Be Still and Listen

Psalm 139:23-4

(Disclosure: Exposing my heart; please don’t judge me…save that for my Maker)

Several years ago, our family went to Canada’s Wonderland, and I remember Kiddo, being nervous about some of the rides. I confess, I am not fond of roller coasters. I have never had any interest in going to Disney World, mainly because I just don’t enjoy such rides, so I could totally empathize with him for not wanting to go on any of the big thrill rides, either.

Well, we did finally agree we could go on the Scooby Doo Coaster together, even if we weren’t sure, as we held on tight at the top of the first hill.

But guess what? We survived, white knuckles and all.

Our province has been on quite the roller coaster ride over the past couple of weeks. The Covid regulations keep changing; even when we reached “Green”, we were never really sure how green was different from orange or yellow. Now we’ve returned to Mandatory Orders and State of Emergency, and the colour wheel seems to have totally disappeared altogether.

We’ve been on this ride before, but we seem to be experiencing it differently this time. The thrill is gone!

This week, I got thinking about how we have been reacting. We saw the nastiness Stateside, as we watched the American election. Some of it raised its ugly head through our own recent election. False news and conspiracy theories started to jade our outlooks.

How have we judged people through Covid?

How have I judged people through Covid?

Does our attitude towards people change once we get to know them on a personal level? My experience with Restorative Justice tells me, of course our attitude will change, when we hear a person’s story, and we take time to hear their heart.

Throughout this pandemic, I learned people’s resiliency to isolation and lockdowns can vary greatly.

Yes, I’ve been judgemental.

No, I’m not a judgemental person, or so I thought.

Did I judge people differently throughout the pandemic?

Sadly, yes.

The widower living alone, who came to lean on social outings such as the monthly Seniors Dinner, and visiting friends at the Nursing Home was greatly impacted at the beginning of the pandemic. How did I treat them? I baked extra treats and dropped them off. I sent random greeting cards to shut-ins. I treated them with love, even if I didn’t understand the depths of their situation, or the scope of their loneliness.

I was impacted, too, when many of my volunteer activities came to a grinding halt. But I jumped for joy, at the very thought of being told I had to stay home for weeks on end. I had been given a chance to explore online classes and revisit favorite crafts and hobbies. How did I treat my extroverted friends who were forced to cut down their social circles? I scoffed when they whined and complained on Facebook about not being able to do this or that. I was certainly not acting very Christ-like, now was I? Especially as a retired guidance counsellor, I should have been more cognizant of the toll on their mental health. Why was I judging someone else’s level of resiliency?

Most of us managed to reach the Green stage unscathed. Or maybe not?

Many of us had indeed faced loss and disappointment of some sort or another through the last 18 months. It wasn’t a competition. It was just life. Hopefully, we didn’t keep a checklist and judge each other’s worth or value, based on how many things they could check off…

✅Loss of a parent or close family member. (We didn’t judge their reaction; we reached out with a caring heart, even if we were told not to hug)

✅Loss of wages or even jobs. (We didn’t judge, we found a way to help make their life a little easier, with a gas card or box of groceries)

✅Loss of social interaction, or visits with people we love (We didn’t judge the sudden lack of visits; we learned to use Zoom and FaceTime)

✅Loss of in-person volunteer activities (some gave up, only wanting to assist in person. We didn’t judge; we learned how to reach out long distance through a central coordinator, and still meet the mandate of our agencies)

✅Restricted access to public gathering spaces. (We didn’t spew hate at them; we learned to explore the great outdoors of our beautiful community)

✅Loss of indoor physical activity programs (We didn’t get angry at the massage therapists and yoga instructors; we took up Virtual Run challenges and zoom classes)

✅Enforcement of wearing masks, that NO one could say they enjoyed. (Instead, we embraced the cottage craft seamstresses that made us personalized masks)

✅Musical acts lost revenue with cancelled concerts (We didn’t spew hatred at the venues and touring companies; we embraced online Friday night kitchen parties)

My thoughts and reflections this week?

How much has our attitude changed since we entered the beginning of the pandemic, and even the Green stage this summer?

How much has MY attitude changed toward people in difficult situations?

I’ve never been much on politics, but do have a strong sense of civil responsibility. I was privileged to be part of elections for three different levels of government over the past couple of years. As an employee, it was imperative I remain neutral on any issue, candidate or political party.

I must say, remaining neutral in the public eye, is very different from showing disdain and downright disgust at the kitchen table. I had to catch myself a few times, reminding myself these are human beings that feel they are trying to make a difference. Yes, my judgemental side was coming through.

Don’t mix politics with religion, they say. Religion is not the same as spirituality, they say. Church and State should remain separate, they say.

Pray for our leaders, 1 Timothy 2:1-2.

I’ve been doing more of that, in these unsettling times.

We recently extended an invitation to our MLA, Andrea Anderson-Mason, who was on the island for a public meeting. The regulations for faith community were kind of hazy on the GNB website, so our church was just hoping for some clarification.

It’s easy to pray for Andrea, as she prayed with our group. Dr. Russell and Minister Shepherd always get added to my daily prayer list. But I caught myself…it should be easy to pray for the leaders we don’t agree with and admire, as well. Of course, our Premier will get the prayers of the praying people. Minister Cardy, has seen much hatred, especially in recent weeks, as school policy keeps changing.

I shall pray harder for this man.

I like how Andrea, a lady of faith herself, stated as Christians, we should be choosing our battles. Is our battle going to be with government? Or is our battle for a greater cause? A cause for unity and peace. Indeed God only knows.

The most recent restrictions announced have stepped up yet another notch, with masks not being enough. Vaccination is not enough. Now proof of double vaccination is not just recommended, but now REQUIRED in public places, including church.

Although I don’t usually announce my beliefs publicly, I was getting frustrated with anti-vaxxers. I viewed them as inconsiderate people who were putting our most vulnerable people at risk. People I care about. My mother-in-law, who has had issues with pneumonia, can not risk being exposed to Covid. She has barely gone out in public for over a year. It is our responsibility to protect her.

So, our family has all been double vaccinated.

My father has spent weeks in hospital for a major surgery. Covid prevented us from being able to visit him. Again, FaceTime to the rescue. He is presently awaiting another surgery…and it has been delayed too many times, as our health care system is being stretched to the limits. Increased covid cases tying up hospital resources are preventing him from getting his surgery, needed for better quality of life.

Yes, I’ve been angry with those not willing to get the vaccination.

You don’t have the right to put these people, and so many more at risk.

Then I remind myself of my RJ roots.

Listen to their stories. Listen to their hearts; just as I hope they listen to mine.

Am I treating those of us that are vaccinated with a “Holier than thou” attitude? It has already been proven the vaccinated can still be carriers, and can still catch the virus.

Shame.

Shame on me.

Shame on us.

Some are scared. Some have genuine health concerns, reactions, etc. Some are young. Some don’t understand the past generations that felt the same, but got their polio shots, as a sense of civic duty.

Some are my friends. People whom I dearly love.

They aren’t treating me with disdain for getting the shot. They are doing what they feel they can to protect us, by wearing a mask, distancing, and limiting their public activities.

And they are praying for me.

We could be far less judgemental when we know and care about the people in our lives, who are also making difficult decisions for themselves and their families.

