Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Swan Song

An entire year of faces, places,
wins and losses
lessons and evolution
neatly woven into my life cloak.

Celebration of what was
Reflection of what could be
No regrets nor resolutions
Only dreams and visions.

2013 almost behind us
Hasty farewells
 affection and gratitude
for another year well lived.

Poised on the cusp of
possibility and opportunity
to become the very best
version of me.

Welcome 2014.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Merry Famjam Express

It was the kind of Christmas that we all dream about -- peaceful, calm, and white. During the night a blanket of light, fluffy snow fell, cloaking the devastation from the ice storm, setting the stage for a magical Christmas. And magical it was - for us - but not for the thousands of people still without power and heat.

It sounds corny to say that the most important part of Christmas for our family is being together, but it truly is. With the girls now grown with lives of their own, and everyone balancing the social demands of their acquired /blended/extended families, it is a rare gift to have our family together under one roof.

The Christmas season for us is a series of "stops" on the famjam express. Christmas Eve is the first stop and the first turkey feast at hubby's parents' house. My MIH is Mrs Claus embodied. She revels in the glitter and glitz and bedazzles Noel like no other and it's the sparkling extravaganza that kicks off our seasonal festivities. But there is no denying that this year, our seven-month old niece was the centre piece and the sole object of our attention and affection. The little cherub gurgled and giggled and charmed us all with her good nature, innocence and inquisitiveness. Christmas really is more fun with kids around.

I waited for the girls and their spouse/spice to clear out so I could make like Santa and get the stockings filled. Now that little girls have grown into little women, we get to sleep in past 6 am and luxuriate with a lazy cup of coffee while stockings get opened and hubby wrestles with a semi-frozen 32 pound bird. We opened our gifts leisurely, each of us taking it all in, each - clearly contented. I didn't take as many pictures as usual; I was preoccupied with being present, imprinting moments for posterity.

In the afternoon my Dad, step-mom, step-grand-gram and sister joined us for the Christmas feast. It was one of the quietest Christmas' in recent memory, and we missed our loved ones who couldn't be with us. But there was a special tranquility in the room; a shared gratitude of knowing how fortunate we are; that for one more year, our family is intact, safe and healthy.

December 28th was another stop at hubby's parents' to celebrate MIH's birthday (with chocolate, of course). And if we hadn't had enough of one another yet, we got one more chance at the big family gathering of aunts, uncles and cousins on the twenty-ninth. I can't get enough of the happy faces and chatter of people who obviously enjoy being together. Good food helps! And it doesn't stop there -- the famjam express has one more stop to make this Sunday when we celebrate my Pop's birthday.

So, in a nutshell, the love of family was the best gift of all this year, and one I wish for all of you. For me and my family, it truly has been a merry Christmas.

And to the hydro workers who forfeited their own holiday and have been working around the clock to restore power, I salute you and dedicate this post to you. We appreciate your sacrifice and dedication. Thank you.








Monday, December 23, 2013

All is Calm

With much of our city still without power, and trees bending, splitting and breaking under the burden of the thick ice that has accumulated, this will surely be a Christmas remembered for years to come. I have friends who have been warming and eating by candlelight for two days and counting. They will most likely spend have an imposed pioneer Christmas.

And the funny part is, even with all of the devastation - streets lined with the piles of tree remnants - and inconveniences and challenges people have been facing, there is a lightness in the air. I was caught in the crush of the last minute Christmas shopping at both the mall and the grocery store, and I couldn't help but notice how pleasant and patient the general mood was. None of the usual scowling faces - but rather there were may smiles and "Merry Christmas" cheers and random acts of kindness abounded.

The ice has created ethereal beauty to behold, and tested our resolve - and Christmas spirit. The landscape is forever changed, as are our notions of the meaning of Christmas. This little natural disaster has been a timely reminder of all that we have, and take for granted.

I am ever grateful for the warmth of my home and the hot meal I ate tonight; and I am grateful that my family is safe and sound. As the spirit of the season descends, I pray for peace and love for my loved ones close in heart as well as for those who are struggling, where every they may be.






Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sparkle and Bright

It is just days before Christmas. Fritz is nestled on my feet, our honest to goodness real Christmas tree stands heroically in the corner anchored by the gift stash, and my keyboard is lit by the glow of the lights. It's all rather festive with the exception of the mishmash of shopping bags piles in the corner and the messy remnants of my wrapping efforts that are strewn on the coffee table. There is alot that is done but much left to do. And the funny thing is, I feel rather Zen about it all. Maybe the deep seated calm I feel is left over from from my Tanzanian trip, rooted in the knowledge that (currently) I really don't have any problems or worries - at least nothing worthy of stress.

The triumphant faces of the three directors of Good Hope are lodged in my psyche and in my heart. I have dreamed about Good Hope every night since I've returned. I turn my attention to the life in front of me, however the ladies and memories aren't going away. Nor do I want them to. They are now forever a part of my DNA and I have plans to help them with their website and beyond.

We awoke this morning to a shimmering, glistening frozen world. Trees, laden with heavy ice, bent under the load. Sidewalks were turned into skating rinks and icicles accessorized pretty much everything - eaves-troughs, railings, windows... We had a power failure during the night and lucky for us, it was restored by morning. Not so for much of my town. The main shopping mall was without power and couldn't open. Hubby and I has some last minute shopping items to pick up so we had to pick and slash the ice off my car and head out into the weather.

The are reports that some people will be without power for the next two days -- right up to Christmas. I'm sure there are many who are panicked by the thought and the mandatory shut down. And I wonder if we will see the message and gift that has been delivered; that when all the commerce is stripped away and we stop - we see that which really matters, remains. The quiet of Christmas can descend and truly make it a season of peace. If we let it.







Friday, December 6, 2013

Freedom Fighter


Photo courtesy of New Yorker Magazine
"Democracy and peace for all."

Nelson Mandela - icon of social justice and freedom fighter - proved thatimprisonment is a state of mind. They could lock him up, but they couldn't break him. That which didn't kill him, made him - and his movement for social and racial justice - stronger.

He survived everything that came his way, and defeated apartheid in his country.

My hero Stephen Lewis stated it so very eloquently:

"It’s always said that after 27 years in prison he turned the other cheek: in truth, he emerged from the fires of hell with nothing but wisdom and love, for his people and for the planet. There will never be such another.”

Thank you Nelson Mandela for being a shining light and beacon of hope and inspiration to a generation. You changed the world.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Napkin Notes

Life is a journey - not a destination. It may be corny, but it's so very true. And this napkin on the plane was a handy reminder. If we look carefully, and pay close attention, we can receive the messages the universe is sending us -- the perfect message and the perfect time. I am trying to be a better "listener"!

As I sort through the pictures I took on my trip and answer emails from friends I made along the way, I am reminded how an experience such as Tanzania will be a gift that keeps on giving. My world is a little bigger, my mind - more expanded, and my heart - a little fuller. I have learned that happiness and joy are attitudes and decisions.

I decide to seek the silver lining in every adversity, and to savour each moment of the journey, wherever it takes me. Note to self...



Sunday, December 1, 2013

Unpacking

It's December 1st. I've been home from Tanzania for a week now and I haven't posted a word about the trip. I could say it's because I was immediately plunged into catch up at work as I wrestled with my jet lag - and it wouldn't be a lie - but the truth is, I am still processing the experience. Memories are replaying in my head; my dreams take me back to the shining faces I spent my time with; and I am trying to convince myself the whole adventure wasn't a dream.

The trip exceeded my expectations in every way. It was emotional overload and stimulating on so many levels that I am still sifting through all that I saw and felt, to figure out where to start, how to help, and how to integrate this experience into my life.

And if that wasn't enough, I landed home smack dab in the middle of Christmas. This isn't a problem -- it's my most favourite time of the year. But it does highlight the contrasts and inequities between worlds. It's not fair; it's not just; it just is. Some of us are born into relatively easy lives while others are born into hardship and strife.

