Sunday, September 30, 2007

Unfinished business

Unfinished colouring of fall in all of it's glory

Above all, trust the slow work of God.
We are, quite naturally,
impatient in everything to reach the end
without delay.
We should like to skip
the intermediate stages.

We are impatient of being
on the way to something unknown,
something new,
and yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stage of instability –
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually – let them grow,
let them shape themselves,
without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will)
will make them tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of
feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
~Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

For most projects, we have a goal to complete the tasks, to reach a point where we can state "I'm finished!" It's a great feeling isn't it? There is a sense of accomplishment, a boost of confidence, a rush of pride especially if we know we have done the best we were capable of doing. It's an all round winning feeling to cross that line, to hold up our projects and cry out: "DONE!"

Interestingly, it's the last thing you want to declare for the most important project you and I continue to work on. Ourselves. Who the heck wants to be finished?? We are all projects in progress. We are people at work, under construction, at various points of incompleteness. And you know what? As much as it would be nice every now and then to shout out ..... FINISHED ..... how awfully boring life would be if there wasn't something to examine?

Mike Yaconelli, in his gem of a book, Messy Spirituality states that "the construction site of our souls exposes our flaws, the rough-hewn, not-finished faith clearly visible in our hearts." We need to remember to "trust the slow work of God."

We unfinished beings, in our clumsy stumbling bumbling way continue on our journey with twists and turns, with ups and downs, with detours GALORE. Sometimes, we will hit a peak where everything seems to align at a plateau where a sense of security and understanding allow for the grasping of an enlightened aha moment. This feels soooooooooo good. A lining of the alignment of the universe kind of feeling.

And then............and then..................... and then what?

We return to the realization there is more to learn, more to absorb..........more hills to climb, more thickets to cut through. As soon as we feel a sense of security at almost the same time, we are thrown into an urge to seek out the unfinished menagerie. We become impatient with our pace of the process of learning........knowledge, comprehension, questioning, connection to previous knowledge, application, internalizing it.........

We are unfinished, forever seeking, always bumbling human beings. We screw things up, say the wrong things, make bad choices...............not all the time..............some of the time. We're really good at bumping our heads on the same window ledge over and we can't learn to duck. But, we DO learn......and we grow and we examine and we share and we seek out more of the same. Why? Because we are unfinished........and it is our sense of "unfinished-ness" which offers us opportunities to experience the true sense of wonder over and over again. You know? That feeling of WONDER which motivates us to seek out deeper answers, to ask wider questions, and to recognize that we are all in the middle of a suspenseful that you cant put down.........and one that you don't want to end.

Be patient and enjoy the unfinished drama. No need to skip the intermediate part. It may be where some of the clues are hidden. Who wants to really close the book and yell out DONE?
Trust in the slow work of God.....

Be patient. take in the show of colour.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Power of Literacy

Spencer's Island Lighthouse....a beacon of light helping chart the course
Photo taken by my daughter, Labour Day weekend, 2007

"There is no greater joy, nor greater reward than to make a fundamental difference in someone's life." Sister Mary Rose McCready

I spent this afternoon on campus in a classroom delivering a workshop to a group of university students who have signed up to volunteer as literacy tutors for the school year. Some of them will be working within a school setting, but most of them will be involved in an afterschool homework program for kids who live in public housing. My role was to offer them a glimpse into the world where these children live and how their living situations impact their learning abilities in the regular classroom.
It was a bit of a daunting task given that I only had a short time with them. To try to choose a few main points out of all of my years I have worked in the field was difficult. It turned out that the prompt for this week's Sunday Scribblings, the word "powerful" gave me a key to get started. And I started with a question.......

What can provide us with a feeling of being powerful and in some control over our future?
An Education

What is the most powerful foundational component of learning needed to successfully acquire an education?

Literacy. Being able to read and write.

If one can read and write and whole world is alive and open for exploration. Potential is an open book. Knowledge and the ability to access new knowledge is empowering, enlightening, life enhancing. It connects us to others in our communities. It allows us to express ourselves with others all over the planet. It opens doors to limitless potential.
From there, I led the group in a discussion on how to begin the journey with a child whose candle doesn't seem to stay lit and spoke of the power of listening...........listening to what is not being said.........listening interactively so the power of a connection between two new reading buddies will take hold..........using the power of listening to grow the connection, to build the trust, to engage the child in order to pass on the torch of reading.

Having the opportunity to be the one who lights the candle held by a child whose life has been dark because of the struggles in school, and the inability to learn at the same pace as his peers because of his/her environment or cognitive abilities is one of best gifts one person can pass on to another. That one new lighted candle then has the potential to glow for a lifetime. That one little candle has the power to impact another unlit candle and another and another.

One lit candle illuminates a lifetime of self directed learning. What is more powerful than that?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Lord of the Dance

When I was around 11 years old, I took modern jazz lessons once a week. I was in a large group of girls the same age taught by an older woman who wore flashy flowy dance outfits and had a perma grin on her face. Even at that age, I could tell her smile was covering a foulness sitting in her mouth. Now, didn't I write that nicely, because what I really wanted to write was that she had what some people refer to as a "shit eating grin." oooooops........I wrote it! How impulsive of me.

