Sunday, March 29, 2015

Birthday Presence

Today I am fifty-five. Seems strange to write it; to see it in print. How is it possible?

I am the same age as my stepmother was when she moved here to be with my dad; as my mother-in-law (in heart) was when I first met her; and as my mother was when she got her lung transplant.

Birthdays cause me to reflect on my life, where my journey has taken me, and to marvel at the irony, excitement, and speed at which it passes.

Most importantly, it has me counting my blessings and the gifts in my life. I sat at the end of the table as hubby walked towards me with my favourite vanilla cake ablazing (adorned with NASCAR rings -- the only white cake they had) as a table-full of loving souls serenaded me.

I blew the dust off this neglected blog and gave myself a gift. I've missed my blogging, my search for the "take away" and gift in each day. My daily posting used to help me reset my compass, tell myself that which I needed most to know, and express myself.

At fifty-five I am disease-free - a little stiff and inflexible, but not on any medications stronger than the odd Advil. Added bonus - a pair of muffin toppers that defy camouflage and saggy bits on my face that don't defy gravity.   I have good friends and a huge loving tribe. I share myself with a kind, deeply caring man, have a job that is meaningful and fulfilling, and learn something new every day.

I am living the life of my choosing; of my own desire. It has provided adventure, taken me on detours, delivered surprises, and pushed my boundaries. It's been a physical stage for my spiritual development, providing me with the circumstances and challenges to teach me what I need to learn.

I appealed to my loved ones to donate to Good Hope as gifts and they all came through in spades, including my work family. I love that they so willingly support an organization that means so much to me, simply because it is so.

So today, on my birthday, my heart is full of gratitude for the privilege of growing old (a privilege not bestowed upon all) and I resolve to continue to squeeze every drop of living out of each day.

It's the very least I can do.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Finding Myself - Far Away

Here I sit, legs stretched out before me, cooled by the breeze blowing in from the open window writing a post to my blog on my faithful Surface. I am grateful for the WiFi that is supposedly included in our room charge; but that is mostly elusive.

I have to pinch myself. I am in the land of the red dusty roads, lavender blooming jacaranda trees and smiling, welcoming faces. In amongst the visiting, volunteering and exploring there has been time for reflection - something that was not in such abundance last year when I was here. And there is much to reflect upon. It makes me wonder if we must travel far to learn what is indeed inside us; to learn where we need most to go. Must we travel far to see ourselves as minuscule pieces of a whole?

When I travel here under the guise of volunteering, I am fully aware that this is really my post secondary education. I am learning much about this special place and the people who call it home, and I am learning so very much about myself and my place in it.

The people we eat our meals with at this bed and breakfast offer intelligent, stimulating conversation and we have covered the gamut of topics: ISIS, violence, war, social structures, religion and the role of the church, human rights and of course, sex.   New people come and go every day, people of different nationalities (Dutch, Belgium, German, Swedish, Italian, to name a few) and perspectives.

And today we are more than half way through our visit to Moshi. There are only a few days to finish up our projects with our respective groups and attempt to settle issues that can enable us to continue in a productive fashion when we return home.

I have many unresolved issues and unanswered questions... such as where do we international volunteers fit into the grand scheme of things; are we contributing to creating a culture of dependency and/or robbing Tanzanians of self direction; and how can we make sustainable differences and contributions to this spectacular country?

I don't mean to ramble. I guess I am realizing that we really aren't that special. But we are fortunate.

Friday, October 24, 2014


I always felt that I would return to Moshi but I didn't expect it to be so soon.

Yup - we're heading back to Tanzania. In just a few days Jill and I will once again be shrouded in the hot humid air of Moshi with the taste of burnt dust on our lips. And our hearts will open wide. Tanzania is like that; it opens its arms and cradles you; invites and welcomes you; changes you.

I struggled with my motive to return. I wasn't so naive to think that I was really needed, that life in Moshi wouldn't go on without me. I considered how better spent my airfare could be - the impact of $1200 on the tiny informal organization of Good Hope; the good it could do. I even thought how exciting it would be to use that money to bring someone from Good Hope here to Canada.

Jill announced she was going back to reconnect with her mamas at the women's empowerment group of Mkombozi. She didn't want too much time to pass without contact. We talked it over; debated the reasons to go, and not go. And in the end we couldn't resist.

