International Happy Day :)

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I was surprised to hear that March 20 was international happiness day—did you know? Did it make a difference to your sense of well being? Is this like the World series baseball, that caters only to North American teams … can this be called international when the songs for this event are all English?

But I do not want to be the naysayer only … my friend suggested that I not blog not only sad posts … The majority of time, I am an upbeat person, I have experienced sadness though. I am not alone in that.

Leo Tolstoy said “If you want to be happy, be.”

Is it that simple?
What do you think? Dr Seuss said “unslumping oneself is not easily done.

Please, give me your best unslumping tips.

My tips would include, but not limited to: Distraction, practice laughter, connect with people, connect with yourself, listen to positive music, travel. A tip from a sister – “Think less, drink more.”

The fog is closing in here on this first day of spring, and the close of international Happiness day, and the dog upstairs continues to bark. Perhaps I could write the sequel to the curious incident of the dog in the night-time. (Mark Haddon)

Some of my favourite quotes on happiness:

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”
Ernest Hemingway

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
Abraham Lincoln

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.”
Tom Bodett

“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.”
Jonathan Safran Foer

“Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.”
Mark Twain

“And I can’t be running back and fourth forever between grief and high delight.”
J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey

“Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

“So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?”

Hunter S. Thompson

“… the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.”

Ann Voskamp 

“Sadness gives depth. Happiness gives height. Sadness gives roots. Happiness gives branches. Happiness is like a tree going into the sky, and sadness is like the roots going down into the womb of the earth. Both are needed, and the higher a tree goes, the deeper it goes, simultaneously. The bigger the tree, the bigger will be its roots. In fact, it is always in proportion. That’s its balance.”

Osho, Everyday Osho: 365 Daily Meditations for the Here and Now

This last quote by Osho, made sense to me … this was a concept a good friend and I discussed, how the parallel happiness-wallpapers-free-downloadtracks of life, Joy and Sorrow hold hands to make our lives richer. We can only fully appreciate happiness, when we have known its absence.

And let me know what makes you happy. The  laughter of children always works for me.

Pablo Casals said: “Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart,”      Here are links to poetic messages for your heart’s happiness.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Sxv-sUYtM (Pharrell Williams Happy song)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02m5w5p (The BBC’s list of songs for International Happiness Day.)

Knocking on Heaven’s Door

The Power of the Ask

Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.  IMG_4745   (Matt 7:7 NIV)

I had arrived in Perth, Australia, the day before, time-zoned out by fourteen hours.

Still in the excitement phase, I tried not to think of the new realities that I: was on my own, did not know a soul here, was to start a new job in ten days, and had no place to live. I had booked into a hostel for two weeks, hoping that would give me enough time to find an apartment, before my nursing  job began.

A sense of expectancy, filled me as I headed downtown under the vivid blue Australian skies—I had come from a prairie winter, where minus twenty was the norm. This felt beautiful, warm and friendly. Two things I remember clearly that welcomed me. Next to a brown brick church with large wooden doors, a group of teenagers stood over the green grass carrying “Free Hugs” signs. (I had a video of my youngest daughter holding a same message.) I went to receive my free hug. The unwrinkled arms that wrapped my traveled soul, had no idea that I believed that my daughter had orchestrated this hug from heaven.

Wiping the tears from my eyes (I never saw those free huggers again) … I explored further down the road and chanced upon a young woman busker with a guitar of dreams. Cross-legged, she sang two songs while I stood near by—Knocking on Heaven’s Door, and I can see Clearly Now the Rain is gone … I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind, it’s gonna be a bright, bright sun-shiney day. I looked all around to nothing but blue skies.

“You must be very brave to move half way around the world.” people said …. or desperate, I thought.

Perhaps that is the best approach to the Father. I usually come desperate … hungry for the blessing.

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The power of the ask … I had asked, I had knocked on heaven’s doors, I had been a regular at the gate … “Should I go, or should I stay?”

That was five years ago. Although I have returned to Canada, that move changed my life. I am forever grateful that I responded to the inner voice that said Go. Ask for direction.

The response did not come in a type written detailed memo—oh I wished it had. But in hindsight I can see that many doors opened for me as I continued to search, and I met some wonderful people along the way. It did not come easily. Seek and you will find.