This dance teacher projected a sense of uppity pride because she was married to a man who was a TV host of a VERY local game show called Party Game. I think the prizes were dinner for 2 at KFC or something........Granted, the guy was well known in and around my hometown, but I highly doubt he was ever a household name across the country. Nevertheless, we heard about him during EVERY class. We were even given autograph pictures of him. Despite this weirdness, I LOVED learning modern dance. I loved the music and the atmosphere..........and learning new steps. I even loved wearing the black dance tights.

One night, about halfway through the year, we were learning a new routine which was going to be a part of the end recital. Over and over the steps we went, all of us concentrating on learning the beat and the moves. All of a sudden, flowy teacher lady stops the music and in her best musical voice said. "Everyone, I want you to watch how Dana is doing this......(so I continue, with a feeling of pride.........) because she's doing it all wrong. Don't do it like Dana.....OK, everyone......."

Honest to God! How mean is that? I felt like a piece of grime on the bottom of her snazzy jazzy shoe. It was devastating...............and yet maybe it was the beginning of me realizing that my idea of dance, and my ability to do a dance is uniquely my own interpretation? Can't make a ballet dancer out of a belly dancer right? I'd much rather be a belly dancer. Much more exotic, don't you think? And you get to wear all those bangles on your wrists and multi-coloured scarves........great outfits too that show off those tasteful belly button piercings I long to acquire.

I thought of this story today while I was jotting down a few thoughts on the "dance of life" realizing that we often find ourselves at a point where we think we have the steps down pat...we know the moves and the dips and the hip movement only to realize that the music had changed and a whole new dance is needed. We just get comfortable in our cha cha only to find out it's the step dance we need to master. Or........we can't get the dances steps AT ALL because for some reason God gave us two left feet and no rhythm that fits the mainstream.

Life is a never ending dance lesson. Life also seems to have a set of rules we all are supposed to abide by. If you're at one point in your life, the dance looks like this.................... If you're at another point in your're supposed to conform and shimmy like this. Just like the work world. Within the responsibilities and structure of the organizational chart of a business, one finds the dance one is supposed to adhere to. No improvisation is welcome. Just do the monkey dance, keep your eyes within the range of your piece of the dance floor and wiggle and jiggle along. It's like there is composed hierarchical order we are to adhere to.

If you're in the hierarchy, and this analogy seems (in my weirded out mind at least) to fit with every hierarchy formed by us anal retentive structure starved human beings......within cultures, countries, churches, religions..........hierarchies're supposed to know your place. If you're living in the land where one does the WATUSI, for goodness sake don't be doing the HULA. Heaven forbid you step on the toes of a tap dancing fool when the music CLEARY indicates the soft shoe technique.

And yet.........we are born free spirits with the opportunity to express our individuality through our movements and actions. We are free spirits, equal in the eyes of God...........equal to try any and all dance moves. God didn't form the hierarchies and the structure which gobbles up equality did He? So, why is it that we continue to evolve into a mass of hierarchies where freedom of movement is completely frowned upon by the people around us?

Mike Yaconelli, whom I bet was a rascal of a man to listen and talk to, wrote a wonderful book entitled "Messy Spirituality" which I have loved reading. It's just a little looking you could spin through in a blink, but then you'd miss out on many many thought provoking gems tucked in the personal stories he has shared about his ongoing learning of the movements to his own dance of faith, and of living a spiritual life. One of the clear messages I have taken away after reading it is that we are all unfinished and unpolished dancers. And guess what? That's quite alright. That's what God intended.......we are imperfectly messy, stumbling people trying to get our act together.............together.

Maybe we are all 11 year olds.........sometimes getting it wrong, sometimes getting it right, always keen to continue learning. It's an unbalanced way of looking at life which is difficult to accept because it would be so much easier if we didn't have to think....if we could just go into auto-pilot, turn on the proper tunes and move in some acceptable robotic manner. But, that's not living is it? No it's not! That's called BARELY EXISTING.

Yaconelli writes...
"Balance is a dangerous, illusionary characteristic and a temptress. Disguised as normal and sensible, it is silently destructive, crushing the unbalance of giftedness, taming the extremes of passion, smothering the raging fire of a genuine relationship with Jesus. Jesus was constantly being criticized for being unbalanced. Think about it: Jesus could have healed six days a week and not upset anyone. People would have been just as healed on the second day of the week as they were on the Sabbath. Jesus could have sat down with the temple leaders and quietly discussed his theological reasoning for not allowing the place of worship to become a carnival of commerce. Instead, he crashed in like a crazy man with a whip and knocked over the tables, screaming and yelling and creating chaos. He certainly could have been more balanced."