One of the cultural activities at my volunteer experience was a stop off at the Msamaria Center for Street Children. We came bearing sacks of rice, maize and beans and fresh vegetables for the children. As we sat on the benches learning more about the predicament of the many young souls that have been rescued, I couldn't help but notice my little friend Adam's shoes. I told him that we had the same shoes and he proudly responded, "TOMS!" Never mind that his shoe was far too large for him or that his toe poked through the end -- he was delighted that we were both wearing Toms.

And that is it - so far - in a nutshell. My head and heart are full to overflowing, and over the next while, as I unpack my experience, I will share with you - at the risk of snagging your heart as Africa has mine.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Progress

Photo courtesy of Good Hope Facebook page
Months after signing on for a volunteer trip with Cross Cultural Solutions to Tanzania, and just a few days until I depart, I finally received my assignment. I'll be spending my days at the Good Hope Support Organization. They provide education, skills, knowledge, support, comfort, safety and love to children infected or affected with HIV/AIDS, orphans, people suffering from illness and the disadvantaged in order to help them create an empowering life of hope. I could be doing any one or more of the following duties:
  • Support the group in their pursuit for healthy and sustainable livelihoods
  • Engage in discussion and exchange ideas on issues such as family health, women’s rights, access to resources, income generation, etc.
  • Collaborate and support the center on-going projects
  • Teach conversational English and pronunciation
  • Be a positive role model
  • Advise their group by making/designing brochures, website, and business cards
  • Share fundraising skills and participate in fundraising
  • Teach kids (secondary school)
  • Participate in outreach activities (Home visits to the sick)
  • Participate in counseling
This is the work assignment I had hoped for. I have so much I want to know and learn, and so many people I want to meet. I loved these words on their website:
The lives of Good Hope co-founders mirror those they service. Therefore, they are able to walk within the community with empathy, outstretched arms and open hearts ready to embrace, lift up and support those who may need comfort, care and/or medical support.
My heart is already full to overflowing and this clinched it.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Compressed

I'm boggled by how much activity and the number of events that have been compressed into the past week or so: Hubby and I flirted with farm life, we took in a movie, celebrated my nephew's birthday, I travelled for work, squeezed in a root canal and dinner with the three amigos,  prepared for my Tanzanian trip, and we had an epic famjam to celebrate the birthdays of two of my daughters and my son-in-law.

And I would be lying if I didn't admit that I had moments of feeling completely overwhelmed and spent. But I've learned that in times such as these, you just have to push forward to get through it. And when you come out the other side, not only have you enjoyed each and every moment, you feel alive.

If you are spent from living, it means you have a full life to live. And really, what more can you ask. For that I am truly grateful.

PS With only a few days to go, countdown to Tanzania is on. I hear Africa Calling.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Root Problem

Swirling in a whirlwind. It's one of those times when colour, crazy, workloads, and obligations collide. It isn't always pretty. But today I put metal to the pedal and by lunchtime, I could finally exhale. I paused. Fatigue slowly drained from my very being and the weight lifted. I could breath. And I did. Deeply.

I sang country music all the way home.I belted it out. If I'm singing - I'm joyful. And it felt like freedom - until I remembered that I have a root canal tomorrow.

I got an email:

From: Dr. Simon  Dentist
To: Lynda
Subject: Dental Appointment
Hello Lynda, we have you in the schedule for tomorrow, Tues.Oct.29th @11:30am. Cheers, Dianna
-----------
To: Dr. Simon  Dentist
Sent: 2013-‎10-‎28
Thx Dianna. I'm looking forward to it. Smiling face with smiling eyes

Sometimes I am such a goof.

The good news is that after my root canal, I will have one less thing on my "to do" list and one step closer to enjoying the anticipation of my upcoming Tanzanian trip.

I am off to sing myself to sleep!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Fall



Whoosh! Thanksgiving has come and gone - country fair and famjams and all; our cottage is closed up and in an induced hibernation; and whoosh! October is almost gone before I barely flipped my calendar. Time is precious and in short supply these days. I have lots to do and lots to look forward to. But I am trying to live in the now while preparing for my trip to Tanzania. Just a few things between then and now -- root canal, some writing, some work deadlines, a few birthday celebrations...

