Thursday, May 31, 2007


top of haunted lighthouse,
Ward's Island, Toronto

I love watching jets flying overhead leaving their slipstreaming message
wondering where the people are headed
wondering if it's a trip of a lifetime or something more dutifully business
are they excited?

I love finding old structures abandoned by their keepers and whose walls hold stories
wondering what happened to the people who once congregated
wondering where life took them and whether their legacy has somehow lived on
were they satisfied?

I love walking past groups in parks who are taking a moment to share a meal
wondering how they are connected to one another, whether they feel that they truly belong.
wondering how their life stories are playing out.
are they content?

I love catching a glimpse of two people obliviously entwined in new whispers
wondering how they met and how long they have felt such tenderness
wondering if their lives will live up to their dreams of together
are they in love?

I love seeing a person sitting quietly on a bench, head tilted down focused on a book
wondering what they are reading in solitary comfort
wondering if they feel pressure to slip their novel into their bag to rejoin the rest
are they grateful?

We pass by so many people in the course of the day,
all of whom have unique stories,
thoughts and beliefs.........
connected to how they feel
and to how they view their life.

Last night as we approached the waiting area in the airport that was set aside for the flight to Fredericton, I spotted a woman who spotted me at the same time. Well, actually she spotted my Tim Horton's coffee cup (filled with tea of course since I only like the smell of coffee and not the taste) and commented on her desire to have a typically Canadian Tim's coffee, but would wait until she got home so she could enjoy a smoke with it. Within no time, we were swapping stories. This is a truly typical occurance when one is approaching the waiting area of a flight to anywhere in the Maritimes because there is a lack of pretentiousness and a sense of kinship I rarely find when I'm travelling anyplace else. Maritimers, especially if they know you're one as well, are open books. Even my daughter is aware of this, as she automatically commented that the woman must be from the east coast.

This woman was returning home from a 3 week holiday in Honduras with her husband who was on furlough from Afghanistan. They said their goodbyes in New York City, she returning to their home near Base Gagetown, and he to Kandahar for another 2 months. She shared some pictures of swimming with the dolphins as she talked about how wonderful it was to be in a place nestled on a beautiful beach away from technology and telephones, away from the realities of the dangers her husband faces. Afraid of what may happen, alone in a relatively new part of the country for her without daily contact with her family and friends, she was happy to share some of her story with me as we waited to board the plane.

After the flight landed, she approached me to offer my family a ride home which I declined because we were heading in opposite directions from the airport, and I passed her my email address and names of friends who live near her, who are also connected to the military and who would always welcome her for a friendly cup of coffee. I encouraged her to seek them out...........and to seek me out if she ever finds herself downtown and would like to join me in line at Tim Horton's.

Today, I thought about this woman a couple of times, wondering how she was when she entered her home alone late last night, wondering if I'd hear from her. I think I will, and if not formally, I have a feeling our paths will cross serendipitously. In the hustle of grabbing suitcases, I neglected to ask her what her name was.....but she has mine. I think I'll hear from her.

So often, especially when I'm surrounded by others at an event I wonder and wish I had more time to check out others thumbprints....... because every one of them holds artistic beauty....everyone one of them is a touchpoint to understanding we are all that we have. What is more important?

just what the doctor ordered.......

We spent a beautiful clear blue sky day exploring a small part of Toronto. Together, just the four of us. It was exactly what the doctor ordered. This is a pic of the Toronto skyline taken on the ferry over to Toronto Island.

Every city is made up of pockets of communities, some of which are more enticing than others, some have been created by different cultures who have moved into an area, some are business driven. Others are formed based on interests........the arts, the environment, the lifestyle. I love this aspect of city life, where you can explore the globe within the boundaries of one vibrant city.

Toronto thrives because of her diversity as well as her clearly defined communities.....the Annex, my old stomping ground, full of urban homes renovated and interspersed between the places of higher learning, The Beaches with its yuppified boardwalks along Lake Ontario, Queen Street and it's vibrant night life, Bay Street business, Rosedale set right in the middle of the city with beautiful big homes and many private schools, Spadina the garment district, Little Italy northwest of Bloor Street, Chinatown which is part of and off Spadine, and the The Danforth which is predominantly Greek. There are so many others.......which include the more violent poverty stricken side of the city.........Jane-Finch corridor for example where another shooting just took place.........Regent Park where rundown public housing apartments seem to block off the sun.......

Toronto is a glorious city, one I'm familiar with, and one I call home to despite having lived hundreds of kilometers away from it for a long time. It gets a bad rap from the rest of the country, because there is a sense that the people who live there are myopic in their views. To some extent, it is true. There is a sense that many Torontonians havent a clue how the rest of the country functions or looks like, that what happens within the borders of this city is more important than what happens on the east coast, or on the prairies etc. Never mind.....I always feel welcome when I return. And I love to explore it's little nooks and crannies, which always surprise me.

On Tuesday, my family took a short trip ferry across to the Toronto Islands and met up with a cousin of my husband who has lived there for many years. It is a small community with a core group of people who fought to remain living there despite years when the government only recognized them as squatters. In the ensuing years, the little cottages found on the island were saved by the inhabitants who fought to preserve the ambiance and lifestyle one would normally find on the west and east coasts. They are now considered residents, and many of the cottages have been renovated to accomodate year round living and growing families.

Not one of them were ostentatious whatsoever. In fact, many are small......all are unique in their design and decor, and most are surrounded by beautiful english like perennial gardens, complete with ivy which weaves along the side of the home and through the makeshift arbours. About 300 homes are nestled throughout one end of the island, where no cars are allowed.

We arrived early afternoon and were given bikes to explore the island, which included beautiful sandy beaches, an amusement park area which wasn't open for the season yet, which was fine by us because it allowed us to have the run of the place, a labrynth maze of hedges, a "haunted" lighthouse, flora and fauna and trails that took us to the other end of the island where a small airport is located. The four of us pedalled along enjoying the sun and quiet, and the head clearing views, falling in love with the lifestyle, and chatting about how great it would be to live close to the city, but so far away from the bustle of it.

