The World is a Better Place Because of You … Fatemeh!

Source Unknown but deeply appreciated!

I was inspired to become a social worker given my passionate commitment to help people ‘live a great life anyway’ … despite all the people, circumstances and situations that often compromise our best efforts to do so.  As such, I attempt do so in a variety of ways. I am a counsellor working with people in my private practice to help people find ways to savor the moments in their lives rather than merely enduring them.  I am also an EMDR therapist (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)  and an ART therapist (Accelerated Resolution Therapy)  invested in helping people process and heal from the traumatic events that often prevent them from living their best lives.  And, in my role as a Certified Integrative Coaching Professional with The Ford Institute, I have been trained to help people transform any areas in their lives where they are feeling ‘stuck’ in some way, shape or form.

I have been a life coach for about 17 years now.  One of the blessings of coaching is that it is done over the telephone, and so over the years, I have had the good fortune of working with oodles of wonderful individuals from all different parts of the globe! Notwithstanding that, I could never have known the gift that I was about to unwrap when I received this coaching inquiry almost four years ago  from the Coaches Listing Page on The Ford Institute website. .

March-22-15 11:53 AM
Subject: Coach Page Inquiry
Message
hi my name is fatemeh from iran. spring is start of our new year. i am studing the book “the best year of my life” in persian. can u send to me some schaduale?

I was delighted to discover that a woman from Iran was reaching out to me for coaching!  Unfortunately, I did not have any space available at the time.  And so, I responded by saying:

Hi Fatemeh …

How nice to find your coaching inquiry in my email expressing an interest in being coached! I trust you are enjoying “The Best year of Your Life”. It is such a powerful piece of the work offered by Debbie Ford and the coaching experience is one way of truly bringing the concepts into your life in powerful and transformative ways!

Unfortunately, at the present time, I do not have any space for new coaching clients. I expect that it will be about 4 months before I am able to take on another client. I realize that this is a long time to wait. You may prefer to seek out another coach … or … if you like, I can keep your email and contact you when I have some space available.

Please let me know what would suit you best. Either way, I wish you all the very best as you move into the best year of your life!

With warmest regards,
Karen

Generally speaking, when people decide they are ready to hire a coach, they do not want to wait.  So, I was entirely surprised when I received her response:

hi karen

thank you for u answer and your kindness. I will wait. I have started my new year and I will send to u my progress. spring is really a good time to start …. 
with love and respect
fatemeh noroozi

It turned out to be even longer than four months before Fatemeh and I reconnected in December of 2015.  In my coaching practice, I annually offer to provide my coaching services ‘pro-bono’ for one client and because we were just turning the corner into a new year, I was able to offer the pro-bono space for 2016 to Fatemah! I was eager to work with her and meet her via Skype because there was something about the energy of this magnificent being that touched me so deeply. And so, the most remarkable journey began … on January 15th, 2016.

And, what began as a coach/client relationship has grown into the meeting of two hearts … who are clearly very old friends (as Hafiz would suggest!). I  am not sure either one of us had any idea we would feel so connected and that, three years later, we would still be meeting, on occasion, to reconnect and catch up with one another.  And, I am holding hope that one of these days we will get to meet each other in person!

Fatemeh … or … Fatima (as I have affectionately come to refer to her)  has done some of the most remarkable work.  Not only internally  (through her personal growth) … but … also externally (in her professional capacity as an educator).  Fatima defines herself as a “teacher/explorer” and when we started our coaching relationship, she was about to make her first venture abroad by traveling solo to Europe. Our coaching agreement was centered around helping her overcome some of the fears she was experiencing in anticipation of her upcoming travels.

I learned very quickly that Fatima is whole-heartedly committed to making the world a better place. It didn’t take very long before I was sensing the genuine goodness of her being … her heart … her loving spirit. And, I knew that she was making a significant difference for all those touched by her kind and altruistic nature.

