Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Buckets full of memories

We woke up to the sound of rain falling outside this morning, so I am taking time to relax over my second cup of coffee and get caught up on some writing. What a treat after all the busy days we have had.

As I sit here with my laptop on my laptop, I can hear the rain pitting and patting into the eaves just outside my studio window and it is such a soothing sound. The garden needs a drink and my body probably needs a day of rest from the bike, so I will enjoy this gift of a free day.

John went to the garden centre yesterday and ordered 4yards of mulch to be delivered this morning. We had planned on a full day of gardening, but because of the rain, we put off delivery of the mulch until tomorrow. Now I can really enjoy that second cup of coffee and relax. Let it pour. Let it pour. Let it pour!

I wonder where my imagination will take me this morning as I sit here and write? Let me see….

I was walking through a store the other day and a display of bright yellow plastic buckets and shiny red shovels caught my eye. I was drawn to the display and I reached out to touch one of the buckets. Instantly I was taken back to many childhood days spent playing at the beach. We lived near one of the great lakes when I was growing up, so I enjoyed a few sunny afternoons down by the water during my summers in the city. We had to drive or take a bus there, so we didn’t get to go everyday, but my dad would often herd us kids together and take us all to the beach for the afternoon so mom could have a quiet break at home. I loved those times with my dad. They were such a break in our normal routine, and now those trips are what stand out in my memory, a priceless treasure, each one.

My grandparents owned a cottage on a smaller lake up north of the city, and once every summer, the family would pile into the old station wagon and go to that cottage for a week. These trips also come back to me, in full living colour now, when I think of sandy beaches and summer holidays. What fun it was to be so close to the water that we could just walk there from the cottage, and run back and forth to it all day long.

We would each get a new colouring book and fresh box of crayons to keep us quiet on the car trip up to the cottage; a new floating toy for the water; a new bucket and shovel or other sand toys to play with at the beach; and a new book or two to read at night or on a rainy afternoon. We were spoiled indeed.

All those memories came flooding back to me when I caught sight of those buckets displayed in the grocery store the other day. I walked from the buckets and shovels over to another display table piled high with net bags full of assorted sand toys. This collection had a bigger bucket, two shovels and numerous moulds in the shape of starfish, whales, clams, crabs, lobsters, and other sea creatures. Oh the joys of owning the super deluxe set like that. We were really living high on the hog when we got one of those instead of just a new bucket and shovel.

Now, I, a woman in my late 50’s, stood in the store that day and actually thought of buying a set of sand toys for myself, just because of all the happy memories attached to it. I really did. I resisted the urge to purchase it, and left the store with just my groceries in hand, but I held a priceless treasure in my heart – the feeling of all those sunny summer days at the beach. What a bargain I walked out of the store with that day.

The best things in life really are free.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Trash and Treasure

The weather was cool and cloudy today, but still very windy. We had a nice afternoon out on the bikes, but it was tough slugging against the wind, so we didn’t go for a marathon ride. It seemed like we were peddling into the wind both ways too. How can that be? Maybe it was a cross breeze. At any rate, it was hard work, but we did it. I am now relaxing and John is making dinner. Yahoo.

We went to the bike store (about a 15k ride there and back) to look for bike shorts, and a holder for the GPS. We found nice shorts, but no luck with the holder for the GPS.

We have a Magellan Sport GPS that we use in the car all the time, and also up north when we go out hiking in the woods. I thought it would be nice to use it out on the biking trails too, so I went to Radio Shack to see if they could order a handle bar mount for it. They said they could, but it would take a month to come in, and it would cost $68 – before taxes!!! Yikes! 'No thank you.' I said emphatically 'I will figure something else out.' Then I set to work to do just that.

I went to the bike store to see if they could help me. I explained to the owner what I was looking for, but he didn’t have anything suitable. I wondered out loud if I could make a holder for something else do, so he went through his scrap box of things I might use to make one. He gave me an old lock mount, a reflector mount, some screws, and some rubber shims. I came home all set to do some creating. I already had some pieces of Velcro and flat nylon cored, so I put my hands and brain to the task of creating. What fun.

