Tuesday, February 27, 2007

its all in the desire to learn

One of the best teachers during my high school years was my Grade 12 English teacher. No matter what she may have been going through in her personal life, she always arrived to class with a bounce and a cheeky determination to open a book to learning. You could tell that she loved to learn because she always shared her own discoveries with us. Her key motivation shone through. She wanted to show us that learning expanded worlds, that literature broadened thinking, that even in an initially perceived dry Shakesperean play, one could find the naughty bits to liven the learning up!

My favourite University professor taught Psychology. He taught it by interacting with us.......a class of over 100 students. He interacted by sharing his love of learning, by allowing us to know more about his other passions besides what was in the textbook. He introduced the class to Amnesty International by reading stories of imprisoned people in another corner of the world. He was a master at weaving current events with old psychological theory. His assignments were all "position papers," where we had to read an assigned journal article, but then develop our own angle, our own critical analysis of it. This was first year university.........and we were respected and requested to THINK on our own. This wonderful man, who knew everyone by their first name continues to teach in his 80's. He continues because he has more he wants to learn.

Excellent teachers have a passion for learning. Teaching isn't effective unless learning takes the lead. Perhaps the best teachers find the gumption to teach what they are learning themselves. They teach to learn............experimenting, caring, sharing, highlighting, guiding, with enthusiasm.

I wonder if this is discussed in the Education classrooms at university? Somehow, I think it gets lost in between writing pristine lesson plans and memorizing Bloom's taxonomy of learning. What a damn shame.

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains.
The superior teacher demonstrates.The great teacher inspires.
--William Arthur Ward

Monday, February 26, 2007


For the better part of last week, I was on the road visiting people in their homes. In between deep open conversations with individuals, often pertaining to their aches and pains from illness and difficult life struggles, travelling from one rural home to another, I stopped the car when the mood stirred me and took some pics. The sun, the music playing and my wide open search for interesting shots was the salve needed to clear my head in order to be fresh for the next visit.

Of all the shots I took on this particular day, I liked this one the best. I don't know why.......perhaps the fact that the colour of the stones naturally blended with the birch trees. The shadows........the pristine snow informing me that no one has come to visit in a while.....the heart shaped tombstone.......the history it held.

I didn't have time to check out many of the engravings, but I could hazard a guess that there are but a few different names located in this little cemetary by the side of the road. All of them original settlers to the area............all of whom are most likely ancestors to the people who presently live and work on the land in the area.

I love the freedom of my backroads travelling, especially on a beautiful winter day when the sun is finally caring enough to warm faces again. I also love the chance to meet a wide array of people, to learn a slice of their personal story........what they feel comfortable sharing.

On this particular afternoon, I met with a 62 year old man who lived just up the hill from this graveyard. He lived in the old homestead house, built 180 years ago........old for Canada....... His family had worked the surrounding fields for 5 generations. He had spent most of his adult life living out west, working the oil rigs only to return alone about 10 years ago. Last summer, after feeling very tired and very weak for an extended period of time, he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS). He was applying for a disability pensionand it was my responsibility to meet with him, gather information about his situation and then return to my office to write up his story for the medical board to review.

I had to park the car on the road and trek up the unploughed driveway to his isolated house on the hill. The view was breathtaking, but it was startling how isolated this man was, and obviously without neighbourly or familial supports to help him.

When I arrived to the side door, he greeted me........standing upright. On first inspection I found him dirty and dishevelled, his teeth all darkly stained and his face weathered by hard drinking. He hadn't had a bath in a while. He looked tired and worn out. The old house had also seen better days. It seemed to be falling into the realm of beyond repair. It needed a good airing out. It needed someone to clear the clutter.

We sat at an old harvest table piled high with hardcovers and reading paraphenalia. He apologized for his appearance..........he had woken up feeling a cold coming on and was feeling worse than he had since last fall when he had a bad bout of pneumonia which almost killed him. I asked him if he had help, and he told me that a homemaker normally comes to help for a couple of hours on a daily basis. He explained that because he hadn't been well for over a year, and didn't really know why, he had let the housecleaning slide. He didn't have the energy. The homemaker has been spending her time cooking and cleaning as much as she could during her time alloted. It seemed to me that not a dent had been made in the multi-years of neglect.

Though I had only just met him, I could tell that he was struggling with the onset of his cold and wasn't himself. Still, he was eager to talk. Once we completed the basic information needed to complete the disability application, our conversation went from there. We spoke of literature and his love of reading. He had just finished War and Peace and was enraptured by the story. We talked of music and his love of the piano. He told me stories of his ancestors and the history of the area. We talked about politics and local issues.......about family ties and connections. He showed me pieces of intricate woodworking his great grandfather had completed as gifts for his great grandmother when they were courting. He told me of his work out in Alberta. What he didn't tell me was about any relationships in his life, except that he isn't in touch.

My feeling was that this man had burned many bridges in his life. He was alone, dealing with his diagnosis. We spoke of the need for him to make arrangements for a subsidized apartment in town for next winter. Summer was fine to live out at the old house, but keeping the wood furnace stoked and having enough wood for the winter was too much for him.

The last part of our conversation veered towards spirituality as we spoke of the many things in life we have no control over and how the older you get, the more one realizes this. Sure, we have choices about how we treat the people in our lives, about how we use and abuse our bodies, but that we need to relinquish our pseudo control to a Higher Power.

Illness is humbling. It was a lesson this man had learned over the course of the last 6 months. He revealed his humility to me.

A softening of the heart.

As I was getting ready to leave, we both expressed how nice it was to have met and how much we enjoyed the conversation. I pulled out my camera to show him while exclaiming how lucky he was to have such an amazing view.......asking him to describe what it looks like in the fall when alll the leaves are at their peak. He invited me back to see for myself and to take photos........

