Gifted, Blessed, and with Joy to give


The past two weeks have been incredibly busy, as I am sure they have been for most of us. Christmas is such a blessed time of year, and one I have always loved, but it can also be a stressful time of year with marketing geniuses doing their best to manipulate the masses into buying whatever they may be hocking. For those who are already under financial constraints the pressure can be intolerable, and the emphasis on family depressing for those of us who do not have the support of a loved one(s). So, Christmas can bring a mixed bag of joy and sadness – joy for some, utter dejection for others.

Two weeks ago, I had to call an ambulance to take my husband to hospital and within a few days I was visited by the flu which set me on my butt and added to the stress. In the midst of all this was the pressure I was putting on myself to get ready for Christmas, forgetting we always have choices…. maybe they’re not great choices, but they are choices.

Not long ago a friend gifted me with tickets to Tom Jackson’s Huron Christmas Carol. We were supposed to go together but my friend had to opt out. So, she gave me the tickets so my husband and I could go together. As I sat in the theatre with my husband listening to the beautiful music and laughing at the anecdotes Tom was sharing, I could feel the tension ease off my neck and shoulders.

The entertainer was talking about joy; about gifts; about what we can do for one another – sometimes something as simple as a smile can be a much-needed gift for another. What ‘finest gift’ can we bring?

This was cause for a lot of reflection on my part. We don’t have much money. My husband has been on a disability pension for many years and my job is only part-time,leaving little cash to spare. Giving gifts is a great pleasure for me and for along time I found it quite depressing that I could not give the things I would have liked to give. I do what I can.

And then I met people who are homeless. One man gifted me with his sense of humour that made me laugh so hard that tears started to roll down my cheeks. Another humbled me with a gift of candy – a quiet, gentle person – he reminded me of the innate goodness of humanity and the dignity inherent within all of us that should be respected and celebrated. His gift was pure joy as it came from the heart. Another bakes banana bread and brings it to the library to give to the people who work there. His gift was recognition of the people who go over and beyond what it required of them in their paid positions. His gift was gratitude. A so-called ‘mentally disabled’ woman helped me remember the joy of presence as she regaled me with stories of her life and doings. So, in the end it isn’t the physical gift that matters is it? It is the gifts of compassion, empathy, and connection that are the true gifts.

We all have joy to give, if we choose to do so. We are all gifted in some way –talented in some way. We are all blessed with something special and unique to ourselves. May this Christmas help us identify and share our blessings with others.

Negative Ions in the Air?


I had a woman come to the front desk to ask to use the phone this morning. However, policy does not allow us to give people access to the phone. So, before I could explain that she got very angry as soon as she heard “no” and huffed off out the door calling out to someone not within my view, “see, I told you they wouldn’t help me”. Then she looks back at me gives me a very dirty look accompanied by a hand gesture (you know the one). Had she given me a chance I could have explained that she could go to guest services to use the phone there. Oh well. I had actually wanted to help her, but she did not afford me the opportunity.

No, this is not the end of my little story. There were a few grumpy adults today – perhaps there was an over abundance of negative ions in the air? But then again, I also was treated to the smiles and pleasant demeanor of several little people today – maybe they are not affected by negative ions?

I love working with the public. I really do. But today it was the little ones, the babies and children who brought their gifts of laughter, love, and lightness that made the grumpiness of a few adults of no real consequence. Their negativity melted away like fog on a summer’s day thanks to the sunny dispositions of my smallest patrons.

I am grateful. I am grateful that though I may have to deal with a few grumps now and then, for the most part people are friendly, understanding, and kind. Perhaps the ones who aren’t are struggling with something that is getting them down. I think the important thing to remember when faced with such a situation as I described at the beginning is not to take it personally – who knows what that person may be dealing with. But I am hopeful of a better day tomorrow – one without dirty looks and ‘sign language’. Cheers!

A person is a person…


“A person is a person, no matter how small.” – Dr. Suess

“A child seldom needs a good talking to as a good listening to.” – Robert Bault

“A child can teach an adult three things… to be happy for no reason. To always be busy with something. And to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires.” – Paulo Coelho

The other day a family came into the library and one of their little girls came rushing to the desk to tell me a story. She was very excited. They had been to the animal shelter to walk the dogs there. Her enthusiasm was a blessing that added bright moments to my day. Her mother told me they do not have any pets so they go to the shelter on a regular basis to spend time with the animals and to walk the dogs.

