I started this blogsite with the intention of honoring the people in my circle for the ways in which my world was a better place because of them. And, for the most part, I have acknowledged friends, family and colleagues. The person I have chosen to honor today was an acquaintance of mine for many years. We weren’t ‘friends’ … but we had a few mutual friends and our paths intersected occasionally because we both lived in a very small town.
I recall one of the first times we rubbed shoulders was several decades ago when a group of us went out carolling around our tiny town at Christmas time. I was belting out my best rendition of “Jingle Bells” or “Joy to the World” or whatever the song happened to be when she turned around to identify the ‘songstress’ behind her. I could see by the slightly quizzical look on her beautiful face that her finely tuned ears were detecting the err in my tone and pitch! Ha ha. It didn’t even hurt my feelings … because although I am good at a fair number of things … singing is certainly not one of them. 🙄
That said … she had an exceptional ear for music … and singing is certainly one of her gifts. Just one of her MANY gifts! Whether she be the lead singer in a band … acting on stage … directing a play … strumming on a guitar … mothering her three cherubs … teaching music to preschoolers … or … becoming the queen of selfies … Leah Meier always lights up the space around her with her ready laugh and lighthearted spirit! And, over the years, I am grateful to say I have had the opportunity to become more and more acquainted with the luminous light that is Leah! There are rare individuals that you want in your circle and Leah is definitely one of them. I am so glad that, now, I get to call her my ‘friend’.
And, it’s been a gift to invited deeper into her inner circle. It has been nothing short of magnificent to watch this tribe of women who continue to inspire me with the ways in which they show up for each other … and … in the world. They have been through so much together, but very recently, something unthinkable happened.
On June 19th, 2018, Leah was diagnosed with colorectal cancer with metastasis to her liver and possibly her lungs. Yes. Cancer. Stage IV. And, while many of us would fold inward with such a devastating diagnosis, that is not how Leah chose to respond. No. As she shared:
Being an active, otherwise healthy individual, my team of doctors and family opted for an aggressive treatment plan. I was to start six rounds of three different chemotherapy medications immediately. Thankfully I was able to receive my treatments at the Jack Ady Cancer Center in Lethbridge.
After the fifth round of chemotherapy I had another MRI. Great News! The spots on my lungs were cysts and the remaining four suspected metastases had shrunk considerably and one was likely just a cyst. I was able to undergo just one surgery on November 9, 2018, for both my colon and liver! I recovered from surgery with no complications and started my next round of chemotherapy just four and a half weeks after surgery. Everything that needed to happen has happened and it appears that I have had a complete radiological response to treatment in my liver and the colon tumour was removed with incredibly good margins!
Now … most folks would simply be grateful for an encouraging outcome. No. Not Leah. She rallied her tribe and decided that once she was well enough, she was going to use this tragic situation as a way to serve the greatest good. And that is exactly what she did! She signed up to participate in the Ride to Conquer Cancer. And, as she shared in her public bio:
I was told that as recently as five years ago, my prognosis and treatment options would have been very different and a path for cure would not have been likely. My life has been impacted, likely saved, due to very recent cancer therapy advancements! I’m able to receive treatments at the Jack Ady Care Facility in Lethbridge instead of having to drive three hours to Calgary. I’ve sat in comfy chemo chairs, been covered in warm blankets and received incredible care from an outstanding team of doctors, nurses and staff in both Lethbridge and Calgary.
The Ride To Conquer Cancer helps fund all of the above and so much more! The money raised stays in our province and truly makes a difference to those of us having to face this horrible disease.
I had my last chemotherapy on February 20, 2019, and am so excited to be starting on my journey toward renewed health, strength and experiences that await me in my life!
THANK YOU for considering a donation, whatever the size. Every dollar you donate means a dollar more towards conquering cancer!
The tag line for this annual event is:
“BE EPIC. Two days. Over 200kms. Conquer Cancer”
And, as if training for the 200km ride was was not enough for her to shoulder … not long after Leah finished her chemo treatments … she decided to create an additional Fundraiser! Within no time at all, she had sold out the tickets for this fabulous dinner, dance and a silent auction! She was committed to raising as much money as she possibly could for cancer research. And, true to form, she marked the evening with one of her trademark selfies!
Just look at all the people who turned out to support this amazing soul! And, the retired band in which she had been a lead singer, offered to come together again and play the music so we could dance up a storm! And … Leah graced us with her sensational songbird skills! It was such a remarkable evening!!
And, I know that training for this ride … after all the cancer treatments she had been through … was grueling! But … she not only trained hard herself, but she invited others to join “Team Leah”. And, she rallied together a most fabulous team!
And her efforts were an enormous success … nothing short of EPIC indeed! She has always been known for inspiring so many with her bright light ..and … this was no different. As her best friend Angie shared on Facebook on August 18th:
What a weekend…..what a ride….. Feeling so blessed! Leah you are and always have been my HERO!! There is nothing you can’t and won’t do once your mind is made up. This was a huge undertaking and my friend you know very well that I thought you were nuts🤪But you kept reassuring me that you could and would do this and you did. 12 rounds of very aggressive chemo, a major surgery and recovery…. No wait….straight to training for a 200 km Ride To Conquer Cancer. I will never doubt you again ever😜 You are a force to be reckoned with …and I am so blessed to call you my best friend, soul sista and my Rock! So very very proud of my Husband…. Maria, Sydney, Nicki, Shelah, Ryan, Jill, Chris you guys slayed this ride!! #Enbridge Ride To Conquer Cancer #rideab #dontstopbelieving🧡💛💚♥️🚴🚴♀️🚴♂️
And, it was really something to behold. As Leah, herself, shared in a Facebook post on August 20, 2019:
WE DID IT!!! From start to finish this has been the most amazing experience!!! ❤️🚴♀️🙏 A HUGE Thank you to everyone who donated to our ride!!! Together we raised $51,333.68 which put Team Leah 18th out of 167 teams for most money raised and this year’s ride totalled $5.9 MILLION!!! HOW COOL IS THAT!?!?! 🚴♀️😃 Crossing the finish line with so many family and friends there to cheer us on was honestly one of the most joyous moments of my life!! I am beyond grateful to all of you who have embraced me my family and my team and supported us through it all!! ❤️🚴
EPIC! Absolutely epic. And so … through it all, I was left entirely amazed, awed and inspired by the force of light that is Leah! Her lively, light-hearted luminosity goes way beyond description. I also want to take this moment to thank Leah for her endless gifts of courage and compassion and caring! Her efforts already have and will continue to benefit so many others who are diagnosed with cancer.
As I shared with her in a private Facebook Message:
Good Morning Leah!
I hope this little note finds you basking in the after glow of your tremendously successful achievements! I can’t even begin to put into words how I aspired I am by your infinite capacity to take a personal challenge and create a movement of benevolence that benefits all of mankind. You are an exceptional soul and I am so grateful to call you my friend! Sending you biggest hugs of deepest admiration, respect and love for the miracle of YOU!
I wish I could tell you that Leah’s story ended on that positive note … but … it did not. I had learned from a mutual friend that Leah’s husband had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. I was so troubled to hear the news that I sent off another message on January 17th over Facebook to let her know that I was thinking of her. I was shocked to learn that things had taken even more unexpected turns when she responded to my invitation to get together for coffee or wine by saying:
Just wondering if you know I’m in Calgary this weekend? Had lung surgery on Thursday.
Good grief! No. I was not aware of that! I knew that the doctors had detected some dark spots on her liver and on her lungs when they initially discovered her cancer, but I was not aware that she had already undergone surgery on one of her lungs. She updated us on a few days later with some good news:
Hi!! Surgery went well!!He was able to get all three spots with wedge resections and Thoroscopic. Loss of only about 10% vs 25-30% with the lobectomy he might have had to do. I’m already home and now anxiously await pathology. I should hear in next 7-10 days. I’m able to manage pain with very small dose of morphine combined with alternating Tylenol and Advil. First hurdle. I hope we get to see each other soon my friend!! …
And sadly, the pathology report confirmed that she would require surgery on the other lung as well. Not the news she wanted to hear. We were finally able to have a much awaited visit and a glass of wine on March 3 at 3:00pm. It was then that I learned the extent of all that she had been enduring … her step brother had died as well. And, if that wasn’t enough, Covid-19 was added to the mix and all elective surgeries were postponed because hospitals were preparing for the influx of people who might need medical supports to survive coronavirus.
And then Leah learned that her surgeon was in mandatory isolation because he had been travelling. As a result, she had a big decision to make. She opted to put her faith in her surgeon’s colleague and have him perform the operation instead. She said she was nervous, but felt it was the right decision.
I was, once again, left in awe of Leah’s capacity to resiliently roll with whatever life tossed in her path. And, it was incredible to watch her courageously lean into all the uncertainties with courage and hope and faith. I knew that the risks she was facing included the potential for compromised capacity for mobility and singing and living a full life because some of her lung needed to be removed. She pushed forward. Her surgery was on March 23rd and she came home on March 26th because they wanted to get her out of the hospital to reduce her risk of contracting Covid-19. On March 30th, I received this exciting message from her saying:
Good Morning!! One week cancer free!!!! Could it be!?!?
I could feel the joy and healing and well-being in her spirit! I could not even fathom the liberation she must be feeling … because for the first time in a couple of years … she might get to abide in that bliss-filled space of being ‘cancer free’.
We also had a long conversation on another morning. It was beautiful to connect and hear how she was finding her way through her own healing journey … with the full knowledge that she was also preparing for another journey with her husband. Her hubby’s surgery was scheduled for May 14th, and because of Covid-19, it was determined that he would not be allowed to have anyone with him. Seriously! This was their truth …
I tried to imagine what it would be like to be going through such a tentative time with no one by your side. I tried to imagine what it would be like to have your loved one going through such adversity and not to be able to lay your eyes upon them to reassure yourself of their well being. I wished I could reach out with some supportive sentiments, but I found no words. Nothing seemed like the right thing to utter. It’s so hard to know what on earth to say when people are going through hellish times. All I could do was send love and light through the ethers … and … hope that they could feel it. Her hubby found his way home shortly after his surgery. There were some bumpy patches, but slowly they found their way through it all together.
And then guess what happened?? Leah decided it was time to ride again in 2020!! Once again … I was in complete awe of her capacity to pick herself up and move forward with a firm resolve. One morning when Leah and I were chatting over the phone while having our morning coffee, I was sharing how inspired I was by her willingness to ride again … and … lamenting that I would not be able to support her by joining Team Leah because … as I emphatically indicated to her … I absolutely detest bike riding. Although, I love, love, love to walk … and … while I make it a regular practice to log oodles of kilometers with my Bestie (Marie) … for countless reasons, not even this noble cause could get my head in a helmet and my buttocks onto one of those hard seats for 200kms. Nope. Nada. Not this girl.
My resistance did not deter Leah in the least. I could hear her voice light right up when she said, “Well, you could walk it then. You and Marie could join the team and walk 100 kms.” Well now … she had a point.
This option seemed absolutely thrilling to me!! My Bestie and I had actually committed to walking the Road to Santiago (aka the ‘Camino’ trail) in Spain in September of 2020. It is a highly travelled route that is almost 1000kms in it’s entirety for spiritual seekers who venture out on these remarkable ‘pilgrimages’. Anyway, my Bestie and I were booked to complete the final 100km leg of the pilgrimage. Our flights and accommodations had been reserved. I had purchased a special day pack and new walking shoes. We were so excited! And then …. Covid-19 dashed all those plans.
And so, when Leah suggested that we walk 100kms for Cancer … it felt absolutely right. So guess who jumped at the chance to join Team Leah? Yep!! Me and my Bestie!! With this decision, we still had an opportunity to complete our 100km pilgrimage. We just altered the locale to suit this particular moment in our collective history … and … our personal intention to support Leah’s personal journey. We affectionately called it our “Covid Camino for Cancer.” We already walked regularly so we wanted to stretch ourselves a bit to make sure that our efforts on behalf of the Ride to Conquer Cancer were challenging us enough. To that end, we committed to walk at least 20kms per day over five days.
And that is exactly what we did! It was such an honor to join Team Leah 2020 and raise some funds for cancer research. We logged just over 100 kilometers along a variety of different routes … and … felt incredibly humbled by the whole experience.
Yes. It was an absolute honor to join Team Leah. It remains an absolute honor to be connected to the EPIC energy of Leah … she is such a lively, lovely and laudable lightworker! I actually started writing this blog in honor of Leah a couple of years ago. I wanted to honor her journey and express to her (and all those who might read this tribute) how I continue to be inspired not just by what she does and by how she does it, but also by who she is! Her being-ness is so rare and exceptional.
Did I mention that she is now planning to bring her team together to bring the musical Chicago to life at a local theater in 2022? I could hear all her enthusiasm and excitement as she described it:
“Roaring 20’s show in this decades post virus roaring 20’s”
Yes. Her presence on the planet is such a rare gift. Our collective human existence is infinitely better because Leah has consciously chosen to ensure that it is. So many people have and will continue to benefit from the fruits of her labors. I worried as I penned this blog that I couldn’t possibly honor all the brightness of Leah sufficiently, but I wanted to offer this reflection of my experience to really celebrate her … and … to publicly acknowledge and recognize all that she is and all that she does.
I wish I could say that the challenges for Leah ended with this tribute here … in complete celebration of her and her victorious win in the battle with cancer. I wish we could wrap things up on such a high note. But, unfortunately, we cannot do that just yet. There is more to Leah’s story.
After almost three years, and just when Leah thought she might finally be able to focus her gaze beyond fighting for the cure … she got some more dark and unwelcome news. In one of her check-ups, they detected another spot on one of her lungs. It is deep in her lung so she’ll need to have a lobectomy instead of the wedge resection like she had last time. Gah. They might not be able to do it laparoscopically … which means a much longer recovery. They first had to biopsy a lymph node that showed up on her pet scan. Fortunately … it appears to be no cause for concern. Whew.
And while we breathe a sigh of relief with that news … it is sobering to consider that losing half of her lung in the next surgery is the good news! Can you imagine finding yourself in that frame of reference? And yet, one of the things that has always amazed me about Leah is her ability to keep her wits about her despite the circumstances. While I know that she is deeply impacted by all the things that continue to challenge her path, I am reminded of an exchange we had way back on April 15, 2020. I received this private message from her:
This morning as I’m hanging laundry and struggling to catch my breath and thinking about strategies to continue to move towards healing, etc.
