Friday, June 29, 2007

grace and mercy floating all around........

This is a bit long............I couldn't stop myself. Sorry about that :)

Most days I live in a microcosm of the world. Though I am eager and motivated to learn about the many global stories emanating out there, and I do take the time to be aware of as much of it as I can, I find my days are spent mostly one on one.....working with individuals whose lives are focused on their basic needs. It's all they have time and energy for. It's all I have time and energy for. And, it's all that matters when it comes to their needs and my workday, especially in the moment it's happening.

Today was one microcosmic moment after another, with hardly any time to lift my head. I managed to glean the major stories of the day, stopping to shudder at the close call in London where a car bomb was set to explode nails and nastiness through Picadilly..........oh my God........ but honestly, it was enough to stay focused on the issues at hand and on the individuals who met with me to discuss their struggles. This is probably why I'm more inclined to write about the day to day dealings and issues as opposed to my feelings on Islamic terrorism, or the political implications (or lack thereof) of the latest G8 summit, or a million other stories. They interest me and de-mollify my nerves.............I just don't have time to write about it all.

I received a call today in the middle of another meeting from a client whom I have been focusing my attention on almost succinctly for the past two weeks. She was hysterical, to a point where I wondered if she was going to do harm to herself. Ruth and I had met originally to complete a social assessment and her application for a disability certification herself and from there, many other issues sprang forward. This happens a lot which makes these applications take much longer than they are supposed to (God help me if I am asked to justify my time.....though I know one day a number crunching bureaucrat is going to ask to me document my time..........well, we'll deal with that when we get to it.........). During our initial meeting, which by the way took almost a year to orchestrate because of numerous hospitalizations and near misses when I had arranged for a home visit and she would'nt be there for whatever reason, I learned of her living environment as well as her health issues. From there, we have been working together to get her moved out of a place that not only needs to be condemned but had added much to her illnesses.

Ruth has a long list of diagnoses...........Hep C, chronic drug addiction (she's now in the Methadone program, clean of street drugs after many years of living on the streets surrounding herself in drug people......including her own father) a necrotizing thing on her torso brought on by the nastiness of her rooming house, arthritis, chronic pain, emotional instability and anxiety, depression, and a whole wallop of paranoia. On top of all of that, her life story which is strewn with abuse and confinement is one of the most harrowing and stomach churning existances I have heard of. She is tired and almost beaten down, but miraculously has a sliver of hope as she makes an attempt to get her life on track for the first time ever.

It's hard to fathom that she can even find hope in the barrage of nasties..........I think of her and I'm in awe.

Our meeting was timely on many levels. First of all, she qualified for a one bedroom apartment in a brand new building that is still in the process of being completed (but move in-able on some floors including hers) A whole new focused person emerged when I told her of this possibility the first day that we finally met. Since then, I escorted her to an "interview" with the landlord as moral support, and have spoken to her on several occassions since then to help her problem solve and make to do lists of stuff which had to be dealt with before she could sign a lease.......arrangements to move, bank account openings, putting in her notice at the dump she calls home right now, and more than anything learning how to deal with her case worker. I thought until today that she and I had moved beyond this and things were more or less settling down.

Unbeknownst to Ruth, I had made a few attempts to talk with the case worker about this particular client as a way to offer up some insights which I had hoped would allow the case worker a chance to look at the client from different eyes. She is notoriously unhelpful despite the attempts of many colleagues to shake some empathy into her bones. Though I did receive the look, which is often flashed at me.......the look that says..........."you don't know what you're talking about because you're a Pollyanna. Looks like the client has pulled the wool over your eyes again," which of course bites right into one of my personal trigger points..........the desire to be believed or something...... SO............ I knew that my descriptions or what i considered insights were being flushed away by a non-believer in the potential of human beings. I tried, but I would've been more effective banging my head against a brick wall....or hers. yes, I was tempted.

This particular case worker is in a league of her own. Though there are some who are untrusting and lacksadaisical......(and thank God most are wonderfully warm and accepting and will go to great lengths to assist someone in need) .....this one is judgemental, rude and hides behind the machinations of policy. Interestingly, she rose from dire poverty herself, which blows my mind that someone could be so callous when they have grown up not knowing if there would be something on the table for dinner, experiencing the bitter cold of outside toilets in January, or no clean running water. Sure, I get it. She's an angry obnoxious person who will never do a bit of navel gazing, who would never admit that she has never forgiven her parents for her circumstances. I work with many colleagues who have spent time on the other side of the desk, either as a child on welfare or as a single parent left without financial resources. Most take their experiences and grow into dedicated heart bursting frontline workers with scores of empathy. Others? They choose the other angry path, use displacement as their method of dispersal and hurt others as a neurotic attempt to feel better. Yeah, Freud would have a heyday with this scenario.......

I can't count the number of times i have had to spend the first 1/2 hour "debriefing" with someone who happened to pull the short straw and land in this worker's caseload. Tears, frustration and outright anger to a point of rage......i've seen it all, heard it bellowed and have had to assuage it. Not only is it time consuming for me to undo this psychological mess created by someone who is SUPPOSED to be helping people because it takes my time away from providing productive counselling and assessment services, more importantly it is unbelievably damaging to the dignity of the victim. It's like kicking a puppy in the tender guts.

