Looking through the magnifying glass and it’s not pretty

I have been kicking around this old world for a long time and seen changes that, unfortunately, are not good. I remember the focus placed on discerning one’s “calling” or vocation. I was raised Catholic, which will explain that, I guess. I have always worked with the public. It has been a joy and an honor to serve people in many capacities. I don’t feel it’s been a vocation per se, but I have enjoyed life, even with all its challenges and tribulations. Serving the public felt like I was leading a life of meaning, in ways that have fed my spirituality and nourished my soul. It feels good to help others. If I make someone’s day a little bit easier in any way that is a wonderful thing and by and large I have found people to be good, decent, and absolutely wonderful.

But reading news of racial strife, of the systemic murder of people of color; of poor leadership in governments around the world (if you can even call it leadership) makes me shudder. There is so much pain, so much injustice, and this pandemic is acting like a huge magnifying glass forcing us to see that which we would prefer not to see. Ignorance may be bliss for the privileged and the powerful, but for the victims of poverty and want it is not bliss but a horrific and painful reality. And it makes me wonder if the idea of service, of the golden rule, has been plunged into the whirlpool of dark eddies that seem to have enveloped our world.

In these times of terrific upheaval, of economic uncertainty, of a future shrouded in fear of the unknown, it can be so easy to throw in the towel. It is tempting to turn one’s back and fall into the temptation of self preservation. But the lessons I learned in childhood, the experiences I have had, all have kept me rooted in the idea that service is an honor and helping one another is a blessing and a deep, deep joy. I hasten to add service does not equal bending one’s neck to be stepped upon, nor does it mean having to live life like some kind of joyless martyr. No, not at all! I will not be swayed by the evil behaviors of the few. I will not bend to fear or abuse of power. I will stand with the one who is indeed powerful by whatever name you may attach to a higher power. I will stand with those who have always been chained in poverty and injustice. And if I can do anything at all to help break those chains I will!



Craving peace and serenity

Craving joy

Craving answers and more

Craving most of all

Your divine presence, Creator of all

In these days of constant confusion

Of upheaval, illness, and the death of so many

Of a future shadowed and murky

“Days of wine and roses” so misspent

And misguided

Forgive our addiction to the temporal

To pleasures that cannot and will not ever last

Fill us now with your peace

Cool our cravings for that which never satisfy

That vanish like mists in the hot sun

Let us be filled with the peace only you can give

Bless us now with the sweet serenity

We can only know with you

And let our worries blow away

Like dandelion seeds on the wind

This I ask of you

Divine One

The “C” word

Yes. It is getting old. But we’re alive. We’re safe. And there is still social media, at least. The past several days I have been doing a bit of spring cleaning. My husband asked me why I was doing it “because nobody can come visit, no one is going to see it”. Well, yes, that’s true. But I cannot live in a cluttered house. I have trouble relaxing fully. All I can think of is the jobs and chores waiting to be done. It makes me antsy, even though housework is something I truly abhor. Anyway, it was time and it was something to do. Air conditioners are ready to go, well almost, but close enough. And, in the ultimate insult, it snowed last night and early this morning. Mother Nature is thumbing her nose at me, I think. It won’t last. Already it has melted off the balcony and the green space is quickly beginning to look green once again. It’s one of the pitfalls of life in Canada. Spring can turn back into winter in a snap. It’s not that cold outside. However, you do need a jacket if you venture out.

This morning I made bread for the first time in over twenty years. It was a good day to do it. Nothing like a bit of comfort food on a cool day. It turned out pretty good considering I am out of practice. Have I bored you silly yet? How are you filling the hours? Are you looking forward to a lifting of the regulations around Covid-19? I have to say I am nervous. And I wonder how long I will continue to feel fearful of strangers in the grocery store. Are you nervous at all? It used to be fear around the “C” word referred to cancer. Not any more. Although, of course cancer continues to be a very serious disease, it’s potential to end a life in a very short time frame pales in comparison to the new “C” word. Unfortunately, it will be with us for a long time yet to come, even after a vaccine is found. That’s the reality as I understand it. Reality bites sometimes. Somehow, we will get a handle on it all. Somehow, some way, we will go on with life. In the meanwhile, I will imagine visitors oohing and ah-ing over my delightfully clean home. No, not really, but I am looking forward to seeing family and friends once again and hugging them very tightly – whether the house is cluttered or not! (Clutter, another “C” word I dislike, and I like the reality of it even less.)

