Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Sunday, November 26, 2006
I found a basket on my front porch.
It needs filling.
Though it looks like a non-descript market basket, one that you may see a neighbour carrying fresh produce in during her foray last summer to the local farmer's market, it was actually created by a woman who weaves to feed her family.
She weaves day and night.
Her young daughters weave alongside her.
Together, they receive pennies for their efforts.
Still, their efforts allow them to continue running their own business, to continue reaching for a better life.
I want to fill this basket with nourishment.
A bountiful collection from my community
To the woman who weaves and to her community.
A listening ear
A few bandages for the little hurts
A fiddler to play music that weeps and reels
Fingertip touch to heal the scars
Smiles, miles and miles and miles of them.
Eyes for vision and a heart to see
Candles for the dark nights
Stars for wishing upon
Fleece for warmth
Bread and wine to share
Hands to help, to rock, to reach out
Unconditional love to help mend the big hurts
And a bouquet of summer field flowers for hope.
This basket is magical..........it will expand to include all that it needs to carry. Care to put something else in it?
Sitting in my dining room and hallway of my home are fifteen market baskets heaped with goodies. Each basket has a theme. There's one packed with teddy bears of all sizes, another filled with every size candle imaginable. One has Christmas ornaments, wrapping paper and gift bags. Another is loaded with red and green items. Jolly ol' St. Nick peaks out of one and Frosty and friends smile out of another one. One "Just for Dad" and one for a whole family to delve into on a snowy winter day. They are all wrapped in clear cellophane and adorned with a big diaphanous bow. My daughter and I arranged the items in the basket and then wrapped them together.
After we completed the task, we stood back to take in the result of our fun task, the word that leapt to mind was abundance.
Why do I have 15 baskets in my home? Every year, the school that my son now attends (my daughter attended as well but is now at middle school on her way to high school next year..........how did that happen so darn quickly??) has a Christmas Bazaar. It's the one big fundraiser of the year for the school. The event is next weekend, but the preparations for it begin in early October. This is our 7th Garden Creek Christmas Bazaar and our 5th year pulling together the theme baskets for the event. They will be raffled off to raise money.
The theme baskets are only one part of the event, but definately my favourite. By next Saturday the gym will have been transformed into a happening with tables of abundance. Homemade baking, craftwork, used books, mounds of playdoh made by the Kindergarten class, a teacher's table to show off their individual talents, a whole back end of yard sale items will have accumulated. Pre-ordered wreaths and pointsettias for pick up, and a whole slew of donated items to be raffled off.......... Ralph, a community member who by day works as a minister and by night at this time of the year works as Santa in the local Mall, takes part selling popcorn and slushies will be there too. Every classroom on the main floor of the school will be set up with an activity the kids can take part in. It's a swirl of energy topping off individual efforts.
What I love about pulling together the baskets with Martha every year is the symbolism. Each item is donated by a child and their family. Each basket belongs to a class. A couple of weeks ahead of time, I send off a list of themes to the teachers. After they choose their theme, I write up a letter to be sent home with ideas to consider and with instructions that the item can be homemade or purchased for only a couple of dollars. A communal effort.
Then, the stuff just comes flying into the school. By the time Martha and I get over there to pick it up, each classroom has accumulated bags full of goodies. What amazes me every year is that rarely do I find duplicates. What I do find is that most items I mention in their letters are represented. It amazes me every year.
The reaction to the end product is especially rewarding due to the sense of community they represent. We all do our part and no one spends more than a couple of dollars for the effort. Together, we create abundance which in turn will benefit the children at this school.
Now, if we could just take that concept and reach out in a small way to the larger community think of the goodwill we could spread.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Lots of bloggie ideas are swimming through my head this morning all vying for attention. They will have to wait on the back burner because one particular thorn in my side needs to be pulled out.
Yesterday I spent an eternity in a boardroom in the bowels of an office building sitting through a "strategic planning" exercise in futility. The potential for amazing connections went untapped as we were force fed a theoretical process of "mapping" out how we can work together. Meanwhile, as the facilitator who is obviously a wounded individual who needed to seek affirmation by describing ALL that she has personally done for the betterment of our government department instead of allowing the bright lights around the table to share their frontline wisdom and stories, I could feel my blood pressure rise and my "jiggy" feet start scrambling under the table. It took all of my energy not to bolt.
Yes, I was triggered on many levels and thought I was alone in reacting this way until mid-way though the meeting when we were able to step outside for a break. Then, I heard others frustrations. It was good to know I wasn't alone. Anger and frustration filled the outside air with gusto.
Selfishly I strongly felt that I should be the one up their leading this meeting. Instead, the powers that be decided it would be best to bring someone in with a background in organization design who works at a higher planning level in our government department so that I could take part in the conversation with my peers. That backfired. The only add-ons I wanted to contribute were four letter words. So perhaps it was a "good thing" that the facilitator had her own agenda and decided to TALK rather than facilitate so that I didn't go off the deep end of expletives...........Geesh. That would only have led to trouble and humble apologies on my guilty part.