Living is messing up every once in a while. Living is getting it right every once in a while. Living is dancing like no one is watching..........with our arms flailing, our legs moving and our hearts our own song. Wanna try a new move? I promise I won't tell you you're doing it wrong. Theres no wrong.......... Living is accepting the dance of others, and learning some moves from them. And all the we remain unbalanced, imperfect and in flight, trying to find our dance within the hierarchical structures of our society where the dance moves are supposedly painted on the dancefloor, isn't it great to know that all of us 11 year olds are in very good company?
Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

vulnerability and compassion

“Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”
Frederick Buechner

Vulnerability. Expressed compassion, whether it's done verbally or with our silent actions comes from our openness to feel vulnerable ourselves. To be comfortable opening our hearts to share someone elses highs and lows, to learn another's joy and sorrows happens when we can peel our protective shields away. This is when we can step forward into the uneasiness of deep emotion knowing that the initial discomfort of peaking into the insides of someone else will lead to a bond with another person.......... a connection which will remain strong long after the shared moment.
Vulnerability is the key to finding peace and joy.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

flowers, thoughts and summaries.....

Glads in Glory
I took these photos at the Market last Saturday and I wanted to share them with you. Fall flowers always seem more dramatic to me than their summer counterparts.
.Striking, exotic dancers they are
Is it only Tuesday?? It seems like I've crammed two weeks into two days. No wonder I'm tired. All is well though. I'm hanging in there and feeling a little more settled and focused. Tomorrow I'm having lunch with two very good friends who worked closely with me for many years and have now retired. I miss them dearly........their passion for our work always fueled mine. They never hesitated to stick their necks out for someone who needed a boost, who needed an advocate. My admiration for them is endless. They however, had their moments of being the scratchy thorn in the side of the unmoved. When I phoned one of them on Friday with my tales of woe.........feeling beheaded and shamed...........I heard a person on the other end of the line who KNEW exactly how I was feeling. She invited me for lunch along with our mutual friend and co-worker. I am really looking forward to it.
I decided that the best thing to combat negativity is to send out positivity. So, yesterday, I sent a "blanket" email to ALL of my co-workers..........did not exclude anyone and invited them to read my Grace Notes blog. The power of positivity returned positivity to me many times over. It was like receiving bouquets of GLADS......
One man popped his head into my office and told me how glad he is that I'm back.........I didn't even know he noticed me gone. I hardly ever see him. I was so touched. I told him he made my day. He did.
I received emails and drop ins. It was life affirming again. Sending an email with well wishes is something I tend to do. So, it wouldn't have been something out of the ordinary. But it had been a while since I had sent anything globally. And after hearing such nasty stuff last week and wondering where and who and how many felt this about me, it felt a little bit of risk. I didn't like that second guess myself when it came to well wishes
I'm glad I took the risk. I learned that the nasty stuff.....the bully labels.........well, they seem to be housed in the minds of a select few. These few may have some power, and it still means that I have to look outward and onward, but it was a soothing feeling to know the virus wasn't as rampant as I was led to believe. I slept soundly last night......and I hope to again tonight.
Perhaps my muses will return after some shut eye..........right now they are taking a back seat to my photos. Enjoy

Monday, September 24, 2007

Autumn at the Market.

Apple season is upon always accompanies chillier mornings with the presence of fog over the river and dense dew on the lawns. Last Saturday, I took some pictures at my local market. It's my favourite time of year.........bountiful, colourful harvest time where abundance is all around. It's the perfect time to be buying locally, supporting your neighbours who have spent many back breaking hours working the soil, nurturing their produce.

It always amazes me just how colourful and alive this time of year a burst of vibrant life before the onset of hibernation. Fall Mums grace many front porches in my last breath of fresh flowers before the frost appears on the pumpkins.

Gourds? Eccentric, odd............misfits........what are they all about? Their shapes in variations of orange and green and white intrigue me. I guess I can relate to them on some weird level. Always a conversation piece.........which makes them good for somethin' multi hues of red and purple and yellow and green........uniquely shaped crisp and tasty peppers. I look at them and want to run home to make a huge batch of chutney.....or a stir fry...........or maybe just bite into one like an apple. Beautiful they are.

Fancy you think because it's dressed in purple instead of the regular white that it will be received by the fussy kiddies more readily? Nah.........

Yes, it's harvest time at the market...and I'm taking it all in.........

Sunday, September 23, 2007

new attire

Don't you wish you had the guts to wear this ensemble?
These are the legs of a vendor at the local Farmer's Market in my hometown. She always has a smile on her face and is always friendly as she sells her whimsical hand sewn bags. A bright warm light of friendly. She kind of reminds me of the girl on the Big Comfy Couch.

Whimsy........ an attitude and a feeling I will aspire to this week. I may have to copy this fashion style to really fulfill the essence of whimsy...........and if I could anyone call me difficult or threatening in a get up like that? On the other hand, it may lead to people wondering if I jumped onto the beyond eccentric bus on my way to Oz.

I think I'll take my chances, and wear my whimsy with glee.

ps. thank you to everyone who has left me such wonderful comments and/or has sent me emails. I feel so much better.......and much stronger to face whatever it is that I will have to endure for a while.

