Gonna Go Round in Circles

DSCN5828Will it go round in circles? Will it fly high like a bird up in the sky? …
Every now and then that song repeats through my mind. (Billy Preston)
Waiting for spring, and yet March has stayed a winter course here in the foothills with mini-glimpses of warmer days to come. Fresh snow and sunshine IMG_3893lured me to follow the brook’s meandering pathway. As I stopped to watch a snow-eddy spinning round and round in the glistening stream above the current, I realized I was seeing my daily metaphor of life. At times life seems stalled in a holding pattern while my mind whirls in circles, not knowing which direction to go, and like the old records, someone needs to lift the needle off the track.

Three years ago destination: Turkey; goal: take in as many culture/adventure sights as possible with my two traveling sisters. One of the touted must sees was The Whirling Dervishes, so we booked our tickets, boarded the bus after a full day, were led to a dimmed room and those darling Dervishes took the stage. DSC_0603With their long flowing dresses they whirled, chanted, and mesmerized me to nodding off, but not before a serious case of school-girl giggles. I don’t know exactly what I had been expecting, this was not it. Men in long dresses spinning in circles? Apparently the meditative spiritual process had been passed down to the chosen few for generations.
What to do when the mind spins in circles like devilish dervishes? The merry go round of life, at different times the carousel seems the same, but the dark horses change. My challenge has been deciphering when to get off, when to stay the course. And often in the decision making process my mind will “go round in circles” but when “will it fly high like a bird up in the sky?”
Proven wisdom comes back in the form of the serenity prayer*,
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

DSCN7492The following line is part of Reinhold Niebuhr’s original:
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;

*The prayer is attributed to Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, composed in the 1940s. Alcoholics Anonymous adopted the Serenity Prayer and began including it in AA materials in 1942, which may have done more to canonize it than any other cultural use of the prayer.

A Season for Everything

IMG_3452Ancient words revisited, There is a time and a season for everything under heaven.
There had been times long enough to wear the sad coat, which hung permanently in the closet, but now was the season of spring, lighter clothing, and spring skiing is the best with plentiful snow, warm air, bright sun. She challenged herself to try the new run, but even as the chair lifted her high, very high it seemed, she sensed a dizzied panic rise in her throat. Her IMG_3437arms couldn’t reach her pocketed camera to take this shot, immobilized by the height. She briefly wondered what would happen if she failed to raise the bar, and unload. Perhaps she could just get “lifted” back to the base, and either loop up again, or feign injury and drop off.
But no, dutifully she hoisted and followed the “prepare to unload” rules to a tee, and nervous knees brought her to the edge … as she watched red agile jackets and boards surge over the brink and disappear. Who’s idea was this?
IMG_3686Breathe deep, and look around; mountain tops returned her gaze-this was no bunny hill, no green runs from here. And other less ancient words came to mind, from her ski instructor friend a life-time ago …. The mountain will unfold. Get to the edge, and the way will be revealed, go slow, gain confidence, and the mountain will unfold. Some trails you avoid. IMG_3688A smile of remembrance, a turn of the ski, and side to side she went, she paused at the first bend to glance back and photograph the run she had just come from. The trail unfolded in delightful ways, and at the bottom, she decided to give it another run.
The mountain did unfold in many ways, it had before and it would again. This was the time and season.

