Dwayne and Cheryl … So Many Moments Were So Much Better Because of You!

built-on-alcohol

Yes!  Over the years we shared oodles of shenanigans, a dash of sarcasm, a wee bit of inappropriateness and possibly a drink or two!!

You came to mind yesterday.  Again.  I can’t even begin to tell you how often I think of the times we shared in that little town.  I’ll never forget the day you moved in … across the street on the other corner … kitty corner to our house.  Your kids found our kids outside and they played together while you unpacked.  I remember inviting you into the house when you came to collect Chris and Alicia.  I fondly recall Alicia introducing you to Brittany as her “best friend”.

alicia-and-brittany

I found this pic of them … weren’t they cute?!?!

You’d been unpacking for hours.  I thought you were probably hungry.  I asked if you wanted to stay for pizza.  Dwayne responded, “What kind is it?”  Initially, Mr. Hill, I was a bit thrown by your unapologetic transparency.  If the shoe had been on the other foot, I would have forced myself to be polite to the strangers and eat the pizza … even if it had mushrooms and peppers on it … but not you.  As I so fondly recall the moment, you said you really liked peppers but they didn’t like you.  And, I remember we laughed at your candor.  It was the beginning of a very honest, authentic and true friendship.  It was such a gift to us … you both were such a gift to us.  We’ve shared so much over the years.

John and Dwayne even shared a birthday!  I’ll never forget the year that Cheryl very patiently put my perfectionist self in place when we were preparing a nice birthday supper for the birthday boys.  She had arranged the cheese on the plate … which I re-arranged  … just slightly.  When I told her the peas were done, she nodded her head and then kindly double checked with me about whether I had ensured each of those peas were strategically placed and symmetrically arranged into the serving dish. Bam. I know I blushed.  And we laughed. And Cheryl has the most contagious laugh.  We spent a lot of time laughing. Thanks for tolerating my most unbecoming foibles Cheryl.  ❤

Speaking of birthdays … remember we had a surprise party for John’s 40th birthday?  Everyone came dressed as old people … so he could feel young.  Dwayne was camouflaged perfectly into the couch!!  I had filled balloons with water to enhance the look of my sagging bossom … and of course … someone popped them. We all howled with laughter. I was a wet mess. It was such a fun night.  Look at you two old farts!!!  Ha ha.

Yes, we shared some very fun shenanigans/parties over the years.  I found some pics of our New Years Eve Beach Bash in 1990.  I think it was frightfully cold outside … but we were all sporting our summer finest!  Yep. Lots of laughs as we fantasized about playing in the sunshine while welcoming the New Year!

beach-party-1990

Oh gosh … and remember all the fun we had on a real beach!  Well … not actually a five star kind of beach … but the best beach we could find on the prairies in Southern Alberta Canada!!  We did have loads of fun during our impromptu days at Lake Newell!  When the weather was perfect, we’d gather everyone who could come … throw together a pot-luck of food and drink … and off we would go.  We always liked to be away from the resort area in a more remote and secluded spot.  Remember getting stuck in the sand … ??

lake-newell     That’s you Dwayne … on the bottom right walking away from the water … in the pink hat!

And Cheryl, remember the years we attended “Stitch and Bitch” together … on Wednesday mornings if memory serves me right.  Didn’t we crochet Easter baskets using left over margarine containers? I might even still have one of those kicking around the crawl space!  🙂  And … I’ll never forget the year that you were laid up and made oodles of plastic mesh Christmas ornaments. I think I stole a few off your tree.  You made me some of my own when you noticed they were missing!!  It was hilarious! My heart still smiles in fondest recollection when I place them on our tree each year.

And that reminds me of the years we attended Ladies Time Out.  Remember the Christmas Cookie Exchange we did every year with that wonderful bunch of women?  I found a pic of us getting together at my house for Christmas … our hair had no grey in it.

ladies-time-out                   There you are Cheryl … on the end … looking beautiful in black and white!

Oh … and what about all the fun we shared on the ball diamond!!  We spent a lot of time catching balls and swinging bats and running the bases!  We played both the Mixed League on Friday nights … and … Cheryl and I played on our ladies team.  Three cheers for Hayden’s Hosettes … aren’t we looking stylish in our pink and mint green uniforms.  Tee Hee.

haydens-hosettes

And, oh my goodness, Dwayne … remember our ongoing hockey rivalry?  You being a staunch Calgary Flames fan and us all about the Edmonton Oilers!!!  I remember awakening one morning to find a gigantic sign that you had stapled to our fence  … you were unabashedly and blatantly mocking our team!!  We couldn’t let that go unanswered … so we retaliated by ‘changing’ the sign slightly and placing the strategically re-worded sign right uptown on the community bulletin board.  Oh gosh … what good-natured banter we always had with you!!!!!

hockey-shenangigans-with-mr-hill

And, of course … some of my very fondest memories are of the multiple years we went house-boating together as families.  Remember our first year out on the lake together? I will never forget the look on Chris’s face when he arrived on board and noticed our bin of beer!! Ha. Ha.  Still makes me laugh. To date  it is still one of the best family holidays we have ever taken.  It inspired years of ‘let’s do that again’.

houseboating-with-the-hills

Yes, we had so many good times on both the water and on the shores of those Shuswap Lakes!!  Remember when the girls were playing Scattegories on the upper deck and some part of their game blew off?  It all happened so fast … but I remember the shock on all of our faces as Chris instantaneously performed the most magnificent dive off the top deck and most chivalrously retrieved the missing piece before it sunk out of sight!  Yes he did!  Chris was the lone boy (aside from the dads) on a boat loaded with estrogen. He certainly was the hero that day!

Oh … and remember when we limped our way back to the main dock in a storm … because our toilet system was firmly plugged?  We were holding both our bladders and our tempers in those delicate moments!  Didn’t we hear on the radio that someone’s TV had fallen off the wall on another boat because it was so rough out there?  And … we were also worried about the well-being of a couple of our kids who had gone off on a jet ski before the storm suddenly hit! Yikes!!  Fortunately, they found their way to shore … and eventually  … we found our way to them.

