Friday, May 30, 2008

finding the lost chord......


I spent a day getting lost on purpose. Getting lost on purpose frees you...........strips you of the bag of rocks you've accumulated and have made you feel bogged down weary. It allows you to carry only what you need for the journey.....yourself. For me, it seems like its the only way to search for a lost chord needed to recapture the harmony. I knew it was missing, however I didn't even know what it sounded like. Perhaps I had never heard it all on it's own.

I let my feet take on the prayer.......one which began without the parameter of words or phrases.........just a pounding of the pavement, a rhythm of my movement, a cadence to help me release unhelpful energy and to replace it with preferred focus. I was in search of that one lonely chord lost in the cacophonic noise called busy anxious life.

And so I began with one determined step after another.....with no clear direction.......with an uncertain destination.....with hope that my prize would be at the end of my untangling. It's not a comfortable feeling. But Pip's message played in my head...... growth does not reside in a place called comfortable. And when the journey is full of fraughtful curves and unknown curbs, when the brain is churning unfinished, unclear, unresolved worries you can either sit in the puddle of inertia or get lost on purpose. I chose the latter.......

Getting lost on purpose is driven by an intuitive pull fed by a sense of curiosity, similar to the urge one has to continue reading a mystery book. As much as you want to flip from the beginning right to the end, in order to grasp the meaning, in order to know how it all unfolds, you have to take the time to use your intuition to pick up the cues, to guide your senses through the process. Sometimes it takes a much longer time than one day to solve the mystery of the lost chord when there's a need to unclench before the untangling can occur.

Eyes wide, ears alert..........possibilities open........I walked lost in a sea of unknown faces, in a relatively unfamiliar city where the daily rhythms were unattached to me. I let myself move into a flow of others.........strangers who offered me anonymity to regain the silence inside needed to tune in. I felt insignificantly small as I walked along soaking in the architecture, the history, the beat. No one seemed to notice me and I was fine with that knowing I could make myself be noticed if I needed to. There was a sense of security in my steps as I wondered what she would sound like, my lost chord.

Every now and then, I would stop to take notice of the people and the places..........faces with their own stories behind their facades..........places with intricate deliberate designs etched on the exteriors. I wondered what was on the inside of the people and the places.....what stories could they share? Sometimes, I stopped to take photos which allowed me to catch a breath snapshot. Sometimes I would decide to walk through the doors to peak inside where more beauty would be revealed. Grandiose, elegant, awe striking............


I liked the solitude in the crowd of ebb and flow strangers. I began to listen to my own thoughts as they passed through me, one untangling at a time. I began to feel an unfurling of limbs, a stretching of muscles, a letting go of the burdening rocks which had been so heavy to carry. I could feel a lightness as I exerted energy to move forward. This motivated me to keep going. This motivated my curious mind, knowing that if I just kept going, the lost chord would perhaps find me. Would I know when I heard it? Would I recognize that it was my own or would it feel like someone elses? Would I have to share this chord with others, or would it be uniquely mine?

It was mid afternoon. Save for a few quick stops to listen in places I kind of expected to hear something, I had been walking for nonstop for over 4 hours. I found myself in front of a smallish church (in comparison to the grandiose elegance of St. Pauls just up the road. The intuitive pull tugged on me as I stepped out of the hurried city and into this small cathedral, through a heavy wooden door.

Right away I found myself in silent comfort, pulled by the aroma of the wooden pews, the light filtering onto the brocade of worship, the colour cascading all around me. I was pulled right into it's reverence. No sound, except my own steps.

As I walked through the entrance and into the main body of the cathedral, I saw to my right a person sitting hunched over on a wooden chair completely covered in their outergear.....hood pulled up to hide the face. In front of this person were two bags. Their sole possessions possibly? My heart opened in empathy looking down at this crumpled person, broken by life, exhausted by their journey to find their own chord. I didn't even know the sex of the person.........all I could see was a shape....the outer shell of a sleeping feeling human being who escaped into the cathedral for respite and nourishment.


I wanted to touch the human being......put my hand on their knee......to let them know they weren't alone..........I wanted to reach out to them and see if they needed anything. While I was standing there beside him or her pondering it all, I heard something very faint. It was the softest plink, like a waterdrop on porcelain. plink.

plink.


I decided to leave the person in silence, realizing it was presumptuous of me to even think that I could help them. I realized that perhaps it was the other way around. Their presence helped me......helped me find focus. I then heard the sound again......plink.........like a raindrop falling into a birdbath.


I moved up the middle aisle, quietly opened the door of one of the middle pews and slid in. Though I was the only one sitting in the pews, I chose the middle. It felt right to be surrounded on all sides by a balance. Behind me slept the unmoving crumpled soul whom I could feel. I wasn't alone. We weren't alone. The air was thin with a presence I hadn't felt in a long time.

I heard it again.............a soft, faint plink which felt like it had touched me on the top of my head....a dewdrop of light emanating from above..........warming and seeping into my skin.....inviting me to gaze upwards.

plink.

It was then that I realized what the lost chord sounded like. It sounded like peace. As I looked up at the beauty I was sitting below, the peaceful chord reached my lips and left a tinge of salt. Peace and salt.

My feet settled, my soul felt less tangled...... I bowed my head like the crumpled person behind me to let the lost chord touch the back of my neck and shoulders while I sat inside the words of a prayer.....one which included a plink or two of my own tears.



The dome of St. Dunstan's church, on Fleet Street. It is the "home" of writers. I wasn't aware of this until I read the brochure I picked up on my way back out onto the busy street.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

filling up.