What happened to Ruth today took the cake. In order to move into a new secure and clean apartment, Ruth has been doing her best to jump through the myriad of hoops placed in front of her. Her life is a disorganized mess......of living day to day trying to find her health again for the most part.....of seeking a new life away from the streets, away from the drug friends, away from this whole culture TOWARDS health and independence and feeling better about herself.....this takes courage and energy. On top of this, she has had to arrange a mover, contact hydro and the phone company, pack her belongings, and sort through much of what she owns to decide if she has to toss it out because of the impact of living in a bug infested shithole, a bank account which she has never done before in order to have a void cheque, and direct deposit etc (in the long run a good thing, but more overwhelming than we can fathom given her life circumstances and poor coping skills)

On top of all that..........................her monthly cheque was cut in half due to a glitch in the system, I was told. It left her without the money to pass onto a new landlord......and left her feeling that the whole dream of moving into her own place..............the very first "own place" she has ever known............was down the drain. She was supposed to sign the lease and pass over a damage deposit etc,etc, When she called her case worker completely bereft and in rage, she was simply told that her medical had expired, and she would have to get another one from her doctor indicating that she couldn't work, which in turn would allow her monthly cheque to increase. Meanwhile........................................she has been working with me to apply for disability and all the documentation for that is sitting with me as we complete it........her case worker WELL aware of this fact.

The blame was put squarely on Ruth, who because of her accusations of incompetence levelled at the case worker (aka holder of cheques, controller of lives) she was dismissed as the person with the problem......Ruth was too difficult to deal with.............ALWAYS how these things are rationalized. UNBELIEVABLE......

If you could just see this waif of a human being...........whose life is beyond comprehension, who has survived heinous things.......who is drenched in sweat most days because she wears natty old clothes to cover her completely despite the summer temperatures......who waffles from tears to smiles as she navigates survival........who can crack a joke and laugh deeply if given something to laugh about.....who can see the absurdity of the rest of the world......who wants to get better so she can eventually make a home for her 8 year old son who lives with relatives, the same ones who mistreated her.........who simply wants a secure clean place to live which is affordable and safe, and has a place she can open up her card table to lay out a jigsaw puzzle she wants to finally have a chance to tackle......who is so looking forward to watching TV tucked in her own clean bed, and make a cup of tea and enjoy the fresh clean breezes which flow through her little castle....if you could see this beautiful woman hidden behind her sickness and would know beauty in all its striking imperfections.

I could write all much I want to much I want to spill out after a day of working in the microcosmic world because a whole platter of learning and awareness bubbled up through this mess for both of us......

Ruth and I won today. At 4 pm, we were on site of the new apartment building meeting with the new landlord who had been informed of the system glitch by the case worker after a successful (and loud) confrontation on my part. Ruth signed the lease, was provided with moving information she needed to know. Then, we were given the royal tour right up to her tiny little palace. Everything is sparkling new clean....... She spoke of the personal touches she plans.....of the colour she wants to add......her smiles were glorious!!! There she was standing in the empty space, her jetblack hair askewly pull up with a big clunky clip on top of her head, in pants that were too big for her frame, which draped down over her sock covered sandalled feet fraying in the back from dragging when she walked. There she was in her blue wool sweater with rips and snares, all stretched out of shape and button up to her chin................her face glowing red cheeks and beaded perspiration...........her arms full of purses and papers and a takeaway ice cappacino...a disorganized overwhelmed mess who was beaming HOPE!!! It makes me cry just thinking of that moment........and I thank God I was there to witness it. The superintendent, a gruff older man, friendly and patient with her also recognized the significance despite not knowing Ruth's story. I could tell by his wet eyes.

On the way back to the place she only has to spend one more night in, Ruth spoke of her next steps after some time getting well again........she wants to work on getting her GED. She wants to take a course in anger management because she knows the addiction stuff is completely tied in with her ineffective coping skills.....and swallowing or injecting her anger is killing her. From living in survival mode all of her life, there is a glimmer that perhaps her other needs.....will finally receive some of her attention. Our conversation scattered in many different directions, treading on so many there are good people out there who will help, how some people feel they are above Jesus spent a good deal of his life hanging with the wounded and broken, with the we are all equal in the eyes of we tend to react to others based on our own issues. At one point, I took the opportunity to introduce to Ruth the idea that perhaps her childhood has affected her choices dearly, and has affected how she reacts........I identified it under the umbrella of "abandonment" which clearly fits for her. it was a true light bulb moment. No one had ever pointed this out to her, unbelievably given that she has been in and out of counselling most of her adult life.

"How do you know that?" she asked. "It is so true....I was abandoned wasn't I?"

I explained that by pulling together her stories, it seemed clear to me that this is where she needs to head with her counselling in the future........"and once you start tackling this, Ruth you will see it all unravel. And then, you can validate you own anger and find a place where you can forgive..........forgive yourself, and forgive the people who were supposed to look after you."

And while I'm saying these things, sharing with her some insights I knew she was ready to hear, I was struck with the knowledge that grace and mercy were floating all around us in the car. I felt a sense of knowing I was meant to be a counsellor all over again.......for the first time in a while. Counselling comes naturally and fits me like lycra. It was a flash of awareness I needed personally, as much as Ruth needed a flash of awareness with respect to her abandonment issues.

