Monday, April 28, 2014

No Restraint

Fear. It's a restraining order.

You dream big - bigger than you think you ought to.
You visualize it, internalize, put it out there and release it to the universe.

You fill with joy of what is possible and just when you feel it inflating you, lifting your weightlessness into the air, fear creeps in and drops you soundly down to earth.

Fear plants you in your place - if you let it.

We somehow believe that if we curb our enthusiasm and optimism, our disappointment will also be curbed if and when we don't realize our dreams. We think that if we don't dream or expect good things to happen, we will avoid disappointment.

Not true.

Disappointment and heartache - whether shared publicly or felt privately - never feel good, and will be experienced inevitably regardless if you invested your heart and soul.

I just contradicted my personal formula for happiness: that expectation less reality equals disappointment. That is, if you have huge expectations and the reality is that very little of them will be met, it could result in a big disappointment. However I use this formula pertaining more to attitude... you walk around with expectations of others, of circumstances as opposed to simply appreciating the now and what. For example, rather than enjoy the party you throw for your family - the ones who showed up, and the conversation and events that unfold - you size it up to the great expectations you had and lament those who weren't there and the "stuff" that didn't come off as you had intended. The reality doesn't meet the grand expectations you had and therefore delivers disappointment.

But I am not talking about that. I am referring to the vision, dreams and hopes we have for our life. If we attempt to preempt disappointment with restraint and limitation, we cheat ourselves of the hope and positive feelings that are generated - the best parts of the journey.

Of course if we fail to realize any version of our dreams, we could of course, find disappointment. However that wouldn't mitigate all of the good stuff we experience along the way. If you don't allow yourself to dream big, or dream at all, you may never be disappointed but you will have also robbed yourself of good feelings - purpose, joy, anticipation, and just plain old fun.

Shun the restraining order and issue yourself a new edict: Dream with wild abandon and move fearlessly in the direction of your dreams. Revel in the anticipation, planning, visualizing and creating. Enjoy the experience and the breathlessness of wondering "what if". It's worth the ride.

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.