I asked God “How many times do I need to pick myself up off the ground!!?? ”
I instantly heard loud and clear… “As many times as it takes”
Pretty simple really…
Simple … and yet … certainly not easy. I just recently had another conversation with Leah. We were chatting about this long arduous journey that had befallen her. In the middle of it … she offhandedly said “Maybe I should take my own advice?” She had been expressing some frustration with having to deal with something “again” … and that is when she reminded herself that she would just needed to address it “as many times as it takes”.
Leah’s next surgery is scheduled for Monday … March 8th. She will be ‘checking in’ at 5:00am and the surgery is scheduled to start at 7:30am. I am hoping all of you reading this will join us as we hold her close in heart … and … help flood the ethers by sending much good juju and healing energy in her direction. Please join us in offering a prayer for a swift and successful surgery. May we also collectively invite the Universe to afford her a speedy and miraculously comfortable recovery. She has done so much for the benefit of others … and … I would like her to know that we are all holding her energetically in optimal health, effortless healing and complete recovery.
May we join her in spirit as she once again rises above the situation that has darkened her path … and … may we collectively reify her tenacity to triumph and thrive, once again, despite this unwelcome twist. Due to Covid-19 she may need to face this surgery all alone in the hospital. I am hoping that we can send so much love and support through the ethers that even if she isn’t allowed to have anyone by her side in the flesh … she will not feel alone … because she will be palpably wrapped up in our energetic presence!!
And with this surgery, Leah … I know if anyone can glow through all of this … it is YOU! And, I just want to remind you that each and every one of us reading this here is fanning the flames of your well-being … and … waiting to celebrate your swift recovery with you!!
Wrapping you with so much love and looking so very forward to our next chat … 🧡 Karen 🧡
Can any of you guess who this bright-eyed beauty might be?? I’d sure love to know what she was thinking when this picture was taken. I adore the gentle glow that ever so delicately glimmers through her upward glance. I can also sense such a sweet and sensitive soul reflected through that precious smile!
I’ll give you a hint of who this blog about. The following describes her absolutely perfectly.
And, she does EXACTLY that. I feel blessed beyond belief to honor and acknowledge this exquisite human with a few words in this blog. I have hesitated to do so because I wasn’t sure if I could aptly depict her exceptional essence with words alone. If you know her … you will understand my reticence. It feels like a challenge to do her justice. Maybe you already have an idea of who it is, but I’ll offer you one more clue!
And, yes … this beautiful soul radiates so much joy as she embraces her truth and pursues her passions! Some of you will recognize her through the incredible ‘movement’ (pun intended) that she has single-handedly inspired in our community over the past couple of years. Her remarkable efforts to increase flexibility, mobility and activity in our community have been incredibly well received!
I bet you know who I am talking about now!! Yes. I am speaking of none other than the warm and wonderful Lindsay Anderson! With her engaging exuberance and enthusiasm … Lindsay has ensured that the body of work founded by Miranda Esmonde-White (a former ballerina with The National Ballet of Canada) is a household word in our small town and far beyond! I am so glad I can include this little video so you can hear Lindsay’s unequivocal passion as she describes, in her own words, how she discovered Essentrics.
You can’t help but detect both the delight and the dedication that Lindsay devotes to building her practice and optimizing her expertise. And when Covid-19 swooped in and disrupted most everything in most everyone’s lives, it could have been the end of Essentrics in our community. Instead, Lindsay chose to offer her classes on Facebook Live! And so, for a mere $3/class up to a maximum of $30/month (regardless of how many classes you attend), she continues to provide at least 7 or 8 classes per week.
She even offered classes on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day during the decidedly different holiday season we experienced in 2020. For many of us who were alone at home instead of with family due to the pandemic restrictions on socializing, it was a wonderful addition to our quiet isolation during the holidays. And, as of the publishing of this blog, she has developed an enthusiastic and loyal following of 700 participants who benefit from her willingness to so generously support all of us.
Yes. Lindsay’s caring commitment to her people is unequivocal and impeccable. Even when she has other obligations and responsibilities and activities in her own life, she consistently finds a way to show up for her Essentrics followers. For example, when she was going to be out of town cross-country skiing in Waterton, Alberta … and even though it was four degrees below zero with a wind chill making it feel like -12 degrees … Lindsay gifted 30 of us with the opportunity to feel like we were stretching our fascia, activating all 650 muscles and mobilizing all 360 joints in the beautiful Rocky Mountain resort.
I know I am not just speaking for myself when I say that in addition to mobilizing our bodies, Lindsay is also uplifting our spirits! In fact, not too long ago, one of her participants shared that his wife had recovered enough from surgery and was finally able to return to class. His comment on Facebook made me smile because I knew exactly what he meant. Lindsay’s exceptional essence is what makes doing Essentrics with her so very exquisite. She is a spark. She is a veritable spark of light and leaves such lovely heart prints in all that she touches.
If you didn’t know Lindsay already or haven’t met her through Essentrics, you might have met her at the beginning of this pandemic when her 88 year old mother-in-law started sewing masks. Lindsay supported the distribution of these handmade gems by using her own Facebook account to ensure the public had liberal access to them. While Grandma Carma was content to simply give the masks away, Lindsay encouraged her to charge a teensy little fee which was donated to a charity. It was remarkable to witness their joint effort to mask us all up and keep us safe from Covid-19.
Lindsay is not only a bountiful bearer of light, but is also a spectacular sharer of light. She heralds the givers and generously acknowledges those who endeavor to make the world a better place. Just recently, she introduced us to a woman whose job in a local restaurant was compromised by the pandemic. So, Lindsay invited us to experience this woman’s culinary skills by ordering a ‘dinner for two’ from her. Lindsay did all the leg work to ensure our community was aware that we could supplement this person’s livelihood by simply ordering and enjoying her homecooked meals. She was sold out in no time. I am hoping to get a taste of it all next time around.
And that is precisely what Lindsay does … with utmost generosity of spirit. As I say that, I am also reminded of when she introduced us to Poppy. And even though she is introducing us to a young girl, I am including this here because it gives you a small sense of the vibrancy and vitality of who Lindsay is herself.
And, now that you have a sense of Linday’s limitless loving-kindness, I must introduce you to Robin. If you don’t already know him, Robin is Lindsay’s brother. And, when he passed away, she started a memorial fund called “Robin’s Nest Egg”. I hope you will take three minutes to allow this inspiring video to touch into your spirit.
I am personally aware of a number of situations where an egg or two from Robin’s Nest have been kindly gifted to others. There is really no end to the compassion and caring that characterizes this remarkable human called Lindsay. She also works with people with special needs and when funding was cut in the schools and many of the assistants in our community lost their jobs, Lindsay decided to create a kindergarten in her own home. Who does that? Who just decides to start a school? Well … Lindsay does. 😊
High Five was birthed by Lindsay’s indelible and innovative spirit. I trust that her skills, abilities and creative gifts were blessings to the children who attended. As you see in the video, there is no end to the unique and interesting opportunities Lindsay provided her students. It is inspiring to see what kindergarten can actually become when imagined and created through the eyes with which Lindsay interprets the world!
Lindsay is one of the most creative souls I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. She doesn’t live within the confines of space that generally limit the edges of possibility for most of us. She has this incredible way of ‘seeing’ beyond the ordinary … and then … creating something extraordinary. I marvel at how she brings all her benevolent being-ness to every interaction, every circumstance and every situation … leaving everyone feeling better for being in her presence.
I should clarify that Lindsay and I didn’t grow up together. We don’t get together for coffee or lunch. Our husbands don’t know each other. We don’t see each other at church. We don’t talk on the phone. And yet, I consider her a very dear friend. Somehow … this exceptional woman has a way of forging deep and abiding connections. She is the kind of person you want in your circle.
Lindsay and I first met a few decades ago when I was contributing articles to our local newspaper. The column I submitted was called ‘A Closer Look’ and was intended to highlight and give us a closer look at some of the people living in our community. Lindsay reached out to me to say how much she enjoyed the column and expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to get to know people better through the questions. Our friendship started via these email exchanges and over the years I came to understand that she has always loved people’s stories. I learned that she has an insatiable and altruistic interest in humanity.
One of the things that I deeply appreciate about Lindsay is that when she discovers something good … she shares it! Life is far too short to ensure we find all its treasures on our own. Lindsay ensures we do not have to do so.
Lindsay is always spreading joy … spreading good cheer … spreading good movie titles, excellent books, inspiring videos, beautiful music, great recipes … and even the delicious treats she has scored at Costco! About 20 years ago she led me to a peppery snack she found at Costco. I think it had cranberries in it too! I can’t even remember the name of it now … but my taste buds haven’t forgotten because I notice I am salivating as I write this. One day she introduced her Essentrics class to an exceptional chocolate hummus she discovered. So dang good. She is always sharing something good.
I think that is one of the things that makes Lindsay so unique! She truly touches deeply into the miracle of being alive. She leans into her longings and enthusiastically courts her curiosities … and … generously greets the wonders of life with so much gratitude. She sees the beauty in everyday things and notices the light in the littlest of things. And, she so humbly and gently invites all those in her presence to experience the same. A long time ago she reached out and recommended a Ted Talk that she had seen. It was about internet scammers … and it was so deeply moving … in such a unique way … that I ended up sharing it on my own page.
I am not sure how Lindsay finds so many remarkable things to share, but I have learned to heed to her suggestions. Following up her recommendations adds a depth and a breadth to my existence that I might not get to explore were it not for her. So, when she reached out again via text and recommended a TEDx Talk featuring a phenomenal photographer named Lene Marie Fossen who faced her life with anorexia … I made time to watch it. It was such a haunting portrayal of how pain and struggle shape our humanity.
We all have stories to tell. As I shared, Lindsay is always learning more about people and their stories. I am always inspired to follow where her interest in people takes her. And when she watched a video suggesting that Christmas brings a softness to the cell blocks within penitentiaries … she got curious. And, she invited us to join in the learning what she discovered. As Lindsay posted on Facebook:
Can Christmas happen “anywhere”?
I stumbled on this video shortly after I read a book entitled “Getting Life” by Michael Morton – a true story of a man who served 25 years for murdering his wife – a crime that he did not commit. I have since watched interviews and am amazed that he is not bitter or resentful – but instead a grateful and appreciative soul who is soft spoken yet carries a voice with purpose leaving no one with an excuse for ingratitude. I loved the video – but I’m a skeptic. I wondered how ‘authentic’ it was. It is easy to slow down video footage and add some beautiful music – it plays on your emotions, draws you in. Are those feelings ‘real’? It was a long shot but I sent an email to Michael Morton asking if he would mind watching the video and telling me if it made him roll his eyes – or if Christmas really does bring a softness even within the walls of a prison. Several weeks later I was so surprised and touched to get this reply:
“Lindsay–Watched the video. My wife said she teared up when she watched it. I grunted, then watched it, too. Yeah, I also teared up a little, just like a tough, old ex-con. Every prison and most prison experiences are unique. But this video has some universality that struck a chord with me. The guards are human. Some of them are okay…and some of them aren’t. Most of them, though, are touched by the holiday season, and Christmas in particular. God is bigger than any wall or series of razor-wire-topped fences. He transcends time, space, and all human circumstance. I liked the video. Thanks.-Michael”
Merry, merry Christmas to all. In prison, or amidst a pandemic, nothing can remove or destroy the special spirit of the season. xo
Ha ha. Of course she emailed the author!! She is so earnestly interested in understanding all the layers and complexities of people. This is the magnificence of Lindsay! I am not the least bit surprised that she stretched out onto the road less travelled and connected with an author who had also been an inmate. Not too many of us might ever even think to do so, but Lindsay’s commitment to honoring the stories of others is unrivaled.
She also recommended that I read a book entitled “The Unwinding of the Miracle.” I have not yet finished it, but I trust that I will gain something special from it. I cannot yet say what it will be … but I trust my friend implicitly. She never leads me astray. She also recommended that I watch “Fisherman’s Friends” on Netflix. I had never heard of it either. If you haven’t seen it yet, look it up. It was so well worth the watch.
It is so clear to me that Lindsay is always listening. I know she hears a song when many of us miss it … both literally and metaphorically. And, I do not take her exceptional essence for granted. She has this remarkable way of nourishing the landscape of people’s souls. She is also such a gifted writer. I haven’t really touched on her exceptional skills in this regard, but I look forward to reading more of the remarkable stories she has to pen through the lens of her empathic eyes and huge heart.
Lindsay is just so sincere and genuine. She is unapologetically herself. You find no airs about her. Her transparency and authenticity is so entirely refreshing. I’m not sure who said it, but someone once stated that “in a world where everyone wears a mask, it is such a privilege to see a soul.” And, that it is.
And so Lindsay, with these few words … I offer my humble observations of your beings and doings with the deepest appreciation to you and for you. Your presence is a true gift in my world. Thank you for being such a spectacular spark of light. Thank you so adding such a glorious glow to the globe. And, thank you again for touching so joyfully into the miracle of our mortal existence and
inviting inspiring us all to do the same. One of these days I might even try sprouting some lentils. 😘
With unending appreciation for the bright light of your soul …. 💖 Karen 💖
My first introduction to the sweetness of Kori’s spirit was not even in person. Although we had never before met … many, many years ago when I was in charge of soliciting donations for something … she voluntarily dropped off a donation for our cause. Who does that?? Unsolicited? I suspected, in that moment, that she was a very special soul. It would be a few years before I would actually get to meet her … and have my suspicions confirmed … in the flesh.
And she did not disappoint. She joined a book study that I was leading at the time. The sparkle from her brilliant internal flame lit up the room. Her eyes twinkled with kindness. Her smile welcomed your heart. Her quick wit brought on the belly laughs … when you least expected them. Yes. The vibrancy of Kori’s spirit is very visible.
We were studying a book by Byron Katie called … “Loving What Is”. I find myself wondering how hard it must be to stand in that frame of reference for her now … with all that has transpired in her world. At that time, we could never have expected the turn of events that Kori would be invited to endure.
It turned out that we got to work together a few years later … and … we did so for quite a number of years. We were not in the same department, but we were employed by the same agency. As a result, sometimes we meet for lunch to ensure we get to connect with each other every now and again. She’s the kind of person you want in your circle. Yes. She just shines. And … she invites every one in her presence to shine too.
