There’s Always Something …

IMG_8892There’s always something …

In the midst of spring’s great expectations, both a wild fire rages and a fridge breaks down. And I can tell you I’d choose a fridge breakdown over the flames any and every day.

It’s also Mother’s Day weekend, and I know that many women dread this day, along with its suitcase of hidden pains and unmet longings.

I hope my daughter calls, but she lives in a country that does not recognize this Hallmark Day. She is also a busy mother and I will try to call her; as I do want to acknowledge the fantastic job she is doing of raising my grandchildren. My surrogate (official definition: a substitute, especially a person deputizing for another in a specific role or office) daughter in Australia, has asked for my mailing address so she can send me something. I don’t need or want a gift I tell her, I would just like a conversation. What I would really like is the connection with the two that don’t call anymore, but like many other Moms, that catching up will have to wait for heaven. Over the years, I’ve heard many of the sadnesses women express over Mother’s Day: the sadness of remaining childless, the sadness of children buried, the sadness of rocky relationships with children. The pain is always greater for the mother separated from a child, than for the child. A little piece of the mother heart goes to each child; and when that daughter has her own children, she will understand the way a mamma’s heart gets divvied up.

This week I had a delightful mother/child encounter while biking the Rocky Mountain Legacy trail, from Canmore to Banff. About half-way, Parks Canada has set up two lovely red lawn chairs; I decided to stop on the return trip, to sit and take in the view. As I arrive to the red chairs, I see that a trio has also just stopped and it looks as though we might both be IMG_4257heading for the chairs. I take one, as a mother plops her little one in the other, and we both take photos. She offers to take my picture, I agree. She sets her drink down on the adjoining arm rest, I say “I’ll raise the cider. I’m sending this to my sister that joined me on this trail last year, she’ll like the drink addition.” After she takes my photo-I reciprocate the offer. The three moms scurry the young ones …  scatter the kids amongst themselves, raise their drinks and I keep shooting. “Look this way, say cheese, do the cheer. How about one from the back, so we see the mountains?” After thanking me, they ask if I’d like the fourth cider. “They came in a pack of four so we do have an extra.”

Yes, I say, that would be great.”

I discover they met in prenatal classes just over a year ago. Then the interesting birthing stories began. Two of them had C-sections. As a former nurse, I asked a few questions. “Were you disappointed to end up with a C-section?” Not really “Did you have a doula?” One had. “Is this your first mother’s day?” Yes.

To Danika, Jessica, Adrianna and all the other first time moms—Happy Mother’s Day to you!

For those with a first sad Mother’s Day—May you be encouraged. You gave the world something beautiful, and you yourself are a better person for that. To the mature mothers & grandmothers: Let’s encourage the young moms. The pressures put on moms can be overwhelming, stifling and self-diminishing. The blend of home, career and parenting is a daunting task, even more challenging than it was in our day.

Adrianna asked about my mothering experience. After briefly explaining my loss, they knew I meant when I said what I have held to be true for a long time: “Motherhood is a high calling. Spend as much time as you can, because you never know what the future holds.”

There is always something … and the forest fire rages in Northern Alberta, while my fridge has been fixed and has resumed its cooling.

Mother’s Day flowers found near Canmore—a special treat: Wild Orchids.IMG_8898

Jocelyn is the author of Who is Talking Out of My Head- Grief as an Out of Body Experience

Thoughts from A-Broad

Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world. Gustave Flaubert

People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home. Dagobert D. RunesDSC_0186

When I was a child I spoke like I child, I acted like a child, but when I became an adult, I stayed in the neighbourhood, I dwelt in the safety zone … until one day … I left, I realized there was more to life than security.

My daughter expresses continual surprise at how different the childhood of her children is, as compared to her own. My daughter went to the same elementary school as I had. (I think most of the teachers had left by then.)

My grandchildren live in North Africa, in a country with French as the second language, after Arabic. Minimal English is spoken in their Muslim neighbourhood. My nine year old grand-daughter rises grumpily for an 8am start at a local private school. Do not think Western style private school. The reason my granddaughter had been keen on this school was because this one had real washrooms, not a converted house bathroom that still had a bath-tub; there were four stalls for girls and four stalls for boys.