I had to take the lock holder apart and remove a piece of plastic, but after I did that, it was easy to attach a sturdy, short piece of Velcro to it. I then sewed another longer piece of Velcro to the shorter piece and wrapped the longer piece around the GPS. Perfect. It took we awhile to figure out how to get the holder to firmly grip the handle-bar, but after experimenting with different configurations of the rubber shims, I finally found the right combination and it worked perfectly to do that job.

The GPS now sits securely on my handle-bar, but it is easy to remove too. I can see how fast I am peddling, what direction I am going in, how many k’s I have gone, what time it is, and all sorts of other interesting information as I ride along. I found it interesting to learn, that today I hit speeds up to 19kph at my fastest, but usually ride around 12-15kph. Not bad for this old gal!!!

Anyway, I made the perfect holder for the GPS and it didn’t cost me a cent. How neat is that? I love it when I can make something useful, out of scraps of this and that, and other useless items. Don’t you?

I can’t wait to go back to the bike shop on Wednesday and show them how I put the scraps they gave me to good use. It is fun to make something out of nothing, but it is even more fun to share it with someone else. Joy is always doubled when you share it. Grief or sorrow is halved when shared, but joy is doubled.

I hope you all had a good day too, and made something to treasure even if it was just a happy memory to brighten any future dark day.

Share your joy and double your pleasure.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Celebrate Life

We were all set to go biking first thing this morning. The sky was clear and bright and the temperature was perfect - cool with no humidity. We had one small problem though – GALE FORCE WINDS! Yikes!

My muscles are getting stronger, but I didn’t think I could handle peddling into that wind for very long, so we decided to spend a lazy morning at home and linger over a second cup of coffee while we caught up on some email. I even did a bit of housework and we made plans to head out on our bikes right after lunch.

No such luck. The winds seemed to be picking up in strength not dying down, so we did some gardening, cut the grass, and then I picked up a book. Maybe things would calm down after dinner and we could try an evening ride down to the waterfront. In the meantime, I made a cup of tea and settled in for an afternoon of reading.

Well, it is almost 7pm and it still sounds ferocious out there. So no biking tonight. Maybe just a walk around the block will have to do for today. Tomorrow is another day. After our walk we can make some popcorn and watch a movie. MMMM, that sounds good to me too.

I missed the bike ride today, but the day wasn’t a total loss. The book I picked up, “Losing My Mind” by Thomas DeBaggio, was riveting, and I finished it in one sitting. It is a book dealing with Alzheimer’s, but chock full of truths and lessons we can all take to heart to help us through a difficult time.

Tom is a writer and was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in his 57th year. The book tells of his struggles when he first got the diagnosis and then his decision to write this book detailing his trip into this darkness called Alzheimer’s. Tom paints a vivid picture of what it is like on the inside looking out and seeing your memories slip away. Riveting, absolutely riveting.

Let me give you a few quotes from this most amazing book, just to give you a taste of it and maybe send you scurrying to your local bookstore or library to get your own copy.

Here I am at the moment of truth and all I can muster are hot screams and scribbled graffiti torn from my soul. Moments of slithering memory now define my life.”

As a writer, I felt his pain when he talked about feeling his ability to write start to slip away.

“I sit at my worktable, a still world around me, and stare at the wall, empty of decoration. I become lost in the vocabulary of silence. Thoughts squiggle and writhe into sentences that disappear before they can be acknowledged.”

“I bleed emotions every hour and play with a tricky shifting alphabet of stumbling words. I have just spent five minutes struggling to spell the word “hour”.

“Almost every minute of the day is destroyed by the struggle to reclaim lost words in my search to communicate. It is a losing battle, but I will sing until no word is left. Alzheimer’s is making me mute.”

Because this is a book about Alzheimer’s it deals in depth with the loss of memory, but it also talks about, facing death and how to live your life to the fullest in the meantime.

I have a person who is very near and dear to me who has just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and I kept thinking of her as I read this book. So much of what Tom wrote would help anyone struggling with a life threatening disease.

One last quote from the book sums up Tom’s courage and attitude as he walks this path into Alzheimer’s. But we can apply it to whatever we are facing in our own lives.