Oh yeah … and then there was the year that we refused to stay on the party beach!  We’d endured enough sleepless nights with our rowdy teenagers and we needed a good night’s sleep so we docked across the lake.  A couple of our teenagers (who shall remain nameless here) were determined to get over there … was it a Canada Day Celebration or something?  I don’t recall for sure … but they threatened to swim across once the rest of us were asleep.  Dwayne and John figured they could scare them into staying put  … so they hid in the bushes … in the pitch dark waiting to intercept them.  They growled so fiercely as those teenagers unwittingly passed before them!!  And boy oh boy … they really believed it was a bear!  Those two bolted like a couple of  terrified deer! We were just lucky they didn’t get hurt in their panicked flight of escape.  Ultimately, though, they opted to stay on shore with us.  Well done Dads!

Oh gosh … and I remember every once in a blue moon (while on a houseboat or in our little home town),  Dwayne would get a twinkle in his eye and say “I can feel a run-a-way coming on.”  Yep … we enjoyed, endured, experienced and even escaped just a few of those over the years.  I remember the worst of which never involved Dwayne!  Remember the fondue??  Poor John – yes, that is one that sure did get away on him!  We knew he was in deep trouble when he headed west on foot from your house on his way home.  The problem was that we lived just south east from you.  Yes … it was a really rough ending for him.

Somehow, though, he still enjoys his scotch!  Just recently he indulged himself with a pricey specialty bottle called “Battle of the Glen.”  Apparently it is one of only 4500 bottles.  Me thinks … in honor of your mutual love of scotch … he should wait until he can crack it open and share it with the two of you!!   I, on the other hand, will be happy sipping my vino.

dwayne-and-cheryl

I could say so much more … but let me end with this: I think of you both so often!!  I can even remember your phone number. And it saddens my heart that our paths just don’t cross anymore.  I miss sharing time with your special souls. I miss the shenanigans.  I miss the inappropriate hee haws.  I miss so many of those moments.  I hope that perhaps 2017 will welcome an opportunity for us to reconnect. The years have flown by and I’m sure we have so much to catch up on!! 🙂

In the meantime … I just wanted you to know that so many moments of my life were infinitely better because of you!!!  Thank you for enriching my minutes, days, weeks and years.  I love all our memories and I love you.

With so much gratitude for who you are and all you have meant to me, Karen

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A Precious Penny …

You know the old saying … ‘a penny for your thoughts’?  Well, I’d like to switch it up  and offer my ‘thoughts about a penny’.  A very precious Penny.  I’m not even sure how many years we’ve been doing it, but it’s become a very important tradition for us to sit and sip a little coffee together before the hustle and bustle of our workdays begins.

And, honestly, it’s become one of my favorite parts of the day. There is something so sublime about intentionally carving out a sacred space for some candid, honest and transparent sharing  … creating a conversational container to humbly honor our challenges and/or our curiosities.  And we have many of both … we are women and wives and mothers and daughters and friends and colleagues and travelers and theorists and philosophers. We have passions and fears and joys and sorrows and infinite wonderings about unknowable things. And, since we are both well ‘over the hill,‘ we have more than 1/2 of a century to reflect upon … ❤

Over the years, we have thoughtfully pondered the perplexing particulars of current events and politics and relationships and religion and parenting and social media and, perhaps the most daunting topic of them all, the unfamiliar terrain of our own internal landscapes. We’ve queried the quandaries about why things are the way the are … and … why they aren’t the way they aren’t … and … how we think they ought to be. And, although we’ve conceded that we’d make lousy CEOs of the Universe … we’ve definitely got oodles of ideas that might be worthy of consideration in the grander scheme of living and loving and learning.  Just sayin … 🙂

And as I reflect upon all of that, one of the things I most appreciate about you Penny is your absolute candor.  You truly are ‘so effortlessly yourself’ in a world where authenticity is often tucked tightly behind the social masks we don on a daily basis. So many of us stay veiled behind beautiful but culturally sanctioned masks … desperately yearning to tear them off on one hand, and yet on the other hand, achingly afraid to remove them for fear of being rejected, ostracized or shamed for who we really are under the polished veneer.

The world doesn’t make much room for us to speak straight up from our hearts … unless we comfortably conform to the norms of our spaces.  That is why it is so refreshing to spend time with you Penny.  You invite people to be real … to be authentic … to be true.  And, you create a safe and welcome space for us to do so.  And, I savor these moments of genuine transparency. It is rare to find such places in the world where one can unabashedly embrace their own uncertainties.  It is unusual to find such intimate spaces of discussion where a commitment to compassionate curiosity (for what we can’t personally understand) overrides snap judgments of others and/or uninvestigated biases. I value and admire your cautious, considerate and thoughtful efforts to honor differences without sacrificing honesty.

And, as much as I deeply respect your integrity and courage to speak about things that are so often silenced in our culture, I absolutely admire your uncanny capacity to frequently wrap such queries and/or observations with enough humor to leave us doubled up in laughter. It happens a lot!  And, in this moment, I am recalling one especially delightful conversation … pertaining to a particular kind of “fall out.”  The exchange left us howling ’til our sides hurt. I’d attempt to re-tell it here but 1) I’d never, ever do it justice and 2) I think you had to be there to really capture the hilarity of that moment!  This is why I loath to miss out on our early morning coffee date … there are so many conversations that just can’t be replicated. They are often precocious, invariably priceless and inevitably unrepeatable … in more ways than one!  🙂

Oh my … reflecting on those conversations reminds me to thank you for enriching my vocabulary with all kinds of exciting new expressions … words like ‘gob-smacked’ and ‘wanker’ (did I spell that right ?? … can I say that here??).  And, of course, along with your British accent, your breadth of experience and extensive world travel adds a very welcome and atypical flavor to our conversations. I revere your willingness to twirl perceptions about and tease them out gingerly before arriving at conclusions.

And, over time, our conversations have run the whole emotional gamut  … from wails of laughter clear through to some tears. I have fond memories of tender times between us … when the challenges of daily living left me feeling fragile and alone.  But you were there.  I have learned I can really count on you to be solid and supporting … even checking in on me later (via Facebook message, or a rap on my office door, or simply a knowing glance and smile).  Thank you, Penny, for holding me so safely and kindly and  compassionately when I have been feeling vulnerable and frail and weak and uncertain.