IMG_3193It was with great fanfare and delight that I initiated a doubles ride on the single speed bicycle as a way of getting her to school fairly quickly, which was very important last year when she was an eight year old who dawdled efficiently. “We are rocking the hood,” I said to her, as we pedalled the sandy partially paved street, dodging large stones and garbage. She perched on the mounted rear rack keeping her feet slightly apart, holding on to my seat with as firm a grip as her still small fingers could. Like clockwork, our traveling bicycle circus passed the local high school at their arrival time, forcing us to navigate at least two hundred students crossing the street. The head-scarfed girls were thrilled to say a bonjour-presuming I must be French. That day as we pedalled, I responded to a few of the greetings with a smile and either Allo or bonjour. Some of the boys made comments and my granddaughter said “Grandma they’re making fun of us, let’s just get out of here.” As I could not understand the Arabic comments, and saw only smiles and laughter in eyes; I didn’t think they were making fun of us. We were a novelty in their monolithic landscape, this mature blonde woman, with red streaks in her hair. (She couldn’t be a grandmother, for grandmothers would be fully covered in their long jellabas, and never on a bicycle.)

Don’t worry Maisha,” I said, “they’re not being unkind. They’re just not comfortable in their own skin.”

I don’t get it … You’re not a snake grandma, you don’t shed your skin. What do you mean?”

Sometimes people aren’t comfortable with who they are, and then they make fun of other people, to feel better. If you feel okay about who you are, you don’t have to make fun of other people.”

Ah, my dear girl, (I thought) perhaps shedding skin is exactly what we need to do to become who we wantIMG_4854 to be.

Mark Twain’s words ring true: Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, especially as one shares peanut laden strong tea with new friends. 

Jocelyn is the author of Who Is Talking Out of My Head, Grief as an Out of Body Experience.

Of Boogie Boards and Mermaids

The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea.             Isak Dinesen

IMG_2157In three days time, I will be on the coast of North Africa. For thousands of years this land has intrigued and invited people to take part in the rituals and magic of life by the sea. Remains of ancient Roman villas, public baths and libraries remind me that others have walked those places before me. Their footsteps have all washed away, as will mine. But while I am in that space, while I am in any space I want to live and breathe the energy it gifts to those who are open.

I connect with Jill Davis’ line about the waves of the sea help me get back to me.

My grandchildren explore unmarked ruins, dip their toes into clear waters of the Mediterranean and barbecue hot dogs along blonde sandy shores. There is a sense of infinity as cerulean blue of sky and water blend into each other. Earth meets sky as thoughts of infinity and divinity merge together on the distant horizon … The land of hopes, dreams and mosaic memories.

And my bags are packed to the gills. Last summer I bought boogie boards for the grandchildren’s visit to my Canadian home, but we experienced end-of-summer-snow and warm campfires. Now the crazy thought to take the boards to North Africa had entered my head, and after a request for life jackets came from across the ocean, my decision was made. Even though my grandchildren live by the sea, my son-in-law could not find life jackets in the local stores. We may be over safetied here in Canada, but they are definitely under the mark. This just meant a second checked in bag … There are times I try to travel light, with only one checked in bag, but when considering gifts for the grandkids and their safety … some of the reasoning went by the sea side.IMG_2250

Certain things make me feel small – mountains and oceans are definitely in that category – especially oceans as they seem to have no beginning or end. Their vastness, can be calm or unrelenting. They not only make me feel small, but they give me a sense of the bigger picture, and my place in it. And the reality that all the trivial daily fussing is not worth its energy. There is a much grander scale of life beyond the routine. There is also an infusion of sacred in the ordinary. Mother Theresa said: We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.

I can hardly wait to stand by the sea, to feel the water on my toes.

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Mermaid image by: quotesville.com

Jocelyn is the author of Who is Talking Out of My Head, Grief as an Out-of-Body Experience

Learning to Live the Loss

IMG_1410If there were a day to strike from the calendar—Feb 27 would be that day for me—a day three of the most beautiful young people on the planet departed, eleven years ago. Every day in the news, I hear of events that would make others wish to erase another day.

As I type, a reminder pops up in the corner of my computer screen- A day to get through. A month ago I typed those words on this day. Now it asks me if I want to close or snooze—could erase be an option?

I find that the dread of a day can be worse than the day itself. As I was writing in my journal the day before, I decided music should be a part of this preparation. “All right, God—you can select the songs.” I put the setting to random. I never know what will play, usually a mixture of spiritual, folk, John Fogarty, Christmas carols, and my foreign language lessons. I had the sneaky suspicion I was trying to put God to the music test,  just to see if He was listening.

The first song takes me back to when my now-in-heaven-daughter was thirteen. This was a signature song for her that year. Through the register vents Twyla Paris would sing: God is in control, we will choose to remember and never be shaken, there is no power above or below. Oh-oh-oh God is in control. That is a great start. I could not have picked better.

The next song is from the Christmas album given by that same daughter her last Christmas, and Sue Chick sings … Heaven comes down, the hearts of men rise  do we dare take a chance … and the heart longs for more. Then Steve Bell tells me that Into the darkness we must go, gone, gone is the light.