“What better way to die than celebrating life?”

Don’t wait for a drastic diagnosis to wake you up. Start celebrating life and living yours to the fullest now! Right now! Pick up that pen and write; pick up that brush and paint; pick up your feet and move towards your dream!
Whatever calls to you – just do it!

"It is never too late to become what you might have been."
George Elliott

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Magic Carpets

As you can tell from the lack of new blogs, I haven't been spending much time at the old computer these days. We are having so much fun on our new bikes that not much of anything else is getting done at all. The garden needs work, and the house is just getting a lick and a promise, but we are enjoying our time outside completely. If the sun is shining, we are out on the trails.

I am sure things will level out in a little while, but for now, we feel like kids again and it is just fun to take this trip "on our bikes" down memory lane. I can remember getting my first new bicycle. Can you?

I was 7 years old and looking forward to my 8th birthday. I loved to roller skate and bike and always wanted to be out on one or the other of them. I had my own roller skates, but I had to borrow an old rattletrap of a bike from a neighbour. I could skate whenever I wanted to, but had to wait for precious time on the bike. I taught myself to ride on that old bike, and once I got the knack of it and felt that freedom of flying like the wind along the streets, I was hooked. I never wanted to get off and come back down to earth, but it wasn’t my bike, so my rides were always too short and too few. My neighbour would wait impatiently for me to return, so she could reclaim her “magic carpet” and fly away on it by herself, while I stood firmly planted on the curb watching and longing for my own magic carpet.

My 8th birthday was going to be a special one because I was having an after school party that day, with eight of my friends from school. I was sooooooo excited. I received gifts from my family that morning before I left for school, and that started the day off on the right (or wrong) foot. I could hardly concentrate on any learning that day. My head was spinning with thoughts of all the gifts I had received that morning, and the grand and glorious party to come in the afternoon.

At 3pm, girls all gussied up in party dresses, carried brightly wrapped gifts, and walked home with me after school. We chatted and giggled as we walked along and were in high spirits indeed.

My mother had the kitchen decorated and snacks were waiting for us to nibble on. We had games to play, and prizes to be won. What fun. I could hardly take my eyes off the gift table though. All those gifts were for me. What were they? How delicious to look at them and anticipate opening them. Not yet though. Wait, I must wait.

We had supper, then the cake topped with lit candles, was carried to the table with great ceremony and accompanied by the singing of Happy Birthday to You!

We ate cake and ice cream and finally it was time to open the gifts. The anticipation and excitement had grown to an almost impossible level. I am sure the presents would not have been as much fun to open if I hadn’t had the joy of anticipation, all that day leading up to this moment.

I finished opening the gifts and didn’t think things could get any better than this, when I caught sight of my dad out of the corner of my eye. He was walking into the room with a brand new blue and white bicycle at his side. I couldn’t believe my eyes. A brand new bike! For me! Blue and white, and sparkling and new! For me! A bike I could use without asking anyone else for permission. A bike I could fly like the wind on and call my own. A bike I could ride more than once around the block and not have to give back. My own magic carpet. I was over the moon with joy.

Here I sit, 50 years later, and it seems like that just happened yesterday. I can still see that bike and experience all those feelings of joy. Now, when I get on my new bike, I go forward and backward in time. I am that 8-year-old girl again, riding her magic carpet, but I am also the 50-year-old woman, moving into a new phase of her life. A life made rich with all these wonderful memories. I continue to dream my dreams and let my imagination soar as I ride into my future anticipating what is waiting for me there.

We are never too old to hop on our magic carpets and dream our dreams. Come on, hop on yours and join me for a ride. It is bound to be a blast. Up Up and away!

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Wild Geese

I mentioned in my profile that I really like Mary Oliver poetry. She touches something inside of me and I thought you might like to sample some of her words too. The feeling of her words on my spirit is like melting chocolate in my mouth. MMMMM! I read them slowly and savor the flavor. With so many of her poems, I feel like she is looking over my shoulder and sees my life. She voices my thoughts and feelings and questions. Just amazing.

"....for poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry."
Mary Oliver

Here is the first poem I read by her. I will post a few more later. Enjoy.

