Sunday, October 27, 2013

Bright Moments on a Cold Day

I left the house early, coffee mug in hand, braving the driving rain on the way to my car and an appointment with Jamie, my lovely hairdresser.

The grayness of the day outside only made the cosy salon more welcoming when I arrived. "It's the perfect day to be at the hairdresser," I said to Ivo, the salon owner.

Jamie arrived just after me, and ushered me to her small room upstairs, where the walls, matched the greenish gray of Lake Simcoe across the road.
It was good to see my friend again and have the completely self indulgent experience of putting my hair in her hands while we catch up on the past couple of months in our lives.

As I settled into the chair, Jamie said, "I have a story for you," and then slid the decoratively frosted glass door to her room, closed for privacy.

"This is like a little doll's house, so many stories are shared here: heart-rending; silly--and mostly a whole lot of laughter," she said.

She began her story by telling me about a friend whom she has never met face to face. They met through a dating website but for one reason and another, their only relationship has been through text message. Even so they've become good friends.

He moved to Barrie to support his mother who has cancer and she has been losing the battle. This week she moved into a hospice. and his two little daughters who live with their mother in another city, were brought by their other grandparents to say goodbye to their grandma.

He comes to Jamie's mind several times a day. She hasn't lost her mother, but she lost a grandmother who was like a mother. She thought about how this must feel--losing his mother--and she mentioned in one of her texts that she had added him to her prayers. She was surprised when he texted back how deeply that touched him.

Jamie's own road has had some rocky patches lately and she said that one day this week as she stepped into the shower she was just about to drift into the "Poor Me's" when this friend's situation came to mind, and she thought, "It might be tough but it's not 'that.' It could have been 'that,' and I'm so grateful it's not." Her own problems seemed suddenly much smaller in comparison.

I thought of what's been going on with me lately--the determination to live wholeheartedly and with gratitude and how that has changed my experience in the moment. Remembering the load some people have to carry as Jamie did, is a good discipline.

I stepped back out into the wintry day, with great hair; a story; and a grateful heart; ready to start a new Whole Hearted Week.

Proverbs 4:23
Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)
23 Above all, be careful what you think because your thoughts control your life.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sweet Essentials

A deep slate gray cloud blanket rolled back from the north eastern sky to make room for a day whose chosen morning dress was peach and palest gold. And I was thinking, at the start of this day, of the sweet essentials that make such a difference!

While tidying up my email inbox before leaving work the evening before--I clicked on an email that I almost filed to read later. It was entitled, "Accessibility Report."

It was late, and at that time of the day it didn't seem an urgent thing to read, but I opened it, and was so glad that I had! There on the front cover was a photo of someone we support at our fall family barbecue; somebody I have known for 37 years.

Immediately my day was transformed! From being focused only on emptying an inbox so that I could go home knowing I'd have a fresh start in the morning; to a reminder of what it is that drives that work and all those emails and paperwork!

In no time I was making copies of the report, which was written in plain language so that people with disabilities can read it more easily. I made copies not only for the person on the cover, but for the other people whose photographs I saw in the report; photographs that had been taken at our fall family barbecue. I knew that they would love to have a copy of the report for themselves, and be so thrilled to see their photographs in this provincial publication! My lips curved in a smile in anticipation of their excitement.

How easily we can lose sight of the purpose of our work. Digging deep to remember why it is we do the job we do makes a huge difference. If at home caring for a family, it can mean remembering why we do the piles of laundry, the vacuuming and cook the many meals to be consumed each week.

Suddenly our heart beat quickens with purpose and passion and our eyes are fixed on something beyond, and bigger than, the present moment; captured again by, the "Sweet Essentials!"

Monday, October 21, 2013

Inspiration of One Sort and Another

I glanced to my left as I followed the grey road north this morning and was lost in awe. Yet again. 

It is a wonder to me that I arrive anywhere, when everything in me wants to pull to the side of the road and be amazed. 

I settled instead for being amazed and keeping going. I am a constant captive of the beauty of creation, and this morning it was a far off row of trees, a mixture of deciduous and coniferous; ochre leafy trees and army green soldier trees that stood as though at attention in the line of forest across the misty fields.

I continued to think about my weekend decision to choose a different mind set; acceptance of what is; pondering the fine line between acceptance and changing what I can.

I did reach my destination and when my meeting was over  my work colleague asked me, "And you? How are you doing?"

I told her of my weekend decision to be done with complaining; to be grateful; to change what I can (starting with my mind set) and to give my whole heart to whatever it is I am doing. 

I couldn't help it, I had to say what had been in my head, even though she burst out laughing and said that it would be her quote of the day; I told her the phrase that came to my mind, even though not very polite sounding, was: "Piss or get off the pot!" It summed up what I was thinking. Either make up your mind to get on with it or stop all together; just don't be half hearted about it! 

