator of a character who is fearless around water. So although my feet have been solidly attached to the ground for a very long time, I am (with considerable difficulty) yanking them out and choosing the Path of The Puddlist, gaining confidence and learning to swim with help from my trusted umbrella-teachers. Thank you teachers!

Path Of The Puddlist Concept:

1 a : beliefs and practices based on the idea
that one can overcome great odds and do wonderful
things by rekindling the optimism, imagination and
wonder of the child within
b: the paths to enlightenment are infinite and most
often found outdoors where possessing the resiliency
of a good umbrella is essential to weather life's storms
c : when it pours, a dry soul must jump into puddles
and bloom, despite the fear of getting wet

Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Colouring Gift From Me To You

(Image No Longer Available)

PARENTS AND EDUCATORS ARE WELCOME to enlarge and print Penelope Puddle’s new West Coast Christmas colouring page for a limited time only. Children are encouraged to add (in freehand) raindrops, clouds, snowflakes or any other BC weather to the background.

Penelope, with her sidekick umbrella and seagull friend, finds the perfect Christmas tree. Since she has no idea how to bring the tree home, she starts to decorate it outdoors with paper cutouts of umbrellas and more.

Children can explore different Penelope antics in With My Umbrella, I Can: The Magical Journey of Penelope Puddle which is available online or can be borrowed from the Fraser Valley Regional Library.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

All-Weather Daze

THE PAST TWENTY-FOUR HOURS in BC is a good example of why puzzled Westcoasters often don’t know what they should wear when they step outdoors. One minute it’s hot and the next ... well, it's definitely not. Walkers were exposed to a whirlwind mix of hail and stinging rain needling their faces. Wildly strong winds whipped at clothing and tousled hairdos into a frenzy. Hands, with grips less than sturdy, found inverted umbrellas and hats had swiftly escaped in the air. There were also moments of calm with sudden bursts of sunlight and warmth. Messy slick sidewalks, strewn with evergreen foliage, looked as if a very big salad had been tossed everywhere. A 6.6 earthquake off BC's Central West Coast, which thankfully caused no significant damage, added to the muddle. Further south at Crescent Beach, daring adventurers were spotted, illustrating a Penelope-like can-do spirit as they braved chilly, choppy waters to go windsurfing.

Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Graffiti Combats Conflict

SOMEONE PAINTED a Stop War sign on the sidewalk that I happened to step on one day. I took its picture because it was a rare piece of graffiti that I could appreciate. Perhaps they left their mark (however small) to combat apathy over chronic global conditions of war.

On Remembrance Day we respect and appreciate anew the military and their families who sacrificed and still sacrifice for those who do not take such risks. However, may we also remember not to glamorize war or ever forget its destructive consequences, particularly to children of both friend and foe.

The Stop War statement is a minor resistance movement against the tragic fact that mankind has not yet learned how to solve its most vexing conflicts peacefully. The graffiti on the sidewalk was a reminder that had lasting impact on me, even though the West Coast rain soon washed the sign away leaving no trace it had ever existed.

Visit Postcards From Penelope Puddle to view more BC scenes.

Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

With My Umbrella, I Can: The Magical Journey of Penelope Puddle

THE ORIGINAL WEST COAST character that inspires this site was first created by my now grown daughter, Holly, when she was small. The art evolved into a line of greeting cards and is featured in a children's book called With My Umbrella, I Can: The Magical Journey of Penelope Puddle.

Penelope Puddle's authentically portrayed West Coast environment shows a little girl thinking creatively with a small black umbrella at her side. Although a tangle of windswept hair and hat conceal her facial expressions, her body language and clever creations speak volumes.

It is easy to see Penelope relishes every sunbeam, drizzle and drop of life in such rhythmic phases as:

Wheee! I can swing in the rain and get very wet ...

I can build a nest for a feathery guest ...

I can float in a boat on the pond, with my wand ...

I can cross to a bog on a slippery log ...

I can teach my toes a trick that is slick ...

I can go to the beach with a treat that is sweet ...

I can put on a costume and ride on my broom ...

I can stare at a storm and roar, crash, bang, boom ...

