Unearthing Information

Photo by Alex Dugquem on Pexels.com

Good day, my fellow companions sharing in this grand adventure of life. I have a confession to make. I used to be the most over-trusting, easily deceived, green as grass, rural dweller that you ever could meet. I assumed all professionals such as doctors, dentists, lawyers and cheese makers were equally effective and proficient in their job. I had no clue that a little research goes a long way. Talk about naive. I mean, I was once a Girl Guide, I should have taken the motto, ‘be prepared‘ more seriously, but I think I was a bigger fan of the stylish uniform than being prepared. Long story short, I have aged into the understanding that a quality investigation into anything relating to your health and welfare is critical to a great outcome. And, if you know me at all, you know I have a story to illustrate this point, and no, it’s not about a cheese maker. However, if anyone one has one of those stories, I’d be absolutely giddy to hear it.

A few years ago, my friend, Brenda and I were on our daily walk. It was mid-summer; the towering grass growing in the wide ditch swaggered within the rush and wane of the wind and a hint of wild mint from a pond beyond the willows wafted through the air. We strode side by side without saying a word, all talked out from our previous kilometres, tiny beads of perspiration sparkles on our faces and the heat of the day hangs on the road between the ditches. A sudden movement to my left snatches my attention, a fluffy bear cub rears up near the edge of the road and contemplates us with obvious curiosity. My breath halts as a huge black mass rises up from the long grass behind the cub. My eyes widen and my body trembles in alarm. Brenda hadn’t seen them yet.

I grab hold of Brenda’s t-shirt to get her attention. “Stop. It’s a bear,” I say, huffing on each word. My knees weaken, running into a mama bear with cubs was not on my bucket list. Brenda’s eyes bulge as she takes stock of the imposing bear and her three cubs now romping unpredictably through the grass.

Thankfully, this bear and her three cubs had been sighted in the area a few days earlier and I had taken the initiative to sit at my computer and search this question, ‘What do you do when you run into a mama bear and you are about to drop a deuce in your drawers?’ Instantly, I received a list of websites about bears, none about poo. I read about five or six articles to get a wide variety of advice. The national parks had excellent information but there were also some educational personal accounts. The unanimous point in all information was DO NOT RUN. Then I opened another window and searched, “How to remove poo stains from panties.” So, according to experts you can mix one tablespoon of white vinegar with one-liter of water in a spray bottle. That said, I should have checked my sources, because squirting the bear with vinegar solution only enraged her further.

Kidding.

The bear stood about a camper length away, like an average fifth wheel, not a tent trailer. It seemed as though we stared at that bear for hours before we made our move but in truth it was closer to a second. And in that second, it was impossible not to take notice of the sharpness of her claws and the whiteness of her teeth. Who was her dentist? As we huddled together, I swear our hearts weirdly synchronized and we pounding out the drum beat of ‘Run Run Run,’ by the Who.

“What do we do?” Brenda asks, voice quavering.

Do Not Run, I thought. “We need to look as non-threatening as we can, look at the ground,” I say hoarsely, my mouth drier than a salted mummy. “Back away slowly.” We move in lockstep, a stealthy retreat. The sow shook her head clearly agitated, clacking loudly. Obviously she is trying to decide who to eat first, juicy Brenda or dusty Deb. In one swift move she drops down and takes two powerful strides toward us, head bobbing, ebony fur rippling in the sunshine. Then she rose up again to her full height, clacking fretfully.

We continue backing away, calmly and quietly— kind of quiet. Whispering, “Oh my God, oh my God.” A rattling holy phrase. The bear hoverers on her spot, eyes unblinking, nostrils flaring. Bren and I back down into the ditch nearly disappearing from the bears sight into the sparse shrubbery that lined the road. We duck behind a wimpy looking willow; the sturdiest tree of all. The bear sways trying to see where we are. I search the ground for a weapon of some sort, just in case; a weighty branch to be swung as a club or a sharp-ended stick like a spear. There is nothing. Only twigs. I could poke her eye out.

Then Brenda leans into me. “I think she’s leaving.”

I look up and peer through the leaves. Sure enough, the mama decides we are not a danger and she and her cubs lope off in the opposite direction, up an incline and into the deep bush.

Looking back, I should have failed my online bear psychology degree. Having done the research, I knew that Brenda and I should have been carrying bear spray or wearing a bear bell to announce it was dinner time. But at least I was able to move through my fear and use some of the tools I learned to minimize the possibility of a bad outcome. After all, we are all in charge of our own outcomes. So today, as in every day, I wish you the clarity of mind and clarity of heart in any decision you make. Oh yes, and by the way, the vinegar and water solution really does works.

Say I Love You

It was July 29/21 and I was doing it. I could nearly hear my dead mother gasp with shock, I could almost see my dead father giving me the head-shake of disapproval, and I was convinced I heard my husband cuss me out with worry, as I stepped on the brake to offer a ride to a stranger on the road of life.

A week ago, I wouldn’t have dared grant a lift to a scruffy looking man without having another person with me for added protection. I’m not a total country hick. I’ve seen the news reports and read the horror stories of well-meaning people picking up strangers and having things go dark and dastardly. I’m quite aware of how easily a stranger could overpower me, strangle me or stab me and then kick me down into a steep ditch. I even admit to being aware that the stranger could have driven away with my weeks’ worth of groceries and my daughter’s groceries too, leaving my family hungry. But honestly, at that point, none of those considerations mattered, the only thing that mattered was that I had been given a distinctive sign from above to offer this man a ride. 

To be clear, there was no flashing neon lettering hanging over the gaunt man’s head instructing me to give him a lift. It was subtle, much more subtle, and in all fairness, the only reason I had noticed at all was due to my newfound meditation practice. For those in doubt, I wrote meditation, not medication. This practice tends to enhance one’s attention on life’s details in a way that is nearly magical. For myself, meditation gave me cause to open my heart to a scruffy stranger and as a result I was granted the wondrous gift of knowing we are all connected no matter our status in life. 