I left my young friend laughing and talking about finding a visual reminder of a pot and thought that inspiration comes in many different ways. :)  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Let Gratitude Glow

Each night I point my car west to go home from work, and on Friday evening the sun was a giant, vivid red globe, slowly being put to bed beneath the covers of approaching night. It was a ravishingly beautiful beginning to the weekend.
Today, Saturday, has been gray and drizzly, but on the hills that surround our house, the red, yellow and orange of autumn glowed through the gray like bright embers amongst the ashes in a grate; unquenchable glory!
I had time in the day to reflect a little on life in my corner of the world, and made a decision. I decided to accept things as they are in a couple of areas.  
It is less important what the acceptance is about than the fact that it helped to change perspective. Changing how you think about something is almost as powerful, if not more so, than actually changing the circumstance.
The decision moved me from discontent to gratitude and I would rather experience my life with gratitude.
Let gratitude glow through a driving drizzle like those leafy embers on the hills! 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lessons Learned and Lost

If our grandson William could live on only two foods, they'd be Yorkshire puddings and the little meringue "nests" that come in boxes. 

Because it was Thanksgiving dinner we were eating, we didn't have Yorkshire puddings (although I actually considered making them!) but I made sure that I had a good supply of meringues.

Pete was governing his son's meringue intake, which was a good idea, for no one has ever seen him stop eating them of his own accord. I laughed, watching William draw on his considerable negotiating skills and at one point I said, "I think you may have just found a loophole!"

For the second time in as many days, he asked, "What's a loophole?" and Pete and I knew that whatever profound lesson we had hoped to convey the day before, it had been lost on William. 

"Well, at least it was fun to write about;" I thought to myself,  "Humility is a good quality to develop."

It was later in the day when granddaughter Tori whispered to Brenda, "Are we going home soon?" 

Brenda, said, "Don't ask that, it's rude."

Tori's eyes widened as she protested, looking at me, "I was just doing what Omie taught us: 'authentic self representation!'"

Now does that face in the middle look like it needs to learn authentic self representation? She has enough spunk for...anything.

I had explained the concept one day because Tori's sister Tippy, often deferred to others when offered a choice. "Be authentic, don't be afraid to say what you really want or feel," I had urged; "When people ask, it's because they genuinely want to know what you would like." It's a lesson I learned late in life and still have to remind myself of. 

How ironic that those who need a lesson are often the last to learn it and yet it may be etched forever into the heart of the one who least needed it!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Observer

They bring me joy, these boys of mine: my son, Pete, and his two sons. A extra few hours of vacation tagged on to the Thanksgiving weekend, gave me time to surprise them at the hockey arena and hang out for both boys' hockey games, with brunch at the Golden Griddle in between.

A friendly woman in a Robin's egg blue hijab, greeted us and showed us to our table, explaining our menu options and the cost for children and adults at the buffet. We settled in to enjoy our meal.

William, the youngest boy was born curious; a scientific observer and thinker. Nothing escapes his attention.

Over lunch, his dad and I were talking and one of us used the word "loophole." William looked up from the place mat he was colouring. 

"What's a 'loophole?'" he wanted to know.

I laughed at the challenge presented by the question and deferred to Pete's younger and more agile brain. He explained that a loophole is when rules are in place for a specific purpose, but someone finds a gap through which they can bend the rules, or get around them, without breaking them exactly. William listened carefully, and nodded, his curiosity satisfied, for the time being at least.

As we left the restaurant, the woman who had greeted us at the door, took my credit card so that I could pay our bill. I pointed out that one of the boys was over 10, the age for the child's rate on the buffet but we had been given that rate for both children, and I wanted to pay the difference. She made the adjustment to the bill and then looked into my eyes, "Thank you," she said, "Not many people would have done that."

I said, a little embarrassed, "It's the right thing."

With a gesture that attempted to convey to the meaning of her words she said, "When you do that, God..."

"Blesses you?" I finished her sentence with a smile, both of us understanding that we were on exactly the same wave length, "I believe that too."

Outside, Pete and the boys were waiting. "Was something wrong?" Pete asked.

"No," I said, "We were just undercharged."

"Isn't that a good thing?" asked William, with innocent logic.

And I had a chance to at least model the word "integrity" for my young observer--which felt like it balanced out that lesson on "loopholes." :)

The Gift Strewn Day

I drove my car towards the on-ramp to Highway 400 and noticed the mist hanging close to the ground, although high in the sky the morning sun was up and shining brightly.  

As my car merged with the morning traffic headed for the city of Toronto, to my left stood trees, like layers of delicate silvery lace, backed by ghostly hills; while on my right, through the blanket of swirling fog covering the fields of the Holland Marsh, rose the rooftops of farmhouses, storage sheds and barns. 

Slowly, the lanes of traffic oozed towards the city and tall buildings rose from the mist now tinged with the faint orange hue of smog. I was in awe of the beauty all the same.