Benefits to teachers, parents and children when reading the story are:

 Advances listening skills through rhymes and alternating rhythm

 Expands imagination and differentiates between fact and fantasy

 Builds observational skills, comprehension and recall of details

 Guides toward logical conclusions and making predictions

 Stimulates the development of reasoning and judgement

Penelope and her sidekick umbrella are the stars of the story that facilitate curiosity, endless discussion and opportunities to learn:

 Where does Penelope live and under what weather conditions

 What seasonal and/or geographical changes are illustrated in the story

 What causes Penelope to imagine her umbrella has special qualities

 In what ways is the umbrella more like a friend to Penelope

 When does the umbrella function as it would in reality

 How does the umbrella function purely as fantasy

 The umbrella sometimes is a substitute for what objects

 What drawings show the umbrella opened … closed … inside out

 What words would you use to describe Penelope’s umbrella

 If you could choose any umbrella, what would it look like

 How would you decorate YOUR special umbrella

 What TWO WORDS in the story make the umbrella magical

 How would you use your umbrella, IF it were magical

Postscript, 2014:

Maria Pavlik withdrew the (Trafford, 2008) paperback version of With My Umbrella, I Can: The Magical Journey Of Penelope Puddle with light cover and internal wear several years ago. There are possibly previously purchased copies being sold now by unassociated third parties but no such new books are authorized to be produced or distributed.

The author (and originator of this blog) maintains exclusive rights to the book and all future versions of it as well as any other products representing the Penelope Puddle character. Although Pavlik plans to redesign and eventually present the work under different formats, the primary illustrations, concept and storyline will remain unchanged.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Brainy Birds: From Parrots To Chickens

Sweet ... or should I say tweet? A little bird told me it was once assumed only the trachea (windpipe) and syrinx (at the base of the trachea) that allowed parrots to produce speech. We now know some species of parrots also use the tongue to manipulate air and sound to imitate what they hear, disproving the notion that humans are the only species to use the tongue in this way.

Like many species, including humans, parrots also learn to associate words with actions. When offered food, some make the connection between the activity and words such as "thank you". The ability to link words and actions requires a leap of intelligence.

According to a news story, one parrot was clever enough to help save a child's life. When a little girl was choking, the parrot screeched, "Mama baby! Mama baby!”, alerting the babysitter in another room who rushed in and performed the Heimlich maneuver. The parrot had been taught that "mama and baby" related to the child. When it saw the child behave strangely, it was smart enough to utter the associated words. It also appeared to understand that danger was present.

Observers say using words and talking with tongues “humanizes” parrots. However, they are quick to add parrots are not conversing about what is said. Rather, they are mimicking. But humans, too, are mimics. Not only do people love copying one another, they sometimes branch out into copying bird calls.

We creatures communicate through all sorts of signals. Although often hidden so that only the discerning and/or similar species can comprehend, these signals show a great presence of thought. Obviously, a deaf person speaking through hand gestures is not less intelligent than any other human being. Perhaps a horse communicating with a swish of its tail or a chicken clucking is each having meaningful dialogue simply not understood by all.

A documentary The Natural History of the Chicken shows how a chicken can be much more than a packaged meal in the meat section of a grocery store. Although these grounded birds are not equipped to talk like parrots, they have an intelligent, nurturing and heroic side for those willing to see it.

Maybe we humans are a little “too chicken” to discover just how brainy birds and other creatures really are. The final breaking of barriers could likely be between man and animals. When we grasp animals are not unaware, one-dimensional characters but separate, intuitive creations deserving of respect, we truly will put the "e" in human and become more humane.

Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Let Water Solutions Flow

THE WETTER THE BETTER! How can this site, inspired by a little character named Penelope Puddle who simply thrives on water, not be excited about a new venture by Cirque du Soleil founder, Guy Laliberté?

Working to save the planet one drop at a time, it is obvious Laliberté never lost his childlike wonder or extreme creative thinking. He recently launched One Drop Foundation that deals with clean water and poverty issues. AND he did it from space!

The Foundation is poised to break the dam that sustains world water woes. The goal is to raise funds and let knowledge and hands-on solutions flow to all parched corners of the globe.

Canada is one of the highest water users per capita in the world. Due largely to the luck of geography, we take long showers, clean drinking water and frequent hand washing for granted. It is perhaps fitting then that a high-profile and popular Canadian "clown" is determined to quench the thirst of families populating less fortunate parts of the globe.

Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms

Friday, October 9, 2009

Lunar Hits Missing Sensitivity

We have walked on the moon, left debris on the moon, and now we are pounding the moon in the name of science. Hey! Can we be a little more gentle here? Any child understands the elementary fact that when a ball is bounced, all of it vibrates and is affected, not just the part that hits the ground.

Are these recent methods to search for water on the moon small steps for mankind or baby steps for lunar madness? Let us not behave like lunatics by following past patterns of failing to approach research with respect and caution. Instead, we have escalated studies so that the very ground we walk on has been compromised.

It doesn’t take a scientist to realize that pummeling the planet to test missiles, for example, is a foolhardy exercise frequently followed by earthquakes and floods in different parts of the globe. Fear and curiosity has made us oblivious to the fact that we need to tread lightly. In our zeal, we seem numbed to the fact that our tightly wound and synchronized universe hinges in the balance.

Exploring all facets of the universe is a valid venture that is potentially necessary to our future existence. However, since we seem on track to destroy the earth, let us not play too careless a game with the moon, which could offer our only hope of escape to other worlds should we make uninhabitable the beautiful but fragile and abused planet we call home.

Postscript: Link to a January 2010 photograph at Black Jack’s Carol to see the mesmerizing magic of the moon.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Don't Be Goofy When Traveling To Disneyland With Your Pet

WHEN THE WEATHER cools in BC, it is easy to forget that it's still hot in other places. This is especially true of Disneyland in California where Canadians drive to year-round, sometimes with pets.

Imagine sitting in a car on a warm day. The window is rolled down slightly and cool water is in easy reach.

You have been waiting for your driver to return for mere minutes. You believe all is well … yet you feel more uncomfortable as each second passes. It's as if a thick blanket is coming closer to your face. It's becoming harder to breathe the still and stagnant air.

People who travel with pets usually are not aware of how suffocating a vehicle can become after the engine is shut down … even on days that are not particularly warm. You most likely would be as surprised as I was when I experienced these conditions for myself. I found the situation unbearable in minutes, even without the added burden of the fur coat that my pet wears.

It was not a lack of caring, but lack of knowledge, that led to the sad, true story of a family that drove to Disneyland with their new pet. They were confident that it would be safe to leave their adorable German Shepherd puppy in the car with plenty of water and the windows slightly rolled down. When they came back in over an hour, they were horrified to find that their beloved puppy had died.

Each year, countless animals suffer or die from heatstroke. Sitting in a hot car is the most common way pets experience heatstroke. Temperatures in a parked car can quickly rise to above 100 degrees. Unlike humans, dogs do not cool off through perspiration; their panting mechanism does little to overcome excessive heat conditions.

Labored breathing, warm dry skin, anxious behavior and salivation are early symptoms of heatstroke. In a progressed situation, the animal has a glazed look and is unresponsive to stimulation. The tongue and gums become bright red and the animal’s heartbeat increases.

Should you discover an animal suffering from heatstroke, you can provide immediate emergency care. If possible, place him (or her) in a bathtub of cool, not cold, water. As an alternative, the animal can be hosed down or wrapped in cool damp towels. If the pet is responsive, water should be offered to drink. Once cooled down, he should be taken to the nearest vet; intravenous fluid therapy is generally required.

It might be wise to leave your pet at home with a trusted friend or at a kennel, particularly if your dog jumps on people, barks at strange sounds or doesn’t obey commands. However, if you do bring your pet on your vacation, advance planning is necessary when traveling by motor home or by car.

Your pet must be current on all vaccinations, including Rabies. You can get proof of vaccinations from your vet who can also give added information about the requirements for traveling to your particular destination.

A collar and leash with identification tags is necessary. Tags should have addresses and phone numbers of a friend near home and your veterinarian. A second collar with an additional set of information is a good idea in case the original is lost. You should also carry a current photo of your dog should he get lost.

Make sure you have an adequate supply of medication that your pet may be taking and bring along a copy of the prescription. Keep in mind it is probably easier to purchase your pet’s food before you start traveling, particularly if he is on a prescription diet.

A well-ventilated travel crate could also come in handy at some point in the vacation. It’s also important to keep your dog leashed when outdoors. He will be tempted to explore new surroundings and, depending on the area, he could be exposed to fleas and ticks, insect stings or even snakebite.

You will find that some motels and campsites welcome pets; many more do not. Those that do make room for pets have limited space and are often booked. Make reservations early and check your local Automobile Association for current listings of accommodations that accept pets.