Leaving the farmyard that morning, I had a smile on my face and elevated emotions in my soul and there was no reason for either. It was an overcast day, and I was merely going to town for groceries. As I turned off the gravel road and onto the highway I met another vehicle travelling in the opposite direction. Instantly, my thoughts drifted to the people in the other vehicle and I wondered about their lives. Not knowing a thing about them, I simply smiled at the black, shiny truck now in my rear-view mirror and said, “Good morning! I love you!” 

I blushed a bit at my silliness. People would think I had lost it, never mind meditation, they would have thought I was on too much medication. But my current practice of mindfulness had taught me that my feelings are an important guidance system, so instead of judging myself, I considered how I felt: My heart was lifted with joy. Everyone could use a little more love I decided with a nod, and I certainly wasn’t hurting anyone, so continued to say I love you to every vehicle I met along the way. 

Before I knew it, birds were soaring alongside my vehicle and daringly darting in and out in front of me, never seeming to be in any danger. It was as though they approved of my sentiments. I looked up. Clouds shifted aside and the suns rays fingered downwards displaying a kaleidoscope of colours shimmering with light. Magnificent. My heart blossomed hot pink. Feeling encouraged by natures response to my proclamations of love, I playfully began to singsong, “I love you,” instead of simply saying it.

Fifteen minutes later, I noticed the stranger up ahead on the side of the road, he wasn’t hitchhiking exactly, he was walking in the same direction as I was driving but in the opposite lane facing the oncoming traffic. I glanced at him as I passed and said, “I love you!” in an upbeat voice. My enthusiasm completely contrary to his demeanour. As I studied him in my rear-view mirror, I took my foot off the gas. My inner voice was suggesting I stop and offer him a ride. At that thought, my fears puffed up inside of me, a black balloon of programmed negativity expanding into every nook and cranny of my being. In an instant I recalled dire news stories, and many loved one’s warnings instructing me to never pick up a stranger. Those thoughts instantly deflated my good feeling vibe.

I stepped on the gas driving away from the stranger and wrestled with the morality of my decision. I gripped my steering wheel much harder than necessary. Maybe I should have stopped for him? After all, he was a person in need, my inner voice wanted me to pick him up. Guilt. A heavy self condemning dislike for myself stuck me with sharp barbs. All the sudden, a bird smacked into the front-end passenger side of my car with a loud thwack, and then 30 seconds later I hit my breaks to avoid killing another dodgy bird. See? I thought, even the birds are telling me I should have stopped for the man. 

And then I felt ashamed. “What’s wrong with me?” I fumed, voicing my anger aloud. “Why am I so afraid of everything? We are the same, the stranger and I. We are all just people trying to find our way in this crazy fucking world.” My chest tightened; heavy with regret, with sadness. My decision had been wrong. I acted out of fear instead of love. I snorted at myself. What a hypocrite I am, I thought. Here I was shouting, “I love you,” to everyone, but without action they are empty words.

Coward. I though. My heart nearly winced at the abuse. Tears welled up spilling over, and then my inner guidance spoke to me, “By judging yourself you are in a sense disrespecting the stranger too; condemnation without offering space for forgiveness blocks all healing… we are all connected by the living threads of energy. He is you and you are him.

Tiny streams of wetness ran down my cheeks and I was urged to place a hand on my heart and whisper, “I love you and I forgive you for being afraid.” And then I did not block the rest of my tears with my usual wall of hard self-judgement. Instead, I offered myself compassion. In that moment, I decided if I saw the stranger again I would stop and offer him a ride. 

The grocery pick-up was quick and easy and before I knew it I did see the man again. He was still travelling alongside the road. I wish I could say I felt courageous but I didn’t, I felt the shaking hands of nervousness strumming my tethered line of fear. Sitting up taller and grasping at elusive threads of courage, I roped my emotions and turned into an approach a few hundred feet ahead of the somber trudging figure. Another human being that was down on his luck. Instantly, I wanted to give him something, my grandma’s standard fix for everything was food. So, I turned around and rifled through my grocery bags until I came up with a vibrant red apple. I set the fruit in my cup holder and looked up. He was closer now, shambling towards the car, his face hollowed and drawn, a bulging pack on his back. It looked like everything he owned was in that bag. He was so thin. My throat tightened with emotion, I wanted to help him with more than just an apple. What road in life had brought him to this point? 

I snatched up my purse and grabbed my wallet hoping I had stashed some cash for a rainy day. I almost never carried cash. Today, there was a fifty and a ten. My desire to help swiftly wrestled my tight-fisted Scottish genetics into submission and I grabbed the fifty from my wallet sticking it under my leg for easy access. My Scottish bloodline kept the ten.

The man approached my driver’s window at a weary pace, rumpled and shaggy, looking as wary as I felt. I rolled down my window to greet him, and as he stepped closer my planned words were obliterated by my horror. His feet were bare. “Oh my God, you have no shoes!” I said with far more forcefulness than I intended. 

He bent his head and studied his feet momentarily, almost sheepishly. Then, he sighed and met my eyes gesturing with a limp hand towards the lumpy knapsack on his back where his shoes dangled like an oversized car mirror decoration. “I got soaked this morning when the rainstorms came through,” he said, his voice rusted from lack of use. “My feet were getting rubbed raw, so I was letting them dry.” Weariness lined the edges of his dull blue eyes and blondish stubble roughened his face; thick straw-coloured hair stuck out from under the edges of a black ball-cap. His frayed tan shorts and faded t-shirt hung on him; a scarecrow left to be weathered and worn. 

“Where are you headed?” I said, still feeling slightly nervous despite his harmless appearance. Fear porn news stories still rolling in the back of my mind. 

“I’m going to Plamondon,” he said, a touch of hope sounded in his words. “I have a line on a job.” The stranger reached up with one hand, fingertips brushing the peak of his ball cap and then sliding back alongside his hair smoothing it down.  

Plamondon was behind me and a little off my trail, but it would only be an extra twenty minutes. “Do you want a ride?” I asked, feeling lighter as I spoke the words. Love and kindness winning. 

