Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Famjam

As a child, Easter was a special occasion that ranked up there pretty close to Christmas for us. Not only did we get brand new crisp Sunday school hats with ribbon streamers, we got instant access to more chocolate and candy than we could comprehend. Free flowing candy was a rarity in our house and so we cherished the opportunity to gobble sugared Easter eggs and gnaw on solid chocolate bunnies. I would methodically break off ears and appendages and savour each piece of delicious, and try to make it last as long as possible. 

These days Easter is about family and less about chocolate -- although there was plenty of that too. To see the whole clan (missing one little soul) gathered in our home, engaged in conversation with one another, enjoying the energy and joy that is family, is the greatest, most satisfying experience I know. It fills my heart to overflowing and it astounds me - the goodness that has resulted from the love of two people. 

This Easter we had much to celebrate. Kidlet is graduating with her degree, my other daughter got accepted to teachers' college, my sister is just weeks away from earning her masters in leadership and her daughter chose our family event to announce her engagement! Loads of excitement ramped up the excitement level.

We are a family of communicators so you can only imagine how the walls reverberate with the sound of twenty plus of us all "communicating" simultaneously. We don't wait for others to finish their sentence -- we simply complete it for them and then continue on with barely a breath between. Doris, our 96 year old grand lady switched her hearing aides off. I swear my ears were still ringing the next day. 

Easter Sunday is always a  more peaceful at hubby's parents' house. The family is smaller and they are much less verbose. The highlight of any family occasion these days is our little niece. She has injected new life and excitement into the mix and is really the only one who can coax a special brand of happy from her Opa. 

And so, after much preparation and planning, another special family occasion has come and gone. The house is quiet; the dog is passed out on the couch but the springtime bouquets are in full bloom. There is the promise of possibility in the air. Springtime is like that... it delivers a fresh palette for us, and it is ours to create the life we so desire. 

And for that, and so much more, I am truly grateful. 

Almost the whole gang -- missing one!
Our beautiful grand lady Doris
Niece brings the magic to any occasion
Niece having an Easter photo shoot

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

West Coast Welcome, Reunion, Revelation

I wandered, meandered to the other side of the country. It was for work, but first - pleasure. I reunited with my far away cousin and her kidlet on the breathtakingly, beautiful west coast of Canada.

It had been almost five years since I last saw Cuz - and even then, it was my first time meeting her in person. Funny enough, she felt familiar to me; our kinship was easy and natural. Maybe it was our same age (we were born a few months apart), the fact that we both named our daughters Darcy or that our parents were sibs -- whatever the reasons, there was just something that bound us soulfully. We built our friendship over the phone and by sharing playful emails and messages. She lamented that none of the extended family had ever made it out to see her in her digs, her own environment. She is anxious to share and this past weekend, I was fortunate enough to accept her warm hospitality.

She and her kidlet picked me up and the airport and gave me the grand driving tour. We talked excitedly - a strong family trait - as she drove the curves and contours of the coastline. Occasionally kidlet nudged a word in from the back seat.

We walked the pier and the environmental sanctuary across from her home. The warm sunshine and floral-scented wisps were a welcomed respite from the harsh winter we are still dueling in my part of the country. Blossoms dripped from heavy tree limbs and the landscape was smeared with the glory and colour of springtime. Sea air mingled with fresh pristine air. I inhaled deeply and exhaled stress and the toxins of overload.

Her home is a picture perfect ginger bread cottage. The remnants of home baking greeted us when we burst through the door. The lemon loaves and rhubarb-apple pie were irresistible, and deeply satisfying. Comfort food for comforting times. Her brother and his wife joined us for a visit later in the evening. We swapped memories and other chit chat but stopped short of politics.

I eased back in my big comfy chair and took a mental picture to preserve the moment. I reveled in the peace and contentment I felt. I wondered what her mother would think of us finding one another. Family is funny like that... it's embedded in our DNA and if we let it, we can feel the pull to congregate and spend time together. My take away or revelation -- just how incredibly blessed we are to belong to something bigger than all of us; and the love that is there to be shared - if we so choose.

Here are some images from my west coast weekend, and in respect for her privacy, I have not included the shots of my beautiful cousin and her kidlet. The pictures took themselves...

Thanks Cuz.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Remembering Rwanda
Today, April 7, is a day of remembrance in Rwanda of the genocide that ravaged that country twenty years ago. 800.000 souls were slaughtered, including 300,000 innocent children.

It is an ugly, evil chapter in the history of humanity, and a topic that most want to avoid discussing. We want to bury the hideous - the evidence of barbarianism of that which humans are capable - and the shame. We want to silence and we want to forget.

However, we must remember, and we must be courageous in our efforts to protect and defend; to speak out and rage against senseless, systematic murders. It continues.

LGen Romeo Dallaire, now a Canadian Senator, was Force Commander for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) during the Rwandan genocide. These are his words:
“Rwanda will never ever leave me. It’s in the pores of my body. My soul is in those hills, my spirit is with the spirits of all those people who were slaughtered and killed. 
Still, at its heart, the Rwandan story is the story of the failure of humanity to heed a call for help from an endangered people. The international community, of which the UN is only a symbol, failed to move beyond self-interest for the sake of Rwanda. While most nations agreed that something should be done, they all had an excuse why they should not be the ones to do it. As a result, the UN was denied the political will and material means to prevent tragedy.  
No matter how idealistic the aim sounds, this new century must become the Century of Humanity, when we as human beings rise above race, creed, colour, religion, and national self-interest and put the good of humanity above the good of our own tribe. For the sake of the children and our future."   
- LGen Romeo Dallaire

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Kidlet had mentioned that she had something special for my birthday but that it had arrived yet. I reminded her that I had asked them not to buy me anything and she smiled slyly and said, "don't worry, it didn't cost anything".