The same can be said about the local businesses and organizations that have been put in a difficult position of having to ask to see proof of vaccination and ID. Whether it be restaurants, the ferry cafeteria, churches, curling club or community center. No one likes the idea of having to turn patrons away. We all pray this will be over sooner than later. I’m truly amazed, here in our small community, at people who want to take up their axes to grind; against our neighbours, the very community members who have struggled throughout the pandemic to serve us, and provide for us. People that have invested in our community (whether they are Islanders, or people from away), to make this a better place, yet are still floundering to stay afloat. Fines for refusing to follow the rules can literally sink some of these places. Bless you, for making our community a safer and better place. You deserve to be protected, just as our community members do. The battle is with our government, not each other. Don’t let this divide us.

Have we forgotten how to be kind since the beginning of the pandemic?

The night of Andrea’s public meeting, was also the night of Peter Cunningham’s presentation at the Museum, “Disappearing before our eyes”. I erroneously thought her meeting would be filled with negativity from angry citizens. I was torn, as I wanted to go to both and hear how Grand Manan would be impacted by the latest announcements…yet knowing Peter’s would touch my spirit.

I’m grateful to a woman who represents us in the legislature with a caring heart, and listens to people’s concerns, and understanding small community life.

I’m also very grateful for a man from away who is very much part of the Grand Manan community; who also listens with his heart, and captures the stories of our community.

Thank you both, for reminding us of the strength of our faith on this island.

Have we forgotten how to listen and care for our neighbour, regardless of our differences? Despite our differences?

Be still. And listen.

Come and Stand in the Stillness

It’s been awhile.

I have been writing blog posts in my head all summer, usually while out on a walk deep in the woods. I kept working towards another virtual challenge and medal, but I never slowed down long enough it to actually put those words to print. Even lately, I caught myself not even taking time to go to my favorite places, to slow down, reflect, meditate, and pray.

All those things were still happening, except the slowing down. Reflection, meditation and prayer time came in short little spurts here and there. And now that September has arrived, I look back and wonder, like the rest of you, just where DID summer disappear to?

July 2021. Premier Higgs and Doctor Russell started encouraging us to race to the magic number of 75. August, New Brunswick Day, would be our day to celebrate, after so many days of celebration and joy had been taken away from us.

August 2021. We finally finished chasing surgeon and physio appointments with Kiddo. We celebrated with a day trip full of movies and popcorn. My sister would be able to get home to the East Coast, for the first time in six years. We celebrated with all things east…namely donairs, and lobster. And more lobster.

September 2021. Time to go back to school. But “Green” isn’t really green. And people are seeing red, and forgetting the kindness and compassion we were so desperately seeking throughout the pandemic.

A summer of freedom.

A summer meant to slow down and enjoy life.

A summer that sped by in the blink of an eye.

We were supposed to be feeling differently now. I was supposed to be feeling rested and relaxed after the carefree days of summer floated on by. Instead, September’s calendar started looking insane as it filled up quickly, and oozed into October.

I needed to get walking, walking for ME again. I needed to take in summer sunrises again. I needed to walk on the beach with gentle waves and salt air. September has afforded us a couple of lovely days to sit in the sun, and breathe in, exhale. One thing on my calendar I was really looking forward to, was Zoe Culbertson of Seaside Meditation… she was doing a Home Retreat, and I was determined to carve out some time for it today.

Slowly, it was coming back to me; despite the frantic technology glitches I was being confronted with. That always seems to happen…I am a perfectly capable woman with adequate computer skills, set to navigate new opportunities, and bam! I slide into the new situation with a disillusioned sense of confidence, and I end up wasting far too much time when my laptop/iPad/cell (in that order) didn’t do exactly as I told it to.

So, long story short, I was looking out the patio door, listening to Zoe’s guided movement meditation, after I lost video, when I saw it.

It. First the pile of screws..

Then the pile of lumber, that has been gradually growing smaller and smaller.

I was reminded, it has been two summers now, that larger pile was sitting in the back yard. A simple trip to Kent’s had turned into a broken leg, several weeks of sick leave, followed by weeks of physio. (Do you see the family pattern here?!) I was reminded how that extension off the kitchen had a spot for the BBQ, but not really safe enough to hold friends or family, unless drastic steps were taken.

But this morning, I saw something different.

There was peace.

And there was a reminder of the need for a quiet, gentle, compassionate kindness.

Come and stand in the stillness.

Thank you, Zoe! We need more people like you to show us the stillness.

Check out Zoe’s Facebook group at Seaside Meditation

Be still: I’m melting!

I love The Wizard of Oz . It is hard to imagine the classic from 1939 still being around. Such a classic, such truths of human kindness, struggles and triumph.

The Wizard of Oz video clip… there she goes!

I hate heat. This week has been awful for me. I still can’t figure out why people appreciate it so much. We have had a few days of heat warnings, and yesterday we hit 38 degrees in our yard. I know we will have more, but this was the worst yet. Why do I hate it so much? Probably the number one reason, is having the energy zapped right out from me. I hate the feeling of not being able to get things done. And this week has been an especially busy one, between Customer Appreciation Night, anniversary and birthday celebrations. I had planned a family bbq supper…silly girl. I had things nicely started on the grill for surf and turf…but we ran out of propane mid way through. That was actually a relief… I could get off the deck, and finish things up inside. Hubby has recently discovered cannoli cakes at the Independent Grocer, so I had planned to pick one up for him. Zip. Absolutely no birthday cakes of any kind. Too bad. And I certainly wasn’t going to heat the house up by turning on the oven, even if it was his birthday. Sorry, Philip!

But alas, Newton’s Mercantile to the rescue! Peanut butter ice cream cake it was! Don’t you love it when Plan B turns out better than Plan A?!

Anniversary and birthday celebrations behind us, next on the to-do list was the start of Kiddo’s physiotherapy summer regime. I dropped him off, and headed off to do some customer deliveries. The dark clouds were moving in quickly, and the thunder had been rumbling most of the afternoon. Thinking I had time, I zipped out to Long Eddy to watch the storm and light show. It was pretty incredible. Then I get interrupted again; Kiddo’s appointment was cut short, as the power went out. So much for a little breather!

Heading down island, we witnessed a beautiful rainbow, reminding us of God’s promise of better days ahead. Just slow down long enough to appreciate them.

Our mid-week break is our bingo night. Or should I say, “give-the -Curling -Club -your -weekly -donation”. Power was still out, and all over the island, not just North Head. Bingo is cancelled.

Hmmm…my Youversion app just popped up a notification… a friend has started a new Bible study … “Addicted to busy: Recovery for the Rushed Soul”. Well, if that isn’t a subtle sign, I’m not sure what is!!

When I got home, I was reminded it was the last day of the month…which means any of my business orders must be submitted before midnight. So I turn on the data, sit by the window offering the most daylight, and get set to work in the dark. I finally got them done by 10pm…now my bedtime. I am grateful the power came back on, but our bedroom ceiling fan still offered little relief. The thunder boomers of early evening didn’t give as much reprieve as hoped.

So, I am melting. And I am being forced to slow down. I am being reminded of Judy Garland putting out one fire, to rescue the Scarecrow, and inadvertently causing another tragedy, as the Wicked Witch slowly disintegrated to a puddle.

I am grateful not to be living in British Columbia, where record-breaking temperatures have plagued the area, and now forest fires are breaking out of control. Town of Lytton under evacuation order

I still have much to be grateful for, and my troubles are minor. But I still need the reminders to slow down, and Be Still every once in awhile. I’m off to see the wizard… well, not quite…but we are off to the movie theatre tomorrow for our first cinema experience since 2019! This calls for a double hitter AND exorbitantly priced popcorn and snacks; because it is a week worth celebrating.

