Saturday, February 28, 2009

My Second Favourite Guy

I'm a big fan of Blue Rodeo, particularly Jim Cuddy. I found this interview and thought I'd post it here and also, my favourite Blue Rodeo song. Just something to pass the time.


Click here for the

Click here for the song Bad Timing


Share the Land

It's a cold, clear, sunny day, the kind of winter day I actually like. I am driving into town to run some errands with my two youngest children in the back seat. I'm picking up my oldest from her job and driving her to her new apartment after. This post may start off as a lesson in helping others however it's more of a commentary on how the universe provides lessons in many places but the most valuable ones are learnt in the service of others.

It is a sunny, winter day, two winters ago and my destination is Stratford, Ontario. I take the back roads into town, beautiful, scenic, quiet roads, not as well cleared of snow as the highway is, yet still my preferred route as long as I have good snow tires and the visibility is good. I go slow and enjoy the ride.

I see them as I come over the hill, a young man and woman standing in the snow on the side of the road, looking forlornely at their little Honda. It is in the snowbank just before a little bridge, coming south as I head north. It appears that they have pulled over, thinking there is a shoulder under the snow. There isn't. The car has sunk and is stuck. Not a terrible accident by any means but a terrible inconvenience. I feel sorry for the couple and when I notice a beautiful round belly on the woman I know I have to stop. To be pregnant and stuck in the snow on a lonely country road has to be worrisome. I can imagine how that feels and also she looks like labour could be imminent.

The couple speaks very broken english but they let me know that their brother(his or hers, I couldn't tell for sure) is walking to a farmhouse up the road to call someone. I see him in the distance and say I will give him a ride to the farmhouse. I ask if they are ok and they indicate they will sit in the car and keep warm. They thank me and I drive on.

I pick him up and he is very grateful. He tells me his plan is to walk to the farmhouse and call someone to go get his truck to come in to pull them out. I ask him where his truck is and he tells me his address. I offer to drive him there to get the truck himself and he very happily accepts.

We ride along in silence for a few moments before the conversation starts but when he speaks it is to express his gratitude that I have stopped to pick him up. I ask him about his country of origin and he tells me that he is originally from Cambodia. I ask him how things are in that country now, being somewhat familiar with its past but not how things had healed following its struggles.

He is very open to talking and he expresses hope that his country would continue to heal but adds that there is still a great deal of strife. Then I ask him "How is Canada treating you?". He pauses, then expresses a great love for this country. He says he arrived in this country with virtually nothing and has been able to acquire land, buy rental real estate, start a business, buy a nice home for his family and has been able to bring some of his extended family here, including the brother and his wife that we have left back in the snow. They have only been here six months.

But then he expresses, almost regretfully, that there have been negatives as well. He has experienced racist acts in almost every neighbourhood he has lived in particularly in small towns. He tells me he has lived in Montreal and Toronto and his experiences in the larger cities had been more positive with no racial intolerance because people in large cities are used to people of different backgrounds and more accepting of it.

While he likes the idea of a smaller city he is finding that there is more open racism in these towns. He says he experienced it in its worse form when he bought a house in a nice neighbourhood where his was the only non-white family and they'd had graffiti painted on a fence with racial slurs, telling them to "go back" and there was some costly vandalism as well. His son has experienced name-calling and bullying at school which has caused him to act out and get in trouble. It has been difficult for a time although it has settled down lately and he is hopeful they will be able to stay but admits he has been close to giving up because it has become so difficult. He just hopes his neighbours are getting used to them by now.

To say I am shocked wouldn't be entirely true. I've heard rumblings of racism in my own little town. One of the distinct disadvantages I have found living in a rural area is the decided lack of diversity. Wanting your children to have, not simple tolerance for other cultures, but indeed a deep appreciation for differences is difficult to cultivate in a pure-white setting. I console myself with the fact that I grew up in a isolated, rural town and I somehow developed that appreciation and my hope is that my children develop it despite our location and lack of immediate immersion in diversity.

I apologise to the gentleman and struggle to say something to him that would let him know that not all Canadians feel this way. After a brief pause I say to him "I love Canada, it's a great country however it's just land and I've never been particularly concerned about the colour of the people who inhabit it".

His reply is "most people don't feel that way" and it saddens me to think that likely he is right.

Then he observes "but a lot of people are nice too" with a smile. I am glad to hear that and I tell him so.

So I pick up my daughter who is confused as to why I have this strange man in my car, I introduce them and we drive to his home for him to get his truck.

"Thank you" he says again and we part ways. My daughter is full of questions of course and shakes her head with a look that says "I never know what my wierd mother is going to do next".

There is so much meaning and importance to be found in this conversation, on this cold winter day. What I take from it is a direct and profound knowledge that my fellow humankind needs to let go of the idea of "race" and adopt the "human race" mindset. This man comes from a war-torn country to one of the most prosperous and peaceful places on earth. He builds a home and a business and has a family. He is as much Canadian as any of us and he has only enriched this country by his presense here. But even more so, he is a citizen of humanity, as equal and valid in every aspect as any other.

Why are people so caught up in the idea that others are trying to take things away from them and that they have nothing to offer. Every human has something to offer, you only have to open yourself up to that idea and look for it.

And land, is just land. None of it's ours. We can't own the earth. Archaology proves it time and again by discovering entire civilizations underneath the earth, buried, nations who at one point in time thought they owned the land they inhabited and now time and dirt have reduced them to what we will all become, without exception, particles of dust.

If we let go of this idea that we can own the earth. If, instead, we walk around with the idea that every human has something to give, something to contribute, something to better mankind then we will be able to, in turn have more ourselves to give back to mankind. If we promote the idea that the earth doesn't belong to us but that instead we belong to the earth maybe we will serve her better.

That winter day I gave him a ride, I hope somehow I gave him a better picture of humanity and I hope he continues to help shape this country, this world, into a positive and wonderful place to live.

He gave me insight into the life of a non-white person living in this country, a glimpse into the privilege I have and do not deserve as my only claim on it is having the "right" colour skin. He further cemented for me my life-long dedication to address social issues and call out injustice where I find it. I am forever grateful for all he gave me that day.

And every time I drive by that particular bridge I think if that little family, the man's brother and wife. The baby would be over a year old now, walking, likely the delight of his or her parents' lives. They will have been in Canada almost two years and I hope they've been embraced by the community and that this country has been kinder to them it was to their brother. I hope their child doesn't experience the troubles the cousin has had in school and I hope if he or she does they can know that there are people out there who are kind, welcoming and willng to share this land.

We are all only vistors to this earth. We are here only a brief time and during that time we have the opportunity, and even more importantly the responsibility to make it a better place. We can do so by treating all of the citizens of earth with respect, understanding and compassion. See each person as a divine soul and treat them accordingly. We are all a part of the same collective source.

Remember that and go gently into the world with a heart full of gentle kindness.
For who looks at a rainbow and says the red is better than the blue? Or that that one shade of it's arc is more important and valuable than another. See the rainbow that is humankind and celebrate it in all its colours and shades and know the world needs all the colours of the rainbow to make it whole. Your life will be richer and happier for it.

"No more sadness, no more sorrow, no more bad times
every day coming sunshine, everyday everybody laughing
walking together by the river, walking together and
laughing, everybody singing together, everybody singing and
laughing, good times good times, everybody walking by the
river now, walking singing talking smiling laughing loving
each other."

From "Share the Land" ~ The Guess Who

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Divine Rain

The rain is my friend. It comes often in the spring, the season of my birth and I feel a kinship to it. It is the rain that washes the earth, first revealing soft, muddy soil, a bane to my clean floors when muddy paws inevitably track it inside, but a balm to my soul as I see the hidden promise of green grass, snow white crocuses and multi-coloured tulips.

It is raining today and it is filling me with joy. My hair will be curlier from the misty-moments between the showers, the way I like it best. My hair is meant to curl just as the rain is meant to fall. Rainy days make it easier for me to feel close to humanity, make it easy to remember to meditate, wash away the weights I sometimes forget that I carry.

It signifies that each moment is a moment of renewal and hope and to be grateful in it. It is easy to be grateful in the rain and we all need an occasional easy day.

The words of the rain is my chant, the rhythm of it my heart song. I sleep better with the pounding rhythm of the rain on my rooftop, I always have. It is the melody of my mantra, playing it's soft words in my mind, "you are reborn, you are reborn, you will always be reborn".

I'm going out today, to run some errands and I will walk slowly from shop to car to shop and allow my friend the rain to wash my soul and remind my heart that I am divine, that you are divine, that all is divine, just like the raindrops.

PS: I love a Rainy Night

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Someone sent me this today!

Check out this link.

Thanks Colette!