"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 had many coversations yesterday through various venues........on the phone, face to face, through the internet, across the table, standing in line, when i was ordering tea at the Deli, in my office, in my home and in the van driving 5 boys to baseball tryouts (that one was a keeper, and will blog about it separately!). I had a great chat in the evening in the garden with a friend which stirred up lots of feelings. I think I even had a few conversations with myself...........don't know if I listened more than that I rambled on, but they seemed like good chats nonetheless.
Interactions, conversations, updates, thoughts shared................love them all because it is what fills my cup of life. Big feelings, little moments, wondering........all meaningful droplets into my goblet.
One of my student interns and I discussed whether altruism really exists. Thought provoking! We agreed that it didn't, even if you were Mother Teresa.
Over lunch with two of my dearest friends from work who have since retired, we tackled big heart stuff as well as shared more than a few bawdy laughs. If you had walked into my friend's kitchen during our lovely lunch, you may have thought you had walked into a conversation with three sailors............the expletives and colourful language would've taken the hair right off of your chest.......! But, it was a blowing steam kind of lunch filled with eye brimming tears and doubled over laughing and stuff in between.
Kibittzing and joking in the office................and some serious work too all brought people flowing in and out of my day. I love that.
I spoke to a woman on the phone to book an appointment to see me. So anxious is she to come in, she spilled a great deal of her story in the first 2 minutes of our very first connection. She needs to tell it...........and I told her I would be all hers next week for as long as she needed. It's what I do. It's what I love to do.
Lots of chatter at home too......updates, organizing stuff, sharing how we're feeling..........how's it going.......touching base.....always touching base. Home interactions begin and end my day..........like beautiful bookends of belonging.
We fill our cups daily with joys and sorrows, with frustrations and yearnings, with anger and confusion, with curiosity and craziness. And by sharing our cups, and by adding to others and allowing others to spill their reflections into our own, we link arms in kinship as we toast life's reflections. Personal fulfillment needs other human touch to add the silver clarity we yearn.
Yes, it seemed like a "three cupper" day..............a silver goblet day filled to the brim......

I'm off to see what today brings................and wonder what I can take to the party.




Wednesday, May 28, 2008

every child.....every right......



Over the course of the school year, my son and his classmates worked on a collective enrichment project on Africa. They individually chose their own topic under such a diverse umbrella, but also took part in various activities arranged by their teacher.......a teacher who is one for the ages. He's a true shining example of someone who is living his calling, and his students AND the school thrive because he teaches and learns from the core of his heart.
Africa was "taken on" by a group of 10 year olds keen to learn and keen to dive into it with gusto. African drummers did a demo and had the children take part. A local woman named Miss Alice, originally from Zimbabwe and who recently graduated from the university in her 70's came in and taught them throat singing and told them many stories about her childhood. They were introduced to music, culture, sports and song........they learned about the flags, and the different currency. They learned of endangered species, of fossils and bones.....they learned of the desserts, the ruins, and the rituals.

They learned about the plight of children, about extreme poverty and as an aside decided to raise money for Unicef, which they did as part of the larger school in the fall (the school raised more money than any other school in Atlantic Canada) and then again as a class. Just as a class of 30 or so kids, they have raised $1000.00 in change in the last month alone. They are now trying to figure out what they want the money to go towards......bug nets, water, school supplies..........they can choose this. The Unicef representatives from the Region have also been involved in helping to guide them as well and have recognized their initiative.

Amazing.............they now ALL want to visit Africa.........to see, hear, touch, inhale it for themselves.

They learned independently, collectively and far beyond their neighbourhoods. Last month, they presented all of their projects at a special event for the parents and family which to say the least was a mind blower. Videos, powerpoint presentations, clay pots, jewelry, structures, a set of drums were present on a variety of topics....... animals, people, geography, housing, the economy, and music..............all were covered by this group of kids. It was very very impressive and very very moving.

The presentation event began with this video which was developed for Unicef as a promotional piece. I welcome you to follow this link and watch...........it's SO powerfully moving.............and only a couple of minutes long...........I will wait for your return......................xo


Last night, I attended my very last Home and School Meeting at Garden Creek School. My family and I have been involved as "Creekers" since Martha began Kindergarten 10 years ago, and over those years I have personally focused my volunteer time to this place as President of Home and School a handful of times and as the Coordinator of their Christmas Bazaar fundraiser often. I have met the best people, the most dedicated teachers and staff, an amazing group of parents........and have felt such an affinity to the place and to the atmosphere which is always warm and welcoming.........respectful and engaged. During the meeting, we got to watch the Unicef video again, and again, I was moved and stirred by my strong interest in the plight of children globally, and always come away from watching or reading or thinking about this with a strong desire to do more as citizen of the bigger world.

Tonight, after hearing a horrendous story on the National news coming from the Save the Children Foundation research study on rampant sexual abuse of children by UN Peacekeepers and even from staff of helping agencies taking place predominantly in the most wartorn countries in Africa, I was struck again by wanting to do more. here is a link to the story.......


It appears so daunting. So many children are living and suffering from preventable diseases, they are dying of AIDs, malnutrition, and neglect. They are caught in the crossfire of evil, of war, of natural disasters. They are the innocents being abuse by people whom they should be seeking solace and safety from? What is wrong with this world when millions of children do not live and thrive under the same rights and freedoms that our children have the opportunity to? Why should any child be different?

For anyone reading this post and want to comment on the questionable validity of the above mentioned study, don't waste your breath. I am fully cognizant of the fact that the study most likely won't be taken seriously because it doesn't meet the reliability and validity standards of research and consequently wont be taken seriously by anyone in a position to seek out these sick perpetrators and deliver justice while supporting the violated and wounded children. However, my feeling is that this study........and these stories are simply the tip of the iceberg, given that most people would be so full of shame that they would never admit to the atrocities they have experienced. Also, my feeling is that if ONE..........ONE child is violated, raped, sexually abused in any way, we should all take note, take action and fight for the rights of every one of our kids in need of our love and intervention.



My volunteer time is now over at Garden Creek School. I may join in on some committees etc during my children's middle school and high school years, but I doubt it will be anywhere near as satisfying or directly helpful to the day to day running of a school. So, now I'm thinking about my son and his class and their enthusiasm which has struck a chord in me again, and I'm left wondering how I can begin to dedicate myself to the cause of children worldwide. I'm wondering how I can really help.

