Friday, December 31, 2010

A New Year's Poem

Time pulls
the woolly blanket
of night
over day
the sun falls
into the horizon
and darkness blankets the sky

I tumble
pulling my fears
behind me
stuffing myself into a dress
and pumped up heels
ready to kick high
and dance
my way
through
the night
into a new year
expectant
not ready
just like
last year
when the time arrived
and I was
waiting
thinking maybe
this time
I'd be better off
sleeping
through the curtain
of darkness
dreaming
of this day
passing
away
into a brand new year
rising
up
in its potent promise
all dressed up
in glittery finery
waiting
for a new day
a new year
yet to come.


Happy Happy New Year everyone!

May your days be filled with love and laughter, joy and harmony.
May you know the bliss of living each moment filled with the rapture of now.

Looking Back (Part 2)

Sun rising over The Three Sisters
Hard to imagine, looking back, that today is the last day of 2010, the last day of the first decade of this century.

Hard to imagine, but it is true.

And what a year it's been.

Last night my eldest daughter asked me at dinner, "Mum, if you were to quit blogging every morning and use that time to work on your book, you'd be able to find the time to finish it."

She's right. But, I like blogging. I like the friends I've made, the connections I make everyday with like-spirited souls in this space of wonder.

Do I want to give up something I love doing?

yes, finishing the book is important. But is there some other time I could carve out to put to good avail?

One of my New Year's intentions is to balance my life. To not spend so many hours being a workaholic at my paying job, and to instead, shave off some precious minutes and hours to focus on my love of writing -- which means finishing that book.

I don't have issues with working -- I am blessed, so much of my work involves writing. Where my challenge comes is that I tend to work ten and twelve hour days on a regular basis plus on weekends -- which leaves little time for doing the other things I love to do.

Sure, there are those who would say I don't spend much time cleaning house -- they're right. And I don't spent time sorting cupboards and clearing out junk and well, you know, doing those household duties to keep our home in order. Not my forte.

Thing is, I love to read, to paint, and to write.

where I've gotten out of alignment is that I've taken what time I have to relax and vegged instead. Because relaxing is -- to write and read and paint and meditate and go for walks and even, at times, to clean a cupboard or two.

Vegging for me is to watch tv, aimlessly surf the web, play online spider solitaire (luv it!) or simply move objects around the kitchen without any clear objective.

Finding balance is my key focus for 2011.

But give up blogging? It is part of my morning routine. Part of what keeps me writing it out, writing through the ups and downs and curious moments of my daily living. Part of what keeps the words flowing in all their fat and juicy contexts, in all their silly, inside out and upside down expansiveness.

Writing it out in the morning keeps me in the flow of writing.

So... here goes. Creating space to write and work on my book -- that's my objective for January. to set it into my routine, to create a pattern of working on my book at least an hour a day -- that's my intention.

Wish me well!

I wish I could do it.
I want to do it.
I can do it.
I will do it!

And now, a few of my favourites from 2010. As it was so difficult to pick just one post from each blogger as my favourite, I randomly picked one (well sort of randomly...)

From Glynn Young at
Faith. Fiction. Friends -- Glynn's blog is always filled with great stories, poetry and book reviews as well as commentary on faith and Christianity and being a great human being -- and proud grandfather too!

She was strong, this woman.

Susan Etole at
Just a Moment -- wow -- every time I visit her site, which is as often as she posts, I am awed by the beauty of her photography and ability to marry words and images into inspirational sparks that light up my day.

Provision

One of my commitments for 2011 is to read poetry to C.C. every night. I've started early. Wanted to get into practice before the big fireworks catapulted me into the New Year. I've begun with L.L. Barkat's, Inside Out. Reading L.L.s work over at
Seedlings in Stone is like lying on buttery sand on a tropical beach and feeling the warm waters washing over your feet.

I can't post the actual link to the page as her blog is set up differently, but on Monday, June 9, 2008, she posted this piece
Of Bridges and Violins and Words -- I didn't read it until much later but it stirs my soul and soothes my spirit.

Kathleen Overby over at
Almost Paradisical has to be one of the most considerate, giving people I've ever encountered. While she doesn't write often enough for my liking, when she does post -- I am always intrigued and enchanted. Her writing provokes my thinking. She wakes me up.

Kathleen also is a wonder of snail mail. Every so often an envelope or card will arrive and it will be Kathleen, dropping in to visit via the postman/woman. What a wonderful gift she is. What a beautiful heart she expresses in everything she does and writes and says.

Silent Cry

I lost this lovely woman for awhile. She'd moved her blog and I had not updated my bloglist to reflect her new address. I kept clicking on the address and finding no blog to access. and then, I found her again and I was sooooo happy.

Every time I visit
nAncY's site, I come back refreshed, revived and re-invigorated to live this one wild and precious life in the rapture of now!

Under the Banyan Tree

I only recently met Claudia through
One Stop Poetry. Her blog is filled with poetic imagery at Splittergewitter -- and I'm so glad I have met her. Her poetry is stirring. She weaves imagery into words in ways that leave me filled with wonder. What a blessing it is to find a poem on her site -- and even more so when she includes a video of her reading her poetry. Awesome!

poetree

She is creative and inquisitive and we will definitely be hearing much more of this young poet from India. Trisha is a gem as is her site,
Sharmishtha Basus Poetries. She encourages people. Shares her art and words with an open and giving heart, always opening up new ideas and ways of being present in this world.

Grey Green Sapphire

Sandra Heska King is a woman of deep, abiding faith who shares brilliantly and passionately her words and thoughts and beliefs. I don't have her unshakable faith. I do have great admiration for the depth of her belief, her courage and her beauty. Reading Sandra's blog awakens the Divine all around me.

I See Glory

I have been blessed this year with finding my love of writing poetry again. I've been blessed to be encouraged by some amazing people -- in particular, Jingle and the group of poets who manage the site,
Jingle Poetry.

And perhaps, this is as good a place as any to leave you, hanging breathless, wanting more. There are lots of other places to visit. Lots of inspiring, funny, clever, witty and profound places to be inspired, get motivated, get jazzed up.

How about visiting Brandi @
Drama, conspiracies and Just general awesomeness, or Jeff @ To my children, if they are listening. Or, a couple of my new blog friends I'm so delighted to have encountered, Becky Sain @ First Pages or my neighbour from central Alberta, Hope @ The works of Hope. And then there's Thelma @ Widowsphere: A circle of Hope, she's always got great offerings of what's happening in and around her world.

so many treasures to uncover.

So many treasures found in 2010.

It has been a year of expansion. Of opening up to the wonder and beauty of the world in all its multi-coloured, multi-hued and sparkling facets.

It has been a year to evolve, to grow, to move beyond the limits of my comfort zone out into the big wide world beyond the realms of my imaginings.

it has been a year to let go of. To release.

To be.

Wishing everyone an inspired New Year.

May joy and peace find you even in the darkest of moments.
May you be filled with the light of love where ever you journey.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Looking Back

The Three Sisters Mountain Range at first light
Looking back I see the year unfolding in friendships found upon this space where white screen greets me every morning, beckoning me to fill it with my thoughts expressed in words that lift me up, up out of the darkness of morning into the light of day breaking my heart open in love.

Looking back I experience the year unfolding through the writings of people I have never met on the reality plane, but for whom this cyberspace creates a vibrant reality beyond the 3-D plane of my everyday existence. In particular, three women with whom I've formed a friendship -- it may be in cyberland but it feels so real and deep and meaningful to me.