Happy Gleefully Whimsically Eccentrically Wishes

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Please allow me to introduce myself........

Hi, my name is Discomfort.

I dwell in the dark night of your soul where ache and yearning cuss and moan. I'm not well liked. In fact most people avoid me until they have no choice by to arrive at my doorstep. Most of my visitors begin their journey around twilight, when hope intermingles with doubt. I'm predominantly nocturnal, absorbing light and all colours to form my black cloak. But behind the cloak, I'm your naked image, vulnerable to the cold winds of reality. No, I'm not a pretty sight...with birthing stretch marks displaying the struggles I have faced. But, if you stay awhile, you will see my inner beauty. You will know that I'm on your side.

My name is Discomfort.

Dizzying Discomfort............I spring forth with fumes of light headed enlightenment, even if it's not wanted. I have the ability to burrow under your skin, or to tap, tap, tap on your conscience. I will nestle into the pit of your stomach and make you long for that zone where my nemesis comfort dwells. But who wants to go there?

If you stay hang with me, I will offer you awareness, insight............a place to make decisions. I will take away your yearning, at least for a little while. I will help you find the compass to guide your way through the transitional twilight, out of the bear growling wilderness and into a pasture where sunrises express hopeful glory.

My name is Discomfort.

I may absorb light..........stay hidden in the haunting shadows of despair and doubt, but believe it or not I also hold your dreams until you're ready to take a risk. The journey to my dwelling may be fraught with confusion, aversion and dislocation............but I will make it worth your while. Why? Because I am where all learning takes place. I am where you will find the fountain to your own personal growth. Let me give you a gift of awareness.

Trust me............please?

This is my contribution to Sunday Scribblings.........the prompt this week is "Hi, My name is....." For more interesting interpretations, check out their site.

Friday, September 21, 2007

transitions are messy........