The Pursuit of Happiness

Happiness. What is it? How do we get it? Why is it so elusive? Why do some people seem happy while others seem perpetually troubled and unhappy? Why do we look at some people who have been through terrible hardship that makes you think they couldn't possibly be happy yet find that, somehow,they are.

Most of us spend our lives in the pursuit of happiness. As a younger woman I searched for it at parties and bars. What I often found was just a lot of beer. I met a lot of cool people, I don't regret one single solitary drunk or sober moment spent at a bar or house party. Was I happy then? Relatively so. But not like I am now. I think I experienced happiness but mostly I was confusing happiness with fun. Fun is good. Fun can make you happy, as long as you are having fun. I think that's why some people keep looking for fun, they confuse it with happiness because, for that brief time while they are at the bar having a great time, they feel as though they are happy. Overall though, the pursuit of fun is not necessarily the same as the pursuit of happiness. I have, at times, gone out and had a whole lot of fun while my underlying emotional status was definitely not happy.

What we need to be searching for is a general happiness. An underlying satisfaction, a daily feeling that there is every reason to have a smile on my face.

And I think I've found it.

To some extent, if you look at my life now, you would see lots of reasons why I should be unhappy. Financial setbacks, I'm home alone almost all the time with three children, a house to maintain while my partner is off trying to get us back on our feet from a period without work. There is the chance that we'll have to leave this nice town we live in, our home we had custom built to move to a new place where we can find a better job that is more family-friendly for my husband. All of that should make me unhappy. I really should be stressed. I love it here and I don't want to leave. I love my home. And I do have moments where I am stressed. But I don't spend to much time worrying about it. It may never happen. It might. Worrying about it won't change the outcome.

With all that though, still the underlying emotion of my life is happiness. I am healthy, I have a healthy family. In fact, this is the single thing that brings me back to gratefulness and happiness whenever I'm tempted to drift to self-pity or sadness. I have 4 daughters who are, at this very moment, safe and healthy. How can I be anything other than happy?

I have a husband, who, while at the other end of the country, is safe, doing the best he can to earn a living for us, and who had me howling with laughter a while ago on the phone. I have time to write, something I didn't have not that long ago. The lights are on, the computer is running, my dog sleeps at my feet, warming my toes, the cat is curled in a tortoiseshell ball of fuzz on the stairs. There is food in the pantry and we're good for now. It is very unlikely, living in this wonderful, peaceful country, that my family and I will ever go hungry or be without a home. We might have change, we might have upheaval but we'll be fine.

What brought me this happiness? A long and complicated journey that led to one single and simple thing. I decided to be. Someone asked Robert Downey Jr." What was different this time that led to your recovery from drug addiction" and he said "I decided to be". How very profound. And applicable to almost any aspect of life including happines. Decide to be, the take the steps to ensure you are successful at it.

My happiness is not dependant on some outside force, someone is not going to come along and make me happy. More money would ease the burden a bit but it alone won't provide happiness. I also, a few years back, decided to let go of those people in my life who created disharmony and disruption and I replaced them with those who only have love to offer. And I let go of any guilt I had from doing so. The journey through that was hard, the other side of the journey was worth the work.

I let go of my need to go out and have fun and instead cultivated a home that is peaceful, funny and happy. I let go of my need to control my family, particularly my children and instead work on my relationships with them. I don't punish my children when they do something I feel is not a positive choice, instead I talk to them and work through things with them. In the long run I think we'll all be better off. I kiss and hug them daily and tell them that I'm glad I'm their mom. I work hard at making them laugh and giggle a lot during the day because their happiness makes me happier.

I miss my husband when he's gone, but I'm grateful I have a partner who is wonderful, supportive and loving. I can't help but be happy when I'm loved by such a man.

And the single most important thing I've done is commit to living each day looking for ways to serve others. Right now a great portion of that is in serving my younger children and to a lesser extent my older ones. But I also look for ways in daily life to do so even if it's just a kind word, a happy smile, or a wave to a neighbour.

It's taken some time, but once I decided to give up the pursuit of happiness and replace it with happiness it became easier. And while there are moments of frustration, times of sadness, times of anger and despair, underneath it all, I'm fundamentally happy.

And that's all because, I decided to be.

"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion". His Holiness the Dalai Lama


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Quitting Toast

I’m Quitting Toast.

Yeah that’s right. I am quitting toast. You know, toast, bread, toasted. Quitting making it. I know it sounds odd, to quit making something as simple as toast.
In our house though toast isn’t simple, in fact it’s way too complicated. It’s just too much pressure.

When I first started dating the mister I generally made breakfast for the I had 2 kids already and since I was making it for them, it seemed simple to throw something on for him.

I learned almost immediately that my sweetheart didn’t own a traditional pop-up toaster. He owned a toaster oven and as a bachelor this was quite the serviceable appliance for making one-person meals. And he liked toast made one-sided. Since I was also a one-sided toast lover, in my early head-over-heels-in-blind love days it was just another clue that we were indeed meant to be. That and a love for Stan Rogers. Silly love.

Over the years it’s become a bit more complicated though. It all started when our(his) old Black and Decker toaster-oven bit the dust. We bought a new, stainless-steel jobbie that looked beautiful and matched our kitchen nicely as well.

The problem was it just didn’t work. Well it worked but not for someone who doesn’t have time to stand and wait for the toast to be brown, constantly peering in into the little window for signs of perfect golden toastiness.

It also had a dial that you turned and that wound itself down until done. The first two slices would be perfect, the second two would be, well, um, toast. It would come out burnt black like charcoal and not fit for human or livestock consumption.

Finally, after a particularly frustrating morning making breakfast for 4 kids and two adults and things not going well, the toaster oven once again started the fire alarm shrieking and my nerves gave out utterly and completely. I took the damn thing and tossed it into the garage, raised my hands and with Scarlett O’Hara-like drama, promised myself and my deity that I’d never toast with it again!

After all, if I have to stand there and watch it why not just toast it over the open flame of the gas range. Might as well, at least until I could find a toaster-oven that “popped” like a traditional toaster. I could actually see the romance in it. We were like toast pioneers. The stories we could tell about our toast on the stove. I was positively giddy with it all.

Then the inlaws came to visit. Yes, I have a (gulp) mother–in-law. She who is a critic of one-sided toast and gives her son a certain look when he says he prefers it.

You know the look. The “got those low-class genes from your father” look and then she follows that with a nose in the air “I like my toast toasted” as though any other manner of toast is less than what people of proper breeding would eat.

I hadn’t given her reaction any thought since mother-in-law, from the time I have known her has always had a regular breakfast consisting of a glass of orange juice, shredded wheat, sliced banana, 1% milk and coffee. Every. Single. Day.
Toast is, of course reserved for fine and rare occasions.

I never counted on the tragedy, indeed the horror, faced by my mother-in-law when she realised that there was no toast option for her anymore at our home. Horrors! She wouldn’t be eating “campfire toast” Shudder.

A few days later (at a department store I intensely dislike) I was pressured by the same mother-in-law into buying a regular pop-up toaster. Once again stainless steel. Not a toaster oven. Not what the mister and I had discussed we would buy eventually when we had enough money and time to shop around. But I consoled myself that it, at least had a bagel option which meant we wouldn’t have to do without one-sided toast.

The damn thing cost more than I would have spent but hell, that woman wouldn’t shut up. We had to have a toaster. You can’t not have a toaster. She had to have toast. She couldn’t go the week without toast. She couldn’t eat campfire toast. A better woman would have resisted. A lesser woman would have concussed her with a blender in the aisle of Walmart.

But me, being generally Zen and somewhat mindful, took a deep cleansing breath, swallowed my true feelings and bought the damned toaster.

Yep. Toast is complicated. And always in the back of my mind was the little thought that my mister would probably prefer the flexibility of the toaster oven. But he’d understand and he did. I thought.

Until a few weeks ago when, while making breakfast my dear Mister wanted poached eggs. And says he “when I have poached eggs I like my bread toasted on both sides”


So after I came to and put some ice on my head,I made him poached eggs on two-sided toast and medicated, um, I mean, meditated my way through. As I said I am nothing if not Zen.

And now my friends we come to this morning. Once again I am making breakfast for my dear mister. He wants poached eggs. I had already made the toast. “If I knew you wanted your eggs poached I would have made two-sided toast for you” while I set about poaching his eggs.

“Well actually, if you are making them in the toaster might as well always make them two-sided”
I was floored.

I somehow said in a very calm voice (you know-Zen) “you mean that you think there is a difference between one-sided toast in a toaster oven and a regular toaster?’

“Oh, yeah” he answers.