One of the first things I did tonight was sign the Declaration of Human Rights. YOU can do this too! I recognize that it's symbolic, but can see the importance of doing so. Given that it is the 60th anniversary since it was originally penned, the group called the Elders, whom I wrote about last year when they were formed by the intiatives of Peter Gabriel and Richard Branson, took this as one small initiative as a way to engage ordinary citizens in the awareness as well as the ownership of promoting and protecting human rights. Here is the link to the Elder site (I applaud them.........!! I want to meet them all!!) On it, you will find a link to where you can sign the Declaration as well as learn about this international leadership foundation. It also includes a video of the Elders speaking on the Declaration and pertinent information on how we as individuals citizens can help.....................can get involved.


Every child has the right to be loved and cared for. It is our collective and individual responsibility to work towards this goal. If we don't who will?




My son's class last year in Grade 4 during their first real foray into fundraising for Unicef, shown here with the Unicef reps. They're veterans now............and look so much older than they do here. Amazing how much they have all grown up in a year! Love them all, those scruffy ragamuffins!

Monday, May 26, 2008

gazing across the pond.


"The Holy Spirit is the wild and passionate side of God, the tactile spirit whose touch is around you, bringing you close to your self and to others. The Holy Spirit makes these distances attractive and laces them with fragrances of affinity and belonging. Graced distances make strangers friends. Your beloved and your friends were once strangers. Somehow at a particular time, they came from the distance towards your life. Their arrival seemed to be accidental and contingent. Now, your life is unimaginable without them."

John O'Donahue, Anam Cara.



I never in my wildest dreams (and some of them are pretty darn wild) thought blogging would be an avenue where I would find kindred spirits..........human beings who have become a part of my life in such an almost indescribable way. This avenue is a multisensory mirror.......... or can be if you want it to, where we can see old and new reflections of ourselves on the faces of others.
Distance loses meaning. Life acquires it.

This morning, a friend has returned to the harbour. Here is the link to his new blog, which will undoubtedly be a wonderful well where reflections will offer up a few glimpses of light. I encourage you to visit his new blog......
Welcome back Paul, my kindred spirit friend. Let your chaoticsoul take flight.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Canada, eh?

Gateway to the Green from Buckingham Palace to Picadilly



I was standing in line in the WH Smith store in the Gatwick Airport with a bunch of last minute goodies in my hand when the fire alarm went off and an announcement over the public address system told all of us to vacate the area. It was kind of scary, but I did as I was told and followed the other lemming touristas down a hall to what I thought would be an exit. Instead, it was a long walk to another part of the terminal with no airport employee to meet us or to direct us or to tell us what was going on.
Along the way, I ended up talking with a young woman East End of London who was heading to St. Lucia. We chatted about how disorganized things seemed and whether or not we would be forced outside and whether or not our flights would be late in taking off. Before we were told, we turned around to head back to the area from whence we had begun this journey of hallways and tunnels (with 500 other folks..........we werent the only ones not attending to the one announcement we had all followed). On our way back, we shared a bit about our trips............mine to return to Canada and she to visit friends and relatives.


Then she asked the question............... "What's Canada like?"

I am not someone who spends much time whining about the fact that most of our neighbours south of the border have no real clear picture of who we are and what this vast and magnificent country is all about like so many Canucks. This is a pasttime for some.............a way of trying to figure out our identity by pointing out the differences. I've travelled enough in the United States particularly to have had my share of bizarre conversations with people, some of whom live within a baseball throw of the shared border. Not a lick of knowledge.......... and as much as i find that strange, especially from people who live near the border, I certainly don't lose sleep over it.


Outside Canada house, beside Trafalgar Square


I'm cognizant of the lack of information provided through news and in schools etc about this country. On the grand scale of global things, our role is minor. Yes, we may be a member of the G8, and unless something changed today, we are active members of the British Commonwealth. But, we arent ever going to be a big player........... we aren't going to be the ones picking the music at the dance. Ah, but we will be there to dance!

I didn't expect this in England though. I don't know why, but I guess I kind of thought there would be some awareness and knowledge of my home and native land. Given the historical links, the same parlimentary system, basically the same social welfare system, our penchant for the same kind of humour..........the fact that the Rolling Stones played a pivotal role in our political history by partying in the 70's with Trudeau's crazy hippy dippy wife..........given that Old Bessie's profile is on our currency..........that we probably love dogs just as much......... I guess I thought I wouldn't be asked the broad questions.

Travelling I have found offers me a chance to re-visit my own interpretation of what it is to be a Canadian and of what Canada is all about. Though there is usually some goofy article in the newspaper on a pretty regular basis harping on this very thing, I personally don't spend much time navel gazing on our identity until I am standing somewhere outside of the border. And it is then that I have such a strong surge go through me when I realize just how damn lucky I am. As much as I would LOVE to spend time living in Notting Hill (fell in LOVE with the area). As much as I know I would LOVE to live in many places around the world, I can't ever imagine calling any place but this country home. This feeling is always strengthened when I have a chance to be someplace besides here. Maybe everyone feels that way when they have had an opportunity to leave their familiar borders.

I loved my week retreat...................my week of seeking and being on my own in the UK. I felt comfortable, connected and happily ensconced in the welcome arms of my bloggie friends......so much so that it felt like we've known each other forever. Though there are many differences between the UK and Canada, there are enough similarities to give a wayward Canuck the confidence to explore on her own, and to seek out the differences. I guess I assumed that this was a known thing........... it certainly didn't bother me, but it did fascinate me.

What's Canada like?



How does one answer that without spewing forth some psychological/political/philosophical thesis?
ummmmmm..................



We like hockey? Though some don't believe it or not.....

There are a lot of lakes?

Anne of Green Gables is only a fictional character but would probably do well if she ran for Prime Minister, but she'd never ever beat our classy sassy Don Cherry?

We export Divas and Comedians? For the record (mine anyways, you can keep Celine)

The majority of us own toques..............and know what they are used for?

Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic...............Rockies, Great Lakes, and lots and lots of trees?

Beavers, Moose, Deer, Loons and Geese............most of which share our currency with the Queen.

We are into a thing called a musical ride........just ask any Mountie.....


Our greatest hero was a young man who tried to run across the country on one leg and a prosthesis?

Where does one begin? It was a wee bit daunting really to be asked this by that young woman in the airport, but I think I managed to sum it up as best as I could................