And I won’t melt in the theatre!

Guided Wellness Excursions

Great time to explore, and take time to Be Still

I am pleased to offer a new service, as an extension of my Life Coaching, starting week of June 20th, throughout the summer.

🥾🌿☀️🍎
GUIDED WELLNESS WALKS
Nature Therapy has been around for many years, but has only recently been recognized for its value in personal health and wellness. Appointments will be made for individuals or partners.

$25 registration each, payable before hand, includes:
🥾approximately 1-1.5 hours; easy walking trails around the island. Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring a sweater.
🌿time for reflection, meditation and mindfulness activities. Discussion topics led by participants, and your comfort level. Take home activity provided for personal reflection and optional follow-through
☀️flexible times to suit your schedule (lunch breaks/after work/early evenings). Also dependent on weather/tides.
🍎refreshments; water and a light snack. *Please advise of allergies

🚗Transportation can be arranged, if needed, for a nominal fee

Looking forward to getting out with you and enjoying summer on Grand Manan!

On a Wing and a Prayer…

Do you know where the expression “on a wing and a prayer” comes from? I’ve used it over time, without really realizing it’s origins. I got the “prayer” part, but wasn’t sure about the “wing”. When I looked up a definition, this is what I found from writingexplained.org …

Definition: Relying solely on luck to get out of a difficult situation. This expression originated during World War II. It appeared in a film called The Flying Tigers in the year 1942. One of the pilots in the military had lost one wing of his plane, so he was trying to land using only one wing and a prayer.

A couple of weeks ago, I had to travel for a medical appointment. As it involved getting eye drops, it was recommended I have a driver, as my sight would be altered for 3-4 hours. I was thankful hubby was able to take time off work for me.

We haven’t been travelling much lately, throughout the pandemic. Our days of heading to the mainland “for fun” seem to be in the distant past. Medical appointments are the only excuse, as of late. We tacked on a couple of “necessary” trips to Indigo, Michaels and No Frills… which says a lot about the necessities of life for our household!

What we had forgotten, was the necessary careful balancing of time management; especially for a Friday afternoon. We left the city in time to make it to our 4:45 ferry reservation.

Then came that sinking feeling of coming down over the hill, seeing the compound jam packed, and noting the time of 4:47pm. Razzen-frazzen! So, of course, we were told to go to the Standby lane.

I was tired after a long day of driving about, and going for medical tests. My vision had been improving over the past few days, but motion of the Jeep along the highway was not a comfortable feeling. I told Philip to cross his fingers, and say a prayer. He’s the kinda guy that would cross his fingers instead of saying a prayer; I’m the kinda gal that would say a prayer instead of crossing my fingers. That’s how we roll. He said “It ain’t happening!”…. he meant getting on the ferry; as opposed to the prayer. I think.

Someone’s prayer worked. But it was a tight squeeze. This is the kind of load we see in peak of summer, with cars being left behind. It was Mother’s Day weekend, but couldn’t imagine so many people travelling home, along with a few transports.

So we made it; on a wing and a prayer.

The following Wednesday, Kiddo had a mishap at work, and ended up with a double compound open fracture to the arm. Needless to say, he was in a lot of pain, and our small hospital wasn’t equipped to handle it. So, off to the Saint John Regional Hospital by air ambulance, thanks to Atlantic Charters.

Two wings and multiple prayers!

Kiddo and I made this flight once before, nearly twelve years ago. Although we knew his injury was serious, and would likely involve surgery, it was far less frightening than the last trip, where the fear of the unknown laid before us, and the beginning of his journey with leukaemia. Both trips involved a whole lot of prayers, from a great support network. We are so grateful for the exceptional teams of healthcare professionals, and air service from Atlantic Charters that work together in emergency situations for our island.

EMT accompanied us to Saint John airport, where we were transferred to another ambulance. Thanks, Marc!

A day later, we were headed back home, with Philip at the wheel again. Kiddo’s left “wing” will be out of commission for the next 30 days, much to everyone’s dismay. The good news is, he is a pretty tough guy, and has survived a lot worse. Just more “battle scars” to add to his collection.

After we made it back, “wings” kept popping up everywhere. I’m sure God was sending me a message. Carolyn, one of our strongest prayer warriors’ favorite verse kept coming to mind. Isaiah 40, verse 30, reminds me how we all stumble and fall, but like Kiddo, he marches on, faith unshaken.

Sunday afternoon, I was really looking forward to some down-time. I had settled in nicely to my zero-gravity chair on the deck, ready for a catnap in the afternoon sun. Kiddo was inside, resting comfortably with Netflix. Hubby and Eliott were about to head out exploring. Ahh, peaceful bliss. I was invited along, but was trying to resist; I was enjoying the deck. He was quite persuasive, as he knew this amateur bird watcher was intrigued by the idea of possibly spotting an owl that had been seen out the Crabbe Road. But what I found, was just what my soul needed. At first, he looked as if his wing might be injured, but we later decided he was just drying off in the sun. He flew off with much grace and ease. I’m sure someone else with an injured wing will rise up, just as easily, given time to heal.

Immature eagle spotted in the middle of nowhere!

Just this past Monday, I had an appointment at St. Joe’s for further tests at the Eye Clinic. Driving along the highway, guess what I caught a glimpse of? Yes, a beautiful eagle soaring high.

He gives strength to the weary, and will renew their strength. So grateful for His promises.

Praying for you

I’ve been doing a lot of praying this week, and have a wonderful group of friends that I keep on “Speed Dial”, when I am requesting prayers for a situation, or a person I care about. After a conversation with one of my prayer warriors, I got thinking about how hard I find it to pray for myself.

I feel it a real privilege when someone seeks me out specifically, asking if I would pray for them. I am honored they trust me with their heart, and inner most fears and concerns. I never really looked at myself as a Prayer Warrior, perhaps because there always seemed to be certain people in the community I immediately thought of, or their role in church gave them the unofficial title. Then there were some older people, usually ladies, who seemed to have a direct private line to the Creator himself, and I felt like their prayers held more power for some reason. A couple of sweet ladies have such quiet, earnest prayers, I could listen to them all day.

Two of my very favorite Prayer Warriors 💕

I know some of this is just my theological past coming out, and today, I recognize my prayers have just as much power. In some faiths, I understand the prayers of the priest or religious leaders have historically been given more power. I am thankful I know I can pray for any situation or person, with literally all my heart and soul, thanks to Jesus. The first time an online friend reached out to me, and called me a Prayer Warrior, I was immediately humbled. Of course, I will. That may have been the day I took my prayer time even more seriously then ever before.

But then when a personal health concern popped up unexpectedly this week, I struggled to reach out…my prayer request remained “unspoken”. I know my team will step up to the plate and offer prayers, knowing the important thing is, that God knows each request, even without words. Even I can just quietly ask “You know what I need Lord, and You know my heart”.

One of my friends challenged me, right up front, when I shared details later…why was I being hesitant and secretive when I first called on my Prayer Warriors?