Looking back, I share with you just a few of their words that inspired me, moved me, touched me, startled me or simply entranced me.

Looking back -- I must confess, most everything these friends writes moves me, touches me, inspires me... in some way. It is one of the many gifts these women have given me - voices that connect deeply in my soul, touching me and inviting me to open up to the wonders of friendship reflected in their loving ways.

and if you check my blogroll -- you'll see other writers whose words awaken beauty and truth and love and joy. Tomorrow, I'll share more of my favourites, but for today, I honour these women who have come to mean so much to me and who add such joy and light into my life.

This is just a random sampler to get you inspired too!


From Maureen Doallas at Writing without Paper --

God Is (A Poem)

Wednesday Wonder: Artist Maureen OKayne

Christmas Listening Posts (Poem)

From Diane Walker at Contemplative Photography

In stillness, calm reflections


With Sophia at the window

Patience

From Joyceann Wycoff at Peaceful Legacies

Patterns


Be Wild

Tension of the Opposites

Dreaming: I awaken. (a poem)

So... sitting here in mountain glory. Snow falling. Light fading, I write. A poem. Of love. Of stars and dreaming and ancient Celtic goddesses riding in the night.

Sometimes, Most-times, All the time, when the muse beckons I must heed her call.

And, when I was finished, there was Jingle Poetry waiting in my Inbox, inviting me to participate in this week's Poet's Rally!

Dreaming: I awaken

Dreaming
gravity
falls
effortlessly
into the night
where Rhiannon awaits
in moonlit wonder
to open up the starlit sky

On starburst waves
I ride
upon Epona’s white mare
ascending into the stars
where dreams await
in fecund possibility
sparked by meteor showers
dripping
with fiery heat
and heavenly bursts
opening up eternity's beauty

Abandoning reason
I cast my fate to the wind
and fall
into ancient realms
where gods and goddesses
once cast
their spell upon the night
shot through with
shadowy myths
of silvery streams
laden
with moonbeam dust
shimmering in the lush
dark
night

Lost amongst the stars
my dreams abandoned
to the darkness of
my being
held captive
to these ancient heirs
casting shadows
in the night
I tumble
into Apollo’s embrace
effortlessly floating
upon dawn’s early light
where Venus releases me
from my earthly moorings
to dance
amongst the stars

Awake and dreaming
I fall
effortlessly
into Love’s eternal grace.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Doing what I avoided

I did something yesterday I've been avoiding for several weeks. It wasn't dangerous, or even all that big a deal. It's just something I've hesitated to do, ever since the flat brown envelope arrived in mid November.

Inside that envelope was a DVD. And on that DVD is a documentary. A documentary about the story told in my book, The Dandelion Spirit.

It has played on the VIVA station several times now since October. And each time, I've managed to be busy, or simply to forget it was on.

Friends asked, "Have you seen it? I did." And inevitably they'd add, "It's really good."

Several of my co-workers saw it. "I wanted to kill the guy," one woman commented.

Another, a male, told me, "You inspire me. Your courage is amazing."

And still, I couldn't watch the video.

Until yesterday afternoon. Until the house was quiet. C.C. was out playing tennis. The girls busy and I had run out of excuses to not watch it.

And so, I did.

It wasn't bad.

Pretty good, actually.

Though it was, at moments, hard to watch. Not because I am tied to the pain of him. I'm not. Filming that documentary really showed me that. About him I have little if no emotion. He was. He is no longer in my life, my heart, my mind. I can speak of those times without connecting to the pain. I can speak of those times in the context of inspiring, helping, guiding, others to move through the pain of loving someone who drives you crazy, or drives you to the brink of wanting to die.

I can speak of those times and know, in speaking of them I am living on purpose, touching hearts and opening minds to set spirits free to dance in a world of love, joy and harmony.

In watching the documentary, however, it is the pain I caused in the hearts and minds and bodies of those I love that triggered my sorrow.

And sorrow is good. Sorrow lets me move into joy. Sorrow washes me free of clinging memories that will not lie quietly in the past.

I watched the documentary and sat in the feelings that arose. I let them move in and around and about me. I let them flow.

And know, it is good. Doing it. Putting it out there. Letting it have its own life. In the telling, other's may see or hear or feel something that will set them free too.

And that is good.

I watched a documentary yesterday that was about me. I watched me speak. Watched me walk. Watched me talk about a time when my life narrowed into a deep dark hallway of despair. I watched and knew -- it is good. All is good.

I am ok.

I am free.

What a gift my freedom is.

What a blessing those dark days were in creating the light and joy in my life today.

Nameste.

PS -- I am in Canmore for a few days. Hadn't expected to have Internet. Brought my computer so I could write. And, voila! I am -- and I'm also online. How cool is that! Outside, the temperature has plummeted into sub-zero climes. Snow falls. Trees climb the mountainside outside the picture window, silent sentinels in a grey world. Inside, the fire burns. Yo-yo Ma plays cello. C.C. is chatting with the couple we're sharing this time with and I am content. All is well in my world. All is well in my life. All is well in my heart.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Gone West to the Mountains!

We have gone to the mountains for a few days and I won't be online until the weekend!

Enjoy!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Raising a dream

Photo credit: Adam Dustus - scene is part of Rockefeller Center, NYC
Raising a dream

Through the ever asking night
he blows
hot then cold then hot again
notes of joy, of sorrow, of hope
notes rising up
to catch their breath
upon the wind
spinning
in the dark of night
out of control
seeking
a dream
rising up
to proclaim
peace on earth
for all mankind.

The wonderfully talented Claudia, over at Splittergewitter, posted a poem for this week's One Stop Poetry that caught my attention -- particularly, this line: through the ever asking night.

Inspired by her words, I used the line to create my own poem from it, using the photo prompt from Sunday's One Stop Poetry.

It's a great way to write a poem. Let someone else's words, let a photo inspire you -- and let yourself create!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Day to Celebrate with family and friends

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
*************************************************************************************
In our house, it came to pass that twenty-two people gathered together to celebrate this very special day of the year.

Surrounded by laughter, by voices raised in song and joy, in sharing of love and friendship, Christmas came alive.


No need to dress to dress the turkey
C.C. Santa's little elf

Tired today. Got up early yesterday to prepare the stuffing for the bird.

Began organizing the house. the girls arose and off they went to their father's step-daughters while C.C. and I prepared the bird for the oven.

It was such a big bird it had to enter the oven earlier than any I've ever cooked before. Which meant, my Christmas bread didn't get made. The gluten free chocolate cake didn't get baked and the puff pastry appetizer didn't get cooked.

And still, there was lots of food!

In fact, we could probably have fed another 22 -- but where we would have put them is another question.

The living room before transformation


When the kids returned from their dad's, we opened presents and moved furniture around so that the living room became the dining, and the dining the living room. We set up three tables and everyone went off for a nap while I did my favourite Christmas Day activity -- decorating the table.

Jessica, a friend of the girls, has been staying with us over Christmas as her family lives in the Maritimes and she couldn't get back for the holidays. Pressed into service, she painted the final four wine glasses.

Jessica at work -- Painting Glasses

Alexis awoke from her nap and cleaned out the fridge -- thank you! It's a miracle! There's actually room to put leftovers.

The guest room was tidied up and by five o-clock when my mother and sister and her husband arrived -- we were almost ready for the festivities to begin.

And begin they did. I don't know what time they went until, but it seems everyone had a great time.

By 11:30 I was so dead tired I quietly slipped off to bed to leave Charles and the younger folk to play.... What if?

