A reflection on love this Valentine’s Day


My parents were an example that has been a challenge to follow. So many times, as one of their children, I witnessed love in action. Valentine’s Day was a lot of fun, mostly because of the little red and pink hearts we decorated to give to our classmates, to be honest. Mom and Dad never made a fuss over this particular day. If Mom received flowers it was likely to be wild flowers picked in a field. I do remember a few years when chocolates were part of the scene, however. One of my favourite memories is going for a ride in the car with Dad and my younger sister and brother. I think it was more likely to have been their anniversary than Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t matter which it was. I remember Dad buying nylons and a pretty china cup and saucer to give Mom. It was such a wonderful thing to be included in the surprise. She was so pleased when we got home and gave her these trinkets.

Yet, it wasn’t special occasions that helped us know that our parents truly loved one another. It was more the day to day examples such as Mom cooking Dad’s favourite foods. It was the tenderness in their eyes when they looked at one another. It was the forgiveness given after an argument or disagreement. It was the way they care for one another like Dad’s old black tin lunch pail, always ready when he was leaving for work and the kiss they shared just before he left. It was the pride they took in one another’s accomplishments. It was the trust they had for one another; the sacrifices they made for the other’s happiness; it was consideration of one another’s feelings, preferences, and such. Yes, they were an example of what marriage can be, should be, a commitment and caring that gave us children a strong foundation to grow on. No, they were not perfect, but they loved generously. Isn’t that what Valentine’s Day should be about?

The Tyranny of Positivity


Negative Nellies – that’s the term people use to describe those embroiled in negative emotion. But is that fair? Are we judging people before we know what life is like for them? For example, my husband is very sick. Lately he has been battling a cough that makes it next to impossible for him to sleep at night, and consequently, me as well. He has a slew of health issues and is on several medications, which makes taking something for the cough problematic. Medications can interact with one another to make a bad situation even worse. It’s hard not to be negative when you’re sick and not getting the rest you need to recuperate.

And for me, lack of sleep combined with worry has made battling my negative demons even more of a challenge. Sometimes the societal demands to be positive when just putting one foot in front of another seems like a herculean task. Speaking for myself, it feels cruel. I am tired! So, can we cut one another a break? We don’t know what is going on in the lives of others. Can we set aside the judge’s robes and the demand for positivity?

Yes, positive emotions are easier to live with and a positive attitude is preferable to a negative one. Yet, we are all only human. Sometimes life is hard. Placing demands on people to be positive when we don’t know their situation or what issues they may be struggling with, is, frankly, inhumane in my view. Kindness and compassion will go a lot further to help people become more positive than the judgment and labeling of them as ‘negative nellies’.

Let’s be a little more gentle with ourselves, and with one another.

Quality of Life


Angel holding bunny

I write this to honour a young man I once had the privilege of working with. He was confined to a wheelchair and spent his days alternately in his chair or laying in bed. He could not see well as he was partially blind. He also could not speak much and only uttered two words that made sense: “mama” and “No”. Mostly he uttered guttural sounds, but oh my, he could laugh. I remember describing him to friends of ours and the first thing they asked was, “what kind of quality of life is that?” And they felt sorry for him. Yet it was this young man who taught me much about what ‘quality of life’ really means.

No, he couldn’t walk and his limitations were severe and many. He could move his legs and one arm, and he could turn his head to a limited degree. He also had a feeding tube in his stomach through which he was given nourishment – liquid ‘meals’. I had been asked if I would come work with him as his usual care giver was going off on leave. I was scared. I didn’t think I could do it. I had never done this sort of work before and didn’t think it was a good fit, but his mother encouraged me and, in the end, I agreed to try. It has been a blessing that has had reverberations in my life.

Here is what J. taught me: He taught me there are many ways to communicate without ever speaking a word. He taught me patience. He taught me grace, endurance, forgiveness, and so much more. He taught me what real love looks like.

I would arrive in the early morning and he would be laying awake waiting for me. I would bend over and whisper good morning in his ear. He’d smile. He always smiled.

After the morning routine of bathing, dressing, and breakfast was done I would sit beside his bed and read stories to him. Sometimes I sang songs, he seemed to enjoy that. He also enjoyed games I made up as we exercised his limbs so the muscles would not atrophy. He laughed a lot. It was gratifying to hear him laugh, and when he would turn his head at the sound of my voice and smile his beautiful smile.

He loved it when his little brother, a toddler at the time, was placed on his lap. The little guy was very curious about this big brother and would often hug him and caress his face. J loved that. At other times though, he would slap J or inadvertently hurt him in some way. J would cry, deeply hurt by his little brother’s actions. But he never had the smallest inclination to strike back – he had no desire for revenge. He simply expressed his hurt and pain through tears. J never seemed to get angry – it was just not part of his makeup or personality. Thankfully these occasions were few and far between.