 Good Hope doesn't need me. But I need Good Hope. I'm going back for a heart-full.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sowing Seeds

The 23 pound bird roasting in the oven is the star of the Thanksgiving pre-show, and is filling the house with anticipation. Butternut squash soup is bubbling in the crock pot, the apple crisp that I made last night is poised on the counter, tempting me to pull a piece of the well-baked "crisp" off the top for a nibble.  The family should be arriving momentarily, all 18 of them.

The joy and fun is in the preparation -- peeling, chopping, stirring, and seasoning my way to family love. We have a rule in our family regarding our famjams -- whoever can make it - great, however we don't lament those who are missing. We simply toast them and celebrate the gathering that is our family.

Hubby and I walked through the autumn splendour with our dog, inhaling in the fresh crisp air, chatting about all that is good in our lives. And there is alot of good.

I hear a knock at the door. Daughter one has arrived, and the good times are about to begin. Come to think of it, the good times have been with us all along,,, so I should probably say, let the good times continue!

I hope wherever you are in the world, that you have someone to share this day of Thanksgiving with and that you have much to be grateful for. I hope all is well in your world, as it is in mine.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Mid Night Menagerie

I woke up with a start mid dream last night. I squinted hard to make out the 2:23 glowing from my clock radio. I remembered  that I hadn't finished my newsletter at work; I needed another article. Had I left a load in the washer? I needed to iron my blouse for tomorrow -- if it still fit, that is.

Closed my eyes and repeated left over meditations from a yoga class I took four years ago. I slowed my breathing and then images of Tanzania scrolled, reminding me that I had to renew my passport. And I still had a visa to apply for. And the Good Hope website needs an update...

I watched the minutes tick by and my 5:30 am wake up time draw closer. RELAX I ordered myself.
Then images of turkey and stuffing crept into my head. I debated the virtues of home made cranberry sauce versus the convenience of the canned jellied variety.

I reasoned that if I overslept, I could always skip washing my hair. I silently begged for SLEEP.

A motor cycle wailed by and a rhythmic bass pulsed from a car stopped at the corner beneath our window. I wondered if anyone ever slept anymore... Sleep resides at the cottage; it's the only reprieve from the distant hum of highway traffic and city noises. Sounds of silence. I'd kill for it. I reviewed the pro's and con's of country living... my eyelids got heavy.

Note to self: I should keep a pen and paper beside my bed. I should also refrain from drinking tea right before bedtime.

Clock was screaming 4:25. Almost time to get up. And suddenly I could feel drowsiness creeping in. Of course!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Path Less Travelled

It was intended to be a long walk in the fresh air down our cottage road. In mid September, the cottage season is all but ended and we stubbornly cling to the last precious remnants. It had rained relentlessly through the night before, leaving the ground spongy and muddy. We trampled along with Fritz the yappy schnauzer, accompanied by the chorus of song from far away tree tops.

We made a left turn up a gravel road leading to the other lake and followed it until it ended at a private property - "no trespassing" - and a pathway veering off into the woods.

With nothing but chill and damp waiting for us back at the cabin, we plunged into the forest, carefully picking our way over fallen branches and pools of rainwater. The weeks of moisture had rendered the foliage of the forest  a brilliant sheen of green, and shocks of colour poked through the bed of crispy brown leaves.

For more than an hour we navigated the roughly marked trails, changing direction on a whim, exploring where our curiosity led us, eventually crawling under a locked metal gate to find ourselves on the road to our camp.

It's incredible what you notice when left without distraction to the quiet and tranquility of nature; what exquisite beauty is there for discovery - and adventure - when you choose the path less traveled.

We both agreed; it is a path we are going to choose more often.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Body and Soul

I walk briskly down the sidewalk, quickening my pace with every step. I start to run, picking a telephone pole at the end of the block as my target. I'm alone with my thoughts and the rhythm of my runners pounding the pavement. I'm out of shape. First clue - the heaving of my chest and private negotiations with self to stop running before I reach the pole.

I alternate between brisk walking and running -- and sometimes a geriatric jog. I return the comments from the cast of characters that line the route with breathless smiles and pants. I reach the path in the park and disappear into the thick fringe of greenery. My shoulders immediately drop and relaxation creeps in. My body switches to autopilot and my mind soars. No earbuds here... I soak up every sound - birds singing, the train rolling by on the other side of the chain link fence, a dog barking in the distance, me humming John Denver tunes. It's the natural soundtrack that I prefer but I've probably caused a bird a wince or two.

It's special - this noon hour time I carve out for myself to break free of my office and move my body. I replay memory gems, reflect on challenges I'm facing in my job, release that over which I have no control, dream endless dreams, and give silent prayers of gratitude.

Lunchtime nourishment for my body and soul.