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Bunnies, Blue Jays, Butterflies and Bugs

What a grand and glorious day we had out on our new bikes today.   Yes, we got new bikes and  are looking forward to the many adventures awaiting us along the nature trails in our area.   We went out this morning for an hour and half and saw, Bunnies, Blue Jays, Butterflies and even a bug or two.   Well, actually, I didn't see a bug, but one saw me and gave me a rather nasty bite on the leg. Ouch! Felt like a bee sting it did, and I yelped but good. I had a nasty looking welt for a couple of hours, but it is gone now.  So no great harm done.   (Note to self - put bug spray in my back-pack for the next trip!!). 
We borrowed bikes from friends last week and went for a tour of the waterfront.  I was a bit fearful at first, but after the first few minutes I started to relax and enjoy the ride.   Every few minutes I would do a “body check” to see how I was doing – Neck?  Ok!  Back?  Ok!  Knees? Ok! – all were doing fine.  Yahoo.  We stopped after an hour and took a brief rest.  Knees, neck and back were still ok, so we set off again.  It was a total blast.  At the end of two hours we took the bikes back to our friend’s house and went home for lunch and a shower. 
A few years ago I fell while roller blading and as a result have a compression fracture in my back.  That put an end to my roller blading days, but not my desire to get back outside on some wheels and enjoy that marvellous feeling of zipping along in the great outdoors.  I  had been wondering for the past few months if my back could handle biking, but I didn’t want to buy a bike and then discover that I couldn’t do it.  I think I was afraid of trying it too.  What if I fell again?   I mentioned this to a friend and she encouraged me to borrow her bike and take it out for as long as I wanted to.  So Friday was the day.  
After our morning trial run on the bikes, John and I went home for lunch and a shower and by 2pm we were in the bike shop looking at “comfort bikes”.  That is what they call the kind of bike with high handle-bars, comfy seats with shock absorbing features, and wide tires for easier navigating along the nature trails.    We found two bikes that seemed to be made to order for us, right down to the colour, so we took them out for a test spin.  We went back to the waterfront and peddled along the pathways there and before long we knew that these new bikes would be coming home with us that day. 
That was three days ago and after all the biking on that day, and the next and the next, we still don’t have sore or stiff muscles at all.  Back, neck and knees are all still doing fine so we are planning our next trip along another trail for Tuesday. 
I am so glad that I had a generous friend who saw the desire in my heart and encouraged me to face my fear of falling again and go for a spin on her bike.    What would we do without friends who encourage us to step out of our box and then help us take the first tentative step?   
I encourage you to face a fear you have today and take a step outside your box.  There is a whole world waiting for you out there.  You might get a nasty bite or two along the way, but nothing as bad as staying in your box and not enjoying life to the fullest.  Go ahead.  Take that step.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Happiness is a Choice… cont’d

I posted my blog on Happiness being a choice, earlier today, but all sorts of additional thoughts kept swirling through my head as the day progressed. Thoughts and questions about happiness in the far flung corners of this old world of ours. So I continue on with the theme in this second blog.

I can talk about happiness being a choice in the world as I know it, but what about in the worlds I know nothing about? What do my “family members” in war torn countries know of happiness and misery? How can I relate to them?

Quite a while ago I was listening to an interview on CBC radio after a bombing in Israel. The interviewer was talking to a woman there and he asked her how she coped with the violence in her world and how she managed to continue on with her daily activities after such an event. She quoted this verse from a Leonard Cohen song…
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the life gets in.”

And then she said, “You ring the bells that still can ring, and you go on.”

I don’t know about you, but that just stopped me right in my tracks. Whatever little crisis I might be facing in my life pales in comparison with what some of my “sisters” around the world face every day. So, whatever you are facing today, ring the bells that still can ring, and go on.

I have an old, yellowing, newspaper clipping in my journal, it contains a picture of my “sister” in Afghanistan. She is huddled down on a dusty roadside, wrapped in her burka. She has her arm outstretched and is accepting a donation from a passing car. The newspaper article explains that because of Taliban restrictions on women working outside the home at that time, widows in Afghanistan had to be beggars or prostitutes. I don’t know what this woman’s story was, but she now had to sit on this dusty road in the heat of the day and beg for money for food.