And that, my dear friends is when I quit making toast. It’s just too complicated. One-sided or two sided. The nut didn't fall far from the mother-in-law tree it appears.

Maybe I was being a tad sensitive. Maybe you think I acted a bit rash. Maybe I did. But when toast becomes subject to IS9000 specifications and quality control it gets a bit difficult to carry on.

I also feel the need to explain that in addition to the toaster/toaster-oven requirements there are further toast specifications.

For example with regard to butter or margarine, he’s fine with either but don’t put margarine on some and butter on others because that’s a transition he finds difficult.

It’s a real dilemma if you are suddenly out of one or the other. Do I leave it blank? Do I not tell him and cross my fingers? Do I use two plates? Maybe put the buttered toast on one and margarined toast on the other. (The latter being what I chose to do when that rare occasion occurs) I have taken to stalking the grocery store flyers for sales on Parkay so that we always have matching toast.

Margarine or butter (not both of course) must cover every square inch of bread. Spots must not be missed.

Furthermore you have to butter fast. While it’s still hot. Unmelted butter is not acceptable under the toast specifications.

Now I consider myself a diverse and nuanced thinker. I see the grey area,lots of shades of grey in all things.

And I like for people to have things to their taste. The steak should be well-done if that’s what you like even if your chef cringes at doing that to a fine piece of beef.

Red wine, must be served in red wine glasses,a little fussy maybe, but not a big deal if that's what you prefer, a glass is a glass when washing them. I go out of my way to provide that people’s preferences are met.

But toast has defeated me. I cannot tell the difference between a one-sided piece of toast in a toaster oven and a pop up toaster. I can’t see it. The difference is not apparent to me. Is it a texture thing? Is it a taste thing? It can’t be a toast thing, because the fire that makes the toaster oven go is the same as that which makes pop up toaster go as far as I can see.

Of course my mister is the engineer dude so maybe there is some design difference in the heating elements that I am unaware of that changes the toasting of the toast somehow.

It’s all just too complicated. So I have quit toast. Well except for the kind where you get to drink wine after.

Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe that’s why I don’t seem to have these types of issues with mashed potatoes or steamed veggies. Because I generally prepare them while happily sipping a glass of a red wine.

Maybe I’m too sober in the morning to make toast. Maybe I should be imbibing Mimosas and let the toast pop where it may!

Nah, I’m quitting toast, but I may still give the Mimosas a try, just in case I start getting fried egg specs.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Carry Water, Chop Wood

There is a lot of wisdom in Zen Buddhism and one of my favourite proverbs from this discipline goes something like this. A Zen Master was asked how his life changed once he became enlightened. He replied “Well, before enlightenment, I would carry water and chop wood. After I became enlightened, I carry water, and chop wood.”

So today I am taking it upon myself to delve into what this Master meant when he said this.

Upon first glance it would appear nothing has changed. It would seem to most people that his life hadn't improved at all although he claimed enlightenment. Some would think that enlightenment would be freedom from the strife of daily life, that work would not exist, that we, once enlightened would sit in idle meditation and feel peace and happiness all day long with no commitments, no responsibilities to tend to.

After all, most of us, when we encounter difficulties in our daily life, give the reason that life is hard work. We work hard and we don't make enough money, we have to work long shifts, our children give us grief and even if they don't they are hard work, work is, well it's hard work. We all long for that day in the future when we can stop working and relax, enjoy, be free from all of that responsibility. That, we think, is shangri la, that will be heaven. We won't have nearly as many problems once we no longer have to work.

So how could the Zen master be happy, be fulfilled, be at peace, if indeed that is what enlightenment is? What does this mean? How can, paradoxically, everything change and yet fundamentally remain the same.

My interpretation is that we don't have to wait until the magical age of 55 or 60 or 65 to enjoy the peace, the relaxation, the joy that we dream retirement brings. We don't have to die even, go to heaven, that wonderful place reserved for a privileged few, (which few of course, depends on what sect of whichever religion you subscribe to). I think the proverb means we can have that peace, the one promised in almost every religion on earth, right here, right now, in this life.

What I believe the Zen Master was trying to say was that the key is to find a way to peace now, whatever the circumstances of your life. That we have a choice. We can carry water and chop wood and be miserable or we can carry water and chop wood and be happy. But no matter what, we all have to carry water and chop wood.

Of course, this is easier said than done. In order to have this "peace in all circumstances" we have to become enlightened. The path to enlightenment can be a long one, unlike The Buddha, Siddhartha we are unlikely to sit under a pippala tree, and know everything suddenly. Or, maybe we will. In Buddhism it is considered possible that all can become a Buddha, it just might take many lives to do so. But even the Buddha was 35 before he became enlightened and had taken a journey searching for it, it really wasn't instant.

What has to happen, what we need to do as humans is to start on the journey. Look for mini-enlightenment. Take one step at a time to becoming more peaceful, happy, joyful people. Make the conscientious decision to make your life about walking a path that will take you where that peace is. Start using the tools you need to become the person you are meant to be, meditate, study, practice kindness and compassion, lose your judgement of other people, spend time in and take notice of nature, let go of competitiveness and strive not to be better than another person, but rather to be better than you were yesterday.

Try to Take money out of the equation and base life decisions on what you would do if you were not to profit from it, what you would then feel is the right thing to do. Serve others. Smile at people, hold the door for people. Volunteer to help the less fortunate, be kind to your children, promote peace in your walk on this planet and peace will invariably come back to you.

And when it does you will find great joy in carrying water and chopping wood. I cleaned my kitchen today, I put on some music I enjoy and did my work happily and without resentment. It's something I try to make a practice out of and I think it sets a good example for the kids to see me cheerful in my work. I do my share of grumbling too but much much less than I used to. And all the while, remember this, be grateful you have water to carry, wood to chop and a home to clean. And be grateful particularly that you have the health and ability to do so.

Come out come out whoever you are!

For all the mothers who have waited patiently at the end of the pregnancy for the little one to come out, for those who are just impatient, for those whose babies were very comfortable and stayed in way past their expected time(Like my third pregnancy, 16 days) and for those who believe that medical interference in the process is not the way to go, this is for all of you.

I have an online friend who is expecting any day now. She asked for labour vibes. But then she said, Tuesday wasn't a good day, but any other day was fine. So she received many vibes and even more suggestions, herbal rememedies, the old "what gets the baby in, gets the baby out" suggestion, even Irish dancing.

So I wrote a poem for her, and for all the mommies who currently or ever have grown impatient waiting for their babies to become outies instead of innies here it is.

"Baby Come Out"

She's Riverdanced, she's washed the floors
She's got black cohosh comin' out of her pores
She's had enough sex, hubby has a perma smile
She's been ready to meet you for quite a while
So baby come soon, it's been a long wait
Tuesday she's busy, but Wednesday is great!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ode to Shiraz

So my friend's husband is gone on an exchange trip with their son for a week and she's home with their three younger children alone and her facebook status said "Thank Gawd the cork came out of that wine bottle".

And as I was sitting here enjoying a glass of shiraz myself,I wrote her a poem and pasted in in her comments to give her a chuckle and here it is. It's one of those lame little verses but I'm sure all the burnt out mommies can relate.

The day has ended with a bang
and a few whimpers(from me)
The living room is destroyed
the carpet I cannot see
The dishwasher needs an emptying
To make room for a load
The floors need some cleaning
Very dirty is my abode
The kitty litter needs a scoop
Some mirrors need a shine
Some laundry needs some folding
But To hell with it, I need some wine!


The Picture in My Banner

I've had a few people ask about the picture in my banner so I thought I'd make a quick post to answer for everyone.

The scene in the picture was taken by me last summer. It is just up behind my mother's house in Newfoundland and the body of water is the Atlantic ocean. The fence is to keep the ponies in as that is part of the newfoundland pony refuge which has the objective to save the diminishing number of that breed of ponies from completely dying out.

This is one of my favourite places and when I was younger I dreamt of building a house there with huge windows overlooking the ocean and a wharf at the water's edge.

The picture of the whale on the right was taken by my husband when he took our youngest daughters codfishing. I think it's breathtaking.

Not Quite Jo March

My very favourite chapter in Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women is the chapter "Jo Meets Apollyon". This is the chapter where Jo's sister Amy, in a fit of spite, tosses Jo's treasured book she has worked so hard on into the fire. Back, as a teen when I first read Little Women, I was also a teen writer. I had written a novelette in the styling of Susan B. Hinton's The Outsiders and although it never saw The Gutenberg's descendants, it was the largest literary work I'd completed, I was quite proud of it and it even made a friend cry when she read it. I felt such empathy for Jo and felt as angry for Jo as she felt for herself.