All in all, I hope you are hearing how much I treasure the depth of our relationship Penny. Its such a blessing to be able to embrace all the aspects of myself in your presence … both the desirable and undesirable, the acceptable and the unacceptable, the good and the bad. I can drop my mask in your presence Penelope Hopkins. And for that I am so truly grateful.  There are not very many people one can do that with … so the value of that gift is not at all lost on me. I know my life is better … because of you, because of our friendship … and because of who you welcome me to be in your presence.

Thank you for being such a precious part of my world … Karen

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My Heart Smiles More Because of You Jack!

My heart smiles more … because of you Jack – Jackie – Jackson!  And I thought that today, on the occasion of your birthday, would be a good time to honor and acknowledge a few of the ways that my soul is tickled by your exquisite existence.

While the light in your soul is always on and ever twinkling … my heart smiles a little bigger on the mornings I arrive to work and see the light on in your office too.  The soft glow beaming from your window is so inviting … beckoning me to enjoy all the ‘little touches’ of heart and humanity that grace your office … tempting treats on the table, birthday balloons honoring your colleagues, coffee station thoughtfully re-stocked, and attention to various other details too numerous to mention.  All of this, along with your warm smiles, richly reflects the benevolent beauty of your spirit.

And so, often before the sun is up,  there we are  … sipping coffee while I enjoy my daily eggy sandwich … deliberately delaying the inevitable clamor of the daily workload and very purposefully disrupting the chaotic pace that often impedes our capacity to connect with each other at more meaningful levels. But for me, connecting heart-to-heart like that is one of the most nourishing ways to fortify a firm foundation upon which to build and balance the rest of my day.  So, thank you Jack for bringing so much ‘light’  to my world … both figuratively and literally!

My heart also smiles more because you are so deeply committed to exuding love and fostering kindness in this world!  And I see you achieving that goal in the manner that Gandhi so very sagely suggested … you are being  the change you wish to see in the world!  I know I am not alone when I say that you are one of those unique individuals that people feel truly blessed to have in their circles. I can feel you holding others with such tender care and compassion. I can see you stretching your heart to gently cradle people’s fragile spirits and/or tend to their wounded souls.  And, personally, I always feel deeply nurtured in your presence … and … for that I am truly grateful.

And, in keeping with that, my heart smiles more because you are so incredibly intuitive!  It seems you can somehow tap into the wisdom of the Universe. You instinctively sense things that most people don’t notice.  You tune into things that most people might not recognize.   And, you can see into people’s ‘inner being’ in such a unique and empathic way.  And, by doing so, you awaken a sense of security and safety for those in your midst.  And that  is such a delightfully rare gift to our humanity. And so, on behalf of so many of us, I thank you for that deep knowing.

And my heart smiles more when I see your social work studies inspiring your determination to hold hands with those who have lost their way and to stand in solidarity with those who have lost their voices.  And I love that we can share in the passionate pursuit of social justice … finding more space in our hearts for recognizing the challenges that people may be enduring, and investing more energy into resisting the dominant places where power and privilege can unfavorably continue to marginalize and oppress so many ‘others’.  Your altruistic intentions are a genuine blessing to so many.

And my heart smiles more  … often inspiring laughter until my cheeks hurt … because somehow you are adeptly able to juxtapose your thoughtful and wise ways with the most phenomenal sense of humor.  You never cease to amaze me with your quick wit and clever comebacks. You are just so darn funny!  There is no denying that much of the levity and laughter and light in our workplace is often fostered by you … 🙂

So Jack … let me be crystal clear … my heart smiles more because of all that you are  and all that you bring to our planet. I could say so much more … but please know that I am so grateful our paths have crossed. I look ever forward to the moments we get to amble along this journey with each other … knowing that the story of my life would not be as rich or rewarding without you in it!  Its all made so much better because of you …

And so, my heart is smiling even more today because it is your birthday!!!  And, I am hoping you can let these sincere sentiments land comfortably in your beautiful heart. May this little note expressing my fond appreciation add to the joys and delights and blessings of your celebration today! Happy, happy, happy birthday beautiful one!

With much love and heartfelt gratitude for your birth, Karen

P.S. Get ready to spend some time embracing your awesomeness … I’ll explain later!  ❤

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Some things are just better … with a nice bottle of wine!

wine

“Even though I know how to use a smartphone, I’d still rather go dancing than watch television, and I find nothing more satisfying than singing with my friends next to a fire.  We are here so briefly that missing a single opportunity to connect with people seems a crime.  That’s why we drink wine – it softens the hardness of the day, and loosens our tongues so that we may confide in a friend, share the day’s events with a spouse, or sparkle with a lover over a romantic dinner.  This is why we are alive – to be together.”   (Celia Ramsay)

A few years ago at an exceptional wine tasting in the heart of Tuscany, Italy … we were very sagely advised:  “if the wine doesn’t tell a story, it’s just business.”   We’d never before thought of it that way, but ever since then, we are always hoping to discover a great story on the label of an unfamiliar bottle. 

I received a bottle of RAMSAY for my birthday.  We’d never tried it before.  It is a very lovely Merlot from California and it might be one of my all time favorites in terms of the beautiful ‘story’ it told (as quoted above). I resonated so deeply with its message… well, except for the singing.  I do love a roaring fire, but I’m not much of a songbird.

And, not too long ago, we attended a wedding where the ‘story’ told on the bottles of wine provided on each of the tables was brilliantly incorporated by the mother of the bride into her extraordinary speech honoring the matrimonial couple.  The story that she created from the ‘story’ on the label stirred our sentiments and took our ‘toasts’ to an even more meaningful level.

But, not to worry if you are popping the cork on a bottle of vino that is “just business”. You can always create a meaningful story of your own with the memories you are making while you are sipping it with others.  As some wise but unknown soul once said: “Friends don’t let friends wine alone.”