Oh … and were it not for Kori … I would never have visited “Carl” at “The Divine Mine.” Carl is a medium who reads your cards and I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting with him on a couple of occasions. It’s always interesting to have someone tell you things that other people aren’t supposed to know about your personal lives. Yes … my daughters and I, along with my Bestie and I have enjoyed some time with Carl because of Kori! I now find myself questioning whether Carl had any inkling of what was in the cards for Kori …………
I’m not sure anyone could have anticipated what was about to unfold on that seemingly regular Tuesday. We were all together attending a computer training … and another of our remarkable colleagues, Jackie, had generously offered to have us over to her home so we could sit in the sunshine and enjoy our bagged lunches outdoors in her yard. Some of us never arrived.
Five or six of us were walking just out of the building when it happened. Our beautiful Kori was walking between Kimmy and I when she fell. Toppled right over beside us. Usually when someone falls … they are flailing about … trying to catch themselves … grasping for anything to hold them up. But none of that happened. Kori didn’t even put her hands out to break her fall. She stiffly hit her chest on the ground and skidded forward … landing on her forehead when she came to rest … arms straight down by her sides.
She roused quite quickly … in response to our clamoring around her …
“Are you okay??” …. “Kori, Kori … oh my gosh Kori … are you okay??”
She said she wasn’t sure. She was disoriented. She said she felt sick to her stomach. She had some trouble getting the words out though. And for a moment, the left side of her face drooped just a little bit. I called 911. By the time the EMTs arrived, she was arriving back to her bubbly self. When they asked what happened … she cheekily joked – with her ever ready quick wit:
“Well, she tripped me … and … she pushed me … and … then I fell.” And after an impeccably well-timed pause … she jovially continued: “No … not really. I just tripped.”
And well … not a single one of us who witnessed her fall were convinced that she “just tripped”. We shared some of our concerns with the handsome EMTs who took her to the ambulance for assessment. We told them that the way she fell seemed very odd.
And while they were assessing her, we laymen collectively concurred that something wasn’t quite right. But that is not what the professionals determined. The EMTs speculated that she probably sustained a concussion in the fall. We tried to convince her to go to the hospital. She pleasantly declined … assuring us that she was “just fine”. Given that they could find no obvious need for immediate treatment, the medics invited her to seek additional medical support if her symptoms got any worse over the rest of the day.
And our beautiful Kori was determined to put it all behind her and get back to work. With one eye on our computers and the other on Kori, those of us who witnessed her fall watched over her when we got back into the training. Not a single one of us was comfortable … and when she indicated that she still felt nauseated … one of us got up and followed her out of the room. And, it took a while, but eventually someone convinced her to let us call her husband to come pick her up.
And even though I knew she was in the loving care of her husband …… I found myself fretting that she was likely to minimize it all and tell him that she had simply tripped. And so, although I worried that I might be overstepping, I decided to call and talk to him about my concerns. When he didn’t pick up, I ended up leaving a message on his voicemail, suggesting that they might want to go get her double checked at the ER.
After he got my voicemail, Kori and I exchanged a few text messages and had a chat. I pressed my point that she should be re-examined. She indicated that she had an appointment with the doctor the next day, so she was comfortable to wait until then. She was so patient with me. I was not so sure they should wait … but after assuring me that she was comfortable at home and “eating popcorn” … I surrendered my attempts to control their evening and reassured myself that things would be checked out the next day.
I will never know if it was by luck or by divine design … but my schedule magically cleared the next morning. I was so encouraged that I would be able to attend Kori’s doctor’s appointment with her …. so I could tell the doctor myself how odd it had looked to those of us who saw her fall. I also mentioned that the side of her face drooped for a bit. I shared that her speech seemed somewhat labored and that she slurred a bit right after she roused. I told him she was instantly nauseated. I was grateful for the opportunity to make the case that something was not just NOT right.
Despite my best efforts, the doctor seemed nonplussed and determined that she likely had a concussion. And, he ordered an x-ray of her wrist … instead of her head. I was absolutely dumbfounded. I even felt a bit angry. And powerless. And perplexed. And scared. She was off to x-ray and I had to get back to work, but I made her promise me that she would ask him about getting a scan of her head. I’m not sure how their conversation unfolded, but the scan never happened until another doctor … doing another completely unrelated procedure ordered it … a whole week later!!
And that is when the real issue was discovered. I still haven’t done it, but I have asked Kori’s permission to hug the wise and intuitive physician who ordered the scan … and … kick the other doctor squarely in the shins. It’s really hard not to be indignant about his diagnosis of ‘concussion’. He missed it. We gave him all the red flags and he totally disregarded our observations. He never even looked at her brain. He was more worried about her wrist. Gah. I will not apologize for questioning the quality of his care or discernment in this moment.
And so … a week later … Kori was completely blindsided by the most ominous diagnosis! She did not have a concussion. No. Kori had a brain tumor. A brain tumor. How does one even wrap their head around THAT news??
We learned later that they believe she had a seizure … which is why she fell. Okay. That is why it looked so odd. And … they determined to treat the tumor for a couple of weeks in order to shrink it before they attempted to surgically remove it.
During that time, Kori was such an inspiration. She approached it all with such grace and optimism and, of course, her exceptional sense of humor. She posted the following on her Facebook page.
And … then she posted this one:
And this one:
And we all bombarded her with love and support and prayers! Her surgery was scheduled for July 6, 2018. And, she posted this on social media in the wee hours on the morning of her surgery.
Yes. THAT is the vibrant energy of this exceptional soul! Even a diagnosis as grim as a brain tumor could not dim the glow of her blazing internal light. And we all crossed our fingers and populated the ethers with more love and prayers.
And … the good news was that the tumor was removed! And more good news … the tumor was not cancerous.
The not so good news is that Kori experienced a stroke resulting from the surgery. And, so although she has bid good riddance to the tumor … we have been holding space for her healing from the lingering effects of the stroke. And, oh my, the love and prayers persisted … wrapped in an infinite plenitude of care and concern and compassion.
And the recovery has been long. She fell on June 12, 2018. Her first surgery was on July 6, 2018. Her second surgery was immediately thereafter. Her third surgery was just over a year ago in early September 2018. She was finally allowed to return home on November 16, 2018. And, on November 30th … a number of her colleagues met to have dinner together and catch up with one another. It was so wonderful to spend some time with her again … and yet … as I said in my text to her the next morning:
I sensed there was so much more we could have discussed. I felt both the brightness of your soul and the weariness in your spirit. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it is on some days … to find your smile as you work to regain your losses.
And, it occurred to me that because she has always been such a bright light, it might be hard for her to find safe spaces where she could set down her cheery demeanor and simply rest and hold space for the grief that must also be part of the journey. I knew Kori had what it would take to thrive despite of all of this, but I guessed there had to be days when she just felt tired and discouraged. I’m sure there were … but she doggedly persisted in the pursuit of her healing.
And … all her tenacity was rewarded when she got the very best gift for her birthday on May 6th, 2019! As she said in a Facebook post:
“What a nice way to spend my Birthday….. I got to go back to work today! 3 brain surgeries, one hemorrhagic stroke later, and I’m back to work! What a great way to spend my Birthday. Wonderful gift!”
And, the agency is so fortunate to have Kori back at work! She is so incredibly gifted and brings so much to her career! I have always marvelled at the way she handles an audience. She is a fabulous public speaker … brilliantly weaving her beautiful heart together with her fabulous humor. Kori is exceptional. She works with senior citizens … and … her compassionate care and concern for them is obvious. It has been beautiful to witness their love and support of her on social media!
And the love continues to pour in her direction. And … I am in awe of her strength and resilience as she finds her way through this dire turn of events. And, she is a shining example of how one can decide to live a great life anyway … regardless of what you find on your path. And, I think it is fair to say she has inspired so many of us to rethink the way we are living our lives, because one can never know what will come one’s way … on a seemingly regular Tuesday.
And, she has done just that!! Thank you Kori … for showing us … for teaching us … that people can get through the most daunting adversity with the right attitude and the will to overcome the roadblocks tossed on their paths. And, as a counsellor, I am aware that we do not always publicly see the struggles and challenges that are also part of any great overcoming … but … your grit, grace and glow remain an absolute inspiration.
And Kori, I know you have always lived your life from a perspective of gratitude … so much so that you even have the word “Blessed” tattooed onto your foot.
And, while most of us would be hard-pressed to find the blessings in all you have been through … you continue to do so. Regardless of how dark it may seem … you are always looking for the light!
Yes, it is clear that all the love and support extended your way is cherished and treasured in your heart. No. The gifts and blessings in your life are never lost on you! But … I also want to ensure that you know that our lives are so much better because of you … and … with you in them!
I am so grateful our lives intersected beautiful one! I sincerely thank you for casting such a brilliant glow into my world … both pre and post stroke! Yes. I just wanted you to know that although we no longer work together … I am grateful that we still connect every now and again for lunches … and … have hopes that we will have continued opportunities to connect at our monthly “Von Schnitzel” collegial suppers! ❤
I know that your journey continues. And, I also know that you will find a way to ensure that any blessings that might be hidden in the hardships you have endured will be honored and appreciated. You are one of those amazing souls that turns lemons into lemonade … and then … generously offers to quench everyone’s thirst! And may this blog serve to remind you that we are all still cheering you on … ever grateful for all the ways that our lives are better because you are in them. Yes … we are all so much better because of you.
And so, in closing … I just have to share this. When I saw the following quotation, I laughed. It sounded just like something you might say … using your exceptional sense of humor to describe all you have been through since that fateful Tuesday …
With heartfelt gratitude for your shining presence … ❤ Karen ❤
February 5th, 2018 made it official. 60! Yes. Six decades. 6-0. I wanted this milestone to be something that really tickled my heart and kindled my spirit … and … I am delighted to report that this birthday exceeded all my expectations and fondest hopes!! And, in all honesty, I’ve been struggling to make sense of exactly what has made it so meaningful. It’s taken me a while to put a finger on it. One thing for sure is that it ‘felt’ so very different to me. It actually ‘filled’ every inch of my soul in so many touching and unexpected ways. And, it was exactly what I needed to make it the ‘best birthday ever’.
I’d like to say it wasn’t about the gifts … but actually … it some ways it was. But please, before you judge me as entirely shallow and materialistic … let me explain! 🙂
One of the gifts I received was a delicate little silver bangle with the word beautiful carved into it.
It was packaged up in a handmade wrapping created by an exceptionally artistic and talented friend of mine. Thank you Cyndy! And another friend and colleague had jotted some words on the bag that helped me identify the root of my nourishment. Thank you for that Tanie!
It was those words “You are loved” that caught me up short. They stirred something deeply introspective in my soul. You see, I have always KNOWN that I am loved (at the head level) … but the truth of the matter is this: I have not always FELT it (at the heart level).
And knowing something and feeling it are two entirely different things. Neuroscience is teaching us that the things we ‘know’ are stored in a different part of the brain than the things that we ‘feel’. Stephen Porges (one of the most revered neurobiologists of our time) offers an important distinction with his Polyvagal Theory. He states that ‘perception’ is when we make meaning of the world cognitively through the pre-frontal cortex of our brain. He has coined the term “neuroception” for the way our body employs our vagus nerve system to sense and interpret the world around us … through what we are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. It’s a fascinating conversation … one that explains a lot of the complexities and contradictions we encounter as we attempt to interpret the world … both around us and within us.
For example, we can ‘know’ airplanes are safe modes of transportation, but we still can ‘feel’ scared to board one, no matter how hard we try to reassure ourselves. We can ‘know’ we have had enough to eat, but for some reason, we don’t ‘feel’ full. We can ‘know’ our boss appreciates our efforts, but at some point beyond the words we are hearing … we still don’t ‘feel’ like we are valued. We can ‘know’ our family loves us, but sometimes it is hard to ‘feel’ like that is true when we are alone, again, in the kitchen cleaning up … or … nagging, again, about undone homework, and/or struggling, again, to get through the bedtime routine. We can ‘know’ that we are kind, but we actually ‘feel’ it in our ‘beingness’ on a neurological level when pay it forward by actually performing an act of kindness. Experiencing something reaches us in a whole different way.
Yes, to cognitively comprehend something is very different than having an experiential felt sense of something. To be fair and honest … I can easily list a number of things that I not only ‘know’ but … I have also enjoyed a ‘felt sense’ of over my six decades:
- Respected. Yes. I can say that I have a felt sense of being respected. I typically give 150% to everything I do and, more often than not, I do feel my efforts are recognized.
- Needed. Yes. I am always ready to lend a hand (or a heart) and I feel like people feel safe to reach out to me.
- Envied. Yes. Even envied. The smile on my face often belies the challenges people don’t always see circling in my orbit.
- Appreciated. Yes. Most especially by my clients in my work.
But … loved? Hmmm. Not so much. And, not necessarily because people have not offered me their love. I do know that they have. But, mostly because I cannot always feel it. When I think about what it means for me to wholeheartedly feel that I am loved, I am guessing I would need to feel:
heard …. cherished , nurtured, treasured … included … precious and protected … connected … safe … and, perhaps most importantly … understood.
All I know for sure, for the most part, is that I have often felt more expendable than loved. I’m not saying that my perceptions/interoceptions/neuroceptions are true … I’m just saying it’s been my default way of ‘feeling’. We all have stories we tell ourselves. And, our stories and perceptions of the world around us are shaped by our prior lived experiences. As Ellen so aptly shared in this little clip … the power of suggestion is, indeed, powerful!
Did you see a gold and white dress … or a blue and white one? Did hear Yanny or Laurel? Neuroscience confirms that our brains actually ‘predict’ our experiences and, therefore, our inner world actually informs our perceptions of our outer world. That is, we tend to see what we EXPECT to see. And this reality informs and actually shapes our experiences in our relationships in a very profound way.
If you are inspired to learn more and/or want a more detailed and fascinating explanation of this uncanny phenomenon … you might want to check out this TED Talk by neuroscientist Anil Seth.
And, so as Anil Seth points out in this presentation … our interpretations of our outer world are depend entirely upon what our brain is primed to hear.
“The remarkable thing is the sensory information coming into the brain hasn’t changed at all. All that’s changed is your brain’s best guess of the causes of that sensory information. And that changes what you consciously hear. All this puts the brain basis of perception in a bit of a different light. Instead of perception depending largely on signals coming into the brain from the outside world, it depends as much, if not more, on perceptual predictions flowing in the opposite direction. We don’t just passively perceive the world, we actively generate it. The world we experience comes as much, if not more, from the inside out as from the outside in.”