For the first time ever, which I find unbelievable in itself, a group of us.........all of whom work in some capacity with families............all of whom work under the auspices of "prevention" have been given an opportunity to develop an alliance. We all work under different divisions and supervisors within our department.........social services, housing, social assistance. Our offices are spread out under different roofs. And our computer systems are not linked. So, for example, I may be working with an individual counselling them and trying to help them take a step forward into the world of work at the same time as another frontline worker may be dealing with this same individual and his family because they have major issues with their skills as parents. It's the classic example of not knowing what both hands are up to. It is classic bureaucracy muddled....... drives me batty.
Some of the staff work in a community development capacity. A few work with kids in the school system. One woman provides wonderful programs for parents in the community. There was a home economist, an early childhood intervention worker, a few Case Managers, a woman who inspects and licenses daycares and who arranges for interventions for children in need. One dynamic friend and colleague is doing amazing things with the families in public housing communities. We were all brought together to meet one another and to learn about each other's programs and talents. It's an impressive group of women (yes all women) who share a compassion for the frontlines, who WANT to band together to provide our programs and services in a more cohesive manner.
Yesterday was our third time meeting together this fall. The first two meetings were productive in that we shared parts of ourselves. Everyone had a chance to offer a glimpse of what they are doing and who they are. It was exciting, informative and helpful. The sharing and chatting automatically led to informal connections. Our personalities along with our emotional dedication to working with people shone through. What we needed yesterday was not a mind numbing pre-designed template to fit into. What we needed was a forum.............a FORUM...........to answer a few questions and most importantly to build the trust.
What do we need so that we can feel connected? How can we forge a "team" of compassionate individuals who are all doing good work but feeling like they are all alone in their quest to help families under the umbrella of prevention. How can we move out of always "reacting" to crises and situations to prevention. If I meet with a person in need...........how can I arranged to get all the skilled frontliners who can help them together........with the client in the lead.........with the client feeling supported? Everyone around the table had the answers. Except, whenever anyone stepped out of the template box to offer one, the facilitator promptly lashed out to give a lecture on the importance of process before arriving to the end product. It was an "I know best" attitude coupled with the message that one must suffer to be rewarded or some such twisted thing.
Can you see why I wanted to bark bark bark???
It was a classic Transactional Analysis situation.......................Facilitator acting as "parent" and participants reacting like "children".........or wanting to. Grrrrr............
Be patient..........I say to myself. Now that we have met..........now that we know one another a little bit, we will find a way to pull our talents together. It will happen because we all want it to. Our philosophies are the same and our hearts are in the same place. We are the people who see and experience "real" situations with the clients........and want to make a difference. We will make it turn from some theoretical mapping template bullshit process to real connections. However, before that will happen we have to meet AGAIN because us bad little kiddies talked too much and didn't finish the exercise in futility.
Shaking my head.............seeing the absurdity.................hoping the facilitator somehow gets her own needs met.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Yesterday, I spent the early part of the afternoon with a young woman of 23. She was referred to me after her initial intake interview and registration for social assistance because her story was complicated and her needs are many. Though the reason for the referral is typical, the individuals I have the honour of meeting are all unique. I love that. It's what drives my desire to stay in the frontlines................I get to meet the most interesting unique people and learn a little of their mystery.
Everyday. Uniqueness. Everyday. Newness.
Like all connections, we began our dance to find the common ground. It doesn't matter who you are connecting with safe footing is where to start, especially if the dance floor is uneven where one is a client and the other is initially perceived as authority and middle aged.
Leading the way, I explained who I was and asked her to share a bit of who she was. Smiling with my eyes........showing that I'm listening. Being present. It rarely takes very long if you find the right song to play. A couple of choices possibly to find the beat. If you are open to where your dance partner wants to jump in, the connection happens. As it did, she began to pour her woes, her complicated, multiplicated burdens..............way too many for anybody...........way too many for a 23 year old.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
What is home?
Is it a place where you can settle as you sink into your favourite well worn chair
Shaped to hug
Sturdy to hold your tiredness
Is it a refuge where you can let go to just be yourself as you........?
Sheltered to protect
Solid to withstand joy and sorrow.
What does your home look like?
Does it consist of soothing sensual colours
Blending and embracing you warmly
Like cold hands clasping a hot mug of tea
Does it have a face with relaxed krinkling eyes that smile
Welcoming, encouraging always............
Is it a state of mind connected to the heart.......?
Your very own transportable, inflatable, deflatable sanctuary
defined by you
redesigned by you
Open to ruminations and reflections
Receptive to light and darkness
Able to comfort you with a flick of a thought.
Can you go there now?
Government can provide housing. Who helps find a home? We all need home.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Time and again I listen to clients say............"I just need a break. I don't want to be on welfare."
Stuck in the welfare system. The longer they're stuck, the harder it is to get a break. Once a person is in receipt of social assistance longer than 6 months, the chances of that breakout becomes more and more bleak. Policies and the lack of any integrated approach by government and community based services perpetuate the downward spiral. Our systems have produced a culture of poverty that has become acceptable................if not acceptable than ignored.
There are many wonderful people working in the frontlines who, more often than not are mired within their own siloed policy driven systems. Networking does occur, but real sharing and real commitment to helping a person out of the ghetto that can only happen if the commitment includes working from the same philosophy is sadly and blatantly missing.