IMG_3493 Continue reading

Scars-Tattoos with a Better Story

IMG_9584 An article in the Calgary Sun caught my eye yesterday, “Rising out of the Fire/Man rises above horrifying crime” (Calgary Sun March 2, 2014 article by Nadia Moharib) After a few lines, the story sounded vaguely familiar, and then it became evident why: this crime happened in a small Mennonite community thirty miles from my Manitoba home town in October, 1990. The event shocked with its brutality. Yesterday was a follow up story on Tyler Pelke, who had been assaulted, had his throat slashed, set on fire, and left for dead. Pelke survived, Curtis Klassen, his friend and fellow hockey player did not. Earl Giesbrecht (17 at the time) was sentenced to life in prison for this crime. Because of the proximity and cultural background, I followed that story as it went though the court system, but eventually filed it on a back shelf. My life continued on, but Tyler’s was altered forever. Yesterday’s article told the tale of this young man’s long road to recovery, starting with a description of the fire-boiled scars that cover his chest while a thick one crosses his throat, daily reminders of what happened more than two decades ago. The scars exist,quotes-girl-cute-love-text-Favim.com-666887_large visible and invisible, but he refuses to be defined by them. Pelke, now an assistant deputy chief with the Calgary Fire Department was quoted re his scars: “It’s a reminder of what I have overcome—I’ve been through fire, some days it’s a reminder to be thankful. Some days I don’t even see them.” And Pelke has chosen not to let his scars or what happened to haunt him, but he strives to be the best person he can be, and he shares his story with various groups in the hopes that he can encourage others to reach their full potential, and overcome the obstacles they face. For me, it was inspirational to read Tyler’s further story, to hear in a nutshell what will have taken him years to process and heal from.
Elbert Hubbard said “God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas but for scars.”

What’s Love Got to do with it? Feb is Apple Month

IMG_2977My quirky sense of humour can get the best of me … Life is too short to take things too seriously. I wanted to write well on the theme of love, but the line “What’s love got to do with it?” kept popping into my head. February has been seen as the “Love” month for as long as I can remember. But my curiosity wondered why the Co-op store back in Manitoba also had Feb as Apple month. Why would you feature apples after five months in cold storage? While trying to find out if Apples are still featured, I checked out a website for National Awareness Themes, and Love did not officially make it on the February list, although it appears to be an American based list. Canadians do have a few of their own themes—Heart and Stroke Foundation promotes Feb as Heart awareness month. Home base for love is the heart, although it may not be the literal pumping muscular organ. One disturbing statistic found on the Heart and Stroke website is that:IMG_2959
“Every 7 minutes in Canada, someone dies from heart disease or stroke” (Statistics Canada, 2011c).
Although love covers a multitude of sins (isn’t that scriptural?) it may not clean out your arteries. So if an apple a day keeps the doctor away, perhaps a hug a day, may keep the love flowing. It is sad to me that heart disease is one of the leading causes of death. I wonder how that statistic would translate for the spiritual heart?
My wish is that I will Live every day of my life, not merely be alive. And loving is a healthy exercise for the heart.

If your curiosity is piqued read the featured themes for the month of Feb. While we are inundated with things we need to be aware of, take heart, you don’t have to try to remember any of these themes.

So “What’s love got to do with it?”
Everything, “the earth is full of his unfailing love.” Ps 33:5 NIV.
Lukewarmness I account a sin, as great in love as in religion. Abraham Cowley

February is known as:
Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month
Black History Month
Body Awareness Month (I am quite aware my body ain’t working the way it used to.)
Electrical Safety Awareness Month (Not sure how to plug into that one.)
Heart Disease Awareness Month (Heart And Stroke in Canada)
Heartworm Awareness Month (for the dogs)
Low Vision Awareness Month (If you can’t read this one press where?)
National Cancer Prevention Month
National National Awareness Month Awareness Month (Is that like a double negative?)
National Pet Dental Health Awareness Month
Safety Awareness Month
School-Based Health Center Awareness Month
Sinus Pain Awareness Month (March just wasn’t good enough for them…They moved)
Termite Awareness Month (I would prefer not to be aware of termites)

IMG_3205While running late may not qualify for cardio, showing love after Valentine’s Day is good for everyone’s heart.