This little girl was smiling ear to ear as she told me the pooches’ names and how one was a very big dog and one was quite small. She was bouncing on her toes and her eyes were shining as she told me all about it. I asked her questions about the animals and about the shelter. It was one of the best conversations.

Finally, she told me they were in the library to find books about dogs and also horses, because they also love horses. As we were chatting I noticed her little sister was standing behind her looking very sad, so I asked why. She was sad because she hadn’t wanted to leave the animal shelter, her sister told me. That little girl was too sad to talk, but listened avidly as her sister conversed with me.

Soon, they raced away into the children’s section to find the books they wanted. Not long afterwards they came back to the desk, books in hand to be checked out. The same little girl showed me the books they had chosen and a second conversation about books ensued.

I am grateful. I am grateful for small moments of great joy. Moments when two people communicate. Moments when one person’s joy affects another on a deep level. Moments that remind me the days are filled with blessings when we stop and pay attention. I am grateful for children and their innocence. I am grateful for the reminders to stop, look, and listen. I am grateful.

“To every child – I dream of a world where you can laugh, dance, sing, learn, live in peace and be happy.” – Malala Yousafzai

 

New life, new reasons to celebrate


“The littlest feet make the biggest footprints on our hearts.” – Author unknown

I woke up this morning to the happy news that my niece had her baby girl. Life is so wondrous and so precious. This is my brother’s first grandchild and her birth has been much anticipated. She has given us something wonderful to focus on and a much-needed break from the jumble of emotions this past 18 months have been. If you follow this blog you know my brother was killed by an impaired driver a year and a half ago. This precious child is bringing healing and a new focus on the joys of life. While I am saddened that Chris is not here to hold this precious baby, I am rejoicing that she has arrived safe and sound and both mother and child are recuperating from the rigors of childbirth. Yes, life is fragile, but life is also very, very good.

The mystery of Christmas peace


It was a much nicer Christmas than I expected it to be, especially since the week before we heard from the crown attorney’s office asking for a meeting on the 29th of the month – sending us all into a bit of a tailspin and bringing all the pain of the trial and Chris’s death back fresh once again. For those of us outside of the province, we will be taking part through a conference call – which is a good thing; at least we will be able to participate in whatever is to come.  I did not want to write about my thoughts or feelings in the days leading up to Christmas. It should be a joyful time and I did not want to cast a shadow over it for others. But it was hard. I think our whole family felt like we were being drawn back into the darkness of pain and grief with that impending meeting. It also left us all wondering what was up now – I guess we will find out Friday morning. I know that many of us, if not all, were dreading another Christmas without our brother and worrying about the impact it was having on his children.

But the mystery of peace at Christmas time seemed to percolate through the negative thoughts and feelings and overcame them. At least, that’s how it was for me. From deep sadness to inexplicable joy as Christmas approached. Now, don’t get me wrong – grief is also a mysterious thing and could trip me up when I was least expecting it, but in the end I was able to rise above it – thanks to the grace that Christmas brings.  And family – that blessing that buoys us up and helps us keep going.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.  And may the deep and abiding peace of Christmas remain with us all throughout the New Year.  Merry Christmas and as Tiny Tim said, “God bless us, everyone”.

A Manic March


It’s been a tough few weeks. Moving is never fun but I am so very grateful for the people who stepped up to help. Family and friends are definitely the super glue that holds me together. Through good times and bad times they’ve been there for me to lean on, or to help celebrate life’s joys. I feel like I have been walking along a razor’s edge between these seemingly opposite emotions – one minute happy the next grief-stricken once again. Because you see, it was my younger brother, Chris, who so often stepped up to help us, whether it was moving our belongings or something as simple as a ride to the airport, he was always there for us – it’s been four months now since his death, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. Even through the exhaustion of moving, or perhaps especially because of that fatigue, he sprang to mind frequently. I remember when he helped us move and also made sure there was a hot supper waiting when the last load had finally been dropped at our new place. I not only appreciated his strength, I was inspired once again by his thoughtfulness.  He was an amazing brother and friend. I miss him.