I worked with J for a little over a month, but the time spent with him was overall a joyous experience. He was endlessly patient with my fumbling in the early days and I came to look forward to my time with him. It was a time of great learning, on my part. And it was a time filled with grace, peace, and goodwill. J has many blessings to share with the world, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to experience the benedictions he imparted.

 

 

Gratitude


 

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” – Melody Beattie

 

It is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. I have much to be thankful for in my life. The fall season, with its emphasis on the harvest, reminds me how often I have harvested fruitful relationships of every stripe – whether friendship, family, marriage, the joys of parenthood, pets – there are so many blessings I can hardly count them all. ‘For rest and home and all things good’ I am thankful.

From Canada with love: Happy Thanksgiving!

“Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.” – Henry Van Dyke

Feel the fear and do it anyway – zip lining at Marble Mountain, NL


 

Photo credit: Jess Molnar

Several years ago, I was studying journalism at the local college. In the second year of the program we were sent to cover the Canadian Student Leadership Conference. It was an interesting experience, not least because during the conference we were treated to a free pass on the zipline at Marble Mountain. We had been split into several teams to cover various aspects of the gathering and it was my team that was chosen for this dubious assignment.

There were four of us on my team. I had planned to interview and photograph students from across Canada who were taking part during my trek up the mountain. One of my teammates was supposed to participate in zip lining while trying to capture photographs of the experience – she chickened out. That left us with a decision to make: who was going to bite the bullet and take the plunge?

Now, I had always had a huge fear of heights and initially I was adamant it would NOT be me.  However, one of the team was already fitted with a Go-pro camera that was attached to a helmet and she was geared up to go. Another member was struggling with the flu, which knocked him out of the running, so that left me!

I finally consented, for the good of the team. After all, I am nothing if not a team player. I remember praying earnestly that I would live to see another day and asking the Creator to take care of my husband and children. I would not look down. I concentrated on the harness that would fly me through the air and gauging the strength of the cables above that I would be sliding on. They seemed secure. I remember trembling as I stepped off the platform. I had never been so nervous or anxious in my entire life! However, by the time I stepped off the second platform (the zip line zigzags across a deep fjord) I was really enjoying myself and was yelling at the top of my lungs: Whoot! Whoot!

Coming in for a landing Whoot Whoot

Thanks to happenstance I overcame the fear and enjoyed the experience immensely. Part of the assignment was to write a story about the experience, which I did. I was pleased to hear my instructor chuckling as he read it. I learned a lot that day, not least of all was to feel the fear and do it anyway.

The Conversation


The conversation 2

 

“Come, rest upon my petals here and tell me of your story.

Where have you been, My little friend?”

Said the flower to the moth

“I roam high above, where you can never go.

I visit plants and trees and flowers sweet everywhere I travel,”

Said the moth to the flower.

“Oh, to fly up high, to soar upon the winds.

To not be planted in one place, to see beyond the wall.”

Sang the flower to the moth.

“Aw, but you are treasured, for your beauty and your scent.

No worries about foes like birds that would eat you, if they could,”

Said the moth to the flower.

“There are pros and cons to every Life,”

Continued he to she. The moth thought to comfort her with his words so wise

And yet the flower pined and pined for freedom to travel far.

“It’s true, I am admired, and watered every day, but if you think me safe right here

You know not all my visitors,” replied the flower,

“For there are bugs that chew my leaves, And spiders everywhere. Not to mention

honey bees That feed upon my nectar.”

“Aw, so you serve this world,

Nourishing the pollinator,” the moth cried out.

“Oh silly moth, I know the truth – that you as well

Pollinate us flowers,” she answered,

“And so, you see, we have need of thee.

When you brush your soft, soft wings

Against my little petals, you do more than tickle me

Like some ethereal feather. And when you chance to nibble me

And drink deeply of my nectar,” she shyly whispered, “you too carry my

Essence to continue seed production.”

The moth stretched out his wings and proudly strutted his stuff

He thought about all the good he did and didn’t remember why

Venus flytrap chewed up his kind, that naughty, naughty flower.

It was because the caterpillar he once was did damage to her leaves

and ruined her every finery….

The flower knew this, but did not say, for his friendship she treasured

After what seemed a lengthy pause, the moth did once more speak

“We each do our part, to bring beauty to this world, and I will speak to north wind

And ask him when you’re ready, to blow your petals far above the wall so you can see

The wonders of this world,” the moth proclaimed.

And so, it came to be, that during summer’s warmest days the flower bloomed and blossomed. But in the fall the north wind kept his promise and lifted high her petals. She traveled far beyond the wall and lived at last her dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sojourn into sadness


So, this past Friday was the day my family read their victim impact statements in court as proceedings continue until the day of sentencing. The day when the man who killed my brother will be lead off to serve time in a federal prison. That day is not far off now. Yet, it brings no peace. My brother will be no less dead. I think the worst thing about how he died is how totally preventable it was followed by the long drawn out process of the criminal justice system. I am struggling yet again with the fallout of one person’s decision to drive while impaired.