I realize that the issue of poverty it isn't so clearcut. The clientele I work with are fighting a barrage of barriers, which range from illiteracy to dilaudid addiction. Mental illness, abuse, chronic health issues, poor coping skills, learning disabilities, family dysfunction feed the poverty cycle. Recent Canadian studies have shown that clearly over 70% of clients living on social assistance are clinically depressed. Disenfranchised and disconnected from their surrounding communities, individuals living in poverty remain stuck. This is no different than any other community.
I strongly believe that finding oneself on social assistance is a symptom of an individual's life situation. There is a cause and effect to the end result of finding yourself in crisis sitting in an office having some government worker assess your financial eligibility..........to see if you qualify for social assistance.
There has to be a way out. There has to be a more positively enabling approach to fighting this hideous demon. What is the role of government? What should it be? What are the roles of community based organizations? Of business? Of the Church? Of community members? Of the individual? What should they be?
How do we start finding our way to establish a successful gameplan?
Quite simply, we humanize it. We take poverty out of the abstract sphere that it encircles, and begin to see it as a person just like you and I.
If poverty has a face, it becomes real. If it is real, our compassion will embrace it. We can then make a connection.
Muhammad Yunus began his microcredit approach to helping the poor in Bangladesh by connecting with a small group of villagers who needed a meagre couple of dollars to move out of a life of poverty. They were the faces that opened his eyes. His experience since that first transaction has offered him proof that poverty is not an option. Next month, he will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with the Grameen Bank.............the microcredit institution he founded. His theory and practical approach to eradicating poverty is working.
One individual at a time..................all they need is a helping compassionate hand, and a break. Living a life stuck in poverty is totally unacceptable.
Monday, November 20, 2006
My personal feelings? I thought it wasn't a great move because of the mixed messages, but that my son got the point of the entertaining Ronald MacDonald show in his gym. According to Max, Ronald was promoting healthy living. He sarcastically told me: "Yeah, you eat a Big Mac, then you go for a run and burn it off, and then order another Big Mac and then go for a run." Ah, yes balance! Me of all people ended up being the voice of humourous reason......
Sometimes stories can take on a life of their own, especially when there are only a handful of radio stations to tune into in this fair city. On the day it aired, everywhere I went I bumped into somebody who had heard the panel and who wanted to air their own feelings. It hit some weird nerve ending. I guess the school admin offices throughout the city were inundated with phone calls from irate parents who didn't know the big goofy guy was in town. CBC received several emails, and in turn interviewed a school official to try to find out who was responsible for approving this horrendously hideous heavy handed event. Today, there is an opinion piece in the local paper that referred to a comment I made on air. This morning, the Minister of Education, from his cellphone while standing in the Toronto Airport waiting for his flight to China to promote New Brunswicks "FABULOUS" school system, announced that Ronald MacDonald will from here on in be banned from our elementary schools. The news made national headlines.
Read the story for yourself
Thank God for small miracles......................we have saved our children from the artery clogging calamity caused by too many chicken lips.........er I mean nuggets.
I think people have too much time on their hands to really care about more important issues. I also think that the ire shown indicates that parents don't realize how savy our children our. WE underestimate their ability to read a situation realistically. We also think we can "save" and "protect" them from the evils of advertising as well as anything that could wreak havoc on their tender psyches. How will kids ever learn to critically think if we protect them from controversy? Get real!!
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God; your playing small doesn't serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Nelson Mandela, Inaugural speech, 1994
How was it that the world never forgot Mandela, like we have many others who have been unjustly imprisoned? Could it be that he lived these words, breathing in the meaning every moment he was behind bars? His light shone through the fortified walls. We felt his strength. His light allowed him to overcome his fear and suffering in order to be able to walk away free............torch held high.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Right when it doesn't seem like it could get any darker, she looks up through the opening of the trees to the calming familiarity of the night sky and the galaxy of stars that have always been a guide for explorers who are attempting to map out their destiny.
Deep intake of fresh night sky air....a sigh of relief......and the path becomes more accessible.
PS: Tonight, the night sky will entertain. Meteor showers are in the forecast to commence during the darkest part of the night, of course.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
And soon all those around
Can warm up to it's glowing
That's how it is with God's love.
Once you've experienced it
The love you feel
Within your heart
You'll want to pass it on.
This afternoon, I had a chance phone call from a previous client. He needed to share the follow up to his story. His life is complicated and a thousand times more frustrating than mine will ever be. He has travelled down so many dead end roads, has made so many bad choices in his life which have left him untrusting and very burnt around his edges. And yet, he phoned me. He took a chance, and picked up the phone. Interestingly, as much as he needed to connect with me, to have me listen and to help him find perspective, I needed to hear about his world to help me focus on what is really important, and on the other inconsequential things I must learn to crumple up like dry leaves and blow away in the wind. I also needed an opportunity to pass on a spark of hope, even though I didn't know I had it in me before he called.
Of course, it was thinking about our conversation afterwards when the realization hit me. I didn't need to be a blazing fire all the time. All I need is a spark to keep me going. All I need to do is pass on a spark.................to someone else.................and allow them to make their own glorious wood crackling campfire. By passing it on, I received a gift..........another ember of mine re-ignited, warming me.