And so … all of this begs the question for me as to whether my brain was adequately primed to ‘hear’ the love that is, in fact, infused into my relationships. Attachment theorists contend and neuroscientists confirm that the template etched into our grey matter for what we expect to see in our ‘loving relationships’ is informed by our earliest neuro-biological relationships. And so, those of us that did not get the most favorable wiring in our early years about how ‘loved’ or ‘significant’ or ‘smart’ or ‘capable’ we are … may subconsciously be primed to ‘expect’ to interpret our present day moments in the same way! It is not what is coming at us … it is what we are primed to ‘sense’ that defines our experiences. As the Yanny and Laurel experiment obviates … we can experience different things with exactly the same stimulus!
I didn’t get the very best start from my family of origin. My roots are planted in considerable dysfunction. My earlier life experience left me feeling like I was not the priority … which has led me to a life long interpretation/perception/story which ‘predicts’ that “I do not matter.” I speak more about this in another blog called ” A Tragic Misunderstanding.”
I did feel very treasured by my mom … but because of her illnesses and disabilities, she was simply not able to offer as much nurturing as I needed to feel nourished and protected. Sometimes our roles got reversed. I was looking after her, instead of her looking after me. She died when I was only 31… so I have been without her almost as long as I had her. My dad was an alcoholic. He was never much for sharing his emotions (unless he was angry!), and he and my mom divorced when I was twelve. Perhaps my fears of abandonment and neglect are rooted in those early experiences.
Not withstanding that … my mom’s oldest sister, my Aunt Mil always, always, always made me feel cherished and nurtured and precious. But, for the most formative years of my life she lived six hours away. I didn’t get to see her much, but … I never felt more safe and loved than when I was in her presence. She passed in 1990 … and … I think I grieved the most when I lost her.
And, unarguably, my life is splattered with many love filled relationships … my children and husband …. and …. many, many of my most precious friends. In fact, this “Better Because of You” blog also contains my heartfelt tributes in honor of the love I feel for many of those special souls … including Marie and Jody and Jackie and Kimmy and Kim and Joan and Sari and Robin and Deb and Lisa and Debora and Penny and Maria Beautiful and Teresa and Trudy and our friends Dwayne and Cheryl and Bill and Linda and Hutch and, of course, my daughters and my step-mom and my in-laws and so many more that I have yet to formally acknowledge.
And sadly, despite all of these deep and abiding relationships with these extra-ordinary people … the internally wired ‘story’ that can get triggered and flare up far too often is that “I don’t matter”. Gah. Yanny or Laurel?? The external stimulus can be exactly the same but, because of our internal wiring, we can hear different things.
I’m not sure why, but as I was typing this, I was reminded of watching Romper Room as a young child. Any of you remember that show? At the end of the program, the hostess would look through a “magic mirror” and name all the children she could “see” in “television land”.
“I see Margaret and Diane and Hannah and Susan and Janice and Georgie ……………”
I always waited … literally aching to hear her call my name. I never, ever heard her say it. Gah. Why on earth would that come to my mind right now?? Perhaps more proof of the power of that early brain wiring that, by default, can invite me to question my significance?
Anyway, I would go so far as to say that I have invested much of my life trying to earn people’s love … through approval and recognition. And so … sadly … if/when I have ‘felt’ loved, I have often reduced it to a result of my own efforts. I’m more likely to think you love me because of what I am doing to improve your life, rather than simply because of my being. In fact, I would venture to say that I have been telling myself a story … just for most of my life … that people will not stay connected to me if I am not pleasant and helpful and supportive. Yes. It makes me uncomfortable to admit to this out loud, but it is true. In the shadows of my subconscious, I’m not truly convinced that people would bother to keep me in their world if I didn’t work hard to make myself valuable to them. And, I can painfully round up proof of many who failed to make the effort … once I quit investing in them more then they were investing in me. But … that’s a story for a different time. Let’s get back to my birthday …
And so … when I saw those words ‘you are loved’ on that bag … all of this understanding flooded into my awareness. And, in the context of all the wonderful moments packed into my 60th birthday celebration … I had a deeply ‘felt sense’ of being loved. Yes. I wholeheartedly FELT it … on so many levels. People had done so much … entirely unsolicited by me … to make sure my 60th was nothing short of amazing. And, my heart was exploding with gratitude and appreciation for how ‘loved’ I actually felt in the midst of all of it.
And so … I wanted to blog about it here … for two reasons. First and foremost, so that I can try to adequately express my appreciation to each and every individual for their kind and loving contributions. You cannot even begin to know how each thought, word and deed that you offered has been etched into the felt sense of my heart space. And secondly, I wanted to chronical the whole occasion so that I can revisit the magic of the moments – not if but when – I need to challenge and dispute my ‘story’ of not feeling loved. Yes. I needed to document each and every delight so that none of them get forgotten over time.
And so, for those of you who are still inclined to read on, here is my best recollection of how it all unfolded. The “60”celebration started with an overnight trip to the big city with JUST my daughters. It is very rare for me to have them all to myself anymore! And so, my heart smiled with unspeakable gratitude as I sipped my coffee in the mornings and listened to them chatting and giggling and sister-ing with each other in our nice hotel suite while they were getting ready for the day. And, the first night, we unexpectedly landed in a fancy schmancy bistro and enjoyed a 5 star dinner (with complimentary appetizers from the chef that he was entering into a competition) before our heavenly 90 minute massages and hot-tubbing at the Stillwater Spa!
And, the next evening, after a full day of shopping (@9 hours worth) with a couple of stops for food and drink – (we lucked out at lunch and found ourselves enjoying $5 wine and mimosas) we decided to try the new Maybelline Super Stay Matte Ink Lip Color that my youngest daughter had discovered. With Brittany and I rocking the red … and … Sherisse and Tiana sporting the dark maroon, we looked more like we should be heading out on the town (maybe in 5″ stilettos and black leather mini-skirts)! But instead, we cozied up in our jammies, pulled out the hide-a-way bed in the living room of our hotel suite and snuggled in side-by-each as we spilled some tears watching the touching movie “Wonder”.
The next morning we got semi-dressed (scrubbed off the lipstick so as not to draw too much more attention to our questionable restaurant attire) … and … entirely unpretentiously headed downstairs to enjoy our complimentary breakfast. Our footwear was nothing short of fabulous. 🙂
We followed that up by using the “Downward Dog” Yoga App on our bath towels.
And, over the weekend … no one was focused upon their phones. It ‘felt’ entirely sublime to me to have all my little cherubs under one roof with me … and … lots of time for nurturing our innermost desires. Did I mention all the fitting room fun and fashion shows we also enjoyed? I will never forget how much love I could feel in the space during those moments.
And then … a few weeks later … I was completely bamboozled. Yep. Entirely horn-swaggled … in the most meaningful and marvelous way!! I thought we were heading to the restaurant to celebrate my son-in-laws birthday … because it really was HIS birthday. But … I was in for the SURPRISE of my life! They got me … good. And the presence of the people were the very best presents of all! In addition to every single member of my immediate family, my sister-in-law flew in from Vancouver. Our dearest friends from prenatal class (37 years prior!) were there. My Bestie and her hubby and my forever friends and my soul sister were too. Some of my treasured colleagues were also able to join us. My husband, daughters and sons-in-law had planned the perfect party! And although my grandchildren knew … they kept it all a secret!! I was surrounded by people who take up the most space in my heart … and … I truly ‘felt’ the love in that space.
And the French wine flowed … and … the food was fabulous. In fact, my meal stands out as one of the top five in my 60 years! And they had two homemade cakes (made from Lucy’s special recipe – iced with the 7 minute frosting I always put on my daughter’s cakes when they were little.) It was extra special because the cakes were in the shapes of a flower and a butterfly! They resurrected the exact cake patterns I had always used for them. I could feel so much love in all the little details!
And then they dragged me into the ladies washroom … to present me with a a leather bound book of treasured ‘sharing’ from so many loving hearts … personal stories and acknowledgments and memories that brought me to tears.
And there may or may not have been some ‘helium high chatter’ before we headed home … as we were collecting all the balloons. I can neither deny nor confirm the collapse of any high flying balloons and/or and other such shenanigans transpired. All I can say is that … I felt it … all night long. The love … not the helium. ❤
And, even though it was quite late when we landed at home, I stayed up until 1:30am … filling my spirit with all the love tucked into that treasure book. Fortunately, my eldest grand-daughter had tucked a tissue into the envelope that held her meaningful message for me. ❤
And, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better … the next morning … when I decided to clean up all the bags we had just dropped into the entry way when we arrived home, I discovered there were more ‘gifts’ to unwrap. And more tears flowed. And I felt my way through it all … savoring each and every moment.
When I naively inquired about why my book would have been in with the gifts … and with a ribbon wrapped around it … my hubby said my Bestie borrowed it. Oh. Okay. How sweet of her to decorate it before she returned it. I was placing it back on the bookshelf … when my hubby suggested “there might be something in it”.
Huh?? And yes … there certainly was! There was all kinds of LOVE in it! I know it … because, once again, I could actually feel it. And, to think, I almost missed this precious offering from my kindred spirits (aka: the gorgeous gals in my ‘book club’). These precious souls had snuck off with MY copy of the book that originally inspired our gatherings and had highlighted their favorite passages and written messages on the cover and inside the margins and then wrapped it with a ribbon and tucked it in with my other gifts.
It is such a treasure … because one of my favorite things to do is have juicy, meaty, honest and authentic conversations. And … that is what we do. And, now, I have their thoughts and reflections highlighted both in my book and my heart.
And, as I continued to tidy up, I noticed a beautiful scroll tied up with some jute and a red metal heart! Within, were some heartfelt words from Jody, a prior practicum student of mine. This earth Angel has become a very dear and cherished friend … my soul sister. Her words were deeply moving … and … so are my morning emails from her. Our Gmail correspondence has become a beautiful addition and treasured tradition in our friendship.
And then … I noticed THIS very, very simple but oh so sheik and exceptionally elegant box tucked into one of the bags. And it confirmed, for certain, that the old adage is true:
“Less is More”
My fabulous forever friends … Robin and Deb … and myself have been celebrating our friendship and our ‘DRK’ birthdays together for many, many, many years. Although our lives and times have generated some geographic space over the years, we have always enjoyed some special traditions and joyful reminders of our abiding connections. And, this year was no exception. These beautiful souls arranged a number of photographs into a soft, black, handmade Italian leather bound journal … with inspiring quotes (because they know I love quotes) AND a story book length Roses are Red poem AND Deb added a whole NEW picture of the three of us. I’ll let you try to guess who is who! 🙂
And, just so you can appreciate the fullest extent of their brilliance … may I offer you just a wee little snippet of my 60th “Roses are Red” story/poem … in all its glorious grace:
And … that is just one of the pages! Yes. I ‘felt’ their love in such a big way. Just look at those gloriously gifted poets!! I am so grateful to call them my fabulous forever friends!
And then … there was MORE! I got to enjoy a trip away for the weekend with my Bestie! We had so much fun the last time we did it … so we thought we’d do it again! When I had gone to Calgary with my daughters, we had tried to get a reservation at “Ten Foot Henry” only to discover that they are usually booked up two to three weeks in advance. And so … Marie and I booked ahead and enjoyed a sublime dinner … in which vegetables are the star! We could certainly see why they are booked up in advance! If you ever get the chance, I would highly recommend it.
And … although it was in the midst of a freak snow storm, we enlisted the services of several Uber drivers to take us around and about to all the places we wanted to go. We even snuck in an Angel Card reading with Michelle at the Crossroads Market! And, in retrospect, it is entirely uncanny how ‘spot on’ her reading was for both of us.
And then … to top it all off … we arrived home to a beautiful prime rib dinner which had been prepared by our husbands. We enjoyed a lovely soup, prime rib, fancy scalloped potatoes, asparagus AND a homemade chocolate cake … made and iced by my husband!!
And, as you can see, we were also playing cards! It’s become a tradition for us to play ‘Hearts’ together. I am posting the results of our two rounds of hearts … not to gloat … but because my winning score was 60 in the first game!! Did you notice how badly I beat them the second game … 33? Okay, maybe now I’m gloating just a little … not that I am competitive when it comes to cards with these gems … 🙂
And then, on the actual day of my birthday, I got to enjoy a scrumptious lunch with my fabulous forever friends! I’ve already introduced you to them … those gifted “Roses are Red, Violets are Blue” poets! Well, we spent 6 hours enjoying lunch and laughs and conversation on my 60th … officially. Greek salad, chicken and cupcakes … and … wine. Oh, and I learned something important! Apparently, wine should be poured only to the fattest part of the wine glass. How have I lived and loved wine this long and not known that??
One would think it might have been mentioned in the fabulous “Scratch and Sniff” wine book my daughter gifted me. Such fun to read it … and … smell it! 🙂
And then in May … I received an exceptional birthday surprise! My student and soul sister, Jody, whom I introduced to you earlier had mentioned that her birthday gift would be late. She was having something made for me … and … was it ever worth the wait!! Her gift had so much heart and meaning …and came with this beautiful message.
And then in June … I had another birthday blessing. I got to enjoy the getaway that my forever friends gifted me for my birthday. And so, we set off to enjoy a day of time together. Time, after all, is always one of the best gifts we can give one another. We enjoyed a lovely, lovely lunch at one of the best restaurants in our area. And, we followed it up with loud raucous laughter when we went to see the movie “The Book Club”. It was a remarkable day!
And, to top it all off, it was nothing less than serendipitous that I should receive this card from my Bestie … on the eve of my official birthday … during the lovely dinner her husband and my husband made. How incredibly intuitive was she … ?
Yes. As a matter of fact … I am. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I remain forever shifted and transformed by all the love I felt during this exceptional birthday. It feels like my internal world has been rewired in some way … and in all honesty … as I round the corner now toward my 61st birthday … I can honestly say that I have found it so much easier to ‘feel’ the love in my presence. And THAT is the best gift I ever could have received. ❤ ❤
And, I am sending all of that love right back to each and every one of you … at least 10,000 fold, xo Karen
I’d heard her name before. She and my bestie had met each other in class … there were both enrolled as mature students in the Social Work program offered through a nearby University. The woman standing before me introduced herself as “Jody”. She was direct … and … got right to the point. She was hoping I might be willing to supervise her Junior Practicum. I sensed she was a very determined soul. There was something about her energy that both impressed me and intrigued me. We agreed to meet at a later date to determine if we’d make a good fit for one another.