Show us the Olympic Victory

imagesShow us the victory, and make it pretty.
A proud Olympic moment for Canada as the Dufour-Lapointe sisters won gold and silver in the 2014 moguls event, and a third sister placed twelfth. And as a proud Canadian I watched the replay of their winning event, watched the podium moment, saw the CBC interview and got a warm fuzzy feeling as the parents shared the pride of this moment. What I did not want was to join them for the 6am training sessions (I couldn’t even get up for the live 4am event), the years of discipline and endless weekend sporting events with soggy sandwiches and coffee on the road tracking their daughters. Who are the real heroes? Only two medal winners will be remembered, and in that moment all the training will have paid off.
Sometimes I am asked to share my story of grief, people want to know the highlight moments, to be inspired by stories of success … without the personal hard work that takes place. We want to share the podium, feel the pride, avoid the pain …
Hmm, if I could hand out a medal … images-2years ago when I worked as an operating room nurse, a late-thirties mother brought her teen aged son in for dental work. Dental work, a cleaning and a filling or two should have been a mundane event … but her son was autistic, he did not understand or want to cooperate. The amount of effort extended to get him to the point of sedation … was similar to the luge event, run alongside, strap the boy to the sled, knock him out and run with it. Utter exhaustion exuded from her eyes, she deserved the medal, she has been one of my unsung heroes. IMG_2872That day, I defied our privacy policy, I took her name and address down, and after work I delivered flowers to her house. In all my years of nursing I had never done that … but that was one of those gold medal moments … she had put in the training the dedication, she deserved the medal, all I could do was provide the bouquet.

Dromedaries and Tooth Fairies

North African quiz—the numbers game!
How many dromedaries fit in the back of a Mazda truck?
DSC_2519Many odd items are carted in the backs of trucks, and loaded up on motor cycles … but this trip to N Africa was the first to see four camels stuffed into a Mazda truck box.IMG_8268 (Sheep and goats are regulars)
Counting helmets on motorcycle riders—IMG_9281a slow start to this game … but at day 18 the count was at 18, one helmet sighting per day. Ten days later with the help of two observant grandchildren the one hundred mark was passed and as of today I have counted 121 motorcycle helmets, eleven of which were full face. I have yet to see a bicycle rider with a helmet! Number of women observed riding motorcycles? About ten. Does this helmet give me a bad scarf day? (One helmeted women observed)
One hundred and thirty—the number of mtubga’s made and sold for a half dinar by the neighbour, similar to a gourmet pizza pop.IMG_0656
Trees growing out of a water tower—three small trees, one water tower.
Wild dogs encountered along the sea shore—eight, IMG_8330in a pack, and my grandson wielded a long palm branch from his stroller, giving us a sense of empowerment!
Two cat fights witnessed, one occurred under my chair while I was drinking my cafe Direct.
Two—the number of rain days needed to make the secret garden bloom. (‘Secret garden’—the empty lot passed en route to school.)
Cockroaches killed by grandma? Two! (A bravery award bestowed by grand-daughter, who thought the roach had been a mouse!) No shrieks were heard in the night, even though the wounded critter needed to be decapitated.
Five Dinars the amount the Canadian grandma tooth fairy left under the pillow, to the delight of a seven year old.
Number of days grandson wants for more Grandma funning – apparently twelve hundred years … gotta love those numbers!! (alas she has to fly back home)

Octopus Pots

Octopus Pots …IMG_8401From North Africa, staying with my daughter’s family… My grandson had just begun babbling in his crib, sunrise was imminent, the pink glows of predawn skies hurried me along the walk to the marina. By now I had navigated this pathway alone several times … turn right at the first corner, continue past the car wash, the louage/taxi station, past the school that has a child to toilet ratio of one hundred to one, straight ahead at the first roundabout, slightly right at the second one. Sidewalks present IMG_8335their own obstacle course challenges of ‘men’s only’ cafe chairs, cars, motorbikes, or stacks of building bricks; and the curbs vary in height from nine to eighteen inches—an added challenge when pushing a stroller.

Past the police station on the left, where the latest crunched Peugeot waits inspection. Papagallo’s Italian-ish restaurant lets me know I am still on track, past the final Fruit Secs stand and the Marina is in view. I breathe in deep, the fresh sea air has a cleansing effect despite the shores being overrun with litter. Two herons swoop down, as fishermen ready their boats for the morning catch, I arrive just in time to see the sun rise above the clear blue waters.IMG_8392

Thousands of octopus pots line the rocky port walls—the small clay pot trap has not changed for centuries. Apparently the tiny octopus and squid love to crawl into cozy spaces, and then become trapped due to their inability to either back up or turn around. I am reminded how easy it has been to feel stuck in a tight spot, unable to reshape my attitude. I climb over the rocks reaching the light house, and feast on the rich deep colours … the blue of the Mediterranean sea—the boats traveling out to sea, a feast for the eyes, therapy for the soul. My heart craves for beauty, and recently John Eldredge put it into words for me…. in that as much as we have felt pains in our lives, proportionately we seek the beauty … this has become clear to me in my journey of grief.