Cheers … K 🙂

P.S.  We shared my birthday bottle of RAMSAY with our very good friends over a most delightful and delicious meal one Sunday night. And we unanimously enjoyed it’s flavor and fullness. The food and the friendship was exceptional too.  As always.  And we played cards (as we often do) … and … I think I won (as I often do).  Okay … as I often HOPE to do.  Nonetheless, as I recall on this particular evening, our typical game of Hearts became a real nail-biter. Nerves were clearly jangled as I pulled off some real ‘power’ moves … with a poker face and absolutely NO table talking. Well, okay … maybe a little table talk and probably some trash talk.  I remember one hand in particular being so well executed that I think I left them all speechless!  No, wait … maybe that was the time that I flubbed up so royally that we were all laughing hysterically. Well, whatever … the exact details aren’t all that important, because this is the ‘story’ I am telling about that night with our good neighbors and that lovely bottle of Ramsay.  🙂

 

Better Because of Your Luminous Light Debora …

Debora Bradley - 1

Source Unknown but Deeply Appreciated

Well, Debora Bradley, I can’t think of a more accurate description of the bright light that is you!!  Although there are many, many remarkable lightworkers in the world, your generous gifts of grace and your compassionate, caring contributions to humanity are all rendered visible in the loving-kindness that is so inextricably woven into your beautiful benevolent beingness.

While it’s a rare treat to see you in person,  I am so grateful that I do get to ‘see’ you on a regular basis on Facebook.  You inspire such rich traces of love with your thoughtful posts/responses/reflections … uplifting spirits whenever you add your ‘shares’ to those in your virtual circle.  Thank you for being the wind beneath so many of our wings.

Your energetic touch is infused with something so nurturing and nourishing in it’s comforting caress.   And I can actually feel it … each and every time it lands.  While I might scroll quickly over many of the posts that pop up in my news feed, I have learned not to skip over any of yours … lest I miss out on something inspiring, meaningful and/or clearly drenched in divinity.

Encourager Extraordinaire.

Compassion Crusader. 

Luminous Lightworker. 

Love Incarnate.

Yes, that is you Debora Bradley. I deeply appreciate you for steadfastly shining your radiant light into all of our orbits … like the facets of a diamond reflecting sunshine in limitless directions … scattering points of light with warmth and wild abandon. Thank you for persistently looking through a lens of love … both personally AND professionally  as a remarkable integrative life coach.  The energy of altruistic intention that inspires your countless contributions to our humanity is entirely transcendent.

Thank you for ‘being’ the change we need to see in the world.  I sense you are making a remarkable difference in our collective consciousness.  And, I for one, am so much better because of your precious presence in my life. I just wanted you to know that … ❤

With utmost reverence for light of love in your soul,   Karen

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Sari … I’m So Much Better Because of Your Rich Spirit!

Sari

We’ve been friends for 50+ years.  I call her “Shar” and she calls me “Care” (phonetically speaking).  We got to know each other best when seven of us were ‘accelerated’ in Mount Royal Elementary School and they made us sit together for a couple of years.  After that, Sari and I sat together because wanted to …

Sari was different … in some ways.  She could read aloud faster than anyone else in grade school. It boggled my mind.  And she always seemed so self-assured and confident.  And, she was/is so naturally beautiful … never used cosmetics.  In our teen years, just a touch of Vaseline on her eyelids if I recall correctly. She liked going barefoot. I tried pulling that look off a few times myself, but it never looked as cool on me as it did on her.  She probably has the cutest feet on the planet.  She had two big brothers and a gorgeous mom. She didn’t live with her dad either. And, although single parent families are fairly typical in this day and age, back when we were young, Shar and I were the only two I knew of who came from “broken homes.”  But I don’t think we ever talked about it.

And she knew ALL the yards to cut-through as we trekked umpteen blocks forth and back to school together over the years.  We knew we were smart, but I recall that one time in grade seven (maybe it was grade eight) we got really smart-mouthed and it got us separated in Mr. Poe’s class. I cowered. I wasn’t as brave as Sari was. I always admired how she listened to her heart.  I was always trying to please … and … she was no push-over. I admired that about her. I still do.

~ 13 years old ~

We were 13 in this picture … it was the year we started smoking … in her upstairs bedroom.  We spent 59 cents on a pack of Craven M smokes and learned how to inhale over peanut buttered toast and tea.  I’m not sure how long she kept it up, but I quit at 21.  I think my first taste of alcohol might have been with her too … at about the same age.  Sparkling wine … Baby Duck, Moody Blue or Lonesome Charlie.  Sari doesn’t imbibe at all any more. My palate, however, has become far more refined and sophisticated … Merlot, Cab Sav, Tempranillo, or Malbec.

Shar has always been more down to earth and wholesome than me.  She’s vegetarian and careful about additives and preservatives … she’s always been way more wary about what she puts into her body than me.  And far more discerning about where she puts her energy.  She has deliberately stepped out of the rat race as much as possible, for as long as I can remember. There was even a time when her children were small that she had no clocks.  While she was dancing often and stringing popcorn with fresh cranberries for her Christmas tree … I was getting completely consumed by the mainstream madness. Yep, she was way ahead of the curve … intuitively aligned with the richness and grace found in life’s precious simplicities.  I’m just catching up with her now …

After high school graduation, my mom and I moved away … about six hours away. I think we lost touch for a bit then … but it wasn’t for too long.  And now, here we are … still miles apart in geography, but really just inches apart in spirit.  For a while, we would occasionally split the difference and drive for three hours each in order to meet up in the middle.  We would sit in a restaurant for upwards of four hours … and … still not feel completely caught up. I remember my butt would hurt but my heart would be so happy and my mind would be stretched to whole new horizons!  Talking with Sari is like that …

Sari and I

And, maybe one of the things that is especially treasured for me is that she has been witness to my growth … not just physically, but emotionally and mentally.  I don’t have any siblings.  My parents are deceased.  So are all my aunts and uncles.  But, Sari knows who I used to be.  I don’t need to explain myself to her … she’s already got the back story that has helped shape me.  She was there for much of it … in my most formative years.

And, for me, to feel so deeply known is something very rare.  And exceptionally precious …

Somewhere along the way, we quit driving all that way.  She’s not on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram … so now we pick up the phone instead.  We have been doing it faithfully, twice a year, for many years.  She calls me for my birthday (February) and I call her on hers (July).  And, we have to be deliberate and thoughtful about when we choose  to call … because we are going to need a couple of hours … at least … for sure.