She recently reminded me that, when we subsequently met, I told her that she might cry if she did her practicum with me. I do like to give students a chance to reconsider having me as their supervisor, because I know its not easy being my student. Not because I am nasty or malicious … but rather … because I don’t step over much. I don’t believe it would be in my student’s best interests to hold them in anything less than my highest vision for who I sense they could be in their careers.
From where I am looking, practicum is not only the time to put all that social work theory into practice … but it’s also the time when all of our own unhealed ‘stuff’ will be triggered by the things our clients are expressing and experiencing. I tell every potential student that I am going to invite them to examine their own perceptions, explore their beliefs and excavate anything that could hinder their capacity to ‘hold space’ for their clients with the utmost compassion and empathy.
If we are not clean, clear catalysts for change, we will not be able to stay focused upon our client’s interpretations of their experiences. Rather, their struggles and sharing may trigger some of our own unresolved prior lived experiences, and then, we can unwittingly getting caught up in the energy of our own unhealed pains of the past. And, even if we’ve been through ‘the same thing’ … our felt sense of that ‘same’ experience may be very different from theirs. And so, if there are places in our history that we are not yet at peace with, we are at great risk of projecting our own meaning making into their situation … rather than making room to deeply honor and understand the internal world of the person we are attempting to support.
And so, yes … I like to give my students the heads up that this practicum will likely be more about their own internal processing than they expected In keeping with that, I require every student to do daily reflections … discussing three things:
- Learnings – what did they notice/learn about counselling skills/practice/theory during the sessions and/or our debriefing?
- Questions – what questions arose for them during that day?
- Reflections – what got stirred up in their own souls during our daily round … or … what ‘aha!’ moments may have grabbed them unexpectedly … or … how is our work stretching who they know themselves to be?
Students often think our job is to save people … to offer people solutions … to rescue/protect them from the messy parts of their lives. I must humbly disagree. For me, the work that we do as counsellors is not at all about showing up all shiny and bright and guiding people to the perfect resolution for their situation … from some loftier place of academic enlightenment. No. From where I am looking, counselling is about connecting with the deepest parts of people’s lives … honoring all the spaces where the sacred soul seated before us may be struggling … feeling scared, sad, sleepless, soured, silenced, stuck … or stressed in some significant way.
And it is remembering that ‘stress’ behaviour often looks like ‘bad’ behaviour. When we as humans are alarmed or overwhelmed by stressors, we are far more likely to make poor or unfavorable choices. Yes. It’s recognizing that people will try to ‘numb’ any pain that they can’t endure … perhaps with drugs or drink or gambling or sex or internet gaming … or even food. It’s remembering that our logic and reason can be high-jacked by our ‘fight/flight/freeze’ response. It’s realizing that our job is to create a safe space so they can trust us enough to be vulnerable … so we might help them to sort things out. And from that humble space, we get to support them in connecting to and/or building the strength and knowledge they need so they can save themselves … with us safely by their sides.
Yes. Most importantly, it is our job to check any assumptions, biases or beliefs that might invite us to judge people rather than understand them. And, understanding does not necessarily mean excusing … but … I believe that everything makes sense if you have enough information. I believe that effective counselling is driven by compassionate curiosity. It’s being aware that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. And so, if someone says or does something that just doesn’t make sense to me, it is my job to look deeper … to keep searching their soul until I can say “oh, of course … if that is what you were thinking/feeling/experiencing … I can see why you would have responded that way.”
Jody assured me she was up for the challenge. And, you know what? I believed her. I also sensed a bit of an edge … like if I pushed her too hard … she might push right back. And yet, I also suspected that her seemingly unfettered and impenetrable exterior might be protecting a very tender, kind and exceptionally loving heart. But we never discussed any of that then.
And so … we embarked on a staggeringly remarkable journey together. Neither of us could possibly have anticipated where our connection was going to take us. I can tell you right now … it was a divinely inspired union … for so many reasons. But, it’s probably not wise for the practicum supervisor to admit to having favorites. So, I won’t do that. 😉
And, that is not to say it was all gumdrops and roses. I suspected at the time … and I know for sure now (because she confirmed it) … that there were days when she was cussing at me under her breath! Nonetheless, Jody was a trooper! And she challenged me and I challenged her … and ultimately … we gained such tremendous respect for one another. And through it all, the infinite depth of Jody’s capacity to care became exceedingly evident. Yes. The tenderest parts of her soul became more exquisitely exposed and empathetically expressed as she leaned into our work and honored the hearts seated before us.
I started to look forward to seeing Jody every morning. Her unfailing sense of humor always tickled my heart. She always had her homework done … no matter how exhausted she was at the end of the day! And, we never ran short on incredibly interesting conversations … about trust and shadow work and the challenges of honoring differing perspectives while standing in our own truth.
In the beginning, I sensed that she abhorred my unfailing allegiance to the philosophical constructs of Debbie Ford and her impeccable body of work. Yes … I even thought I might lose Jody the first time we really dived deep into some of Debbie Ford’s most controversial teachings. Her contention that each an every one of us holds the capacity to be both divine and diabolical … both saint and sinner … both light and dark … is hard for many to swallow. While I sensed that Jody would rather spit that paradigm out right out rather than chew on it …. she didn’t. She went home and tasted it. I’m not sure she actually liked any part of it … but she held some space for it. Some say that a sign of true wisdom is the capacity to entertain an unfamiliar idea without feeling the need to immediately embrace it or reject it.
And, despite the differences in our perspectives, we learned that we shared a mutual passion for being allies to those whose voices have been muted or silenced by a majority that often refers to those of our sort as “bleeding heart” social workers. And in addition to all that, it turned out that Jody also shared my compassionate concern about the potential for unreconciled grief related to unexpected pregnancy loss. And with that often overlooked issue in mind, she returned to do her senior practicum with me as well! Her passion for grief and loss and trauma work rose to the forefront as we shared another four months together.
And, ultimately, the eight months we invested with each other became precious to me. Her willingness to continue peeling back the layers of who she was and who she wanted to be was deeply inspiring. She wisely wrestled with everything she thought she knew and made room for perspectives she had not yet considered. It was so refreshing to watch her meeting herself in brand new ways … growing and glowing and generously embracing the gifts of her own gentle spirit. I looked forward to seeing her and enjoying all the conversations and curiosities and laughter we shared. And, when her practicum was over … and she graduated … I knew I was really going to miss our time together.
But then … something wonderful happened! Jody asked me if I would supervise her as she acquired her required “provisional” hours when she started to work in the field. I was honored to do so, but we had one communication obstacle. Jody is a night owl and I am often in bed before 8:30pm. And so, she would send email updates at night that would greet me early in the morning while I had my first cup of coffee. And, I must admit, my mornings were better on the days that started with a nice reconnection with this special soul!!
Jody has gone on to do some very empowering work in a small rural community that is populated with many homeless people. It is her job to help them find shelter for their bodies. And, most remarkably, while she does that, she also shelters their souls. As with so many of those who are living on the streets … they may be struggling with various addictions and/or have experienced domestic violence and/or continue to endure various forms of abuse and/or neglect and/or trauma in their lives. She compassionately honors their struggles and warmly embraces the hearts of those who are often ostracized and marginalized and stigmatized by mainstream culture. When she is working with her clients who she affectionately refers to as her “peeps” … she does not proceed from the condescending space of questioning“What is wrong with you?” but, rather, gently approaches her work from a trauma-informed space of wondering …“What happened to you?”
And, from where I am looking, Jody brings unparalleled compassion and respect and loving care to her social work practice. She is a rare gift to her community … with eyes that see beyond their unfavorable circumstances. She never loses sight of the fragile hearts and traumatized souls that are simply doing their best to survive the reprehensible conditions that often unrelentingly color their capacity to choose differently and/or to rise above their day to day existence. She is a true blessing to the social work profession.
And so, Jody … this “Better Because of You” tribute is in honor of you. My world has been so much better for your presence in it! My mornings continue to be blessed by your engaging emails. You are no longer a student … but instead … have become a highly skilled professional … and … a very precious friend. And for this, I remain eternally grateful. Despite all you have going on (especially now that you are doing your Masters degree!), you somehow remember to check in with me, regularly, and see how things are going in my world! And, you have created a safe place for me to be open, honest and vulnerable with you. We’ve had enjoyed some deeply philosophical discussions via Gmail, haven’t we? 🙂
Remember one of the email exchanges we had in the stifling and unrelenting heat of last summer? We’d been talking about how the blazing temperatures were taking a toll on my flower beds. I responded to your morning email on July 20, 2017, by saying:
“I did sleep well … and … my anxious mind is still tending the blossoms.
I’ve been coddling them and I so very much enjoy them standing in their fullest glory that it saddens me to see a few of them falling through the cracks … succumbing to the hard knocks of life. I guess I feel the same about people. My heart aches when I see anyone or anything losing the struggle to be the best expression of themselves. Even a pansy.
And … it’s so metaphorical really. It can happen in a heart beat. One moment all is well … and then … it’s not. Life can be so hard … even for the pansies. And especially for the super sensitive begonias and fuchsias. Hmmm …. it strikes me that I’ve always been a bit of a begonia myself. I think my life would have been easier if I was more of a petunia. They tend to roll with the punches better … they don’t even seem to notice the wind, heat, flooding and/and drought as much. My delicate begonias feel everything! Anyway … my plan is to give the most wilted little souls a little extra TLC today. Sheesh … who knew I could even get all social worky about flowers??? 🤤
I hope you rested well too …and … I’m glad we’ll get to spend some more time together on Saturday!
Hope you enjoy a wonderful day.
Much luv … k”
Ha Ha. And you responded by saying you love my ‘social worky’ mind and then compassionately added: “I know it’s not easy to be a begonia my friend, so don’t forget to tend to yourself ️❤ !!”
Yep. You tend to my spirit in the most loving ways. And may I say that I am just so darn grateful I get to be all of myself with you Jody. Strong and capable … quirky and anxious. Wise and ‘supervisor’ worthy … scared and insecure. Joyful and hopeful … discouraged and defeated. And, you find a way to hold space for all of it without raising an eyebrow. I know you create that same safe container for your peeps … and … that their lives are touched for the better in countless and meaningful ways. Like I said to you in a recent email:
“Ahhh …. I love, love, love your “long winded” emails. I love hearing about your work and your peeps and the passion you have for all of it and all of them […] along with all the possibilities you envision within your heart space and invite into your peeps perspective. All of your ‘light’ that you bring to their ‘dark’ is so incredibly palpable in your words.
More often than not, I can hear your voice as I am reading … and it’s like we are talking face to face … and I can hear your tone and imagine your facial expressions and I am thoroughly captured by your big juicy loving heart and all of it’s divine intentions.
You have created a movement out [where you work]. A much needed movement towards love and compassion and away from the cultural judgment and righteous indignation that often permeates mainstream interactions with our indigenous population.
I can’t even imagine the gap of support that would be left if the grant for your position was not extended!!! And … so it’s no wonder you are always thinking!! Once we ‘see’ the root of the problem we can’t not ‘see’ it … and … we can’t [be complicit in] covertly blaming the victims with our lofty behavior interpretations and hands off solutions.
And … I can only imagine how overwhelming it is to ‘see’ so clearly what needs to be done. But … you are only one person … albeit with the heart of 100!!”
And, I love your ‘social worky’ heart. It knows the way … but sadly … you bump into barrier after barrier within systems that have no room to ‘see’ what you see. And yet, you allow your frustrations to fuel your determination to challenge and resist the oppressive social structures that have historically ignored all that lies beneath the tip of the iceberg..
And, as a result of who you are ‘being’ … your people feel your presence … and … you make a difference in their hearts. And, as we have discussed … ‘heart work’ is so critically important … although often socially dismissed and/or professionally discounted in favor of outcomes and statistics. But … as Paul Brodeur astutely contended: “Statistics are human beings with the tears wiped off”. Yes, you and I have both seen what a difference it makes when we are able to honor the heart of our humanity by adding a little bit of kindling to people’s internal flames. As Eldon Hubbard has wisely acknowledged: “We awaken in others the same attitude of mind we hold toward them.”
And we have talked about this often … in so many other email exchanges we have shared with each other … like this one you sent:
“I have had some interesting client stories this week as well … I am always in awe of the power of the human connection and how despite the circumstances that bring people together in one room you can share that space with compassion and understanding and safety for them to share their stories and feel loved and heard and often, for the first time a sense of peace … My work is ever evolving and every day is stretching me and allowing me to see through new eyes!!! ️”
And that is what you bring to your work: your tender, compassionate, loving heart. You often like to hide it behind your strength … but … people can feel it. It sneaks out through your kind eyes. And, your sweet soul shines through your smile. And I suspect that for many of your peeps, you might be one of the first people to look beyond the messy ‘doings’ in their orbits and acknowledge the soul-filled ‘beings’ of their precious spirits instead. It doesn’t hurt that you are also very real and authentic and approachable. And funny. Sheesh … you have an impeccable gift of being able to find the humor in everything!
Yes. That is the energy you bring to your relationships Jody. You never fail to make me laugh and ponder and feel grateful for our connection. And, I trust that with you by their side, your peeps are invited to see possibilities for their lives that never before crossed their radar.
Yes. It’s true. My life has been touched in countless ways by your presence in it. As I say that I am reminded that one of the other blessings of our morning email exchanges is that every once in a while you forward an amazing TedTalk … like this one … which you said reminded you of conversations we have had in the past. I would agree and responded by saying:
“I love this! Thanks so much for brightening my day. It’s like we are still in practicum … chewing on meaningful perspectives, compassionately reframing our perceptions and finding new eyes to make better sense of the chaos and distress we see our worlds.”
And so, “Sawubona” my beautiful friend … and … thank you for “seeing us.” All. Of. Us. There is nothing more empowering than being ‘seen’ and ‘accepted’ and ‘acknowledged’ for every part of our being … especially during the times when life feels most grim. It is in those moments that we need someone to cast a light and help us find our way. And Jody … that is what you do so well. As you bring your tender soul to those in your orbit, your presence fills up every inch of our hearts.