Good question. My reply was I think I just needed to wrap my head around the situation, and know what to ask for. Why can I go on and on with my request for a friend, and give God lots of detail like he doesn’t know already; yet I settle for just a basic sentence, the bare minimum, when the prayer is for myself?! Perhaps it comes back to my own pride, and not being able to ask anyone for help very easily. I need to figure out how to do it on my own first. Thank you, Michelle, for calling me on it…making me re-examine myself. I had another friend scold me years ago for not asking for help. Admittedly, she could not do anything about the situation, but she could pray. She, above all, could and would pray. But she also reminded me that by not asking for help, I was taking away the opportunity for them to be used by God to be a blessing. Who did I think I was?! I’ve learned that lesson, Rose. Thank you. She is always a blessing, always reaching out to others. Having worked with young people my whole life, I love to help others reach out and be a blessing, as well. But, man, isn’t it hard to be on the receiving end sometimes?!

One of my favorite scenes from the Bible is when Jesus left the disciples on the shore to wander off down the beach by himself, to pray. Perhaps that is why I enjoy my solitude walks at the Anchorage and Stanley’s beach…I know He will meet me there. I just need to learn to talk more, and not be afraid to ask. I am accepting those prayers graciously from friends, but why is it so hard to ask God for help, to spell out my requests precisely? I’ve gotten pretty good at leaving the prayers open-ended, “Thy will be done”, and I’m a great listener. Usually.

So, God, I know you’re listening. I heard you Sunday morning when Pastor Karl asked, “give me eyes to see”, and I know you heard me when I asked you to show me the lesson in all this.

So, I will just keep asking, and ask you to help me be a better Prayer Warrior for myself.

Competition. I’m done!

I’ve been thinking about this a lot on my last few walks. It has been a little more challenging since I recently started working, and I find myself reflecting on the days I was working at school. It wouldn’t have been unusual to put in ten hour days as a teacher. Actually, it would have been more unusual to NOT put in ten hour days. These days I’m struggling to get the laundry done, and other household chores. Saturday night entertainment was spent at the grocery store, deciding on which package of pork chops would be the best deal for the week ahead…especially since I wouldn’t be home to cook suppers, and have to readjust my menu planning yet again. But that entertainment had to be confined to an hour, because the store would be closing soon.

But somehow, when I was teaching, everything got done. Well, most everything. Most of the important stuff, anyway. I guess it has just been a bit of a shell-shocker this month, because I refuse to admit I can’t get everything done I want to. (No news flash there, eh?!)

So, one of my Covid activities, has been Virtual Walking challenges. I’ve set my sights on various medals with differing distances, and have accomplished several smaller ones. 5-10kms seem to be no problem, but then I got intrigued by some longer ones. Now I’m struggling to keep up, because of my work schedule. I have tried getting out before heading to the office, which is an enjoyable way to start the day, but it takes me away from “valuable” time at the dishwasher or laundry room. I know “this too shall pass”, but when Dalton and Karl have both passed me enroute virtually, I’m beating myself up!

As I was adding things to my Happy Planner earlier this week, this card fell out. Yes, I definitely needed reminding. How many days do we spend competing in our head against the expectations of others? But even worse, competing against the expectations we set for ourselves? Everyday, I see reminders around me of things I “want” to be, things I “should” be doing. And at the end of the day, I often reflect on what I need to change or do differently. But this week, I gently reminded myself I really am doing the best I can.

But even that last sentence makes it sound like I’m competing again. As if I am “settling”. As if, not meeting my expectation, means I am failing. I really need to be still, and remind myself I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Be Still, Be Kind

Have you had one of those days, when deep down, you know what you need to do for a better you…but you just can’t seem to find the motivation to make that first step?


Today was one of those days.
I was up early (as usual), put on my comfy leggings, and consciously put on my sneakers instead of my flats. Be prepared. My coach says “Be Ready…that’s half the battle” .
Be ready, at a moment’s notice to jump back on that path to a better you.
I had Dial a Ride clients this morning, so had to go “all the way” to North Head 😂, anyway.
I was tempted to just go straight to the lighthouse, skip the helicopter pad today. It’s too windy. It’s too cold. It will be really cold up there. You missed the sunrise, so the view isn’t going to be that spectacular. You forgot your water bottle. Your tummy is rumbling because you didn’t grab breakfast. Just get to the lighthouse and you can turn right around and head home.

Self-talk can be so harsh, can’t it?
My feet seem to have a mind of their own sometimes…habit says turn uphill, not straight ahead when you get the keeper’s house.
Before I knew it, I was standing on top of the cement path. It was certainly breezy.
Before I knew it, I was heading further away from the lighthouse, out to the very tip of the peninsula. The trails down there are very narrow, and a little more challenging, but I made it. Looking back, I purposely chose the longest, twistiest path back to the lighthouse. Jump over to the foghorn.
Then I spotted it…the first of several painted rocks little Harper had left yesterday. I had come prepared with a few rocks of my own to trade. Thank you for the motivation to keep going, Harper.


Just Keep Moving.
Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Just climb those steps like you own them.
Just get to the top.
Only stop to enjoy the view from where you’ve travelled.
And just be kind to yourself.
Just for this day.

National Day of Remembrance for COVID 19

March 11, 2021

I look back on my Facebook memories today to see if there are any clues of what life was like before. None. Although today was noted as one year anniversary of World Heath Organization declaring the world pandemic of Corona Virus, here in New Brunswick, on this date, our first presumptive case was announced. It wouldn’t be until three days later, our own world would start to shut down… Friday the 13th.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/national-day-remembrance-covid-19-1.5945277

I’ve been watching my Facebook feed all week for clues… memories… of what life was like BEFORE the pandemic. I didn’t find a lot. We had some snow; not much. The deer came to visit in the yard. I made an early morning trek out to Swallowtail.

Then I would be enjoying Art Club, as we waited for our teacher, Carole Forbes to return from her winter vacation and resume classes. I would be doing volunteer work with Dial a Ride, Food Bank and Toast Cart. I had just started my Life Coaching business, and holding Creative Art Therapy classes & small group sessions. We would be enjoying Monday morning Ladies Bible Study (WITH singing!), and 40 Days of Prayer at CLC.

Dalton and I made a short trip to Fredericton for March Break; I enjoyed a painting class at NB College of Craft & Design. We visited the Beaverbrook Art Gallery with Auntie Joyce for the Emily Carr exhibit, and visited with my mom at DECH.

Various friends had been traveling South for March Break, and the Nova Coronavirus was really hitting Europe. Precautionary travel advisories and restrictions were starting to pop up, and seep into our daily lives, whether we were traveling or not. Our nursing home and school district, amongst other organizations would start restrictions if you had travelled to certain countries. Friends were stuck in Hawaii, frantically trying to avoid airport closures and look for a way home. Entire cruise ships were being turned away at ports.

Shopping for toilet paper, hand sanitizer and flour would be amongst hottest grocery store purchases. Forget Storm Chips!

And here we are. Week 51 State of Emergency. We cautiously accepted Dr Theresa Tam’s announcement “no reason to be overly concerned in Canada”, but by March 2020, we would be hearing her recommendations of social distancing and face masks. We would meet Dr Jennifer Russell and welcome her into our homes on a regular basis.

First of many updates from Dr Russell

And we would learn to go about our everyday lives in a new way.

March 11, 2021

We learned to watch for arrows, space ourselves 6’ apart, wash our masks daily, wash and sanitize our hands an insane amount of times, schedule our lives around 2:30 news updates; we learned how to Zoom and FaceTime when we were expected to “Stay the blazes home”. We booked appointments and bought groceries behind plexiglass, and answered a barrage of questions regarding symptoms and recent travel at many public buildings. We learned to celebrate from a distance, and not always together at the same time. We learned to prioritize friendships with a Steady 10, then 15.