I clicked a bunch of vista shots on my way down the driveway while he watched me and then we waved goodbye. My next stop was the shot of the graveyard. That night, when I was home I reviewed all the shots, and decided that this one spoke to me. I wanted to post it right away but didn't know what I wanted to say about the photo. So, I kept it in my "blog drafts," knowing that I could return to it when I found the right words.

Today, I was back in my office writing up the reports of the people I visited in their homes last week when I received a phone call. The man had died on the weekend. Suddenly. Unexpectedly from pneumonia. Alone.

The news took my breath away.

Friday, February 23, 2007

For Niki.............

For my friend who thrives the most skipping along the waters
Free to inhale the sea breezes
Dreaming Deeply
Feeling invincible
Sailing........into the mystic

For my friend who lives way across the pond

We may have different lives
We may be different ages
We may have different dreams.
But, we both look up at the same sky
and share the moon.

We share the moon and it gives us a connection
It gives us hope. Always hope.

I think we both have a little bit of a gypsy soul

Niki, when I read your post the other day about sailing, this is the song I automatically thought of to accompany the picture of you hiking and moving fast with the wind.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

run for the hills!!

Hark! I hear the MOANING of the river ghosts........bellowing all the way from les boulevard de Rene Levesque..........down past ice covered burtonfront and all the way down to the Bay of Fundy.

Is it true? Has the crown prince thrown his red carnation into the political foray? There's no stopping him now. I don't even think the Canadian Sentinel can guard against the media orgy already taking place.


SHHHHH! If you listen very closely, you can hear the ghosts groaning.........fuddleduddlefuddleduddle....son of fuddleduddlefuddleduddle.

If I was Gerard Kennedy? I'd be kissing my future leadership dreams away. The crown prince Justin is now officially on the scene. First Pettigrew's old riding, and then this nation's bedrooms.........

run for the hills!!

thought du jour

I prefer winter and fall,

when you feel the bone structure in the landscape

- the loneliness of it -

the dead feeling of winter.

Something waits beneath it

- the whole story doesn't show-

Andrew Wyeth

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

smelt frys and tying flies

My husband's Uncle Max, after spending his annual 2 "glorious weeks" on his own camping up in the outer reaches of Labrador fly fishing, would arrive back home to Spencer's Island, Nova Scotia with a mitt full of salmon and a glow on. When he'd come over to the old house for a catch up visit when we'd be down for a summer weekend, he'd always sigh and say..........

"You know, fly fishin' for salmon is better than sex with Marilyn Munroe."

Then, he'd wax poetic............and sometimes even quote poetry.......while he gave us the lowdown on his trip to fly fishin' heaven. Well, he wasn't really talking to me, though I'd be in the vicinity as a passive listener. NO, he wanted the attention of the other boys, while he passed me the slimey pleasurable fish to "dress up" for dinner. It's just the way he was. OH, sure we'd have our own conversations about stuff both he and I were interested in when the "boys" werent around, but if he was in one of his fishing and hunting or wood cutting and farming modes, I was invisible.

Now, I'm not interested in sex with Marilyn Munroe. I sure as hell don't think fly fishing EVEN if it was with BRAD PITT teaching me how to cast is better than sex. But how do I know? I've never tried fly fishing........ and tying flies and fly fishing are a big deal around these here parts.

So are smelts. Frozen smelts, and freshly dressed smelts..........all smelts. For frying!! Now, I have fished for these in the creek behind my house during the spring run when I was a kid. But, I never considered taking them home for a quick fry up. Those tiny smelly oily things? Gross.

Last weekend, I had breakfast at the local Farmer's market with a guy who is running for candidacy of a local political party I support. Funny how markets and politics around the world go hand in hand. This one is no different. On any Saturday morning, whether it's election time or not, my Market is crawling with politicians and wannabes. You may not be able to score a samosa these days at the Fredericton Market (big local debacle happening here), but if you're looking for a big slab of cow's tongue or yummy headcheese......if you're looking for freshly dressed smelts or soup bones.......if you're looking for a gladhanding politician, head over to the market on Saturday morning.

So, I found myself sitting at a table with the candidate, and two good ol' boys.....a local MLA and a used car dealer eating a bagel and drinking tea and talking about smelts of all things. Turns out the local MLA was having his annual smelt fry that afternoon........"a BIG FRY UP by' Jaysus!"

While we're having this conversation about how long it's been since the last chow down on smelts, several others stop by to say hello..............hello to the preferred candidate guy, hello to the MLA, hello to good ol boy used car dealer guy...........and always a quizzical look my way. Why? Because every single person who stopped by was a male; 90% of whom were older than me.............and I'd hazzard a guess that a majority of them if they thought about it would admit that fly fishing for salmon is better than sex with Marilyn Munroe. What they did all agree on vocally was their love for smelt frys.

It truly was a venus and mars moment.

Don't get me wrong. The men who hovered around the table are nice decent men. Even the local MP stopped by for friendly smelt fry banter toting a leather knapsack just like the Leader of his party. But, I had absolutely nothing in common with them except for my interest in getting our candidate the candidacy. Not only that, it was very apparent to me that my presence was perceived as odd. I was as much of a discomfort to them as they were to me. Since I was outnumbered, I was the perverbial fish out of water. A muskie, perhaps? :)

This is nothing new. Still, it rankled me again that it's painfully obvious there is a disconnect between politics and the female gender as I sat there outnumbered. Me and a bunch of men who just want to hang out with eachother and not have a person with breasts hanging around. I've learned over the years that there's no point in even trying to jump into the conversation. They don't want to hear any stories from me. They sure as shit don't want to hear any sarcasm or absurdist views coming out of my mouth.........no these moments are almost always chest puffing small talk shooting the shit moments.

And I had so many comments and questions whirling around my head too like.......

You know, whenever I see a sign saying "freshly dressed smelts" I expect to see the little gaffers all buffed out in tuxedos. It always shocks me to see that it's just a bunch of tiny oily fish with their heads cut off.


I'm running a tally to find out if this is true or not. I heard that fly fishing for salmon is........................what do you think?