The words to the song I started this post with came to mind automatically. Always sung softly at chapel, my memory of it includes the sound of innocent voices, sitting on the beach cuddled together in bunches of friends, tired from a long day of activity, mezmerized by the glowing campfire. All little sparks ..........safe and secure in the knowledge that they belonged.
They matter. We all matter.
Once you've experienced it
The love you feel
Within your heart
You'll want to pass it on.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
After the taping today, the conversation continued as we decided on the next topic as well as shared other non-aired stories with one another. And as I listened the one word (besides the term "wellness") that irritates me more than any other kept rearing it's ugly head.
Where did this term come from? It's not in the dictionary. I looked.
When did parenthood turn into a verb? What the heck is parenting?
There are many verbs attached to parenthood, but the state of being a parent is not a verb. It is a state of being. I am a parent.
As a parent, I provide, guide, love, nuture, teach, support, protect, pick nits (Thank God only once) and wipe noses. I read books, sing silly songs, clean up spilled messes, take temperatures, help with homework, drive, drive, drive. I tell stories, organize birthday parties, pack for trips, make meals, play thousands of "go fish" card games, sit through tweenie movies, draw baths, wash hair, love, love, love. I reassure, mend, fix, hug, console, dry up tears. I discipline, set rules, teach respect and kindness, demand proper manners.
Sometimes I lose my cool. Sometimes I am human and show my agitation. Sometimes I feel so fed up with it all that I get the hell out of here..........to clear my head. But even when I am off blowing out gusts of fury I am still a parent. I'm Mom. I'm Mom BEING EMOTIONAL.
Like every parent I worry, fret, wonder, show frustration, hope, talk, share, listen, pray. And when the day has been particularly stressful for me or my child OR for the whole family, I find solace in watching my child sleep soundly under the covers.
How odd it would be if I was to ask someone..............so what are you planning to do on this fine Saturday........... and they answer.......... Oh, I thought I would do some gardening, cooking and then a little bit of parenting this afternoon?
Being a parent is an ever evolving learning process, hopefully guided by common sense and luck..... just like our own parents did the very best that they could, we take the reins from them and lead on............... I may screw up from time to time. My bark maybe worse than my bite every once in a howling blue moon. I may surrender to serving chicken nuggets one too many times instead of something healthier. I hope to God I don't scar them for life with my days when I'm uneven in providing. But, I will never describe my role as a parent with an "ING" attached to it.
Did I sit silently and let my opportunity to air my pet peeve pass? What do you think? NOT!
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
From my perspective, my interview went well. In fact it felt like night and day when I compare it to my previous foray out into the nasty land of job applications about a year and a half ago when I was shortlisted for a Community Development position with the City. Then, I overprepared so much that I was jam packed FULL of information, ideas and giddy enthusiasm that I scared the interviewers, one of which was the Deputy Chief of Police. I'm sure he doesnt scare easily, so I must've been a sight. I was wound so tight that I looked and sounded like a whirling dervish of nervous mania.
This time? I let my experience and my knowledge lead me. The position I was being interviewed for was a Teacher Counsellor........yes...............counselling teachers in 3 school districts who are having a rough go of it for whatever personal reason and facilitating professional development workshops. I was asked questions and given scenarios in the two areas I'm most comfortable discussing and doing.......counselling and facilitating so I had the confidence in myself to know that if I didn't know the answer right away, I would just need to let my intuition guide me. Determined to be a little more in control of how I am perceived I had intended to be low key, until my husband offered his advice.......not to be so low key that my true nature didn't shine. I needed to just be myself. He was right. I decided right then and there that I would wear my orange scarf to show my colour.
A funny thing happened on the way to the interview. When I arrived at the assigned appointment time, I was left to sit in a cavernous room situated in the middle of the second floor of an office building. Staff offices were all located around the perimeter, leaving this unused space which actually didn't feel like a room. It felt more like a really large hallway, carpeted in dirty pink, that had a boardroom table in the middle of it and a bunch of old metal filing cupboards as decor. It was wasted, wasting space. There I sat, and waited, and waited and waited. For 45 minutes, I entertained myself with some wordplay and took in the ambiance, of which there was very little. The silent inactivity was deafening. Though there were probably 40 odd offices on this floor, I didn't hear one phone ring, one keyboard click, one human voice, one photocopier doing it's thing. There was no music to this place. It seemed void of life.
Well........there was one aparitious person who passed by. She was dressed in jeans and high heels, which I always find a very weird combination. She flitted by on her way to a supply room just off this cavern. In her flurry and with her head down, she walked right into the glass partition beside the door. Maybe she thought she really was a ghost. Thump........... I looked up just at the right time to catch her rebound off the glass and her wobble as she tried to maintain her high heel composure. I reacted........and asked if she was alright, but she regained control only to slink into the supply room without acknowledging me. Did I dream that?
Finally, one of the interviewers showed up to escort me to an interogation room that at least had a window out to the real world, which was a good thing because quite honestly, I was feeling disconnected from the bigger world. Quickly I perked myself up, shook hands FIRMLY............... with eye contact, and smiling eyes..................and thought to myself......."It's Showtime!!"