But sadly, we also learned to love differently. I learned how to love differently. I learned I couldn’t just pop into the hospital to visit an ailing friend, or even my dad after surgery. I couldn’t just pop in to visit my dying mother in a nursing home. I learned I could enjoy lunch with my sister over Zoom. I did learn I have friends who can help me make those visits happen, regardless. We learned to cry as a nation with a neighbouring province when tragedy hit, and I had the privilege of sitting with a remarkable poet from that neighbourhood and listen to her grieving heart. I learned I could drop off fresh bread (no covid lessons needed, I already had that skillset!) on an elderly friend’s porch, and chat through her kitchen window. I learned we could sing Happy birthday with a choir from Fredericton, North Head, Scotland, while on my couch on Hill Road. And I still sing badly. We learned we couldn’t sing in church; but no one could see my lips repeat 10 000 Reasons for my heart to find. We were told to keep 6 feet apart, but we couldn’t stop that 6 year old’s tiny arms from swinging around my waist. We couldn’t stop that grieving man, standing in front of his mother’s casket, from reaching out and squeezing tight, and knowing that all you had to offer in the moment was a prolonged squeeze in return.

We haven’t lost heart. If anything, maybe we rediscovered it.

Sandra Boynton, March 2020…just the beginning;
but we must NEVER lose heart.

https://pm.gc.ca/en/news/statements/2021/03/11/statement-prime-minister-mark-one-year-world-health-organization?fbclid=IwAR3nHKEsx-VmF7bqvhbXCT2LbXNcenCoWxuHiqOyex6K1ylXHgAgnZTbriI

Marching on…

Good morning!
Happy Friday…and to many of you, happy Friday before March Break!
When I was working at school, this day was an incredible milestone in the year for me. It was a reminder of all the things we had gone through since September, all the accomplishments, as well as all the struggles. Like the seasons, winter is coming to a close, and subtle hints of spring are starting to appear. For me, the school year was actually about to accelerate, as graduation preparations would start to take up most of my days, and nights. Much like climbing Mount Crumpit, though, a whole lot of energy was taken getting to this point, and it seemed like the finish line was still off in the distance. Yet, March 1st was like a major turning point. Once March Break arrived, you could descend that mountain, and in no time at all, you would be at the end; June would be here with barely a blink of an eye.

The last couple of months have been challenging, but I’ve been determined to find those things that bring me joy, no matter how small. I found my snowshoes again. I picked up my watercolours again. I learned to make Ramen Noodles … far different from my traditional comfort food soups. I took a couple of online workshops, and started preparing for an online ladies retreat.

I was surprised yesterday by a delivery from my favorite flower girl. Auntie Jo-Jo arrived with a sweet arrangement from the Library Board. I have been on the board for the past three years, and struggled with renewing my stay. I tentatively said yes back in November, but after all the stressors of December and January, I was regretting that decision. Don’t get me wrong…they are a great group to work with, and I greatly value all their programs for island families. My head just didn’t have the space. Thank you, for your show of appreciation. It certainly looks like spring!

I decided to stop in Thrifty’s for a minute. My new rule to live by, is I’m not allowing myself to bring anything IN the house, unless something LEAVES my house. I was feeling pretty good about taking a couple of boxes last night for the Curling Club yardsale. So I felt I was safe to stop in the second hand shop. My great $3 finds were a “new” glass jar for beach glass, and an awesome “new” book. Literally.

I met up with Darlene at her shop. I had wanted a couple of specific stones, but my under $5 purchase was much more valuable to my spirit that day. When you walk into Presence Boutique, a sense of calm immediately comes over you. I love how Darlene always greets me with love, and welcomes my soul with her nurturing heart. I needed that. I took my time looking though new stock. So much to see. I’m not in a hurry to leave. I found what I was looking for, but then spied a beautiful agate geode wind chime. And in my favorite colour. I was immediately transported to a lovely spring day when my windows could be opened up and I can hear the gentle clinking of the crystals.

I was excited to bring home my treasure… but I had a problem.

In my excitement to unpackage it from the carefully wrapped bag, the strands got tangled. And, just as life, I wanted to see it hanging in the morning sun, but couldn’t slow down. What a tangled mess I had created, despite Darlene having wrapped it carefully, gently. Lovingly.

Why do I do this to myself, time after time? So many beautiful pieces I want to take in, and experience each and every one for their unique beauty. So many details to learn. So many things to share.

I sat for a good thirty minutes, gently weaving and untangling each individual slice, nervously laying them out as they became separated. I started to lift them up, but quickly realized I hadn’t put the hanger up yet. Slow down, Heather. Enjoy the process of preparing, just as much as the end goal.

There always seems to be a never ending pile of chores to complete. This week, I don’t want to tackle any of them, let alone complete them. I just want to gently untangle some things, and sit in His peace.

To sit and Be Still.

Give me eyes to see…

I woke up as usual, 6:03am, and transferred to the couch for my morning routine of checking emails, devotions and recipe searches. Tomorrow is Kiddo’s birthday, and as usual, he gets to choose his birthday supper. This year is a bit more challenging… Ramen and dumplings! I’ve never made such a dish before, but I’m up for it. Surely, if he could make himself a traditional Japanese dish, I could come up with something.

As Philip comes downstairs, looking out the window above the tree line, he quips “it’s going to be a nice sunrise! you aren’t going?!” “Well, no, what makes you think it’s going to be a nice sunrise? There’s no hint of color” Our little exchange didn’t convince me I should go check it out. I couldn’t see the potential of that rosy-gold start to the day.

Philip left for work, and I kept peeking to see if there was any change in the skyline. No, nothing. My head started spinning with the long list of tasks that needed to be done today. I need to call the hospital to check on my dad, who just had surgery yesterday. I need to check in with my long-time friend Mary, who just lost her dad, yesterday, but is stuck in her Toronto condo. I have customer orders to finish sorting and get out. I need to clean house so the grandparents can come for birthday supper. I need to grocery shop for said supper. Bonnie sends a quick message to tell me of the next covid update news conference at 1:30. I want to go for a walk, but I really don’t have time until the weekend.

Then I start getting down on myself because I don’t have time. I can’t see any free space on the agenda page. A little voice tells me to just go jump in the jeep…just go see.

But it’s cold. I don’t want to get dressed for the day yet.

I see the glow rising on the treeline.

Just go.

Just start your day.

Just go and see.

I grab my sweatshirt, thankful for polar fleece PJ pants, find my mittens and zip up my jacket. I grab my phone, and start out for the Marsh… I can see a beautiful sunrise there, just as well as from Swallowtail. Sort of. The “check fuel” light comes on, (I ignored it yesterday) and the gas pumps aren’t open yet. I admit defeat, and turn in the neighbour’s yard, returning home. I’ve run out of gas twice on this road, and I’m determined to not give Andrew Jones the satisfaction of helping me out a third time, especially if he was on his way to Rotary Breakfast. I sit in my yard and argue with myself again. Just go. You can go get gas right after, and pick up the few groceries needed at the same time. Just go and see.

Suddenly, my radio switches to my iPad, and For King and Country starts in… a Christmas song, but a message that could be played any day…

Come and save me
And mend my heart and soul
The angels seem to know
Hear them singing on and on yeah

Heavenly hosts cry glory glory
For the Lord is with us
Let all the earth shout worthy worthy
Love has come to save us

“…my world is standing still”. Heavenly Hosts (For King and Country)

I started down the road to the parking area, to be met with heavy equipment, ready to do road repairs. The most recent storms have wreaked havoc again. I am reminded of the many roadblocks that are literally being thrown at me today, threatening to block this incredible view.