So, if fly fishing is better than sex, how orgasmic is killing a buck?

Funny though, my political candidate doesn't fit this mold. But, he's able to adjust himself. I can't. He can talk the talk and they listen to him. He's a he.........a he who was expected to take part in the smelt frying later that afternoon, which I'm sure grossed him out as much as it would me. He's the candidate though, I'm not though neither of us had a choice.........I wasn't invited.

And we wonder why Canada ranks #47th amongst the worlds democracies for the number of women represented in the national legislature. There are only so many smelt conversations a lady can withstand.

Monday, February 19, 2007

saying the words out loud

when was the last time you read the words out loud?

when was the last time

you picked up

your favourite poem

your favourite passage from a novel

your favourite song

your favourite story

your favourite piece of your own writing


instead of reading the words silently,

you heard your own voice

you listened to your own tone...

your own emotionally driven sound

bringing life to a typeface?

Starkly soulful, timidly bashful, nakedly vulnerable, boldly assertive, calmly winded words.

Joyful, musical, quiet, haunting, wide-eyed, personified.......electrified

Tearical lyrical words.

Right out there on your emotional sleeve.

This morning, my son and I were home together with me reading some words aloud to help his sore throat go away. Our goal was to finish the novel, "The Bridge to Terabithia," because we want to see the movie this weekend. It's not a long novel and we only had a few chapters left, but it is full of big issues that often take us down other conversational paths...........family, heartache, friendship, death, love and God.........the biggies all wrapped up in a book written for 9 year olds. So, not only was it a great story all on it's own, it was also a jumping off point for pointed questions and the best answers a mom can give when thinking on her feet. We had all morning..........no rush.

Then came the climax of the story and I'm reading aloud. If I had been reading it just to myself, I would have felt the tension, absorbed the description and moved on. However (without giving away any of the story since some of you just may want to read it ALOUD or go see it at the theatres........) since I was dramatically reading out loud, the feeling........and the description of the actions made the words catch in my throat. All of a sudden, I'm unable to continue saying the words aloud..............it was just too darn sad for big brave momma. Oh, I got through it after I grabbed the kleenex box.......with my son staring at me to make sure I wasn't going to break down in a sobbing soppy mess or that maybe my head was going to pop off as an encore.

"Do you cry a lot when you're reading your own books, Mom?"

"Not that often....sometimes, but I think it's more poignant when the words are said aloud."


"Hmmmmm, I think they have more meaning.......you can put more meaning in how you say them. It makes the story more real."

"Are you going to be able to make it through the movie? It's probably going to be sadder."

"Yeah........but don't worry........theatres are dark and I have a feeling I won't be the only one crying."

"Well, I won't be crying."

"Yeah, we'll see.........I think it will depend on how the words are said aloud."

Sunday, February 18, 2007

You haven't looked at me that way in years
You dreamed me up and left me here
How long was I dreaming for
What was it you wanted me for
You haven't looked at me that way in years
Your watch has stopped and the pond is clear
Someone turn the lights back on
I'll love you til all time is gone
You haven't looked at me that way in years
But I'm still here.
Tom Waits

a kookaburra crush

Inspired by Sunday Scribblings, who in their serendipitous manner chose the word "crush" as their prompt this week for our creative writing pleasures............how do you women know how to pick the right word?? You girls are psychic or somethin'?

So, here goes my attempts ........accompanied by a warm glowing sense of je ne sais quoi......

There are some stop action memory moments in one's life which resonate and sometimes get to be replayed with a smile. Past crushes fit this category. Kookaburra crushes top the list. Have you ever experienced one of those?

hmmmmmmmmmm..........how to describe it.................

it captivates you with it's beguiling charm
it entrances you like sips of orange laced cointreau
it fills your ears with laughter and song
it energizes you beyond the need for sleep
it enamours you with gifts of opals from far away
it charms your air with an essence of eucalyptus
it makes you laugh until your cheeks hurt
it teaches you how to focus on the moment
it envelopes you with a sense of one

A kookaburra crush is
a fun rumbling, rambling trainride with a swagman
through the mountains
along the sea coast
past many tiny lights of villages
into the unknown

sometimes it even forces you to try marmite....
er, I mean vegemite........

washed down with heaps of red wine.

sometimes it leaves you with the words to
Waltzing Mathilda etched into your memory
forever and ever and ever......

a kookaburra crush of Cretan proportions.........

visits your daydreams occasionally
but only taps you on the shoulder about once every 23 years
surprising you from afar
making you want to dance in a Zorba circle,
holding hands

remembering fondly.............

It brings a smile to your face whenever you take the time to revisit the memories
Allowing you to remember one very special week of tenderness that happened a long time ago.

Nick, you've been punk'd! How wonderful to hear from you mr. kookaburra after all these years....... what fun we had!

Friday, February 16, 2007


During a psychotic episode, the world as we know it disappears. What is tangibly real morphs into a disconnected tangle of interfering voices, distorted mixed messages and acted upon delusions which all seem believably real to the individual struggling with schizophrenia.

The observable behaviour can manifest differently from one individual to another. For one person, it could be displayed by outlandish outbursts at the corner of a busy intersection..........anger at the world.......anger at a person who isn't visible to our naked eye, but is very visible to the one doing the screaming. Another person may fold into themselves catatonically unable to move or express outwardly what is going on inside their mind. Another individual while attempting to ward off a stressful situation or a hallucination may display uncontrollable ticks. Another human being may be paralyzed by overwhelming phobias to a point where they need to always be out in wide open spaces. Even on the coldest day of the year.

Though there are shared symptoms, the response has a personal signature. My years in the frontline have taught me this much. The opportunity to share time and conversations with people who are living with schizophrenia have always left me with new learning........ at times I find it difficult to grasp myself let alone try to explain it to someone. But, I want to try.