Grace and mercy...........floating all around us. it was a very special drive across the bridge which spans the Saint John River.

When she was getting out of my car............ arms still full of the same paraphenalia....her face still overheatedly glowing......I told her she was beautiful....because she was. Right in front of my eyes, I saw a woman transform from defensive fatigue to a soft calm. She looked back at me and told me she loved me, then closed the door and headed to her rooming house to finish her packing.

The end of a a microcosmic world........and I was flooded with good tears. Some people will never ever get it. What a shame.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

confessional relating..........

Said the little boy, "Sometimes I drop my spoon."

Said the old man, "I do that too"

The little boy whispered, "I wet my pants."

"I do that too," laughed the little old man.

Said the little boy, "I often cry."

The old man nodded, "So do I."

"But worst of all," said the boy,
"it seems Grown-ups don't pay attention to me."

And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.

"I know what you mean," said the little old man.

Shel Silverstein.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

lessons from the garden.

From afar they emanate perfection in their beauty.
Symmetrically painted swashes of colour
blending together as relatives do
an emboldened array of blurried strength
Separately they begin to reveal their uniqueness
Stoically flirting,
petals billowing outward like a twirling dancer
Enticing the voyeur with its breezy sashay
Standing out, sharing it's little nicks and tatters of life
beauty and imperfection intertwine
when we stand alone
confident in what we are really made of.

we grow to accept our beautiful imperfections as we dance

to our own tune

transformatively unique
displaying our multi-layered hues,
acceptance of
tiny rips and tears,
nipped bug bites
marked rain splotches
drooped peakedness
strengthened by its roots
supported by others,
younger and older

ps. Shaz......the peonies are for you.....from my garden. they are doing the happy dance for you and your wonderful news......

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

a few rocks....a whole lot of reflections.....

slivers of enlightenment

Working with groups is where I want to be. It's what makes the blood flow, makes the energy surge and makes me feel the most alive. For whatever reason, my opportunity to be facilitating and be teaching and learning surrounded by the sparks have not been as forthcoming as I would prefer and I find this very frustrating. It is most definately what I will focus on making happen.......... it's where I want to be. it's where i NEED to be. It's what I'm best at............
Today, I had the pleasure of spending the whole day with a group of amazing people who will be working with kids who have very special needs. They will be responsible for planning and delivering summer program fun, counselling and leading and interacting all summer long. Most of these kids live in public housing with their families who also have very special needs....financially, emotionally, and/or spiritually. Deep wounds from ongoing struggles.....always wrestling to get their basic needs met. Family strife, caused by a variety of underlying issues, is the norm. Most of these kids have never had a chance at childhood. In fact, some of them even at a young age, have had to assume the role of parent. Because they spend such an inordinate amount of time trying to meet their survival needs....shelter, food, safety, health, there is little time to even attempt to meet their love and belonging needs let alone anything to do with freedom, fun or empowerment......forget time for this.

Except.............this summer.....these kids will be kids. And the summer counsellors will play a key role in helping fulfill these important needs.

Today was an orientation of sorts........a chance to meet others who will be working throughout the city in a similar capacity.......a chance to talk about what they have already experienced being on the receiving end of wounded little ones who growl and yell, who don't know how to get along with others, who have big issues and who have seen way too much......many of the counsellors have been working or volunteering in these communities. They aren't green......and they are chock full of insight, ideals, desires and a depth of understanding that surprised me. These kids will be in good loving hands.

My job today? To add to their toolboxes.......except we used seasonal sand pails, which we filled with symbolic items.......
  • a piece of rope to represent a life line as well as a way of showing the need to put some personal boundaries in place
  • a flashcard with an alphabet letter to promote literacy related activities...the fun ones
  • a butterfly magnet......transformation......on both sides
  • a flower..........seeds that have been planted and will bloom
  • stick together
  • ended play
  • paintbrush......for creativity
  • and a marble......just in case they lose all of theirs.
In MY sand pail, I carried a bunch of shiny rocks which I had written one word on each. Throughout the day, I asked each participant and presenter to dip their hand in my pail to pull out a rock. Then, they were to look at the word and talk about whatever came to mind. Words
The activity generated conversations and sharing at a level which I wasn't expecting. It was wonderful......

Stinking WOW PIP!! You would have loved it!!

The feelings expressed while trying to capture them in words spilled out all over the place. Interestingly, the most moving rock word was "silence."

Silence...........what are the kids not saying?.........what are the kids saying in between the words and actions they use? do I reach out to them to help them deal with their woundedness? These were the thoughts shared by one of the participants.....and it hit us all deeply. The words led to places where no one expected, which made the day long learning all the more satisfying.

It's what I love about working with groups.......the mystery of the learning because you just never know what gems will be revealed by the individuals taking part........and to think today it was generated by a bunch of rocks.

Learning with and connecting with others is fuel and food for me. As I reflect on the day and all that was shared, I feel like my cups of life have been refilled. It tastes sweet. I want more of it.......

Monday, June 25, 2007

i havent a clue.........

What do you want?
Is what you are doing getting you what you want?