Lake George Road, Sept 2007
Finding myself on this road today I wondered about my own destiny. As much as I've tried to fit into a place where I felt I could provide and share of help other human beings find their way in their journeys, it was made clear to me today that I'm not wanted. No, I wasn't fired. I was told that many find me difficult to work with.
Though I have had clashes with some over the mistreatment of the citizens whom we serve, I have never heard this before. In fact up until I was moved out of my office, away from my colleagues and into another building and a new group of people who had no idea what to make of me, I was Miss Congeniality in the office. I have the mug and the photo to prove it! I was a mentor to the younger staff, I was a well respected trainer, counsellor, consultant. I was respected and my opinion and feedback was sought by many staff. I had many referrals, helped many people and was productively an integral part of a team who respected me. Well, except for one it turns out. And that made all the difference.
I'm difficult to work with. Yes, I do confront. I will demand that we own our own mistakes. I will go to bat for someone whose needs are perhaps outside of the normal realm of policy. Why not? Why would we not consider human contrived policies a living breathing ever evolving piece of legislation? These are debated daily in our courts and political forums every day!
I will also be the voice that isn't being heard. Turns out I irritated too often.......AND I irritated the wrong people........the ones who work underground to besmirch one's integrity. They did a good job because the virus has spread. I am to be avoided I guess until I go away.
When the "feedback" was given to felt like a kick to the teeth and a punch to the stomach. But, I knew this "label" had adhered. I could tell by how I was being treated, and how I wasn't being included in discussions or meetings in the past. It made complete sense to me, though I had prayed that I was just being paranoid..........that their treatment of me was simply because they didn't have the time or energy to find the best place for me. Not so.........and now I know. I WAS dumped from my old job into another undefined one and left to rot.
I'm a threatening person to work with..................It had begun as a couple of seeds planted by a few whom I have been an irritant to over the years as I challenged and advocated on behalf of a client or a staff member (which BTW is part of my job).
Now, I have been labelled this way. I'm too over the top. Scary I am, I am!
And guess what? While I have tried to find my own way in this job I was dumped into with no direction, no workplan, no emotional support or a speck of anyone going to bat for me, I scrambled and scraped and became more and more distrustful. I reacted, responded and continued to ask questions. I started by just being diplomatically direct......assertive.........but alas, it was perceived as bitchy, threatening.........I was stepping out my place of honour. By so doing, I fueled the fire. I played right into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yes........I reinforced the notion that Im difficult to work with. I didn't play the game. I guess if I knew I was into the middle of a game, I would've tried........ but I just kept thinking........ they must see what it is that I offer.
I don't offer what is required. ooooops.
I thought if I owned my own feelings, and mistakes...........if I verbalized honest feedback and shared my feelings about how I was being "used" that someone would see the good I had to offer. Instead, I guess I continued to scrape at their own wounds they were trying to cover up. I revealed their incompetence. I was too much of a pain in the ass to help.........ignore me and I would go away. In so doing, I dug my own grave.
And yet............when I reflect on the week.............
This week, I have met with several individuals. I have listened and counselled and done my job well. How do I know this? Because the people who shared their deep wounds with me, who spilled their tears while revisiting past abuse, addictions, and depression and suicidal thoughts, because these special people thanked me, hugged me.............dried up their tears and felt better.....who left with smiles on their faces..........who called me afterwards to thank me. I didn't dream this. It happened all week long.
I also had several phone messages two of which were from two gruffy old men with very serious health issues whom I had met last spring on separate occasions to welcome me back to tell me they missed ask for help...........and they called me "Dear." When I first met them, they were defensive and distrustful of the system. Now, they are reaching out when they need to.
I had two emails from individuals whom I had helped years ago........touching base now that September is back and we're all getting back on track. They both thanked me again for "being there" for them.
I also had staff who sought me talk about a certain ask about my family and how they are welcome me asked me to help her with writing out a job reclassification because she trusted that I could find the words to describe what she does in her job. Another wanted to tell me about a situation which rattled her, made her question her ability in doing her job. I reassured her, and told her that I would be there to help with this case when the next meeting rolled around.
So, I must be doing some things right..........right?
I met another person who works in the system, who travels the same back roads and who often meets with the same people as I do but in a different capacity. We spoke the same language....the language of serving citizens.........and began a new link to one another so that we could provide a more cohesive service.
I planned future appointments......some in my office and some on the road. And, I also advocated.......loudly to no avail for a person looking for a place to live.
In the was a busy week............I chaired a meeting, found a new executive for my son's Home and School............began the planning of a Christmas Bazaar. I met with all of my daughter's teachers so that they would know that she is supported at home and that we take education seriously. I also took part in a wonderful group organized by a colleague who has just experienced a 21 day spiritual meditative course in India. She gave us all "oneness blessings" after she shared her life altering experiences.
Gee.......maybe I need another one of those oneness blessings........
SO many positives which fight for attention. Unfortunately, my goose has been cooked. Even though I was just TOLD this in a blanket statement with no specific examples or situations identified and with no names attached to the victims of my apparent bullying, I am not a stupid person. The writing is on the wall. I won't be receiving any direction or help to find the right fit for me in this work environment. I have been made redundant in their minds.
I have no other choice but to redirect my attention on a career change and get out of there. AT least I finally know where I stand and that my paranoia was justified.
Today, after receiving this news, I got in my van to drive out to see a couple who live in the country, who are in need. Afterwards, I took the long route home to enjoy the beginning of the fall clear my head, to think of my journey, to reflect on what mistakes I made........which ones I own, to find some perspective, and to step out onto this quiet road to look for a new signpost.
Let's hope it's just around the bend. I have faith that it's not too far away.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Shaz and Caroline have tagged little old me this week to complete a writing task on my middle name.
I am supposed to "list one fact that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of your middle name. If you don't have a middle name, use the name you would have liked to have had. When you are tagged you need to write your own blog post containing your middle name game facts. At the end of your blog post you need to choose one person for each letter of your middle name to tag. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog."
Well, guess what folks? I don't have a middle name. Since my name is uncommon, my parents decided I didn't need one. No worries.......I've never felt cheated or anything like that. I never felt like I missed out and was left scarred for life. But, it leaves me wondering what one I would choose for this meme.

So........I asked my kids............."Kids, what middle name do you think would suit me for this game?" Various names were tossed out with increasing hilarity because of course it was one of those open ended imagination games which quickly turn to Benny Hill toilet humour. After eliminating all names which rhymed with Bart and Boot.........I informed them that I would like a middle name that would stand out......a name that would be a challenge to live up to, but if you did, you'd be a STAR.........

They offered: "Destiny" "Violet" "Desiree" "Monique" "Stardom" .......... but in the end?

I chose Scarlett. she goes................

Slinky silk stockings in a smokey shade of grey silouette my long lanky legs

Crazed obsession for the scent of Old Spice. A man's gotta smell like a man.

Arresting and alluring green eyes that will pull you in with a crinkling smile

Ravenous unfulfilled desires which feed my motivation to seek adventure

Luscious glossy lips covered in a deep desirous red

Everlasting urge to.........hmmmm..... bungee jump

Terribly tenacious when it comes to getting what I want


Whaddya think? I won't tag any others right now...............but if you want to share YOUR middle name descriptions right here in the comments.......well, you just fill your boots and leave your mark.

Thanks Shaz and Caroline. The tag led to a very funny conversation with my kids.........whose middle names are "Jean" and "Anderson"

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A toast to foolishness.

Back window, Christ Church Cathedral, Fredericton

This wonderfully thought provoking blessing was posted on Pip's blog and I nicked it. When I read it this morning, I felt it spoke the message I was trying to convey in a more heavy handed way yesterday. I should print it off in big bold letters and post it in the loos throughout the office building........ hmmmmmmmmmm yes...........I think I will do that.

A Franciscan Benediction

May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers,
half truths and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deep within your heart

May God bless you with anger
At injustice,
oppression and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain,
rejection, hunger and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort
To turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So you can do what others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor

I LOVE the foolishness part. I will take that to heart. Thank you Pip. So often I visit your blog and come away with smiling wonder which lasts all day long. It's like having a bit of you tucked into my heart.