It was, a magical day. An evening of good food, wine, friendship and communion.

It was what Christmas is all about for me.

Giving and receiving.
Sharing and communing.

Being part of a circle of love that cannot be broken.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

From my heart to yours,
Merry Christmas everyone
and an Inspired New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

A beautiful human being

Throughout the year she spent her time crocheting hats. Her sister joined in and together they created 236 touques. Every month they purchased items to fill each hat so that when the hats arrived at the DI they would each be filled with a pair of gloves, lip balm, comb, toothbrush, safety razor and a few candies.

I want to give back Toni Bennett said when she told me her idea of crocheting hats and filling them with necessities for our clients. It was early in the year, she had just been diagnosed with cancer and knew she'd have time on her hands while recovering. I remember at the time thinking, what an amazing woman. I had no idea how amazing she truly is.

Throughout the year, Toni crocheted and her sister, Sue Brigliadori joined in. And with each hat they hooked together, hope grew. Hope for her well-being. Hope for the well-being of the clients who would receive her gift.

On Tuesday, Toni, accompanied by her husband Brian Sherret who helped fill the hats and tie them up and her sister Sue at the DI their car loaded with boxes of hats and well-wishes for clients and staff.

They brought more than a Christmas gift. They brought a reminder of the meaning of Christmas. Of giving from the heart what is in each of us to give. Of giving and sharing and believing in hope, in dreams, in miracles. Of living our gratitude.

I’m sorry I couldn’t do better, she wrote in an email, just before dropping off the hats. I had hoped to put a pair of socks in each package, but I just couldn’t afford it.

In the coming year, I’ll try to put more complete packages together based on what you need... the cancer I have has taken a turn for the worse, so I may not be able to do as much in the coming year, as I’ll be starting Chemotherapy in January. I’ll do the best I can, though.

Toni's best is beyond my wildest imaginings. If all of us did a bit of what Toni has done, what an amazing world this would be.

She is an amazing woman. An inspiration. A beautiful human being.

Thank you Toni Bennett, Sue Brigliadori and Brian Sherret. You have touched many hearts with your generosity of spirit, your graciousness and your kindness. You have touched hearts and opened minds, just as your beautiful hats will keep bodies warm and spirits lifted.

Merry Christmas. May you receive the gift of healing, of good-health, joy, love and peace this Christmas. May you be well.

May we all know Love. A place to come home to. A place where our hearts belong. May we all experience the joy and wonder of this special time of year.

Merry Christmas.

(Thank you Toni for giving me permission to use your names. Thank you for all you do.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Radiating joy.

He is walking towards me as I walk westwards towards the city core. He is 'visibly homeless'. Ragged yellow jacket. Smudged. A small rip on the left shoulder. There are others on the street but he is the only one to look at me, smile and say, "Merry Christmas!"

"And to you too," I call out as we pass and walk away from each other.

That brief encounter puts a smile in my face. Lightens my step. I try it out on the next person I pass. "Merry Christmas!" I call out as I keep walking.

Startled, the passerby, hesitates and then replies, "Merry Christmas to you." And we continue on our way.

At the stop light, I wait for the light to turn green. I feel a presence walking up behind me. A shadow drifting down the sidewalk towards me.

I know it is a man. There is no one else around. This is not always a 'great' part of town. I grip the shoulder strap of my handbag a bit more tightly.

And from behind me a voice calls out, "Merry Christmas, Louise!"

I turn and the man whose shadow edged into my peripheral vision causing some concern stands smiling at me. He is well dressed. Nice black jacket. Blond hair. Clean looking.

"Merry Christmas to you too," I reply. I am not sure where I know him from. I cannot think of his name.

"You know I'm out of there?" he says quickly.

I don't need an explanation of 'out of there'. I know exactly where he means. Out of there is the homeless shelter where I work.

"I didn't know that," I reply. "How wonderful for you!"

The light turns green, I need to cross. He points along the avenue, towards downtown. "You going that way?"

"Yes I am," I reply.

He smiles. "Me too! I'll walk with you awhile."

And we start to walk westward along the avenue.

"Got me a kitchenette. Almost 1,000 a month. Thirty three dollars and fifty three cents a day. But I get free cable, heat, electricity and phone. I think I can make it."

"Are you working?" I ask.

"Yeah. Well, I was working full-time. Over on that big project on 8th. But they laid everybody off. Well, not everybody, but 21 of us in one week. So, I'm doing some temp. Got a fulltime gig for awhile over at Southland and McLeod. Bit of a hike out of downtown everyday. Transit costs me $5.00 a day. But for now, I'm making it."

"You look great!" I tell him. "Being out suits you."

He smiles. A toothy smile. He's smoking as we walk but the air pushes his smoke away. I'm used to it, mostly. So many of the people we serve at the shelter smoke. For many, it is the only thing of their 'former lives' they have left to cling to. The only thing they cannot give up.

"It's sure expensive out of there though. Like I had forgotten how much it costs to just keep yourself going every day."

"The reality of life," I laugh with him. He takes a drag on his cigarette and I notice his hands are bare.

"Aren't your hands cold?" I ask him.

He looks at them as if he's just noticing them. It is cold. His hands are red and chafed.

"Gloves cost so much. One thing about not being there, you don't get nothing for free out here."

"You are still welcome to come in and get gloves," I tell him. "You can still come and get things you need. We're always there to help."

He sighs. "Yeah. I know. But I don't like to go back. I get scared I might get stuck again. I don't want to go back."

We reach a corner. The light is green for me to keep walking west. He points south. "This is where I leave you," he says. "Merry Christmas."

I stop walking. Turn to face him.
"I apologize," I say. "I forget your name."
"That's okay. You meet so many people. Randy. I'm Randy."
"Merry Christmas to you Randy. Can I give you a hug?"

He breaks into a huge smile. "That would be great!"

And we hug and I continue on my way as he waits for his light to turn green. "I'll be back!" he yells to my departing back.

"Make sure you come visit me," I call out.

And my step is light. My heart at ease. I smile at passersby. Say hello. Merry Christmas.

And people respond and smile back. And smiles ripple out along the street. Good cheer radiates through the air.

And I realize, it wasn't that people weren't saying Merry Christmas to me. It didn't matter that people weren't greeting me first. What matters is, like the first man who approached and called out, I am reaching out to welcome strangers from a heartfelt place, creating good-tidings of Peace. Love. and Joy as I pass.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Let us. Do it. Now.

And so this is Christmas. In the corner of the room, lights glow on a fir tree. The tree we went out to pick together. Laughing and smiling, we sang Christmas carols and wandered amidst the pines and firs in search of the perfect one to bring home. And when we found it, together we brought it into the house, and together we lovingly decorated its branches with glittering glass balls and sparkling ornaments.

And so this is Christmas. The windows are all dressed up in boughs and bows. There's a reindeer on the piano and Christmas ornaments scattered around the room.

Christmas is in the air.

And still, I wait.

This evening C.C. and I will navigate the mall, searching for that perfect something for the someone's we love. I am not into the gift buying. I want to give gifts of the heart. Love. Peace. Joy. I want to share words that sing of my love, to give hugs that carry love from my heart to yours. I am not into the gift buying. I want to spend my time giving. Being together. Sharing. Doing the things we love. Together.

The turkey arrives today. Farm fresh. Free range. Recently plucked. It has given its life for us. Just as in its giving it has sustained a farmer's livelihood. Put bread on his table and food in his cupboards.