These two questions are key to counselling using William Glasser's Choice theory. Dr. Phil puts his spin on it and asks it this way............Is it working for you? I would hazard a guess that these questions filter through our heads outside of any formal counselling session....they are key life questions.....a way to judge and monitor our own journeys......questions that are asked when we reach crossroads in our lives, when we are confronted with change or conflict in how we are leading our lives. They are asked when we reached developmental high school, when we are first looking at career choices.
  • At the end of university or other training when we are looking at leaving the womb of academia and moving into the world of work.
  • When we have met someone we have fallen in love with and are wondering if this is the person we want to make a commitment with.
  • When we are deciding whether or not to start a family.
  • When we are reevaluating personal decisions we had made that aren't working for us.
  • When we find we are drifting away from a relationship which once was close.
  • When we reach middle age and are looking backwards and then forwards wondering if it is time to forge new horizons........
  • At the time of retirement........and on and on and on.....................we ask these questions a lot in our lives.
What do you want? The first question that can kickstart a transition.........

What do I want? The beginning of a new set of goals.............or a new way of seeing ourselves.....

At face value, it seems like a simple question to answer. But, try it............ and I bet where you start is far away from where you end up.

What we want is tied to many things. Glasser identifies 5 key areas of "needs" which directly impact what we want. Survival is the first one, which is very similar to Maslow's Basic Physiological and Safety needs. Shelter, food, water...........most of us only really look at these when we are faced with one of them being threatened, though a good majority of the people on this planet spend most of their days trying to procure these basic necessities. There's no time for lofty wants......basic survival needs come first.
The second need falls under the category of Love and Belonging. Again, similar to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, love and belonging encompasses our desires to be loved and accepted, to be a part of a family or a group, to live within the margins of our community and not be left out. It is the recognition of who we are by others. It is the recognition of ourselves by ourselves.

Power or we matter? Goals, aspirations, control, significance, prestige all fit here, and is tied in with self-esteem.

Freedom.....freedom of choice........freedom to come and go and to live how we choose......freedom to be who we want to be........freedom to think and love who we want to love. It encompasses a wide berth.

The last need is one we tend to put less weight on and that's fun. After we have our other needs met, fun can take precedence. I also think that we should look at fun to include our need to be engaged and focused on what we are doing.......

Sounds so simple, doesn't it? You identify what it is you want, based on your needs and et voila you're there. NOT.

So many variables impact what we's a complicated minefield. We don't live in a cave or under a bridge like a troll. We are all connected to others....some of whom are dependent on us, some of whom we are dependent upon. Our lives and our choices impact the people in our lives almost as much, or perhaps even more than they impact us. As well, we may really really want something or want to do something but it clashes with our values and beliefs. Others place expectations on us that we somehow have to filter into the equation. We have roles and responsibilities which define our daily routine, which may stand in the way of attaining what it is we really really want. Sometimes we decide to choose what we want only to have to face the consequences of these becomes a "this or that" decision.

When what we want in our lives doesn't fit with the expected norm of society or of our family and friends, we are left in a quandry for a long time trying to figure out if it is worth the angst, or even the loss of belonging to a mate or a whole group of friends and family. And this happens a lot, because not only are our "wants" different, so is the amount of emphasis we place on our five needs. For example, I may have a really strong love and belonging need......for whatever reason, I need to be acknowledged and reassured more than others so my choices will reflect this in order to find fulfillment. What happens then if I was to fall in love with someone who has a high freedom need.....a person who feels tied down if routine and attachments to others start pressuring them? It's destined for failure....a push pull conflict where both people demand and act in order to get what they want........and no matter how hard they try to make it work, if their individual needs aren't met, they will both be unhappy.

What about the person who grew up in a family who had certain religious beliefs, and whose lives revolved predominantly around their place of worship? What happens to him/her when they decide to break away from that church.....that lifestyle? It's a huge step, which doesn't come without ramifications or fall out from the choices made.

So, how do you learn to weigh it all? What takes priority? Do we live with compromise, or do we forge ahead to seek out what we want? We only get one kick at the can of life, don't we?

And to think I simply started with two little itty bitty brain hurts. Right now, all I really want is a cup of tea.
What do you want?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The source of our joy.

even our ducks know the happy dance

Happiness, Happiness
It's the greatest feeling I possess
Oh, I thank the Lord that I've been blessed
With more than my share of

(Camp song sung most loudly and enthusiastically by boys young and anthem to their own Mr. Happys. Why? Because they have 'appiness......and it gives them great joy.)

Fill yer boots Upper Canada, Get Rich working at Walmart Alberta and Lotusland West Coasters...........looks like Nouveau Brunswick will from here on in be known NOT as the drive thru province, but as the province inspired by happiness......or perhaps more than one happiness. Many happinesses!! And you know what? It makes us SMILE ........... a whole friggin' lot! It puts a whole new spin on our tourism promotions this year.........."New Brunswick, No Small Wonders"
News has leaked out however.......and the race is on to cash in on this joyful revelation with a slogan contest for our province's self-sufficiency plan to put a halt to the brain drain and to encourage expatriates and newcomers to head east. This could be our cash cow......our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Who isn't in search of happiness?? Forget the Reversing Falls! Quit promoting our Tidal Bores! Magic Mountain? Magnetic Hill? Been there....seen it..... No people want to see our source of joy...... Investors want a piece!!
So far the entries are:
"Fooled ya! Happiness isn't found in your heart. It's found in your Stanfields!"
“Happiness is like a must share it to enjoy it. We'd like to share ours"
or how about this one....stolen from Maxim Gorky who I presume has a park named after him somewhere in Russia...with an added tag on the end