As always, I’m glad I came.

I needed to see this. Now I can see how my day should start.

Weathering the Storm

Tuesday, we had a lovely snowstorm. The kind that snuck in overnight, and had perfect timing to close schools in our region. But it also shut down power on the island. We lost ours early, around 6:30, and with the exception of a little blip near noon, which only gave us a false sense of hope, we didn’t see power returned until 3:30 or so.

10 inches of snow by the end of the day…then rain, and freezing rain.

I have come to expect power outages in winter, so we are usually prepared. Jugs of water sit in the garage throughout winter. Wood is carried in and kindling split for the woodstove. I get a pot of homemade soup ready. Even if we manage to keep power through the day, we are ready to shrug off the chill. Dalton has become pretty good at being prepared, too. His biggest fear for a storm day is losing internet! I am sure we would survive without it, but having data allows us to check in our family members at least, when our cordless phones prove useless. We watch the NB Power site for updates on when we might expect the power to return. Estimates were off, and frequently updated, changing the time continuously. As long as it was daylight, I could still knit. Hubby chose to nap. Soup could simmer all day on the woodstove..

There really wasn’t anything unusual about this snowstorm. It was just daily life as a Canadian in Winter.

After the storm…living in the woods, we had snow.
Living along the shore line, Dalton did not! His yard was bare, even though
we both weathered the same storm.

Some of this morning’s conversation at church was around how we had weathered the storm. I did come to an interesting conclusion. None of us weathered the storm the same. I know…shocker, eh?

Although I knew different parts of the island got their power back at different times, I had assumed we all lost it at the same time in the beginning. I soon learned Dalton really had only been without power a short time. His day was only interrupted by a few blips here and there. We carried on with our day by candlelight, but didn’t suffer any real inconveniences. How had I missed that? How could I have been so insensitive to think we were all weathering the storm in the same way? Our perceptions of the storm and how we were coping were quite different. Forgive me for being so self-righteous…but how many times in life have I assumed everyone will get through this in the same way, just because I am? I acknowledge all the hardships and inconveniences the storm may have caused, but maybe I have a different level of resiliency. Or just plain tolerance. I reached out to various friends, and tried to make the best of the day. Helping people find a bit of cheer. It goes without saying, we sometimes assume others are doing alright, because they don’t speak up and say they are having a hard time. I confess, I didn’t speak up and say, “we didn’t have power for almost nine hours, and it was hard”. I survived. Others did too, because their day wasn’t hard, even if I thought their day may have been tough from my vantage point.

Ross Island; Fish Fluke Point lighthouse, just couldn’t weather the storms
We’ve both weathered our share of storms

The next day, after the storm, I was quite surprised to find the front of the island didn’t have very much for snow. Most had been cleared away by the rain. Another shocker, right?! Dalton was very surprised at how much snow we still had in our yard. He hadn’t checked in, assuming we had power all day, like him, and received little snow. He didn’t imagine we were impacted by the storm. Again, perspective. As Gene Guptill would say, shaking his head, “oh my!, oh my!”

You know what’s coming tomorrow? Another snow storm! I was out hiking in the cold all afternoon, so tonight I enjoyed a warm bath and cozy jammies. I don’t have soup made. Yet. There is firewood and water ready. We may or may not lose power. And it’s ok either way. But I hope you weather the storm ok, whatever it looks like for you.

FOCUS…just focus!

It has proven to be a very busy week, and as much as I would like to say, it was through no fault of my own; but it really was.

As always, I awoke early. Actually I’ve been sleeping in most of this week, and waking at precisely 6:03 for the third morning in a row. Each day, I mentally go through the day’s MUST do list, before I get up. I’ve pointedly given up on “To Do” lists, as I never have a problem filling my days with things to do. And invariably, most of them get done, at least within a couple of days.

I usually manage to find a couple of extra things to add on to make life interesting. I’ve gotten pretty good since retirement at only adding things I want to, and not so much what others want. I don’t do New Years Resolutions anymore, but there have been a couple of things pop up that I decided I wanted to find space in my Happy Planner for. Online Fitness workshops. Virtual Meditation retreats. Creative challenges, #the100dayproject. Oh yes, reorganize my crafting space.

But I must focus first. Focus, girl, focus. I need to be reminded.

This morning, as I was watching the sun come up through the trees, I stepped out on the porch in my Jammies, to breathe in the crisp air. To focus.

I love sunrises at Swallowtail, as you know, but I don’t relish frozen steps…54 of them…in the dark. I don’t mind the cold. This morning, I was content to just take it in from my porch. It kinda felt warm. ish. And I love seeing the ice crystals and soft overnight snow on the evergreens. When I decided to take a couple of pictures, I was looking at the sun coming up through the branches. My lens had a hard time deciding which to focus on…the sun, or the Christmas lights. How similar is that to me, us, I thought. I could choose to try and focus on the sun off in the distance; but then the lights right in front of me become blurry. Or, I could focus on the bright green color of the bulbs right in front of my face, but then I miss the rising glow. 🎵The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning. It’s time to sing Your song again.

Focus.

I had just read a news update on Orange phase becoming our new baseline. Yellow phase is not on the horizon, so to speak, any time soon. I knew there would be angry responses when I posted it on my Facebook wall. It all depends on your focus.

Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes 🎵

Focus.

I can’t change it. You can’t change it. I can can change what goes on the Must Do list. So I must choose Joy, right? It doesn’t mean it will be easy. I’d like to keep things in perspective, and think this pandemic is just a short portion of our life line. Just a blip. But sadly it isn’t for some. My heart goes out to those who can’t see the sunrise this morning. Or can’t focus. And my heart goes out especially to a friend travelling out of province to be with her brother in palliative care. To her, family time right now is much less than a blip. I’m glad they will focus on what is truly important, and make it a FULL blip.

For the rest of us, it’s one more day. One more week. Actually, Week#47 of State of Emergency. Red phase. Orange phase. Yellow phase. Does it really matter? Am I focussing on what is most important? Are we living our days fully?

🎵And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing your praise unending
10, 000 years and then forever more

Focus.

A friend shared this on her Facebook wall this morning…I had to come back and add it to this post…SPOT ON!

Be still and be unbusy

I just happened upon this website this morning…and it’s just about everything I’ve been secretly striving for, just haven’t been able to say out loud, or fully put into action.
I live by the words Be still; taking time to stop and appreciate what God is trying to say to me, in my everyday life. I’ve also tried to intentionally become less busy, and only choose things that bring me joy; give me life. I never want to be the person who says, “I’m too busy” to do something my heart yearns for. Busy isn’t something we should be proud of…it’s exhausting and wears us down. It isn’t a badge of honour to display to our friends/colleagues, in hopes of more recognition, or a pat on the back. I want to change my mindset, so if someone says to me, “yeah, your so busy all the time”, and treat it as the greatest insult ever.

Ideas on Becoming Becoming… unbusy website

I have a couple of friends who reply every time to my casual inquiry “How are things in your world today?”, with the long list of things that filled their last 24 hours, and what has to be done in the next 24; then complain how tired they are. I might even snap out of it and admit it was me at one point in my life. I’m trying really hard to get past that.