The need for solitude, even in the midst of a pandemic

I feel for the extroverts. The social butterflies. You know the ones. The people who really need to be with other people, to connect regularly. I don’t think I’m an extrovert, but neither am I fully introverted either. But, I do like my solitude. I need it as much as I need food and water. Like everyone else I have had good days and not so good days through all of this isolation. This past week has been extra stressful with the flooding in our city; the worry about family members who live in the flood zone and the necessity of having to travel out of town for hubby’s dialysis treatments. We have to go again tomorrow. The worst is trying to remember to pack everything we might need. We stay overnight in Lac La Biche as the dialysis can be very hard on him. At any rate, this morning I woke up with a tension/sinus headache. There are so many things to deal with that it just overwhelms me sometimes. We are fortunate to live in an apt. building that overlooks a green space with a small pond. So, I decided to go for a walk to clear my head and bust up the stress that’s been mounting throughout the week. I am glad I did. I took a slow stroll around the pond watching the ducks. As I walked around the small grove of trees I stopped to listen to the chickadees and red-winged black birds that were singing. There were not many people around and it was a joy to just be; to quiet my mind and commune with nature for a bit. It is a beautifully calm and sunny day here today and I am counting my blessings as I write this. I hope you who are reading this are finding positive ways to cope with the stress of this pandemic. I hope you are well and keeping safe. I will leave you with this photo from our balcony and with my sincere wishes for many blessings for whatever you may need today.

Taken August 2019 after heavy rains

Serenity Sunday: Fort McMurray, AB a.k.a. Fort Mac a.k.a. HOME!

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the horrific wildfires that swept this city I call home. It is also a week since the horrific floods caused another evacuation of approximately thirteen thousand people from their homes. I live in an area of the city that was, by and large, not affected by the floods, except for things like a boil water advisory and the inconvenience of having to leave home in order for my hubby to receive dialysis treatments. So, today, I have chosen to feature the beauty of this city.

Fort McMurray is criss-crossed by five rivers where water fowl and shore birds build their habitat. Sand pipers are common along the Snye, an area downtown where float planes land and the people launch boats for a trip down the river.
Ducks are frequent migratory visitors, returning home every spring
A Common golden-eyed with her brood, taken June 2016 just after we were allowed to return to the city we call home
Murals and artwork are common in the parks
Downtown on the Snye
Water pumps enabled fire fighters to save the downtown core during the wildfires. Unfortunately these same waters that once saved homes ultimately destroyed many when rivers overflowed banks just a week ago. Thankfully the waters have receded and damages are being slowly assessed.
There are many park benches for people to rest and enjoy the beauty of nature
taken in the subdivision known as Wood Buffalo Village after the wildfires in June 2016
Leading back downtown, thankfully the bridges that cross over the rivers were not damaged in the flooding – thanks to brilliant engineers!
Another river scene near downtown – this is actually not far from where I work
It’s hard to believe looking at this photo, but large chucks of ice on the rising river came up just a foot or so below the bridge
The Snye is a busy place, as you can see, it is a well-loved feature of this city
Saprae Creek was one of the areas hit hard by the wildfires. taken June 2016
A view of the Clearwater River taken from Draper, an area hard hit by flooding
Besides rivers there are several walking trails through Fort McMurray, this one is in the area called Thickwood and is part of the Birch wood trails system
A bridge across a creek on the Birch Wood Trail
Nature is a wonderful healer
Despite road blocks, the city continues to face the challenges it faces, whether fire or flood; pandemic or economic travails
Sometimes the journey is all uphill, but it will make us stronger, and hopefully even more resilient
In Wood Buffalo Village nature bumps up against the city and seems to thrive
The Fort McMurray Golf Course lays nestled in the hills along the Athabasca River

Fort McMurray is facing many challenges as I write this: a downturn in the economy. a pandemic, and the clean up of all the devastation caused by the recent flooding in many sections of the city. I have no idea what lays ahead for us as a city, as a province, as a country, but I know the tenacity of fellow citizens and the strength portrayed through the wildfires will be much needed as we move forward and keep on keeping on.

Dialysis Days and Covid-19

Dialysis days are always fraught with the unknown. He can come out of a treatment feeling just fine, but other days he’s weak and prone to dizziness. Some days his heart rate is fine and his blood pressure steady, other days not so much. Today was a dialysis day. It was not one of the “good” days. He’s resting now while I write. That’s good. He needs it.

One of the added stressors to going out for treatment is the fact that the unit is on the fourth floor of the local hospital. Hubby is one of the so-called vulnerable. His health is fragile and under normal conditions that’s challenging enough. Then along came a pandemic to add even more layers to an already precarious existence. Although neither of us spoke of it we were both anxious about him leaving the house at all, but dialysis is not something one can afford to miss. However, the added stress was allayed somewhat when the powers that be set up a coronavirus testing clinic across town and far from the hospital. In addition, nobody can enter the hospital without being questioned at the door. A hand sanitizer is ever present and the public are commanded to use it. There is no choice given. That has also made us both feel a bit better.

So far, we have been incredibly fortunate. According to the municipality there are only four confirmed cases of the dreaded covid-19 here in our fair city. I do have to give a shout out to the mayor and councilors for doing a stellar job. The city moved fast to make sure the pandemic didn’t get a foot hold here. I am glad they took the precautions they did. Yet, as we all know, the virus is a sneaky thing and can lay in wait in people who display not a single symptom, yet can infect others. The coming weeks and months will tell the tale. But, so far, so good. Here’s hoping for continued good fortune, even while I am heartsick at the stories coming out of major cities around the world. My thoughts and prayers are with them all, especially the most vulnerable whom I identify with most closely. God help us all.