“Happiness always looks small while you hold it in your hands, but let it go, and you learn at once how big and precious it is. New Brunswick is full of precious happiness....come see."
This one is being considered as well.....with much thanks to Nathaniel Hawthorne. I like it because, well, who doesn't like an analogy describing happiness as a beautiful monarch?
“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. Here in New Brunswick it will make you smile, smile, smile right down to your knickers.”
Yes, it's true......we've got 'appiness cornered in this country. According to the latest stupid survey results (most likely funded in kind by YOU the taxpayer) published in the Globe and Mail, New Brunswick is Canada's family jewel. Some nasty pessimist named Pierre sums it up this way.........and it leaves me wondering if he really gets it.....happiness, I mean..... or perhaps he's just plain jealous that the little province next door to la belle province needs no viagra in their pursuit of happiness.........
“It's about the glass,” says Pierre Cote, a Quebec City marketing consultant who created the study, to explain New Brunswick's score. “I think maybe they are happier with what they have.” For instance, people surveyed in New Brunswick were the least likely to say that modern society made happiness more difficult to achieve, and the most likely to say people are as happy today as they had been in the past or will be in the future.
As far as individual happiness goes, health and family and having a job you like counts for more in Canada, according to the study, than wealth and sex.
And about 20 per cent of the people surveyed gave their happiness a perfect score – 10 out of 10. Are they the lucky ones? Again, it's all about perspective. Pierre Cote says he found this last finding among the most discouraging. “If you're that happy, it's time to die,” he said. “Life is about the pursuit of happiness.”

Pierre!!! For God's sake man............stop and smell the coffee.....and while you're at it.....just because we are considered a "have not" province in the greater economic scheme of things, I'm here to tell you that we have it...............and lots of it.........happiness that is. And now that the rest of Canada knows..........well, we will spend the rest of our economic and tourism dollars flaunting it!!

It's time to scrap the old ship logo on our stationary and license plates and paint the real picture in all it's glory.....anyone out there a graphic designer?

I've got no silver and I've got no gold
But I've got happiness in my soul.
Happiness, happiness
It's the greatest feeling I possess
Oh, I thank the Lord that I've been blessed
With more than my share of

Perhaps this beloved Province should recruit Lucien to be our official spokesman. Can't you just hear him now........."da nort shore is the best shore, dats for shore....we got lots of 'appiness ready to go to work for you." Lucien? Are you up for dis challenge, n'est pas?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Lil and I down by the river doin' some thinkin'.

lily waiting for the big throw.
check out the tail action

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I can still recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I've loved them all.
John Lennon

Went for a stroll down by the river with Lily tonight. Quiet contemplation while enjoying the cloud enhanced light show of twilight in between tossing sticks for an excitable pooch. It's now dark outside and I type by the soft glow of my lamp, listening to Nora Jones' sweet voice. Her songs are perfect for this time of night. They pull you into a place where your own thoughts intertwine with her lyrics. She makes me remember snippets of life lived........and the special people who have been an integral part of it.....of the hellos and goodbyes and the sweet times in between. So, here I am.............alone for the evening, a chance to reflect and to savour and to look forward. I like the pace. It levels me back to calm.

guitar strumming softly.......... i love the sound of the guitar. There are some songs I could listen to over and over again if is accompanied by the soft strumming of the guitar. I can think of nothing more meditatively inducing an instrument except perhaps a slow almost silent cry of a violin. It seems to seep under my skin with a lull and a rock. I don't know why I've never learned how to play the guitar.

It's been a week of juggling busy, which seemed more so because of the fatigue factor we are all feeling. Fatigue from many avenues. Today is the last day of school, which always arrives after a crescendo of activities that are a lot of fun, but too much to incorporate into a workday/weekday and other activities. But, now that it's all over and the summer stretches doesn't seem too crazy busy. Big tears today as my daughter said goodbye to her much loved school as she moves onto high school next year. These past two weeks for her have been filled with such wonderfully created memories........she will always love them all. A year end trip to Quebec City, a farewell dance all dressed up, picnics and signings of yearbooks, awards and report cards.......cherished friends who will move along with her in September, and who will be close by for a summer of hanging out.

friends taking big steps together

Watching her take new steps during this milestone, I see her surrounded by beautiful girlfriends, 4 of them, who have grown close and will continue to share their dreams and secrets with one another as they move forward together. I too remember those places and people who were in my life then. Cherished memories and I wonder where those girlfriends are now.


Well I stumbled in the darkness
I'm lost and alone
Though I said I'd go before us
And show the way back home
Is there a light up ahead
I can't hold on very long
Forgive me pretty baby
But I always take the long way home.
Norah Jones.

A note was left for me at the front desk this week when I was out of the office.....a quick post it note signed by someone whom I hadn't seen in close to 10 years. I had wondered where she had gone........and now I know. We spoke on the phone.....and I heard words of gratitude which made me tear up.