So, even though I am not one to make new year’s resolutions, I do seek vision for my life. Dalton and I have been doing a lot of walking this winter, and I totally enjoy my informal Walk & Talk group activities. I recently took up the online virtual walk/run challenge, St Francis Way, mainly because, although I am not catholic, St Francis is the one saint that I always revered.

Although there is some question as to St Francis actually writing this prayer, I have no doubt he lived his life by this example. It is said he enjoyed long walks, and is the Patron Saint of those that care for nature, plants and animals. I would love to spend one of my afternoon walks at the Anchorage with him; can you imagine the conversation?

Sarah McLachlan’s beautiful rendition of Prayer of St Francis is so lovely. Did you know this hymn was sung at Princess Diana’s funeral? Another lady I admired, and so very fitting of her and all her humanitarian efforts.

So, all this to say, I want to become unbusy, and lead a life busy with that prayer. A couple of friends have commented on my Facebook selfie posts, and how I seem to be enjoying my outdoor adventures of retirement. EVERYDAY is an adventure, and I definitely want to find one everyday. (And for those of you, including dear hubby, who make fun of me and my selfies, I’ll have you know, it paid off yesterday… one of the online courses I am taking challenged us to post a pic with our introduction…and I WON! I can sure use that Amazon gift card!!)

So where will your adventure lead you today? Drop a comment and let me know

A Beacon of Hope

I felt led to share a collection of my favorite photos of Swallowtail, as tribute to island treasure, Laurie Murison. This morning her sister-in-law suggested we all share our favorite Swallowtail photo as our Facebook profile pictures, in tribute to her. I have spent much of the day smiling as my Facebook feed has been filled with pics of my favorite sunrise locations…where God has met me time and time again as “the sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning”.

Laurie was one of those larger-than-life people who we all became better for having known. I appreciated her passion for the plight of the northern Atlantic right whale, and the future of our historical lighthouses. I loved how she championed both of these causes, and led so many community members to share her passion, because both are so very important to the very fabric of our island life. She was gifted at writing grants and making people in power take notice of these causes, as well as showing the “little guy” how equally important their role was in protecting our little island.

CBC Shift. link

CBC interview. with MJ Edwards

CBC. news

I was quite surprised to run into Laurie at the grocery store a few months ago, having heard vague updates through our prayer chain, All I could think was, Wow! Any one of us would have been happy to pick up an order at the grocery store for you. Her warm smile assured me she was doing as best could be, and she was quite happy to be picking up a few groceries. But like other aspects of her life, it showed Laurie’s independent nature. No matter how she was feeling, there was work to be done, and she was determined to get it done. Stopping to chat with her on the bench by Swallowtail’s door, warmed my heart, as much as the sunshine of the day. The love Kenny and Laurie shared for our island beacon was so obvious and genuine.

When I first heard Laurie was fighting cancer, I couldn’t help but feel sad. Too many people we know and care about have been presented with this mighty fight. More importantly, I was sad for the whales, and Swallowtail. Who could possibly take on those challenges with the same zest and passion? Kenny, I loved how you supported her on all fronts. Your caring and compassionate heart for her showed us we all can do our part to help carry on Laurie’s quest. And carry on we must. We owe it to the treasured buildings, the whales, and Laurie’s memory. That is the legacy she left us. We are all called to be keepers of her light.

Rest in Peace, Laurie. I will continue to watch for you in the early morning hours on the helicopter pad. Thank you for your fighting spirit. And more importantly, your love of this morning light.

Laurie’s obituary here…

To Gather or to Be Still?

I am sitting on my couch, looking at my tree lights, littered with random ornaments. Random, because these newly acquired ornaments were literally thrown on, so they wouldn’t get lost in the clutter. Thankful to have made the switch to a pre-lit tree this year, that required little effort on my part. Sadly right now, the lights are the only thing making it feel like Christmas.

I have shut down my businesses for the year. Not that it is a big effort to set things out on my porch for customers, but it is an effort, when I am trying to pack things away, and clear some clutter, trying to tackle this for my own sanity. I am so grateful that my customers have remained loyal, and embraced my porch-front pick up, since March! Whodathunk it?! I thank each of you.

COVID has changed a lot of things about Christmas this year; mainly gatherings. Society has programmed us to think Christmas is all about gathering; the bigger, the better, and if we can’t have that, it won’t be Christmas. If we can’t have everyone and their dog (quite literally, at CLC!) at Christmas Eve service, will it even be as special? Again, will it even be Christmas?

Boy, are we in for a rude awakening!

The last couple of years, I have very much enjoyed our Advent retreats. It really helped me focus on the true meaning of the holiday, and not get caught up in all our society thinks it should be. Truth is, we should be treating every month as Advent, and living our lives for preparing for His presence, not His coming. Ann Voskamp’s words have resonated with me all month, as I’ve followed her online Advent devotion. I have decided I will start January with a new advent study. And February. And maybe March, if I can keep myself focused….because I need to focus on His PRESENCE, not his coming.

I am so blessed by a sweet young lady at church. I love connecting with her, and her sweet boys each week. I love her random text messages of encouragement, and notes of love. This gift made it to my tree first, and as it should.

Then there is the simple little Frosty the Snowman that made its way to my space. You have no idea how much his open arms meant to me this past Sunday. I know there was a voice in the back of my head screaming “Get back! Six feet! Don’t touch me!”

But I am so glad my heart usually wins out. Voskamp’s reminder this week, as she reflected on Linus’s words, “Fear Not” (ok, somebody else’s words, too!), reached out to my heart once again.

Dr Russell reminds us this month of keeping our “Steady 20”… limiting our household circles to just 20. Philip and I reflected on our twenty… having a small family helps. His Steady 20 extends to workplace, but that has certainly shrunk as school closed down for the Christmas break. My circle has definitely shrunk, as I strategically plan my errands to early hours, and most community activities were put on hold. But he reminds me of my biggest gathering time…church. He quips, church is my riskiest gathering. I know many churches are doing virtual, or two services, to break up the numbers for Christmas Eve service. There really is something special about having the church filled to the brim, as family members home for the holidays huddle together around their candles.

Our family gathering size have never been a threat, as we are quite literally spread out from coast to coast. I let my niece know we were with her in spirit, even if I forgot to send her ornament to her, with her gift. She quickly reminded me this little ornament presently hanging on my tree, would allow her to spend Christmas at our house with us. Even as Ontario braces itself for a major lockdown. I’m over getting annoyed with government restrictions…remaining matter-of-fact, and secretly being thankful they have given us a legit excuse not to travel, and avoid all that added stress it puts in our lives… more expectations.

Christmas has always been hard for me personally, as I wrestle with my holiday preparation expectations, and the expectations society puts on me. Or, expectations I THINK it puts on me. Expectations of a clean, uncluttered home, that welcomes friends over the holidays. Expectations of needing to visit people I am not close to. Expectations of happy Christmas memories.

As many of you know, my mom has been in the hospital/nursing home for the past 16 months. My closest tribe members know I have never been close to my mom. In fact, that relationship has often caused the most stress in my life, largely due to those very expectations… both the expectations I set upon myself, and the expectations society set upon me. I took the opportunity to visit her last Saturday at Shannex, as the family was called in. It is doubtful she will last until Christmas Day…two days time. She was sleeping comfortably, as I said my goodbyes. I honestly can not remember the last time she looked this at peace. Her own mental health prevented her from finding joy in most things in life. I posted a pic of our visit back in early September. For a fleeting two minutes, we saw a hint of a smile; amidst her unhappy complaints of her life situation.