Even though I couldn’t see her face, she was etched on my heart, and I wept for this “sister” that day and I still hurt for her now. But for the grace of God, that could be me sitting there instead of her. Do I understand why she is suffering so much, and not me? No, and I don’t pretend to.

What does she know of happiness? What does she know of misery? How can I help her? All these questions go through my mind, and I wrestle with them.

More recently I was looking through the Toronto Star and saw another picture that took my breath away and tugged at my heart. Let me insert here, a portion of what I wrote in my personal journal that day...

July 5th, 8am…. I just glanced at the headlines in the Toronto Star and the pictures I saw there of the situation in Chad are heartbreaking. How can this be happening on the same planet that I live on? I sit in my lush green garden and it just doesn’t compute with the pictures of Chad on the front page of the Star this morning. How can people do this to each other? I just don’t understand.

Does that woman sitting on the donkey, with her small child on her lap, not have the same hopes and dreams I do? Dear God, my heart breaks for her. The landscape that surrounds her is parched and desolate, breathing out a spirit of hopelessness and death. The hot dry wind sucks the joy out of life like it sucks the moisture out of the air. Does this woman not feel hunger and thirst like I do? Does she not long to feel the refreshing summer rain on her face and cool breezes in her hair? Does she not want a soft dry place to sleep, clean fresh water to drink, and safety and a future for her children? Of course she does. All the things that I take such joy in seem so far away from her. She is my sister in this family of humanity, and I have so much while she has so little. What is wrong with the world?

I am sitting in my quiet, cool house on this summer morning. Enjoying the comfort of my favourite rocking chair, while I journal and get my “to do” list set for the day. I can hear birds chirping just outside the window and the cat is purring at my feet. How can I experience all this when my “sister” in Chad is sitting on her donkey in that desolate, hostile place?

I have a shopping list on the counter in the kitchen – white shoes, pink purse, black slacks. Summer things should be on sale soon, so I made a list of things I want to look for and purchase, if I see a good sale. I scanned the list this morning while I poured myself a cup of steaming coffee, adding lots of fresh cream to the mix. MMMM, that first cup of coffee is so good.

As I sit here now, my mind goes back to that shopping list and I wonder what is on my “sister’s” list in Chad this morning- water, grain, firewood....? Are we really on the same planet? God help us!

12noon…I had my coffee and cereal earlier than normal this morning, so I am really hungry right now and it is only noon. I had juice, coffee with cream, cereal full of nuts, dried fruit and grains, and I added lots of milk. I have been drinking water all morning but I am still parched for a cup of tea with my lunch. How is my “sister” doing in Chad? What did she have for breakfast? Will she get any lunch? God help her…”

I ask myself again. What do I know of her pain? Nothing! Nothing at all! She and my “sister” in Afghanistan are beyond the reach of my arm, but not beyond the reach of my compassion. I do hold them in my heart and I try to honour them and acknowledge their suffering by reaching out to women who are within the reach of my arm, to help and encourage them if I can. Are we not all family? When one hurts, do we not all hurt?

I don’t know how people can chose to be happy and find hope in spite of terrible circumstances, but they do. When I read quotes from others who have gone through dreadful times, I am amazed at the human spirit and how it rises above the horrible physical and emotional pain and finds something beautiful.

I have collected quotes for many years. Let me close this blog with a few that put these feelings into words much better than I can.

“Because in spite of everything. I still believe that people are really good at heart.” Ann Frank

“I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.
I believe in love, even when I do not feel it.
I believe in God, even when He is silent.”
Lines found scrawled on a cellar wall in Cologne, Germany, after bombing during World War II destroyed the city.

“If there is a purpose in life at all, there must be a purpose in suffering and in dying. But no man can tell another what this purpose is. Each must find out for himself, and must accept the responsibility that his answer prescribes.”
Viktor Frankl

“He who has a “why” to live can bear with almost any “how”.”

“The last of human freedoms – the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.” Viktor Frankl

Happiness is a choice. It really is.