The placecards are ready. Together we painted the glasses. Snowflakes. Trees. Musical notes and stars. A name on each stem. To be placed around the table come Christmas night. Preparations are afoot for Christmas dinner. We will be 22 this year. Family and friends. New ones and old. Friendships that have endured the years. Friendships that have been born in the year past, nurtured on the bridge of caring that connects our hearts together.

And still, I wait.

I am inspired by the Christchild story. Inspired by the promise of the One who will come into our world and bring peace and joy to all mankind. I grow impatient. Where is the love? Where is the peace? Where is the acceptance of one another. I grow impatient and wonder, what am I waiting for?

I read of wars and soldiers fallen upon fields of battle far from home. I read of drug lords gunning down innocent children and mother's arms reaching out to capture their child's body before it falls.

I hear of a father killing his children, a mother abandoning hers. I hear of a mother running away from danger, gathering her children to her breast as she knocks at a shelter door, praying they will have room for her tonight. I hear of children crying out for fear they will be left alone this Christmas. Of children calling out for someone to come and ease their pain and fear.

I hear of disease tearing lives apart, of drugs ripping into the hearts of families. Of intolerance pulling apart communities and fear of the unknown polarizing towns, pulling down politicians and pushing up our fear of each other as we take up arms to protect ourselves from our neighbours.

I hear of these things and want to call out, Let us wait no more.

Let us bring peace into our lives today. Right now. Right here.

Let us still the raging heart that would have us hate our neighbours. Let us quiet the angry voices that would have us kill each other. Let us stop picking up arms of destruction. Let usreach out with arms of love.

Let us know peace.

Let us wait no longer.

Let us embrace the message of this child. Let us open our hearts and minds to embrace his message of love, peace and joy. He brings it to all mankind. Not just me and you. But to all of us.

Let us love one another. Care for each other. Let us bring peace to our world. This one world. One planet. One humankind.

Let us. Do it. Now.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I believe in magic

Nature, time and patience are three great physicians. H.G. Bohn
Someone should have told Mr. Bohn about the lunar eclipse on a cloudy night. All the patience in the world would not make it visible before it disappeared into the night.

It was 12:40am. I leaped from my bed. Ran to the front hallway. Donned coat and hat and gloves and scarf and boots and ran out the front door. I raced down the sidewalk and stood at the end of the driveway and looked up into the sky.

I turned this way and that. Spun around a few times for good measure. I searched and peered into the night, but the moon was shrouded. A ghostly galleon moonlit night it wasn't.

What had been a clear, starry night when I'd gone to bed had become a cloudy sky. I could see the moon, just barely, through streaky white clouds. I could see it and I think I saw a corner of the sun's shadow starting to move across its face. And then... the streaks began to mass together. Fast. And the sky went white.

I glanced to the west. More clouds moving in. To the east. Clear skies.

The weatherfolk had predicted a Chinook. At least that would be some consolation for missing the eclipse. When a Chinook rolls in, clouds arrive from the west, racing down the windward side of the Rockies, bringing with them warmer climes. Big time warmer climes. Like 20 degree Celsius swings in temperature. From sub-arctic to near balmy in a matter of hours.

Hmmm.... not yet a Chinook. No wind and baby, it was cold outside.

Alas, Chinook or not, the eclipse was not visible. And while I could see some stars to the East, above me, in that vital quadrant of the sky where the giant yellow orb of the moon hung suspended, there was only cloud.

C.C., who had forgotten about the 12:42 eclipse, came to the front door and watched me standing in the driveway, spinning around in a circle, looking for some sign of clearing, some open space in the cloud above.

"What are you doing?" he called out.

"I'm looking for the eclipse," I called back.

He dipped his head out from beneath the overhang of the front porch, viewed the cloud-filled sky and stated. "Won't see much. They said it would be cloudy on the news."

"You knew it was cloudy?" I asked, incredulous. "You knew and didn't stop me running out?" It was now 12:55am. I could be sleeping...(did I mention I have lots of patience, though some might call it stubborness and was determined to see the clouds part so I could witness the eclipse).

"You were gone before I knew it," he laughed. When I'd woken and raced out the door, he had been watching a movie in the family room. All he'd seen of me was a streak of movement, moving fast, like a meteor shower streaking through the night. Oh right. I didn't get to see the promised meteor shower either due to the cloud cover.... "And, like I could have stopped you finding out for yourself?" he added.

He had a point. I'm an experiential learning. I like to find things out for myself. Even when science, and a host of heavenly happenings state otherwise, I like to check it out myself to make sure it's not just some illusion blocking my view. It's patience. Not stubborness.

And anyway, I never trust the weatherman in Calgary. The weather can change faster than he can update his meteorological charts. (We don't have a weatherwoman in Calgary so I'm not being sexist!)

But really, does it matter if I saw the eclipse or not?

It happened. First one in over 600 years. A lunar eclipse on Winter Solstice. And, a meteor shower that could be seen with the naked eye due to the darkness of the night sky.

It happened and while I did not see the movement of the sun shadowing the moon, I did get to wish upon the night. I did get to stand in the quiet of the street and spin around and around looking up into the sky searching for a clear patch through which to view the magic and make a wish-- which I can't tell you because everyone knows, telling on what you wished negates the wish. And would you want to risk negating the possibility of world peace just because your curious about my wish? Didn't think so.

Fortunately, our neighbours were still all sleeping, probably dreaming about world peace. No one else was dancing in the night, spinning in the dark. They must have listened to the news as well.

Other than C.C., the only other witness to my escapade was a big white hare who stopped, mid-hop in the middle of the road to watch me spinning in circles.

I think he might have thought he was seeing a ghost of Christmases past...

Then again, perhaps he's a relative of the jolly old fat man and was checking up to make sure all good boys and girls were tucked safely in their beds for a long winter's nap. You know, an elf in bunny costume.

Oh dear, what if he really was a Santa minion and tells the North Pole cadre my spinny tale of searching for the moon on a cloud covered night and he tells them it was actually a drunken caper? What if Santa is sooooo disappointed in me he doesn't even bother to drop off a lump of coal!

Oh no. Gotta get busy doing good deeds between now and the 25th.

But then, Santa's pretty old. Maybe he'll forget before Christmas Eve. And maybe, it will be a cloudy night when his sleigh sets out loaded with toys and maybe, he won't be able to see where he's going and he'll need someone to help and I'll be there with my bright shiny brandnew GPS that I know I'm getting for Christmas and I''ll have opened early because... well I just can't stand not knowing what's in all those presents under the tree and I like to sneak in and check them out and them tape them all back together again and nobody knows I've done it and I'll hear about Santa's dilemma because on Christmas Eve I'll remember to listen to the news and I'll dive under the tree and say something like.... "do you think anyone bought me a GPS so that I can save Christmas".... and C.C. will have to say, "I did." and he'll hand me the package and I'll rip it open and race out the door, without bothering to don coat and hat and scarf and gloves and boots because everyone knows on Santa's sleigh magic happens and I won't feel cold all wrapped up in his magic blanket and I'll race into the night sky, meet Santa somewhere around the tail end of the little dipper and say.... "Hey Santa! I've got a GPS. I can lead your sleigh tonight!"

And all of the reindeer will love me... except Rudolph of course who will be upset because he thought his shiny red nose would do the job but he didn't realize that the cloud wasn't really cloud, it was actually all those lost words and images spiralling through cyberspace, clouding up the atmosphere in their quest to be seen and heard. And Rudolph's nose, so shiny and bright, reminded them of a Ctrl.Alt.Del. keystroke and they were ganging up to take a byte out of his bulbuous extremity when I rode in and Rudolph, the ungrateful swine, I mean Reindeer, doesn't even know I saved his life. But that's okay because I'm not there for his gratitude or my own gratification. I don't have time for petty in-fighting. I'm just there to lend a hand on Christmas Eve!