Just what the doctor ordered. It was a much needed escape from the realities of the week, and we all revelled in the day spent together as well as the time to clear our own heads as we pedalled along.

What was interesting was that wherever we went, the CN Tower loomed in the near distance. This needle in the sky............this technological wonder over the tree tops. It was a strange paradox not lost on us.

Yes, we whiled away a beautiful afternoon where the temperatures where perfect, when the clouds were no where to be seen.........watched the squirrels and birds and just had some downtime together fun. My God, it's been a while.........

All smiles.........

The evening was spent at the Skydome cheering for our Toronto Blue Jays. THEY BEAT the YANKS!! Max and I had made a sign to hold up for a local Fredericton ballplayer whose now a Jay........and our image and the sign was posted up on the JumboTron for all to see....pretty funny.

There are times when I do miss living in Toronto. And this was definately one of them. If you ever have an opportunity to visit this beautifully vibrant city, don't pass it up. And if you do decide to head there, let me know. I'd be more than happy to point you down a few interesting paths.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

roots.........and friends.

Years ago when I was 16 or 17, a bunch of girlfriends and I went to a Natalie Cole concert in Toronto at Ontario Place. We took the train in early to assure we would get into the venue, which at the time was an outside "in the round" stage with seats under the roof and grassy hills all around the centre. You paid admission to get into Ontario Place, a touristy spot with lots of attractions, including the concert. So, there were no assigned seats. It was a first come, first in set up, which was why we had arrived mid afternoon for an evening concert. With hours to idle by, we set up our chosen grassy spot to soak in the spring sun, to watch the people come and go and to talk the afternoon away. Never at a loss for words, we surely allowed the conversation to run the gamut of topics which was most likely typical of a bunch of teenage girls.

What I remember of that afternoon was only part of the conversation, which I think began because we were all at a point where we would be moving on beyond high school and dispersing down different avenues. We started talking about the future and where we thought we would be in the year 2000 when the majority of us would be turning 40.

It seemed so far in the future at that time......... 40 ..............holy!.............. so much life to live before then.

Yeah, for some reason, the age 40 seemed like some milestone turning point or something. Perhaps we thought we'd be completely settled and established by then. We knew that we would have had our children if that was in the cards. We figured we'd all be married (to whom was a moot point for most of us then) Our careers would be firmly in place.........all of that. Plus, the whole idea of entering a new millenium seemed so bizarre, like overnight the world would turn into a version of the Jetsons and we'd all be flying around in little space cars living in pods........

And of course, since none of us was clairvoyant, our individual paths ended up quite different than we had anticipated. The new millenium came and went as did age 40, as did the realization that we would continue to drive cars on highways.

The most predominantly longlasting part of that afternoon was the fact that we talked about whether we would be in touch with one another when we turned 40. What would happen to us, we asked.........if we all went in different directions and we weren't in touch with one another for many many years..........could we still phone one another out of the blue many years down the road? It was decided then that

"YES"..........."I will be able to call you when we're 40."

Yesterday, this snippet of life conversation came back to me as I spent hours on the phone with two high school friends, one of whom I havent spoken to since the year I was married 20 years ago, and another whom I seem to only touch base with every 3 or 4 years. In both conversations, we jumped into it like there had been no gap in our connections. In fact, we couldn't talk fast enough........catching up, cracking each other up, spilling out secrets and stories, sharing opinions, asking about others, drumming up memories for one another. It felt completely natural and surreal at the same time.....surreal when I caught myself thinking about how much water had flowed under the life bridge....... natural because there was no effort whatsoever to tap into our common ground.

Obviously we couldn't fill in huge portions of what had transpired over the years apart, but we surely started things up again. More importantly, for me at least these two wonderful conversations linked me back to my roots, to my history in my hometown. It's a funny feeling.........I have lived away in another part of this country for so long now, have established myself in a completely different world, away from these roots, busy being a Mom, a Partner to my husband, a counsellor etc..........I guess I compartmentalized my own past to some extent. I think that happens naturally, especially when you move away or when you have children and your focus for such a long time is on the role of being a parent. You kind of lose yourself in the roles you seem to be playing in your day to day life. Time seems to flash by until a life event like a wedding or a death grabs hold of it and snatches you back to your roots.

"I'll be able to call you when we're 40"..........means......"I will be comfortable enough to pick up the phone after perhaps many years of not communicating and it will be just fine because there will not be any judgement of when or why or how come we didn't stay in touch regularly...... We will be able to pick up and talk openly no matter what." How great is that?

We covered a lot of ground yesterday..........lots of "remember whens," and "whatever happened to..." and "tell me about......." and "did you evers." But, we also shared a few secrets which only girlfriends with a history of being there during those adolescent years when the dramas of relationships and the transition into becoming adults takes precedence. It felt great, and for some reason I think the timing was right to jump back into eachother's lives, all the while reestablishing common ground.

At the core we are the same people. But, we've had time to live and to grow and to realize that "shit happens" that we may not have much control over. We have learned to recognize what is important and what is just the icing not really needed in life. We have accumulated some life lessons which though we may have been acquired in different ways, somehow they have led us to the same learning. Interesting.

Personally, I am left with gratitude and some awe that yes, I have friends whom I will be able to call when I'm a minute...............when I turn 50, and they were there when I was becoming "ME."

Sandy and Bonnie..............if you're reading this................. I.S. Flots live on forever. :)

Monday, May 28, 2007

simple pleasures

Shared simple pleasures......these are the stories fondly recalled. It's never the business merger or the long work hours and days away from family and friends. It's the late night starry sky sitting by a lake after a day of fishing. It's the car rides with the whole family stuffed into the car on the way to a vacation destination. It's the bottle of wine and two paper cups to drink from.
It's the hilarity of a late night party, or an ongoing joke shared everytime you meet. It's the stories around the family animals, or the kid's crazy friends who used to drop in on Christmas Eve and never leave. It's the way you celebrated birthdays, or the surprises brought forward by a beautiful winter day. Front porch chats, shoreline strolls, impromptu backyard lingering with the neighbours.
Shared simple pleasures are nestled in the milestones of our lives.............
do you remember.........?
what about the time...........?
one of my favourite memories........?
such fun, wasn't it...........?
I'll never forget..........?
These are the stories fondly recalled. Shared simple pleasures.......are not simple at all because their meaning tap into the richness of our friendships and our connections with one another. It is the gold thread glimmering in our life tapestries. Rather than consider the gold as an decorative accoutrement within the tapestries, we should recognize it as the real story of the legacy we leave behind.
Funny, none of this is ever found on a resume..........