Psychosis is multi-sensory..................it is a loud, brash, multi-coloured invasion of our senses. And for the person who must live every day with a myriad of noise and interference, disconnected from the world, feeling like they are an unwanted visitor even in their own body, it must be nearly impossible to even try to find the way back to the safety of their own spirit.....their own soul.

It is incessant.................and debilitating. Sometimes medication doesn't help. Sometimes the medication has side-effects that are also so debilitating that what is left is a shell of a human being.........so drugged and tired that they cease to be able to function at all. Sometimes, the medication does work and the person can make an attempt to live within the rules and boundaries of our communities.

This week, for some reason, I have met with many people living with Schizophrenia. It's not unusual that I would meet with one or two who are diagnosed with some form of this mental illness, but for some reason................this week my world of work revolved around the lives of several struggling individuals. Not only that, many of my consultations with frontline staff had to do with questions they had about clients whom they couldn't figure out, many of whom turned out to have delusional symptoms.

The new team I'm working with as well, have specifically asked for me to provide them with some information on schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. This is good news. It means they are lifting their heads.......they are becoming more receptive to acknowledging.........on many levels. They also see how I can help support them, how I can fit into their personal world of work. The number of "staff drop ins" to my office have increased again with questions and people puzzles...............the "whys" and "how comes" and "what does this mean" and "can you help me understand" questions are finally happening again, like they did with my old team.

So, my thinking and my sharing this week has been focused on the people we serve who live with schizophrenia. My most important personal learning, however walk through my door at 3pm this afternoon. That's when I met Ben, a 53 year old man who was applying for a disability pension. According to his medical, I learned that he was cognitively delayed, had a speech impediment and was diagnosed with schizophrenia many years ago. I also learned that despite this, he lived alone in a well known rooming house. His medication had allowed him the dignity to be able to live independently.

Ben arrived completely dishevelled and a little nervous because he didn't know what to expect. We sat facing one another with no desk between us and started with small talk about the bitter cold weather and he proudly showed me the scarf his brother's girlfriend had knit him.......bright colours of wool warmth. I then explained to him that I needed to ask him some questions in order to be able to write his story for the medical board so that they would know him better than what the medical stated.

I asked Ben some basic general questions about his family...........he was the oldest of 15 kids and grew up in rural poverty. His speech impediment was severe and I had to really strain to understand and to follow his side of the conversation. What was easy to decipher was that this man was a gentle soul..........he was so unassumingly gentle and polite as he described his siblings, his struggles in school years ago and his spotty work history. He mentioned his affiliation with a local church which I gleaned was very important to him. When I asked him about his reading, he told me that his ability to read was fine. He read parts of the Bible every night.

The turning point in the interview came when I had to ask him about his schizophrenia. So, as gently as I could, knowing that he probably never talks about it, I asked..........

"Ben, how would you describe to me what schizophrenia's like. Pretend that I know nothing about it............how would you describe it?"

His sparkling eyes rimmed with red and filled with tears and in a clear solemn voice he said...

"Lonely. It's so lonely."

Then, there was silence.........it seemed like a long time, but it wasn't. It was a poignant silence. There was nothing I could say. I couldn't make it better. I couldn't take it away. I didn't really know what to say because I was completely shook by the depth of lonely Ben had shared with me......had taught me. He continued....................

"I live in a room. I have lived in one room for 25 years. It's all I have. My pastor calls me and we pray to God and ask Him to take my loneliness away."

"Does it help?" I ask............

"Yes.......I know it's God who I need to rely on. Sometimes I don't feel so lonely when I'm praying."

We carried on with our conversation, and I was able to give him some information about applying for housing support and to encourage him to go to the community kitchen and the Monday night drop in program that takes place just down the street from where he lives. He wanted to know if I attended church regularly and how old my children were. When it was time for him to leave I walked him to the door and watched him wrap his big colourful scarf around and around his neck and face, put on his touque and try to zip up his coat right up to his chin. His coat collar was all askew and I couldn't help but untuck it..........a maternal thing I guess. He smiled as he wished me a good weekend.......as I did to him. And off he went, a little lighter than he arrived.

I went back to my office and sat down and cried for a man who shared his attached soul, who taught me that schizophrenia means lonely.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

"The loveliest fairy in the world;
and her name is Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby."
Charles Kingsley remembered from The Water Babies.

The Water-Babies, A Fairy Tale is a children's novel with big adult themes written by the Reverend Charles Kingsley. Initially he wrote it as a serial for a magazine, it was first published in its entirety in 1863. The book was extremely popular during its day, and continues to be a mainstay in children's literature courses.
In the style of Victorian-era novels, The Water-Babies is a moral fable. The protagonist Tom, a young chimney sweep, falls into a river after encountering an upper-class girl named Ellie and being chased out of her house. There he dies and is transformed into a "water baby", and begins his moral education. The story is largely concerned with Christian redemption, though Kingsley also used the book as a platform to argue that England treated its poor badly, and to question enforced child labor, among other themes of the times.

Have you read it? It's been a long time since I picked it up and escaped into this fairy tale, but for some reason I was thinking about it today...... maybe because I spoke with Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby who knows a thing or two about how to love the unlovely. I'm grateful to work with her everyday.

thought du jour

"Of all tyrannies, tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make Hell on earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be 'cured' against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals. But to be punished, however severely, because we have deserved it, because we 'ought to have known better,' is to be treated as a human person made in God's image."
C.S. Lewis.

This sure drums up many examples in my head...............How's about a toast to freedom of thought and freedom of choices? Spirits should never be shackled.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

my funny valentines................

bess and martha

max and greer

deep dimple smiles
creative minds
grand hearts
big love..............always.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

winter's soul

Of late purple shadows stretching across barren patches
Of growth looking for life dormant under the blanket of biting bitter cold.
Of life and light flickering warmth from a source too far away to care.
Of ice lacey art tickling the windows until the moment the sun drives them away.

Winter's soul tricks our sensations, revealing naked truth.