When I first hired as a counsellor to kickstart a brand new upgrading and training program 14 years ago, I met this young woman, a single mom with a baby who was trying to find her way. Through a government sponsored program, she became my assistant. And I thanked my lucky stars that I had her right beside me. We became a terrific team. Our skills complimented eachother, me with my people brain and she with her organizational brain. Along the way, I would encourage her to go to University to work on a business bright and capable, she always shone. And along the way, with me pregnant for the first time and feeling incredibly shitty, she encourage me to keep moving forward, not to worry........mentoring and learning together.

This beautiful young woman listened and took a plunge into studies and the field of business. A sponge to new concepts and learning, she excelled and forged ahead into a career.

She wanted me to meet her 14 year old daughter this week.......she told me that my encouragement back then made all the difference in her life. She wanted her daughter to meet me so that she would have a face to the name. Now that she has been in the field of business, made good money, acquired extensive skills, that she has had the time to reflect and analyze her life, she wants to move into a helping field. I heard her say.............."money isn't the answer"........"I have a lot to give".........."I want to work in the frontlines where I can make a difference."

And I told much it meant to talk to her this timely her call was while I tried to focus back on work after a month of familial sadness. We are meeting for lunch in a couple of weeks to hear each other's stories face to face and talk about next steps.............what's interesting is that I'm wanting to cross over a bit into her world, and she's wanting to work in my present world. Perhaps we will be able to help one another again.

dramatic sky, june 22, 2007

This weekend, a friend is getting married. Two months shy of his 50th birthday, he has found the love of his life. I won't be attending his wedding but have sent a few stories to be incorporated into the mix of toasts. He's an old camp friend.........from my "Muskie" days. Writing up the memories this week was a trip. And as I tried to capture moments from 25 years ago we had shared with others who will be at the wedding, the Beatles song I quoted at the beginning of this post accompanied it. This time of year is always a wistful shot back to Big Hawk Lake where the tents stood in a line along the shore, where guitars strummed late into the night, where familiarity and friendship grew up along with us. Tomorrow, I will stop what I'm doing in the middle of the afternoon to send kisses and wishes to a Kawabi kindred on his special day............ and picture his ever present smile with affection.
Twilight on the Saint John river, june 22, 2007

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I can still recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I've loved them all...........

And will continue on ...................... in anticipation and gratitude.

just wondering............

do flowers emote?

validating our emotions,


recognizing them as they are,

where they came from,

what they represent

and how they make us feel

fills the spaces between us

with softspoken kinship .

how we feel is not who we are.

what we are feeling is not who we are.

sharing how we feel


validates our commonalities,

and allows us to seek a deeper understanding of who we are.

our emotions are not who we are,

but perhaps they are the language needed to unlock

the mysteries of the word of God.

confessions.....leading to the spaces between us.

perhaps pain and fear and anguish have an underlying reason for burdening our minds and hearts. Could it be that these deep wounds we carry may somehow direct us to unravelling a good mystery?

Can we take the risk to fill the empty spaces between us with how we really feel?

The biggest secrets we withhold are nestled in the folds of our emotions.

Perhaps that's why we hesitate to share them.

We have learned to keep secrets too well for fear of being rejected.

We have learned not to trust that we will be accepted unconditionally

despite how we feel.

just wondering about this tonight..............i guess you could say i'm feeling a wee bit curious and wary as to whether or not i should share some secrets?

****for more secrets check out sunday scribblings........

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

understanding venus....trying....

It's a known fact that a woman's worst enemy can be another woman for no other reason than some sense of threat. It's a weird and wacky conundrum, one that seems to rear it's ugly head on a daily basis. When you consider the ongoing strides made even in recent history to reach a point where equality may one day be attained on all fronts, you would think that women would've learned to be supportive of one another. And yet.......

Yesterday, a young woman in my office who has been juggling two full time jobs to stay afloat and to pay her bills was offered a new permanent job with benefits and a future. She was beyond excited as we all were for her. It has been a long haul and she deserves it and more. With no family for support, this means the world to her. And yet..... when she called her supervisor (a woman who has done nothing but put up nasty roadblocks for her over the past year......BECAUSE SHE COULD and nothing could be done about it because my co-worker was in a casual position and had no "hand" in the situation....thank you George Costanza for the term) all she received was hums and sighs and catty replies. This is SO common.

Last week, I was informed of a situation which occured over MSN between a few friends of my daughter......all girls...... being nasty and ganging up on another in their supposedly closeknit group. Though there wasn't MSN when I was 13, I do recall the nasties loud and clear. It's girl bullying, and it continues with adults in the boardrooms, on the sidelines at a ballgame, in the schoolrooms, in church meetings, at committee meetings.......just about anywhere.
Time and again, I see the actions of women who are just plain rude to other women. I remember not too long ago sitting beside a male friend chatting with him. We were sitting at a table that was half empty enjoying the conversation with others. Along comes voluptuous vixen in a push up bra and poofy blonde hair (from a bottle) who grabs a chair and somehow slides it in between me and my friend and promptly sits down with her back to me. So, what did I do? What did I want to do?