What's Canada like?

"It's vast and magnificent," I replied................"and it's home."



a time for every purpose.......

Thoughts generated remain completely abstract until they are expressed and acted upon. I'm a good thinker, but when it comes to putting things into action sometimes, I seem to get lost in the myriad of good intentions. My brain constantly churns out ideas. It's like an idea machine on most days, and every now and then it can harness one of them and move on it. But most of the time, it feels like a logjam in there. This is where I am today..........sitting atop a logjam.

Writing certainly helps, as does talking something through. But the real key to uncluttering the mind is to DO. To ACT. There is no substance in life if one simply remains in the realm of rumination. Meaning, which only really grabs hold of our realization and understanding at the end of our lives, consists of a series of events, moments, connections which for the most part seem compartmentalized and filed away separately.
In order to even catch a glimpse at the mystery behind the meaning of our lives, we have to be brave enough to allow our thinking and our feelings to be turned into doing. I certainly don't want to reach the end of my tether with a bunch of thoughts in my head that havent had a chance to move beyond early germination. And yet most of the time, I can't seem to get going. I feel paralyzed by my own "too many thoughts and ideas........."

If I want to get myself all riled up, all I have to do is remain in that mind puddle and never get to the point where I can reflectively say...............this is what I was meant to do. The problem is.....it seems like I am meant to do so many things.......my brain churning out ideas upon ideas, upon ideas............and I often don't have a clue which one to tug on the hardest so that I CAN fufill whatever destiny God has intended.

Sitting atop a logjam..........wondering which direction to take and getting sweet frig all done on any front. Lovely! Thank God at least for the view.

Friday, May 23, 2008

blessed longing.




"True vitality is hidden within longing. When you give into creative passion, it will bring you to the ultimate thresholds of transfiguration and renewal. This growth cause pain, but it is sacred pain. It would be much more tragic to have cautiously avoided these depths and remained marooned on the shiny surfaces of the banal." John O'Donahue.

Longing can be painful.......grasping for what you want, knowing it may be a distant shore, you best keep swimming even if your arms and legs tire......even if your head feels soggy. If one can keep a clear path to that creative passion nestled in the essence of our being, somehow the adrenaline which feeds the vitality will help keep us afloat.

Longing may be painful, as Father O'Donahue states, but the option of resting on the shores of the banal isn't in my repetoire. I want to dive off that darn banal dock into that canal and go for a swim, even if I have to float on my back every now and then.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

mentoring.........

Yesterday, I had a quick conversation with the student intern who is working with me about the development of a counselling relationship. Normally our conversations are much longer, but we were tight for time and it was the end of the day..............one that had begun for me in the wee hours of the morning due to time changes and jet lagness and whizzed by with many tasks and several drop ins from friends and colleagues to hear about my trip and to find out about my husband's health (which is improving by the minute btw).
My student intern has been hanging with me for a month or so and I've been thoroughly enjoying working with him...........teaching a bit, assessing a bit.....learning A LOT....but mostly enjoying our time together getting to know one another. This is what is so cool about counselling...........in order to develop your skills, you have to be open to being open.........you have to be able to be reflective as you continue to hone the craft of engaging with others.

This is his first foray into the frontlines after much time in the classroom learning theories and discussing the process. Now, he's getting his feet wet...............seeing how the theories apply in real life.........learning how challenging it can be to encourage someone to share their stuff, observing me and now taking some of the lead. I asked him today to compare how he felt two weeks ago before he had experienced his own counselling sessions with people, to now. And lovely Nolan answered the question with reflective grace.

He told me that two weeks ago, he was feeling much more comfortable in the internship.......... taking a bit of a back seat observing and conversing with me on a cognitive level. He was keen to challenge himself by taking the helm but now was feeling very uncomfortable and a bit out of his depth. I smiled and nodded..................told him that is EXACTLY where he needed to be! It's where learning crosses paths with our yearnings and desires to stretch ourselves.
It's so easy to sit back and observe from the sidelines. But to really get a taste for life, especially in the trenches of the frontlines, one has to jump right in there knowing full well that you'll NEVER in a million years be able to second guess and plan and prepare for the unknown that is bound to pop up when interacting with another person. And I know this is why he has chosen this field. It fits his personal make up..................his effervescent curiosity.........his ongoing churning in his mind. He's completely up to the challenge and like all seekers and learners, is willing to feel a bit of insecurity along the way.

Counselling is not something you can teach someone to do. Sure you can provide the theoretical frameworks, and you can even demonstrate the various techniques. You can offer insight into better communication techniques too. But, the true ingredient of counselling is found in the soul.
What I am loving right now as a mentor for a very gifted soul full person who has chosen a calling and the right one at that, is the time I get to spend talking............we have formed a wonderful rapport. He has brought to me a chance to evaluate my own chosen calling again at a time when I think I needed to touch base with why it is what I love to do.
I've been very lucky in my life to have had a few really good mentors along the way..........people who have taken the time with me to guide and to listen........my role now as the guide continues to offer up many opportunities to relearn, to challenge, and to personally feel the keen discomfort of the learning process. Can't wait to see where the rest of this internship leads. One thing I'm certain of is that counselling and teaching is what i love to do, and it is what i am meant to do.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

reflections

I arrived in London raw and exhausted, but full of energy. It was the unsettling kind though....the restless kind that churls and surges in your system. The unharnessed but compressed energy was so powerful, it felt like it was going to crack open my skin and pour all out onto the pavement. My thoughts drove my feelings in a way that I didn't feel like I had much control of them, nor an understanding of how to figure it out. I had left behind me a major crisis with my husband and his health, a pile of untouched work on my desk, issues pertaining to the state of how things were still manipulatively incomplete (and more importantly stressfully mismanaged) with respect to my husband's parent's wills. Even the seemingly smaller things around the house were piling up so fast and furious that they just added to the bedlam in my churling inner world. The tears and the rage roared. I was spent.

The people around me could see it..............feel it...................HEAR it. I was a scattered, anxious, worried, overtaxed, cornered, energized mess. Not a great place to be when one has to make some decisions, and when one is in need to be strong for others and for oneself. This is where I was at. Life at it's messy pinnacle.