So, for what it’s worth – I am back! Thank you for reading my blog and I will spare you further exposure to my grief. For those of you who know my family you know Chris was killed when an impaired driver crashed into my brother’s vehicle. So, once again, I implore all of you – never get into a vehicle with an impaired driver; and be careful on the highways and byways, for I would not wish this pain on anyone. Stay safe my friends.

Hills, valleys, and plateaus


On top of the hill

Where life is fine

And blessings flow

Like a soft spring rain

Joy surges and surges again

But down in the valley

Where life seems hard

And tears flow

Like plummeting waterfalls

That seem to have no end

And have within them sharpest shards

That cut deeply into the soul

Rendering it helpless and forlorn

It is then we must remember

There will be a plateau

A resting place

Where neither great joy nor great sorrow

Reaches.

The plateau

Where most of life is lived

Where we get up each day to well-known routines

The sometimes ho-hum days of existence

Where joyful blessings are taken for granted

We do not remember the blessings

Nor the pain that once had us down on our knees,

That too is forgotten in the daily grind

Of earning our bread

But the lessons of the valley and the rewards of the hills

Should never be taken for granted

During our time on the plateau

the joys should be like leavening to bread

Helping us rise once again

To a brand new day

And the pain

Serve to remind us

Of blessings

That we will know one day again

For life is a series of ups and downs

But neither lasts forever

Business and Bliss


Busy, busy, busy…it seems to me that life is just one big rush from one thing to another for most people. What is the big hurry? I could do with less of that. I would love to sit in silence and just be. I need solitude the way some people need activity. To each their own; live and let live and all that. I cannot speak to the needs of others. Bliss, for me, is to listen to the sounds of birds singing; to watch lazy clouds float across the sky; to breathe deeply the fresh air; to touch the velvet silkiness of my cat’s fur and to be completely and utterly present in the moment – preferably near the ocean or walking along a nature trail amidst the trees. Life is more than work and drudgery. There must be time for play; for time alone with one’s thoughts and feelings; to escape the constant chatter and noise; the never-ending doings; the mind numbing prattle and constant harassment of clocks and expectations. Quiet and solitude, to me that is bliss.

Giving thanks this Thanksgiving


aaaaaa-beautiful-trail

 

Where to start and where to begin? I have so much to be thankful for…first of all for my husband and my family (of course) and for my lovely little Callie-cat who brings so much joy to my life; for sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces and more. I am thankful for friends near and far and for the wonderful people I work with.  I am forever grateful for fire fighters that saved the greater part of our city when “the beast” came roaring through.  I am thankful for the sincerity and kindnesses of strangers both at home, across the nation, and the world during that time of fear, stress, and anxiety. You helped me realize anew just how good people really are.

I am thankful to live in this beautiful province in this beautiful country in this beautiful world. I am thankful for the wonders of nature that beckon to all of us to sit and be still a while…to embrace the changing seasons and to celebrate all wildlife, all flora and fauna…it truly is a wonderful world.  For little blessings and for large, for kindnesses extended to me and mine, for love in all its wrappings…today I give thanks from a full, nay overflowing heart…my cup runneth over

A Graduation with a Difference


graduation

 

It has been an interesting summer in many ways. It has certainly been different. The wildfires that forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray also forced many changes in plans for summer vacations and the like. Many life events such as weddings and high school graduations were either put on hold or postponed for a later date. It was heart-warming to watch young people dressed in their finery going through their own rite of passage last weekend. (One of the high school graduations was held in the complex where I work, and two young coworkers were graduates.)

Their graduation will definitely be a story for them to tell future generations. No doubt having to wait to celebrate with their peers added solidarity to the event and made it much more meaningful than it may otherwise have been.  It was pure joy to see their smiling faces and hear their excited laughter.  Many of us who were working that day ducked out to catch a glimpse of the festivities.

It was heartening to witness the exuberance and spirit of these young people. Despite the challenges of the past few months life goes on, and perhaps the escape from the wildfire, the challenges of the evacuation, and the return to the city has made for deeper commitments to our friendships and to our community.  After enduring months of stress and questioning an unknown future it was good to witness joy and laughter and to raise a glass to the future. Life is good, even if it is challenging at times.