Sometimes, I don’t know what it is I seek … but, I know there are questions that the soul propels me to ask and to explore. Simone Weil has said it well:

DSC_0878The danger is that the soul should persuade itself that it is not hungry. It can only persuade itself of this by lying.

Oh I can see clearly now, the snow has gone … but I know rain and snow showers will return, and I will experience more storms, but, I will keep asking, and the spirit will guide. That really is the best.

Photos by author, painting of woman by Kristen N D.

Owning My Story

Brené Brown

From an email sent to a friend:
If you are reading this now … I hit Send
If you aren’t reading this, you won’t even know this conversation almost took place.
I am chuckling as I started this email four hours ago ….
Sometimes I feel incredibly young at heart, sometimes I feel like the vulnerable little girl, wanting to be accepted, sometimes I feel as though I could be a hundred years old.
And I fear I might hit send, and regret it … or hit delete and regret that even more  …..  Well, it’s coming your way.

It seems whenever I meet up with someone new, I have to play the little “how much do I want Vuln-imagesthem to know about me?” game. This is the mental jockeying done with new encounters. Will they be a small part of my life, a work connection, a friendship, deep, superficial?? The mental assessments happen very quickly. In a recent conversation, I realized I said something that would lead to revealing more of myself than I might have wanted … I said, “they contacted me after having read my book.” As the words tumbled from my mouth, it registered in my head that in all the conversations we’d had, I never mentioned my book. The reluctant author in me, does not want patronized sympathy in place of genuine friendship.My grief story is generally not the first thing I share with others.  And yet, I have had the most meaningful connections with people, because of the willingness to be vulnerable. But the little voices in my head warn me, as I verge near the precipice of letting someone in on the painful parts of my story, that when I let my guard down I risk getting hurt. Vulnerablility Stephen Russell has said that “being vulnerable is being open for wounding … being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty. Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset.” (I can’t say that I am in complete agreement with him—my greatest asset?)
Now I know I don’t want to be, or need to be a jellyfish, exposed to everything, self-protection is needed for survival, but I also know that I want to be willing to risk. I’m still working on the risk plunge, but I am further in that direction in the wanting of it, of trusting my instincts of when to risk. I have not yet succeeded, but I’m taking great aim towards this thing. And then when I get hurt, as inevitably still happens … recovery time is lessened.
I try to keep a soft shell around my heart, it allows for more expansion.

IMG_1537Madeleine l’Engle said: When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown up, we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability … To be alive is to be vulnerable.

I also used to think, I would have the answers as I got older … instead I see the number of questions increase.

 

(Jocelyn has published a book on grief; Who is Talking Out of My Head – Grief as an out of Body Experience,  available at DWFriesen Press, and through Amazon)

Does this Clutter make my Butt look Big?

Things sneak into the closets of my mind …

Your house is your home only when you feel you have jurisdiction over the space. Joan Kron

Every year I am challenged to declutter and this year is no exception, and I have found that one of the best ways to avoid doing and to just talk about doing, is to do online research on the topic, and thus further avoid doing.

January is a busy month for donations at the second hand clothing store where I spend Tues afternoons. People are cleaning out closets. Out with the old and in with the new … and this is the time of year to question why I hang on to some unused items. (But I paid good money for it—and I know I might need it, IMG_1371someday.) While discussing with a friend about the stuff that collects so quickly, she hauled out Peter Walsh’s book, which I interpreted as a divine sign. (Note to self—she is organized and can find items immediately.) And No the clutter does not make my butt look fat, but it does make me feel heavy in spirit. While I have accepted that I will never be a Good Housekeeping poster child, a cluttered space carries a feeling of chaos, and  I prefer a sense of calm in my home. And my calm is disrupted by my clutter. When I have trouble finding things, I know it’s time to re-organize. Most of my friends maintain their homes well, but I am acquainted with a range of house keeping habits, from one that vacuums three times a day, to a spinster librarian, with cats and cat food dishes located in bulk around her small house, to a dining room table that has not seen food for years, because it is covered with stuff. Twenty-one is the number of Srabble games she owns—just in case the church might ever hold a scrabble tournament. (Does no one else own scrabble?) Everyone of us has our own reason for clinging to unneeded items, and lately my reasoning has come into question.