I cherish our conversations …. because they have such depth. Superficial ‘chit chat’ simply does not characterize our exchanges.  I think it is safe to say that it does not interest either of us. And I delight in the unique nuances that characterize her soulful spirit and evocative expression!  There is something so captivating about the way she strings her words together … with vibrant descriptors that might not be honored by Merriam-Webster but are so vividly apropos.  For example, she might be more likely to say “splooshing” than “splashing” or “moodling” than “pondering”. Yes, I’ve always loved that about her.  I still do.

“How are you?” is never just a nice, culturally normative greeting in our conversation.  I know she really cares about my answer … and … I feel comfortable to be real and honest and open and transparent with her. And Sari is, hands down, one of the best listeners on the planet.  I never feel like she wants to interrupt and redirect the conversation.  And I can sense that she is feeling my heart in my words and being a caring and supportive steward of it.  And she asks the most thought provoking and compelling questions. Her curious spirit invites consideration of previously obscured complexities and plunges us to juicier layers … propelling the conversation to a more raw, real and authentic place.  I have always deeply appreciated about her.  I still do.

Sari - grain and chaff

And, when it’s her turn to share, I really and truly want to hear all about the things that are kindling her internal fire and/or the details that are weighing on her heart and/or the mysteries that are sparking uncertainties in her clever mind.  She’s had her own fair share of heartaches and health issues … meeting them with strength and grace and the most inquisitive introspect. She’s always stretching herself to the next evolution of who she can be in the world.  I love that about her.

She’s still an avid reader and I am beyond grateful to her for introducing me to Marianne Williamson and Neale Donald Walsh and Wayne Dyer and so many other phenomenal perspective shifters. Were it not for Shar, my own persistent pursuit to self-awareness would have been far more shallow.  And, it is beyond wonderful to have another like-minded soul who is equally enthused about limitless possibilities, human potentialities and consciousness raising.  Yes, there are really not too many people who are so indescribably interesting to converse with … who can bring light to the dark hollows that I didn’t even know were within me.

So … Sari, this heartfelt compilation of ‘Better Because of You’ tributes would never be complete without acknowledging you!  I could never have anticipated that our connection would run so long or so deep …or feel so precious to me.  Our friendship feels like a gift that just keeps getting better and better and better and better.

Which reminds me …  I was listening to Pema Chödrön the other day … an audio recording of a course she taught called “Coming Closer to Ourselves.”   And, SHE reminded me so much of YOU … her intonations, her laugh, her humble expressions of awareness.  As odd as it sounds, it was all the better to feel such a connection to you while I was ‘coming closer to myself’.  Well, that has probably happened before … 🙂

Yes, it does not escape my awareness that I am so much better because of who you so generously invite me to be in our togetherness.  I remain eternally appreciative for all the rich spirit and spunky charisma you bring to our time together.  You are a cherished part of all that is divine in my life.

Joan - 2

And so, my cherished friend … thank you for being you!  Thank you for touching my life with your rich, authentic and genuine spirit. I admire and adore your being … and … I thank you for loving me for being me.

With eager enthusiasm for our next heartfelt exchange, Care  ❤ xoxo ❤

 

 

 

 

Better Because … You are Such a Beautiful Person Joan!

At a glance, our lives looked quite different.  Joan knew how to play piano.  I envied that about her until I saw how she was required to practice for 30 minutes everyday after school.  She also had to rotate the sheets on her twin bed weekly – i.e. take the top sheet and move it to the bottom of her bed … and then … the bottom sheet went into the laundry.  On Fridays, if memory serves. And, when I slept over, I learned that her mom checked her toothbrush to ensure it was wet.  I don’t remember clean teeth ever being an issue at my house. But then again, I am only presuming  that my sheets got washed … at least occasionally … and a mouthful of silver fillings would suggest that the relative lack of scrutiny and discipline in my home was probably not the best thing either.

She wasn’t even allowed to open her Christmas presents until they had finished a full sit-down breakfast … and … the dishes were all washed, dried and put away.  I couldn’t tell you what dish soap was squirted into the sink at our house, but I distinctly recall that at Joan’s house, they used Ivory Snow  … a powder detergent. It made the dishes REALLY slippery … and therefore … decidedly dangerous for the dish ‘dryer’.  The dish ‘washer’ needed rubber gloves with little white cotton liners to tolerate the scalding hot water that filled both the wash sink and a rinse sink. In contrast to that, their house looked like an ice cube shaped igloo … it had a flat roof and was constructed out of painted white cinder blocks. Although I remember a marble and metal elegance about it on the inside … it felt a bit cold to me … somehow.  Not that Joan and I ever discussed it back then.

Joan’s mom had a different last name and she seemed somewhat stiff and properly proper.  Or, maybe even terse.  Nonetheless, she annually made a really impressive chocolate log cake on June 9th … Joan’s birthday. Unlike most moms back then, she owned a business and worked outside the home. Joan had three siblings that I don’t recall seeing very much. I do remember her step father though. He was around more than her mother. He drank a lot. I knew tipsy when I saw it. I never felt as though they liked me much. Of course, I assumed it was because of my less than Hallmark family life.  I was always praying people wouldn’t notice that …

Yes, there were some visible differences in our orbits. But upon closer inspection, there were striking similarities. We looked a lot alike … we were both fair-skinned, fair-haired, very shy and easily embarrassed. We both did really well in school and were ‘accelerated’ along with five other kids in elementary school. One year, for ‘back-to-school’, we unwittingly arrived at school in the exact same off-white fisherman knit sweater from Sears and a teacher mistook me for Joan. And, I’ll never forget that in grade five,  we two got picked to go with Mr. Moyer to the art gallery on a Saturday morning.  I learned Joan was allergic to Brazil nuts that day. And, as I recall, neither of us were particularly interested in athletics.