Happiness is a Choice

Do genuinely happy people really exist in the world today? Hmmm? Yes, they do. Happiness is a choice, and you can chose to be happy in spite of circumstances. Pain in this life is inevitable, but misery is optional. It is up to you.

In the past three years I have spent many hours in the cancer clinic, hospital labs, chemo rooms, doctor’s offices, O.R. waiting rooms and finally the Palliative care unit, while I watched a family member valiantly fight cancer. In April of last year this latest fight ended as a spring storm raged outside. We stood in the darkened hospital room and listened to the laboured breathing mingle with the sound of rain pelting against the hospital window. Our hearts felt wind swept and battered too. At 3am the storm had past. The rain and the breathing stopped. All was silent – inside and out. What a painful time this was for the whole family. We wanted the suffering to end, but not the life.

Oh, it is such a struggle to go from life to death. Much like the birthing process. Each is a transition from one world to another and both are a laborious journey into the unknown.

You see TV programs depicting people dying, and they just close their eyes and drift off. Well, it might happen like that sometimes, but not in my experience. I have stood by three hospital beds watching a loved one die - congestive heart failure, bone cancer and liver cancer- and each one was a struggle, a battle to the absolute end to keep breathing. Even when the person went into a coma, the body continued to fight to breathe. In and out, in and out!

We went through this last trauma in April and in August I was hearing these words spoken to me by my family doctor – “You need a biopsy right away. It could be cancer.” I was knocked off my feet. This couldn’t be happening to me. I had just spent the past three years in the “cancer” world and it was all too fresh in my memory. It couldn’t be happening to me. Not now. Not so soon. I needed time to catch my breath. Please God, not this, not now.

I cried, I sat and stared into space, I talked to friends and I cried some more. I waited for the specialist’s appointment, then I waited for the biopsy procedure and then I waited for the results. Six weeks from the time I first heard those words – It could be cancer, we need to do a biopsy – till I heard the results. Every day was 10 years long. One minute I was sure I didn’t have cancer, but the next I was sure that I did. I had walked this path with so many others, and I knew that bad diagnosis came all the time, to young and old alike.

“Death is the sugar you add to life to make it sweeter!”
I heard a terminal cancer patient utter these words on a documentary program about living with cancer, and I never forgot them. They became real to me during this time. I was staring in the face, the very real possibility of my own death from this cancer, and that reality did make every minute of every day sweeter.

I would get up in the morning and be so thankful that I didn’t have any pain. I could breathe without pain; I could move without pain; I could eat without pain; I could get outside for a walk or visit with friends, without pain. Life was good. I didn’t know what tomorrow would bring, but for that day, that hour that minute I was ok and I was going to enjoy it and feel it and taste it and smell it. I didn’t have to go to the cancer clinic that day. I didn’t have to face chemo that day – it was a good day. Let tomorrow take care of itself, I had today.

I read poetry, I walked in the park, I sat in my garden, I talked to friends and family and I wrote and wrote and wrote. The day finally came when I went for my biopsy results. My husband came with me, because I didn’t know if I would be able to remember what the doctor said, or if I could even process the words spoken to me.

We walked into the hospital like two automatons. Going through the same doors we walked through in April on our way up to the Palliative care unit. This time we got off on a different floor and walked to the doctor’s office, but our minds were still three floors up and in the room at the end of the hall. Had it really only been 6 months since we sat through that stormy night in April? Seemed like a lifetime ago and only yesterday – both at the same time. Funny how time shrinks and expands like that, when you are going through extreme joy or extreme sorrow. They are two sides of the same coin really.

We walked into the doctor’s office, braced for the bad news. My knees buckled and I cried when I heard the words “Everything is fine. The tests came back negative for Cancer. We are not sure what the problem is, but we know it isn’t cancer, so we will go forward from here.” Other things were talked about concerning more tests and follow up visits and treatment, but it wasn’t cancer and I didn’t hear much past that. I walked out of the hospital in tears and didn’t even try to stop them. I had dodged the bullet this time. One day I won’t, but for now I had, and I was free to go. Ah, that first breath of fresh air outside the hospital doors was delicious.