And Santa will greet me and my GPS like his best buddy and he will forget about my alleged drunken caper on the night of the solar eclipse..

and Christmas will be saved for all the boys and girls in the world.

All because C.C. bought me a GPS for Christmas.

Oh, that and the fact, I still believe in magic, even when I can't see it happening in the sky above.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Love is in the air.

Last night, I went to a Solstice Celebration put on by the Centre for Inspired Living. It was a joint effort by the Centre's Director, Kerry Parsons and St. Steven's Anglican Church. An unusual alliance of a 'new age' institute married with a secular institution to present a celebration based on pagan rituals of honouring the Solstice.

It was Divine.

When Howard Parsons, St. Stephen's Minister, welcomed everyone, he spoke of the tradition of the 'church'. It's 2,000 year old heritage and history of being 'the accepted' way. He mentioned how, when Christian's were persecuted, we were perhaps more able to adapt, to adjust, to be relevant to the times because the very act of persecution questioned the foundational beliefs and practices of the church.

It's a lot easier now, he said. A lot easier now that the Church is known as the primary religion of the western world.

But perhaps, in that process of becoming the 'standard', the Church has lost its edge, and some of its relevance, he added.

And so, St. Stephen's joined with Kerry and the Centre for Inspired Living to present Soul Food for the Winter Solstice. A benefit concert to welcome in the light and to raise funds for Inn From the Cold -- a charity that houses homeless families. Inn from the Cold began in Calgary many years ago at St. Stephen's. It is fitting the event be held under its roof.

I sat in the church, amidst candlelight and music and voices singing and words spoken and I was moved. Moved by the majesty of the human spirit, the beauty of our voices and the wonder of our stories.

My friend BA was there. We sat and felt the communion of spirit that comes when hearts are touched, minds open wide and spirits take flight.

There was much music, joy, laughter, and heartfelt sharing of gifts last night. A small child walking down the aisle, her face aglow in candlelight, leading the procession. Singing together of Here Comes the Sun. Merging of secular and non to create an evening of wonder and joy.

Luke Bradley was one of the performers. A young man with a great talent who shyly offered his gift of voice and music. At the end of the evening, as I was leaving the church, he was sitting on a bench by the door waiting for his mother to finish a conversation. I walked over and said to him, "You have a great talent. An amazing voice. Stunning. I can't wait to buy your CD."

He smiled back. Somewhat shyly. His mother walked over and said, "Thank you! He doesn't believe his mother."

I laughed.

I too have a daughter who doesn't believe me when I speak of my wonder of her gifts. Of how talented she is. What an amazing voice and spirit she has.

For that moment in time, Luke's mother and I shared a bond, a bond unbroken in time of mother's who love their children and children who are somewhat embarrassed by their mothers' love -- and adoration -- and wish they'd just be quiet! :)

I looked back at Luke. "Believe her," I said. "It's true. You are very gifted."

"Believe her," Luke's mother said. "Does she look like she's lying?"

I laughed and left filled with the wonder of a special night. Filled with the joy of knowing, the days are growing longer, light is opening up the sky, hearts are healing, minds are opening, spirits are raising high.

Nameste.

At one point, as I sat and let the music wash over me, I felt the muse stirring. Not wanting to lose her thread of inspiration, I pulled out my notebook and wrote down the words she offered in celebration of the night. This is the poem I wrote while sitting in the quiet of the church.

Alleluia Chorus

Darkness rests
still
is the night
lingering at the edge
of day
break
waiting
waiting to appear
to open up
hearts and minds
to the wonder
of a thousand tiny fragments
of light ascending
into heavenly hosts
of alleluia
exalting
in the beauty of spirits rising
in Love and Light.

Alleluia
Alleluia

The Christchild is coming.

Alleluia
Alleluia

Love is in the air.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Christmas Poem

Over at L.L. Barkat's Seedlings in Stone , she posted a blog on Thursday, A Pronoun Christmas , that contained advice to begin a poem with a pronoun (Thursday, December 9). The suggestion to begin a poem with a pronoun, writes L.L., came from Kim Addonizio's book, Ordinary Genius.

Now, I know better than to question the muse. So, when she began to flow, I let her.


He said. She said.

He said
I give you a child
a child to raise you up
to live in heaven
on earth

She said
what child is this
to raise me up
that I may never fear
losing my way
from heaven on earth

what child is this
to bring me hope
to bring me joy
and love
everlasting

I have sinned
and do not deserve him

He said
He is my only Son
conceived of the Holy Spirit
born of the Virgin Mary
He suffered on earth
and rose again to sit
at the right hand of the Father

He brings you forgiveness
of your sins
He brings you life everlasting.

And she cried
and she said
Forgive me Father
for I have sinned.

And He said,
Rise up my child
Love my Son
with all your heart
Love him forevermore
Your sins have been forgiven.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Christmas Wish come true.

Looking back through the logs that mention his name, his track record at the shelter is spotty. Not very 'harmonious'. Fights. Disrespectful behaviour. Alcohol on property. A list of transgressions that earned him numerous bars and removal from premises.

As he told a Global TV Reporter yesterday, "I earned a lot of life bars because I was bad." He didn't care about himself or anyone. All he really wanted was to booze it up and do drugs.

And then the logs stop -- at least the ones about bad behaviour.

The new one's begin several months later. After he came back to the shelter. After he was in hospital. After the surgery that changed his life.

The new logs are different. "This vulnerable client." "Concerned for his whereabouts." "C.G. has an appointment with the Nurse today."

The logs are different, as is his life. And his body.

Every thing changed last winter. Everything shifted.

C.G. went off on a bender. He wanted to get high. He did some crack. Drank a 26er and fell asleep on a bench on a frigid cold night. A day later, a medical team was fighting for his life. Fighting to save him. Eventually they would win but they wouldn't be able to save his hands. And a chunk of his leg.

And everything shifted.

Because in passing out in that snow bank, C.G. lost all hope of living life in 'normal'. In his 40s, he's mostly worked labour. And with the loss of his hands, he'll never hold a shovel, drive a backhoe, or lay cement again. Without his hands, he'll never be able to easily lift a cigarette butt to his lips. Or hold a crack pipe or any other kind of implement or bottle or cup with ease.

Some of that loss is good. He's done with crack. Done with fighting and scrapping to get by. He's done with being the bad-azz, the guy everybody avoids.

He's into being present. Living his life clean and sober.

Charming. Funny. Warm and inviting, he's into spreading joy. He's into making his life, and the world around him, a better place.

Yesterday, I chatted with C.G. as he got ready to have his Christmas Wish come true. He talked about his excitement, his belief that this would be a brand new day, a brand new start to his life. And, he talked about what took him down so hard, what pushed him over the edge into sobriety -- and why he wants to make sure others hear his story.

"I was a real bad guy," he said. "And now, I've got a second chance. If something like this [his wishlist request coming true] can happen to me, imagine what else can happen now?"

On the best day of his life ever, as he described it, C.G. is ready to take on the world.

All because of a Christmas Wish come true.

A simple wish from a man who is living simply.

C.G.s wishlist request? A passionate Calgary Flames supporter, he asked for a Flames Jersey.

Yesterday, thanks to Jill Croteau, Global TV Reporter, C.G. got more than he ever imagined. More than he thought possible.