Friday, May 25, 2007

what matters........

"My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together."

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Communion is a sharing of ideas and of our true feelings through fellowship, while experiencing something together. Events in our lives offer us a platform to recognize that our own humanity is a reflection of the people we share these events with. These reflections have a brilliance to them that is far more revealing than simply looking at our own reflection in the mirror. Sometimes, our personal revelations shock us when we encounter someone from our past we havent seen in a long time, for example.....we may realize that somehow time has slipped by so rapidly in one quick glance at an aging face we almost didn't recognize.

We allow our lives to be jam packed filled with lists of "to dos" which seem to override the meaningful moments when humanity is reflected, when communion happens. Sometimes, we are so full of planning and getting through the day to day stuff that we don't even recognize a moment of communion when it's happening because we aren't "present" to it. We're thinking of other things or rushing to get to another destination.

What is wrong with us? Why do we not stop and take it all in? Is it denial? Fear? Forgetfulness of what is important?

Tonight, I sat in a small theatre to watch my daughter perform in a play. It was a struggle at first to pick myself up for the event because as this one was going on, another one was happening in another province under very different circumstances. My husband and extended family and many many friends were attending the visitation for my father in law. I was feeling quite torn, as I tried to put up a good supportive front for my daughter all the while wondering how things were in Ontario. But, as soon as I walked into the building where the theatre is located, I was surprisingly greeted by parents and colleagues I knew well who also had children and grandchildren in the play. As we waited for the doors to open, we caught up. Many acknowledged the death of my father in law as they had read about it in the newspaper. Their thoughts and genuine feelings truly reflected humanity. As much I had been feeling I belonged with the crew in Ontario, when I stood amongst the people in my community here, I realized I belonged at the theatre tonight as well.

The shocking revelation came when the lights went down and I gazed at my beautiful daughter dressed in a costume, surrounded by a group of young actors whom she has spent one evening a week with since September learning lines and practising new acting skills and realized that somehow she had grown up! (I admit, this is a revelation which seems to happen weekly!!) Her strong confidence and sense of self had somehow evolved when perhaps I was busy crossing things off on my list? It was a very important night for her, and I'm grateful that despite our collective sense of feeling disconnected to the events happening with our extended family, she was able to go on with the show, and I was able to be present to this communion.

Our lives are too busy.......we need to create moments when we can come together with others to celebrate, to recognize, to acknowledge our interwoven humanity in order to be human together.......we shouldn't only do this when an event is foisted upon us. Isn't this the key to a life fulfilled? Shouldn't we be aiming for more moments of honest revelations?

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Little boys of summer....

"Marilla, do you think amethysts are made from the souls of good violets?"

I sat on a hill, my bare feet in a patch of violets and new grass.
It was the first time this season to feel the grass between my revel in the beauty of the tiny violets sprinkled by last year's breezes. My favourite quote from Anne of Green Gables came to mind.

The sun was quickly losing it's heat as it competed with the brisk spring wind. Summer is not fully here yet. It's taking it's time this year to warm up unlike the last couple of years.

But that's alright.

Everything is green again and the little boys are back playing the game of summer.

50 boys have taken the field, excited and thrilled to be back in play....stretching, running, and learning to throw straight. Familiar sounds of the game.......the ping of the bats, and the thunk of the ball landing into the gloves are interspersed with the rabble of the players. The first practise of the year is always the sweetest because it is the one dreamed about and talked about on those snowy January days.

I was not alone on the hill looking down at the diamond Parents mingled casually as they sipped from their Tim Horton's cups. Some had managed to get home and change into jeans and sweatshirts, while others were dressed in their suits and dresses having rushed to the field from work. Our days were different in many ways, but one thing is certain. We were all juggling, working, living, coping, managing, planning, meeting, compromising, interacting, winning, losing.....grinding through a busy day.

But, for 2 hours our busy worlds the ball field. And it felt good.

The day was over and an evening at the ball park put life into perspective. It never fails, I am always struck by the continuity and comfort I find there as I watch my son take his turn practising his swing. Just like I did. Just like his sister does. Just like his aunts still do. Just like my Dad did. We will be seeing them all this weekend, and more than likely baseball will be a major part of our conversations.

Roger Angell, a columnist for the New Yorker and lover of the game writes, "Since baseball is measured only in outs, all you have to do is succeed utterly. Keep hitting, keep the rally alive and you have defeated time. You remain forever young."

ON a day when family members are far away planning the celebration of a life well lived, it is good to spend time with my feet in the grass watching life unfold amongst the flurry of little boys playing a game that potentially can continue into eternity.

Like good violets who become amethysts.
forever young

ps.....Dad, if you're reading this.......Roger Clemens is starting against the Jays on Monday........Max wanted me to point this out to you and to let you know he's quite aware that Clemens will most likely make it into the hall of fame and how thrilling it would be to see the Rocket pitch live. see you Saturday. We will be bringing our gloves just in case anyone wants to throw the ball around in the backyard.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

transitions.......of grief

Today was filled with many strong feelings, as we begin to say good-bye. My father-in-law passed away last night. After struggling with many health issues for such a long time, but fighting them with the piss and vinegar he was known for, he quietly fell asleep and found peace.


Relief, grief, fatigue, joy, sorrow, confusion, and loss feed all of our brains with an overloaded sense of fogginess. None of us are thinking to clearly and yet, we have to make decisions, and we have to continue go about our lives as we prepare to celebrate his life.

Today, we spoke to many people on the phone. Our families live far away as do many of our oldest friends, spread out across the country. Every single person has their own memories of my father in law......their own "remember whens..." The stories, filled with loss and joy..... stoked us.