MIT finds a correlation between smarts and messiness, but it’s MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and the writer went on to suggest messy-desked people might be skewing the results in their favour. Anyways, they say that “Messiness is often associated with artistic, creative and scientific or mathematical genius, spontaneity, but also with carelessness, eccentricity, madness and unreliability.”

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Cleanliness was next to Godliness in my childhood days … my sisters and I rushed through the Saturday morning chores so we could watch Dick Clark’s American Bandstand at noon. An automatic association for me is to clean and then celebrate with dance, not unlike a Guy Davis blues song —his line goes,  had some old shoes on, got new shoes now, and I feel like dancing …. thinking old thoughts, got some new thoughts now, and I feel like dancing … Yes, decluttering the closet and the mind leads to dancing and an increased mood of feel good.

An immaculate home (or conception) has never been part of my story, but the closets have become slightly more organized and I feel like dancing.

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Door # 2,0,1,5?

Only dreams give birth to change  … Sarah Ban Breathnach

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.  Zora Neale HurstonIMG_8658

What does 2015 hold? Like the North African doors that call me to enter, the New Year is inviting me to step through and discover the beauty that awaits. And not seen in the picture is the garbage that was scattered throughout much of the land … Life is not pristine, I will encounter garbage in 2015. But does that keep me from dreaming? (Sometimes -yes) As I think ahead to the plans, dreams and goals I have (I focus on themes instead of resolutions, less binding.) I am aware that the Trust issue is a big factor in my life. I do not know what will happen, life has taught me that not all dreams and hopes will materialize, no matter how reverent my outlook on life is.  A poster above my son’s bed said: I don’t know what the future holds, but I know WHO holds the future  I am challenged to place my trust in God. Too often I feel I have to do it all myself …

I am also aware that the Becoming is important for me … becoming more of the person I want to be, have potential to be, becoming aware of the Sacred in the daily, aware that I have choices in the doors I open and close, aware that no one can make me more miserable than I can myself.  Aware that even though my grand-daughter, all of 8 years old, tells me that my legs jiggle when I swim, I will continue to swim.  My isn’t she becoming?

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Many women today feel a sadness we cannot name. Though we accomplish much of what we set out to do, we sense something is missing in our lives and—fruitlessly—search out there for the answers. What’s often wrong is that we are disconnected from an authentic sense of self.  Emily Hancock.

I am also aware that being a woman in the western world, I have many more opportunites than the veiled women I met in North Africa and I am grateful for that. The doors that open in some cultures are much smaller, and often closed or difficult to push open. They may not even be aware that things could be different. I pray that I will knock on doors, even when I am intimidated by their size.IMG_7091

As you go through the door of 2015, begin this new year by trusting your inner, authentic self, and trust that there is a loving Source, a sower of dreams … May this year provide some answers, and may you enjoy the  journey of the question. In the end, I wish to become more authentic, more trusting, more connected to myself and my God, and more becoming.

It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth—and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up—that we will begin to live each day to the fullest as if it was the only one we had.                      Elizabeth Kübler-Ross

Pictures taken in North Africa by J Faire

Travel Tips from A Broad

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. ** SaintAugustineIMG_2383

Trains, planes and automobiles … all in a day, plus bumping carry-ons over cobblestone streets. A privilege to be reading pages from the book of Four Great Cities of Eastern Europe: Dubrovnik, Budapest, Prague and Vienna. The destination is only a part of the journey. Four weeks of travel and what have I learned:

Communication, communication, communication.

The barrier of language,

The connection of smiles,

but precise words can direct you to the correct train platform.

A face tells a story. (Be in charge of its cover.)

Titles are deceiving, and customer service does not guarantee anything,

Information desks may or may not dispense accurate information.

Travel with a friend is joy doubled.  IMG_2706

Be prepared, travel light.

(Prepared for what?)

Be prepared to be flexible, and always have tissue in your bag.

Judgements over differences can arise quickly,

Open travellers practice seeing the world with the eyes of the heart,

Culture bleeds into opinions, even when we feel we are open-minded.