It was through the understanding and support of these friends and family.........of my closest friend Anne telling me to GO ahead with my plans at the same time reassuring Jamie too and promising to step into my home to make it run while I went away........of my parents and sisters encouraging not to cancel my trip............of my dearest friends who all said the same thing.........."I've never seen you more excited about anything.....go and we'll be there to look after things"............of all the people in my life who love me and my family so much that they cooked and cleaned, they visited and drove my children to their various activities, who took them in for two days while my husband began his healing while settling back into our home, who stayed with him during the day keeping him company and reassuring him that he was going to mend and feel like himself again, who dropped off movies, magazines, flowers and food..............who even fixed my front steps reinforcing the concrete that had crumbled over winter.

My sister said............."be a receiver. Let everyone do what they want for you..........they are offering...........accept their offers and go..........."

But, it was when my 14 year old daughter told me in the van on the way to school the day I was to be packing my suitcase and leaving all of this behind that I truly made my decision without guilt and without anymore comtemplative rumination that she wanted me to go.......... it was important for me to have a break and to do something for myself. This was one of the major threads which was keeping me in a mishmash of a holding pattern. When she said this, i knew my children were independently strong enough to let go of me for a week while they too let others help along with helping themselves. My daughter, the one who has held on tightly to my skirts since she was a baby and as a shy little girl..........who needs the reassurance to settle her overactive imagination especially at night when she wakes in the dark still............who was wracked with anxiety the first two nights after her Dad was admitted to the hospital and ended up by my side again on the couch as the only place where sleep would find her, who was also right in the middle of her own important milestones with new friends and two different productions in the offing (rehearsals every night etc)...........it was when she showed her confidence to let go of me and told me that it was my turn to have some fun........... I made my decision to carry on with my plans without worry. Personally, I think she was sick of seeing me meltdown!

I began reading Anam Cara, John O'Donahue's book on the plane home last night.....his words are like a bowl of comfort food topped with special. You want to devour it, but the savouring is the only way to let the tastebuds absorb it's essence. He wrote, "A friend is a loved one who awakens your life in order to free the wild possibilities in you.........." He believed that "true vitality is hidden in the longing.............." As I read the words one taste at a time, I heard his lyrical voice in the authenticity of his own shared learning, realizing very quickly that my longings to spend a week unchurling and unfurling had a different meaning............it was the road to finding vitality again. It had been an emotionally circuitous venture, and the only way it happened was to embrace the support of friends and family who showed their concern and love by lifting us all up with their strong arms.


No one can truly live without friends and family to help, to love, to guide, to be there................to be there.............. you can have everything in the world. You can have all the nice things in life to surround you, but if you don't have people in your life who care and understand you, and who will allow you to do the same, life has no meaning. O'Donahue also states..........."our feelings towards our friends reflect our feelings towards ourselves.........." Nothing is more important to me that the people in my life whom I love. Nothing. And how does that reflect back on my own feelings of myself?


I got on a plane tired, spent, unsure but also determined, excited, focused..........and feeling like I was heading across the pond to solidify through connection live and for real because of the love and support.........because of the guidance offered by such good friends and family.............because I have a daughter who understands her Momma's needs as well as I understand hers.


I have many stories to share..........many reflections both the navel gazing type and the funny incidents. They will spill and drip out of me over the course of the next week or so. Last night, I picked up my daughter from her dress rehearsal..........opening night is tomorrow night. When we got home and I pulled out the "gypsy-like" goodies I picked up for her at Camden on Saturday..........she said to me how home is never the same without me, and that she can relax now. At that, she tried on her new flowy skirts and dangling earrings..........then pulled on her pyjamas and crawled into her own bed for a sound sleep.


I am forever grateful to everyone who lifted us up...............my heart beats with new positive energy. I can feel it's rhythm once again. I can taste the champagne.............and feel the bubbles tickle my nose........thank you, thank you.
"Possibility is the secret heart of time. Possibility is the secret heart of creativity........." John O'Donahue.
Let us dwell in that place called possibility............and thrive on the love of the people around us who only want the best of life and all it's drama. And for goodness sake.............make sure there's champagne on hand. xo


Monday, May 19, 2008

which direction?


There is a sign on the side of most double deckers that says...........grab all the best bits of London. That is my aim today, my last full day here. I can't believe how fast time has eclipsed, but I've done my very best to squeeze in much of what my intentions were.....to grab the best bits. The problem is there are so many best bits dammit! Destinations are like that aren't they? You can add and add and add more into the journey to s-t-r-e-t-c-h and r-e-a-c-h for more of what life and experience has to offer. It's all in the flexibility and the desire to pull it all towards you in a meaningful way.

Katie and I managed to multi-task on many levels............while getting to know one another, we let our feet carry us through Portobello Market, Notting Hill, Covent Garden, Soho and Camden over a two day stretch. Meals and sips of wine along the way with Pip and Joan were most definately highlights. So were checking out some of the night flavour of Soho where sexual heat was the temperature all around on a Friday night. LOVED it!

Our first walk after we met and checked in our bags at Victoria Station was along a gorgeous road which took us straight down the the Thames where we walked as a slow pace along the river and eventually up along the beautiful Parliament buildings (the PM was busy and had to cancel our tea with him), Big Ben and up the street to Trafalgar Square which was teeming with school kids from Belgium who were practising their English slang. We sat and drank tea while sitting on the steps over looking the monument and watched the world go by. It was a stopping moment to catch our breath and to pinch ourselves...........with the reality that there we were, together for the first time after so many emails and correspondance through our blogs sitting side by side smiling. Lots of smiling. And a lot of laughs.

Good to be vibrant!

Our two days together solidified a friendship we both knew existed and wanted to pursue. As much as one can share much through the written word........as much as one is comfortable sharing......... there is nothing like live and in person. I had written to Pip, Katie and Paul that I had this obsessive need to meet and to fill in the gaps...........to clarify, explore, ask, listen, absord, share and to hear...........to touch their warmth. Though I wont have my wish granted with Paul, I know it will one day happen when the time is right. My time with Pip and Joan........together and alone, and my time with Katie has been all of that and more.