“Yeah, that would be great.” His cloudy eyes brightening suddenly; a flash of brilliant blue. 

As he walked around the back end of my car, I tossed my coat and purse into the back to give him room to sit in the passengers seat. 

The back passenger door swung opened, and he held his backpack in his hand looking for a spot to put his possessions. I awkwardly moved a grocery bag out of the way feeling a crushing sense of guilt at the amount of food in the car. “It was my grocery day,” I said, blurting it out, wanting to explain. “I shop once a week online and since I am at the store anyway, I pick up my daughter’s grocery order too.” I laughed, a stuttering laugh and then offered the stranger an excessive grin. “It saves two vehicles going… you know, the extra gas.”

He nodded politely, and set his gear inside and closed the door.

I turned back to the front and then remembered a container of delicate Hey Clay sculptures I had sitting on the floor in front of the passengers seat, they were my granddaughters creations. The door opened just as I lifted the treasures from the floor. The man slid into his seat and clicked his seatbelt into place, appearing completely innocent. The fact he had put his knapsack in the back had made me feel much safer. 

I held the container out towards him like a peace-offering. “Would you mind holding these? They are my granddaughters—they were broken by her cousin—adorable sweet boy, but rough— and my husband has fixed them so I was returning them to my granddaughter today.” I was rambling, but he didn’t seem to take any notice. 

He just nodded and offered the slightest grin. 

I swallowed hard, put the car in gear and turned onto the highway back the way I had come. The stranger studied the carefully crafted blue dragon with interest. “These are pretty good,” he said, his tone honest.

I glanced over and smiled at his appreciation of the amateur art. “The sculpting material is called Hey Clay, it’s much better than the Play-Doh we used to have when we were kids, and it air dries really well too.”

His features suddenly softened and he appeared much younger.

“Well, you probably played withPlay-Doh when you were young,” I said, trying to make a connection with his past.

He nodded enthusiastically, childlike. “Yeah, I used Play-Doh all the time.” His scruffy face flinched then, as though the good memory hurt and he set the dragon back in the box with a light sigh.

Again, I wondered of his story, he seemed so wounded, his obvious pain triggered my desire to help even further. I remembered the apple and motioned to the fruit in the cup holder. “Oh yeah, I was wondering if you wanted an apple, I thought you might want a snack or something after walking this morning?” Ugh, I silently groaned at my words. Talk about minimizing; like he had gone for a pleasing stroll along the edge of the road to listen to the birds, instead of an agonizing walk in wet sneakers that rubbed his heels raw forcing him onto the pavement barefoot.

He reached down and lifted the apple with thin spidery fingers. “Thank you, I am kind of hungry.” He held it tightly in his hand, fist pressed against his stomach.

People have called me an empath, and maybe I am, I have always been sensitive, and this human being beside me leaked a type of suffering that I had rarely been around. The underlying pain and hurt inside of him was soul crushing. In that moment I just wanted him to know that he meant something. He was something. He was a living creation of a holy energy and that something was looking out for him in this world, whether we call it the Creator, or God or Source or Allah or whatever. This man needed to know he was looked after. So, in my authentic and unceremonious way, I said, “I was supposed to pick you up today.” I glanced at him brightly, earnestly… not crazily.

He met my gaze, eyes curious. “Yeah?”

“I mean, I was supposed to pick you up when I first saw you on my way into town, but—” I bit my lip and I frowned at my former actions. “—You know.”

He knew.

“I let my fear stop me the first time,” I explained glancing at him earnestly. He dropped his eyes, clearly uncomfortable but I continued on, “And then by the time I reconsidered you were too far back. So then, I don’t know— the Universe, or God, or the Creator, or whatever you may believe, gave me the idea to stop and see if you needed a ride if I saw you on my way home.”

“Hmph,” he said, an acknowledgment but a dismissal as well.

I laughed. It was a genuine laugh. “I know. It sounds crazy, absolutely bonkers, but it’s true. You don’t have to believe me.” And he didn’t. But I felt at peace.

He scratched his temple. “No. That’s cool, I appreciate the ride.”

“Happy to do it,” I said, “What’s your name?”

“Mitchell.”

My body, my brain, my very soul expanded with light. “Shut up!” I said, my filled with awe, bubbling over, my eyes wide. I’m nearly giggling as I explain, “My maiden name is Mitchell and my sister named her only son Mitchell. Isn’t that crazy?”

He patted his knee, unsure, and then nodded, his head a child’s rocking horse bobbing at an even tempo. “Yeah,” he said, his tone wondering. “Mitchell, isn’t a common name around here.”

I wanted to offer him more. “My nephew Mitchell is really clever.”

He bobbed again. “I used to be smart too,” he said, voice sad, regretful, beaten.

“I’m sure, you are still very smart.”

“I don’t know,” he said.

“You should give yourself more credit.” I said, in the tone of a bossy older sister, “Obviously the Universe believes in you, I wasn’t planning on picking anyone up today.”

He smiled and his eyes contemplated my words.

I slowed the vehicle as we drove into the small community of Plamondon. “Where do you want to be dropped off?”

He sat up taller looking ahead and pointing. “At the co-op gas station. Maybe I can get a coffee,” he said, sounding hopeful, “I could really use one.”

As soon as I rolled to a stop, I pulled the fifty dollar bill out from under my leg and thrust it towards Mitchell. “Here,”

Wide-eyed, he accepted the bill with a shaking hand, and then his brow creased as though he couldn’t quite believe his eyes. “Really?”

“Yeah really,” I nodded eagerly. “The Universe wants good things for you. You deserve good things.”

His voice trembled. “Well, thank you.” Appreciation shone on his face. “You have no idea how much I needed this.” And then he snorted happily. “Now, I really can get that cup of coffee.”

My heart sank. He really didn’t have anything. I watched Mitchell, hop out of my car taking tender steps on the rough ground as he retrieved his bag from the backseat. “Thanks again,” he said.

“Anytime,” I said “It was nice to meet you, Mitchell. Good luck on your job.”