And while anger is the theme emotion of that chapter, for me what lingers in my mind is not the tale of anger and eventual forgiveness but the sense of despair and sadness poor Jo felt at the loss of her work. You cannot recreate that which comes to you in inspiration. I just comes to you. Just once. I've always tried to keep my writings safe. Recently I found a copy of a children's book I wrote for my older girls about 15 years ago. I thought it had gone forever but I found it in a box of papers. My writings are my treasures. When I'm gone, those are the things my children will read to their children. Their children may go "Grandma can't write for crap" but that's OK too. Poor poor Jo, all that work gone forever. I could feel her despair. I thought.

Then,yesterday I experienced a similar loss. While working on my blog, somehow, technically challenged me, lost a great many of the blog posts I have been accumulating over the past month. While sitting in disbelief and despair, frantically trying to figure out if they'd just been moved or if they were there somewhere hidden, I experienced a sense of loss that is indescribable. It felt as though a part of my soul had been lost. That sounds over-dramatic, there are much worse things that can happen in the human existence, but the sense of loss I experienced was very painful.

I was spared from the permanency that Jo experienced. For my story has a happy ending. After some acceptance and tears that they were indeed gone, I posted about my sadness at the online forum where I'm a moderator. Almost immediately another moderator came forward and said she'd check her google reader. Immediately, like magic, my blog posts started to appear one by one on the forum pages. My heart soared at every post. More tears flowed, tears of joy, as I saw my treasures reappear. The one entitled "The Shift", that talks of my father, the one called "Today I saw the Roses" which is probably one of my best descriptive writing examples. All of them, came back.

So while my story doesn't have the romantic element of anger, a dramatic rescue of a cherished sister from a fall through the ice, a romantic, dashing hero and eventual forgiveness, I'll take my happy ending and my little treasures that mean little to anyone but me and be ever so grateful that I have them back.

I am also forever grateful to my online friend, Autumn Breeze, who saved the day. My little story does have a hero. There is no dramatic crawl across an icy surface with a branch as per Ms. Alcott's tale but I'm calling hero just the same. And I've taken her wise advice and I've clicked the little orange thingy and added my blog to my igoogle feed so there are copies.

The Autumn Breeze is a soft warm wind, and I am forever grateful.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I Lost a Lot of My Blog Posts.

But a wonderful lady(my very favourite person in the world right now) added them to her reader and had a copy of them. I'm adding them back one by one so my blog will be a bit crazy for a while until I get them all back on and fixed up again.

And when it's all back up I'll write more about what happened.


One of Those Days

It is shaping up to be one of those days. Things seem to be dropping out of the universe in an effort to disturb my equilibrium.I wake up too early, frustrated because I know six hours of sleep is inadequate. I try to doze but finally give up and drag my weary, sleep deprived body out of bed. I take long shower, I got lots of time, make an extra large pot of coffee and sit down to check my emails. There isn't anything but spam, it's too early for actual people to be emailing me.

I wake the kids up at the usual time, they are still tired. It's a school day for Sophia and they are more difficult than usual to get ready, their lack of sleep evident in their uncharacteristic lack of cooperation. After I drop Sophia off at school I plan to drive into town to do some grocery shopping.

Pain in the butt number two from the universe, snow.Snow complicates everything, I have to shovel, I have to wipe wet dog paws and faces(he sticks his head in it like an ostrich, very cute), start the car early, clean off the car, well you get the picture.

Then number three...aforementioned cute ostrich dog sneaks out the door when I go out to start the car. Yep, he's a fast ostrich. He takes off happily in his cockapoo way, his docked, non-tail waving happily with freedom! I rush in to get the kids ready, scared he'll get hit by a car, get lost, all sorts of scary thing. We love the ostrich dog. And in the back of my mind is also the thought that we'll be late for school. I breathe deeply, gather myself and get my equilibrium back. Disgruntlement and impatience isn't going to fix this.

We get in the car. Fortunately, ostrich dog, whose real name is Sneakers, isn't lost or hurt, he's on his way home. I turn the car around and follow him back and he runs right to the front door. I put him in his crate with an inner thank you to the universe. I love my doggy, annoying little beastie that he can be.

Now, we're running late. I feel the tension welling up. I can almost touch the impatience I'm experiencing as things go awry so early on the busy, hectic day I have in front of me. My mind goes to the thought, "it's gonna be one of those days".I sit behind the steering wheel and take a deep breath and give myself a moment of meditation.

I ask for help from the universe to get me through and then the answer comes to me"it's not the help you receive that will get you through, it's the help you give that will make the difference".I feel an instant peace in the knowledge that the universe has provided the answer. Suddenly the snow that was an annoyance, becomes a beautiful, sparkly shroud before me. I feel joy in the knowledge that I have a choice. I can grump about the day I've been given or I can be grateful I've been given a day.

And in a moment, the tenor of the day changes. I am grateful. I have this day. There is a verse from the Bible, Psalm 118:24 "This is the day that the lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it". The wisdom of the ancients once again direct me. I'm not Christian but that verse is certainly relevant this day.

I've decide that I"m going to be grateful for whatever I get. Even maybe rejoice. To turn it around I've make the conscious decision to make the day about others and not about me. I let people go ahead of me in traffic, I let my daughter have chocolate timbits for breakfast, I allow people to go ahead of me in line at the store. I wait patiently behind the carts that block the aisle and I let my 3 year old push the cart as we put in the items on the list. I just let go and feel myself floating in the ocean of life, moved along, I don't fight the waves, I just smile and accept them.

And one of "those days" becomes a better day for me because I've decided to try to make it a little more pleasant for others.And to paraphrase on of my favourite poets, Robert Frost, it does make all the difference.

The Road Not Taken
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

Out of the Mouths of Babes #2

Funny conversation with Martina, age 3.5

Martina "Mommy, put on my movie"

Me "Sure, what one?"

Martina "Merry Cake and Akshully".

Me trying to stifle a giggle "You mean Mary-Kate and Ashley?"

Martina "Yeah! Merry Cake and Akshully!"

Insert hysterical laughter here...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Nature Remedy

The shadow of the grey-blue moon hovers coldly over the spongy green marshland. The dew-dampened pitcher plant, only half full of water and a curled spider corpse stands still in the damp cold of the dawn. It is death still. The air tastes clean and pure, an untouched land, a magical, timeless place. I feel a tingle of something unidentifiable, something that says "this is where you should be right now".
I stare in human wonder, looking as the fading night-time brightens my view. I walk along, alone, yet somehow not lonely in this place. I feel the ground under my feet bounce with every step, the ground luxurious with softness. I am alone on a chore that I don't particularly enjoy, berry picking. I'm here because I need to get away, alone for a while, to think, to escape, and this is my excuse to not be there anymore.
The back breaking exercise will make my body ache from its constant bending but the mindless work will allow me to think, breathe and feel, that is what I need right now.I come upon the golden nuggets easily. They are bakeapples, a native berry, an acquired taste some say, a taste I've acquired. They are ripe now, and this year plentiful, not blighted by the frost that takes them some years. I start in, deciding to shuck the leaves off them as I go. I shuck with my teeth, cringing at the sour juice I taste when occasionally my teeth pierce a delicate skin. And occasionally I eat a soft, over-ripe one, those are the only ones I like uncooked, their sweet, unique taste difficult to resist.
I notice as the sun starts to move higher in the sky that the marsh is not as dead as it first appeared. The occasional dragonfly whips by in a hurried fashion, translucent wings of magic humming. I see hoppers on the ground, tiny green faceless creatures that jump along aimlessly. I work my way along, sitting when I can, bending when I can't. My mind searches for a solution to the problems I've run away from. Nothing too extraordinary, the usual annoyances of human life that makes you want to be away from the humans, particularly those you are closest to. I come up empty.
It's a humid morning. I feel beads of sweat forming on my upper lip as the day warms. I've been working for a while and my little pail seems to be fighting my desire to be finished. I glance in to its depths to discover I have quite a ways to go. I sigh deeply and send a message to the universe to help me with these problems, show me a sign, let me know things will be OK, that things will get better. I sigh again. There is no sign, only berries to pick and life to get in the way.
I walk along when I am startled by the sudden whoosh of a partridge flying out of a low lying bush. Likely it's nest is in there and I got a little too close to. I yell in fright and then laugh in embarrassment though no one but the partridge has watched the exchange. I giggle to myself and suddenly I start to laugh. I feel it bubble up from the depths of my soul and I laugh out loud. I am racked by waves and waves of laughter as the lunacy of the situation overcomes me. I am embarrassed over the judgement of the bird.
There is no one else here to laugh at me. I laugh until I am spent in energy and emotion. How ridiculous to be embarrassed at something no one saw. I am awake, heart still beating wildly but I feel it slowing down as my laughter tapers off.
I look around at the suddenly bright morning I see it has changed. Suddenly the pitcher plants look awake, no longer drooping and wet but more alert, their stems firm, steadfast and strong in the sunshine. I see a light on the marsh, the dark green of the dawn replaced with the help of the sun's rays by an Irish green, rich, warm and friendly. I become aware of chirping, there are birds nearby, likely in the low bushes in the distance, I can hear them sing, nature's orchestra, loud and melodic and suddenly I am happy.I wonder why, although my bucket is no fuller than it was a moment ago, I am happier. Why, instead of being irritated at being startled out of my reverie by the partridge, I am suddenly filled with joy.
I continue to pick the berries, it seems the pail fills faster as I work through my thoughts and feelings as I continue my forage. I drink in the clean oxygen that is sadly so rare on this earth now and look around at the nowhere land I now inhabit.There is magic in this place I think. Something mystical and something unexplainable. My melancholy has ended and I've not resolved a single problem I came to resolve. I've only decided that they aren't as big as I thought they were when I came to this place and that they aren't as insurmountable as I first thought. I only know that in the loneliest places nature has to offer I find I am the least alone.
I finish filling my pail after a while and, my spirit satisfied, I go home.Behind me, in that lonely expansive marsh that has shared its bounty with me, the sun continues to shine and the moon lies in wait for it's turn as sentry to the earth. And beyond the edge of the land, where marsh meets sky, Mother Nature gently smiles a secret smile.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Do you believe in God?

