Shades of Gray

There are so many shades of gray in every situation. Often, and I would say 99.9% of the time, nothing is clear cut. If only life were so simple. Every human being is made up of the vast number of experiences he or she has had. Some are positive experiences and the more of these a person has, it seems to me, the more likely that person will be open-minded and fair.  Of course, negative experiences are life’s way of helping us learn whatever lesson it is we need to learn. And hopefully we do learn. Years ago I studied journalism and later political science and communications. I learned a lot and I am grateful for that. Not everybody has the opportunity to take courses or avail themselves of “higher” education.  But we all have the opportunity to be widely read; to learn more about the lived reality of the citizens of our country and others.

Unfortunately too many people neither care nor are interested in learning more. Too many take the so-called facts pandered by the media (and especially social media) as gospel truths when in reality we are being given only a small portion of the story. Regretfully these are made up of sensational headlines designed to gain attention. They lead to fear mongering as well as hate and discontent.

It’s been said, “ignorance is bliss”, perhaps this is so, but it also leads to misunderstandings and hardness of heart. It has also been said that “knowledge is power” and I think this is true.  At least it gives us the power to form our own opinions and not be so easily led by others.  Information can lead to a better world, but we must be wary of where that information comes from.


Letting go of negativity

Letting go of negativity is not easy. I am constantly telling people close to me to be careful with their thoughts, but I am no expert on letting go of negative self-talk. I struggle with it on a daily basis. Sometimes the sorrows of this world; the hate and anger and general injustices get the better of me. I forget to pull down my glass bubble, my safety shield. And then I am good for nothing and nobody. It is so easy to let the stress and worries of day-to-day life get the best of us. Our thoughts can become like a million daggers pointed straight at our hearts. They become death-dealing. And instead of being a support for others we become the ones needing support. That is why the struggle to resist our inner critics is so important. How can we give to our loved ones or our communities if our glass is totally empty?

On the flip side, we become beacons of hope and light and goodwill when we treat ourselves with gentleness and compassion. We become more productive, more able to give and sow seeds of kindness and peace. And the good news is we get to choose our thoughts. We can choose how we react to life. Will it be with gentleness and understanding or with judgment and hate? We are all only human, flawed and imperfect. Why then do we expect perfection from others?  So today I will count my blessings, of which there are many. And I will give thanks I am able to offer solace to those who may need it; those whom may be mired in the jungle of negativity – but I will remember to draw down my shield first!

Black moods gotta go

I really don’t know if anybody reads this. At any rate I guess it really doesn’t matter much, since it is mostly an outlet for my overworked brain. I have been very busy since I started working full time back in January. Between work and family life there isn’t a lot of time left over to write. I miss it! More recently my hubby’s health issues have kept me reeling. But it you are one of the few that bothers to read this blog I want you to know I am very grateful. And, I am sorry I haven’t had much to write about. I have been vacillating between anger and despair for several months. And, since I created this blog to put positive energy out into the universe I have not wanted to burden anybody with my black moods and negativity. I really hope they are lifting now. Life is too short to dwell on problems and angry thoughts. So…here’s hoping I have something worthwhile to say in the weeks and months ahead. I wish you all well….

The “Art” of War

I think one of the strangest phrases in the English language is “the art of war”. How can we describe war as art? To me art is creative, life giving, soul-baring, and thought-provoking. How can war with its destruction, death, and harm of every kind be described as art? There is nothing of art in war. It cripples people and countries. It leaves nothing but pain and despair in its wake.

The Oxford dictionary defines art as “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”

Art can also be expressed in literature, music and song; It may be a piece of architecture or photography. Art instills a sense of wonder. It can perplex and puzzle us. It can leave us feeling truly touched or amazed and exuberant. I think anything that makes people think or feel on a deeper level might be called “art”. Art moves us, changes us, and ultimately, leaves us better people than we were before the experience.

Not so with war. War is ugly, damaging to the psyche and is the opposite of creativity. War tears down. It does not build up. It is the antithesis of art. War is death-dealing. There is absolutely nothing positive about war. It is nothing but strategic moves to inflict the greatest pain on a group of people or a country. And that may require a level of creativity on the part of generals, etc. but let us not call it art.

‘I always thought that I’d see you again’

“Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again”

– James Taylor

Grief is a road we must walk alone, despite being with others, despite the comfort offered and given; we each must feel the pain within. There is no choice but to live through it.

May has two big anniversaries for me. The first was the wildfire that swept through Fort McMurray last year and the anguish and post traumatic stress that ensued. The second is the six month anniversary of my brother’s untimely death, and the agony of loss that followed it – especially since it was a totally preventable accident that took him from us. If you follow this blog you know he was killed when an impaired driver, driving on the wrong side of the highway, crashed head on into my brother’s vehicle. There was no escaping the oncoming car – nowhere for my brother to turn to avoid it, though he tried. The other driver survived and is facing charges. It is a very bitter pill to swallow.