Communication is a multi-leveled multi-layered process isn't it? Words, feelings, verbal, non-verbal, open discourse, quiet time sitting in the same room..........eyes, and ears and hands and arms.........stances, glances, smiles and quizzical looks..........all are needed when one wants to communicate. Getting the facts, finding out the bits of history a person wants to share is just as needed to solidify the foundation of the relationship so one can grow in depth..........so one can get to the heart of what matters. Secrets, yearnings, wishes and desires...........fears, successes, wants and needs...........wonderings, ponderings, and joyful exuberations all fit into the package, especially when there is a comfort level..........and unspoken calm between two or three or even a group of people.

There is a magical, indescribable ingredient when two people can feel the comfort of being themselves and know it's 100 percent acceptable. A dash of saffron? A pinch of cinammon? A stick of lit of incense mellowing through the meeting of the minds? Perhaps the aromatic ingredient is different for each separate encounter............each developing friendship. Perhaps it is the aroma which surrounds two people who are getting to know one another is what adds to the enticement and uniqueness of it. I was explaining to Katie, as we walked through Soho on Friday night that for some reason, one of my most predominant senses is olfactory.........i've got to inhale it all..........as I seem to have a need to connect a scent with a person. Is that weird?? And when I havent met someone yet, and want to, I tend to wonder what "flavour" they are!


I've absorbed many scents............many flavours here as I have sipped on my tea (these folks know how to make a good cup of strong tea......who knew??) Today, my aim is to inhale as much as I can...........take some kind of direction, get lost a bit a long the way, but know at the end of the meanderings on my own, I will be meeting up with a beautiful man who has a flavour of peppermint and orange cointreau emanating all around him. Pip and I plan to meet at a bookstore near Picadilly named Hatchards. Now is that not the best place for a meeting of the mind and heart?? I will happy to see his smiling face meet me between a stack of books. There's nothing the like the smell of books.


I'm off...............enjoy your day! Follow the scents and always grab onto all the best bits.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

friends

HOLA everyone!! I wanted to share a few people shots with you. I have so much I want to write about and to share......................so much that it seems lost in translation right now. That's alright...............there will be lots of time to capture the words and feelings another time. Right now my focus is on the doing...................the reflecting will follow. I learned that Pip has a sweet tooth........as sweet as my father in law's. I didn't think it was possible.! This above photo is in front of a wonderful tea room in Canterbury where we stopped for lunch. Turns out it is the most haunted place in all of the town..........oooooo.............. and has some amazing tarts (present company excluded thank you very much)

I've enjoyed GREAT dinners, many wonderful chats, super walks............sips of cointreau. I feel like I've known these wonderful people all my life. How is that?? It's true. There is a natural affinity and comfort. The above photo was taken in a great restaurant in a place called Faversham......Joy, Pip and Joan............We had dinner there after a great day in Canterbury.....thank you Joy!!


Katie in front of our 4 star hotel................located in Notting Hill, where i could move to and live very happily! My two days touring around London with Katie was marvellous. We never stopped talking.............never stopped sharing. I feel like this week has been the beginning steps to future visits with families.

Will post more later........................

Saturday, May 17, 2008

a way......

I was a pilgrim on Thursday, though I wasn't aware of it until I walked through the large open doors, stood at the back and looked up and beyond. A pilgrim..................tiny, weary..........receiving a feast of the senses. It was a journey to get there, made much more emotionally intense over the past week. It also felt very much like a part of my own journey as I recognized it as a signpost while I tried my best to absorb the historical meanings of this hallowed place. This is Canterbury Cathedral.

It was stunning and enormous............in size, shape and spirit. I felt like a sponge with thirsty pores soaking it all in.......


The Cathedral seemed to go on and on with it's cloistered alcoves and quiet altars tucking into the recesses waiting to be discovered by a curious thirsty pilgrim. There were special spots where the air changed around me. It felt much thinner, with a touch of earthy essence -- an aroma welcoming me to kneel in silence. -- altar of the innocences, Mary Magdalene, Gabriel, St. Augustine. I felt important people in my life all around me, thinking at one point that I was going to hear my grandmother's voice calling me over to look at one of the marble made custom tombs that had caught her eye.



I took my time............the wandering totally accepted as a possible means of figuring it out on my own...............through a majestic labyrinth where God dwells. "I will praise You as long as I live and in Your name, I will lift up my hands....."

Yesterday, I soaked in some soulfood during my circuitous steps and in the end, I sat down in the middle of this glorious place beside a smiling friend in silence. It was a real "in the moment" experience which I have loved sharing with Pip and Joan...............a renewal of a steadfast spirit with me.

Everything is possible.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

travelling.......



Through fear of knowing who we really are and what we want, we sidestep our own destiny which leaves us hungry in a famine of our own making.
John O'Donahue.



There is much to sustain us if we receive life as an ongoing feast of becoming. Who I want to become is the mystery meant to be lived, not a problem needing a fast food fix. I have many fuzzy pictures in my sights about my own career livelihood and as much i would LOVE to have someone sit me down and say...........i have it all arranged, you don't have to think about it again. Whatever you want is set up to happen, because that would ease the mind a bit, I don't really want that. I have always loved a good mystery, and for some reason have always been drawn to a good British mystery. What role I play, who I will become, and when...............well they are all up for ruminative discussion.



I have many dreams.......................some I will put in my cupped hands and blow them away and see where they land. Some I will plant as best I can in the warm soil I will try to fill with nutrients, and some I plan to act on this week.



My plan to is get lost for a bit......................I'll be in touch, but I'm shutting down my cerebral thinking and clearing the cobwebs........................it is where I believe I will find some of the feast ingredients. Famine for me is not an option. My belonging in this world is found in my longing to live the mystery and to share those ordinary moments with extraordinary love.



I have landed in London, and I'm sitting at a desk with a little sign staring at me. It reads: "You are beautiful........."



lovely...................