Now......may I share something else that is equally uplifting? This song is on Springsteen's Live in Dublin CD which my loving husband gave to me last weekend. I LOVE IT! I have always loved the song and the message. However, this rendition blows me away. I dare you to sit still listening to this one. BTW? It is the best driving CD I have received in a while. Run don't walk to your nearest "tunes" site for the whole enchilada.

In the meantime...........listen to this!

Shine your light.........everyday, everyday, everyday..........and embrace your inner foolishness. It's what makes the difference in this big old goofy world.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Returning to the rough waters........

Time to put the canoe back in the water.
We're gonna shoot some rapids along the way

As much as I love being at home and seem content to be home for long stretches of time, I thrive best when I'm busy. Juggle, juggle ........move, move .........plan, plan, arrange, listen, write, drive, organize, teach, learn, laugh, talk, strive, stretch, refresh, irritate...........

Did I say irritate?

Yes, I'm back at work meeting with people who are living each day to the best of their ability only to be pushed down and marginalized every step of the way. And, what is my natural role in this work that I do besides counselling and consulting?

Irritating. I'm a full fledged shit disturbing irritater. I can't help it. Issues and concerns meet me at my office door. As much as I have been told to "stay under the radar" and "keep my head down so as not to pull the focus spotlight in my direction" ......... this advice given lovingly by folks who don't want to see me hurt by the system we work in..... as much as I've been warned and told ......... I simply can't do it. I see injustice or mistreatment and my head just about pops off.

Then, I go to bat.........for the mistreated and misunderstood. Radar? What radar??? I can't find the radar let alone work under it. Where's the fun in that?

Sure, I can be diplomatic. I am a respected leader. Many seek me out for consulting or spilling their stories. But, for some reason these attributes are not wanted in my environment. My questions or challenges to the rules and policies of the day go against the status quo most people are comfortable living with.

I seem to refresh their irritation. By doing so, I seem to refresh my own irritation.
Yes, I'm back at work.........loving the encounters and the stories and the feeling of being needed. I love hearing the person stories and know I can help them deal with some of their obstacles........or more importantly help them deal with their own obstacles. I love the interaction, the communication, the pace, the drama, the successes and the triumphs. I want to be there to help them bear their sorrow, share their dilemmas, speak of their beliefs. I want to work to understand what it's like to live with Schizophrenia, how difficult it is to have a child with Attention Deficit, when it's time to say stop to violent abuse. I want to be surrounded by these strong willed defiant people who tackle mountains EVERY day and live to see another beautiful sunrise with hope in their hearts. How do they do it???

I want to understand. And then, I want to help them fight the systemic marginalization....the rules and policies.......the bullshit........the insincerity they hear in the voices who hold power. You can't change the system extensively unless you can work inside it. That's my theory anyways.

It's what I do. I irritate, advocate, communicate, demonstrate, complicate, negotiate, and commiserate. And in return? I get a whole lot of smiling thank yous from the ones who matter. Hugs too. Lots of hugs. And in the long run? Perhaps some system changes will take place......
That is what's a messy process, but a good fit for a misfit like me.

I'm back at work, ready to refresh a few irritations, including my own. It feels right. However, I get the feeling that some don't have the same feeling as I do.

my favourite moment of the summer........

Spencer's Island beach. Our view in the daylight.

One night a couple of weeks ago, my family and I arrived at our Nova Scotia destination after dark. When we had left our house, it was sunny and quite hot. But, when we rolled into the driveway at the cottage where planned to stay over the Labour Day weekend, the temperature had dropped down to heavy sweater weather and the fog enclosed us like the rest of the world wasn't out there. It felt strangely comforting.

Our friends who had offered us their cottage, which sits up on a hill overlooking Spencers Island's amazing view of beach and tides and sky and water on clear blue sky days had built us a campfire by the edge of the hill and had placed four chairs around the glowing warmth. We quickly emptied our van, grabbed our sweaters and headed down to the inviting fire.

Just the four of us. In the quiet comfort of the embracing fog.

We were there that weekend to take part in a memorial service, one in which we hadn't been involved in the planning even though it was for my husband's children's grandparents. Trepidations, uncertainty and ill feelings amongst extended family members loomed large all summer long while we silently waited for the time to arrive. We had no idea what to expect. But, on the night we arrived to the cottage on the hill with the comforting fog and the inviting campfire? It didn't matter. It really didn't matter.

An almost completed summer packed with activities, some we all participated in together and others were enjoyed by a combination of the four of us..........some all on our own...............and now it was the last weekend before school started and we had been given the gift of unwatched time to be together as a family of four.

My husband and I listened to our children choose random stories of their individual time away at summer camp..........stories we hadn't heard yet..........stories which only seep out when the rest of our busy lives are stripped away............when there are no interuptions of phone ringing, door knocking, friend calling, life hollering events...........