I have been talking with my sisters today about the difficulty of writing a victim impact statement and how no amount of words can ever truly express the devastation we all feel as a family and as individuals. I am confounded and deeply challenged trying to express it.

Chris’s daughter is soon to be a mama, but her child will never know her grandfather. This child is especially anticipated with joy and thanksgiving, for a part of Chris will live on. But there is a deep sense of sadness as well because Chris, who adored babies and small children, is not here to spoil his first grandchild. We will all do our best to step into the breach, but we are not Chris and never can be.

And so, I write this in the hope that it will strike home the message of “don’t drink and drive” for it has far reaching effects and endless sorrows for all involved.

For my nephew, with love


I remember when you were born

And I became an aunt for the first time

I was eleven years old and oh, so proud

The sister I cherished had become a mother

I remember playing with you

And holding your hand as I walked you to school

I remember you break dancing as a young teen

And the effort and joy you put into it

I remember you gazing into the mirror as you straightened your tie

For your first school dance

I remember how proudly you stood

As a junior usher in the receiving line at my wedding

I remember how kind and gentle you were

With my own children when they were small

You were their favourite babysitter

I remember how quick you were to lend a hand

When we needed you – you were always there

And I remember the shock and pain I felt

When I learned you were gone –

Forever gone from this place called earth

As your birthday approaches I remember you

And I give God thanks

For lending us you

If only for a little while

I remember you

A shout out and celebration of all the women I know on International Women’s Day


Today is a day set aside to acknowledge the achievements and efforts of women around the globe, whether political, social, cultural or economic and, of course, to work toward true equality for all people everywhere. Equality is far from a reality in many places and is a goal we continue to strive toward.

I cannot help but think of all the women who have been a positive influence in my own life and give thanks for them. Naturally my mother is first and foremost on my mind – the sacrifices she made as she worked to raise her family. She cooked, cleaned, sewed clothing for us, nurtured and guided us – for many years in a house without electricity or running water. She was a wonderful woman for whom I will always be grateful. I stand in awe of her every time I consider all she lived through and all she overcame. She was my first hero and remains an example of the kind of woman I hope to be.

And then there are my sisters – two older and one younger than I. My older sisters are the most giving, thoughtful, and wisest women I know. I cannot begin to describe the impact they have had on my life. In many ways they served as surrogate mothers helping to take care of all of us and nursing us through the pains of childhood and the heartbreak and angst of the teenage years. My younger sister was and is my confidant and my best friend. All three have been a source of loving support, friendship, and wise counsel.

On this day I celebrate all the women in my life who have given generously of themselves time and time again – my mother, grandmother, sisters, aunts, daughters, sisters-in-law, cousins, nieces, teachers, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. None of whom are famous, but all of whom I celebrate today. I thank them for their strength, their courage and fortitude and for the heroes they truly are. For it is the everyday hero who make the biggest impact and whose strength and support keeps us moving forward.  I hope they know how deeply grateful I am for each and every one.

Ups and downs on life’s roller coaster


Well, it’s been a very bumpy month so far. But, on positive note, my husband is out of hospital and hopefully will gain back his strength. After a total of three weeks in hospital I am finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel and feel more hopeful for the future, whatever it may bring. And I sincerely hope it is better health for my life partner, best friend, and spouse.

At the other end of the spectrum is the ongoing drama of the trial, which resumes tomorrow.  I have no idea what it may bring – I think my whole family will be glad to see an end to this painful journey through the criminal justice system. And, of course, I cannot help but think of Chris, and of his children.  It’s been a long, hard row to hoe. If you follow this blog you know that I am referring to the trial of the man who killed my brother when he crashed into his vehicle on Nov. 19, 2016. He faces several charges, among them impaired driving causing death.

The trial was slated to continue on the 8th of this month, but that date was cancelled due to the illness of the defense attorney. And so here we are, waiting to see what transpires next. It hasn’t been pleasant, this waiting game, to say the least. My heart goes out to my niece and nephew who have been going through the grief of losing their father compounded by the stress and anguish of the trial.  I know how difficult it has been for me, and I am his sibling. Yet, everyone who knew my brother well were shocked and deeply wounded when he died. It wasn’t only that he died, but the manner in which it came about – snatched from life in the most preventable of circumstances.; And so all the people who knew Chris, no matter what the relationship, have been deeply affected by the tragedy of his death.

What can I write that would make people think twice before climbing behind the wheel of any vehicle if their judgment is impaired in any way? Sometimes I wonder if my efforts mean anything at all. But, if nothing else, people will know that Chris lived and that his life mattered….and he is forever loved…. forever missed.