Then, the questions began............all predictable............all open ended to a point where one can get all tied up in knots if one doesn't focus on linearity. I talked and they wrote. I gave examples that clarified the points I wanted to make, carefully choosing examples. They continued to write every single word I uttered..........rarely looking up, except to lob another question...........
yap, yap, yappity, yap.............serious yap, light yap, funny quippy yap, direct and to the point yap...............I yapped until my flap felt flattened. Fuck!
About halfway through the barrage, they asked me about my feelings on "wellness."I told them I was all for it. However, in my mind I was thinking........hmmmmmm I wonder if a martini in one hand and a cig in the other constitutes the beginning of a wellness evening? I wonder if I dare tell them that the term "wellness" makes my skin crawl; that for some reason it conjures up a vivid picture of a child being force fed? Hmmmmmmm.........I wonder if I tell them that wellness is a marketing term to sell a way of being from a book or some motivational tapes that in reality has to come from within.........and it takes a heck of a lot of fortitude?
I got off track.........linearity left me a wee bit I must admit...........the questions continued................my humour meter went up......
Am I willing to work nights and weekends? Am I willing to travel 2 hours each direction from my homebase to counsel people wherever I could find a quiet spot on the side of the road or in a Tim Horton's............but never in the school.............? Am I willing to make presentations to 300 people, all of whom pay union dues to cover the salary? Am I willing to justify my existance so the job remains part of the collective agreement signed by the teachers? Am I willing to offer up my firstborn?
All of a sudden, I find myself spouting off about William Glasser.........chief guru of Choice Theory and Reality Therapy. Glasser's theory highlights the concept that we have certain needs that must be met.........the amount of the need is individualized. One of them is freedom. All of a sudden, I hear myself harking that Glasser would agree that I have a "high freedom need..." In other words......................."let me blow this interview now, because I'm feeling a noose around my neck. I'm not looking to give up my whole complicated and joyful life for a job. I have a life that is full." Well, I think that's how they may have interpreted that.
It wasn't until I found myself gasping for air while rushing out into the natural sunlight heading to my van that I personally realized just how much I didn't fit. By the time I pulled in the driveway of my friend's house for a cup of tea debrief, I had decided that this job was not intended for me. I couldn't envision myself working in such a silent environment, and in a bureaucracy that was a bigger monster than the one I am presently ensconced in. Anne and I had a good laugh over some of my answers................all had been sprinkled with me........
I went into the interview with a set of expectations, and with the intention of moving on from my job working with clients who live on the periphery. I left knowing that this was not the next avenue. It wasn't time to move on. I have more to offer where I am................... I can learn much more before I venture into another galaxy.........
I have struggled in the bureaucracy I presently work in for a very long time. These past couple of months especially have been emotionally debilitating on many levels, mostly because I have been treated like I was being banished. No meetings were arranged by my new supervisor. No welcomes, no workplanning meetings, no job description. In order to deal with this surreal and downright rude situation, I kept my head down and tried to focus on my work with clients. But, I struggled.................and came home on more than one occasion in a heap of tears. Frustrated, angry, feeling invisible and unwanted.............I knew that if I made a fuss, I would be labelled the one with the problem. Normally I am the vocal one when it comes to identifying an injustice. But, I knew that any complaints from me would be perceived (and pointed out in defence) as an inability to deal with change. I had to time my feedback properly.
Today, I attended my first meeting with my new team. I hadn't been informed of the meeting ahead of time...........somehow that email missed me. But, when the agenda arrived with my name first on the list to discuss my "role" with this team.........even though I didn't know what my specific role was............I jumped on it. It was time to get over the anger. It was time to fix my situation. Take the reins.........use my voice..........rattle some cages.............BE HEARD!
I'm happy to state that I was heard.........and was welcomed by a group of really nice people. I now have an idea of what it is they are spending their days doing........and they know what I can offer to them. I also met with my supervisor's boss and opened up my heart. A few snotty kleenexes later ( he told me he can handle tears better than anger.............I told him my tears stop me from loudly telling someone to piss off ).................we had managed to come up with a great project for me to tackle in the New Year and to turn the page on a very shitty beginning. I'm excited again.
Oh.................right after my day long meetings, my phone rang. They decided to go with someone else, but they REALLY enjoyed my interview. It was a great deal of fun, he said.
I told him that I was quite comfortable with his message, that I enjoyed myself as well, and that they could catch my act next week. I'm headlining at the Kit Kat club.........
Sunday, November 12, 2006
I am but one cell, housed with similarly shaped cells that function best when working together.
I am but one cell, sharing a home with differently shaped cells.
Separated though interconnecting functions. Trying to work together.
I am but one cell...........one of millions and millions of cells at home in the body.
All with equal importance.........all accepted and needed.
Sharing a faith,
Learning a faith,
Living a faith strengthen by compassionate love and forgiveness.
Faith held by a Guiding internal skeleton.
This is the Body of Christ of which I am but one cell.
Epiphany..........what a musical word. When I say it in my head, it is always accompanied by the sound of a piccolo. Are epiphanies always joyful? Are negative epiphanies called something else?