There are countless ways of living life, the wise traveller practices

Giving up the need to be right.

Smiling faces at arrival gates dissipate travel weariness. (Especially if they are grandchildren)

“This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.” (And I want to pass through as much of it as I can.)

The 3 minute egg versus the 5 minute egg:  “Would you like a 3 minute egg or a 5 minute?” The blank look on my face gave evidence that I did not understand my Austrian host’s question, so she repeated it. I opted for the 5 minute, egg … we are called to breakfast 6 min later, with a boiled egg in a white egg cup, a white plate for bread, a white bowl for fruit. Cheese, meat and jam set on the table alongside fresh squeezed orange juice. We began, and as I approached my 5 minute egg my host corrected my angle of attack with an expression of horror. (There is in an egg cup for a purpose.) When I confess that we usually shell our 8 minute eggs in Canada, I am informed that 8 minute eggs are eaten only at Easter. I like to think that I carry the hope of Easter all year round, perhaps that explains my egg eating habits?  With an outer smile and an inner grimace I recognize there are numerous ways of getting egg on one’s face.

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends. **

Maya Angelou

**Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_travel.html

Decaf worry-what’s the point?

I can honestly say I am not afraid of ebola.

I am not afraid that I will be blown up by a terrorist.

I am not afraid that I will contract Aids.

I have only had my cholesterol levels checked once.

But, every now and then, when the elevator door opens, I fear I might find a dead body in it.

I had not been afraid of drinking tea, until last Friday’s rerun of Marketplace. My IMG_4989innocence is shattered. I have been informed that most teas have residues of pesticides. Oh my darling Earl, Grey is what my hair is turning over this latest scandal. And I doubt I can take comfort with you any longer. To reassure us, a CBC spokesperson said that “a person would have to consume approximately 75 cups of tea per day over their entire lifetime to elicit an adverse health effect.”

Fear Mongering … Overwhelming information is at our disposal. After I bumped into the owner of the local Tea shop, she challenged me to take a look at apple pesticides, only to discover that apples top the list of the dirty dozen for pesticide residue. If only the organic section looked more appealing.

A trip to Africa is on my horizon, and a friend asked if I was not afraid of travel to the continent of ebola. I asked her if she would stay home from Florida because Alaska was having the flu?

Perspective is hard to maintain with the current information overload.  I think I will go have another cup of tea with apple slices as I re-read a list from 1933.  In a letter to his 11-year-old daughter Scottie, author F. Scott Fitzgerald listed things for her to worry about, not worry about, and to think about. Pesticide-free food for thought:

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Things to worry about:

Worry about courage

Worry about cleanliness

Worry about efficiency

Worry about horsemanship (Whew—I can strike that one off the list)

Things not to worry about:

Don’t worry about …

Dolls

The past

The future

Growing up

Anybody getting ahead of you

Don’t worry about triumph

About failure, unless it comes through your own fault

About mosquitoes

About flies       (Did he read the research that claims we ingest a pound or two of bugs in our food per year?)

Don’t worry about insects in general  (The tea pesticide will take care of them)

Don’t worry about parents       Worrying

About boys

About disappointments

About pleasures

Don’t worry about satisfactions

Things to think about:

What am I really aiming at?

How good am I in comparison to my contemporaries in regard to:

(a) scholarship

(b) Do I really understand about people and am I able to get along with them.

(c) Am I trying to make my body a useful instrument or am I neglecting it?

With dearest love,

Daddy                     Source: F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters

(Some repetitive wording was eliminated)

Canadian Thanksgiving is upon us, I could worry about overeating, but I will  focus on being grateful for the many blessings in my life.

 

Not Set in Stone …

BUT CAST IN BRONZE
IMG_0471Does the clay speak back to the potter?

You bet your wrought iron she does!!
(She likes to think of it in terms of having conversations)
And has she been struck by lightning?                                                                                                                                                              Not yet, but she is considering a weathervane as an early warning device.