And I notice increased number of age spots on the hand that holds the pen. I sit there thinking this is kind of silly and any moment the Arabic lesson would come through. I was interrupted by a call from the florist for a delivery. But, song after song encouraged me. At song 14, I thought perhaps I should get on with my day. Johnny Reid finishes the set of fifteen with I left my hometown years ago … to let all this love surround me. I would have said, to let all this beauty surround me. And I realize Love and Beauty often feel synonymous. Both are heavenly gifts. I contemplate the power of the words, and the themes of love, loss and suffering … songwriters capture the struggles we have. Music soothes and inspires, it reminds me that I am not in control, I am not alone on the journey, and I must continue. Sauntering in sacredness is an option.

I sent my sister-in-law a thank you for the flowers, she responded with an email about an image she had of new green shoots coming forth. Later that afternoon, I went for a walk … and found a likeness of her vision:IMG_1961

Never before have I seen shoots in February. These green and burgundy shoots brimmed with hope of new life. For this day, I head to the mountains, to contemplate the gifts of the journey … and to sit in the beauty, this is what I left my hometown for.

From John O’Donohue’s book Beauty, a poem by Dietrich Boenhoffer:

The Unfilled Gap

Nothing can fill the gap                                                                                                  When we are away from those we love and it would be                                    Wrong to try to find anything                                                                                      

Since leaving the gap unfilled preserves the bond between                                   Us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap.                                                           

He does not fill it but keeps it empty, so that our communion                          With another may be kept alive even at the cost of pain.

Love & Windshield Wipers

f6798d30fd0625f6e1e9d364172acfe9_ft_xlLove is a Many Splendoured Thing.

My friend said I needed new windshield wipers. She is the friend who changes the oil on my car, so I listen to her. She is my only female friend who is more interested in what goes on under the hood, than what we wear. I have confessed to her that I have never changed a tire, and I don’t want to.

Tis the cupid weekend … where we could buy into the notion that love is equated with chocolate, red roses and wine.

Love is a many splendoured thing.

This same friend told me where to get new windshield wipers and she offered to change them for me. She said, “If you don’t know what to get, the guys at Costco will help you find the right ones.”

I go immediately to the automotive desk … “Can I help you?”

I say, “I hope so.” He types in my vehicle specifications on his computer, and match.com tells him what I need. He points me to the aisle they are located, looks at my hair colour and confused eyes, and decides to personally escort me to the windshield-wiper spot. I had no idea that the driver side of my window calls for a 22” wiper while the passenger side is 3” shorter.

Who would have thought there were this many options. “These are the best,” he says, “and they’re on sale” … My ears perk up with the word sale-I am a well trained female shopper. A momentary bright spot in the search. Alas, my sizes are not included in the sale.  (I am wondering whether I should buy the ones on sale and try to make them fit? What difference does an inch make? In fact two of the sale size would almost equal the original sum?)

He hands me two top quality ones, top non-sale price.

It’s almost spring, do I need these that will work at minus 40?”

He tells me I’ll want to swap them out in summer. I say I don’t plan to. Well then I don’t have to, these will be good in summer. Likely overkill. Mr Sales-guy moves on after I thank him. What about all-season ones?  f6798d30fd0625f6e1e9d364172acfe9_ft_xlI compromise and buy top end for the driver side, and all season for the passenger. What does love have to do with wipers?

Is there an all season love? Or do I have to switch out for a new season? Recently on a ski excursion with my neighbours … she said that most of us will experience three major loves. The first love, the most passionate, the one we have children with. I forget the specifics of the middle one, and finally the one to grow old with. She looks at her husband, and says I guess you’re him.

I’m fortunate to come from an area where many couples do not switch out for a new season. My older sister married out of high school and has been married for 50 years. And they still do the best rockn’roll jive I have ever seen. At this stage I have also discovered the splendour of love with grand-children.

Love is a many splendoured thingIMG_1335

And whether you have experienced it for a life-time or a season, I wish you love in your life. And good wiper blades which like love: clear the view, open your eyes to beauty, and improve the quality of the trip.

Two love songs to share for Valentine’s Day …

One from jjheller—a beautiful song that asks Who will love me for me?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vw_x99vyIC4

The other from the group Mashmakhan from 1970. True love will never die.

New Beginnings, New Shoes

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.  IMG_2377          C S Lewis

How’s the class going?” I ask my friend.

It started last week, but I didn’t go. I never signed up. I wasn’t sure I’d finish it.”

(you won’t finish if you don’t start, I thought but didn’t say) I bet you finish all the books you start as well.”