Fearfully and Wonderfully Made is an insightful book which I am enjoying immensely. Brand's physiological analogy, using human bones and our skeleton as a representation of the gospel offers a visual that I can comprehend. It is the internal structure, the skeleton that allows the body to function. Inner meaning housed in our bones. Rules and Christian values that allow us freedom of movement.
The inner skeleton feeds and promotes spiritual growth. If our faith is worn on the outside of our skin, or as a hard shell, the fluidity of the lessons of Christianity become hardened and steadfast. A hard shell encases us in a ritualistic and fundamental structure that doesn't offer us room for interpretation of the gospel.
Brand states: "Jesus understood that rules and governing behaviour are meant to free movement and promote growth as a vertebrate skeleton does, not to inhibit growth as an exoskeleton does." He continues................ "If doctrines and rules are worn externally as a show of pride in spiritual superiority, the exoskeleton obscures God's grace and love, making the Christian gospel ugly and unattractive."
If the rules of the gospel are too rigid, too encasing..............basically if you don't "tow the line" completely, you won't receive God's approval? This has always been my personal "beef" with organized religion. I've never been comfortable with someone pushing their beliefs on me. In fact, I've never been comfortable when I have been cornered like that on any topic. Covenant claustrophia perhaps?? Smothering suggestible sinning? No. I want to live my life with a skeleton that allows me to find my way.......with a growing faith, with an internal compass to guide me.
Inner thought..............down deep. Yes.
An epiphany to nourish this little cell. It has been a fruitful day.
Dr. Paul Brand.
All year, I had forced myself to pay more attention to the conflict and to the stories behind the individuals who make up our Forces. I grew up in Ontario far away from an armed forces base, when years ago Remembrance Day was relegated to a 2 minute silence, while still attending classes. We didn't have the day off. We were detached from our history. Ever since I moved to the Maritimes, Remembrance Day and the role of our troops in the global community has taken on a much more significant meaning. Still, I wanted to understand it viscerally. I wanted to know why anyone would consider a life as a soldier. It still seemed a bit foreign to me. So this year, I watched the solemn funeral services of the fallen soldiers. I read many articles about the war to learn about the reasons behind our involvement. I absorbed the heartfelt stories Christie Blatchford wrote in the Globe and Mail about her intimate contact with the young soldiers entrenched in the war against the Taliban. It helped me feel more engaged with my neighbours.
Two personal encounters also provided an opportunity to shift my perspective and to allow me a much needed human touch.
Last winter I taught a counselling course at the University and serendiptously met a young reservist who had signed up to take my course. He was graduating with a degree in History and Political Science, had been sponsored by the armed forces to attend university, so why take a counselling course? He wanted to learn more effective ways to interact with his peers and with his Commanding Officer. He had also been pegged by the Forces to take part in a mediation type group who would be deployed to Kandahar to work with the local people. Bright and articulate but blunt in his assessment of other's skills during the times when they practiced in class, he quickly rose to the top of the class once he grasped the intricasies of how you couch your words.......of how you actively listen to the feelings behind the words.... of how you must choose the right approach by assessing the other individual's level of receptivity.
Of all the students in the class, he and I gravitated to one another during breaks where we would quickly jump into a discussion on the nuances of political theory, or the recent political climate, or a particular columnists' view on a topic. He had many questions pertaining to the lessons of the day and wanted to understand it more deeply. He was fascinated by my career and passion for working with people and I of his. Neither of us wanted to switch places, that's for sure but there was an underlying respect for our chosen paths. Today, he is in Kandahar. I havent heard from him since the day of the final exam, though I think of him often.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sharing lunch with another reservist. A graduate of RMC in Kingston, and an Officer who has experienced both the war in Afghanistan and a peace keeping mission in Bosnia working directly under General Hillier, he is now looking forward to making a run at the political arena, which was why we were meeting. It was an opportunity for both of us to get to share views and stories......his from the frontlines of the war, and mine from the frontlines of the fight against poverty. His stories offered me a clearer glimpse of the dedication and drive of our troops, for which I am grateful.
These two deeply felt encounters drove my determination this year to attend the Remembrance Day services. I hadn't attended in several years, mostly because I am a blathering idiot when it comes to anything emotionally intense and I didn't want to make a complete fool of myself in such a public venue. Add the sounds of the bugle and the bagpipes and I'm toast. Oh..........who am I kidding? I have been known to shed tears over Kodak commercials for goodness sake. I have found that the older I get, the more weepy I can be.........songs and emotionally stirring events zap my composure. So, knowing that I would most likely lose it, and still determined to attend to show my support, I donned my bright red coat, my poppy on my lapel and a big wad of kleenex in my pocket and went.
Scores of families and individuals lined Queen Street as the Veterans, the warm sun shining on their youthful souls led the parade to the Cenotaph. There were many more people attending than I expected. Applause filled the air, as we all watched the men and women in full regalia march behind.........representatives from CFB Gagetown, local RCMP proudly in their red uniforms, the little cadets with their familiar white hats, Scouts, and Girl guides and Brownies and Cubs...........local politicians and representatives of the Legion were all in the parade. With lumps in our throats and swelling hearts, we stood on the curb feeling grateful and proud.