It's not the particular choices we make that matter.....................a career path is only as good as how much it can lead us back to who we are.........and how much it can enhance the journey. It is truly the travelling which makes all the difference. And if it includes a dinner at a nice curry restaurant in the heart of London town, well, then this journey is a feast.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

roots and wings


Greetings from the boarding area at Fredericton Airport........oooowweee............i'm surrounded by lots of lovely accents waiting to head back to the old country!

I'm feeling quite relaxed..........amazing what a little ativan can do! It has been the most surreal, emotional, taxing four days. Jamie is healing very well and will most likely be discharged from the hospital tomorrow. I know this for a fact because I just had a nice chat with our doctor who is also taking off for a week in London! Love this town! You always know someone boarding the plane with you. So, she told me that the plan is still for Jamie to head home.

In the meantime, our friends have rallied like a well oiled troop! I have been overwhelmed with their acts of love and concern. Tonight, my son is staying with good friends who have a son his age. My daughter is staying with good friends who have a daughter she is very close with. They are safe and happy and open to their momma carrying on with her trip. Tomorrow when Jamie leaves the hospital...........another dear friend is moving right into the house to make things run smoothly. During the day when she's at work, he will have company..........a good good friend who is also like family. He's arranged to be able to work from our home. So, as long as my husband needs it..................he will have the attention and support.
Roots and wings....................our roots are solidly embedded in a wonderful caring community named Frederiction...........it's where we belong and where we take care of one another. And the wings? Well, today, it is my turn to try out some new wings.............next time it will be another member of our extended family of friends and the "roots" will give them the impetus to take flight. It's what you do.................

The nurturing we have worked on over the years................sharing important events, being there when the kids are sick, attending funerals of loved ones, cooking meals when a new baby has arrived to be loved by us all.............attending weddings, showers, thanksgivings, easter, Christmas dinners....................parties, road hockey and always, always potlucks............these events developed the roots.......................

So, I'm off.............and feeling loved and supported knowing Jamie is loved and supported, knowing my kids are loved and supported.

Boarding awaits...................my wings are ready for take off.

thank you, thank you everyone.............xo

will see you soon.

Monday, May 12, 2008

love



"We are not called by God to do extraordinary things,
but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love. "
Jean Vanier

This is the quote I used to end a workshop I delivered on Saturday morning. I had been asked to facilitate a panel discussion at an annual conference for volunteers who are involved on non profit housing committees in their communities. Many in the audience have actively worked on the committees and have successfully helped others move off the streets, out of rundown rooming houses, away from squalor high rentals into dwellings that were more humane, and had more potential to be turned into a home. My 2 hour workshop was on the topic of "how to deal with challenging behaviour.........."

My role was to be the "host" as well as the warm up act (an small group discussion exercise to get them engaged in the topic ) and the wrap up act for 200 delegates. Amazing! 200 delegates arrived on a Saturday morning at 8 am to hear what I had to say. Little ol' me! So, in between the presentations by the panelists, I pulled and linked their key points by using them as "teachable moments" weaving the session together. At the end, I gave them all a communications "tips" sheet.................and handout of key points to remember when confronted with someone who may not be on their best behaviour! The panelists, three of them, brought with them deep knowledge and stories of their experiences working and running programs for individuals who potentially be challenging...........we covered the gamut...........mental health and addictions were key players.

You know when you feel sharp and focused and ON? Do you know that feeling?? This is where I was on Saturday morning. I had written out my intro..............knew what I wanted to say and then was able to speak from my heart...........away from the podium, "off the cuff," and animatedly. And it worked! I did it! This is basically what I shared................with a few more antecdotal bits added in.............

"Our good fortune is to be an integral part of helping people in our communities regain their footing, to grab onto hope again. The frontlines is my career "home." No matter how far I've roamed to work on various projects and initiatives, I always end up back to the frontlines. It's like I have this BIG elastic band around my waist. I tread away and then BLING, the elastic band flings me back.

I have had the pleasure, frustrations and joy of working primarily in the margins of our community where possibilities dwell. It's a real, harsh, vulnerable, knee scraping, soul scratching, vibrant place that never sleeps.......that is SOAKED in a sense of the scrambling of people trying to fulfill their basic needs. And, I love it. So often I meet someone in their home.........I have travelled all around our region.........into the woods ( :) ), down dirt roads, into rooming houses, rundown apartments, places which I can only say would be labelled as "nowhere".

My role is to help..........to provide information, to teach a bit and I know that I almost always leave their homes feeling like I've learned way more than I have provided. So often after visiting another human being, or meeting with them in my office I am left with this overwhelming sense of humility because i know I may have been the first person to hear their story from beginning to the present..........to have been the one to hear it and to know the person was comfortable enough to share it with me is an honour.

Over the past day during the conference, I have talked to many people about what they felt was the importance of volunteerism (this was mostly a crowd of volunteers who sit on boards for housing committees in their communities). In his keynote speech, Peter Short drew many pictures for us...........and thanked us for the work we do.........how sometimes its just so difficult to find the motivation to leave our own homes for meetings in the middle of a snowy evening.........but you know what............do you know what picture came into my mind when he was speaking.............it was one of myself putting my coat on, bundling up and heading to a Home and School meeting...........wondering WHY I was doing this..............and then walking into the library of my son's school to be greeted by the warmest caring group of people who were there like me to make a difference.

The energy and the compassion felt when surrounded by the people who volunteer is all the motivation I need.......and I know you "get that........." You know this................Volunteerism is our best attempt at grassroots politics........its where community grows from...........doesn't it?

I consider myself a storykeeper and a storyteller, which is why I love writing..............which is why you'll always see me with my pen in hand and my black journal..............oh and a cup of tea nearby...........I love hearing stories and I love telling them. It's how I learn best....right in the middle of a damn good story. Its the most important thing we can share with someone else............a story.......

One of the most important lessons I've learned as a storykeeper and storyteller who finds her career home on the frontlines about human behaviour is that desperate hearts spill out desperate feelings which lead to desperate behaviour. But behind the desperate behaviour....behind that ugly mask is a vulnerable human being in need of love and validation. So in need of recognition. Peter Short spoke of this didn't he, and then he validated our work.............how good did that feel??