The story doesn’t end there. There was one more gift in store for me.

On my way to my daughters to drop off her groceries, I picked up her mail. She had some parcels. At her house, after her groceries were put away she made me a coffee and then she began to open up her packages. As she sliced open the boxes, I started retelling the story of my day: of my spontaneous proclamations of love to everyone I met; how I wrestled with myself about picking up a stranger walking on the side of the road; how he had my maiden name, Mitchell for his first name, and how I I thought that was a sign that the love we have for others is the love need to have for ourselves. My daughter, Megan, followed the story nodding here and there, and then when she opened her final package exposing some gorgeous plumes of pampas grass, she squealed with shock. “Oh my God, Mom, this is crazy!”

“What? What?” I said, nearly dumping my coffee in my lap. 

She thrust a piece of plastic with writing on it. “Look! Look at this!” She held one hand to her throat, tears forming in her eyes.I took it from her. And this is what it said:  The bold lettering leaped at me.  SAY “I LOVE YOU”  

Blessed. I felt blessed. And then I read the whole thing and felt even more blessed. Today, was my wedding anniversary too.

Butt It’s Valentines Day, I Heart You

photo of statue during daytime

Piazza Novona, Rome, relatively near to the events that sparked the creation of Valentines Day. In the spirit of love and attraction I gift to you this photo displaying all sorts of suggestive symbolism. Sit back, take a close look, and allow your imagination to run wild, like a horse that’s been spooked by a flying tarp. Photo by Heinz Klier on Pexels.com

Well, my friends of the heart, February 14th, has arrived. That’s right, the gushy, lovey-dovey celebration is here, regardless of whether we want it or not. It enters into our lives either like a ghost in the night, or a yodelling yelp of expectation. Let’s face it, this is a day of jumbled reactions. Some people will excitedly profess their love to a potential mate or current partner, and some people will offer death glares to paired up lovers in the street. While still, others will play the feline, pretending nothing is happening at all.

Despite the diversity of our feelings about the designated day of love, I’m sure you most of you know, the biggest winner on Valentine’s Day is the retailer. Hence, some of the biggest losers will be, the inconsiderate sods that neglected to buy a gift for their expectant partner. If you’re not sure how your significant other feels about the Hallmark holiday, here’s a little hint, if there is glitter on their lips and in their eyes, you should probably pick something up. God knows it’s easy enough to find a little something when all the stores are thrusting their heart-shaped wares in your face like an ageing stripper looking for tips.

As you can probably tell, I have become a Valentine’s Day skeptic. For the past four years, I have asked my thoughtful hubby not to participate in the Valentine’s Day scheme. I have literally said, “I don’t need anything for Valentine’s Day, don’t buy into the fake holiday and spend half a day’s wages on a card, and chocolates. I’m good. I already know you love me, I don’t need a damn card to tell me that.” Seriously. Spending ten dollars on a card that costs seventy-five cents to make causes me heart palpitations. Hmmm, the heart palpitations?  Maybe that’s why he continues to buy me cards.

But like I said earlier, it’s not only the price of cards that creates the extra squeeze on my blood pump. It’s the other items of adoration, like the chocolates. Please, please, listen to me, my bearded bedfellow, don’t buy the elegantly dressed up chocolates in a heart-shaped box for twenty dollars. It’s a rip-off! When you open up the frilly cardboard creation, there will only be a dozen itty-bitty sweets in that box. Even at the very thought, I feel my heartbeat suddenly chugging at top speed like a train about to fly off the tracks. “Dear husband, if you are utterly resolved to ply me with chocolate to express your affection, then for the love of all that’s penny-pinching, go to Costco. There you will find the products to deliver unto me, a serious supply of decadent treats.” He will hesitate at this, and I encourage him further. “Listen, honey, if you absolutely need the heart logo to display your devotion to me, then, by all means, use your handy dandy red permanent marker and inscribe the cosmic symbol for love on the container. I would be charmed by that effort. Plus, on the upside, the enormous bag of treats will feed both of us, and our children, and our children’s children and the future generations to come.”

Now, allow me to state once again, my grudge against Valentine’s Day, is not intrinsically against the event itself, but the retailers cashing in on the opportunity to sell junk for jacked up prices, just like politicians making promises at election time. It’s damn expensive. So, in the spirit of finding some meaning in this day that comes around once a year, I choose to dig up the roots of the February 14th tradition. Lo and behold, after a bit of finger flexing and a strong internet connection, I excavated a truth, or rather, a supposed truth.

Long, long ago, in the ancient times of Rome, there ruled an Emperor nicknamed Claudius the Cruel. We can infer from his handy dandy moniker, that Claudius the Cruel wasn’t precisely the empathetic humanitarian you would choose for a leader.  He was ferociously dominant, and during his rule, was knee-deep in a plethora of bloody battles. The warring tyrant used-up soldiers as casually as one would swat away flies. Eventually, there was a noticeable decline in the number of volunteers enlisting in his army, after all, what man wants to mean less than an insect? The arrogant ruler presumed it was the men’s affection for their wives and families that prevented potential recruits from joining his legions. Therefore he banned the practice of marriage and engagements in Rome.  What a Dic… tator.

Soon, all of Rome’s lovers were seeking cold showers. And then, as an answer to many hardened  prayers, along came Valentine of Terni, a Roman Catholic priest. He took one look at the quivering lovesick young people of Rome and made a decision. He defied Claudius the Cruel’s ban against marriages and performed ceremonies in secretive circumstances. Unfortunately, the ruler discovered Valentine’s defiance and arrested him. The cold showers ran once more, and the Roman Catholic priest, Valentine, was sentenced to death. On February 14, 270 AD, the tender-hearted man, Father Valentine, was beaten, stoned and then beheaded.

Consequently, the priest was granted sainthood for providing the blessings of marriage, done in the spirit of love. And that, my friends, is why we celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day. My opinion has changed. I have a new respect for the remembrance of February 14th, a fellow human sacrificed himself in the spirit of love and connection. My heart warms with honour and appreciation for Saint Valentine’s sacrifice. I will still refuse all the retail gifts today, but I’ll gratefully accept love and give plenty in return.