Nothing like a deep, thought provoking question to start the day off right. It is often assumed that because I don't attend a church, because I have had a certain level of cynicism about organised religion in my life, because I have come out and said that I feel this way and because I admit freely that I am a left-thinking, socialist that this must mean I'm without God or a belief in God.Well I thought I'd set the record straight.

The truth is that yes I believe in God. Before you send the missionaries in to capture my soul for your particular denomination or religion, take a moment to read about my God. You might want to focus on someone a little less steadfast in their beliefs.

My God is not your typical run-of-the-mill deity. First of all, he's not male. She's not female either. In fact my God is sexless. Or maybe my God is sexiful(nice juicy new word I just made up!). It doesn't matter because it's not important that my God be either.

My God is not concerned with any of that. That's just stuff for fun and procreation and well, God doesn't procreate that way. That's nature and science, physical stuff and while I believe in a strong mind, body, spirit connection, I think God's domain is the spirit so the rest of that stuff, well that's all ours.

My God also doesn't live in heaven. I don't believe in heaven. Well i don't believe that there is a place where we go when we die, paved with gold and pearly gates and all of that. I think there is peacefulness to be reached for, but I also believe you can attain that in this realm. I believe that God is the divinity that is in us, inside all of us, the combination of our individual spirit and the spirit of every man, woman, child physically living as well as those passed on. Want a nice analogy?

My God is like the ocean and we are like the raindrops. Some of the raindrops are already in the ocean. Some are going to fall into the ocean. Some are leaving the ocean through evaporation. But there is a cycle to it. An intelligence. It always happens. The raindrop must come from the ocean and inevitibly it must return. Does that help? So keep that picture in your mind as I further present my beliefs.

My God is simple. You don't have to do anything, God does it all. We live in the flow of all things. We just need to ride the waves. To further my analogy above, imagine a raindrop fighting against the ocean? Can it do that? No. And we can't either. We need to blend with other raindrops to make the ocean bigger and stronger. Alone we are just a little drop, combined with every drop in the ocean we have unlimited strength and potential.

My God does not distinguish between man, woman, child, black, white, heterosexual, homosexual, sexiful(juicy word) or any other label we as humans apply. Those are human things. God is divine. The humanity in us feels the need for labels. The divine doesn't. They are handy tools for living as a human but they don't apply to the spiritual part of us.

My God doesn't care if you have a piece of paper announcing that you have married this person or that person because remember we are raindrops and God is the ocean and well, paper gets wet in the ocean so what's the point? To take that further, my God doesn't care if the person you fall asleep with and wake up with is your permanent, committed spouse or a friend you needed some time with. I believe that nothing you do is shameful because you are without shame, you are divine. You are a piece of God. Shame weakens you, moves you away from God. It's not certain acts frowned upon by society that move you away from God, it's believing they are wrong that do this. Remove all judgement of right and wrong from your life and you will have a better understanding of my God.

My God doesn't judge. My God doesn't hold court over the good and the evil. My God knows there is no such thing and that every thing is as it should be. The good and the evil are equal partners in teaching us how to move along in this flow of life. Let go of the idea that God favours one over the other, is responsible for one or the other and will reward one over the other and you will be closer to my God.

So, you ask, if this is how your God works, what is the motivation to be good? If we aren't out for the reward at the end then what's the point. If the evil of the world are the same as the righteous of the world then what is our responsibility in life? Where do we come in? If it's all out of our hands why not have our fun and get on with it? Let the good times roll!

My God tells me that what we are is divine. What we have is free will. Our free will is not in that we get to choose where we go. That is out of our hands. Our responsibility is to try to become a part of the larger divine, the source, the ocean or as most people call it, God. We are not supposed to do good because we fear consequences or seek a reward. We are supposed to do good simply because we are supposed to do good. To get closer to God we have to be like God. We have to let go of the labels. We have to let go of the judgement. We have to move forward with trust and love and compassion. The more we are able to do that the more we become like God.

Many of you might be familiar with the adage "don't sweat the small stuff". Well to know God is to have the ability to not sweat the big stuff either. To feel at peace. To have a knowing, an understanding that we are exactly who we are, that we are exactly where we are supposed to be and to learn to feel peace in that place.

In this moment. Right now.Take a moment. Breathe. Breathe again. Imagine yourself completely at peace. Imagine you could help every single person on earth. Imagine you could feed the hungry, imagine you could heal the sick. Think of how you would feel if you could do that. Feel that peace and feel that happiness. That is God. Now, take it one step further. Go out and do it. Find someone to help and do it. Random acts of kindness is a good start. I have a cousin who puts $5 Tim Horton's gift cards on police cars. She's got it. She's close to God in those moments. Her children who witness her doing it are closer to God just for being witness to it. The recipients of those cards, they are closer to God for being made to feel appreciated by all they do. $5 well spent. Hold the door for people, help mothers with strollers, smile at people, kiss your children and your spouse. Let go of any expectations of immediate return. Just remember that feeling you had when you imagined that you saved the world. That's what you are aiming for.

I'm going to go a bit further because I want to be clear on one thing. While I have not found my truth behind a church door I do not for one moment minimize the journey of those who find their solace there. Truth is subjective and your truth and my truth will not be the same. That's OK too. My God tells me that every journey is unique and equal and every position on every journey is equal. Those who are just being born are as close to God as those who are just leaving this earth and I believe all those in the middle are as close as well.

Life just knocks us off the path sometimes or maybe sets us on a path we hadn't expected to be on. But at any moment in time we are able, through acts of compassion and kindness, to get back to that closeness with the divine.So if you want to send your missionaries out now I'd be happy to invite them in and listen to them. In fact I've always done that. As long as it is with the understanding that when they are finished I get to tell them about my God with equal passion for my personal truth.

A friend told me once, all roads lead home. That feels true to me.Namaste

Out of the Mouths of Babes

It's been a crazy day and I've got two decent posts in the works but nothing finished. I am determined to post something every day so here are some examples of conversations that happen when you have kids.


"Daddy you tooted! Well akshully you farted"

Sophia~5.5 after reading a book to her little sister

Sophia "Mommy, this book is about Clifford"

Me, distracted "Uh uh"

Sophia showing me the picture" See, he's all rolled up in a snowball"

Me glancing at picture"yeah, I see"

Sophia "That could never happen"

Me "No sweetie, I don't think so"

Sophia "I think this book is fiction"

Me, suddenly alert "and what would you call it if it was something that really happened?"

Sophia looking at me like I'm stupid "That would be non-fiction".

Me "I love you".

My text message conversation with Christie

Christie's text "Mom, do I have ADHD?"
My text"No, of course not".
Christi's text"What did I just ask you?"

Alyssa~call home, and say something cute. I have nothing to post.

Art Linketer would have loved my kids!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Where am I?

Where am I this cold,dark day?
This endless day of night.
Where do I find that which is me?
The inner, sacred light.

Where do I look for what I seek?
Where do I need to go?
In deepest, darkest, cold dispair
Where is my sacred soul?

In deepest darkest silence
is the self that you do seek
In quiet, peaceful solitude
You'll hear the sacred speak.