In peace, starring quietly into the purring fire

Stirring thoughts and newly minted memories reflectively thrown out as kindling for the conversation.

Sitting close to the campfire




Cozy in the silent buffer

Secure in the embrace of our low lying clouds

Utterly in the moment

Present to one another like time was eternal

I listened to my children whom I realized somewhere along the line had grown up. I felt a warm wave of blessings roll over me like the tide which brings gifts from the sea and leaves them behind on the beach. Nowhere else did I want to be than with my little family cocooned, sharing the gift of togetherness.

The fog began to lift as we continued talking quietly. We werent expecting this. Normally it would encase Spencers Island for the whole night and lift mid morning. But, it was a special night and the evening sky wanted to be a part of it. We watched the clouds begin to break away leaving layered strips across the moon.

up, up, and away it lifted

Under the moon glistened the shoreline with lapping waves we could now hear, informing us that the tide had changed

And all around the moon were a million many that it lit up the sky as they seem to collide into one another.

The stories stopped as we gazed upward and outward

I gave thanks to the unpredicted, unplanned gift of love and belonging.

All trepidations..........all uncertainly disappeared with the fog. What it was replaced with was the gift of grace. Grace from an embracing fog. We were going to be just fine.

This is my first offering for a new writing website called Writers Island. The prompt this week is "the gift." Thank you Rob for creating the site. For more gift offerings, visit here....

Monday, September 17, 2007

My Reading Corner

There's nothing like tucking under a poofy duvet on a rainy day with a brand new book to escape into. Well.........I can think of a couple of others, but this post is about books and not sexual fantasies, so I best stay on track.
Breadbox tagged me to write a little something about my reading preferences. it goes.
My reading -- compared to my incessant reading habits a couple of years ago, the amount of time reading these day is miniscule. Having kids never stopped the flow of books I would pick up and devour. In fact, I remember one day when my daughter was only a couple of weeks old and a fuss budget about nursing. It seemed like she couldn't be satiated. Instead of fretting over trying to put her on a nursing schedule at that point in her tiny wee young life, the two of us stayed in bed one day. I propped her up on me with one hand and propped up a hardcopy of the Roddy Doyle Trilogy (the Commitments, The Snapper and The Van) and read and read and read. My kids were used to sitting on my lap with me reading. I guess I've always been a multi-tasker at heart.
Since I took up writing again, my reading habits changed drastically. For a while, I basically stopped. I lost interest in fiction completely (though it's slowly returning thank God) and began to read books which filled in the blanks of my emerging faith. I found myself reading books which fed my writing. Non-fiction became the preference.
I also learned quickly that a writing mind is the complete opposite of a reading mind. I had no idea.........A writing mind is a yearning churning place of contemplative word jumbling. It's a busy interactive place full of sparks clashing together to form new ideas and new sentences, which in turn sends messages to the motivation centre to "get thee to a keyboard and write thy thoughts down, dammit"
A reading mind is a calmer contemplative sensory stimulating centre where focus and concentration pull you into another world.
I love them both, but these days.............they compete for my attention and time. Right now, the writing is winning out.
Total number of books..........I'm not counting. Books adorn our walls and shelves and nooks in most every room. My husband, an avid reader extraordinaire covets his books. I don't dare take them into the bathtub with me. eeek!
Last book read AND bought.........Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconnelli. I plan to write my thoughts on this gem of a book later in the week. I also received an interesting book for my birthday.........and its was purchased for me because somehow I have found myself intrigued and emotionally connected to a little Channel island and the book was highlighted last spring in a local book review. I haven't cracked it open yet, but intend to this weekend.....It's entitled...."The Book of Ebenezer Le Page" by G.B. Edwards. I love his name.
An aside??????????? I have a sketched out story that has been sitting with me for over 5 years about a woman named Myrna Hawking who lived on one of the Channel islands next to her neighbour Basil Cogswell (names I have seen on mailboxes around here and loved them). They are getting on in is boring until one night someone in their village is murdered and left on Basil's front lawn. Myrna convinces Basil to throw the cadaver into the deep freeze so that they can take on the investigation. She's watched every Helen Mirren and Inspector Morse shows......Anne Perry has nothing on her.........she knows enough to solve the murder.
Hilarity ensues........
hmmmmmmmmmmm maybe I need to apply for a CANCON research grant to head over to Guernsey to delve into life there so I can write my book?? Will look into that. :)
So, I'm looking forward to learning about Ebenezer Le Page. I dont think he solves a murder but I think he unveils some secrets.
Five Meaningful Books..................way too many pop to mind. So like YOU Breadbox, I will use categories.....and a stream of conciousness format.........
when I was a kid and adolescent.......
Anne of Green Gables, Diary of Anne Frank, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, Go Ask Alice, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz,.......Harry the Dirty Dog.
when I was a young adult.......... The World According to Garp and all other early Irving novels, Leon Uris, Ken Follett, the Thornbirds, all Jane Austen, all Henry James, Roddy Doyle, Anne Perry, Maeve Binchy, Vanity Fair, Of Human Bondage, Anne Tyler, Adrian Mole age 13 and 3/4
As a student, which I guess is ongoing...........Sanity Madness and the Family -- R.D. Laing, Growing up in New Guinea -- Margaret Mead, Absurdist playwrights.....Albee, Beckett, Ionesco, Pinter, all of the Jeeves books by PG Wodehouse, Alderian psychology, Jung and Freud....... these are the ones I am thinking right now.....oh, and Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goldman.
As a parent? Harry Potter, Goodnight Moon, Chicka Boom, Paperbag Princess, Something from Nothing............
Now..........Awareness by Anthony de Mello, Travelling Mercies by Anne Lamott, All wonderful books by Henri Nouwen, What's so Amazing about Grace by Philip Yancey, and the latest Sue Townsend Adrian Mole story and every now and then.................The New Yorker.
All have been meaningful and all have fed my curiousity and hungry desire to learn. And as soon as I click on post, I will think of 25 more titles.............that I've read and that I want to read.
How about you????
This is where I'm supposed to tag five others................ready? Rainbow Dreams, Princess Sarahdipity, Imaginations in Unity, Matthew at Common Misadventures, and Truly talented Tori.
Ready.........................look forward to reading your picks.
Thanks nice Breadbox. It was fun.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dancing reflections