Yes … your energy and heart and intention are such a gift to humanity. You are changing peoples lives … one heart at a time. And so, at this moment … it seems fitting for me to add a little wisdom from Debbie Ford. Are you cussing again?? Ha ha … I know you are appreciating her more and more these days!! 😉
And I have absolutely no doubt that you will do exactly THAT. You are a rare gem in the jewels of life Jody. You are such an enviable and exceptional blend of sparkle and shine … grit and gumption … wisdom and wit … edge and empathy … love and laughter … courage and compassion … intuition and irreverence. Yes … Debbie would be inspired by your beautiful integration of polarities!!! And … I know that the world is so much better because you are in it Jody! ❤
I could say so much more but I hope you are getting a felt sense of my love and appreciation of you. Yes. Let me close this tribute by saying … “thank you for choosing me”! My life is so much richer because you are in it! I will remain forever grateful I got to be your practicum supervisor (twice!) … and … even more grateful that, now, I get to be in your circle of friends.
With the jubilant joys of my 60th birthday celebrations starting to dim in the distance … imagine my surprise when I received a bright blue envelope via snail mail (aka: Canada Post.) It was a greeting card from one of the people I had met and befriended decades ago while we were both living in a tiny little town in rural Southern Alberta, Canada. As I retrieved the card from inside the envelope, my heart smiled in fondest regard and with resonant recollection … because as some of you may also know … the journey is never easy when you are the tape dispenser. Nope. Never comfortable … albeit for the fine folks that can overlook your differences and make room in their hearts to love and accept you just as you are … ❤
Marion and I met back in the late ’80s when she had moved into our teensy weensy community from the big urban, metropolis of Montreal, Quebec. Her “UN-birthday” card, as she affectionately called it, was filled with glimpses of times we had shared. And, her words touched me deeply. We were both city girls … who had been transplanted into a rural and fairly red neck setting. Not that there is anything wrong with country living … it’s just that geographies, in general, express their own distinct cultures … and … their unique norms and indoctrinated ideals are collectively reflected in their traditional ways of being. None of which may be particularly familiar for those of us with more urban roots. I expect the habits and demeanors of those in the urban populace would feel equally unfamiliar for country folk who are dropped into a busy, cosmopolitan city center. Significant shifts in locale will take most of us right out of our comfort zones.
And so, I was awash with smiles stirring in my heart as Marion’s words took me back in time. I started responding to her via Gmail, but as my fingers struck the keyboard, it quickly became clear to me that an email would simply not suffice. I realized that in order to adequately acknowledge this special soul, I preferred to pen a ‘better because of you blog’ in her honor. And so Marion, this tribute is for you.
I can’t begin to describe the emotions that came over me as I allowed your 60th “birth-quarter” words to transport me back to that little town of 900 people … with us walking the three main long avenues and/or dozen shorter streets that intersected them. We both loved a good walk outdoors back then! I also remember us walking the MD road on an occasion or two … to the acreage you called home … from town … for lunch. I still love walking. Actually, so much so that while ago, I set a goal to walk 10,000 kilometers. I’m only about a third of the way there … about 3300 kms officially logged thus far. Yes, you were always up for outdoor activities Marion! I expect you still are!
That said, its no surprise we met on the ball diamond! I’m so glad you joined our slowpitch team … and … thank you for reminding me that our ball team was called “Nonna’s Near Mrs.” Somehow, I had erroneously remembered us as the “Hayden’s Hosettes” but I think the Hosettes were actually an earlier incarnation in my slow pitch history harkening back to the Bob and Doug McKenzie era! Nonetheless … here we are … in those stunning mint and pink ensembles … mine complete with the clasp on my shirt (as you remembered!) … both of us with the 80’s puffed up bangs you so aptly described as “mall hair”!!
It truly is quite remarkable, though, how … in less than a heartbeat … we can intuitively recognize the souls with whom we have kindred spirits. I was instinctively drawn to you, Marion. Perhaps it stemmed from our mutually cosmopolitan roots? Or maybe it was due to our mutual inclinations towards professional pursuits? Or perhaps it was the introspective nature of our conversations? Regardless of what it was, there was something about your countenance that always invited me to feel so ‘at ease’ with you. I just felt so welcomed to be myself in your presence. With you, I could show up completely unmasked … feeling no need to ‘fit in’ to other people’s preferences for who I ‘should’ be in the world … or … ‘how’ they preferred me to show up. Yes, when I was with you, I was generously invited to embrace the ‘wholeness’ of my tape dispenser self. 🙂
Yes, in a community I sensed may have misunderstood me … you really read me absolutely right. I laughed out loud when you said in your card that you knew I was obviously destined for something else …“A bigger town, higher education, a briefcase, shoes with heels.” Oh my, your words reminded me of how much I loved my purple eye-liner, accessory enhanced and color-co-ordinated outfits, big hair … and yes … high-heeled shoes!! And, well, for the most part, I stuck out like a sore thumb in our small town!
Now, at sixty years of age, my eyeliner is far less flashy. I opt for a softer shade of charcoal, but I still get weak in the knees in the presence of fabulous jewellery … and … it goes without saying … I still adore a great shoe (especially in a bright color)! Notwithstanding my innermost inclinations, somewhere within the 5th decade of my life, I reluctantly resigned myself to more sensible footwear. My metatarsals will now scream out in righteous indignation if I dare indulge in anything higher than a kitten heel pump. Although, I am committed to aging gracefully … I am always on the hunt for a cute, comfy, colorful shoe! I hit the jackpot when I found these ones! 🙂
But, regardless of how misunderstood I often felt back then Marion … you created ample space for me to play with my unspoken dreams … right out loud. And, I am not sure I ever thanked you for that. In fact, I get tears in my eyes when I think back to all the generous space you afforded me to be vulnerable, authentic and real with you. I felt free to say things to you that others would surely have judged me for thinking, feeling or wanting to do. And, I am so glad to hear that I, too, afforded you a space to feel welcome, comfortable and accepted when you moved into our town.
And so, Marion, the words of a one of the world’s wisdom traditions seem most fitting to offer you right now.
Yes. “Namaste” my beautiful friend. The divine within me bows to the divine within you. And, of course … the tape dispenser within me honors the tape dispenser within you. 😉
Marion, your ready acceptance of all my differences was such a rare and special gift. I honor the truth, peace and beauty within you. And, my heart can never forget your kind and loving spirit … despite all the years and miles that have come between us. No. The heart never forgets being touched by such light.
Eeek … how long has it been anyway??? I think our time together in that wee little town was at least a quarter of a century ago (ish) … if not longer? And all those decades did indeed lead me to a bigger town (albeit only 10 times bigger!) … a master’s degree … and … a professional career that I am deeply passionate about. You were absolutely correct!!! Haha. And yes … I even carry a fashionable briefcase.
After you moved back East Marion, we lost touch to some degree … but our infrequent but very meaningful email connections have been deeply appreciated. And, exchanging travel tales with you has been such a gift. Were it not for your inspiring invitations to visit some amazing parts of the world (e.g. Turkey), we would have missed out on some of our most memorable travel adventures. Thank you for stretching us to some amazing new horizons! It’s hard to put a price on experiences like that!
We haven’t travelled much over the past few years, but we couldn’t silence the travel bug any longer. We’re planning to wander the Western parts of Europe, Ireland and the UK. I’d welcome any ideas you might have for us in those locations … and … where your travels have taken you in recent years! Perhaps we should plan a rendezvous and share some sweet space … or take another walk together … in some beautiful but unfamiliar part of the world? I think in one of our email exchanges we agreed that we’d probably travel well together … 😉
I was so grateful when you ventured back in our direction and we had a chance to reconnect face to face over coffee. Gosh … how long ago was that anyway?? I could be wrong, but judging from my hair … I am going to guess … about 20 years ago? Reminiscing with you was so lovely! I would cherish a chance for another long, smile-to-smile conversation … 🙂
Oh Marion … it never ceases to amaze me how many moments that seem somewhat small and/or relatively insignificant at the time … can fill a heart in untold and unexpected ways. And, as I reflect on our friendship, my heart is feeling deep gratitude for the ways in which your spirit has touched me:
- your quick wit and wry sense of humor tickle my funny bone … only always
- your capacity to hear beyond the words that are spoken aloud … is so rare
- your heart … filled with kindness and caring and compassion … is so exceptional
Yes. You have such extraordinary energy. There are people that drain you. There are people that fill you. And you, as my grandson would say, are definitely “a bucket filler” Marion! Yes. My spirit has always been so nourished by our time shared together. Whether face to face or over the internet … the gifts of your presence in my life are treasured and remain tightly tucked into my heart space.
And every year … at Christmas, you are with me as I place my beautiful macaroni angel upon my Christmas tree. You crafted her and gifted her to me before you moved away … and … although she is a little worse for wear (e.g her halo has gone missing!) … she holds so many precious memories of our time together. I place her near the top of the tree every year.
Yes, there is no disputing that my years in our small town together were definitely so much better because of you Marion. And, the joys of my 60th birthday were also so much better because you reached out with your heart … and … your exceptionally astute card! Thank you for continuing to fill my spirit with your benevolent being-ness! And, not surprisingly, your words to me precisely mirror the feelings etched in my own soul. As such … I would, most humbly, like to offer them back to you right now:
“I am so grateful that you were there for me when I lived in [our town] . I continue to feel close to you and will always consider you my friend.”
With deepest appreciation and heartfelt reverence for all our tape dispenser moments, Karen
Its YOUR Birthday Hutch! Welcome to the sixties! It’s tempting to poke fun at your age, but considering that you just caught up with me, I shall refrain. In fact, to the contrary, your buddy and I would like to dedicate this day to celebrating YOU … and … all the ways our lives have been richer because you moseyed on over to our place almost 20 years ago! You might want to get comfortable, because I’m about to get long-winded. Hey! I can hear your thought wheels turning! No wise cracks from the birthday boy! In all seriousness, your buddy and I have so very much to thank you for Hutch that I’m not even sure where to begin!
First, and foremost, because of you Hutch … we found life long friends! Not just the kind of friends that you visit with because you are neighbors. But rather, the kind of friends that hold a very special place in our hearts. The kind of friends that you can count on … to be there … through thick and thin. The kind of friends who take an interest in your children and your grandchildren … and … your cat. The kind of friends that you look forward to seeing because it’s always so nourishing and comfortable to be in their presence. The kind of friends that accept you fully … so that there is no need to edit oneself! The kind of friends who you can kibitz around with … and … enjoy some really big belly laughs! The kind of friends who you can share smiles with as you clink glasses to celebrate the joys in life … and … who extend both hand and heart through the inevitable challenges. The kind of friends that you rap on the door once and then just walk in because you know you are always welcome. The kind of friends that are incredibly rare and very precious! Yes … because of you Hutch, we have THOSE kind of friends! Yep. You guys are a rare gift to us … and … because you wandered our way, we have enjoyed so many magical, meaningful moments together!
Yes. THAT is what you started Hutch … when you moved into 46A Street and moseyed across the cul-de-sac with a couple of brewskies to see what my hubby was up to in the garage. And since that time, you boys have spent considerable time in our garage.
Yep … your buddy (aka my hubby) has been refurbishing and restoring his ‘other’ love for the past 20+ years. So … he spends a fair bit of time in the garage with his 1968 Firebird … which he affectionately calls his ’68 chick’. I, on the other hand, being 10 years older than his flashy red muscle car … hold the respected position of being his ’58 chick’. I know … I know … I know what you are thinking Hutch … but this is no time to discuss the fact that I, too, could benefit from a little refurbishing! THIS blog is about YOU! Yes. So, let’s just leave it at that, okay? I hope you are nodding your head. 🙂
Because of you Hutch … we have enjoyed more succulent, scrumptious Sunday suppers than we ever could have imagined! It’s been no less than a dietary blessing that you’ve kept renewing your subscription to Canadian Living! We have certainly reaped the rewards of you thumbing through the pages of that palate pleasing publication. Yep. Your culinary skills are hard to beat Hutch! Right now my memory banks are flooded with recollections of barbeques and fondues and salads and prawns the size of my fist and appy buffets and crab cakes and chicken and ribs and tacos and kabobs … and oh … even breakfast! I’ll never forget the year that John was away and you even cooked up a birthday breakfast buffet for me! I think my beautiful bestie was your talented and terrific sous chef that day! Thank you again for doing that!
And, because of you … we have also enjoyed exploring some incredibly delicious drinks and creative cocktails! As you know … I’m not much of a drinker … well … unless of course, there happens to be a nice Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon or Chianti or Merlot or Syrah or Tempranillo or Grenache or even a nice red blend … like Bodacious. Mmmm. Mmmm. Mmmm. Aside from that … I’ve always had a pretty picky palate when it comes to alcoholic beverages!
But … you sir … invited my taste buds to some unexpected places!! How about the Halloween when you spooked up your house with fuzzy spiders and other ghostly décor and invited us over for ghoulish drinks and some ghastly looking appys … !
And while those eyeball martinis were not a flavour favorite for me … sometime later … you did win me over with your seafood Ceasars! I wasn’t sure I’d like the texture of the scallops – but you sautéed them to perfection. Yep. Nothing short of extraordinary! Just look at all that delectable and spicy goodness!! Deelish! And so exquisitely presented too!!!
Yes, and I owe you big for nudging me even further out of my fermented grapes comfort zone while we were in San Antonio. It was so unbearably hot … and let’s face it … red wine is just not compatible with that kind of heat. No. Just not satisfying at all. BUT those margaritas that you introduced me to were SO refreshing! Especially when we got them ‘to go’ on the water taxi! And, it was soooo darn
thoughtful mischievous of you to ‘cool’ me off between the shoulder blades with your icy cold cup! But, then again, I should have known better! I’ve learned it’s always wise to keep an eye on you! 🙂
Yep, were it not for you, I never would have developed an appreciation for the divine deliciousness of Tequila! But not just any tequila. No, no, no! Remember the one we were sipping on at one of the local pubs while the four of us were playing Hangman on my tablet. Although I believe the Lanser duo won the game that time, the tequila was sure no winner on that occasion. I think I left my margarita on the table. Or maybe someone else drank it. I can’t quite remember … but … because of you, I have learned I’m a top shelf girl. And no worms. I make no apologies for being a bit uppity like that.