Now I wrestle with expectations of what end of life and days following will look like for her. I have no remorse for returning home from Fredericton; there is nothing more I could do for her. So many “a good daughter would…” scenarios I play in my head. But I have come to terms with those things, being similar to the scenes from the Hallmark movies I watch this month. My dad is struggling with health issues at this time, and those scenarios replay again. The reality is, our family is simple, with few expectations, and no time or patience for drama. My brother reminds me we are all able to reach out, if any of us need anything; so if you don’t ask, you won’t get it. Life will continue, and I am thankful for the peace mom finally experiences. This sappy, heart of a marshmallow (thanks, Kathy for that analogy!) introvert will find her own peace at the shore in these days ahead. My pragmatic family members will remind me of my strengthened back bone; my soft hearted friends will remind me where my strength comes from. Phillipians 4:13. Life is about balance, isn’t it?

The clouds appear to be lifting. My journey will take me to the Anchorage today, even as I put on an extra layer, or two.

ADDENDUM… the above article was written in the start of the day, December 23. By evening, we would receive news Mom had passed away. May she now rest in peace, free from her many struggles.

SELF CARE 101: A mini-retreat

I watch a group of women take the day off work, for a “Mental Health Day”, aka, Spa Day at the mall. You know, the scene you watch in movies, when there seems to be no care for household chores or carpool duties. Seriously, it seems all so very foreign to me, and not just because of those chores. If you are lucky enough to have a job that provides “mental health” days, you are lucky indeed. I dare say, in our community, that is a foreign concept to most. Having spent my career life as a professional helper, I always saw the need for self care, but rarely received support for it. We talked about the need, but all too often, never gave ourselves permission to. It definitely was not part of the work day, but was something you did as extracurricur, on your own time. We were encouraged to take a few minutes out of our lunch break to walk around outside, or have a group of colleagues meet after school for a social event at the local restaurant.

Self Care=beach!

I have mentioned in previous articles, what a luxury it was to take the first 2-3 month of retirement to say “no” to everyone, and purposely take care of me, and only me. Sadly, we are often chastised and made to feel selfish, if we do just that. We are also reminded, “you can not pour from an empty vessel”… if we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t be able to take care of others, especially in times of greatest need.

So, I will be switching hats, to professional Travel Agent.

Not really, but I hope you will hear me through.

COVID times, and especially the recent transition to Orange Level, has made us realize just how important our mental health is, just like our physical health. Thank you to Dr Jennifer Russell, for reminding us of this, time and time again. Be kind. To our neighboours. To our health care workers. To our store clerks. To our business owners. To our postal workers and delivery people. Everyone is fighting their own battle, whether it be on the front lines, or behind closed doors.

Most importantly, Be Kind to yourself.

Like any well-planned vacation, one must look at each day, and plan activities according to budget and time constraints. Ideally, we could wave. magic wand, and not be tied by either constraint.

Of course, right now, our leaders are binding us for travel.

I am proposing a mini resort, for each of you. Most importantly, I am granting each of you PERMISSION to take this mini retreat. Some of you may need to enlist the help of a personal concierge.

Monster.com provided this definition…

Concierge Job Responsibilities:

• Meets with guests and provides outstanding customer service to all guests, owners, and visitors of the hotel.

• Assists guests and owners in a branded, friendly, proactive and efficient manner with appropriate follow-up as necessary.

I like to think of Barney, in “Pretty Woman”. He provided everything Vivian needed, as a personal responsibility to his guest, Edward. He shone most by showing respect and kindness to Edward’s “friend”. And with his help, her true beauty was able to come out and shine.

I am not suggesting you search the online job markets, but go through your list of friends. Maybe you can switch off duties for a day or two, whether that be in the form of babysitting, or cooking a casserole for supper. Take the kids to hockey practice, or fold the laundry. Stop at the Independent to pick up milk, or stop and get the mail. In this season, offer to wrap (and hide!) gifts. Presently, in Orange level, we need to adjust accordingly. We won’t be in Orange forever, and once we move back to Yellow level, these things we be doable again.

Make a plan. What would you like the day to look like? Think about what brings you joy, and know that isn’t the same for everyone. Taking a sky diving or snorkeling lesson on a tropical resort would bring great happiness to some, but I can assure you, my plan would look much different, just as your retreat will look.

Self Care: Explore the fresh air!

Here are some ideas… pick and choose what works for you…

~DEVOTE the day to yourself. Make your family aware of your plan, so they can work around it and support you.

~Start your day with GRATITUDE. Name them, one by one…three things each morning. Be specific … example, I am grateful for my car, as it allows me freedom to go explore our island. Dedicate a notebook to this, or special journal. You will be surprised at how your outlook changes when this becomes a daily habit.

~SET A TIME FRAME that doesn’t cause more stress. Will it only be two hours, due to other obligations? So be it. Are your family and friends on board so you can take 8-10 hours? Wonderful!

~SET YOUR TABLE for breakfast… even if it’s just you. Light a candle. Dig out the fine china. Check out Thrifty’s for a mismatched pretty plate/glass. Who knows, this may become your special dishware, at no great cost.

Whenever we travel, we take great glee in planning where the next meal will be, and if it is a longer trip, where the next one, and next one will be. This may take some planning ahead for grocery items. Try and keep it healthy, so your body appreciates your choice.

~CLEAN! not the house… YOU! do you have a favorite bubble bath or hand made bar soap? Take time to enjoy the warm water. Pamper yourself with a facial or face mask.

~GET DRESSED! you would be surprised how this simple act will help you prepare for the day. You will be better equipped to handle whatever gets thrown at you. It is winter…find a pair of fuzzy socks and a cozy sweater; and don’t forget the warm cozy hat and mitts!

~MOVE! Find a way to awaken your body for the great day ahead. Find a yoga or stretch routine on Youtube to suit your physical abilities.

~get OUTDOORS! Do you you enjoy the woods? the beach? your backyard? Hang the Christmas lights. Just get some fresh air.

~SHOP OFFLINE! Take some time to support our local businesses and see what great gift ideas wehavevright here on our island. Even browsing the lovely displays at Home Furniture, Presence Boutique or Newton’s, can be a welcome escape to explore.

~DO one small chore on your list. This is not the time to clean out the garage… but maybe a quick drive to the transfer station would cross something off the list…make you will feel like you did accomplish something for the day.

~READ. Choose a book you’ve been meaning to start. You don’t like to read? is there a magazine you enjoy? Keep it short; or listen to a podcast.

~MUSIC. Be intentional. Search Youtube for peaceful meditation music. Or will you find a favorite Christmas playlist to lift your spirits?

Above all, be MINDFUL. Be INTENTIONAL. Be KIND to yourself.

I heard a new expression this week… “COVID Fatigue”. It refers to the mental exhaustion many of us are feeling from the constant barrage of information, news updates, rules and regulations coming our way about this pandemic Don’t get me wrong… for the safety of our families, I think it’s really important to “stay in the know”, but if you find it wearing on you, acknowledge it, and take a break from the news and social media. Let your friends know it isn’t anything against them, but for your own well-being, you need to unplug and step back for awhile. You might be surprised when they turn around and do the same thing.

This Christmas, let’s clear some space in our homes, our minds, and hearts for what is really important to us. Take care of yourselves and each other.

*As posted in Island Times, December 2020