 

An Unexpected Gift

arts and crafts child close up color

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So, here I am, another year into my life and literally halfway or more into the grave. It’s been fifty-four glorious years since I had my first slap on the rump to make me wail. Five years after that, I received another slap on the rump, but that had nothing to do with my mom’s vagina and had more to do with my poor attitude. And then many years beyond that— Hmmm, nope, nevermind, we aren’t going to talk about any of the other rump slapping episodes because nobody really wants to know.

Yesterday began as an uneventful birthday. I didn’t have a dance pencilled in with the tribes of Pygmy’s in the Congo, or a swim with the sharks in Fiji. But, to be fair, I did eat a banana split for breakfast with mountains of whipped cream and a big fat olive on top. I even ate it before I created my first poop emoji of the day. So, there it was, a big green glistening vegetable atop of some cream, and then it was gone in a crushing moment of daring. And… since no one else was there to say it, “Congratulations to me.” Eating olives and ice cream took a special kind of courage. 

Fast forward midday into my birthday and you would have found me writing and alternately taking the dogs out to poop and pee. I was on my own for the next few days, Rick, my hubby had gone to work and wouldn’t be back. The day was mine. What to do? Besides writing and finding excuses to not write, I mean, well, it was my birthday. Shouldn’t I do something extravagant? 

“Ping,” said my phone as though answering my question in the form of a text. It was my daughter letting me know that Julie, my granddaughter, was sick and needed to stay home from school. My daughter Megan didn’t ask me to come and help. Yet, as I eyed the text, the hamster wheel inside my brain creaked to life, and as it spun my grey-haired old rodent squeaked, “Emma has dance tonight, you should offer to spend time with Julie, so Megan doesn’t have to bring a sick kid to dance or have Emma miss dance class.” And so a few hours later, I was snuggled up to Julie on the couch while her mom and her sister, Emma were away fulfilling dreams of a future hip hop star. After all, Emma is three, and at that age, dreams still have plenty of potentials to manifest. Gotta keep the dreams alive. 

Fortunately for me, probably due to the cosmic fact it was my birthday, Julie’s continuous puking had ceased and desisted. The magical powers of youth prevailed, and she recovered. I considered this a grand boon and a wonderful birthday gift. My distress over my lack of opportunity to dance with Pygmy’s and swim with sharks had gone. Before long at Julie’s insistence, we had left the couch and made a blanket fort under the dining room table. Soon we found ourselves colouring harlequin masterpieces by the mystical light of a flashlight. As we huddled together under the ancient wooden piece of furniture, I looked up and banged my head. Warm memories flooded my heart as I recalled  playing in amongst all the nooks and crannies of this smoothly polished table. Many years ago, I too had lounged under this table as I played with barbies and hid out with colouring books. This table was part of our family history, it had been my grandparents, and then my parents, and it was now my daughter’s. My grandparents and parents were gone now, moved on to wherever bright spirits go. And now, by a twist of fate, I sat in the shadows of the past making new memories with a cherished young one.  The circle of life continues and my birthday blessing complete. 

Fresh Start

September 2009 to March 2010-76

Welcome 2018

Screech! I hope this isn’t a sound you hear this year, with the exception of driving of course. You want to hear a healthy screech when you slam on the brakes to avoid hitting a pet, or a child, or three adolescent lynxes running across the road. Oh, and maybe an adult human, I guess you might want to brake for an adult  human too. Unless you’re an asshole, and then all bets are off. What I am trying to say in a rambling sort of way is stop hitting the brake pedal on your dreams. Ignore the hesitation within yourself. Smash the desire to toss those bright and shiny dreams in the garbage just because they might be hard to accomplish.

Seriously though, this is your fresh start. Begin. Make your wishes a priority. Do you want to travel? Maybe you can’t do it today, but you can start by planning for it today. Is it the cost of travelling which is stopping you? Begin by budgeting your money, read blogs and articles on how to save money, buy stuff at a second hand store, shop the deals in a grocery flyer, and cook your own meals. There are infinite ways to tighten ye ole purse strings.

Maybe this year is the year to lose the extra jiggle on your middle? It’s probably the number one New Years promise (lie). And do you know why people fail? It’s because they cut out everything they enjoy doing and eating on January 1 and replace it with gut wrenching gym programs, and tasteless food you need to chew for an hour before swallowing. The reason people can’t make it past week three of the program is because they are pure misery and still have the jiggle. Not only that, but they are feeling unsupported because their significant other is MIA. What they don’t realize is their significant other is probably hiding in the closet or under the couch. They are avoiding the swoosh of the fun Dracula which sweeps in when you enter the room. Please, for the happiness of those people around you, go slowly into the big life changes. The only thing shock starts are good for, are for jolting your heart when it stops beating. Begin your get fit program with a fifteen minute work out and build up to an hour. Change your diet a little at a time. Wean yourself slowly off the sugars, fats, and breads and gently incorporate healthier food choices. Have one food cheat day, and one exercise free day once a week. Be nice to yourself, changing your body takes time, tiny steps evolve into going the distance with less discomfort. And lets be honest, most people don’t enjoy discomfort.

Maybe this year you are dreaming of a gershnoskel upgrade? Maybe you have one of those snot collectors which have begun to look a little lumpy in a mushroomy sort of way, or it sweeps everything off a shelf when you turn around. If it bothers you fix it. There are people who are trained to deal with the genetic whoopsies in our personal form. Maybe this is the year of the nose job?

As you endeavour to change yourself this year don’t forget you have the ability to change the world as well. Recycle, buy local when you can, and if you can’t purchase something you need locally then please consider what type of country you are supporting with your money. Continuing to purchase “Made in China” products supports human rights violations, suppression of human expression, and death sentences for those people who dare to challenge the injustices in their country. I am so grateful to live in a country where I am free.