And, I’m not sure if we have sufficiently thanked you and my bestie (aka the “Margarita Queen”) for subsequently purchasing one of those Margaritaville Machines! Because of that wise investment, we need only make the long arduous trek across the cul-de-sac to savor an icy, frosted and salted margarita on the hottest days in our neighborhood!
OR … we now have the option to just take the makings for marvelous margaritas with us when we travel. Of course we’d only do so as a purely preventative measure. In case it gets hot. For example … it was a darn good thing we had it when we spent the night in the roaring metropolis of Pincher Creek! Nothing like a little slushy goodness to pick up the pace and perk up the spirits at a Ramada Inn located in the middle of nowhere! A much better option than watersliding! Clearly … 🙂
We ended up staying in that remote rural locale because your wife and I were running in the Buffalo Runners 10km race … across the scorching hot prairies. And, lucky for us, you fine fellas came along to support us. It made it even more fun. Although, in this picture … your buddy looks like he was up to something sneaky, doesn’t he??
That said, this seems the perfect time to acknowledge you Hutch for all the ways you have supported your wife over the years. You’ve been there to clap and cheer her on … whether she is running a race, or getting an academic degree or hiking a mountain or making her own makeshift Camino by walking 100km along the side of the highway right here in Alberta! Yes. We honor and admire you so much for being that kind of guy!
And, because of you Hutch … we have enjoyed some great trips together! In fact, were it not for you, John and I would never have ventured to San Antonio, Texas! And were it not for you … I’m not sure how long we would have loitered in the airport trying to locate our luggage. Remember the shocked looks on our faces when we discovered our connecting flight in Denver had been cancelled!! Gah! And so, in order to get us to San Antonio … our luggage had to take a different plane … arriving at a different time! We’d never before heard of Frontier Airlines … but somehow you figured out where to look … and the lost was found! And remember our fun evening at the Howl at the Moon Saloon! Those dueling pianos were fabulous!
In addition to San Antonio, we’ve shared some great times in Waterton Lakes National Park! I’ll never forget getting drenched in an unexpected downpour while kayaking on the previously peaceful and placid Cameron Lake.
And then there was the Opera in Calgary! If memory serves me correctly, we had to turn back in the middle of a snow storm on our first attempt to experience such a fancy and cultured night of entertainment. And, when we eventually claimed our rain check, it seemed like John and Marie enjoyed the arias, but alas … didn’t you and I prefer a little less polish? I think we preferred listening to the live band at the Irish Pub afterwards.
And we had a great time in Kimberley … we even took a tour of the …. uhm … I don’t remember what it was called. Something about mining and trains, right?? There is no shortage of adventures to behold when we are travelling together! It was really very fascinating! And … it’s important to do what interests you boys too … at least on rare occasion … right?
Speaking of more ‘manly’ adventures … John just reminded me of the time you guys took the ’68 chick for it’s maiden voyage … after the main body work was completed … only to have the lug nuts come off of the rims … while you were cruising down the highway! I think you should know he’s blaming you for that whole debacle … saying that somehow you must have “jinxed” it. Uhm … okay. And, I bet it was ‘your’ fault, too, when you boys barely limped home after golfing in Cardston and the old girl was only running on seven cylinders. Gah. Yeah … I’ve had plenty of wild rides in that ’68 chick myself! I remember running out of gas … ‘cuz apparently the fuel tank was not connected properly and it only appeared that we had a full tank. Yep. She’s always full of surprises. Nonetheless, your buddy sure loves her! 🙂
Where to next, Hutch? Nashville maybe?? How good do you think we would be at karaoke? Or … maybe we can just listen to the famous country crooners? And, if its hot, we could probably find some top shelf margaritas? If not, I bet they have a lovely red wine. Or beer? Not that beer appeals to me … but the three of you could enjoy a nice tall cool one while we soak up some sad, ‘she stole my heart and wrecked my car’ country ballads. It might not be Roy Orbison or Jerry Lee Lewis … but … I bet they’d get our toes tapping! Or maybe, in the midst of all that talent, we’d cut a rug and do some two stepping! You just never know. I’m up for another adventure somewhere… but, let’s not take the firechicken.
Speaking of great talent … well … because of you Hutch, I have been humbled at cards. I must publicly concede that you are very savvy and skilled when it comes to playing Hearts. It’s true. In fact, more often than not, you are entirely heartless! Pun intended!! And, because you are so dang good at the game, it’s no wonder I have to gloat … incessantly and most obnoxiously … whenever I beat you.
Scores like those just never get old for me. Look … even way back in 2015 … I took you down … a few times. I sure had fun!! And … you’re always a good sport about it! Yep. You take it so well.
I guess its a good thing you have other fingers to fall back on when you are in a card slump. Your thumb, for example. There is no denying that you have the greenest of green thumbs! Your yard and garden are always so impeccably tended. And … because of you … we get to enjoy the finest fruits of your labor! I’ll never forget the first time you wandered over in your bare feet … toting a beautiful bouquet of handpicked flowers. My hubby razzed you … speculating “what will the neighbors think?” about you bringing your buddy’s bride some flowers! But, it never concerned you … it’s just your nature to generously gift the goodness and grace of your gorgeous garden! Thank you so much for my annual bouquets!
And, speaking of annual joys … there is nothing quite like transforming some of your vegetable harvest into our annual borscht making extravaganza! We started off making one mega pot full. Now we do four at a time … yielding oodles of containers for our freezers!
The chopping and cutting is always more fun when we do it together … and then while its cooking … we get to play some cards. Oooops. Sorry Hutch. Didn’t mean to bring up that sore spot again! I know it’s been a bit of dry spell, but I bet you’ll win again …………… sometime. Really. Don’t let yourself lose
at hearts heart. LOL. Oh dear … I sense I’m getting obnoxious again, aren’t I??
Okay. Maybe we best get back to discussing your skills in the garden! I mean … how does your garden grow? Prolifically! Sheesh … just look at those gargantuan carrots!!
And, this picture so fondly reminds me of times when our kids and grandkids have been home during the summer months. And, you will wander over with handfuls of fresh dug carrots for our grandchildren. And sometimes you’ll take the kids back over to your house so they can dig them up themselves. And wasn’t it because of a trip to your garden that Trad discovered carrots grew in the ground before they ended up on the grocery store shelves?
Yes, your generous love for children has always been so apparent … even long before you became a grandpa yourself! You’d thoughtfully deliver your enormous metal Tonka “diggers” and/or simply play with our grandkids and/or have merciless water fights with them and/or tease them in the most affectionate way! It was so cute how you and Luka developed such a special bond when he was a toddler. He’d often arrive at our house and the first thing he’d say was “Where’s John?” Yep. You stole his heart. And so, because of you Hutch … my grandchildren have always had way more fun when they come to visit!
Our grandkids have always felt so welcomed to exist in your presence. You have such a meaningful way of making them feel significant and special. In fact, they have been known to arrive at your door to visit … without us knowing … and with no invitation from you … and with no sense that they might have been overstaying their welcome! Thank you for sending them back to tell us when they are going to be playing at your house! 🙂
In fact, you have cultivated such a wonderful relationship with all of our family members. Even with my in-laws … when they were still alive. I found this great picture of you and Opa sharing a chuckle … during one of our pig roasts, I think. Thank you Hutch for holding such a caring and compassionate and supportive place for all of our family. It means the world to us … and … we know how much they always enjoy time shared with you.
And most certainly, this tribute to you and for you would not be complete without acknowledging and honoring the precious relationship you also embraced with my beautiful Skruffi! There was no doubting how much she adored you. You’d barely get in the door and she’d insist upon getting up onto your lap. Yes. And, because of you … we were able to enjoy some extensive travels, secure in the knowledge that you’d be making sure my beloved kitty never got too lonely. Thank you for leaving the comforts of your own home and coming over to watch TV with our kitty … not just once … but every time we went on vacation!! Yes. Skruffi always had a soft spot for you too Hutch! Well … actually, I think the feelings were mutual … ❤
And … I’m not even going to hold it against you that you also stole our other cat’s heart – so much so that she left us and literally moved in with you. Yes, its true. Because of you … Dharma (aka Dharmee) had a better life at your house than she ever would have had at mine. May both their precious spirits rest in the sweet peace of knowing how much they were loved.
And, I have yet to mention what an exceptional father and grandfather (aka: “Papa”) you are. It is nothing short of sublime to bear witness to the joy in your eyes and the full swell of your heart as you interact with your sweet little grand-daughter. I’m guessing their aren’t too many “papas” who are as tight with their grandbaby as you are Hutch. It is completely unarguable … your sweet little Miss Aubree adores YOU! Once again, its obvious that the feelings are mutual.
And look at you breaking out those moves Hutch!! 🙂 Yes … there is no denying you are such a gift to your entire family. You’ve created a family of deep value Hutch … which … you clearly value so deeply. It is a joy to spend time with all of you!
Okay … I’m not done yet! This tribute would not be complete without acknowledging that, because of you … New Years Eve is always such a great time … with a bevy of appetizers and some cards and, of course, the five questions. And … although the five questions are not your favorite part … we’ve been known to surprise ourselves, year after year, by staying up way too late … with frost in our hair from hot-tubbing in sub-zero temperatures – ringing in the New Year with loads of laughs and countless chuckles … and … a wee bit of bubbly. Oh … and angel making! Well … one of us remains without halo … but I won’t mention any names!
Oh … and that reminds me … thank you for choosing your wife. I love her too! Yes. Good thinking Hutch! I think we are both so much better because you chose her! ❤ ❤
We are so grateful for the happy hours we get to spend with you two … relaxing around the fire pit in the summer … and … cozied up in front of your fireplace in the winter. Yes. Those times always make us happy! And, for some reason as I say that, I am reminded of the time we ended up making paper airplanes … complete with a small competition for whose would fly the furthest! I remember you had a special plan … for a bomber … that bombed. BUT … when it was all said and done, I think your aircraft emerged victorious! Yes. There were a lot of noses bent out of shape during those shenanigans … but only the paper planes!
And so … I have only highlighted a smattering of all the ways in which our lives are better because of you Hutch. And, we eagerly anticipate many more moments to come that will be infinitely better because of you. And … as you join John and I in the sixth decade of your life … we hope that your days are filled with multitudes of moments that are magical and meaningful and magnificent and memorable! We want to wish you all the very best that an old guy can manage … and … I, for one, might even be happy for you to win a game or two of Hearts.
But maybe not tonight … 😉
We look forward to seeing you later Hutch! Your buddy is cooking … and … Marie and I will be there to supervise his efforts! May the quantity of our celebration and the quality of the cuisine be fit for a queen! Maybe the queen of spades!?! Sheesh … I just can’t stop myself! 🙂
What I meant to say is this:
May this day and all the days hereafter be fitting for a birthday boy of your calm .. caring .. considerate .. compassionate .. capable .. clever .. candid .. confident .. creative .. conscientious .. comical .. captivating and charismatic calibre!!
Happy, happy, happy SIX ZERO … from your buddy and his ’58 chick! We raise our glasses to you … with the utmost appreciation and reverent regard for all the ways our lives are better because of you!
With 60 Cheers and much love … ❤ John and Karen ❤
P.S. A post birthday celebration UPDATE: We enjoyed a fabulous paella … Hutch’s favorite cheesecake … and … two rounds of hearts! And low and behold … it went both ways! And, I shall say no more about it! 🙂
I was scheduled to receive my 20 year long service recognition award at an agency function on Saturday, January 12 … but … because I won’t be at the gathering, I had arranged for my colleagues to accept it on my behalf. They agreed to record the moment, so that I too, could listen to my “acceptance speech”. The whole idea made my heart smile. Unbeknownst to me, however, I learned plans had changed, and it was supposed to be presented to me during our monthly staff meeting instead. And so, being one who can typically fly by the seat of my pants, I agreed to accept the award, at the meeting, with about 10 minutes advance notice.
Well … it had been quite an unusual staff meeting – leading to all kinds of unexpected moments. I was still feeling a bit rattled, and so, when it came time for me to offer a few words, I kept it really short and simple. I remember briefly acknowledging my heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to my colleagues – with some slightly gushing but entirely genuine generalities. In retrospect, I regret that I hurried my words … and … I recognize that I didn’t do justice to the fullest expression that actually fills my heart space when I looks back over my time with Barons-Eureka-Warner Family and Community Support Services [FCSS].
Now that I’ve had more time to gather myself and collect my thoughts, I would like to use this “Better Because of You” space to more deeply honor the folks that have framed my remarkable two decades as an employee of FCSS. Because, after all, it is not the walls that define one’s experience in a workplace, but the people within them. Each and every one of them. And, believe it or not, our agency has not seen much staff turnover over the past 20 years. I wish I had more photos right now … so I could picture everyone, but unfortunately, I do not.
I remember my interview, way back in 1993, for one of the six “Parent Programmer” contract positions that were being filled. We would be allotted 20 hours/month to support families in our communities … with the most noble job on the planet … parenting. I was up against one other applicant … a woman who had some shiny credentials and fancy letters behind her name. I had neither of those. And then, during the interview, when they asked something about my own childhood, my ‘got-it-all together‘ demeanor was unbecomingly betrayed by some tender tears trickling down down my cheeks. Argh. There I was, trying to be my best professional self … trying to put my best face forward … and … my cheeks were wet with tears. Who cries in a job interview?? Double argh! I am usually really good at
managing, hiding my emotions.
No one was more surprised than me when I got the call to say I got the job! They did suggest … however … that I might also want to get some counseling to help me work through my own family of origin stuff. Fair enough. And, that framed my beginning with an agency that clearly looked beyond academic credentials. I must humbly concede, however, that I never hastily heeded their sage suggestion that I seek some support. Instead, I eagerly and enthusiastically immersed myself in my brand new responsibilities as a ‘parent programmer’!
I loved, loved, loved my work for a couple of years. But then … as my unhealed wounds from the past caught up with me, I ran into some significant challenges with raising my own three daughters. It got to the point where I no longer felt credible enough to presume I had any business trying to help others with their parenting concerns. And so … I quit my job. And, I recognized that I best seek out that counseling that my employers had so earnestly recommended when they hired me. And so, I did.
The irony of it all was that my childhood dream was to become a counselor . But … there I was, calling a counselor instead of being one. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. And so … a couple of years of healing later, when an opening emerged in the Parenting Program I initially resisted applying for it. But then, I received an unexpected call from my prior supervisor … asking me if I was going to apply. I was convinced that my own personal
failings experiences in the parenting trenches would prevent other parents from respecting anything I had to offer in that professional role … but she indicated that management was hoping to see my application in the pile.