This morning the pages of my travel NT open at 1 Corinthians 4:7 … I laugh at God’s sense of humour as I read: “Yet we who have this spiritual treasure are like common clay pots, in order to show that the supreme power belongs to God, not to us ….” (Good News NT)        IMG_8405                                                                                                                                    I text my daughter to let her know that I will meet her on the path to her son’s school. What a great start to the day for just one of a million clay pots!

Walk a mile in the North African shoes

IMG_0430Thoughts from North Africa …. as the third call to prayer goes out.


Welcome to Tunisia, “Mahrahabba (welcome) You are not tourist here, you are our guests, you are family.” Right hand pats the heart three times, as the man in the red checkered scarf looks deep into my eyes. I wonder if he is hoping for a large tip.

Ancient roman ruins abound in this country, as do artifacts from generations since. Coming from Canada, where anything over 200 years old is considered ancient, I can hardly fathom the large stone blocks fashioned into the massive amphitheatre  that held up to 35,000 spectators in the third century. “The monument of El Jem is one of the most accomplished examples of Roman architecture of an amphitheatre, almost equal to that of the Coliseum of Rome.”  (Unesco World Heritage -El Jem.)

IMG_0336What was it like to live in ancient Roman times? … I could only imagine as we viewed the arena. The gates of life and death were pointed out to us at a previous site, as the guide explained how the animals, prisoners, and gladiators were brought into the arena, likely to face their final battle … they may have been killed in the colosseum, but apparently were not devoured in the presence of the audience … that surprised me, but perhaps that was something offensive to some of the more sensitive members of the audience?

What was it like? And what is it like to live in this transitioning country today? I have not been here long enough to answer that question. I am taking it all in. Tunisia has been described as post revolution—in fact today is the anniversary date of the revolution. When speaking with some of the locals, I ask through a translator, how has this revolution impacted the ordinary person. Many say they have not seen any benefits yet, as prices have risen and unemployment has increased.

I sit with my daughter, we have been invited to taste zagoo-goo, a special dessert made for the prophet’s birthday. (Two holidays fall in sequence: the prophet’s birthday on Monday, and the revolution anniversary the next day.)  The dessert is made from a paste of ground nuts and a creamy thin overlaying. To my surprise it is not as sweet as it looks—it looks like it should be chocolate pudding with whip cream, decorated with sprinkles.


Two months ago, this neighbour  serving zagoo-goo asked my daughter:  “What is it like to live with love?”

A profound question.

What is it like to live with love? The question haunts me, it speaks of the deepest longing we have as a human being. For the lady, it was equated into the love of her husband … but it seemed to go deeper. This country is enchanting, the mix of ancient and modern, and yet the eternal question …

What is it like to live with love?


(Photos by Jocelyn)

More Humbugs-Tis the Season to Fa la la

DSC_0047Tis the Season when you deck the hall, or perhaps you want to deck someone?  What if you don’t like Christmas?  What do you do then?

Sales people love an early December snowfall—it makes the cash registers ring. The “Holly Jolly” songs have been piped over the PA systems for a few weeks, adding to the urgency to run the card through the machines to show people how important they are. The new math equates amount of dollars spent with amount of love expressed. It’s a time some people love, and some people hate. (Is this another best of times, worst of times?)

For people grieving it truly is the worst of times. My first Christmas after the loss of my two children, is one I would never ever want to repeat. Although there were some incredible God-moments, I dreaded the season for months in advance.  The constant reminders and family photo-card images reinforce for those in a tough situation,  the feeling of loneliness and despair, causing many people to want to pack up and ride away for the season. Be kind to all, you don’t know what they may be going through. May the spirit of love covers all aspects of your Christmas, like a gentle snowfall.


It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on         Sarah McLachlan