Whatever you choose for yourself in 2018, I wish you the most honest effort. I wish you foot off the brakes oodles of dedication. I wish you the simplicity of kindness towards yourself and then towards others. It is an important practice as you’ll soon discover travelling to your dream destination. On the plane they will inform you it is necessary to put on your own oxygen mask first before you are able to help others. This is often the case in life. Your dreams are personal. If you are focused — Anything is possible. All you have to do is to commit.

Have a blow your mind, bloody amazing New Year!

Best Road Ever

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Right or Left?

Fasten your seatbelts and take a moment to tumble into this line from Robert Frost’s poem ‘The Road Not Taken’,

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—“

In the past I have finished this sentence by cavorting along the path of life tossing confetti into the air and watching it fall around me. I confess to chasing small forest creatures into the bush and losing my way. Today I realize I am at a fork in my road. And I really hope I don’t fork this up. This year I decided to forgo flitting down the trail and becoming distracted by things such as the light filtering through the trees. I decided I am picking my path with purpose. No more darting off into the trees to chase squirrels for me. I think I may have been a Canadian cur in a previous life.

How about you? Do you have insight as to why you choose the road you’re currently on? Do you stay focused on your route ahead? Do you believe the choices before you are vast and open? I hope you can recognize your potential and brilliance.

You are unlimited.

Continue moving forward, one foot in front of the other, pause to catch your breath, do a little cha cha cha, and keep going. A sure fire strategy to fulfilling your aspirations is to keep travelling. Maybe there will be more forks in your road? No worries take a break consider your options and go. Refuse to halt your progress, balk at becoming a stagnant pool of decomposing sludge. Sometimes fear will whisper in your ear, “Stop, you’re making a fool of yourself. The only thing ahead of you is ridicule and failure. Don’t listen, return your focus to your goals. Move! Dance along the road of existence with a smile on your face. You know where you are going. Simply wrap yourself in the clothing of possibility for the journey. As you continue forward, you will soon find the momentum of your decision will carry you into your future with ease.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—”

Dealing With Depression

September 2009 to March 2010-18

The heaviness is daunting; your body weighs more than it should, even if you’re the size of a twig. The effort to accomplish anything in your day is like wading through chest deep water to get it done. You pretend to be fine but your emotions range from sad to numb. Hope is far from your heart, you think it is a magical feeling at the end of someone else’s rainbow. You wonder why you can’t rise up out of this dark funk. There must be something seriously wrong with you. Some fatal flaw, and if anyone sees it— they will walk away, and you will be even more alone than you already feel.

I’ve been there, on the edge of actually living, in the deep depths of personal anguish. It’s not something easily shared. It can be hidden from everyone who loves you. It’s both frightening and amazing that even as you toy with the idea of ending it all— no one knows.

Addiction and mental illness runs strongly through my bloodlines on both sides. So I am a well-bred pony for running the distance with alcoholism, depression, and bi-polar. I experienced depression on and off in my life. Thankfully I am well now and throughout my years of struggle with this very private affliction I discovered essential practices that hastened my healing dramatically.

Step one is to seek professional help. If you are reluctant to do so because you fear the stigma or other reasons, then try the steps I have listed below, they can be effective for mild depression. However, if you commit to the following steps and they do not help please, please, seek professional guidance.

Step two is by far the most important self-help step; this is like making sure you put on a seatbelt before you go on a roller coaster ride. Practice appreciation; find the time to feel reverence for life each and everyday. I understand the walls you have built up inside yourself might not allow the feeling of appreciation to get through at first, so practice on small things. Maybe a dazzling butterfly that landed in your garden? Or the sunlight shining down through the grey clouds? Maybe observe the perfection of the tiny fingernails on a baby’s hand? Or become mesmerized by the soft curved eyelashes on a sleeping toddlers face? The point here, is to try and find love and appreciation for something that opens your heart. If you begin to feel the positive flow of love and appreciation extend it to yourself. Then expand it to include other people, moments, and things. It can be a two-minute practice a few times a day. Or a longer practice once a day. The trick is to get your mind moving out of the negative thought patterns that inundate you when you are depressed. I came across a video on you tube quite a few years ago and if you are having troubles opening your heart to appreciation it may bring aid. You might need a Kleenex box beside you when you watch it, A good day with Brother David Steindl-Rast. (click on A good day and Shazam you’re at the video)

Step three is to withdraw from the news, and any sort of TV shows encouraging judgement of others. When we are depressed all we hear is our own negative judgement on ourselves and on our lives. Hearing judgement of others and seeing it on TV just reinforces our dark side if you will.

Step four is to engage in some type of exercise. Again, I realize this isn’t an easy task because the last thing you feel like doing when you are walking through water chest deep everyday is to exercise. Trust me and do it anyway, maybe go swimming; you’re in the water anyway. It will help. I promise. You don’t need to spend hours at the gym. Start slowly— ten minutes a day, five minutes? Whatever? Just do something and then increase the time you do it every few days.

Step five is to buy a herbal cleanse, of course check with your health care provider to ensure it is compatible with anything else you might be taking. They might pooh pooh the whole idea but poop, pooping can be very good for you. Think about it this way, our intestines are like long lines of curved pipes, over our life they accumulate sludge and chemicals from the food we eat. Just like the pipes in the house, depending on what you put in them, the sludge will build up to the point of affecting the septic system. It’s the same with your body. A cleanse will loosen up the sludge and clear it out. The chemicals in the sludge could be contributing to the way you feel. I have one word of caution for you if you begin a cleanse— toilet. Stay close to a toilet during the first few days.

Step six is to watch your diet. I know– now you’re thinking this blog sucks, not only does she want me to exercise, quit watching TV and destroy my bathroom with a ridiculous amounts of pooping, now she wants me to diet! What a bitch! Yes, I can accept that. I actually want you to call me every rotten stinking name you have stored away in your hostile little heart. Get it all out. You can even call me the C word, and I hate that word more than Donald Trump himself. I just want you to feel better. I want you to find that spark inside your heart and tend to it until you have a roaring blaze of life inside you. So back to diet, it’s pretty basic, eat vegetables, fruit, protein, whole grains, healthy oils and fats like avocado oil, olive oil, grape seed oil and butter, limit your sugars, use NON-GMO when possible, and go ahead and cheat occasionally. However, when you cheat be prepared for the addictive nature of sugar, once you have the chocolate bar your going to want more, same with salty snacks. Being forewarned is forearmed against food craving attacks.