Today, I had a conversation with another colleague.....her question to me....out of the blue....was, how do some women move up in the ranks while others more qualified stew in under the ranks and never move in their careers? Million dollar question, really though sometimes its pretty darn obvious, at least to someone else standing on the sidelines observing. They use the tools they were taught to use, and some are able to samba their way better than others.
I'm totally fine with that...........use whatever you want, but don't stomp on other women in the process. Where I completely turn off is when this happens and it happens way too much. I don't really know why, but i have a few theories as to why some women have this way of completely turning off all other women.
Territorial.......... it's in our ancestral genes, and it can manifest itself in many ways. Come to close to my world, watch out for the claws is one end of the continuum. The other end? The territory is open and relaxed and welcoming. Most of us are some where in the middle. If my "territory" it my circle of friends, my family, my husband is somehow targetted you better believe my antennae is up and alert. If I see another woman brazenly and rudely interfering with any of these people in my life, I wont stand idly by. AND I will point out the behaviour afterwards to the intended target.....cause sometimes? It's mesmerizing!!
Temperment......and this one doesn't seem to be solely found in women, well neither is the territorial one, but there is a mamma cat and kittens feel to the territorial reaction. Someone who is introverted by nature meets up with an extrovert and there's a feeling of disconnect while one sniffs out the other. These are two very distinct planets sometimes and it can be difficult finding your way. Though I think if we took a step away from our own labelled temperment, we would see we have both in us. It's just that they are revealed in different scenarios.
Values.......aka.........stay at home moms versus career moms. A field of landmines this one because it is a longstanding discourse on justification of existance peppered with religious beliefs, socio-economics, role identification and clarification, marital support, familial history and last but not least what's best for the children. When there's a clash of the momma titans on this one, just get out of the way, because it's a no win eternal tug of war. If you want to hurt someone badly, start criticizing the way they are as parents. The thing about women who bully, it is never done directly. Rather it's a slight here, a dismissal there...........and dig underneath. It's all quite passive aggressive. Where is the respect?
Kids vs. no kids............see above........
Mistrust of other women...........a lesson somehow gleaned from others........perhaps even from past experiences.
Confidence: In the long run, it really comes down to confidence doesn't it? I mean, if you're confident about the choices you have made and the opinions and values you have chosen to have as your foundation to make the choices than you're comfortable with yourself. It's as easy as that. But, if you're struggling with your self-esteem to a point where you're protecting yourself from not being friendly to others, you are going to act like all wounded people an obnoxious rude manner.
Women who are obnoxious...........who flirt and ignore others around, who use their sexuality especially in a coquettish teasing manner, like they are unaware that they are even doing so, who think of themselves above and beyond the other female minions may think they are invisible to the rest of their venus sex. I've got news for them. They glow in the dark.............a bright neon pink....... and will live their lives with very few female friends.
how sad..................because a life without girlfriends is an empty one.
ps. can someone out there in blogland please help me. i can't seem to arrange my posts with spaces between the paragraphs. I set it up and then click on publish and it all squishes together. it looks awful........and it makes it difficult to read. AND it's driving my aesthetic eye crazy. please and thanks....if you can tell me what i'm doing wrong.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

sweetness of life

no thoughts, no words................can't find them today.
it seems more like a visual day rather than an interactive one.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

a signpost?

Life can be charted through transitions.

Today I witnessed the baptism of a newborn baby named Lily. Tiny and perfect, with a pink glow of birth, Lily only arrived on this earth 5 days ago. And there she was with her eyes still closed, dressed in a beautiful lace gown which look liked an heirloom from her family, comfortably held with love by her new mother. Her Dad, celebrating his very first Father's Day was close to their right. He couldn't take his eyes off his wife and his child. This newly formed family, surrounded by loving new grandparents sat in the front pew of the church. And all around them sat the congregation feeding off their joy, happy to be a part of welcoming Lily to a life of faith. It is a faith which is carried right now by the people in her life, and by the community she is a member of until she is older to understand what faith means. Or at least until she's old enough to learn the stories from the Scriptures and to begin to ask the questions we all wrestle with.

Every member of this extended family is experiencing a transition or two. Babies do that. They alter and rock your world like not much else. The types of transitions we as individuals encounter may be different than welcoming a baby into our families, but I think we are all forging through our lives stepping in and out of transitions. And every time we do so, we are faced with learning and possibly relearning our own lessons of faith. It's not a linear process....far from it. Rather, it is an up and down twisting path where we can sometimes prepare for the transition and sometimes it jumps out from behind a big oak tree and stops us in our tracks. No matter how it manifests, our reaction and actions to them will alter how we see our lives and how we live our lives because transitions encourage growth.

How much easier it is when we have a family and community around us just like this new family. We can question, lean, discuss, demand, reach out, share, emote if we have others who are unconditionally we are for them.

When the Minister held this miraculous innocent trusting new being, you could see him swell with a sense of spiritual love. In a burst of spontaneity, he suggested a hymn not found in the service this morning, but one which obviously jumped into his that captured the feeling of the congregation..........the feeling of a community unconditionally welcoming a new member. Perhaps he just wanted to savour the moment a little longer too. Who could blame him? Can you think of anything more life affirming that cradling a newborn? And so the congregation sang a hymn for Lily. There was a sense of oneness felt by all. Lily was a part of us.