It’s been over five decades since our friendship blossomed … perhaps cultivated by an unspoken, intrinsic knowing that we were more alike than we were different. When the family is precarious … uncertain or undesirable … friendship assumes a more central role in our feelings of security. At least it did for me. Our friendship held such deep and abiding space in my heart.  I am not sure Joan ever knew how integral she was to my sense of self-worth and well-being back then. Or … how often I feel grateful now for her encouraging energy and inspiring presence in my circle.

A couple of years ago, while I was working through some of the bumpiest parts of my own path, I disclosed a painful aha’ that was deeply personal and not particularly flattering on my blog. You may want to follow the link and read that posting first  in order to better understand the loving, empathetic and heart-aching response Joan shared in the comments section of that blog:

“I sobbed big crocodile tears as [I] read this blog. I hurt deeply for two girls who grew up together who both came from dysfunction and who both felt that they were unworthy. We have been friends for half a century and in many ways we walked such similar paths and in many ways kept much of it hidden. Although you knew my step father was an alcoholic what you didn’t know was my mother was also diagnosed with mental illness. My mother was not diagnosed until much later in life after I had been diagnosed with a brain injury from her repeated beatings. My mother was diagnosed as a fairly severe sociopath and I was her target. So please let me share this with you my friend. I too took that cape off. I took it off a few years ago, and looking back I ask myself why I carried that heavy thing around for so long??? I am in a place now where I can look at the part of my life and say “thank you”. I believe that the universe brings us all things, including our challenges, for a reason. I know that those experiences in my childhood made me a much better parent and a much better counselor. The experiences of my childhood followed up by 2 abusive marriages have allowed me to relate to and help 100’s of people. I promise you, it will be easier and easier to leave that cape off and let people see the “messy” you, the “real” you. With each day you will feel lighter and lighter because that cape was getting heavier and heavier with each passing year. Welcome to this wonderful new world my friend! You are going to love it! Love Joan xoxo”

I was so deeply touched when I received her compassionate, candid and completely transparent response. My friend has been through so much, but … you wouldn’t sense that when you meet her.  She has done her own healing work and has adamantly refused to be reduced by the unfortunate circumstances in which she landed.  And, she has generously taken all that she has learned and created a career which allows her to counsel and assist others in rising above the pains of their past. She is an amazing example of how we can turn our wounds into wisdom and how we can use our adverse experiences to serve the greater good.

Joan, despite the geographical distance that has existed between us over the last 40 years … our friendship has thrived.  And, although I wish we could sip a little red wine together more often, I feel indebted to Facebook for very effectively bridging the physical space between us. I am so darn grateful to Mark Zuckerberg for that!  I can feel your energetic alignment with the divine every time I ‘see’ you on your Facebook Business Page … Inspired Wellness & HypnotherapyI want you to know how much I look forward to nourishing myself with the wealth of compassion, inspiration and hope conveyed on your page.  I’m not sure there has ever been a post that I didn’t ‘like’ and/or share.  You speak clear through to my heart … in so many ways!

My wise and wonderful friend, I marvel at your unwavering commitment to inspire others and support them in unwrapping the gifts that are tucked into the trials and tribulations in their own lives.  In fact, I immediately thought of you when I recently came across a beautiful affirmation written by my mentor Debbie Ford.  It occurred to me that it so aptly mirrors your beautiful beingness …

The Vow - Debbie Ford

And so, with this tribute, I thank you for the brilliant, bright glow you cast upon this planet!  I want you to know that I am so much better because of your presence in my life … both then and now. You are such a beautiful person … in the most meaningful sense of that word.  I know that you are a gift of grace to so many people … and … I really do hope that you receive as much  light and love as you so generously offer to the rest of us! ❤

With deepest appreciation for all the beautiful ways that you and our life long friendship has inspired me,  Love Karen xoxo

P.S. It strikes me that we still look a lot alike … even without the off-white fisherman knit! 🙂

Better Because of Your Part in my Journey Lisa …

Source unknown but deeply appreciated.

Source unknown but deeply appreciated.

My journey was interrupted.  But only for a quarter of a century.  It turns out, however, that the detour I took was a blessing in disguise.  I thank my lucky stars that our paths crossed when they did and that I got to be your practicum student when I decided to resurrect my childhood dream of becoming a counsellor myself.  It is a blessing that I never take for granted.

Were it not for that lengthy delay, I would never have had the privilege of learning from you Lisa.  I would have missed out on marinating in your quiet strength, your gentle determination, and your impeccable integrity.  I would not have seen, first hand, how it’s possible to be tough enough to invite the transformation necessary for a client’s healing,  and yet, tender enough not to scare off or harm the wounded souls seated before you.  Yes, I learned so very much from you.  And, fortunately, I still get to … since we are both employed at the same agency.

You were my very first experience of witnessing how one applies all that academic therapeutic theory into a genuine and sincere practice.  Thank you for helping me traverse the distance between ‘knowing’ what I was taught to do when you have real aching human hearts seated before you … and … actually ‘doing’ it.  It can be tricky … it reminds me a little of making bread.  Having a good recipe is no guarantee that you’ll get a good loaf.  The best of bread makers will tell you that you have to have a feel for it.  I believe that is true … with bread dough and human hearts.  A little more of this … a little less of that … tweaking the therapeutic ‘recipe’ to suit each unique context and tailoring it specifically for the palate of each individual …  intuitively sensing your way to a desirable outcome.  And THAT you do.

I would also venture to say that ‘safety’ is the greatest gift a counsellor can offer to another … whether you are working with a client or one of your practicum students.  It is so rare (and yet so critical) to feel emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually safe with someone. I marveled as I witnessed you create a sense of safety for your clients.  I admired the way you honored their perspectives and saw the light in their souls despite the darkness they were experiencing … and often … despite their own debilitating self-recriminations.  With you, it was/is safe to be real – to spill the good, the bad and the ugly … with no fear of dismissal, rejection or condemnation.

And, Lisa, I owe you a heart full of gratitude for being that kind of  safe someone for me too …  both personally AND professionally. I have always felt safe enough to ask when I didn’t know … safe enough to admit my errors and my vulnerabilities … and … safe enough to bare my worst fears.  But perhaps, even more importantly, I have felt safe enough to let you into my own fragile and tender heart space (and THAT doesn’t happen very often.) 