Most importantly, remember that it is never cool to travel with a hot dog.

Copyright by Penenlope Puddlisms

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Gone Too Soon Into The Military

Another 21-year-old soldier died in Afghanistan recently. They say he loved his family, his dog, playing sports and going on road trips. He was a caring brother and a thoughtful son. He was at the cusp of his potential in life.

It makes me wonder if allowing young men and women fresh out of high school into the military, to possibly be killed, is society’s most rationalized misuse and abuse of our youth.

As brave, idealistic and productive as these young people are, they are still shy of being fully mature adults. Their opinions have not yet been formed. And if you could talk to them ten or even five years down the road, they would likely be more mindful of the consequences of their choices. They are the heroes whose loss will forever be felt by loved ones they left behind. They have the gratitude of the nation. Yet, in the dead of night questions must linger. Do we as a nation take advantage of their youth and inexperience, their need for jobs and education, their sense of idealism distorted by the marketing of war?

Let’s increase the age of when people can enlist to take what might be the final journey of their lives to places where other inevitable casualties tragically are other youth caught in the middle of conflicts.

At this writing, in Canada, 18-year-olds can join the military and 16-year-olds can join the reserves or the Military College. Volunteers can join the regular forces at age 17 with parental consent.

Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Farm Animals, Wildlife, Pets & The Culture Of Selective Compassions

Although I once avoided eating meat for years, I never lived up to Peta's vegan standards. That need not stop me from respecting their efforts, however. Even meat eaters can support improving conditions for food animals.

We can be cruel in our dealings with livestock and our choice of food animals seems nonsensical at times. As a child I sometimes wondered why it was okay to eat a cow but not a dog, or in some places, a dog but not a cow. It made me uneasy to realize that grown-ups, relatively good and kind people, were capable of being surprisingly unkind to the farm animals in their care.

In later years, a bold television show on the subject inspired me to write the following article printed in the Vancouver Sun over a decade ago:

"I TURN A BLIND eye, maybe you do too, at how the nicely packaged food items get into the meat section of our grocery stores. It's not so much that they are there that is starting to worry me but rather what happens to get them there.

Certainly our attempts to rise above the cold calculations of nature are noble. We evolved to where "survival of the fittest" is tempered by an urge to nurture the weakest among us.

Indeed, some pets spend their lives snuggled in laps of luxury. And we go out of our way to protect some select wildlife. Yet more than 400 million cows, pigs, chickens and lambs are slaughtered yearly in Canada. Mouth-watering segments of their bodies ease our appetites.

I do believe in usefulness. I would love to think my heart or kidneys could save a life if I suddenly died in a car crash. But what do we give back to the feathered and furry gifts of nature that we snatch too soon and too harshly from life?

Our selective compassion tells us that herding dogs and cats into a killing area, stunning them with bolts, stringing them up and cutting their throats while some are still conscious is wrong. But animals such as calves and lambs are viewed as property, like a coat or a car.

There are economic concerns for factory farmers who apparently, if more humane in their killing practices, would lapse into financial ruin. More humane treatment would increase the cost of meat. Religious idelologies play a role in some atrocities. There is also fear that delving into farm animal issues would mean abstaining from barbecued steaks forever.

Vegetarianism for the masses could be a reality in the latter half of the next millennium but it is a million miles from here. For many Canadians, not eating a hot dog at a hockey game is as extreme as chaining oneself to a tree. Even Oprah Winfrey who said she wouldn't eat another hamburger and k.d. lang who said beef stinks got in trouble for making animal-friendly remarks.

The best we can do is kill with kindness, starting with an admission that the common treatment of livestock is uncommonly cruel and we can do better.

To open our eyes to the travesties, Jennifer Abbott spent five years exploring and filming what happens before those juicy steaks land on our plates.

Her 1998 documentary on Canada's meat-production industry called, A Cow At My Table, examines agri-business practices, our relationship with farm animals, and the unquestioning way we eat them. Her close-up images show animals being affectionate with each other. The film is a mixture of interviews, excerpts from agriculture industry teaching and training films, early 20th-century silent comedies and slaughterhouse shots.

The trouble is that my outrage after stumbling onto a few seconds of Ms. Abbott's tape on TV is fading. There's a chance that the haunting moans I heard will grow faint and I will do what most well-meaning people do after seeing a shocking image -- absolutely nothing!"