Barack Obama's Canadian Visit:The Mystery of Fanaticism

Barack Obama is in Canada today. This is quite newsworthy of course, a very popular American president makes his first official international visit and comes to our country. It's a good story. I like Obama, I don't agree with him completely on every issue(gay marriage for example), I think we as Canadians need to pay attention closely and be diligent in making sure his policies don't adversely affect our country, but he's a smart, admirable man, highly capable and the best option the American people had in the last election to lead them out of Iraq and out of this economic mess.

What I found myself fascinated by though, to my surprise, was not Barack Obama but the complete and utter fervor with which the media and many of my fellow Canadians follow this man. They are not supporters, but avid followers, fans, even. He has a certain star power that is absolutely remarkable and impossible to define. I get it. I haven't fallen into it. But I get it. The man has a magnetic personality. If you like a good looking man, he's it. If you admire a sharp mind with the ability to think in a big-picture way, he's your guy. If you are a person who admires a charming smile, a debonair and gentlemanly demeanor, look no further, he's the quintessential gentleman with layers of charm and personality. He has humour. He's quite likable. Yeah, I see what people see and I can see what people like. Yet it's more than that, something I can't quite put my finger on it. I guess he has that 'je ne sais quoi' quality the french talk about.

Busloads of people are heading to Ottawa. When Princess Dianna visited Canada in 1983 I was a the waterfront in St. John's to see her. There was a certain similar allure with her although I'm not sure anyone would have travelled 6-10 hours to see her had they not been guaranteed to catch at least a glimpse. We knew there would be a walkabout and indeed there was.

But she was at least peripherally a part of the Canadian monarchy. She was a beautiful, intriguing curiosity but I don't think she even remotely garnered the fascination that Barack Obama has right now. And he's not even ours.

I have been wracking my brain trying to figure out what does it. What makes one person able to inspire crowds to come. Even further, what causes a person to become fanatic about another human being or group of human beings. Beatlemania anyone? I'm baffled.

It's not youth, I had my Great Big Sea phase in my thirties(thirty-odd shows in a couple of years) and for me then, it was an intense love of the music, a love for the live show(you ain't seen a live show until you've seen a GBS show). Certainly Alan Doyle has a certain brand of charisma. And even though I've actually been that fanatic, I still struggle to explain it. It really is seemingly indefinable.

Those of you a little older than me probably remember the Trudeau mania years. Oh yeah, women fainted, the crowds came out in throngs, I have cousin named Pierre born in 1968 and you know that's not a common Newfoundland name. Obama mania seems to be similar to that phenomenon. Pierre Trudeau was smart, charismatic and charming and had that undefinable "it" that Obama has. I saw young Justin Trudeau speak a couple of years ago at a local high school. Consider yourself forewarned, Trudeau mania is still here, lurking in the Papineau riding in Quebec and when it comes prepare yourself for classrooms of the future to have multiple Justins (well maybe they already do, but there will be more ok) at its desks. He's simply got the sparkle.

The negative side to this is that there is a particular group of people who have trouble with nuanced thought, who think in terms of either black or white who would presume that anyone who even remotely likes Barack Obama is an "Obama maniac". I've heard the terms "cult" and "drank the kool-aid" and "fanatic" applied to people who simply agree with the man, who preferred the man over John McCain, who just didn't want Sarah Palin's limited knowledge base that close to the nuclear codes(now there's a subject for another post) and a myriad of other reasons. That particular group don't seem to want to take into account that there are people who might just agree with the man, his message, his politics, his ideals. That some supporters have read his books, listened to his speeches, researched his record in the senate and decided that he was their choice. That group of people don't seem to believe that someone could simply have a different opinion than they have. That group of people seem to have simply imbibed a different flavour of koolaid.

And of course there is the media. Fox News' Sean Hannity was almost apoplectic the other day at the rest of American mainstream media's fascination with Obama. They(Fox) don't like him(Obama) because, well, there are differences in principles, and furthermore, as much as the right accuses the left of liking Obama "just because" they are equally guilty of disliking him for the same reason. As for Fox News, it's no secret that they are the right-leaning American media, heavily biased in favour of the Republicans. I will go further and say not only do they not like the president, Fox News pretty much doesn't like people that do. Poor guy, I thought he would hurt himself in his effort to belittle those members of the media who report Obama stories in an unbiased, and even, heaven forbid, a positive way. His efforts are based upon his erroneous belief that the people of America only like Obama because the media is telling them to. Mr. Hannity, don't worry about that, you and your colleagues in the media, don't have all that much clout, and you likely will have to face it, you're on Fox News. Your own ilk are the only watchers, you're preaching to your own choir. Take a deep breath Hannity, your desperation is showing.

So Obama mania has come to Canada. It's still a mystery to me what makes someone worthy of "mania". It's a fascinating phenomenon indeed. I'll keep watching the news. But I'm not watching to catch a glimpse of Obama, I'm watching to see what the crowd does when they catch a glimpse of Obama. Strange days indeed.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I travelled on a bumpy train, expecting dirt and mess
I found instead a feather bed, a place to lay and rest.

I walked into a rainstorm expecting to get wet
instead a yellow butterfly fluttered near my head

I kissed a handsome prince one day not expecting happy after
I found to my intense delight happiness and laughter

I travelled on a gravel road, expecting many hills
Instead I found a gentle slope and pretty rolling fields

I thought life would be difficult but little did I know,
It isn't all that hard to live if you let it flow.

I walked along in worry, all the live-long day
and wasted time in pensiveness, when acceptance was the way.

Heritage Makers

I have several business ventures. My favourite by far is as a consultant with I love working on my books and have recently competed a book for my Father-in-law that commemorates the 80th birthday party we had for him in Newfoundland last summer.

Here is a preview of this book. Chaffey Family Reunion. If you would like to create your own Heritage Makers book simply go to my website here and sign up for a free basic membership. This will get you started.

Heritage Makers was one of Oprah's Favourite things in the November issue of O Magazine.

If you like scrapbooking or always thought you might like to try it but don't have time/space/money storybooking might be the hobby for you.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Shift

As a follower of Dr. Wayne Dyer, I feel I owe it to him to write about The Shift. He has done so much to inspire me over the years that I feel it's my duty to help him reach the critical mass of ten million viewers he is aiming for. I am planning on hosting a screening of the movie but meanwhile I'm going to promote the film from my little blog. Even one more viewer is a step closer to the ten million viewers goal. For those unfamiliar with Dr. Wayne Dyer, the best I can do is describe him as a guru, a life coach, a spiritual master and one of my best friends. You can meet him by visiting his website at

The Shift is the title of Dr. Dyer`s movie. The original title, From Ambition to Meaning, will undergo a name-change in May so I'm going to talk about it under the new title, The Shift. Without giving the movie away the shift(event not movie) is something that occurs in our life when we go from one life-stage(ambition) into another life-stage(meaning). Often this shift occurs as the result of a life-altering event that forces us to change our course and move into new directions taking along new strength and insight on our journey.

The shift is a paradigm change. We look at the world and our place in it from a different perspective and we can no longer carry on in the way we did before it occurred. It affects how we live our whole lives, how we view ourselves, our families, those we love, those we hate and the very world we live in. We suddenly understand that we are here for a reason and we now must live our life with a new meaning and purpose.My favourite part of the Tao De Ching says "Bad fortune is what good fortune leans on;good fortune is what bad fortune hides in".

In the movie the shift is described as happening in a moment of clarity and magic. For me it was hidden in a tragic event that, as it occured, gave me no clues as to its being the catalyst for a change in my thoughts, a new direction and a new phase of my life.On January 9, 1998 my father passed away. Several days later I stood at his graveside (the last time I ever visited it) and didn't weep. I have no doubt that I wasn't behaving in a typical grieving manner although my heart was broken. First of all, it wasn't what he would have wanted. He spoke often of his admiration for stoicism. I didn't cry out of respect for that. Second of all, I didn't feel like crying. I have cried many times out of loneliness for that man. I don't cry on his birthday though and I don't cry on Father's Day but rather at random inopportune times his memory visits, stealth and sudden, and I am lost in despair with missing him. That smile, those eyes, that gentle voice, and above all that sense of peace that permeated from him and brought those around him up to his level of calm. The humour that would smile gently, with a twinkle and say, whenever we were upset about one thing or another "That`s not serious".This was a pivotal moment for me.

This was my shift. It came as I stood there on that cold January day, the wind marking my legs with raw red welts, the irony of the situation tickling my funny bone. He often said "why do people die in the winter, such an inconvenience digging graves in the frozen ground?" I could imagine him smiling at that irony along with me. And I knew at that moment he hadn't really left me. He was still here and in that moment I felt a sense of peace and knew there was really no reason to weep. And that day, standing miserably in the cold, not crying, trying not to laugh at that random thought, I felt the shift.