This past weekend, I discovered that my new hometown boasts Western Canada’s first and largest artistic bronze foundry. Studio West is located in what looks initially like a small building, but then you see add-on, to add-on, like the little house that added a bedroom with each new baby. Karen Begg, the grand-daughter and daughter of the original founders, was my tour guide. She explained their success story of steady growth and right time expansion. Their humble bronze pour beginning in a Calgary garage had the neighbours talking.
Karen’s passion for the creative process is evident in the stain of the hands, the caress of the finished products, the excitement in her voice as she shares the history, the process, and the Canada to Europe locations of their finished IMG_6732pieces. From concept to larger than life, she provides the short version of how to create a lasting monument.  The quality of their works have garnered numerous awards, five of their pieces have been unveiled by the Queen.
It is Karen’s explanation of the Lost Wax foundry process that intrigues me. In a nutshell, they cover the original sculpture with rubber, then a layer of hot wax is poured over top, cooled, and then the outer  mould is crafted from the same material used in the space shuttle tiles.  The wax is lost-or melted out. Space the wax occupied, becomes bronze. Experience has taught them to make a small model before the full size. The final statue is poured in sections approximately 325-500 lbs at a time. Pieces are welded together, after which smoothing out the joints and fine detailing takes place … always going back to the original model as their guide. (Note-this does not happen overnight.)

IMG_1134In the back room, we met a pair of one hundred year old dogs,  to be refinished and given a new home.
“What turns the parts of the statues golden?” one of our group asks.She replies, “when they are loved, see the tips of the nose, and tops of heads.”          I wonder  if I develop any golden character when I am brushed up close and personal with people.

So many comparisons to ancient words … about, a Creator that has crafted artistic works, being made in His image, always going back to the original, the potter’s hands.
I forgot to ask Karen if any of her monuments ever talked back to her …. or were struck by lightning.

An interesting book I recently discovered is: Conversations With Monuments in Winnipeg                    by Kathleen Francis. Photography and thoughts around some of Winnipeg’s bronze characters.

Studio West Bronze Foundry & Art Gallery – Galleries West

The Inch Worm

Downsizing of Dreams

My life moves ahead in Fits and Starts 

I am the Inch Worm

  Folding in half for each step ahead

    Vulnerable, easily squished

      But I am not the Inch Worm

        Because I have Skin

          A backbone that aches

            Pain lets me know

              That I am alive

                I taste Joy in this

                  Velvet Morning

                    Pink Skies give Way

                      To a Brand New Day

                        To Inch Ahead.

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Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.

Vaclav Havel-Czech Playwright and President

Snow-shaker, Ice-breaker

This is only September but …
Postcard Christmas snow burdens the branches IMG_6312
pristine heaviness
Silence of snow
insulates the earth,
muffles the birds
Invites me
to withdraw from the world
As outside it piles heavy on unprepared trees
Branches about to break,
Like humans under the weight of worry.
Be a snow-shaker, when you can …

CrazySunday I was picnicking with friends in 25 degree weather, and
Monday morning it snowed, and snowed for three days and three nights … the branches sagged till they met earth.
Tuesday on my walk I delighted to see the branches spring back with a light shaking … it was kind of fun. That evening Mayor Nenshi of Calgary was on the news asking people to give branches a gentle shake, to reduce the burden on the trees. Trees full of leaves, each catching more snow to add to the weight.
Wednesday Armed with a three-prong rake I went out, hooked higher branches, shook and released. This was play in the snow for me. This also became my version of the current ice-bucket challenge as heaps of snow dumped on me as I moved from tree to tree. Satisfaction as the branches lifted off the ground, back into the air. It struck me how helpless the branches were, totally dependant on someone to relieve them in this dilemma.
Thursday I met a new neighbour, who had witnessed my snow fun, she had also tried some shaking.
By Friday, most of the snow had melted and I wondered if it had made any significant difference-even though I saw an immediate change-but maybe they wouldn’t have broken, and maybe it would all have been okay, and maybe I did prevent a few broken limbs … and maybe it does not matter if I know. All appeared back to normal.

In my life I have had both snow shakers,IMG_6362 and ice breakers, people that chipped away the cold, shook me out of the doldrums and lifted the spirits. I am eternally grateful for those people.
And now I have the privilege to play it forward, for others weighed down.

Worry weighs us down, a cheerful word picks us up. Prov 12:28 The Message

An anxious heart weighs a man(woman too) down, but a kind word cheers him(her) up. NIV