This afternoon, I pulled out a big box of photos along with the ones that made it to albums and spent time sifting through 20 years of family events.......weddings, anniversaries, Christmas mornings, births and baptisms, summer beach suppers, birthdays. So many snapshots, each coming alive with conversations. I'm starting to remember.

I'm remembering ......because I had forgotten. The focus has been on failing health, on aging. My father-in-law had been so cognitively distant for so long that I had lost the thread to our many heated debates over current events, his history lessons on Canadian politics, his enthusiasm for a big lobster feed, his gameness to try anything at least once, his love the Hamilton Tiger Cats football team, or his child-like excitement on Christmas morning opening presents, with a cup of coffee and a bloody caesar as a chaser on the side table.

I had forgotten how thrilled he was the first time he met his one and only grand thrilled that when he took her from my arms his "swoop" left me in sheer terror that he was going to wing her over his shoulder so hard she'd fly through the air.

The pictures triggered and stoked........the memories.

I took my thoughts out to the garden and while I pulled weeds, I found myself surrounded by several different bird songs.........robins, orioles, sparrows, morning doves, blue jays, of life all around...... and I was feeling relief along with grief along with appreciation..... As I worked quietly in my garden, I gave over to a free flowing of whatever memories showed up, knowing my father in law is now at peace.

Peace.........peace sung by the birds......

The layers are falling away.........the layers of the most recent years of seeing my father in law declining.....of watching his strength leave reveal his zest for life. It's all part of my own transition. Living and doing while remembering offers me the thread to my memories which in turn help turn a corner to a place where I can celebrate a life well lived. We all have our own process, our actions may be different I realized today but it's so important to allow all the feelings to surface especially during the time between someone's death and the funeral. I realized how I am, like every member of my family, like all the people who have been touched by my father in law, taking steps closer to being able to celebrate a life well lived.

Tonight, we drove my husband to the airport for the second time in a week. He is on his way home to make plans and to be with his mother and siblings. His best friend is flying in from Delaware to be with him, and we will follow up at the end of the week to take part in the celebration of "Mr. King of the Road," George "Buzzie" Kerr's life. I suspect that a party will erupt in his honour.

But right now, I feel like I've been struck by a transport truck. My heart is heavy and I'm exhausted, as are my sleeping children. Tonight, I will crawl in between them and find comfort.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

sisters of mercy......

moonshadow ray offerings

All the sisters of mercy,
They are not departed or gone.
They were waiting for me
When I thought that I just cannot go on.
And they brought me their comfort,
Later they brought me this song.
Ah yes I hope you run into them,
You who've been travelling so long.

Yeah, you who must leave everything
That you cannot control.
It begins with your family,
But soon it comes around to your soul.
Well I've been where you're hanging
And I think I can see how you're pinned:
Yeah when you're not feeling holy,
Your loneliness tells you, you've sinned.

They lay down beside me,
I made my confession to them.
They touched both my eyes,
I touched the dew on their hem.
If your life is a leaf
That the seasons tear off and condemn
Ah they will bind you with love
That is graceful and green as a stem.

When I left, they were sleeping,
I hope you run into them soon.
Don't turn on the lights,
You can read their address by the moon.
And you won't make me jealous
If I hear that they sweetened your night:
Ah we weren't lovers like that
And besides it would still be all right
Leonard Cohen

This man is brilliant. Lately, I have been listening to a version of this hauntingly beautiful song of redemption and love which was recorded by Sting and it has been floating in my head all week. The lyrics keep returning to me as I wonder about the many people whose lives are so complicated and messed up these days......and who feel a sense of sinned loneliness as Cohen so eloquently expresses. I love the nature images.......the use of the moon as a guide, spring renewal....forgiveness and rebirth.

It is a song of hope for anyone who has found themselves "pinned" by their own sins......who felt the the loneliness of screwing up. We've all been there one way or different times in our lives. Cohen has offered us a gift to understanding this.

Who are the sister's of mercy? I have a picture in my head of who they are and what they look like, but am wondering what images are conjured up for you when you read the lyrics or listen to the song?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Try it on.........

Canadian Icon Mr. Dress Up
circa early 60's

This is the man who introduced all Canadian kids to the tickle trunk. Mr. Dress-Up and his pals Casey and Finnegan entertained generations of children every morning for years by encouraging kids to pretend and to use their imaginations. His famous tickle trunk was filled with fancy costumes and uniforms along with wands and masks, and swords and for glamour, and shoes for working. His simple successful messages of community and belonging were rolled into his interactions with his buddies and his interactions with the kids sitting in their living rooms.

You can be anything you want to be.

You can do anything you set your heart and mind to.

Try it out

Test the waters

Wear the mask

See if it fits..............juuuuussssstttttt right.

And if it doesn't try another and another and another.........

Social learning, where kids of all ages (including us) acquire knowledge of how to act in a situation or how it feels to be in a situation is an enormously important component of child development. Social learning, through imitation is a chance to not only walk a mile in someone else's shoes, but to understand the way of the world.

Watch a 3 year old play. Uninhibited, stream of words billow forth while the focused little one interacts in her environment. Chances are, you'll see bits of siblings, snippets of grandparents, slices of the important people in their lives mixed into their actions, their reactions, and their words...... They are learning through imitation. Open ended play, using stuff out of the tickle trunk to test the waters and to learn how to be. The more the child's living environment is enriched with opportunities and stimulation the more enhanced the social learning will be.

Observe (without them knowing!!) a group of 8 year old boys play on the playground during recess. Very quickly teams are sorted out for whatever game is hot right then. Comfortable in their roles in their teams, they will assume names of famous sports players, will mimic commentators, set rules and boundaries perhaps like their phys ed teacher...... you can see how they are learning big lessons on the playground.....of what works and what doesn't.

School age kids.........playing house, playing teacher........ building sandcastles, spending the day in a fort, going on a lion hunt......."I'm not afraid....." Its all about trying on a different mask, to see what it's like.

Observe the bully too.......she is the one wearing a mask shrouded in puffed up bravado. Her mask allows her to act out before someone hurts her first. Her mask protects her just like the mask of a goalie. But underneath hers is a wounded little girl who has learned to act out in a bullying way most likely from an important person in her life. Eventually the bully, if she isn't helped to take off this particular mask, will end up all alone with on one to help her learn new ways.