That evening, on my way home, I stopped at the Sobey's grocery store in Bradford to pick up a few things. As I loaded the bags into my car trunk, the sky to the west, was deep salmon red on the horizon, fading into the indigo blue of approaching night.

Night was falling fast as I continued home, and by the time I was on the outskirts of Bond Head, a silver sliver of moon hung like a rakish smile in the sky with a bright star winking below and in the west.

Throughout the day, from the journey to work to coming home, my life went on, preoccupied with temporary things, while all around and in between, intense and lavish loveliness attended me.

And I could not let it pass without sharing what I saw that gift strewn day.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Love Story

Like so many dogs, my brother Rob's Staffordshire bull terrier seems to have been "sent on assignment." So far, I'd have to say he is accomplishing his mission because for a small dog, he takes up a big amount of heart space.

Bruce had some big paw prints to fill when he came into Rob's life. Thirty years ago Rob had another Staffordshire bull terrier, the aptly named, Boss.

The first time Rob took Boss out as a puppy, he let him loose on a country path surrounded by fields, thinking that it would be safe. Boss took off like a shot, his little legs running at top speed down the path towards the road. He wouldn't turn back no matter how loudly Rob called, and the only way he could stop him was by overtaking him. 

By the time he was two years old, Boss still wasn't coming when called, and Rob began to wonder what he was doing wrong.  But finally he learned Boss's one weakness; he couldn't bear to be rejected. Rob discovered this when he became so frustrated one day that he shouted at Boss, "Go on, I don't want you," and then went and hid behind a tree. Boss panicked and when Rob appeared again and ignored him, Boss stayed with him and kept looking back to make sure he was there. He could even be seen springing up above the corn in a cornfield, like a springer spaniel, looking for Rob.

After Boss died, his place in Rob's heart was always empty. Over the years he thought about getting another dog, but never did.

Rob once expressed his longing to Mum: "If only I could have Boss back for one day, to cuddle him and inhale the familiar smell of his fur."

"Oh, but a day wouldn't be enough," Mum said.

One day Rob walked along the path where he used to take him, out in the country. He imagined Boss thundering across the fields as he used to. After checking to make sure no one was looking, he put his hands to his mouth and called out his name over the empty fields, just to hear the sound and imagine for a moment that he was really still there.

Perhaps the call carried beyond the fields to heaven, because not long after that, friends who lived on a farm in Herefordshire, called to say that they had to re-home their dog, a Staffordshire bull terrier named Bruce. They had just had a baby, and they felt uneasy about Bruce's behaviour around him.

On January 8, 2010, Bruce came to live with Rob. He arrived on the day that 30 years earlier, Boss had been born! 

On Bruce's underbelly, he has a little white oblong patch that looks like a gift label. According to Rob it says, "To Rob from Boss."

A short while after Bruce arrived Rob was watching Bruce Springsteen on TV--the most famous "Bruce" in the world. And he suddenly remembered that Bruce Springsteen's nickname is "The Boss."

People who love dogs know that they are a better example of God's faithfulness, forgiveness and unconditional love than most humans. 

And as for Rob, he says that his relationship with Bruce is a love story that gets him out of bed every morning!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Life's Small Vanities!

Little vanities? I have them! Not too many. And mine do double duty, being a source of innocent pleasure and laughter at the same time.

Visitors to our house often pause at a photograph of Paul and I on our wedding day.

Inevitably someone will look hard and say, "Has anyone told you, you look like Gwyneth Paltrow?"And I laugh and say modestly, "A few."

My friends have to forgive me taking my small pleasures where I find them. :) One of my few claims to fame is looking like Gwyneth, 44 years ago!

On Friday last week, after a morning meeting, some of our work team went out for lunch together to celebrate the fact that it was almost the end of a week worked hard. It felt good to be almost at the weekend.

Our server was lovely, attentive and pleasant. Someone commented that she was one of those people you just like, with an extra pleasant, friendly personality. As she took my order, she commented on the beauty of the day and her love of the fall.

I love listening when people wax passionate and poetic so I stopped ordering and asked her, what was it that she loved about the fall especially? Her eyes became dreamy and she began to talk about the crispness, the light, the scent in the air...then she stopped, looked hard at me.

"Do I know you from somewhere?" she said. 

I said, "No, I don't think so." 

"I've seen you somewhere before," she insisted, "Are you on T.V? Someone famous?" 

I was laughing as I caught the eyes of my table companions willing me to say something about "You Know Who."

But I couldn't, at the risk of someone bursting into laughter and thinking I had the delusions of grandeur that I actually do have! 

She asked again, "Are you?" I shook my head, laughing.

And as she left, still wondering where she had seen me before, my friends chorused, "Gwyneth?" 

Well...I suppose...I could be a much older, very distant, far removed, cousin! :)