When you're broken open
If you've torn your bandage off
In the middle of fighting
Dance in your blood
Dance when you're perfectly free

Wouldn't it be nice to fall into a place where everything has music to dance to, even when we don't initially feel like dancing? There is no way in the world one can stay depressed or angry or afraid or anxious when one is finding their groove thang.
Have you tried it? The more expressive the better.........just like you can when no one is watching. It's easy to sway into a jazzy hip grinding motion when you're feeling fine. It's already surging heat in your blood. It's not so easy when the thick foggy emotions buffer the music and repel the movement. But that's when a twirling two step is needed the most.
Today, I struggled to prepare myself for my return to work tomorrow. I've been home since the end of July dancing to my own beat. It was needed.......on many levels. For one thing, I needed to put some space between me and my work environment in order to clear my head and think about what I can do to move on and out of there, while staying true to my lifework passion for counselling.
This isn't an easy task when one lives in a town where work options are minimal, but I think I have found a few. It may take more time than I want it to, but I'm hopeful. This will help tomorrow when I'm faced with the daunting amount of work which awaits (no one covered for me) and the daunting feelings I know will surface when I sit across from the person who has made my work life miserable for a year now.
Dance when you're broken open............I wonder if I can get away with doing the tango up and down the office hallway? It may be the answer.........for one thing, it would make me feel better AND make me laugh. And another thing..........maybe they would think I was completely whacko and either leave me be, or help me get out of there. hahaha..........hmmmmmmmmmmmmm
When I look back on the weeks I have been home, I didn't accomplish much of what I had intended, but isn't that always the way? I'm not disappointed, because unpredicable wonderful moments took the place of many of my planned intentions.
We travelled more, entertained more, and enjoyed the company of more overnight guests than I had anticipated.
I found myself with a new blog and a new place to display my writing. Though it has had a few speed bumps thrown in and I'm still vascillating over whether or not this is a good use of my time, it continues to be a good learning experience.
I spent more downtime just decompressing while finding my happy dancing feet again and little by little the insomnia slipped away and the calm returned inside me. Interestingly, I have bumped into a handful of colleagues over the course of the past week and they have all commented on how much healthier and calmer I look. My glow is returning. I'm rested.
Most importantly, we celebrated the lives of my Mother and Father in law on Labour Day weekend with friends and family who flew in from all parts of the country. One childhood friend of my husband's arrived from Barcelona to spend a week with us. I would never have been able to predict how needed it was to let it all hang out in Spencer's laugh, to cry and to share stories in a place which has deep meaning for all who made the journey. It was cathartic, and life affirming. The dread I felt before the weekend lifted in the church when I sat listening to my brother in law as he let his heart pour out, trusting all who were in attendance with his deeply harboured emotions.
A sacredness in tears which felt empowering for all.
Yes, it was good to have an open ended time schedule, to allow for feelings and thoughts to intermingle with reflections. This is when the best ideas come forward because it is so freeing from the shackles of previous knowledge. Does that make sense? Sometimes we need freedom from our routines to be able to shift our thinking to another place. Sometimes previous learning and set routines anchor us in the place called same.
I needed a shift. Some of the shift happened.

Dance when you're perfectly free......

Maybe that's the key to what Rumi is saying........maybe dancing when we are feeling broken allows us the avenue to seek freedom.......freedom as a state of mind. If we continue to dance, we will resolve our brokenness and move towards feeling perfectly free. For it is in the mindfulness of freedom when we feel the sense of empowerment and confidence to be able to surrender the need to be in control of our every move.

I think I'll pack my tap shoes just in case I decide to channel Mr. Bo Jangles tomorrow. It can only help maintain the shift........and the state of mind.