Head over to the Mall on a Saturday afternoon.... See the group of 13 year olds swarming around the front of the arcade? They seem to be dressed the same way.......from the tips of their spiky straight hair down to their shoes. Some let their hair hang in front of their face to hide their insecurities. Some huddle closer together to talk........all standing in the same pose. Bizarre.....they all seem to look like Avril Lavigne.

Check out the boys too.......desperately trying to look cool, wanting to fit in. Some are wearing chains dangling in a loop down their thighs. Bangs hanging in the eyes......scraggly, dishevelled goth wannabes scuffing about while talking in the same intonation.

We are profoundly influenced throughout our lives by the people we encounter. Everything from our interest in different hobbies to the style of dress we eventually choose to wear to the careers we decide upon. We test the waters, try on a few different outfits from the tickle trunk and find out which is the best fit.

Somewhere along the line, we cross it...........and discover our own uniqueness. We find comfort in ourselves, in who we are. This happens at different times for different people. And sometimes, it doesn't happen ever. Have you ever met someone who seemed to be uncomfortable in their own skin? Self conscious to a point where they stammer and struggle trying to find their own voice, they never seem to be able to relax enough to just be accept who they are. More often than not however, we all eventually cross that line.

A little bit of this and a little bit of that remained from our learning along the way but it becomes consciously wrapped and woven into our own colourful entity complete with our values and beliefs, our tolerances and intolerances. As adults, we don't tend to wear masks in the same way as children and adolescents do. We tend to wear them to hide from the truth or as a means to shore up our bravado in order to act out. Our masks may cup our darkest secrets. They cover our vulnerable scars or something we feel shameful about. Masks allow us to disconnect with reality, even if it is just for a short escape in order to flirt with fantasy. A recreation of self, a chance to try on something different, to test the waters.....

You can be anything you want to be.......

Test the waters.....

Try it on.......

Go on..............see what fun lies in the tickle trunk.

For more on Masks, check out Sunday Scribblings this's the link........

Thursday, May 17, 2007

common ground

when the student is ready, the teacher will appear

Our whole lives consist of a learning curve. From our first breath until our last, we are seeing, listening, touching, feeling, and doing.
how to walk and talk and tie our shoes
how to add, subtract, multiply and divide
how to recite the alphabet, print, write, type and tell a story
how to use all the gadgets in our lives
how to cook, clean, iron, wash clothes
how to organize, theorize, intellectualize
how to figure things out
how to take apart, put together, and take apart again.

An accumulation of knowledge.........some useless, some helpful, some meaningful.

Along the way we find our interests, our passions.....
the topics we find most intriguing

Why? What's the point? We can't take any of this with us when we die?

Why do we have such a thirst for learning?

To know how to react and act to danger?
To know how to critically analyze and interpret situations?
To be able to interact with others?
To take us closer to understanding our relationships?

I think we learn in order to be able to connect with others
The roles we play allow us to use our knowledge to find common ground
Common ground offers us a foundation to build on our relationships.

Sometimes there are situations we are faced with that test us.....we ask, why do I have to experience this? What am I learning from this heartbreaking moment? Why me? Why me? What's the point of being confronted with pain and anguish?

Sometimes there is no answer.......

I have been thinking a lot today about our learning process and our innate desire to soak up as much of life's lessons as we can. I've also been thinking about how sometimes we are surprised by who the teacher is.

My husband is away spending time with his parents who are both seriously ill and have been for a very long time. Their steady decline in health has been a stressful, complicated, frustrating and mind numbing process for everyone.....on so many levels. My father in law suffers from Alzheimers and Parkinsons has been in the hospital in another province for over a month now. Once a man who radiated a presence when he walked into a room is now confined to his bed because of deep bruising from a fall and he's not able to bear any weight on his one side. He's confused and losing his words. He is losing his learning..........all of it as he lies in his bed in the palliative care ward. Stripped of being able to do the basic tasks for himself, and frustrated by this he has become dependent on others for his personal care.

Our ability to learn and to continue to build on it shores up our confidence and our sense of accomplishment. Learning feeds our innate curiosity, which in turn feeds our awareness, which in turn feeds our hope, which in turn feeds our faith. Learning leads us through a life of learning our faith through the connections we make with others and with God.

Big helpings of hope and faith gives us the sustenance to face our last lesson, understanding and accepting death because it is hope and faith which affirms our lives. Because we have the chance to experience life affirmation, we then can love.

Henri Nouwen writes; "Hope and faith will both come to an end when we die. But love will remain. Love is eternal. Love comes from God and returns to God. When we die, we will lose everything that life gave us except love. The love with which we lived our lives is thelife of God within us. It is the divine, indestructible core of our being. This love not only will remain but will also bear fruit from generation to generation."

I have spoken to my husband daily as we catch on the homefront, and he cocooned in a place where illness and dying are clearly visible. And, it's hard. It's hard for a son to see his Dad lose all his learning. The other night, they watched part of the hockey game together in the hospital room. Watching hockey and enjoying it together is something which connects these two. They both learned to love the game as they have watched many together, or at least discussed specific sports game in telephone conversations over the years. Common ground.

My husband told me that his Dad wasn't really able to watch the game. He was tired and unfocused. What struck me about this time together, is that my husband sat with his Dad and held his hand. Every now and then he would squeeze his Dad's hand, as they spent time together watching the hockey game.

when the student is ready, the teacher appears.........

Despite the health of my father-in-law. Despite the inability to look after himself anymore, he is still the teacher, providing big life lessons about love to his son. It's what matters the most. Love is what remains. All of our learning leads us to this moment. It is hope and faith and our innate desire to learn the things to find the common grounds that allows us to get there, but it is the unconditional sustainable love which is eternal. It is never forgotten.

All of our learning all of our lives designs the path to understanding unconditional love. I believe this learning is our greatest pursuit to finding the calm and overcoming the fear of our own mortality.

Undying's all that never goes away

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Eating blocks of government cheese........

Hey Dad! Please come home soon.
Mom is making us live in a van down by the river.