We have that chance to offer up this feeling moment for someone else too..........as people helping people, we have a grip on the dreams and hopes of some pretty darn vulnerable people, some of whom are desperate like we have never personally experienced before.......and some of their behaviour thrown our way is UGLY! Behind the mask of behaviour lies the vulnerable human being in need of love and validation.

WE all matter............we ALL matter.

This morning, we will look at how to deal with some of those challenging behaviours...............with this in mind. The beauty may be hidden behind the actions, but it's there. It just needs to be validated. We all need that...........


I shared stories................entertained.............spoke of passion and compassion...........even threw in a lesson on Transactual Analysis at one point............managed to teach them the basic tenets of Glasser's Choice theory.........that all behaviour is our best attempt at filling one of five needs.....Survival, Love and Belonging, Power/Self Directness, Fun, Freedom.

Yes, there I was walking around the front, engaging a large group in a ballroom of a hotel.....with my tone of voice, my enthusiasm, myself.

After 2 hours of listening, doing, thinking..............I left them with the last thought..........

"We are not called by God to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love. "

Then, God provided a personal life unfolding lesson on just those words.

While I was delivering this workshop, my husband and my son had a ride in an ambulance together to our hospital. I got word as soon as I stepped out of the ballroom.....to call a friend. Before I knew it, I was sitting up in the emergency room awaiting results of a CAT scan on my husband. He had awaken with double vision, a headache and numbness on his left side. We both thought it was stress, because well we have both earned some numbness. But, it turned out Jamie had had a minor stroke. They found a very tiny bleed...........a pinprick on a blood vessel is how a friend explained it. This was causing the symptoms he was experiencing.

Since Saturday, the symptoms have almost gone away. He is being cared for by a group of nurses and our doctor who have been fabulous. It has been very traumatic, very stressful and shocking. Shocking! Today we are waiting to see the neurologist to see how things stand and I'm hopeful he will be coming home with me today. His vitals are all good..........he's walking, talking, has full strength in all limbs. His thoughts are clear.............and his eyesight is still a bit blurry. We are both anxious, understandably, but we will weather this.

When you live "away from home," away from family, you tend to develop friendships that are deep and supportive. You nurture them and they nurture you just like family. We have lived away from our families for our whole marriage.......20 years and have developed strong bonds with our friends..........they know we can be counted on to be there for them like family and we rely on them as well. It is the extraordinary love thing Jean Vanier spoke of...........

Our friends have flooded us this weekend with support and love.........it has left me filling many cups with tears. I can safely now say that almost every single one of my friends in this city has seen me cry or at least heard me on the phone. Their offers have been phenomenal........dropping everything and coming to our assistance.

I am supposed to be getting on a plane tomorrow for a week away. It's a very meaningful (to me) little trip across the pond...........one that I am wholeheartedly looking forward to and in fact have been bouncing off the walls with my energized enthusiasm (don't be scared Pip!). My friends and co-workers are well aware of this....... they really havent been able to miss it. And so.......we have been overwhelmed in such a good way with offers of help, food and support. It has turned the whole trauma into an awareness of the many blessings we have living and embracing us daily.

Something happens............life as we know it stops for a breather.........forces us to evaluate quickly. A shedding of redundant stuff we carry around slips off. We are left with the gifts of love and belonging, of encouragement, and of the knowledge that many many people in our lives, people whom we spend our weekends with, our holidays with..........our beautiful friends are there to pick us up and perform the ordinary things with extraordinary love.

I'm finishing this blog post off sitting in the family room of the pediatric ward in the hospital. Yes, they put my husband on the kids ward! Its the perfect place for him.......he's always been a child at heart, with an office of wind up toys, a penchant to play road hockey at any time, and a desire to organize a party just for the hell of it. Anytime I've told someone where Jamie is housed right now they laugh and say........."that's perfect!" As I type this, my son Max and his Dad are sitting together watching the ballgame, having dinner and catching up on the day. You'd think we were sitting in our living room at home........

We are going to be fine.................more than fine........because love always makes it alright. It matters. It's what matters.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

shoot for the moon, land in amongst these stars.

Big drama week at Garden Creek School this week. These wonderful kids along with their two dedicated teachers have been practising their play for months now and performed it with great gusto yesterday. Hilarity ensued and the audience, which consisted of moms and dads, aunts and uncles, grandparents, brothers and sisters and the rest of the student body loved every minute of it! Standing ovations all around!
Today, the cast and crew, number in the 70's hopped on a couple of buses and headed up river to a school Drama festival to perform their original play, which was written by one of their teachers. They came in second place as a cast and several members won separate awards. These three "blackberry addicts" below won for best group performance. My little business guy is sitting on the right playing the straight man like only he can. Even though I keep telling him that he has to grow up to be an Engineer or a Stock Broker because of his incredible math brain, so he can send his Momma on big trips in style, he yearns to be a stand up comedian. He may be on the real right track.



The play takes place in the city, which included a disco scene. It was so darn funny. The kids completely got into character....... It was a meeting between the country folk and the city folk, a sequel to the play last year when the city folk were stranded in the country. Some of these kids have been in both plays.


Village people of course.............they got right into it! I loved being there to see them perform. Most of these kids have been in the same class together since Kindergarten.....and now they are just completing their last year as active "Creekers" and will move onto middle school next year. Where does the time go??
































What is so wonderful about school plays is that its normally the first time these kids are offered a chance to learn about acting and production. When I was speaking to the two teachers tonight after they returned from the festival, I was told that they told the kids at the very beginning that this was a chance for them to leave their "real" selves outside the room so they could try to act like someone else............they definately took her up on this idea. There were as many boys involved as girls too, which I believe happened because the teacher who wrote and directed the play is a male and for some reason there is a differnet "cool" factor in play. Male teachers are few and far between at the elementary level............and this one is a true gem living his calling. The kids adore him............
Next week and the week after? It's my daughter's turn. She's starring in two plays Willy Wonka AND Romeo and Juliet!
I'm so amazed how much they enjoy this............as much as I love to teach and be up in front of a group, you couldn't pay me enough to act on stage. So, they have my complete and utter admiration.