Pomp and tradition and pride.
The service itself was a little less polished, though by no means less meaningful. Somehow in between the hymns, the prayers, the silence, the lone bagpiper and the bugler.........somehow while representatives laid wreaths, there was a bit of levity when the gentleman leading the service read a poem he had written about an old salty Vet who fought in the war and then returned to live amongst us as a husband and father. His words made the crowd unexpectantly chuckle.
And as I sang our national anthem with the thousands in attendance..........as I sang God Save the Queen.........as I sang Abide With Me.....................I realized that it had been a long time since I had been given an opportunity to sing those songs..............I realized that my small voice allowed me to feel engaged to my community, to the history of my country and to what the future may hold.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, saw dawn, felt sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up your quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Can you hear the lonely echo of the solitary bugle?
Can you hear the shivering anguish in the silence between the notes?
Today we stand together in silent tears
Listening to the heart pain of past and present wars.
The spirit echo
More than remembering
More than remembering
More than remembering
Friday, November 10, 2006
"It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away
It's a beautiful day"
Thursday, November 09, 2006
circa spring 2000
I'm home today with my son. Normally, he's an early riser like me but this morning he was cocooned under a duvet complaining of a belly ache that miraculously disappeared the moment I told him that we would call in sick and stay home. I could tell all week that he was wiped out and needed a break. His pale little face revealed all. So, as I write this he is hunkered down on the sofa under a blanket in his Sponge-Bob jammies catching up on cartoons and sports news. He's had his toast and apple juice served to him..........the colour is returning to his relieved cheeks.
Sometimes we just need a break....................and a time to catch up on conversations.
Some of the most interesting conversations I have are with my 9 year old son. He has one of the most inquisitive ticking brains that I know. It's always been that way. When he was attending daycare as a preschooler for example, the car ride to the centre almost always included a thought provoking question from Max in the backseat thrown forward to his sleep deprived parents in the front..........often he would perseverate on a topic, allowing it to ruminate over and over encompassing a whole week of related questions. Other times, the questions or the topic would arrive out of the blue. Sometimes he just wanted a simple answer.......... and other times he just wanted some additional information to glue onto the stuff he already knew. Many times, he left his mom and dad baffled and wondering how to answer.
Do you think there are more grains of sand on the beaches than stars in the sky? What is the capital of Chad (he was stuck on the country Chad for a couple of weeks........don't know why, but we all seemed to learn a lot about this African country which previously hadn't given much thought to) How does the gas make the car work? What time is it now in Australia? What is your favourite kind of dog? Why do the leaves turn colour?
On and on and on.................brain food for all...................
My son is a sponge for learning. Not a darn thing gets past him. He is an alert observing being whose senses pick up all sonar blips. The Christmas season when he was 3, Max asked me whose birthday it was we celebrated.
"Jesus," I stated.
"Jesus? Heeeeeeeeee was born on Christmas Day?"
"Yes. Jesus was born on Christmas Day to Mary and Joseph." Thinking that this was a teachable moment, I stopped what I was doing, turned to face Max to give him more information. "He was born in a Manger in........." Max interupted with a quizzical look on his face and asked..........
"Well then who's Geez? You are always talking about Geez? I thought it was his birthday on Christmas.........??"
Busted! Note to self.............mind your gutter mouth............
Max learned numerical concepts like a duck to water. He was born to count, to calculate and to store statistics in his personal calculator in order to spew them out to support the point he is attempting to make or to answer a question..........or to drive us bonkers. Our fridge was covered in magnetic numbers. He could count in his head from the age of 2. A multi-tasker in the male sense of the word, he actually learned to count while learning to use the facilities. That is where male multi-tasking occurs, right?
Adding turned into multiplication at the side of his older sister as she struggled to memorize her "times tables" in 4th grade with the help of verbal quizzing. Max at age 5 then had them licked the first go around. Drove his sister crazy! Now that he's in Grade 4, when I look at his agenda book to see if he has accomplished the list of homework duties and see that he has a Math quiz on mulitiplication........I lob him one............."Max, what's 8X7?"
Without a beat he answers.........."56, Why?"
"OK.......What's 7X7 minus 8, plus 3?"
"Just wanted to see if you were ready for you Math test tomorrow."
"Geez, Mom...........of course I am. Do you think it's gravity that keeps the oxygen around us so that we can stay alive?"
"Ah...............sure..................gravity and Geez."
Sometimes his questions drive you batty. He can be incessant with the statistics. It was like we created this monster when we introduced him to hockey and then to the game of baseball, the jackpot of serious statisticians. The tap turned on and he hasn't found a satiation point. It's quite hilarious to hear him discussing some little sports tidbit on the phone with his Grandfather (another sports fanatic). You'd swear they were peers. The two of them went to Cooperstown this past summer to take in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Wish I had armed them with a tape recorder................. the questions and permutions of past glories..................manna.........
Every morning starts with a trip to the Sports channel to catch up on the latest scores, highlights and stats.............it doesn't matter which sport it is, Maxwell has the angle.