So -- to catch up -- I'll share a few captures of my month. I hope all is well in your world and that you are finding the beauty in each day before it slips away. I'm trying - and then - whoosh!
First time using family heirloom turkey plates for the feast

At the fair, the noses had it!




Leaves were down at the cottage, signalling the "close" of the season.





Saturday, October 12, 2013

First Aid Save

It was an impromptu dinner intended to be a pre-Thanksgiving (Canadian) visit to catch up with my dear friends who just happen to be my ex in-laws. My daughter Lyndsay, her significant other and I met the dynamic duo at local Vietnamese pho restaurant, for food that was as far away from turkey as you could get.

Norma and Harvey are a striking couple. Although retired for years now, Harvey still dresses in a full suit and open necked dress shirt. Norma's slim, athletic build, platinum blonde hair and youthful disposition belie her age. She has a calm, coy way of speaking and the only sign of age in this firecracker of a  woman is that she has turned her signature stilettos in for flats. She no longer towers over her husband, but still cuts a striking figure. My dad always refers to her a Zsa Zsa (after the actress  Zsa Zsa Gabor).

Last night we almost lost her.  We were barely fifteen minutes into our meal when Lyndsay started patting Norma's back. What happened next was a flurry of activity over five minutes that rolled before me in slow motion. Norma jumped up, pointing to her throat, eyes wild, gasping for air. I slid out of the booth, calmly and purposefully and took my position behind her to perform the Heimlich maneuver. She suddenly seemed frail and tiny. With my fists, I gave four upward thrusts but couldn't dislodge the blockage. Lyndsay called out that she was turning blue. The gasps were startling and anyone who was in the near empty restaurant had gathered round. A man who worked at the place took over but it was evident he didn't know the technique. A patron with the kindest eyes stepped forward, and asked if he could take over. I nodded, and after two thrusts, she started coughing. She fell into my arms and I nodded a silent thank you to the lifesaving stranger.

It was surreal and shocking and we sat the rest of the meal in quiet trying to resurrect the conversation. But we all knew the truth. We had almost lost her.

As with all crises, the calm I had in the eye of the storm, gave way to hysterical gratitude on the drive home. Thankful for the angel stranger; thankful that she survived to live another day.

Lyndsay and I agreed that knowing first aid is a must! And as we celebrate our Thanksgiving today, I have yet another big reason to be grateful.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Aging in Place

As one who has received a personal invitation to join CARP, falls into the "aging worker" category, and is a middle-aged, menopausal empty nester, I admit this aging thing has been on my mind. And not in the superficial - "look-at-these-crevices-on-my-face" way. I've been paying close attention to our elders and thinking about how they spend the years and how we treat them. I have a vested interest in the outcome -- if I'm lucky enough to become a grand old lady -- I wonder what will be in store.

Apparently the elders club is a growing phenomenon around the world. Never in human history has our planet contained so many older people - or such a large percentage of them. And thanks to the aging baby boomers, the globe is tilting to the elder-agers, which explains the longevity of The Rolling Stones. I think the world is ripe for an elder revolution -- if they organized, they could rule the world.

Long-term care facilities are springing up everywhere -  sleeker, cleaner and better smelling than the dingy "old age" institutions of yesteryear. They offer professional care, activities, facilities, entertainment and lots of company - everything but what elders really want -- their families.

I think we make an incorrect assumption about older people -- that if we put all the old lonely souls together, they can keep one another company; sometimes being old is the only thing they have in common.

It's a dilemma - what do we do with our ever-growing elder population when they need special attention and care? Today people are living longer than ever before and I wonder how our society will adjust; how, or if, families will change.

My goal will be to age-in-place gracefully; age-in-place -- age where I live, sleeping in my own bed, surrounded by the people I love and who love me. But it may be an idealistic dream. I may need more help than my family can handle, and I may have illnesses or ailments that require medical interventions. I may have to learn to like bingo and paper mache classes and be content with biweekly visits from family who take their turn to drop by. I may have to live with my alcohol consumption limited to a weekly thimble full of wine or I may become a cranky old gal who hates being told what to do. Come to think of it, I already am a cranky old gal who hates being told what to do. And that does not bode well for my future caregivers!