It seems to me you are exquisitely skilled in things that simply can’t be taught.  I trust you implicitly to be a great steward of the bruised souls who arrive before you with rumpled hearts and discouraged spirits …  wrestling with the darkest parts of their most painful perceptions.  And, I know you will carefully cast a little light … inspire a gentle glow … illuminating their hope for brighter tomorrows.  I know you will find a way to help them reclaim their belief in themselves and/or find faith in the potential for possibilities that are currently eluding them.  From where I am looking, your compassionate perceptiveness, your expansive wisdom and your sensitive intuitive heart are a remarkable combination when it comes to helping people find their way.

And … despite your wealth of experience in the field, you remain so incredibly humble.  It’s beautiful to watch you in a staff meeting.  I notice how you make room for everyone to speak their mind … and then, should you decide to speak, we are all EARS, because we trust you will say something worth hearing. There is a compelling question that persistently gnaws and niggles its way around my consciousness … curiously beseeching me to check before I speak … about whether or not what I have to say would improve upon silence.  And I have noticed that when you speak, Lisa, you invariably improve upon the silence.  Yes you do.  And we are all the better for it.

I marvel at how you so graciously wrap your perceptive insights with such kind and compassionate energy.   I deeply respect how you lead your life and live your days with such genuine compassion … an authentic reflection of the kind and caring heart within you.  I have always been inspired by the way you practice what you preach. It is not always easy to do that, especially in our field … but you definitely walk the talk. And … I admire how you invite people to be the best version of who they can be in the world … and yet simultaneously … you loving accept each and every one of us for where-ever we we may be along that long and winding path.  What a gift it is to be gently stretched but compassionately supported and encouraged, every step of the way …

I could say so much more, but I hope you are getting a sense of who you are and have been to me.  Thank you for being such a critical and significant part of my journey … both personal and professional.  You have been an exceptional mentor and I remain grateful that I get to continue to share space with you and to learn from you. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, I would not be the same without you … I really wouldn’t.  I am so much better at what I do … and … at who I am becoming because of you.  Thank you … from the deepest place in my heart.

With deepest reverence for the treasure of your being,  Karen

 

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Better Because of Your Good Heart … Kimmy!

Kimmy - good heart

First time I recall meeting her … we were interviewing her for a job.  She arrived dressed like one of Mattel’s Barbie dolls.  ‘Travel Barbie’ if my memory serves me correctly.  🙂

It  was priceless … watching my boss try to seriously navigate the interview process in order to determine “Barbie’s” professional suitability for the position of a Parenting & Family Coach in our agency.  Between her engaging giggles, this light hearted soul in the long dark wig explained she had just come from her daughter’s Halloween party at school … and … things had gone longer than expected. She didn’t have time to go home and change, so … she came as she was.  It was a daring choice, leaving her wide open for unfavorable first impressions and/or critical judgment …

It didn’t matter … her good heart shone right through the costume.  And she got the job. And she deserved it.  And better yet, we got her!  And we have never been more fortunate, because not only is she phenomenal in her work, but she is one of the most loving, kind-hearted people to ever grace this planet.

You FEEL the sweetness of her good heart in her presence.  She reflects ‘loving-kindness’ as clearly as the sunshine bouncing off the facets of a brilliant diamond.  Her sparkle is undeniable and people are simply drawn to her bright and joyous spirit.  And she is so darn funny.  Oh my gosh, her presence in our workplace sparks sheer delight.  When I worked alongside her, it felt like we laughed as hard as we worked.  Sometimes more.

Source Unknown but deeply appreciated!

Source Unknown but deeply appreciated!

Her real name is Kimmy … and yes, I thoroughly enjoy her existence in my world.  In fact, she so effortlessly draws people into her circle that she has “a team.”   I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, but I felt a little jealous … at first … when she spoke of the group of women in her life who were always there for each other … steadfastly rallying for one another at the drop of a hat.  At one point, I remember feeling like I got gypped because she had a team and I didn’t.

But then … if you wait long enough, the Universe always explains.  You see, our Kimmy was going to need a team.  She was going to need solid, reliable and unwavering support because … some brutal things were going to be laid before her … including the tragic loss of a child.  On June 8, 2011 her precious son, Brett, transitioned to another realm after an unforeseeable accident …

When Kimmy’s son passed over, she invited me to be on her team.  And I was so deeply honored to be included, because when someone is going through the fires of hell, you just want to help.  But you have no clue how.  Kimmy was good enough to guide us.  And she gifted us with responsibilities. And it felt so good to be able to support her in a meaningful way.  She requested that  each member of her team carry out specific tasks that best honored our unique skills, talents and strengths … e.g., the organized ones screened phone calls and scheduled appointments; the ones with culinary gifts made food; the ones who liked writing helped her put words to what was in her heart for the eulogy;  and so on.

Yes … and then … this amazing woman stood before us and inspired a community center filled with people while she delivered her son’s eulogy herself.  And she inspired us with both her tender, touching message and her innate flair for presentation.  Her beautiful humor shone through to our hearts and we smiled and we cried and we felt it all.  We felt the indescribable ache in her tattered and torn heart.   Yes we did.  And we felt the sheer beauty of her sweet soul … reaching clear down into our own … inviting us to join her in celebration of the blessings and miracles her son had gifted not only to her  – but also to so many others.

And she has been honoring her own healing process by openly, honestly and vulnerably sharing her spiritual journey with others.  She lovingly reminds us on a Facebook page entitled “Shift Happens”  that although ‘sh*t happens’ to all of us … we can use it to transform/shift our lives in favorable ways.  I hope you will make a little time to explore the unpretentious wisdom she has gleaned from her own experiences and allow it to lighten any darkness in your days and/or bring solace to any tender parts of your own soul. I, myself, have been deeply moved by her brilliant insights and heartfelt sharing.

Kimmy, I want you to know that my life has been infinitely better because of you … both personally and professionally.  You warm my heart on a regular basis. And because of you, I did some team building! I invited people to be on my team!  It strikes me that everyone should have a team to help them through the bumpiest part of their paths.  Thank you for inspiring that. I could go on and on highlighting the countless ways you have brightened my world just by being you … but at this particular moment … I feel more inclined to use the rest of this space to extend an invitation.