Aching to fill in hiding places of the creaking crevices of human condition
Pressing and persevering....pushing back our steps to move forward.
Testing our endurance to fight off fatigue.
Teasing out loneliness found in the quiet stretches of thought.

Winter's soul sounds it's slow baritone moan, recognizing imperfection

Deep in the night,
When stars don't compete for attention
When stark thoughts feed temptation
When reflections weep a pallor of grey
When silence drives us toward God

Winter's soul offerings lead us to healing forgiveness.

Written this morning during a boring meeting....... ;)

Monday, February 12, 2007

what if?

Don't know where this post is going to lead me, but I'm here for the ride.

How useful is the time spent ruminating over the "what ifs?"

What if I had handled it differently? What if I hadn't taken what he said to me to heart? What if I had been ten minutes later? What if I had taken a different path? What if we had never met? What if............................

A case of the "what ifs" can render you sitting on that carousel horse going around and around and around...........same cheesy tune..............same scenery floating by.............and what are you left with? A sore ass, a head full of knotted misgivings and a complete hate-on for the carnival.

More often than not, this rehash process happens after something sinister or nasty happens as a means to assess and evaluate.........as a means of learning. The effectiveness goes off the rails and into a navel gazing exercise in futility if one can't just accept and let go..............to forgive yourself for screwing up.........to agreeing with yourself that you'll try better next time. When the screw up is a huge one, well it may mean a lot of time examining the what if's.

Sometimes it isn't a self-inflicted screw up. Sometimes something happens that send you reeling and wondering.......awake at all hours............

A good friend and colleague was confronted with big "what ifs" last week, accompanied by the question, "what is the universe telling me?" On her way home from the office last Tuesday, alone in the car, she was hit by a woman in a pick up truck who was speeding down the wrong way on a one way street. The pick up truck crushed the passenger side of my friend's vehicle, totalling the car. Both women are fine. My friend ended up bruised and emotionally shook up.
The what ifs? Well, her husband just happened to be away last week. Had he been home as per usual, my friend would've been the passenger. As well, she had left work 10 minutes early, which is unusual for her as she works days and many evenings in the community pouring her heart into her job and into the people she helps. What if...............

5 weeks ago, just after Christmas, my friend's 20 year old daughter was on her way home from visiting her father's family an hour or so away. She hit black ice on the rural highway, spun out and flipped the car only to land in a ditch right side up. As she spun around, the big thermos of hot soup her grandmother gave her and the coffee she was drinking spilled open and swirled all around her, never touching her. The car was totalled, but my friend's daughter walked out of the car and took herself to the nearest home for help. It was like a protective bubble was around her.......not a scratch nor a burn or much bruising.

What is the universe telling them? Who knows?

The day after my friend's accident last week, I went over to check on her and to drop off a bag of goodies. She had decided to take the rest of the week off...................so I found her smiling, still full of adrenaline and wonder. She asked........

"What message am I supposed to hear? What is the universe telling me? How can we be so lucky? Whatifwhatifwhatifwhatifwhatif..................." We talked our way through the incidents, and I'm sure she has done so several times since. It was needed. It was big.

Why did this happen to me?

Not everything that happens has a bold reason behind it, but I do believe we are thrown hardball lessons sometimes. That's when we need to take the time to analyze it. Who knows how long we should perseverate over the meaning of something because boy oh boy we sure can get stuck in that one unmovable place pretty darn fast. It really depends on the lesson.

We may never know the answer........what we may recognize is that often these life experiences, whether it's a choice made gone awry, or it's a new person who has entered your life, or it's an event that is completely random...........it just may be a lesson in humility.

We are human. The only thing we have control of are the choices we make before and after an encounter or an event...........how we handle it...........whether we recognize it as a message from Above, or whether we are stopped in our tracks for a long time wondering.........it is almost always humbling.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Can you guess what this is?

how about this pic?


Last night, while sitting in front of the fireplace with a friend enjoying a glass of wine a song popped up in our conversation. I don't even know where it came from or how it wound up being retrieved from the past. Surprisingly, neither she nor I knew anyone else at this juncture in our lives who knew the song. Also surprisingly, it turns out it was our favourite folk song sung when we were young attending different summer camps. Of all the folk songs we were taught, this one resonated the most......she at her camp in her life separate from mine. We have only known one another for a couple of years..........

When I was 10 or 11 years old, my camp counsellors were heavily influenced by the folk songs of that anti-war era.........many were shared.......many were taught....many were sung around a campfire. I remember them all fondly........ For some reason, I couldn't for the life of me remember the words to my favourite. The tune has been nestled in my brain for a long time with no means of connecting to the words. Sometimes, a snippet of the song would pop up and as hard as I'd try, I couldn't dredge the rest up from my memory. I asked others if they could remember. I tried to find it on the internet, but had no luck. I didn't know who wrote it until last night..........it was Phil Oches.

A touchingly beautiful end of summer lament returned. A gift. Wish I could hum it for you. But I think the words hold up as poetry. No need for a tune.

Beautiful pictures of starry night beach gatherings, of glowing faces lit by the light of the campfire, and of one special summer love whom I also know holds this song close to his heart............these are my pictures filling in the grace notes between the lyrics.............


Sit by my side, come as close as the air,
Share in a memory of grey;
Wander in my words, dream about the pictures
That I play of changes.

Green leaves of summer turn red in the fall
To brown and to yellow they fade.
And then they have to die, trapped within
The circle time parade of changes.

Scenes of my young years were warm in my mind,
Visions of shadows that shine.
Til one day I returned and found they were the
Victims of the vines of changes.

The world's spinning madly, it drifts in the dark
Swings through a hollow of haze,
A race around the stars, a journey through
The universe ablaze with changes.

Moments of magic will glow in the night
All fears of the forest are gone
But when the morning breaks they're swept away by
Golden drops of dawn, of changes.

Passions will part to a strange melody.
As fires will sometimes burn cold.
Like petals in the wind, we're puppets to the silver
Strings of souls, of changes.