Religion is is being able to show and receive love

Today, I listened to a oratorically gifted man share his thoughts and beliefs with a congregation on how the transitions in our lives are gifts to us which help us do spiritual work. Whether it's a time in our lives when we are questioning our career path, or whether it's a time when life has offered up an abundance of emotional trials connected to a marriage break-up or a death of a family member, or an illness. Whether its the beginning of a relationship, the start of a marriage, the graduation from university...........a move to another city or country.....a shift in one's thinking........a sad goodbye.........a new hello.........these are all part of life....all part of our journey to learning about our faith, about what we believe in. Through these events, some big and some minor we are growing upwardly, inward and outwardly. And if we want to, we can not only share our learning, we can encourage others through our actions, through our own growth. If we want to. We could also check out and remain closed minded and immobile.

We need to respect the process and respect others who are part of our process...a leap of faith that allows for personal growth to be recognized as spiritual work.

Not too long ago, I would've dismissed most of the sermon I heard today as balderdash. I had completely dismissed religion because I had boxed it in as a closed minded option for people willing to be spoon fed. Not only that, I had absolutely no interest in discussing it with anyone. Bible stories seemed so far fetched that they verged on the is it that anyone could believe such crazy stuff, I thought? Now that I have some perspective and have found my desire to dive into the vat of miraculous happenings as well as the guiding lessons found in the spirit of the parables and scripture, I see that perhaps my journey beyond the spiritual wildnerness was also spiritual work. Though it was a bloody long transition...........I seemed to have sat on the river bank without a paddle and without a desire to find a paddle for a good long time......I think it was necessary in order for me to reach a place where my heart opened again and where my ever present curiosity finally turned it's attention to God again.

Ah, that ever present Creator. Wouldn't it be grand if you could get a glimpse of Him? I mean, wouldn't it make believing so much easier? Believing happens through allowing for life's transitions to help us recognize that religion is living life and sharing it with others. You may never see God, but you may feel His spirit and His guidance by stepping in and out of transitions. He is often the One holding the flashlight.

Henri Nouwen writes:

To be a witness for God is to be a living sign of God's presence in the world. What we live is more important than what we say, because the right way of living leads to the right way of speaking. Whe we forgive our neighbours from our hearts, our hearts will speak forgiving words. When we are grateful, we will speak grateful words.

He also writes:

How does the Spirit of God manifest itself through us? Often we think that to witness means to speak up in defense of God. This idea can make us very self-conscious. We wonder where and how we can make God the topic of our conversations and how to convince others of God's presence in our lives. The way God's Spirit manifests itself most convincingly is through it's fruit: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control." These fruit speak for themselves. It is therefore always better to raise the question " How can I grow in the Spirit?" than ask the question, " How can I make others believe in the Spirit?"

Religion is life. Believing is found in the actions and reactions, in the questions and answers and in the desire and drive to take the leap towards faith. It's a lot of spiritual work, often made more manageable by surrounding ourselves with a diverse community who are respectfully open to discussing it all with you and you with them.

No doubt I drive many crazy with my questions. It's like I had forgotten all of the stories from my childhood and adolescent attendance at church. Friends and colleagues whom i know have been more consistently involved in religion are great receptive targets.....most of whom I had never had a conversation with about their faith until recently. They have been great. Interestingly, often when i do ask a question about a tradition or of a particular concept connected to their personal church or religion they often have to stop and think about it because they hadn't done so in a long time and it had just become second nature. The conversations lead to a longer conversation or another one later on when they have time to gather their thoughts, but they are always willing to share.

Baby Lily......her journey has just begun. Let us hope that this beautiful little being will always have the love and support to nurture her growth, to answer some of her questions and to allow her to find some of the answers through her personal transitions.

Today, I witnessed a newborn being baptised. It made me cry tears of gratitude that I am again at a place where I can witness, and where I can feel His presence. The fruits of the one tiny bundle of innocence.

ps....Paul?, somewhere in this ramble is my comment to your own post........I think it may be a bit like that book "Where's Waldo"........I hope you can find it. :)
ps again.......if you are intrigued to read Paul's latest post, here is the link to his Harbour. it is always worth the trip.

For my Dad

From my garden to yours.
I took many photos yesterday of the growing flowers in my neighbourhood, and this is the one I liked the most. Irises are blooming stunning technicolour. I love them for many reasons.
They are the most elegant and showy at this time of year, like a brightly coloured sundress that flows when you confidently walk down the street. Irises exude feminity and feeling.
They remind me of the many little miracles all around us. Every year, these beauties return in all of their hardy glory. How can anyone miss them? Irises make us stop in our busy tracks to take a moment to appreciate life.
Most importantly, they remind me of my family tree. From a sturdy stalk comes many blooms.
Dad, I picture you today, this Sunday Father's Day spending some of it in your garden in the backyard, perhaps with the ballgame on the radio in the background...tending to it, but also appreciating the beauty as you always do. You can count on me doing the same two provinces away.
Thank you for all that you and Mom have done always, but most recently over the past month. One of the most important lessons you taught all three of your daughters is that you are always just a phone call away. No matter what. We have taken you up on that many times and every single time you WERE!! Thank God! It is a lesson I will uphold for my children and for the other special people in my life. Always.
We are a sturdy stalk............because of you. We can be counted on because of you. We appreciate our strengths, individually and as an extended family because of you.
Happy Father's Day Deputy Dog Bob, with love and gratitude. Always
Muskie xo