Step seven is to limit your contact with people who push you into the spiralling dark hole of hopelessness. If you are in a close relationship with them they will notice your absence. That means you might have to take a couple puffs of a big gagger and give it to them straight. If you can do it without the puffs, all the better, but it doesn’t mean you get to be nasty and accusatory. Just be firm, this is your life. Tell them like it is, you are working on getting well and you need some distance. Anyone who truly cares for you will support your decision.

Step eight is to keep a journal and write whatever you want in it, and then burn the pages when you are done. It is an emotionally purifying exercise where you can vent and then release the emotions by turning them to ash.

Step nine is to meditate, or practice Reiki, or Qui Gong, these practices allow for a positive frame of mind. They all aid in letting go of damaging beliefs. Research each and see which one appeals to you. I practice Reiki myself because I can easily access love and acceptance for myself within the practice. Meditation and Qui Gong are excellent as well, and there are many free practices to be found on YouTube.

Step ten is to unplug from technology period. No social media, no checking status or messages. Who’s more important to your survival? Other people or you? Go for a walk without your phone, listen to music, have an epsom salt bath, whatever, just please, find out how good it feels to unplug. It’ll be difficult at first but I know you can do this. People had no technology for hundreds of years and they were much happier for it. An hour a day away from electronics will not kill you. That’s my mama talking.

So go ahead and kick depressions butt, it doesn’t have to rule your world. You can change your outcome. You can find joy again. The only thing you have control of in this entire world is you. So get hopeful, and practice the steps which make you strong. You’ve got this lovely person.

Mind Your Own Bees Wax

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Well, let me just say, “I take offense to your offense, and I am super offended because you think I offended you. When really it’s you that offends me because you’ve taken offence to some perceived insult.”

The definition of perceived is to interpret something or someone in a certain way.

If everyone would just mind their own bee’s wax we’d have plenty of bees, and wax, and the world would continue to spin in the appropriate way.

I think we should operate on every single person and take out their offense button, and while we’re at it we should take out the perceived button so they can simply see the facts instead of interpreting people and things a certain way. It’ll make Deputy Dog’s job easier, “Just the fact Ma’am, I only need to know the facts.

I despise feeling offended. I want to be all peace, and love, and Zen. I want to sit in my mellow space with my diffuser spewing out the scent of lemongrass and bergamot. I’d like to keep my, everything will work out fine attitude. It seems I can’t.

I have unwittingly joined the ranks of other Canadians becoming a wee bit hypersensitive these days. Not only have I felt offended, now I’ve become on edge about opening my mouth, I might say the wrong thing. I might behave… God forbid, politically incorrect. Knowing this, I’ve come to believe that sometimes people lie about what they actually believe in order to prevent offending anyone else. This is a tragedy. Pressuring people to think a certain way promotes a bunch of phonies running around not truly supporting anything.

I would rather meet an honest person who displays their true colors with disagreement, than meet the one who is pretending to follow todays latest politically correct agenda. Lets be honest, you can only have an engaging and enlightening discussion with someone if they are offering you an accurate view they have of the world. Arguing different viewpoints doesn’t necessarily mean anybody’s wrong or right. It generally means the truth lies somewhere in the middle. A difference of opinion does not mean one person is bad and the other is good. The gray areas in life are far more profuse than black and white. I’ve taken to adding more gray clothing to my wardrobe in support of that very point.

Truth be known, it’s the politics in the country that really jabs the button on my feeling offended. Every time I look at the news headlines it jolts my Feeling Offended button just like a pre-schooler hitting the crosswalk button a hundred times.

I’ve come to the conclusion I should start wearing a paper bag on my head.

If you saw me, you might ask, “Why are you wearing a paper bag on your head?”

I might shrug brushing the bottom of the bag with my shoulders and answer, “It’s because I’ve taken offense to my own offense. I am so tired of being offended. It’s utterly exhausting.”

“I still don’t understand?” you would ask, “Why would you wear a paper bag on your head just because you’re offended?”

“It’s a corrective action, it stops me from looking around for more things to be offended about.” I said. “It forces me to mind my own bee’s wax.”

You might make a face, “But then you’ll miss all the other wonderful things going on in the world.”

I’d shake my head and the bag might shift slightly, “Not really, I miss them anyways by always searching for things to be offended about. This way, if I mind my own bees wax for a while, I’ll have enough wax to do my own Bikini line.”

Golly Gee Wilikers, Is That You Superman?

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I love fun. I adore Halloween. I’m a teeny bit disappointed my Hubby and I didn’t dress up and attend the local Halloween bash this year. However, Rick’s been working long days, his sixty-hour week drags him down, so he was too taxed to Tango, literally. He’s been wondering if all his hard work is worth it, when half his wages go to paying taxes.

I know, here I go again. I keep telling myself I’m done, I will not write about Justin Trudeau anymore. I will not destroy my peaceful existence with another rant. But… Did you see the latest? And this comment is not because I am a stick in the Halloween goo, because I love it when people wear costumes at work on the spooktacular day.  However, when I saw Trudeau dressed up as Clark Kent, A.K.A Superman, I couldn’t help but do a tremendous eye-roll. I’m talking freaky pupils gone eye-roll, I actually lost vision in both eyes for a few seconds, and I admit to being grateful for it, because then I didn’t have to see Justin’s self-satisfied smirk any longer.