Your tears will be trembling, now we're somewhere else,
One last cup of wine we will pour
And i'll kiss you one more time, and leave you on
The rolling river shores of changes.

Phil Oches.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

the "do it" people......I'd like you to meet one.

Are there people in your life who make things happen? You know, the ones who have an idea and follow it through to fruition - the people who have the capacity to alter a way others may see or think about something? They come in all all ages and shapes and colours. Poets, builders, architects, photographers, philosophers, artists, musicians, leaders, inventors, kids, politicians, volunteers, ministers, mystics, bloggers, humans...........the people in your community......

These are the "do it" people who inject ZEST into life.........the bright lights who say things like........

"HEY! Let's try it this way........"
"Why don't we plan a.................?"
"Let's turn this painting upside down and see what it looks like from that angle."
"Wow! Look at those clouds rolling by...........don't they look like......."
"That person looks like they need a friend.......I'm going to see if they need help."
"When life gives you lemons................Dance!"

Sometimes, we consider their ideas and quests a bit eccentric. Initially, we might even see them as strange because their views seem so different from our own and are too "out there." Why is that?

Different connotes the unknown. Different means unpredictable.

Ah...........but different also means a tasty new flavour...........a spicing up of a bland meal.

Most people fear the unknown that accompanies change. Status quo....stay the course....Why rock the boat? These cliches resonate with non-risk takers. They are secure in their knowledge of how things are in their world. While remaining cocooned in a safe place that lacks fluidity normally generated by new ideas and visions, they remain stifled and unmoved. Opportunity knocks, but the door to awareness and learning does not open. It's just too scary.

All achievements, great or small begin as a single thought; an idea that is nurtured and expanded upon through the confidence of believing in the vision. If the feat falls outside of the realm of the ordinary, one tends to face many more obstacles. Many more people will balk at their vision.

And yet, there will be others who are open to the freshness of new ideas and they will support and even sustain the individual as they work towards their goal. Often it is this type of supportive nourishment from others that will allow the individual to push through the difficult vulnerable self doubts that crop up in order to continue to pursue their dream. Ultimately however, it is up to the Visionary to persist against the odds to reach their summit....to remain resilient.

Resilience...............isn't that a great word?

Resilience.............It comes from within. It is fortified by faith....it is what propels the dreamer forward..........and up to the top of the hill.

Let's always applaud their efforts and thank them for bravely exposing their uniqueness.

Today..................I want to applaud and recognize a definate "DO IT!!!" person in my community. Charles Leblanc is the most prolific blogger in the province. One most days, Charles posts 4 or 5 stories and photos a day! Full of passion and vision and ENERGY to burn.........Charles' goal is to shake things up and to document it. He's a beautiful man who tries his very best to be the thorn in the side of politicians and mainstream media journalist. And, I say to him..........................go get 'em TIGER!! Spice this planet up!!

Check out Charles' blog...........and if you want to know more about his story, try googling his name.........

Friday, February 09, 2007

imaginations in unity....

I want to share a piece that Dustin wrote on his blogsite today. It's so beautifully written, and frighteningly true.

here it is...........food for thought.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

the waiting room

If I had my druthers, I would spend part of my day sitting in a busy public place observing and wondering about the people sharing the space with me. I find it so fascinating watching the interactions and using my imagination to fill in the unknown.

Where the air is filled with real life unfolding. I love it.

Today, I found myself sitting in my doctor's crowded waiting room soaking in the sounds and sights and the smells...........of well worn winter boots.

It is a place of secrets and unknown fears
of aches and fatigue
of money and poverty
of urban and rural
of new and old
of limps and relief
of joy and sorrow

all playing out while a tinny radio plays worn out hits in the background and the receptionist with an Acadian accent fields calls and inquiries.

Today, I watched a very young woman cradling her swollen belly. Soon, she'll be a mom. And I wonder if she has someone to love her. I wonder whether she's excited or overwhelmed with the idea that her carefreeness is gone. It's hard to say. She sits alone. Still. In her head. Cradling her belly. Lost in thought.

Today, I see an elderly couple who have spent their adult lives together. A few whispered words as they wait for their turn to see the doctor tells me this. They both look exhausted, like the trip in from their home zapped them of all the energy they normally use throughout a whole day. Instead, they had to summon all of it to dress warmly to travel to the third floor in a medical building. And I wonder.........which one is feeling ill. Which one needs the attention of the doctor. What are their worries? Have they travelled into town to hear news? Both of their names are called. They both go into the examining room behind the closed door. I wish them well under my breath.

The quiet is sliced as the door opens to a mom and her 18 month old little one whose dressed in coordinated pink boots and snowsuit........fluffy pink mitts on strings dangle out of her sleeves. She just had her needle, and yet there are no tears. Instead, this resilient little one regales everyone with waves and smiley good-byes as she wriggles out of her mom's arms to independently walk out the door. Her charm makes every heart smile no matter what the ailments. And I think.......let's hope this little one grows up to be a motivational leader!

Like the little one was a signal to allow for discourse, conversations begin between acquaintances. No matter where you sit to observe in this city, people know one another. Familiar topics are treaded upon but swiftly the storybooks open to sharing a slice.

It's funny, I think.......personal information is not shared so freely where I grew up. It's a Maritime thing.

Open books crossing imaginary people boundaries.

I sit and listen to a man from "up river" chat up another man whom he hasn't seen in years. He jumps into his story about hitting black ice on a rural road a month back, totalling his truck of 14 years and leaving he and his mother named Myrtle (whose sitting on the other side of the room quietly) with bruises and cracked ribs.

"It's them seatbelts what saved us, right mom?"

"Yep, but they left us all bruised up. And them blow out things in the dashboard. They helped, but it was some awful scary," she replies.

The radio begins to play the Barenaked Ladies song.........."Pinch me"........the first lines.....