Today's living colour

Rainbows presented through a wide angled prism
dawn awakes
The most vibrant sunrises warn us that a storm is pending
Enjoy the calm
Enjoy the rainbow sunrise
Bad weather is a comin'

ps. Hey Jamer.....a little present from home. Wish you were here to enjoy a little of God's artwork from our livingroom. Remember what your Grandma Flo used to say...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

dancing light reflections.......

pending twilight looking upriver
springhill road,
sat. evening walking the dog with Max

"Take time to accept responsibility. Your life is exactly that - It's your life. It is created by you. You are constantly making choices, constantly creating new experiences. And although we can be affected by circumstances which can seem to be completely out of our control, essentially, we decide the direction in which we walk."
Nicolas Watkins

Every morning, I arrive at my desk to an email entitled "Your Daily Insights." Today, this little gem arrived. Completely appropos to my career situation and my intent on taking the reins to move forward.....or more appropriately conducive to my own thinking, on grabbing that paddle to stern my own canoe.

I've been paddling on the same lake for a while and know the inlets well. There have been times when I've floated along the shores, through the lily pads and lake grass enjoying the water spiders and little fish quietly living their lives. I have found the strength to take deep plunges with my paddle, to fight off the north winds as I cascaded over white caps trying to make it across the lake to a calmer locale. I have laid back against the thwarts and looked up into the sky allowing the canoe to drift along as I enjoy the moment, as I make an attempt to steal deep breaths from the fresh breezes.

Others have joined me in the canoe, all of whom always bring something good to eat, to drink, to teach and to learn. All of the people in my life have shared the paddle, on good calm days, on storm pending days, and on those days when the winds change so abruptly that you need a person in the bow to pull the water in unison.

Amazing how fast you can propel yourselves in a canoe with two working together. And if you do it right, you can feel the strength coming from your whole body. Paddling is never just an arm movement thing. Oh no, paddling takes the muscles in your thighs, stomach, chest, back and arms to make the canoe propel. Your knees, spread about 6 inches as you kneel, support your weight. Your feet, tucked under the seat help you feel connected to the canoe. It takes your eyes to see where you're headed, your brain to register the changes and nuances of your journey. It takes your sense of balance to find the touchpoint of your hip and tush to the side gunnels and the just the right lean. It takes a firm grip of one hand on the butt of the paddle, and the everchanging positioning of your other hand on the neck as you allow the paddle to slide into position through your guiding hand. And if you're doing it right.......if you're allowing all the parts of your body to work the canoe and it's paddle, you become an extension of the journey.

Across the water......... dip, dip and swing.

Most days my paddling has a sense of familiar purpose. I know which inlet I'm visiting. I am aware of the weather up ahead. I can find the right harbour, the best shore, the sturdy dock. Familiarity allows for this. Familiarity allows for us to have the feeling that we can paddle solo......that we can do it alone. But, I'm wondering if familiarity also generates doubt which perpetuates desire to tackle something new? We get settled in the same canoe, on the same lake, looking at the same inlets. The seasons come and go, the winds come and go........ all predictably familiar. Which is nice, if you're completely and utterly content.

And if you are.........completely and utterly content...............go with it........more power to you.....rock on.......... just watch out for those nasty snapping turtles, oh and the driftwood.....oh, and watch out for the changing water levels, where all of a sudden, the familiar lake alters it's vista and you're left grounded on a new sandbar with a stick puncturing your beloved canoe.

Yeah, familiarity...............a facade, isn't it, with contentment as a trap?

Today, I headed over to what looks like an inlet from afar, but as you get closer, you can see it's really the beginning of a tributary feeding into another lake. It's the other lake where I have heard has a couple of beautiful campgrounds to check out. It is where my next destination lies. I know this lake, but not as well, so have decided to ask for directions, to ask for help with the navigating.

Help.......will you please help me? I asked.......... these are not words I often spout because I'm normally comfortable soloing. I'm normally the navigator for others. But, today I asked someone whom I know clearly has a big picture of the lay of the land and lake..........

His answer?

"Yes, I would love to help you. But, I don't want you to settle for something you're not completely excited about. I want you to be picky about your destination. And while I'm helping you, I want you to plant as many seeds as you can along the way........."

Our lives are created by us, as noted in the quote........but we should never be afraid to check out new vistas, to pass up familiarity and more importantly to ask for help in the paddling to a new destination.

Think I've just pushed off from the may be a longer paddle than I anticipate because, well I'm not going to settle for the first campground I check takes time.......but I have help. I don't have to navigate alone.

My paddle's keen and bright, flashing with silver.......
Follow the wild goose flight
dip, dip and swing........

Monday, May 14, 2007

5 oh, oh...................

favourite son genuinely amazed at his mom's big news

Welcome to my 500th posting.......

applause, whistles, shouts for joy, cheers, and smiles all around..........

oh, and confetti too? You shouldn't have........but I like it.

Writing has become a daily activity in my life, one that often takes precedence in my thoughts as I muddle through the rest of the day. Ask anyone around me.........they will most likely tell you that there are times when I'm out in lalalala land lost in the cosmos of late creating some such thing in my head. But you know what? It has paid off. My goal was to find the discipline to write everyday no matter if I felt the well of words go dry. I wanted to push through the fear of the word tap turning off. And, I wanted to allow myself a chance to freely write on topics and ideas which niggled at my thinking to a point where they wouldn't go away.

No themes, no clear direction, no parameters.........well, at least not planned out. They magically appeared.

I wanted an open forum to tackle whatever intrigued me. This seemed like the perfect arena. Though I have a few ideas for novels, have a bunch of plots and storylines mapped out, have a list of non-fiction type topics I want to explore in book form, the thought of starting out with that in mind was too daunting. My blog has offered me a chance to write in daily portions, in morsels which for the most part can stand alone.

Topics have run the gamut.......from political commentary (which I have set aside for the most part since this blog isn't so anonymous anymore) to work related observations, to poetry, sports, spirituality, family, friends, literature, religion. I have added some of my own photos as a way of highlighting my part of the world......and I have shared some stories of the people in my life. It feels like a colourful tapestry, though only part of the mosaic which is my life.