So now our egomaniacal Prime Minister thinks he’s slugging it out in the trenches and defeating evil at every turn like Superman. The audacity of him, you know, he could have reached for the joke. He could have disarmed his critics and haters with something fun. He could have dressed up like a beaver, or a polar bear, or a pair of socks? But no, he chose Superman. Once again he demonstrates his ego on a large scale. He see’s himself as the most powerful being on planet Earth. He chooses a Superhero created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, high school students living in Cleveland Ohio. Why didn’t he choose a Canadian Superhero like Wolverine, created in Cold Lake, Alberta, or Captain Canuck, created by Richard Comely, out of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Or is that all too domestic, and too Canadian for our worldly Prime Minister?

I am not a fan of a counterfeit smile.

I am a fan of an honest demeanour. I believe in humanitarian efforts, I believe in legalizing marijuana, and yes I would even champion a carbon tax if all that money were going directly towards supporting clean energy options. I believe Quebec, and any other province which dumps sewage into our waterways should be held accountable.  I believe Canada should manufacture more products at home. I believe we should be actively recruiting and developing inventive minds. I believe in creating positive trading relations with countries who have the same fundamental beliefs as our own country, freedom of expression, freedom to protest, freedom of religion unless it causes harm to others, (no devil worship please, sacrifices are generally not voluntary ) freedom of sexual orientation, and strong child protection laws.

What I am not a fan of however, is a hypocrite. On that note, I do not agree with all of Trudeau’s renovations, expensive holidays, and costly meals when he is away from the country, which seems to be a great deal of the time. I do not agree with the whopping deficit his government is incurring for the Canadian people. I especially do not agree with Trudeau’s deal with China. If the Trudeau government is so concerned about the welfare and rights of people, why is he striking trade agreements with countries like China? Do you want to  support an authoritarian regime by doing business with them? Have a look at these articles. This is Trudeau’s choice of trade partner—  the Amnesty report on China for 2016/2017China’s deadly secret, and last, but not least Trudeau urges Canadian companies to do business with China.

This is why I’m not sailing along on the Trudeaumania love boat. Justin can’t possibly represent Superman, because Superman would never deal with a country which denies their people creative freedoms, and silences outspoken human rights activists through harassment, imprisonment, and torture.

Looking forward to seeing Trudeau’s next Halloween costume. God? Is that you? Not.

Becoming A Wisengeezer

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If I were in the twilight years of life.

So the other day I asked my step-mom, Gil to give me a topic for my blog. “Anything,” I said. “It can be anything at all.”

She suggested I let my imagination zip into the future and write a profile of myself as a senior. At first I though, Ack! Kill me now! I don’t want to think about sagging body bits, bowel dysfunctions or misfires, failing eyesight, hearing loss, thinning hair, or extra pounds sneaking onto my meat suit. It’s not funny. I’m too close. It’s a freakin horror show. However, frightening or not, it’s a fact of life. It’s one most of us will have to face, if we’re lucky enough to make it to the coons age.

I trampled my resistance to the topic of aging, and after permitting the idea to ruminate in my mind. I came to the conclusion writing this would be more fun than putting Capri’s on a camel.

I believe old age is a state of mind, you’re only old and defunct, if you believe you are old and defunct. Bing bang boom, I arrive in my mid sixties with a face more like a prune than a raisin, but a sassy looking prune with a smile. My eyes droop at the corners, and my eyelids hang like a Bassett hounds. My super duper elastic reinforced bra keeps my boobies in line, as I never believed in letting them hang down and swing to and fro. My hair is far too thin for a lady, I’ve taken to wearing a wig with dreadlocks. I always wanted dreads. The skin on my body has the appearance of crepe paper but underneath my muscles are toned by exercising to rap music, every time I hear an explicit lyric I lift weights, or do an abdominal hold, or complete a series of leg raises.

In an effort to avoid a hum drum existence I would most likely take a few classes, a scrapbooking class, using pictures and phrases to capture the dastardly deeds I had done, or wished I had done in my life. I will include  scratch and sniff stickers but do not advise their use. In keeping with my creative side, I will give birth to my own You Tube Channel featuring shows with local talent like Batwing Granny, Nightmare on Forgetful Street, Grandpas Gone Wild, Gummy Gummy Grandma, and Dr. Who?

Maybe I’ll finally learn to play an instrument with expertise, cello, piano, or fellatio? If my Hubby is still with me we could go out to political rallies and take turns heckling the politicians.

Eventually, I might take up home brewing tequila, and have a ring around the rosie party with shots. Ring around the rosie, glasses full of boozy, cheers, cheers, we all fall down. Of course I’d have to invite the paramedics.

If my hubby is first to die I’ll take up fishing on the weekend. I would catch and release. I already know all the good ones are dead or taken.

In the summer I’d craft a plan for a holiday in a recreational vehicle as a stowaway. Maybe while I’m there I could convince some gullible children I’m a figment of their imaginations, and if they want me to leave they should bring me mommy’s wine.

I’ll become an active member of The Association of Gravestone Studies for future reference? Or maybe I would sit on the board of The National Association for Self-Esteem, but only if I’m good enough.

When my kids kick me out I’ll move into a seniors living residence I’ll become the local bookie, and take bets on the date of death for the oldest residents. No cheating allowed. The odds would go up or down according to the physical ailments. In that atmosphere I could see myself enjoying some of the handicraft courses they might offer, instead of Build-A- Bear, it would be Build-A-Dildo, satisfaction guaranteed. Or I could take a pottery class to design my own urn.

If I needed some extra pocket money I’d get a phone sales job, where my husky voice, clear phone connection, and thorough knowledge of Fifty Shades Of Grey will really pay off. On a slow evening I could sell some irrelevant things on line, like the neighbours stuff. Or even better with less investment, I could haunt the fringes of someone else’s garage sale and collect the money. Nothing says honest like saggy skin, silver hair, and age spots.

Seriously though, when I really do become a senior,  I hope the care and attention I have given towards my own health will bring me into old age with a positive attitude. If not? Well then, roll me a giddy stick of the devil’s cabbage, kiddo’s, with the new medicinal marijuana laws, there is no way life is gonna bring me down. That’s deaths job.

I dedicate this spontaneous blogarrhea to my most wonderful step-mom, Gil. She’s a good step-mom, her demons were exorcized long ago.