Walking off the stress and anxiety

We are most fortunate to live in an apartment building with a very nice green space behind it. Like most of us dealing with the fallout from Covid-19 I have been anxious and stressed at times. The unknowns can be challenging, to say the least. So, I decided enough was enough and I had to do something positive to deal with it. I’m afraid I am not a terribly active person. I figure my job at the library gives me lots of physical activity with lots of walking back and forth and completing various tasks. But, with the virus came the news that the library would be closed for the time being so I have been at home basically 24/7 with only trips to the grocery stop for necessities and the trips to the hospital for hubby’s dialysis treatments. It is still winter here in Alberta, although the calendar says differently. Luckily the sun has been shining even while cold northern breezes still blow. Here are a few photos of the walkway around the green space.

Although this isn’t the best photograph (it was still twilight when I entered the still snow covered green space. It was a nice invigorating evening walk.
The municipality has been doing a stellar job at keeping the pathway cleared for people who walk their dogs here or families stroll with their little ones. I am so grateful for this space.

Although the calendar says it’s spring winter hangs on longer in the North. I am grateful for sunny days, even if it is still a bit nippy outside.

Hope this finds you all healthy and finding ways to handle the inevitable stress. Stay well my friends and stay safe.

Me and my shadow side, or, the only one I can change is me!

As I write this the washing machine is filling and I cannot help but think how appropriate when I am about to write about self reflection versus self recriminations. You may have noticed I’ve been rather quiet of late. That’s partly because I’ve been busy with work and just living life. But it is also partly because I have been doing a great deal of self reflection after spending a fair amount of time mired in self recriminations – which does nothing to help me or anyone else. Bear with me as I try to articulate the differences, as I understand them.

How does that saying go? “The unexamined life is not worth living”? Or words to that effect. My washing machine can wash the dirt and accumulated daily grime out of my clothes, but to “wash” my self of less than stellar qualities requires more than one trip to my internal “washing machine”, and a lot of time in prayer!

Yes, I have been awash in memories that have led to a fair amount of regret and sorrow. Taking out and fully examining past words and actions has caused me a lot of guilt and shame. The shame is never productive and leaves me feeling “less than” the person I’d like to be. It also leads down a dark tunnel of self reproach and self loathing.  It has led to days of depression, which are also not productive nor good for anyone least of all myself.

Guilt, on the other hand, can lead to positive change, and that’s a good thing. Personally, prayer helps me a lot. The Creator is much more merciful with me than I am with myself and it’s that mercy and compassion that helps me pick myself up and try again, making amends where needed and apologizing when that is appropriate.

Oh yes, I can be judgemental, arrogant, bossy, and generally not very nice. On the other hand, I can also be very thoughtful and kind. Yet, those traits are not the troublesome ones – arrogance and judging others – those traits need to go. Yet, it is these traits, when they rear their ugly heads, that keeps me humble. I am blessed to have family and friends who ask the right questions to help me gain balance and perspective and of course the endless love and compassion of the Divine One who placed these people in my life to help me on my journey. I am so grateful for them!

I spent many years in therapy facing these demons and others. I asked this wise woman, my therapist, once if I spot these negative traits in others does it mean I have them as well. She answered in the positive, qualifying that with the caution that if not these traits, then the possibility of developing them. (Yikes!) But she continued, so too do the wonderful traits of compassion, empathy, and kindness. (Yay!)

So, after many days of prayer and self reflection I have been led to a place of forgiveness for being human and encouraged to go out there and try, try again, to do better, to be better. We are all mere human beings – none of us are perfect and so, I shall carry on and with prayer I will be better. I hope.

On tenterhooks, but that’s okay. A.K.A. my husband’s scar

Yes, on tenterhooks, because, you see, doctors had told us during hubby’s previous hospitalization that he was too high a risk for surgery. He’d die on the operating table, they said. Or, he would suffer a heart attack within thirty days of surgery, due to the effects of the anaesthetic.

Then, as You know, he had another gall bladder attack and there was no longer an option. Surgery HAD to be done. We were between a rock and a hard place – either way he was a very sick man, if his heart didn’t kill him his gall bladder would. He survived the surgery and has been doing exceptionally well. His eyes are clearer and brighter, and though he remains on dialysis, he is still much healthier than he was a week ago.

He had to have the hateful thing removed the old fashioned way and now sports a very long scar across his midsection. It joins several other scars he’s accumulated over a lifetime.

Despite the risk of heart failure, I am so grateful that he had the surgery. And, let’s face it, with over twenty years as a diabetic he was always facing the risk of yet another heart attack. We have to keep it real, right?

Still I am a tad nervous. And yet, I want to kiss that new and jagged scar. It means he has the possibility of renewed strength because there will no longer be poisons leaking through his system from a diseased gall bladder.

Blessed be this scar! And may his heart be stronger and the scourge of diabetes weakened. This is my prayer.