Today she came over - sparkly gift bag and her eldest sister in tow. We all chatted over lunch and just about when I thought my curiosity was going to get the best of me, she handed me the bag.

I read the scrolls of paper in disbelief... it's no secret to the people around me that two of my greatest heroes and favourite Canadians are Stephen Lewis and Romeo Dallaire. I love them, and everything they stand and fight for. Stephen Lewis rages and wages war against the HIV/AIDS pandemic and serves as the world's collective conscience. Romeo Dallaire served as sentry during the Rwandan genocide, he broke rank to bear witness to the atrocities he was powerless to disarm, and also serves as our conscience. He pours his outrage, guilt and pain into service.
Lewis and Dallaire give voice to the disenfranchised and have dedicated their lives to create change for a better world.

Kidlet wrote to them, explaining how much they mean to me, and asked if they would write me a small note for my birthday.
I know it would be the best gift I could give her - words from her hero. She has inspired me my entire life and I would like to give her something inspirational back. I know you are a very busy man and receive many requests, but if you could fulfill this one, I would be eternally grateful.
They came through; and Kidlet came through - big time. Romeo Dallaire personalized a typed note:
The greatest compliment I can receive is to know I have inspired others to become passionate towards global issues. Keep believing in your ability to impact human rights issues half a world away.
I was overwhelmed. And then it got even better when I spotted the envelope with the Stephen Lewis Foundation stamp on it. Inside - a handwritten note containing the superlative language of the master communicator himself - Stephen Lewis.

Priceless. That is what this gift was. I was moved to tears and in so many ways. I told Kidlet that what we really want in this lifetime is proof that our loved ones really know us. A gift that shows you have been understood and heard is simply the best. And priceless. So thank  you Kidlet for your inspiring, one of kind, once in a lifetime gift, and for showing me your good heart. I love you. And you too - are priceless. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Gullible and Grateful

First day of April -- April Fools Day. And admittedly I got a little sucked in by a bogus article citing Elton John, Bob Dylan and Bono as the entertainment for a Safest Company Conference. I should have been tipped off with the mention of Charlie Sheen as keynote... oh well, label me gullible!

At least we have had a taste of springlike weather. And by taste, I am talking an "appetizer" sized taste - just enough to whet the appetite for anything other than cold and snow. We're weather weary here in central Canada and are desperately seeking sunshine and warmer temperatures. But I feel a little guilty about complaining when our maritime provinces are getting barraged by blizzards, even as I write this.

And as I get ready to sign off, I see that Chile got hit with an earthquake that registered 8.2 on the Richter scale. Even worse, the country is on tsunami alert. Mother Nature's cruel April Fools joke?

So my thoughts are with the brave souls dealing with adverse weather and unnatural disasters, and I will be counting my blessings and feeling grateful for my safe and warm home. Seriously.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Birthday Revelations and Evolution

 It's my birthday! I suppose I should be humble about it all but to frank, I feel like shouting it from the rooftops. I am filled to overflowing with joy and gratitude.

So many wonderful things have happened and been given to me over the days leading up to and including today. I had floated a request to my loved ones for donations to Good Hope in lieu of presents and they came through. They donated more than $500 to the cause. It was special to have my birthday have so much meaning...

The past few days have been a whirlwind of social connection and LOTS of eating: schnitzel with my work colleagues, Thai with Elysia and Shirley, ribs lovingly prepared by my father-in-law (nothing says 'I love you' like dinner!) wrapping up with steak and chicken grilled by hubby. Cherry pie, cheesecake, birthday cake and apple crisp -- I foresee double-time on the treadmill in  my future.

My day started with me opening a text message from my far away sister - a video of herself whistling "happy birthday". I didn't even know she could whistle! Not to be outdone, my local sister called me up and started singing happy birthday to me - and despite my pleas to stop - she finished the whole song. God I love having sisters!

My girls and their significant others migrated back home for our family dinner and amidst it all - I felt contented and complete.

And when each birthday rolls around, it queues retrospection; each year and my age become my favourite. I am not sure if life gets better and sweeter or if my appreciate does.

At fifty-four I am still a work in progress, educating myself about social justice and the human condition, allowing myself to be changed by my experiences, evolving, and seeking to become the best possible version of myself.

Me 'au naturel' - make up free at fifty-four. My face is lined with the road map of my life - my triumphs and challenges, my loves and losses. And I am really okay with all of it! I've earned every wrinkle and crevice.

I try not to question why I am so fortunate and blessed in a world where there is much need and sadness. I prefer to simply honour and appreciate every gift and aspect of my life. I love my life and the precious souls who accompany me on my journey. And for that - and so much more - I am eternally grateful. Thank you

Friday, March 21, 2014

Letting in the Light

Apparently it is officially springtime. I say apparently because even though the sun shone brightly, high in the sky today and melted the snow - freezing rain and more snow is on the way tomorrow. Winter hasn't strayed far - it's hiding in the wings, restless for an encore.

After more than twenty-six years in the house, the lilac tree in the yard has grown to fifteen feet and the once-low shrubs crouched beneath the front windows are so thick that they now obstruct the light. No drapes required. It's time to prune the foliage and trees that are overtaking our home. I have to cut them back so they can grown strong and healthy again. I have to let the light in.

And that goes for me too. Sometimes we have to clear away the dense, redundant and overgrowth to give the good stuff space to breathe and flourish. The tangle can choke and suffocate if we don't control it.

I read somewhere that the winter is the best time to cut back trees and shrubs before they start budding. It seems odd to be taking an ax to the thick trunks while their is still snow on the ground. It feels ruthless and cold - but necessary. Sometimes we have to tackle that which is holding us back with surgical precision to coax new growth.

I want to let the light in; to live in the light. And so I prune.