Closing thought -- aging is reserved for the fortunate who live long lives -- and aging and all that goes with it is inevitable. We too will be old -- if we are lucky.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Contrasts

The cover is on the pool, held in place with random bricks and planters; a little pool of water has collected on the blacktop cover; the gazebo is stripped of its canvas cover and the patio is devoid of furniture. All traces of summer fun have been packed away.  In a nutshell, our backyard is in hibernation, laying in wait for winter.

At first glance, it looks dismal, and maybe even a little depressing. But the weather is beautiful, the leaves on the trees are turning their shades of gold and crimson, and in a week or two, we will be surrounded by brilliance. And in another few months, the dreary will be draped in a cloak of white snow. We need the contrasts to fully appreciate the beauty.

Life is like that too. We need contrasts. We need chaos in order to appreciate order. With stress, we feel the peace and serenity that comes with the absence of such pressure. If  we've done without, we more readily recognize abundance. We experience discomfort - and then relish comfort. So maybe the lesson is not to shy away from the unpleasant side of things. The pendulum always comes swinging back and when it does, we can fully appreciate the good and gifts in our life.




Monday, September 30, 2013

High Time for High Tea

She sat across from me, smiling widely, eyes twinkling, and face glowing. It was a tiny tea room in an old Victorian home with a dozen or so tables arranged in various configurations, and we had the back table snuggled in against a window.

It was a belated birthday gift - an afternoon of high tea and conversation with my ninety-six year old grand lady. There is something rather dignified about sipping tea from gleaming fine china and nibbling on dainty crust-less sandwiches and bite sized sweets from a three-tiered trivet. It begs for a leisurely pace, moments to exhale and simply 'be'.

I held her hand across the table as we waited for the tea to steep, no words necessary, content and comfortable in the silence. Doris marvelled at the everything, clearly appreciating every detail and gesture. And even the din from the crowd in the room couldn't dampen our conversation. We chatted about the ordinary as well as the extraordinary. We talked about how the world has changed since her childhood, and how it feels to be living the last years. We exchanged fears and favourite memories, and agreed that loss of memory is not just frustrating, it is a huge loss in so many ways. Part of us is lost with every forgotten memory... each a tiny death.

Just when we thought we couldn't devour another crumb, the servers surrounded Doris, presented her with a mini caramel cheese cake and sang happy birthday. This humble Maritimer blushed at the fuss but was clearly moved, and when they urged her to make a wish before blowing out the candle, she paused, closed her eyes and then declared "my wish would be to come back again!"

And really, isn't that what we all want - leisurely time with the ones we love? Don't worry Doris, we'll do it again.







PS - This post marks a milestone for this blog --1000 posts. How appropriate it be about a special person who is also all about milestones!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Change

What a difference a few weeks makes. We've gone from cooling off on a sunny deck to warming our frigid fingers by a blazing fire. This will be one of the last few weekends spent at our place of peace - also known as Falconridge, our summer cottage. It's been rainy and cold for most of the weekend and our electric heaters are working overtime to get the inside temperature up above 12 C.

Time to start "the close" - pull the boats out of the water, ready the docks for the ice, tuck the chairs and umbrellas under the cottage, and lastly, pull the water lines out of the lake. Summer has past and "the change" has begun. Me and the lake have that in common - we're both going through the change, albeit I'm a little farther along in the process.  My feelings are mixed as I watch the brittle birch tree leaves flutter to the ground, signalling a time to pack away our precious summertime memories and say good bye for another year.

It's also a season of great beauty, with crimson and burnt orange foliage that goes out in a blaze of glory. I always get a little flutter in my stomach when change is imminent; maybe it is the prospect of new possibilities and eager anticipation of what is to come. And so I will soak up these last few hours at the lake and look to the adventures that lay before me. I have lots to look forward to, and even more to appreciate.

Here are some captures from our wet autumn weekend at the lake for your viewing pleasure.