He got a chance to watch the Flames practice.

He got to go in the Flames dressing room and meet the players.

He got to meet his hero Kiprusoff.

And, he got a Jersey. Signed by all the players.

It was a Christmas wish come true.

An opportunity to experience life in a whole new way, a way he never imagined.

"I can't drink no more," he later said. "To do that would be to disrespect everything everyone has done for me. I can't do that."

For C.G., losing his hands has given him the thing he cherishes most, himself. He's found the one he lost somewhere on that road of life, the one who fell asleep in a snowbank under a haze of drugs and alcohol.

Life isn't easy, but he's up to the challenge. He's giving it his all, taking it one step at a time, being his best so that around him, he can create the best of worlds for everyone.

Kudos to you C.G. You are a great man.

Thank you to the players and management of The Calgary Flames. You rock!

And Thank you Jill Croteau who cared enough to make one man's Christmas wish come true in ways none of us ever imagined. You are amazing.

Here is Jill Croteau's story from Global Calgary (it begins after the 30 second ad on the Telus World of Science)

Friday, December 17, 2010

This is Christmas (a poem)

A canon
notes strung in perfect harmony
dancing on air
like pure white sheets
drying in the sun
a simple cavatina
joyfully proclaiming
the wonder that has begun
with this special time of year.

Piano keys felt
pads engaged
the key of life played
through a ligature
effortlessly joining
black and white/sharp and flat
a semitone on a half moving into full
heart-filled expression
cascading into
a cadenza of hope
playing together
a note
a tone
a song
of joy
of heaven on earth
where no key is measured
wanting
no note
left behind
without
a companion note
to play in harmony
to join in symphony.

Laughter pealing
each note a perfect intonation
of joy
exalting
a hymn without words
abandoning darkness
cascading from adagio to allegro
legato to staccato
making music
making magic
making love
happen
in flight
hearts joining in holy communion
around a note of pure, ecstatic joy.

This is Christmas.
This is Love.

*****************************************

Over at One Stop Poetry there's holiday celebration going on. One Stop offers up a prompt inviting anyone to write a poem or two based on George Winston's music -- two pieces in particular, December and/or The Snowflakes have to fall.

I chose to write a piece to December -- it's long been one of my very favourite pieces of music -- so it felt 'right' to choose it and write to its graceful melody playing softly as my fingers raced across the keys in harmony to the pure sweet sounds of Winston's piano.

I invite you to dip yourself in magic and wonder today and visit the poetry offered up at One Stop.

Take a risk. Dip yourself in creative release and write a line, a stanza, a poem...

Fill yourself with wonder.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Loving one and not the other

I am waiting at a Pedestrian Crosswalk for the light to turn green. They are walking across the street towards me from the left, crossing along the avenue. They are four. Two men. Two women. they look like a group of office workers out for lunch. Their voices carry towards me with the ease of a jet plane taking off in the arctic air that has swept down upon our city.

"If I were homeless and it were this cold I'd take as many ambulance rides as I could," says one woman. Her voice sounds harsh and derisive. Or maybe it was just her words sounded harsh and derisive and I applied my judgements of what she said to her voice.

"They already do that," replies the other woman quickly. "Why do you think our health care costs are so out of whack? They're abusing the system constantly."

And they walk on by. Laughter trailing behind them.

The pedestrian light turns green and I cross, and walk away from that moment where our paths intersected. That moment of conversation that lingers in the frigid air as I walk towards my luncheon.

And it lingers on. I think about their words. About the opinions expressed. About the perceptions that are so out of alignment with the truth as I know it, as I perceive it.

And my judgements edge in like a semi-trailer parallel parking on a busy city street. There's nothing comfortable about my judgements. Nothing easy. In a brain filled with gazillions of brain cells, they're trying to maneuver into a tiny space of limited thinking that leaves me spiralling in dismay.

I want to run after that quartet and set them straight. I tell myself, their truth is based on lack of knowledge. On stereotypes they've never tested. On information they've never questioned.

I know this to be true I tell myself and keep walking away. Really folks, can't you see how blind your thinking is? Can't you see it just isn't true?

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon presenting at an elementary school. Four different groups of students, grades k to 6, gathered to learn about homelessness and the shelter where I work.

I use our Stand by Me video when I make these presentations. It's fun and it's a great way to open people up to limiting beliefs. Before the video plays, I ask the students and teachers gathered to watch the musicians, and at the end, tell me which ones are homeless.

No one ever questions the question. They watch and in the end say, Toby. Amy. Jesse. Norm. All of them.

No one ever asks, "Why is that important?" "What difference does it make?"

Until after they've called out their presumptions and I tell them 'the truth'. "Some of the people you saw on stage are homeless. Some aren't." There are sheepish looks. Cries of 'oh no, I got it wrong.'

No one ever 'gets it right'.

And then I ask, Did it matter? Did you enjoy their performance? Did you question their right to be on that stage?"

It is an interesting moment of truth-telling. I do confess to the trick of my question. The video was specifically designed so that there was no 'identifier', no 'label' differentiating housed from homeless.

When we created it, we wanted to strip away the 'difference' between them and focus on the similarities. And, we wanted to encourage people to question their presumptions, their need to know -- who is homeless? who isn't?

Because the people on that stage are all connected through the same condition that connects us all. Regardless of our history, our economic status, our faith, colour, creed, height, weight, disposition. We are all connected through the human condition. We are all human beings.

Just like the four people walking past me casting off their opinions without thinking about the impact of their words upon the very lives of the people they were judging.

We are all connected. And when I cast judgement upon the judgers, when I condemn those whom I perceive to be blind or deaf and dumb to the 'truth', I am the judge. I am the one I am condemning.

I am them. They are me. Like me, they struggle to find themselves on the road of life. Struggle to be more caring. More loving. More considerate of others. They have known pain and sorrow, loss, grief. They feel happiness. Sadness. They have moments of limited thinking. Moments of grandeur.

Like me, they want to be their best -- as moms, dads, employees, citizens, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, neighbours.

They want to be their best and like me, sometimes, can't see their best is open to interpretation, open to debate when it is couched in words that belittle someone else, that tear down the world around me them leaving little room for greatness to grow.

Like me, they don't see how not questioning their beliefs creates friction in their lives.

And like me, they don't see how love is blocked off by judgements.

Four people passed me by on the street. Their conversation lingered and I was awoken to the truth of my humanity. I cannot love unconditionally, without expectation, or quid pro quot negotiation when I judge another to be less than, other than, me. I cannot love freely when I limit my thinking to loving one and not the other.

Nameste.

And... for those who have never seen it, and for those who have and just want a little bit of heart-warming this December morning, here is the DI version of Ben E. King's classic, Stand by Me.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Terry's Big Day

It's called Team Cattle Penning. Three riders. Three horses. A herd of thirty cattle. The objective -- for the riders to work as a team and separate certain cattle from the herd within 60 seconds.

On Saturday, there were two riders. Two horses. Ten cattle. And no time clock.

There was a focus on working together. Practicing. Breaking in one of the rider's new horse.

And in their midst, there walked a man, homeless. Dying of cancer. Given a chance to spend a day amidst the horses he loves, in an environment where his roots run as deep as the prairie grasses lying silent beneath the snow.

I wrote of him last week, (Where's the Right?). His name is Terry, though I called him Jack. For Terry, the promise of spring may not happen. He may not see the grasses sprouting up, and seedlings sporting fresh growth. He may not be here to see calves and colts and plantings of fields and pastures. But on this Saturday, he had a chance to experience life away from the shelter. Away from the pain and sorrow and grief of being homeless, of being diagnosed with a cancer that is aggressive. A cancer for which the options are few. No surgery. No chemo. No anything to stop its spread.