"It's the perfect time of year
Somewhere far away from here

I feel fine enough I guess
Considering everything's a mess............."

I smile at the scene I'm observing and the song words........and decide to stop writing down my observations in order to jump into the conversation.

"What road were you driving on?" I ask. They let me into the storybook.

As we carry on the conversation, the young pregnant girl reappears from behind the closed door. Smiling, she looks relieved. Her bounce in her step tells me she's going to be alright with her new role.................she just needed a bit of reassurance.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


It starts with stabbing feeling deep down in your gut
an uncomfortable twinge of realization
filling you
with too much oxygen
an unharnessed burst of anxiety

It can make you feel naked........caught in the headlights

It can make you feel tender and raw

It can make you feel alone

It happens during moments when you least expect it.

Often in the dead of night

You've put on a brave face for a long time......and then when you feel like you've overcome the adversity and you start to relax...........

the sharp stab of vulnerability arrives

out of the blue

Where does vulnerability come from?
What does it tell us?
Why do others shy away from you when you admit that this is how you're feeling?

Maybe shown vulnerability is like a reflection pool......maybe.

thought du jour

"Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon. A happiness weapon. A Beauty Bomb. And every time a crisis developed, we would launch one. It would explode high in the air - explode softly - and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air. Floating down to earth - boxes of Crayolas. And we wouldn't go cheap, either - not little boxes of eight. Boxes of sixty-four, with the sharpener built right in. With silver and gold and copper, magenta and peach and lime, amber and umber and all the rest. And people would smile and get a little funny look on their faces and cover the world with imagination. "

Robert Fulghum

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

let the silly season begin.........

The top of the New Brunswick Legislature on a snowy January day, 2007

"This is the song that doesn't end
It goes on and on my friend
Some people started singing it
Not knowing what is was
And they'll continue singing it forever
Just because..............

This is the song that doesn't end........."

sung by shari lewis and the ever insightful lambchop.

Today, pomp and circumstance invades this fair city as a knock is heard on the door of the illustrious Legislature. Just like ALL good British parliamentary forums. However, don't let the beautiful facade fool you. Inside lurks silliness masked as elected officials who will do their very best to primp and pose in front of the camera.

Sound bites and sword fights take centre stage as they parry and counter-parry over issues, some of which are meaningful to voters, others created as fodder for the fencing bout. It always gets heated. It always gets silly. It always gets off track as personal points become more important than the larger picture of progress.

So, what to expect this time around as the Liberals take centre stage for the first time in this provinces in 7 years? This issues may have a slightly different flavour, but the fencing footsteps will most likely be the same old song and dance.

Be on the lookout for that ever elusive elf named "self-sufficiency".........clothed differently, but still the same McKenna face. This catch phrase has lost it's shelf life.........but will be dredged up again and again and again. This time, it will somehow be paired with the homeostatic term "sustainability." That way, it will cover all hot ticket items............jobs, energy, poverty, and the environment.

Self-sufficient sustainability...........it just slithers off you tongue, doesn't it? Too bad it means squat. The brain drain will continue, as will the ongoing overloading of our energy usage, as will homelessness, as will our mucking of the environment.

My, how cynical I have become.

The opposition Tories still smarting from their losses? Be prepared to hear their rally cry trying to score early points ----

"You Grits BROKE your election promises!!"

The finger pointing, sabre crossing, eye rolling, voice raising, vein popping blaming game is about to begin. We can only hope for some uniquely interesting scandals and dirt to liven things up.

Gee, for some reason, I can't get Lambchop's song out of my head............

"Some people started singing it, not knowing what it was, and they'll continue singing it forever just because........."


Two sites I want to share with you that deal directly with homelessness. Much more importantly.......... these sites provide insight and light on the human beings who are living homeless.

I have written in the past about Tony who lives on the streets in Toronto. His friend Philip writes his blog for him.........the words and conversations they share. Insightful, philosophical........a friendship of two people living very different lives.
Here is the link.............................

The second site is written by a frontline advocate and compassionate listener who works at a homeless shelter. His insights and concern are shared openly allowing the reader to walk a mile in a homeless person's shoes. Thank you to Monk for pointing this blog out to me a while back.
Here is the link.............................

Monday, February 05, 2007


The sun hasn't gone down yet where I live, but it's bitter cold already. The wind has been fiercely blowing all day, almost taking your breath away. People are bundled up with just their noses and tops of their cheeks peeking out of their scarves and toques and parkas. And still, the cold bites through our gloves and the wind seeps through the wool.

Soon the sun will go down, and the majority of us will be in our well lit heated homes making dinner....something hot and savoury. Comfort food.

Meanwhile, many people will head to a homeless shelter. They will be protected from the elements. There are some individuals, however, who have worn out their welcome at the shelters for one reason or another and aren't allowed to cross the threshold of the shelter. Some purposefully choose not to sleep at the shelter because they don't feel safe. Many reasons.

It happens.

Today...................I'm wondering....................what happens to these homeless human beings when the sun goes down? Where are they? Who is looking out for them? Who is paying attention? How will they survive through the bitter cold night?

It's -35 degrees Celsius with the wind chill factor added on........and the sun is still shining................

Sunday, February 04, 2007

scoring of sunshine and storms

"The aim and final end of all music
should be none other than
the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul."
Johann Sebastian Bach

A multi-layered temperment emanates from classical music. Without words to direct the story, the sounds of an orchestra driven by purposeful glory somehow make their instruments weep with emotional resonance. It can turn a silent bare room into a cathedral.

One violin........just one violin played by a master has the ability to lift you into it's imagination.

One flute........just one little innocent flute played with light fingers and precision lips can conjure a picture of a whole sky filled with geese flying with the wind.

Like any great story, classical music begins softly; a few measured notes to set the tone. Layer upon phyllo layer deepens the timbred plot. When the layers deepen to include other toned strings and deeper baritone sounds from wind instruments, the visuals behind the musical stories are ornately multi-hued, leading you on a journey that may bring sunshine or storms, merriment or loneliness, solace or conflict.........depending on the spring in the notes.