Yes, I do,” spoken with a grimace.

I don’t anymore. If I don’t like it, I move on. Some books I plug through for awhile, hoping for it to redeem itself, and sometimes it does. If something isn’t worth the time, I don’t finish. Having said that, I call myself a great beginner … I begin a lot of things, and don’t always finish. I used to chastise myself for that, but I realized if I didn’t start, I wouldn’t have finished the things I have.” 

IMG_0997My brown suede boots gave out this week … The zipper was catching and I knew the day would come when I’d not be able to get them on or off. That day came Wednesday. I had them on, but could not unzip them. So here I type with one brown suede boot, and one barefoot … just kidding. First, I waxed the zipper to see if it could overcome the catch point, no luck. Then I took a plier to to grab hold of the zipper pull as I held the teeth together and tugged … and in the opening of the zipper, it came apart. I looked at these lovely boots, and wondered what else I could make of them. The reality was: nothing. I will carry my boots to the garbage, I guess.

Sometimes it is hard to let go of the past, of ideas, of ways of doing things, even if they aren’t working. New beginnings are always opening up,but they ask us to step forward and try. Am I willing to risk, with an unknown outcome?  Jennifer Dukes Lee expresses this dilemma well: IF you never go, you’ll never know. There are always good reasons for not walking through the doors of this life. There are always risks in crossing those great thresholds. True enough: Sometimes, our worst fears come to pass. Sometimes, things break. Sometimes, we ourselves are the most broken things of all. But that’s the thing. To live a beautiful life, we have to take the risk. To live a beautiful life, we have to lose the fear of stepping across the threshold. (Jan-Incourage@dayspring.com)

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Shoes For the Curator of My Soul

 Cement blocks, ill fitting shoes

  Doubt on the left,  Fear on the right

     Laced with guilt,  It is hard to walk

       Harder to dance, Impossible to fly

        Barefoot she skipped ahead      Jocelyn

 

Love of Advent-ure

4thadventimagesIf, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things; if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? For each one of us, there is a desert to travel. A star to discover. And a being within ourselves to bring to life.  (Anonymous, but quoted by Sarah Ban Breathnach in Simple Abundance)

What does it feel like to be loved?

The question is asked of my daughter who lives with her husband and three small children in a N African Islamic country. The lady who poses the question is heavy with her third child. Last December I joined my daughter to invite neighbours to attend a Ladies event to experience the flavour of a Canadian Christmas. In this country they do not celebrate December 25th, they do not get caught up in ribbons and bows, in getting the right turkey, the right gifts … they do that for other cultural events. As we spread the word about the party, one of the ladies said “everyone wants to be at her house.” It is a house of welcome, of lightIMG_0456 and love. This year, I could not be there and encouraged my daughter in whatever way I could, mainly prayer from wintery Canada. She is eight hours ahead, it was early Friday afternoon that the first details came through: “a house full of women, rich conversation, laughter, fun, food.” Via WhatsApp she said “And one pregnant woman who did not have the two dinars (about a dollar) for a taxi ride, walked seven kilometres to come.” I was moved to tears to read that. That woman walked seven kms because she felt loved and accepted by my daughter. My daughter does not preach, she invests herself into their lives … she cares, she also gives this woman a ride home.

What does it feel like to be loved? Three weeks ago, I heard a fable by Max Lucado. This is now my retelling of his telling … As the prince rode throughout the land, he took note of a peasant woman, he fell in love with her … he proposed marriage. She wanted to refuse … how could he love her, he lived in a castle, she was just a common woman. He insisted that He loved her for who she was, and he wanted to marry her. She still responded in doubt, but as he seemed quite persistant, she said,  she could cook and clean for him, and bear his children … He said, “I do not want you because you can cook and clean, and bear children. I want you to be my wife because I love you” …. They married; she cooked and cleaned and bore his children, but somehow she never trusted his love. In the end she left him, and said to one of her friends, “I never really felt that he loved me.”  

IMG_0419Something stirred my heart at this story as I have often wondered IF God, who says He is love, could love me? What does it feel like to be loved by the creator of the universe? I have learned that grief does not feel like love …. but the question hangs in the air. Do actions speak louder than words? I do believe that Christmas is Love in Action.

How will I spend the final advent hours? May I take time to feel the desert wind, to gaze at a star and to ponder the birth of new understanding. The final word is Immanuel, God with us, through each season of life, through the longing and the filling, in the journey through the desert. 

Why settle for tinsel, when we are offered the kingdom? 

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Jocelyn is the Author of Who is Talking out of My Head-Grief as an Out of Body Experience