I decided, at that moment that things had to change. That was it. I had been wasting my life up until that point, hadn't done anything I wanted to do and I knew, knew for sure that my whole life had to change. And I also made the decision to proceed with the rest of my life in a way that I knew would inspire that gentle smile to appear on my father's face, wherever he was now.Of course it wasn't that moment that was entirely the beginning of my shift. And it wasn`t the end either.

I've felt many mini-shifts before and many after, one when I found out he was sick, one when I watched him breathe his last breath that January morning as I sat in his room, after being alone the entire night, watching him slip away. We didn`t know when the end would come but I couldn't leave the hospital that night, I couldn't leave the room, his breathing changed, I said good bye, and he left us. How quiet it was that moment when his breathing finally stopped after being so laboured and difficult all night. How peaceful he suddenly looked when his body had been slipped off "like an old shoe"as Dr. Dyer often says.

I've felt it since, with the loss of a job, the birth of a baby, the discovery of love in a familiar face I never dreamt would be my soul-mate. All have been contributors to this shift. But it was that one moment where I knew things were going to be different from there on in. And that moment also reassured me that things would be ok too.I've fallen in love, I've grown in that love, I've added children, I've had a child move out, I've forgotten to enjoy, I've mistepped, stepped in the mud and occasionally found myself creating the mud I've stepped in. I have had to accept my humanity and my failings and find the good fortune that lingers. I've doubted and believed at the most unusual moments. I've made my journey about personal growth, peace and spirituality.

I often lament on how much I hate winter. Those of you who know me well know how much I hate it. But I know, that without winter I'd not have anything with which to compare the summer. I wouldn't have the same appreciation for the spring, and even though it`s a forebearer of the dreaded season of cold, I love and appreciate the beauty of autumn in spite of it being followed by its hated neighbour, winter.We are all on the journey to where my father is now. There is no way around that. Sometimes when I think back to that cold winter day I see it all again, the good fortune that leaned on the bad, the bad fortune hiding in the good. It teaches me that while I don't like winter, I have to appreciate that it is important and necessary for me to go through that season both in an earthly and a spiritual manner. That winter is the season that teaches me the most. That winter is the season I need the most and that my father didn`t inconvenience anyone by dying in the winter. That that was exactly when he was supposed to go.

Watch Dr. Dyer's movie. Learn to make the most of your shift. Learn to recognise it when it comes. We are always on a journey. The Shift reminds us that we aren't the navigator and that our job is to make the most of whatever path we are set upon. I remember my father, a man who lived his life on the ocean, telling me that when there was a storm you ride it out as best you can. My father was wise. That wisdom is applicable to life's storms as well. Note: I wrote two poems for my father. I`m trying to track down copies of them as they were lost in a computer crash last year. I`ll add them when I find them.

Barack Obama in Ottawa

The Canadian news is currently full of the visit of Barack Obama to Ottawa. People are travelling to Ottawa hoping for a glimpse, gone are the protesters on Parliament Hill who shouted "Go home Bush" and here come the fans of Barack Obama. Once I get beyond the trickle of annoyance that the Canadian Media is so interested in what the president of the United States is doing, I can go back to that day, Tuesday, January 20, 2009 when I sat in complete and utter unity with my neighbours to the south, and likely the world, my heart filled with jubilation and emotion for a country whose history of hatred and slavery, redeemed itself by electing an African-American president.

I grew up in an isolated town, an island no less, with a population that hovered around the 600 mark my entire life. When I was in grade 5 we were blessed with a visit from some teachers from South Africa, 5 dark-skinned African men, wearing traditional clothing from their country, they had come to teach us french for a week. I was ten. The stir it caused, the interest in those men was completely understandable and completely unprecedented. I would imagine they were very likely the first black men who had ever stepped on our sheltered island.

I too was curious, fascinated. They looked so different. They came to class and I still remember clearly the song they taught us in french "Il etait une beregere,et ron ron ron petit patapon,Il etait une bergere, qui gardait ses moutons ron ron,qui gardait ses moutons"(Little Shepherdess) and their deep voices and their height, they were very tall men but warm and friendly. My first experience with diversity was positive and triggered an intense interest in other countries and cultures that has not waned to this day.

And then, at recess, a classmate said something that I remember with clarity equal to my little french nursery rhyme. Something racist. Something baffling. He said "they seem like nice guys but you can't trust 'em". Me, thinking that maybe he'd heard something terrible these men had done, said "Why can't you trust 'em?" and he said "you can't trust n......". Damn! I cannot express the feeling of disgust and disbelief I experienced at that moment. I had no history, no context in which to place this information and all I knew was that it was the most unfair, ignorant, and untrue statement I had ever heard coming from a kid who was commonly known to be a petty thief and all around hard case. The fact that he was as white as ice didn't seem to be a factor in his lack of integrity however and I knew explaining the irony in the fact that he was accusing an entire race of being untrustworthy based solely on their skin colour would fly swiftly over the top of his very blonde and dense little head. So I snorted my disgust and walked away, forever altered, for the good. I guess I owe the little ignoramus some gratitude for that.

That was my first experience of racism. My first knowledge that people thought that way. At ten years old though, what it did was solidify for me that I would not carry that as a part of my belief system. That I would never allow myself to think that someone was less-than based on something as superficial and unimportant as skin colour.

As I made my way in the world I learned, with great sadness that this was a thought process that carried itself across generations, across borders and around the world. It has always made my heart heavy and my soul weep to know that particularly, little children, have to grow up thinking they can't be who they want to be, that there are limitations to what they can do because their skin doesn't look like the skin of their neighbours and conversely that there are children who do not know that they have a distinct advantage over others simply by virtue of being born white. All people should be always aware of both sides of this equation.

I remember well a scene from the movie "A Time to Kill" with Matthew McConnoughey based on John Grisham's novel. In this movie a father, a black man, played by Samuel L. Jackson, kills the men who torture and rape his ten year old daughter. McConnoughey plays the lawyer who defends the Jackson's character. At the end of the trial, as he is describing what happened during the attack, he presents his case from the point of view of the ten year old victim. At the end of the speech he says "now imagine she is white". This scene was exceptionally powerful and highlighted the inability of people to empathise with people who aren't like themselves. And the error in this thinking is the assumption that we aren't all alike. I thought this was a profound statement of a weakness in humanity. And it also emphasised the need for people to speak up and help others find the empathy inside themselves whenever possible.

And now, 33 years after those 5 African men visited my home town, there is this man, this Barack Obama. The first thing I did during the presidential primary elections was pick up a copy of his book "The Audacity of Hope". The man is a brilliant writer. What impressed me the most was how he laid out his ideals and how he has not veered from his beliefs from the writing of the book from before his run for the presidency, they have remained steady and aligned. He's completely open to changing course should the need arise but his overall ideology is steadfast and firm. He writes with strength and a determination that he not to be defined by the colour of his skin but that his character as a man, as a father, as a human being, be his calling card.

So on January 20, 2009, along with the rest of the world I wept in celebration that an era had ended and a new one had commenced. That era of "they can't be trusted" had ended with the greatest trust a democratic country can offer, its leadership. Barack Obama becoming president that day said all of the things I couldn't put into words at ten years old when that juvenile bigot said those banal and ignorant words three decades earlier.

So maybe he's not my president, the message is still very relevant for me. My very white children see that any colour can lead a country, a big country, an important country, and this is important to me. It's of even greater import to them.

If you are sitting at your keyboard reading this I ask you to look at your hands. If they are white then you are looking at the hands of privilege. Your white hands hold advantages they wouldn't have were they any other colour of humanity. White privilege continues to exist and with it comes great responsibility. I have this privilege. My children have this privilege.

It is imperative that those of us with this privilege take responsibility in an amount large enough to balance the inequity faced by those without that privilege. I hear people say "but I didn't have slaves, it's not my fault" and to that I say "do we only clean up the messes we make ourselves or do we clean up wherever cleaning is needed?" We, in our own lives, need to balance the scales by making sure that our privileged hands work for those who are, by virtue of their skin colour, at a disadvantage. We need to speak up, we need give a hand up and we need to acknowledge its existence. We need to live our lives this way. We need to teach our children to live their lives this way.

And as a Canadian I also hear "Well we don't have the history of slavery and we never treated black people that way" and while I agree, that is somewhat true, the other day I removed a "friend" from my Face Book page whose status stated "Maybe if I changed my name to Mohammad, I'd get a job". She was a peripheral friend, not someone I know well, but I was floored that this level of bigotry was still thought to be acceptable as a public statement, never mind the fact it shouldn't be thought privately either. I immediately removed her from my list with a little note expressing my discomfort and disbelief with the statement. I hope she takes notice.