On this Saturday, none of that matters. On this Saturday he is given a second chance. To ride. To be part of that world where once he stood and worked and lived and breathed, and knew he had value, had worth, had a place where he belonged.

We had left the city shortly before noon to drive out to a friends arena a half our north of the city. Earlier in the week, I phoned to ask if I could bring Terry out, just to spend some time amidst the horses. Ben, my friend, didn't hesitate. We'll be penning between noon and 2 on Saturday. Come on out.

And so we did.

When I arrived at the shelter to pick Terry up at 11:30, he was ready. Winter jacket. Hat. Heavy gloves.

On the drive out he was talkative. He gave me glimpses into his past, teased me with his sense of humour.

Yup. My first run-in with the cops was when I was eleven, he said. Theft.

Oh? What happened? I asked.

Stole a horse. 'Least, that's what the cowpoke at my Uncle's ranch said. I told the guy my Uncle owned the place. Told him he would let me take the horse. Guy didn't believe me. Told me I couldn't.

What did you do?

Took the horse.

And he stops talking. Laughs. And waits for me to take the bait.

What did he do?

Called the cops.

And then what happened?d?

Another pause. Another opportunity for me to step in and play Rosenkrantz to his Guildenstern.

My uncle had to come and pick me up in town at the police station. Told the cops they'd best be catching real criminals not some kid taking a horse out for a joy ride.

And he laughed. Deep belly laughter that burbled up like a brook racing down a mountainside. The further we got from the city. The deeper his life resonated.

Yup. I told the guy it was ok. Told him my uncle would be pissed. Pause. Chuckle. Shoulda' believed me.

When we got to my friend Ben's spread north of the city, we found the arena and walked in to find Ben and his team member, Stacey, penning cattle in a smaller enclosed space within the larger arena. The air smelt of cow and sweat and horse. An earthy aroma that soaked its way into my bones, permeating my clothes with that pungent and aromatic ranch smell. A smell I love.

As soon as he saw us walking through the dirt towards the cattle penning area, Ben opened the gate and rode over on his horse, Joker. When he reached us, he slid easily off, landed comfortably two feet planted firmly on the dirt arena floor, held the reins in his left hand and put out his right. "You must be Terry. I'm Ben."

He shook hands confidently, and casually passed the reins over to Terry. "Here. Walk her around for a bit if you don't mind. I've got to go into the office to grab something."

Without hesitating Terry took the reins. Put his left foot up into the stirrup, grabbed hold of the saddle horn and swung his right leg up and over. Within seconds he was comfortably seated on Joker's back and began to walk around.

Ben watched for a moment. Nodded his head. "He'll be just fine," he quietly said to me before turning away to walk towards the office at the far end of the corral.

I stood in the middle of the arena and watched Terry walk Joker around.

He was just fine. Smiling. Content. A man at ease upon a horse.

Ben returned a few minutes later and pointed to the smaller corral where Stacey rode amidst the cattle.

Want to give it a try?

Terry smiled. Wide. Nodded his head. Yup.

And give it a try he did.

There is something humbling and inspiring about watching a man who believed he'd never get a chance to do what he loved or be surrounded by a world he loved, experience what he loves again.

There is something incredibly moving about it all.

On Saturday, I watched a man climb onto a horse and saw the sadness and pain of loss fall away. I watched him ride and claim his right to be part of a world where he was and is, an equal. A valued member of a team. A man of great worth.

It was a great day. A great ride for Terry. A big day for everyone involved.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mother's and Miracles

Once upon a time she was a little girl who liked to play dress-up and wear pink bows in her hair. She danced and sang and played piano and she dreamt of growing up to be famous, or maybe an astronaut, or maybe a scientist or a writer. She loved to write. Poetry. Short stories. Deep, words that moved and stirred the emotions and the mind. She was whimsical and sweet and loved animals and Cinnamon Hearts and cuddly bears and wishing on stars. She had dreams. Big ones. Little ones. Dreams painted with every colour of the imagination.

And then, her dreams started to fade as the voices in her head began to awaken. They weren’t audible at first. Just a quiet whisper here and there. She made it through High School. Graduated with honours and went off to University. And the signs kept growing. The voices kept getting louder. There were little things and not so innocuous little things that signaled something was amiss. Like forgetting to wear a coat when the weather was cold, or leaving a pot on the stove so long it burned dry and not noticing the smell and smoke.

But she seemed okay. Seemed to cope and sometimes, her mother would simply say, Oh that Shelly. It’s just her way. She’s forgetful but she doesn’t mean any harm.

And then in her second year at University there were signs of something going wrong, something coming off the rails. Her marks fell. She became depressed and eventually needed hospitalization.

The diagnosis was harsh. Unreal. Schizophrenia. How can this be, her mother wondered? Her little girl, that child of light and laughter. How could she carry such a diagnosis?

The diagnosis didn’t sit well with Shelly either. No way, she said. No way. And she ran away. And the symptoms ran with her. Mood swings. Irrational behaviours. A sudden aversion to wearing clothes.

And she ran further. Until her running brought her to the shelter doors. No one asked questions there. No one suggested she was sick.

And she stayed.

And she stayed.

And her behavior deteriorated.Theft. Anger. Talking to herself. For weeks on end she walked around the Day Area wearing nothing but a white bed sheet. She liked to stare at herself in the two way window and chatter about her hair, her body. Sometimes, she yelled at herself. Called herself names. Said horrible things about herself.

And staff would intervene. Calm her down and try to find her help.

But she didn’t want help. She wanted to be left alone.

Her mother came and found her but she didn’t want to go with her mother. She didn’t want to be looked at as not normal. As sick. She didn’t want to carry a label.

And so she stayed.

And she stayed.

And then, she became pregnant. She wasn’t sure how it happened or with whom. But suddenly, her belly started to grow and staff and clients started to comment and something had to be done.
Staff took her to a doctor. This diagnosis was not so difficult to accept. This diagnosis helped. She started the drugs again and her mother came and took her home.

It wasn’t as bad this time. Wasn’t as difficult.

Except for the drugs. She didn’t like the drugs. They might make her baby sick. They might give her baby a label.

And so, she quit taking them. She didn’t want to harm her baby. She wanted to protect it.

But it was hard. On her mother. On Shelly. Her behavior worsened. The voices came back. The irrational thinking leading to irrational doing. She didn’t want to stay at home. She wasn’t safe there the voices told her. She wanted to run but she couldn’t. She was pregnant and she knew they’d take her baby if she lived in a shelter.

And then the baby came. And the pain and the sorrow and the joy and the tears and the pleading began. She wanted to keep her baby. She wanted to help her grow. But they told her she had to go back on the drugs. They told her, those who have such power over the life of another, if you want to keep your baby you must stay on the drugs that keep your mental health in check.

And she was scared. And she was confused. And she didn’t know what to do.

And so she did what she’d done before. She ran. She left everything she loved, including her baby, behind and ran.

Back to the shelter. A place where she felt like she belonged.

And life continued on.

For Shelly. Her baby and her baby’s grandmother. Life moved on. Shelly stayed at the shelter and the baby stayed at home with her grandmother.

But there were problems. Shelly wanted to see her baby.

She can’t said the government people who control such circumstances. You cannot let her have access to the infant, they told Shelly’s mother. Who knows what she might do?