I have written, and I have learned. My writing has offered me new glimpses to my own understanding of the world around me. What has been unbelievably satisfying is how often something I may be chewing and stewing over resonates with someone else. What a gift!!

500 makes me giddy.

Last week, I printed it all off. As much as I have learned to compose while sitting at the keyboard and only use my journal to capture phrases and ideas, I needed to see my words in print. I wanted to hold it in my own hands. I wanted to celebrate a personal accomplishment. It felt so good. Since then, I have filtered through the pile, picking and choosing pieces that seemed to have similar threads, collating the poetry....25 muskie made poems interspersed throughout 500 posts....I hadn't written a poem since I was 20 years old.

Everything I have posted was written in one go around.........for the most part unedited, and untouched since I clicked on publish and foisted out into blogland. My friend who encouraged me to write again, and who suggested my blog nom de plume after he lent me the book "Awareness" offered me one piece of advice which I continue to take to heart. He told me just to start keep writing and not worry about the topics or whether I had found exactly the right word. And so I did..........and so it goes..........

Last night, I sat with a friend whose very good at editing and organizing me. Anne has been a faithful reader from the beginning and very supportive. Our conversation and her advice have pointed me in a productive direction with respect to pulling some of these musings together and making them stronger. This is my summer that I am SOOOO looking forward to. AND it is one I will be working on using my brand new laptop my family surprised me with on the weekend. It meant more than they will ever know, (simply because I havent been able to find the words without getting all choked up about it. The gift of my very own laptop sent the message loud and clear with love that despite the fact that there have been many days when my head was in the clouds, they get it.............and they want to support me in my pursuits.....

My project doesn't mean I will stop the flow here on my site................oh, hell no! I'm just getting warmed up. In fact, it really only feels I have slid under one layer of my skin. For me, it feels like the beginning of my awareness. And I do hope you'll continue to take part in the journey while I find the words emanating from my new computer.

POP goes the Champagne............yummy!


The Proclaimers.............I would walk 500 miles.............and I would walk 500 more

Sunday, May 13, 2007

mother's day........

beautiful market tulips for mom, may 2007

A purpose for every season.

I love that Mother's Day falls smack dab in the middle of spring. Spring personifies motherhood. It is a time for planting, nurturing and encouraging growth. It is a time to watch nature's rebirth. And all around us we see the infancy greens, the beauty of the daffodils and tulips, our first sturdy promise of things to come. Under our back deck, the robins have returned to build nests for their precious blue eggs. There are four of them this year, and the feisty momma robins along with their protective orange breasted partners are protecting their territory voraciously from the pesky blue jays.

Being a MOM

making things better with our love
loving, loving, loving

It is the recipe for a good start. It is the recipe for helping our loved ones build a foundation. It is the essence of spring.

And as I write this, I think of my two children who are not far away from me, and of their Dad, my partner in life, who is away from us visiting his own mother and father this week while staying with my own Mom and Dad. They all live in the same area.

This morning, he will see his own Mom to share Mother's Day with her, knowing it may be her last. He will take her a big bunch of tulips to fill her home with spring, make her tea and tell her stories of her grandchildren. Nothing, however takes precedence over having her son with her today. He is her Mother's Day present. The tulips are simply eye candy. Her son is the real thing.

And me? My thoughts float my Mom who will be out in her garden most likely thinking about her Mom............. her own 3 daughters who are also Moms.........

And thoughts to my Mother in Law, Mim who gets to share her day smiling, and forgetting about the realities of illness.

A purposeful season........the circle of life.

ps....if you happen to be looking for me? Well, I will out in the garden doing my thing and counting my blessings. They are bigger than the biggest bouquet of tulips and just as stunning.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Flavouring of A Second Chance

"We all must hold the cups of our lives. As we grow older and become more fully aware of the many sorrows of life -- personal failures, family conflicts, disappointments in work and social life, and the many pains surrounding us on the national and international scene -- everything within and around us conspires to make us ignore, avoid, suppress, or simply deny those sorrows. "Look at the sunny side of life and make the best of it," we say to ourselves and hear others say to us. But when we want to drink the cups of our lives, we need first to hold them, to fully acknowledge what we are living, trusting that by not avoiding but befriending our sorrow we will discover the true joy we are looking for right in the midst of our sorrows. " Henri Nouwen

"I still haven't found what I'm looking for............."

Not yet, anyways. But isn't that the journey of life? We are inherent seekers and doers. It's in our genes. It's in the salt found in our spirits. It is in the salt found in the food and drink we share with our friends and family. It is in the salt found in our tears.......flavouring our lives, as we learn and grow from trying. We may not get it right the first time, or the second or the third OR even the fourth time. God, we may not ever get it right, but what is a life where at the end of it, we haven't sought out and explored the world and the people around us?

What is a life where there is no reflection emanating back at you? What is a life of avoiding risks, of hiding from the truth, of not recognizing mistakes or celebrating accomplishments? It is one of suppressed regret. It is a life of coulda woulda shoulda..............ooooops it's over.

What if you woke up one morning at 75 years of age with the stark realization that your life was not what you expected, or that you didn't do the things you wanted to do? Would you be paralyzed by the belief that it's too late to do anything about it? Would you beat yourself up emotionally to a point where you couldn't recover from the disease of regrets? Or would you be able to grab hold of a second chance, dust yourself off, make some decisions and start moving forward in a new direction?

Personally, I'd like to avoid experiencing that epiphany then. I want to reach that milestone with a rucksack full of attempts..............the second chances which led to both success and failures, all flavoured with the salt of life. In fact, I want no salt left to discard. I want it all used I taste life.

Nouwen writes of learning from our sorrows. Through our sorrows, we can find joy. Our choice is clear. We can choose to allow our sorrows to engulf and overwhelm us to a point where we stop trying, where we stop reaching out for the second chance. Or we can grab hold of the cup with both hands, take a big gulp of insight, swallow our fearful pride, stomp on our guilt, acknowledge our sins.............FORGIVE our mistakes as God forgives us and keep on with the search.

At any any age..........