Encouraged by their faith in me, I submitted my resume and started back with FCSS in September of 1997. And … guess what? It turns out that parents find you even MORE credible when you can relate to their stumbles and struggles. It turns out, you are even more approachable and believable when you have endured some humbling parenting moments yourself. Yes, it turns out that parents who are looking for support don’t feel as comfortable with professionals whose parenting journey sparkles with too much perfection.
And so … was the second beginning of my employment with FCSS … and … the 20 consecutive years that preceded the presentation of my long service award. There have been both blessings to behold and challenges to be championed over my time with FCSS. In the early years, I was so timid and shy that I blushed every time I spoke up in a meeting … which was rare (the speaking – not the blushing!). I am such an introvert and really need time to process things before I speak. And so, by the time I had integrated the conversation and knew what I wanted to say … the discussion had already moved on. So I often said nothing. These days, I am more likely to interrupt and ask if we can circle back to the prior conversation … so I can add my two cents. I think my colleagues are getting used to that … :-).
I can honestly say that I am so much better, both personally and professionally, because of my time with FCSS. It really grew me as a person. I found a deeper sense of faith in myself. I have discovered that my heart can be trusted and my instincts are reliable. I have learned to claim my voice and to stand behind my convictions. I’ve always had a compassionate heart … but as Joan Halifax has so eloquently stated … in order to ultimately serve the greatest good …. we need to approach our experiences with a “soft front” and a “strong back”. Yes. I’ve learned that well.
I don’t talk about it much, but I experienced some of the most critically challenging times in my life while working with FCSS. At the worst point, about 15 years ago, I was being shunned in my multi-disciplinary workplace … by the bulk of my colleagues … who believed some misinformation circulating about me. I opted to take the high road. I thought it best to not get into the muck with the perpetrator (another colleague) by defending myself against such twisted ‘truths’. I hoped my actions would outweigh her words. But … as the gossip increasingly fueled my ostracization, it got to the point where I could barely force myself through the doors to face the hostility I felt in their scathing but silent condemnation.
And , I just kept turning the other cheek … thinking that response was the most noble thing to do. I told myself that she was wounded … and … reminded myself that “hurt people hurt people”. And while I still believe that to be true, I was fooling myself to think it was more spiritually enlightened to simply let it continue to happen. I didn’t realize, at the time, that despite one’s understanding of why people might be behaving badly … it is not kind nor altruistic to continue to allow them to do so.
I needed to find my back bone. I was being bullied and no one was coming to save me. Not even me. No. With my silent stoicism, I was actually enabling someone to hurt me.
When I received a disdainful email from said ‘hurt person’ in another blatant effort to further diminish me … I couldn’t take the seemingly ‘high road’ anymore. I found my back bone. And … as I learned to stand strong in my own integrity, things eventually corrected themselves. And my colleague finally found herself being held accountable for her words, actions and deeds. And then, one day, she was gone.
I vowed to myself, at that time, that I would never let that happen again … to me or anyone else. I vowed that when I saw injustice or harm being perpetrated upon another … I would not step over it. I would speak up and stand up … not with any intention to cause harm to them, but with the intention to help the situation.
And for the better part of my years with FCSS, we were blessed with an Executive Director who was an exceptional visionary. He stretched us to places we never would have gone without his leadership. We became a cutting edge agency … partnering with the highly-esteemed leaders of the Neuroscience department of the University of Lethbridge. Bryan Kolb and Robbin Gibb became part of our FCSS family. Under Greg’s initiative, we were also gleaning new direction by rubbing shoulders with incomparable thinkers like Bruce Perry. Collectively, their bodies of work and expertise informed and underpinned our practices as we sought to support individuals and families in our communities. Greg was also inspired by the renowned Mary Gordon and her foundational work with Roots of Empathy and Parent Link Centres. Mary came to Alberta and helped FCSS introduce these remarkable supports so that children could to get off to the very best start in their lives. Oh my … I can’t begin to list it all … but Greg’s legacy is long and lives on in the hearts and souls of so many who were lucky enough to be touched by his vision.
And, his staff rose to the occasion. He told me once, he hired people based upon their attitudes not their credentials. Some might scoff at that … but … he indicated that you can teach people skills, but you can’t transform their hearts as easily. I agree with him. And … the people he chose to fill positions within FCSS … aka my colleagues … are people of incredible heart and unparalleled zeal and exceptional passion. Together we braved all the unknown territory our Director invited us to venture towards. And we formed an incredibly tight family that was often the expressed envy of other agencies and organizations. Staff morale was high and so was staff retention. We felt valued and acknowledged and appreciated … not simply seen as a means to an end … but rather he regarded his staff as exemplary catalysts creating a better and brighter future for those we sought to serve. And, we didn’t want to let him down. And, we never left a meeting without him sincerely acknowledging our efforts with a “thank you for all that you do”.
Thank you Greg Pratt, for your insight and intention. Thank you for creating a work space that no one wanted to leave. May you rest in peace.
Almost 15 years ago, Greg allowed me to reduce my hours so I could resurrect my dreams and go back to school. He certainly had no obligation to grant my request. I will never forget him compassionately responding, “Karen, I would never want to stand in the way of anyone’s dreams”. People first.
And ultimately, I got the credentials that allowed me to land my dream job. And … as it happened, I was even able to remain employed at FCSS while doing it. I surrendered my duties and responsibilities within the Parenting Program and claimed a space that opened up within the Counselling Program. It has been the most rewarding time of my life. So much so … that … I am in violation of the number of vacation days I am allowed to accrue. True story. I was informed that I need to use up my vacation time in order to be in compliance with policy.
But, even the dreamiest part of my job has not been without challenges … and/or … opportunities to keep a soft heart and exercise a strong back. Once again, about five years ago, FCSS was the backdrop to another of the most challenging times in my life. And, even when I was threatened with a law suit … a potential end my dream career … I was committed to standing strong. I had taken heartfelt exception to what I was seeing and simply could not stand idly by and watch vulnerable people get harmed … however unwittingly by their well-intended but oblivious and cavalier perpetrator. I had to take the risk. Strong back, soft front. Fortunately … the individual opted to retire.
And, I know I could not have made it through those challenging times, were it not for the support and encouragement I received from my management team and my cherished counseling colleagues at FCSS. Yes. Management stood behind my decision and that helped fortify my resolve. I owe tremendous thanks to them for having my back … on that occasion and many others. I also applaud them for gently helping me to shift my gaze, if and when, I needed correction. The blessings of solid, predictable management over the past 20 years cannot be understated.
And, my counseling colleagues at FCSS have become my safe haven. They are among the few people in the world who I invite into the most tender parts of my heart space. And, they have handled the most fragile parts of my soul with such impeccably compassionate understanding. I have grown immeasurably because of the support of these folks.
And, because we work in different departments and different communities at FCSS, I don’t see everyone all the time … but I hold the deepest regard for each of the staff at our agency. And that doesn’t mean we always see eye-to-eye on things. We don’t. And we’ve had some prickly times as a result. But, as I shared with someone recently, “From where I am looking, its not the bumps that ultimately define us, but rather, it’s how we decide to move through them.” And, it cannot be argued that despite any differences we may hold, we share an unfailing commitment to serve the constituents of our communities … to the very best of our capacities. People first.
I must also take this moment to pay due respect to our administrative staff. Your impeccable skills and unfailing expertise provide such a secure foundation upon which the rest of us have come to depend. Your energy, effort, enthusiasm, encouragement and support are second to none. Thank you for holding us together with such dignity and grace … despite our messed up time sheets (among other things!)
And, I would be remiss to not acknowledge the Boards of Directors we have seen over the years. Their dedication to keeping FCSS funded and recognized in our communities has been essential. We have been led by some incredibly inspiring individuals. Thank you for spearheading our services and gifting us with the best supports you could provide.
And, as I write this, I am leaving for the weekend to celebrate my 60th birthday … which is officially in a few weeks. And … as I am honored for my 20 years of commitment within FCSS, it strikes me that I have spent a full ONE THIRD of my life working within this agency. And, I am so proud of who we have been and who we have been invited to become. Strong back … soft front … people first.
At our last staff meeting, we were invited to reflect upon our journeys as employees of FCSS. I, once again, found unexpected tears trickling down my cheeks. I am not prone to such emotional expressions during meetings … but … in that moment, my heart was flooded with all the amazing moments and memories that I have collected over the last couple of decades. And, it is difficult to put into words … just how transformational it can be when people have believed in you and invited you to soar. It is rare to work in a space where people have honored your presence and valued your being. My time at FCSS has been such a gift …
And … so … it is from the most humble place in my heart, I thank all of the bright and beautiful spirits that make FCSS a workplace where priority is given to the souls that we serve … not just the statistics we are required to collect. I honor you all for keeping your eyes on our mandate’s most precious commodity … it’s humanity. I applaud each of you for the tireless hours you invest into the care and support of those who might have minimal resources and/or may be struggling in isolation to find their way. I admire your capacity to keep your own hearts soft … despite many invitations for them to get tough. I respect your courage to stand in the truth or your own beings. I adore your authenticity and sincerity and genuineness of spirit. I love being a part of this impeccable group. I am proud of who we represent and what we are capable of creating when we put our hearts and spirits together in the name of FCSS.
Thank you … truly … deeply … immeasurably … for shaping my days with this agency. I am so much better because of you … and my twenty plus two years with FCSS.
Yes … this is what I wished I would have said at our staff meeting … Karen
The last time I saw her was a few years back. We had been waiting in line for quite some time and were just being seated at our table at the IHOP that had recently opened in Lethbridge. Teresa had already eaten and was just leaving … but after enjoying one of her big warm embraces she slid into our booth for a quick catch up. We ended up chatting for about an hour before we even ordered … annoying the heck out of our waitress … but it was so good to see her again!! I remember she recommended the Red Velvet Pancakes! 😊
I met Teresa some 30 years prior in the small, rural town of about 900 people where we were both living at the time. Aside from the fact we were going to be on the same ladies slow-pitch team we seemed to have very little in common. I’m not exactly sure what drew us together because Teresa was single and I was married. She had no children and I was the mother of three daughters. She was strong, athletic and more tom-boyish. I was a bit scrawny and entirely, totally and completely a girly-girl. Teresa was more earthy … a sweat pants and t-shirt kind of gal. I, on the other hand, was more likely to show up at ball practice wearing purple mascara (it was all the rage three decades ago!) and a color-coordinated outfit complete with some ‘sporty’ accessories. She was small town savvy with a warm and welcoming spirit. I was a transplanted big city girl more rooted in the cosmopolitan energy of my urban upbringing.
I was the consummate people-pleaser and Teresa was all about telling it like it is. She also didn’t mind making a little mischief and pulling a few pranks every now and again. Such antics made me a bit nervous. I was such a goody two shoes … always worrying about doing whatever was appropriate. No one could string together a bold, bright and bodacious list of cuss words like she could! She did it so effortlessly and exuberantly and with such delightful flair. Ha Ha.
I just can’t help but chuckle as I reflect back on her most delightful mix of spectacular sparkle and gregarious grit. Our connection clearly transcended all these more superficial differences. Maybe she saw clear through to the insecurity tucked safely behind my ‘I’ve got it all together’ mask. Maybe I saw through to the hurts hiding behind her cheeky and mischievous grin. Yes. I think it’s fair to say our hearts spoke clearly to one another. I remember sharing some tender and intimate conversations about life and love and our ‘maybe one day’ dreams. And, of course there were oodles of loud laughs. I will never forget her contagious and very unabashed propensity to push the boundaries until we howled with laughter!
As I shared, the first time I met Teresa we were putting together a ladies slow-pitch team. We called ourselves the Hayden’s Hosettes. Somehow we thought it apropos to name ourselves after the infamous ‘hoser’ routines inspired by the renowned Bob and Doug McKenzie.
Meet one iteration of the Hayden’s Hosettes! Given the look on Teresa’s face (far right), I am guessing she said something cheeky (or entirely inappropriate) that really struck me funny (second from the left). I see from the caption that we took the trophy for first place in 1987! I could be wrong but I think we claimed that honor for a few years.
Speaking of trophies … Teresa engaged her creative artistry one year at our year-end team party. We ‘roasted’ each other lovingly and Teresa made me an exceptional one-of-a-kind trophy!! I was the pitcher and always wore shin pads to protect myself from the line drives coming right back at me. So, anyway, Teresa fashioned up a ‘shin-pad’ trophy made from two long, winged, thick and super absorbent maxi pads! To say it was priceless is a complete understatement. Words alone cannot do it justice! Sadly, I can’t find my picture of it … but I KNOW I had one! So, if anyone of you Hosettes out there still has a picture of it, I’d sure appreciate a copy!! Anyway, here is a verbatim copy of what Teresa said when she presented me with her artistic masterpiece!
Teresa was always full of surprises. One year on my birthday she told me she would like to take me for lunch. I could not believe my eyes when we arrived at Nonna’s Pizza and I discovered she had organized a surprise birthday lunch for me! The tables were filled with my team-mates … and … my heart was filled with humble and deep gratitude. ❤
Yes. Teresa was one of a kind. Whenever she’d get a twinkle in her eye and that mischievous grin crossed her face we knew were were in for some good ole fashioned fun and frolic! There was a lot of that whenever she was around. She and I partnered up and played a season or two of wally-ball together too! Yes … we spent many a Friday night in the racquetball courts behind Fishers Pharmacy playing four-person co-ed volleyball using the walls on the court! I don’t think we won any trophies, but we certainly shared some smiles as we bounced those balls back and forth.
Teresa touched so many people in so many meaningful ways! In fact, so much so, that three times as many people as were expected arrived to pay our respects and celebrate how much she impacted our lives! Although Teresa moved away from our little town to the city some 25ish (?) years ago, she never moved out of my heart. We didn’t see much of each other after than geographical shift, but her exceptional presence stayed etched in my heart.
My life in that little town was infinitely better because of you Teresa Ann Ternes. And, although you have left this earth long before anyone ever anticipated, you have not left our hearts. A piece of your spirit will stay with me always. Thank you for accepting me … for lovingly scoffing at my various foibles … for compassionately seeing beyond our superficial differences … and … for sharing your heart so generously. You were such a special gift to me. You always will be.
And the beauty of your special soul forever lingers ❤ … Karen