So what does Barack Obama mean to me? Why is it important that my daughters see this president and his family on the steps of the white house. Maybe I just need a sign. Maybe I need to know that most people are now able to think without prejudice, that even though it still exists in smaller pockets, that there is comfort in knowing that most people no longer believe "they can't be trusted". There is some solace in thinking that the majority of Americans, the majority of humanity even, have grown to know that it doesn't matter. And I want my girls to grow up in that world, in the light of possibility, that we, the human race, accept and understand that the thread of divinity that is expressly human is in fact, colourless.

So Barack Obama is coming to Ottawa and I'll be watching Thursday. I think, deep in my soul it helps me, it comforts me that the world is turning towards the day when we are not necessarily colour blind but that we see all the colours, acknowledge them all as beautiful and equal and celebrate the diversity that is the human race. It's what I have the audacity to hope for.

Monday, February 16, 2009

I love when I read something that sums things up and make me go "wow, that's exactly right". I also love quotes or statements that cause me to go "what the heck does that mean?" and forces me to think. I think the hallmark of all of the great thinkers is not so much their ability to think but their ability to make you think. Although I am only really superficially familiar with his work whenever I encounter a quote of Ralph Waldo Emerson I have generally had to stop and think. If you aren't familiar with him, Emerson is considered by most to be the leader of the transcendental movement in America. He was an essayist, poet and lecturer. The quote below is from his essay Self-Reliance, likely his most well-known work. I'm making a study of his work a future endeavor of mine but sometimes I feel there is a certain advantage to coming to my own conclusions and then reading the work of the great thinkers after I have done my own thinking.

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of simple minds". It does have further context but this is the sentence that is commonly repeated. A well-known quote that I first heard years ago, and that suddenly I'm hearing quite frequently. This tells me it's important and I should pay attention to it, that there is something to be learned there.

I have been giving great consideration to these words as of late. I have a somewhat vague idea of what I think Emerson meant to say but somehow explaining it seems to elude me. I thought I might try to apply it in a practical way to the things I've been trying to accomplish in my life. That maybe by putting it in practical terms I could explain what I feel that Emerson meant us to learn from that sentence.

These goals of mine include familiar themes. They include exercising regularly and eating healthier food, becoming a better parent, writing regularly, and being more patient, understanding, kind, and compassionate. I thought maybe the best way to approach this would be to take each of these things and see how I could find out if the wisdom of Emerson's observation could be applied in a practical sense.

Let's start with the first of my goals, exercising and eating healthier. The diet industry is a multi billion dollar industry. Everybody has a plan. Eat carbs, don't eat carbs, eat green, eat your colours, eat only bananas for breakfast, eat only grapefruit for lunch, high glycemic, low glycemic, no glycemic. Then throw in the exercise plans, Tao-Bo, Yoga-Belly-Booty-Ballet, the all too familiar "movie star/model puts out an exercise video that guarantees you will be 5ft 11 and 102 lbs in six weeks" And of course none of it works because we can't stick to it. It's too hard to do. We are trying to form new habits. Old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form. And in this whole thing is the foolish consistency. Diets fail because we aren't consistent. Exercise plans fail because we fail to stick to them. Consistence seems like the key but if it is then why is it so hard to be consistent? I think it's because consistency isn't natural. I think Emerson is right when I apply it to diet. He's on to something. Consistency forces us to do something that doesn't feel right. What if we aren't supposed to be consistent? What if that's a completely wrong concept? And if it is, now what? What are we supposed to do? Keep eating the Krispie Kremes, continue vegetating on the couch in front of reality TV, living vicariously through Gene Simmons Family Jewels and the Bachelor? I don't think so. I think that we are supposed to exercise and we are supposed to eat good healthy food. But we aren't supposed to make a job of it. We aren't supposed to make it that important. I'm sucking on a lollipop. My daughter just offered it to me and I wanted it. I refuse to care that I've broken some diet rule because there should be no rules, just guidelines, and secondly, because I have a huge pot of rice and beans full of nutrition waiting for my dinner and I've had a nice relaxing walk today in the sunshine and my life is in balance. And I may or may not do that tomorrow. And if, over the course of the next few weeks, month and years I continue to live in a balanced, healthy way, most of the time, with very little effort that will translate into physical wellness.

Let's try the second one on my list. Writing regularly. This I have found hard to do. I have gone months without putting pen to paper. Yet, I love to write. Writing is my thing. So a while ago I decided that I would write every day. That put incredible pressure on me and then when I would sit down to write I would be blocked. My writing wasn't natural and I didn't enjoy it the same. So then I decided to let it go, to only write as much as I felt like and to not worry about what came out of my head, to just put things on paper. Now I sit when I feel like it and I wait for inspiration. Today I was walking and thinking about what to write about and the quote from Emerson stuck in my mind. That's quite telling. The writing began on my walk, not when I was at my desk. If I had stuck to my original determination to sit and write every day, make it a priority over all other things and to not do anything else until I had written something wonderful, witty and wise, I would have missed my walk. It's much easier to write now that I feel myself letting go and letting life pull me along instead of trying to arrange it all.

What about parenting? The common advice given to make your children behave is to be consistent. Stick to it. Once you've taken a stance you have to stand by it even if you realise thirty minutes later that you were wrong, you can't let them see you back down because then you have no power and they will have won and your children will end up in the penitentiary eventually and it will be all your fault because you weren't consistent. Of course this is foolish. Ever hear of a power struggle? Rigid consistency is the maker of all power struggles. I think if consistency is to have any place in parenting it's within the context of being reliable as a parent. Being someone your children can count on, being consistent in your acceptance of who they are as little human beings, wiser in their own innocence than any adult. I think it's the height of foolishness to try to contain that with rigid consistency for the sake of maintaining the power that we as parents automatically have anyway by virtue of being older and bigger.

On to the third grouping, some virtues I need to work on cultivating. They are patience, understanding, kindness and compassion. These are the exceptions to the rule I thought. These are things we have to do to become closer to God and our fellow man. As I'm meditating on this quote I start to believe this is where Emerson's words fall short. Don't we need to be consistent in acting in kind, understanding, patient and compassionate ways? Isn't that where we ought to practice consistency? Is this the exception? Not quite. I realise that what we can do is allow the opportunities to practice these virtues to flow to us and not be constrained by our own thoughts as to how we can be compassionate. If you do not have any money to give to the poor, give clothing to good will, if you do not have time to volunteer at a shelter or you have small children that prevent you from getting out in the community, give money to the Salvation Army at Christmas time. If you are in the house and can't get out, write a letter, send an email to a friend, call someone to let them know you are thinking of them. You can be inconsistent in your consistence. One day you may let another driver out before you go, or you might buy a coffee for a homeless person. The next you might take care of your sick child. Maybe Emerson is still right.

So now I have to conclude. Which is it? Are we supposed to be consistent? Are we supposed to just float along? Is Emerson incorrect? Does this quote, which at first glance, seem to be filled with truth, not hold up when applied practically? It doesn't appear to. Yes, we should practice consistency in some things but in other things it would seem we should stay the course as much as we possibly can. So is the quote worthless? Did Ralph Waldo Emerson make a mistake? Ralph, what were you thinking?

The answer of course is no. He didn't make a mistake. What Emerson said was that"a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of simple minds". This is key. We have to be wise. When consistency serves us we should try to remain steadfast. Of course we should aim for a consistency when it comes to being kind, compassionate, patient and understanding. Practicing a consistency of virtues is a wise thing. But should we fail we should just let go and move on. So we don't need to exercise every day, just do something, walk one day, run the next. Do yoga for a week, then do Pilate's. Walk, ice skate. Do what you feel like that day. Strive to do your best. So I ate a lollipop, it was good and I enjoyed it. I'm not a failure because I didn't keep to a consistent healthy diet. And the irony is the more I hold on to the idea that I shouldn't eat this and I should run every day, the less I do and conversely when I let go of these ideas and allow myself to flow along, exercise as much as I can and eat as well as I can I find that I have more success in maintaining a healthier lifestyle.

Let go of the rules. Float along in the world, know that things are going along as they should and look for opportunities to be a positive force along the way. But avoid the "shoulds" because there is nothing you should be doing other than what you are doing right now.

The peace in knowing you are no longer practicing a foolish consistency will do wonders to free you from the limitations that held you back in the past. Let it go, let your mind grow, see the possibilities and embrace them. We are free if we choose to banish the thoughts of what we should be doing from our minds and completely immerse ourselves in what we are, in this moment doing, and choose consciously to be happy doing it.

My friend Ralph nailed it. He also said "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know". This is what I know.

Oh, and one more thing. Isn't hobgoblin the coolest word ever?