Choose happiness everyday no matter what the circumstances. In the middle of pain and sorrow, go down deep for that inner wellspring of joy. It is there. You can find it. Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Tell yourself the truth

I am reading a book by Martha Beck called the Joy Diet, and even though it is not easy reading, I would highly recommend it. I have had it for six months now and I am only half way through it. It is not a book that you read once and put on the shelf. It is a book to work through and put into practise one small step at a time.

In one chapter it challenged me to “tell myself the truth”. That seems simple enough to do, right? Tell yourself the truth? Should be, but isn’t. Sometimes we tell ourselves such stories about the truth of a situation, and then suffer so much senseless emotional pain as a result.

Let me give you a quote from this chapter, it says it so much clearer than I can…

“Author and teacher Byron Katie learned this dramatically in her early forties when she ended decades of rage, depression, and self-hatred by addressing her mind’s stories with intense inquiry about the real truth of her experience. In her wonderfully useful book “Loving What Is”, Katie describes how this worked on a night when her daughter, who at the time was abusing drugs and alcohol, failed to come home.

The thoughts that would appear in my mind were thoughts like these:
’……she’ll drive, and she’ll kill someone, she’ll crash into another car or a lamppost and kill herself and her passengers.’ As the thoughts appeared, each one was met with wordless, thoughtless inquiry. And inquiry instantly brought me back to reality. Here is what was true; woman sitting in chair waiting for her beloved daughter.'

Katie’s method of inquiry, which I highly recommend, requires that you identify painful issues in your own life, examine the stories you tell yourself about the situation, and notice that these stories often have little to do with the “clean pain” or “truth” of genuine experience.”

This little section of this one chapter has been worth the cost of the whole book to me. Now when my imagination runs away with me, as it often does, and I am tempted to worry about my daughter travelling alone, or the health of a family member, or the state of the economy, or… any number of other things. I stop myself short and challenge every thought. What is the truth of the situation? The truth and only the truth, nothing else. I mustn't read into the situation what could happen, or what the other person might be thinking or doing. Just tell myself the truth and move forward from there!!!!

This has been wonderfully freeing. All the wild imaginings are quieted and I am at peace. The old quote from the Bible, "You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free", is really true. Try it, you’ll like it. Tell yourself the truth.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Time Flies when….

I went to visit my brother and his significant other yesterday, and we spent a delightful afternoon strolling down memory lane. Stopping here and there to linger over memories of our children’s weddings and share pictures and stories from each event. We sauntered along paths littered with stories of our present lives and peered down tree lined corridors along the way that we might take in the near future: possible retirement at the end of one; job changes involving a move to another country sitting at the end of another; and a health crisis lurking in a dark distant third corridor.

Eight hours after we had arrived, I looked at my watch and was astonished to see the time. Was it really 9pm? It seemed like we had only been there a couple of hours and I didn’t want to leave, but we had a long drive back to our home, so we had to start making tracks. We left at 10pm amidst hugs and promises to get together next month and pick up where we had left off.

We are only an hours' drive down the road, but in these busy times with hectic schedules it might as well be the other side of the ocean. We each spin in our own worlds promising to get together, but time moves forward at the speed of light and days become weeks, weeks months and months years!!!!! Email keeps us in contact, but there is nothing quite like a face to face chat and a real hug instead of a cyber one.

Time flies, when you are having fun and when you are busy, but we must clip its wings periodically and make it sit still long enough to stop the blur, so we can see clearly the faces of those most important to us. What a priceless gift,to look into their eyes and see the hopes and dreams and stories there. I looked into my brother’s eyes yesterday and saw my dad there. I saw our shared childhood there. I saw my brother’s kind and gentle spirit there and I rejoiced that we had made time sit still on that summer afternoon, long enough for us to see each other. Even though the afternoon galloped forward and flew by at the speed of light, we were motionless in the eye of the whirlwind and saw each other.

What a priceless treasure.

Friday, July 09, 2004

I love a Sunny Day

Well, yesterday was a wonderful rainy day, and today we have sunshine. Balance and time to enjoy both is the key isn’t it? It was really nice to hibernate inside yesterday morning and write, but it was also nice to get outside on the back deck this morning and have my coffee out there and watch the sparrows busy at work in the bird house. I think there is a young family in there, so mom and dad are quite busy these days.