He's not a serious little chap all the time, my Max. He's actually quite funny and if he wants to he can whip up the laughter quotient in the house with one wicked quip or dance move. In fact, it is his desire to be a comedian when he grows up. Jack Black and Will Ferrell are in his radar. Can create a rap lyrical song off the top of his head........changes the words to songs to fit the scenario at will........just like the funniest man I know...........his Dad.
Last night he was asking me if lawyers make a good salary. When I stated that yes, they did and that he would make a great lawyer because his brain worked in that way ..........he responded very quickly with ..........."Now that would be a good combination .......a Lawyer Comedian .......betcha there aren't many of those."
Yeah Max, normally they are the butt of the joke.
Lately, we have been playing Scrabble in the evenings. I have yet to win a game, but the two of us have had many laughs over the definition of words and scoring calculations. (Geez, I look at that sentence and think..................how friggin' geeky is that?) The other night, I had put the word "perm" on the board for oh........about 5 points. Max added a the letter "s" to the front of the word and asked me the obvious question.................what is sperm? As I took a breath and tried to figure out how much information he really wanted to know..........I started in on the definition........."well.................." Like always.......but this time with a look on his face that told me he hadn't realized he was heading down the path of discussing sex with his Mom..........he used the new information with the stored brain stuff and replied.........."So, they are like tiny tadpoles. I store tiny tadpoles? I am made up of tadpoles? Gross...........OK........that "s" is on a double word score........so that's 12 points for me. I'm winning........"
He makes me laugh out loud. His take on life makes his whole family laugh out loud. He also makes my heart melt.
Last night, as I reading and Max was playing a basketball game on his gamecube, out of the blue and with feeling, he asked me..............."Mom, how has your life been so far?" Given that the night before I was venting my anger and tears over an unrelated personal incident by turning into a mad hatter craft designer at the dining room table, which he observed.........I thought he was gauging how I was still feeling. Testing the waters so to speak. I assuredly answered that I was quite happy with my life..............
"How about you, Max?"
He answered......"I don't know why I've been thinking about this so much, but I think I'm very lucky. I have a great life. So many others don't."
He stopped me in my tracks, like many times before. I realized that it had much more to do with the news of the world, the upcoming Remembrance Day, and connected to the book he is reading in school about a girl who lived during World War II. He was connecting the dots in his head again. I put down my book and moved over to the couch closer to him. Together we discussed the importance of family and friends, of love and belonging, of living in Canada and not having to live in a place where war and lack of food is a constant, and of being responsible for others who are less fortunate because of our personal fortunes.
A teachable moment for both of us.............as always.
Satisfied with the conversation, his little ticking brain clicked when he realized the time. He jumped onto the couch, tucked in beside me and turned on the real basketball game........the Raptors were playing. Lucky for us............more stats to add up.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
If you were to place the pattern up on the mantel above the fireplace while you stood back to view it, you may be able to admire the combination of colours and the blur of the lines, but you'll find that it's difficult to decipher the pattern clearly and you may simply walk away from it...........forgetting the intricacies, forgetting the design.
If you were to show it to a friend to ask them for their interpretation of the pattern, they could possibly offer descriptive insights which may allow you to see it in a new light. Food for thought, but in the end it's your interpretation of the pattern that matters
If you were to make a shawl from the pattern to wear over your shoulders, keeping you warm.........allowing you to see it under different lighting.................offering you an opportunity to adjust the fit...............it would always be there to admiringly consider while you learned of it's intricacies.
Your own tapestry.............your own shawl of many colours................to wear down the path to fulfilling your destiny.
Knowing the make up of your pattern will allow you to choose your unique path ...... will allow you to unfold your talents, your fingerprint...............will guide you towards fulfilling the destiny God has designed for you.
Monday, November 06, 2006
We garner friends for different reasons or needs. Some are people with whom we share a long history - we grew up together in the same neighbourhood, attending the same schools, hanging out in eachother's backyards. The bond is often of similar childhood events, shared locality and possibly nothing more. If you're really really lucky you may find your lifelong kindred friend in your old neighbourhood, but most likely you have to venture off that safe street.
Someone once said: "Similarities create friendship's while differences hold them together." Maybe the differences have to be found a couple of streets over, once you leave your front yard to expand your boundaries, ideas, values, and life experiences. Along the way, paths cross with others who often are asking the same questions, who share similar belief systems or are respectful and receptive to exploring another way of looking at life. Most challenge your own thinking by tossing you a few new crumbs to whet your appetite.
Similiarities............differences.............respect for both...........a short path to a warm welcome.
It’s funny. For a long time, I lived with a myth in my head that you get to an age when you don’t develop new friendships. Who knows where this bizarre misconception evolved? Who knows where any of those goofy notions come from? No matter……it did and I did think that way. Luckily that spell was broken. I have learned that new friendships can be established as often as you allow them to. It may be more difficult however, to meet new people if you remain only within your daily realm. Yes……you may have to leave the safe street and venture out to another avenue, open to differences, receptive to an accent that may have a different twang to it.
What I do believe NOW is that a new friend………you know the kind? Those kindreds whom you feel you’ve known forever (or possibly in a past life perhaps??)………..one who reflects the best I have to offer and I to them…..well, they are WELL worth the jaunt across the street to break bread and drink wine with.
Oh, the comfort,