These are my captured thoughts listening to a CD collection of some of the masterpieces while folding laundry alone this afternoon. It seems to me, I prefer to listen to a symphony on a Sunday afternoon when I'm attending to a task that needs no part of my own thinking. Mindless tasks allow for mind full ness.......a chance to inhale beauty........a chance to imagine.

I have a very limited knowledge of classical music. In fact, I could only list a few names of well known pieces, and a few others I have grown to love. Yet when I take the opportunity to be present just to the music to allow it to flood over me I can lose myself in the captured grace.

Grace notes from the Masters...........filling my ears with the warmth of Creation on a bitter cold February Sunday afternoon ............mindfully appreciated.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

a pocket full of smiles........

Dawn over the Saint John River Valley, February 1, 2007

Free spirited Jane (whose tiara I long to adorn myself) down in beautiful Philly "tagged" me to write about 5 good things that put a smile of my face this week. At first, my mind went blank as I searched for the grandiose. Well, 5 grandiose smiles rarely happen in one week unless you have just won the lottery or you have JUST fallen in love for the first time and can't think straight, walk straight, sleep or eat......or if God just happened to knock on your door looking for directions only to be invited in for some cognac and a chat. Given that none of those events happened this week..........and given that's really not what Jane meant...... I gave my head a shake and started over. Here's my list

1. Sunrises before heading out the door. We were blessed with a few memorable dawnings this week. The photo I've included was the one that stopped us all for a moment of recognition during our rushed prep for school and work.

2. Last night I found myself sitting on a bench in an elementary school gym sipping tea from my travel mug, jotting ideas for this post, and watching a bunch of very determined 9 year olds learn how to play as a basketball team. I wasn't a game crasher......no I was meant to be there. My son Max was playing with a group of boys whom he didn't know when the season started last fall. Lots of smiles over this scenario. Not only has he made his way "in" with this group of boys who all attend a different school than he, Max's skills and confidence have soared. He fits. He belongs. He has learned how to give and receive..........as a team player. The biggest smile? His own. A successful 8 points he contributed to the win. Big dimpled grin from ear to ear on his rosy red hot face at the end of the game.

3. I learned this week that for the first time since he released "River of Dreams," Billy Joel has recorded a new song..........."All my Life........" I plan to ask him to play it (disregarding that he wrote it for his newest trophy wife) when he comes for Thanksgiving dinner next fall. I'm very excited. Paul........a spot will be saved for you. :)

Guess I better get my act together and formally invite Mr. Piano Man.

4. I went to Moncton on Wednesday for a meeting at the Moncton Headstart Centre. I had always wanted to see the place and have always been interested in the whole philosophy around the "Headstart" programs for preschoolers..........and finally saw it in action. Their mission? "We empower at-risk children, families and individuals to realize their potential and lessen the impact of poverty." Many smiles.......many ideas............and will share more as I figure out how to start up one here in Fredericton. I may have just found my next career path........

5. Alexi Murdoch: Time without Consequence............he sounds like Nick Drake. He sounds like John Martyn. I hadn't thought of those two singers in years and yet..........they were the first who came to mind listening to this man sing. His song which had a line he sung repeatedly about salvation and love filled my car the other day. It was mesmerizing. I had never heard of him before....... beautiful, romantic, lyrical, haunting...... loved it!

6. yeah..........I know it was supposed to be five.............but I was never one to follow rules. So, my sixth.............? Whenever Lily has done something she wasn't supposed to, she greets us at the door with a sheepish smile. REALLY..........the dog smiles. This photo was taken last night. Though she hadn't done anything wrong...........when I asked her to give me a smile for the camera, she lifted her head, wagged her very long bushy tail and smiled.

Friday, February 02, 2007

on writing

What is it about writing that captures me?

In the past, I would spend hours staring down a blank page wondering what I could write about that hadn't already been stated before a thousand different times, in a thousand different ways. I would stall as my desire to write would evolve into blankness, stuck on trying too hard to find something original. There were many fits and starts. I joined a writing group which turned out to be a de-motivator and actually zapped me of my confidence in my ability for a long time.

Still, I continued to make lists of story ideas which would lead to writing a paragraph or two, but then the impetus would leave me as soon as I started second guessing the validity of my creative attempts. I'd also hear a story that would spark my interest enough for my brain to register it as fodder. But, nothing substantial materialized. It remained as an idea............a thought bubble. This went on for years.

If I had to describe the genre of writing that intrigues me the most, it be would encapsulated under the theme of "real life." I like the people stories......the regular folk who all have a fascinating tale to share, whose originalities speak to me. I love trying to describe their daily struggles of growth and learning from my observational and interactive perspective. Sometimes I write about a human being whom I have met during my daily travels and who has touched me in some way. Other times, I write about the people who are closest to me. When I'm in the midst of writing a life story, I lose myself in the process. The words seem to lead me.

So, why did my creative tap finally start flowing? It was time. The desire to share the stories I had collected and finally reaching a point where my interest in spirituality returned fed me the words. Very quickly the process of writing began to stir my emotions, and my creative side. It has allowed me an opportunity to reflect and to focus on capturing what was on my mind.

The discipline is truly a spiritual one because it has taken me into wells inside me I had never acknowledged before. Once I realized that the word flow taught me how to unravel my observations, my feelings, and my thoughts in a manner that seemed to integrate them with who I am and how I became that, I was hooked.

Writing about life journeys feeds future journeys. It fills my cup of life with new perspectives and it empties my cup of life when I share it. When I drink it all in, I am able to acknowledge the tapestry that makes up original me.........the pain, the frustrations, the celebrations, the joy and the sorrows, and the many many blessings. Finding the words..........sharing the words.......sipping the wine from my cup and sharing my cup with you............taking the time to be silent and still in solitude as I write strengthens my faith.

Writing is teaching me how to pray.