We are seekers...........who sometimes need to take our turn hiding. We need seclusion to stop the world around us, to find the silence, to dwell between the breaths, to contemplate success and failures. We need it. Even in our hiding spots, however, we never stop seeking. In fact, now that I am thinking about it, I wonder if we seek more deeply when we have retreated. Sure, it's much scarier to seek in the dark, but sometimes the challenge makes it all the more gratifying. Perhaps, finding the braveheart to reach out for a second chance at twilight is what it takes to be moved by life affirming grace.

Second chance grace. I like that tasty idea.

for more sunday scribblings on second chances, click here.

Friday, May 11, 2007


"The harder you try to change, the worse it can get. Does this mean that a certain degree of passivity is all right? Yes, the more you resist something the greater power you give to it.
That's the meaning, I think to Jesus' words: "When someone strikes you on the right cheek, offer him your left as well." You always empower the demons your fight. But if you flow with the enemy, you overcome the enemy. How does one cope with evil? Not by fighting it but by understanding it. In understanding, it disappears.
How does one cope with darkness? Not with one's fist. You don't chase darkness out of a room with a broom, you turn on a light. The more you fight darkness, the more real it becomes to you and the more you exhaust yourself. But when you turn on the light of awareness, it melts.

Say this scrap of paper is a billion dollar cheque. Ah, I must renounce it, the gospel says, I must give it up if I want eternal life. Are you going to substitute one greed -- a spiritual greed -- for the other greed? Before you had a worldly ego and now you've got a spiritual ego, but you've got an ego all the same.......a refinded one and one more difficult to cope with. When you renounce something, you're tied to it. But if instead of renouncing it, I look at it and say......

"Hey, this isn't a billion dollar cheque.....this is a scrap of paper," there is nothing to fight, nothing to renounce.

Anthony de Mello, an excerpt from his book, Awareness.

Here's my other cheek........
I have started to make some career moves in another direction, and it looks as though I have found the river flowing with me. It's not that I have "surrendered" in a manner which i feel defeated. In fact, it feels like a huge weight is leaving my shoulders. This afternoon, I met with someone who helped me make a couple of steps....forward. Names of others were shared from a different network than I am aware of......but one I want to join. New terminology, and a new way of "packaging" my portfolio to reflect a new direction.
It will take time........but it may be that the time is just right. i fought and fought to be able to continue in the realm I had "defined" my skillset.....counselling..... The paradox is that counselling is what I love to do, but it is defining myself as a counsellor which shrinks the box of opportunity. As De Mello writes in his book, Awareness, the labels come and go.......the labels are constantly in flux. It is the "I" which is constant.
I will always be a counsellor in some capacity........I seek out the opportunities, and the opportunities seek me out. Always has, always will. But, I'm surrendering to the labels........and I'm heading downstream on a bright blue inner tube.
"I" will is the core of my spirit. Giving in........offering up the other cheek...........not fighting the refreshingly helpful.

Well, it may not feel the same as sitting in an uncomfortable pew,
but it may be just as transformative.
At least it'll be fun doing a comparative analysis.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

onset of twilight
last sweet gasp
a full day sipping sigh
from my cup filled with shiraz
ember tasting nectar which soothes my insides.

Twilight, now dark night as I write
of quiet reflections
many competing thoughts as I sip from my cup
many competing feelings as I sip from my cup

a colleague who during a break today
in the middle of my workshop on anxiety
spills his secret
he hears voices
apparition voices
he tells me with a desire to believe that this is good
that he has clairvoyant abilities
why don't I believe him?
why am I worried for him?
because his words didn't match the behaviour I observed.
I wonder about his mental health
worry that perhaps his confession was the beginning of many conversations I may have with him as he sorts out his stuff

my old boss
whom I find ensconced behind a closed door
she never closed her door when I lived in the office right beside her for so many years.
but now she's overworked, stressed, tired
she just got back from vacation and yet she now looks tight faced with baggy eyes
her shoulders stroop more than she realizes.
as i open her door to ask her if she's alright.......
she talks about needing time away
so I ease her pain.....and tell her a funny "family" story......
a family story connected to the crazy maker family I married into
and she laughs
she laughs and laughs at my punch line
a nice escape........and she tells me that she misses me.

my friend who calls tonight
her husband, also a close friend is back in the hospital
emergency 911 today
earlier in the week, he is hit with kidney stones
the pain doubles him over
unable to pass the stone
makes him writhe in agony until they remove it.
he called last night.........laughing and shouting
"mission accomplished!!"
We laugh about the experience
I tell him I'll make dinner for him this weekend......
he can have control of the remote
to watch sports from the leather chair
comfortable settled in my living room.
"it's a deal............."
But today, the pain returned.
Doubled over, Helen had to call 911..........
another kidney stone?
post surgery inflammation?
we don't know yet but he's back in the hospital drugged up on morphine
blissed out, while his wife and daughter worry alone.

my uncle who is facing his own realities tonight in the hospital far away
he tells me last night that every test they have done on him has been bad news
he may lose a few toes from newly diagnosed diabetes
his heart is in bad shape
he needs surgery on two parts of his body
and yet, when we talk on the phone........we swap stories.
we catch up, and laugh about funny things that have happened in the past
all the while avoiding the fact that this week was the anniversary of my grandmother's, his mother's death.
it was the last time I had seen him.
we spent a day together after the funeral going through my grandmother's belongings
together swapping stories, crying from fresh grief, laughing over funny things.
we didn't talk about that yesterday.
we miss her too's too raw, and he needs to focus on himself.
he tells me stuff I know he isn't able to share with his own family
his feelings
his real feelings
because we have that kind of bond
I tell him his toe will save his life
he believes me
I believe it
we say good bye both feeling good about our chat
tomorrow I will call again.
I can't visit in person, but we'll keep talking
we need to, we want to.
I end the conversation by telling him that I love him.
my uncle, who looked after me when I was a baby
and I wonder when the last time was...
when did I tell him I loved him last?
he knows now...
yes, he knows now....

my cup is full and yet I keep sipping........
twilight is over
darkness has wrapped for the night.

and I'm alright.......
I'm alright....
I'm alright.