A little while ago, Kimmy’s husband Greg was diagnosed with cancer.  And although he has been well on his way to a return to good health, I can only begin to imagine how vulnerable one feels on the heels of that kind of news.  I invite whoever is reading these words to join me in continuing to hold space for Greg’s optimal well-being.  I invite those of you who have just met Kimmy through this blog to join those of us who already know her, Greg and their lovely daughter Taylor by energetically wrapping them all up in a warm blanket of love and light.  You can just never get enough of that kind of thing … 🙂

Kimmy …. may your whole family feel the tingles of love in these heartfelt intentions and may you intuitively sense our unwavering support in every breath you take … for now and always.

I love you bunches … Karen

 

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Better Because of our Real Connections …

Source Unknown But Deeply Appreciated

Source Unknown But Deeply Appreciated

We met with them again last night … the friends we made at prenatal class.  We try to meet annually … but the last time we saw them was over 18 months ago.  Life has a way of changing the best laid plans.  The first time we connected was almost 35 years ago.  We initially met when we were expecting our first born children.  If I recall correctly, our husbands sparked some big belly laughs (no pun intended) during class and then we ‘went for coffee’ (figuratively speaking of course) after class. Bill and John may have had coffee … but Linda and I had tea (Red Rose/Orange Pekoe for her and Earl Grey for me … if memory serves).  And we laughed some more.  A whole lot more.  And it was the start of something ‘real’ … and … something ‘precious’.  It is something John and I still deeply cherish after more than three decades … something that time and distance cannot possibly diminish nor adequately define.

Linda and I were so good for each other back then … calming our mutually anxious minds and perfectionist mentalities with pre-birthing rhetoric like “How hard could it be? ” … “People do it all the time.” … “We can do this.”  I mean, seriously, we were  bright, educated, articulate, capable, caring and competent women.  Surely … having a baby wouldn’t change our lives that much!  Ha ha. HA HA.

Someone famous once said “Ignorance is bliss.”  Confirmed. Only 100% though.  Our post-birthing exchanges reflected none of that pre-birthing nonchalance.  Rather, they were more like wide-eyed, humbled retractions of those innocent and perhaps slightly naive notions that we were actually prepared and ready for this all encompassing motherhood thing.

We still laugh … about how entirely gobsmacked we were when our sweet little cherubs arrived.  All 7lbs and 12oz of my gorgeous girl (Tiana) arrived just less than three weeks before their beautiful boy (Ryan).  And, Linda reminded me last night that in the days and nights I had to explore the realities of motherhood in advance of her, I had phoned her … just to give her the heads up!!  I don’t recall my instinctive effort to protect her (probably due to excessive overwhelm and sheer post-natal exhaustion), but she remembers me distinctly impelling her to “SLEEP.  SLEEP NOW!”

And we laughed again in recollection … but it wasn’t so funny back then.  We were both so sleep deprived for sooooooo darn long enough  … so long that that we had to dig deep and retract the prior ‘how hard could it be’  perspective we had espoused … and … surrender to the “Oh, sh#t … this is da*n hard.”  Oh my, as bright, educated, articulate, capable, caring and competent women we found ourselves thoughtfully reconsidering: “How do people make it look so easy ?” and “How is it that they do it more than once?”   Yes … we found ourselves digging deep. Very deep.

And so we commiserated together . Often … in person and on the phone … and we helped each struggle AND chuckle through all those parts we did not see coming.  Yes. A humbling is always easier to embrace when you do it with someone else. So, Linda … if I haven’t actually said it to you before … let me take this moment to say it now.  I was so much better able to navigate the perils of parenting because of you.  Yes I was. You were so real. You supported me so earnestly and honestly and kindly in the midst of my debilitating self-doubt.  We shared the real deal. Thank you.

It might have made sense for our relationship to fizzle once our children started sleeping through the night and my hubby and I moved away.  But … despite the many spaces in our togetherness over the decades … this did not happen.  And, it never ceases to amaze me that regardless of how long it has been … “we are instantly swept back into the moment it was before it left … with the same wonder and hope, comfort and heartbeat. Real connections live on forever.”

Comfortable and comforting.  That is how it feels! With you, Bill and Linda … it’s always entirely unpretentious.  And that is so comforting to the soul.  And we have been blessed to meet life like this with you  … annually(ish)  … and it makes all the unpredictable twists and turns of life so much more bearable.  The losses, the successes, the challenges, the growth, the struggles, the joys … and everything in between.  And we can still laugh.  A lot.  And my spirit is always so deeply nourished when we connect. I mean it … enough to bring tears.

And I have permission to speak for my husband here.  It is such a rare gift to have two couples whose fondness for one another is not feigned nor tolerated nor forced simply because the wife likes the wife but not so much the husband … or …  vice versa.  Or versa vice.  Well, whatever,  you know what I mean.  It’s rare when all four connect in a meaningful way … and maybe that is why it is so real.  There is no ‘supposed to’ in the space between us.  Just raw, honest, heart-felt exchange.  Usually 4 to 6 hours of it.  We take up a lot of space in the restaurant. So … we tip well.  And often, we find ourselves in the parking lot … still discovering numerous things we never had enough time to chat about.  And it is so beautiful. So damn beautiful. 🙂

Yes, we came home last night, with very full hearts …  again. We laughed with you and we connected with you and we so very much look forward to more annual(ish) laughs and real connections. We flirted, however, with the notion that maybe a year is becoming a wee bit long for us … at our ages. Yes. It’s just that we have so much to talk about.  And laugh about. Yes, we do. I’m guessing we’ll simply trust how it all unfolds … just as we always have. ❤

And so … this special tribute is extended in honor of a very ‘real connection’ with a very extraordinary couple.  Thank you … Bill and Linda … our lives are truly, honestly and most gratefully … better because of you!  Yes, I am speaking for both of us when I acknowledge just how significant your presence has been in our lives … and … our hearts.  Thank you. Deeply. Truly. Really. Thank you.

With humungous hugs and an abundance of appreciation,  Karen and John

 

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