However, I do not want to dwell on my grief here. I simply want to point out how often we take our loved ones for granted. We believe we can catch up another day, visit another time, make that phone call tomorrow….but sometimes tomorrow doesn’t come and the opportunity to show our affection is lost forever. In the weeks preceding my brother’s death I kept telling myself, “I’ll call Chris tomorrow”. Needless to say I procrastinated – and then he was gone. The quote at the top of this blog is from a James Taylor tune, Fire and Rain, and it has been playing in my mind off and on for six months and three days….

So I say to you: Take time out to make that phone call, pay that visit, hug your loved ones, and always let them know what they mean to you. For tomorrow may never come.

To honour my Mother

Anita Frances Martin-Morrissey

“Motherhood is a choice you make every day, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is….and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.” – Donna Ball, At Home on Ladybug Farm

Sacrifice is a word that just about sums up my mother’s life. Trying to describe her is a bit like trying to describe a beautiful colour, nearly impossible! Nevertheless, I want to honour my mother by telling some of her story – or I should say my experience of her as her daughter. Mom was tough, very strict in many ways. Yet, she was always fair, and often very soft-hearted, though she did her best to hide it. She raised nine children in a small house without running water or such luxuries as electricity for many years – or the benefit of an indoor bathroom. I could say I don’t know how she managed it (I don’t) but my older sisters and brothers helped – a lot! So while this blog’s focus is to honour my mother, it is also to give a nod to the sacrifices made by my siblings who shared in caring for us “little ones”.

One of my favourite memories is of Mom sitting on the floor with the three of us youngest ones and cutting out paper dolls for us to colour. She would look up from time to time at the mess a family of nine children can make and sighing say, “I really should clean this up”. But then she’d smile at us and continue telling us stories of her childhood and singing our favourite songs. She sang a lot. She smiled a lot – at us children, at my father, at the birds singing, at the waves out on the ocean, at the antics of our pets, at the flowers in the fields – it didn’t take an awful lot to bring a smile to her face. Although her life was far from easy she was a joyful person.

She had a lot of sorrow in her life losing several children in miscarriage and a little girl that was born but died a few weeks later. I remember her funeral and the sadness in my mother’s eyes. I remember the pride I felt when Mom brought her home from the hospital and allowed us to hold her for a few minutes. Mom always referred to her as “our baby”. I didn’t know then the depths of despair my mother sank into following her death. Yet even though she struggled with her grief she continued to take care of all of us.

She was a woman of great faith – in God and in her religion. Her spirituality included seeing God in all people and in nature. She was a champion of the underdog and all whom she believed to be wronged in any way.

When she was in her early 40s my parents decided to move the family across the country to Ontario, where work was more easily found. In the early years she took in borders, but later chose to go to work to help build a nest egg to buy a new home, which they did after a few years. Five years later my father would suffer a heart attack that would put him out of commission for nearly a year. Mom continued to work until seven years later when she learned she had cancer. Ten days after entering hospital and ten days before her 59th birthday she died. But even while she was facing one of the biggest challenges of her life Mom continued to be a source of comfort and peace for all of us. I remember commenting on her strength one day while I was visiting and she replied, “I’m not that strong you know”. I replied, “I know you are not made of stone, that’s why I’m here, why we’re all here”. However she seldom leaned on us, where she gathered her strength from I don’t really know, but I suspect it was the faith she carried throughout her life.

My mother died over 30 years ago, but her essence lives on in all her children and grandchildren. She left us a legacy of love that I hope will live on and on. Thanks for all the wonderful lessons Mom – both the hard ones and the sweet ones. You are not forgotten – and never will be.

Lions, and tigers, and bears – Oh my!


When I was a child I often played in the woods. Yes, there were bears, lynx, moose, and other wildlife. There were also birds galore and the happy chance of coming upon a small glade or some other magical place where the sunlight danced upon the flora and fauna and filled me with delight. I loved the woods then and I love them now.  In all the years of growing up in Newfoundland I never once encountered a wild animal.

Nearly three years ago I moved. I have been cautioned never to walk alone in the woods here. In all this time my longing to walk the trails that surround and crisscross the city has never waned. I live in Fort McMurray, Alberta and since the wildfire we have had a higher incidence of bears coming into town. But my desire to walk among the trees held sway and last evening I took a short walk on the Birch Wood Trail across from our new home. It was rejuvenating, exhilarating, and balm for my soul. To add sweetness to the journey I was gratified to see four white tailed deer.

Yes, we have to use common sense and be aware of our surroundings in the woods. But isn’t that true of wherever we go in life? I am looking forward to future nature walks for without it my soul would shrivel up. The woods are a sacred place to me and I enjoy my time among their greenery and sturdy trunks.  The fear of others will not keep me from these walks, for it is sustenance for my very being and I return to the outside world all the better for my strolls.