And the mother cried, for her granddaughter and her daughter. She cried and had to make a tough decision. We’ll take the baby from you the government people said if you let your daughter have access.

And so, the mother moved away. For the sake of her grandchild. For the sake of her daughter and herself.

But she couldn’t forget. Couldn’t let go of the truth. This sweet innocent child had a mother she would never meet unless she helped her daughter re-connect with her family who loved her.

She had to do something.

She waited. A year. Two. Three and finally, when the infant was four and had grown into a little girl of bright smiles and sunshiney song, she called the shelter to make contact with her daughter.

It took time. Months of time. But finally, with the urgings of Staff Leah who never gave up on believing Shelly could move on, Shelly agreed to speak to her mother. The phone call wasn’t too long. Not too hard. Shelly talked to her little girl too, her daughter whom she’d only met at birth. She cried and laughed and when she hung up she danced away from the phone to talk to herself in the mirror. She had a daughter and her daughter knew who she was and wanted to meet her. She had a mother and her mother still loved her. Still wanted her. Still needed her to come home.

Throughout the weeks and months, Staff Leah struggled to keep Shelly focused on listening to her mother’s voice, to hearing her daughter’s call for her ‘tummy mommy’. She worked to keep Shelly open to the idea that maybe, one day, she might go home for a visit. If only to give her daughter a chance to know the mother who gave her birth, a chance to know the mother who loved her, even though she couldn’t be with her.

And then it happened. Her mother phoned and asked if she would come home for Christmas. Shelly agreed. Staff Leah kept hoping it would happen. That the mother would come and Shelly would not have flown the coop, would still want to go, would still be willing to fly away.

And she came. This mother who never gave up hope. Who never quit loving her daughter. Who never let go of believing one day her daughter would come home.

She came and Shelly was still there, at the shelter door, waiting. She came and Shelly saw her and walked up and hugged her and said, “Let’s go.”

And they left. Arm in arm. Together. Mother and daughter flying away to a family’s embrace, to a child’s hug and the warmth of a hearth where the circle of love has been stretched and pulled and never broken. A circle to rejoice in and be surrounded in love.

It is a Christmas miracle. A miracle of a mother’s love that could never end, awakening in the heart of a daughter’s wish to come home to the family where she belongs.

May we all be connected in the circle of love where our heart finds a hearth to come home to and our spirit a place to rejoice.

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It's a One Word Blog Carnival Tuesday over at Peter Pollock's (Bridget is taking a much deserved sabbatical). Today's One Word prompt is: Rejoice.
To share and read more stories of Rejoice -- click on over to Peter Pollock's place and rejoice in the beauty of the words and images you find in the links.

Monday, December 13, 2010

'Tis here!

Christmas arrived home last night. Admist laughter and siblings jostling for position in front of the tree, the festive season settled in for a visit bringing with it the joy and wonder of this special time of year. Twinkling bells and pink bows and sparkling lights and shiny balls of glass, crystal ballet slippers and butterfly wings and tiny glittery birds bedeck the tree. Boughs and bows and balls adorn the windows and the house is awash in the smell of pine and cinnamon and the sweet sounds of Christmas choirs playing softly.


Along with Alexis, Liseanne and her boyfriend, C.C.'s son and daughter lent a hand as we packed up the old and brought in the festive wares. As youngest male, Liseanne's boyfriend, RL, got to put the skirt under the tree. And MC, C.C.'s daughter got to do the honours as the youngest female.

Of course, there was a moment of consternation when C.C. forget the protocol of Christmas tree decorating and handed MC the angel right at the beginning, pointed to the step-ladder and said, Ok, up you go.

No. No! cried my daughters. Stop! The angel goes on last!

It is our tradition.

And then, I hung an ornament or two and the girls quickly intervened again. No No. Stop! The strings of glass beads and the bows! They go on next.


We laughed and joked about fading memories and Christmas traditions that cannot be modified and the tree got decorated in all its glory and at the last, MC climbed up and placed the angel at the top.

She looked beautiful. Both MC and the tree. Glittering in light. Sparkling with bows and glittering glass beads and tiny ornaments we have collected over the years.

C.C. and Liseanne and her boyfriend and I had gone out earlier in the day to find the perfect tree. It is not an easy thing for us to select a tree -- I think it's why for the past few years I've resorted to an artificial one. No decision making required!

But eventually, after much this one, no this one, no this one! we found the perfect tree to bring home. And, unlike in years past where I had roped the tree to the top of my car and driven home with it precariously perched and the girls screaming, Stop! Stop! It's going to fall off, getting the tree home this year was easy. RL has a pick-up truck!

And while waiting for the others to arrive so we could decorate it, we cleared away ornaments and knickknacks. Put away every day dishes to load the cupboards with holiday wares. And when the others came, we got busy! This morning I arose, plugged in the lights and sat amidst the quiet and soaked up the essence of this special time of year.

Family gathered together. Laughter. Care. Teasing. And, as happens every holiday season, a mishap or two.

Last night's was the Pyrex casserole dish exploding on the stove top as C.C. made the gravy. Shards of glass flew across the counter, gravy spilled across the glass cook top and oozed its way towards the lip of the stove, seeking release. C.C., ever quick-witted, confined the sticky, oozy mess to the surface of the stove as he quickly loaded paper-towels on the edge.

I was standing beside him, spooning spaghetti squash out of its shell when the dish exploded with a loud and resonating CRACK!

Startled, I jumped back as he deftly moved to keep the mess from spreading too far.

In the end, no other damage, no one was hurt and the only misfortune, no gravy for dinner.

We left the mess on the stove top, moved into the dining room and sat down to a delicious meal, none-the-less. I lit the third advent candle of the season and whispered a silent prayer for Joy to the world. Dishes were passed, plates were loaded and we laughed and joked and ate with gusto.

And after, when the dishes were done, we played a game of THINGS and laughed some more as the kids tried to outdo each other in outrageous answers. "What's a thing that shows you're losing your memory?" "Forgetting how many kids you have." "What's a thing you don't want to be found in the trunk of your car?" "Your kids."

And then C.C.s kids went home and he cleaned up the mess on the stove top and I finished loading the dishwasher and the house became quiet and still and the lights twinkled and the music played softly and I breathed in the essence of Christmas.

Home.

Family.

Love.

Joy.

Laughter.

Song.

Hallelujah. Hallelujah.

It is the season of joy. A time to rejoice. A time for goodwill amongst men.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Life, on the road ahead (a poem)

Life, on the road ahead ************************ ********* Feininger, Andreas, 1906-1999, photographer


On a long road, winding,
around the bend
a sign
warning
sharp curve, slow down
danger ahead


The long yellow line
a siren's call
pulling me into life
sprawling out beyond the gap
where valley wide
beckons
reaching out
to a far horizon
beneath a clear blue sky
streaked
with sugar coated promises
of the sweet life
opening up
just around the next bend

careening
joy
riding
I speed ahead
pulled by the yellow line
unbroken
ignoring the warning
I catapult into nothing
but the pure desire to experience

life on the road ahead.


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It's another One Shot Poetry Sunday challenge and today's photo by Andreas Feninger, beckons me to the open road, to find that place where words collide with wide-open spaces, where sky meets earth and limitless possibilities expand into nothing.

There's a whole bunch of great poetry going on over at One Shot Poetry -- go give it a read, and perhaps... heed the call of the open spaces of your mind where poetry creates a whole new world of possibility within you!

Go on. You know you want to. Give it a go at One Shot Poetry.