After I finished my coffee I swept the deck, dusted the patio furniture and then picked up my basket and clippers and walked around the garden dead heading the roses. What a pleasant way to spend a sunny summer morning, especially after the rainy one yesterday. Everything looked fresh and clean and well watered. A very happy garden indeed.

The other morning I sat out on the back deck and the crows put on quite a show for me. All was quiet and still, when all of a sudden a huge crow swooped overhead, making the most awful racket. I jumped and looked up. He flew into the neighbours yard and crashed right into the top of the old majestic maple tree. I heard the thwap as he hit the branches, but he didn’t land. He just gave the top of the tree a tremendous wallop and continued to fly on. All the while screeching at the top of his voice. If you call it a voice in a bird. What do they have anyway? Hmmm? Screetching at the top of his lungs???? That doesn't sound right either. Yes, I guess it is a voice. Anyway, he was making lots of noise.

As I watched these antics, another crow came thundering into view and flew at the same tree from a different angle. He too, hit the top of the tree at full force, and I could hear the resounding crash even though I was sitting two yards over. He didn’t land either, just continued to fly and screech.

I sat transfixed and wondered what they heck was going on. I continued to look at the tree and I am glad that I did, because a few seconds after the second crow hit it, a third crow’s head came poking out of the tree, right where the other two had made impact. He stuck his head out, looked around, and flew off after the other two, screeching and cawing all the way.

Now, he was in the top of an old tree, two yards over, so I couldn’t quite tell if he looked sleepy or not. I will never know if he had overslept, and his friends had to drop by on the way to work to give him a wake up call, or if they were playing a game of hide and seek and they found his hiding spot and had to tag him and then race each other back to home base. It was quite entertaining whatever they were doing and I was glad I was out there to catch the action.

Nature is grand isn’t it? I hope you find some time to get outside today and look, really look, at the glorious world around you. It is better than any television program going. There is always some first run comedy or drama playing, and it is free even though it is priceless.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

I love a Rainy Day

Noisy birds outside my bedroom window woke me up around 6am this morning. Little blighters!!! I managed to bury my head deeper in the pillow and go back to sleep, but they woke me again at 7:30 so I rolled out of bed and padded down to the kitchen to make coffee and start my day. I am now working on my first cup, and hoping it will wake me up soon. It seems like the middle of the night though because it is so dark outside. I think we are in for a major downpour any minute now!!! I hope we are, because I love a rainy day. How about you? I don't like going out in the downpour, but I love being indoors and listening to the raindrops falling against the porch roof, or watching them hit the window. There is something refreshing and calming about it. It is like the rain is giving my soul, as well as the gardens, a deep deep drink. Ahhhh! Wonderful.

I get contemplative and creative on such days, and enjoy the snug dry feeling of being safe and warm in my house while the outside world is getting drenched.

The rest of the house is quiet, dark and still, but I am awake and am enjoying the hot coffee, cool air, and velvet atmosphere of this dark morning. I sit here bathed in the warm yellow pool of light from the lamp by my favorite chair, and I feel content. Yes, I do love mornings like this.

I hope you feel the velvet touch of this day too, and its softness comforts you all day. Wrap yourself in it and rest.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Good "Canada Day" Morning to you

We are enjoying a beautiful sunny day here in Southwestern Ontario. Hope the sun is shining on you today too. We heard all sorts of fireworks last night, but we didn’t see any. We don't go to the city centre celebrations anymore. We used to go when the kids were younger, but now we are on our own, we like to stay away from the crowds and parking jams and other things that come with fireworks displays.

We were in Ottawa once for Canada Day and I really enjoyed that and would like to do it again, but not every year. Once in a while is enough for me. Now, we put our flags out in the front garden, watch the festivities in Ottawa on the TV, and in the comfort of our own family room we raise a glass of wine in a toast to the country. That is my kind of celebration.

This is a rather short entry today, but I just wanted to wish you all a Happy Canada Day. Talk to you all later.