I have been so inspired by all that she is and all that she is doing, that I recently asked her if she would be willing to share her remarkable story with me, so that I could share it with all of you here on this “Better Because of You” blog. She expressed some reticence because she was self-conscious about her command of the English language.  She requested that I edit her story to ensure that it reflected proper English.  I responded by saying that I was reluctant to do so because I could feel so much of her joyous soul and benevolent spirit and compassionate heart in the way she strung her words together that I didn’t want to risk losing that energetic resonance in exchange for optimizing her spelling, grammar and/or vocabulary.  And so, I didn’t. And, I trust that you will understand what I mean!

Fatemeh / Fatima

It is my absolute honor to share Fatemeh’s story with you here. And, although I feel a bit self conscious about publishing it because, within it, she has so very graciously elevated my presence in her world … I would most humbly suggest that we are seeing her own bright light projected in my direction. While her generous description of me warms my heart with fond appreciation, I trust you will hear the brightness of her spirit as you are touched by how her own sparkling soul is rendered visible in this impassioned story of a woman with a love filled desire to make a difference in the world. Here is Fatemeh’s story, in her own words:

 

 

 

And … my relationship with this exceptional soul is a genuine example of the humanity that loudly exists despite our differences in culture or geography or religious beliefs.  Fatemah and I are in a relationship that sees well beyond the obvious … we know each other at the heart level.  And our relationship is an example of what can happen whenever any one of us seeks to suspend our beliefs and our biases … when we decide to look beyond the superficial stereotypes and into the treasures of each human spirit.

And, to see the world through the eyes of this amazing soul … to feel her efforts to unify our global population is beyond extraordinary!  And then … out of the blue … I received this parcel in the mail from her just this past December, 2018.

There were so many beautiful offerings reflecting her country and expressions of the cultural spirit of Iran. I truly appreciated her efforts to bridge the geographical gap between us because we live in a world where misperceptions of other cultures are publicly perpetuated and ‘others’ are misunderstood and marginalized with criticism and judgement. I am excited to share the contents because they reflect the heart and soul of our shared humanity.

One of the things Fatima sent to me was a parchment with my name written on it …  in Persian. It serves as a reminder to me that regardless of the culture we inhabit or the language that use we use to name things … the essence of someone/something cannot be fully captured  in the finite flow of ink, but rather … to be fully known … must be experienced at an energetic level.

Fatima also sent a most beautiful weaving called a “Termah”.  My dining room table is now adorned with the beautiful tapestry. It serves to remind me of the threads of love that have been woven into the tapestry of all of our lives. For me, it reflects the exquisite beauty that can be created when we are wise enough to honor and blend differing colors and textures together.  It is exceptional in it’s refinement and spectacular detail. Wikipedia states:

“Termeh (Persian: ترمه‎) as a type of Iranian handwoven cloth, produced primarily in the Yazd province. Weaving termeh requires a good wool with long fibers. Termeh is woven by an expert with the assistance of a worker called a Goushvareh-kesh. Weaving termeh is a sensitive, careful, and time-consuming process; a good weaver can produce only 25 to 30 centimetres (10 to 12 in) in a day. The background colors used in termeh are jujube red, light red, green, orange and black. Termeh has been admired throughout history … “

Fatima also included a little box filled with small gold figurines called “farvehar.” As she shared, they are intended to be symbol of “good thoughts, good words, good deeds” and are intrinsically related to the history of Iran from 1500 years ago.

As per Wikipedia, “The Faravahar (Persian: فروهر‬‎)… is one of the best-known symbols of Iran” and “is the most worn pendant among Iranians and has become a secular national symbol, rather than a religious symbol. It symbolizes good thoughts (پندار نیک‬ pendār-e nik), good words (گفتار نیک‬ goftār-e nik) and good deeds (کردار نیک‬ kerdār-e nik).”

Also included in this package was a glorious painted plate which is called “Minakari”. It is absolutely exquisite in its beauty! I love the richness of the colors and the intricacy of the pattern is gorgeous. I found the perfect place in my new office to hang it so that all my clients can also enjoy it’s beauty … and should they inquire about it’s origin … learn about the abiding connection between Fatima and I.

“Minakari or Enamelling is the art of painting, colouring and ornamenting the surface of metals by fusing over it brilliant colours that are decorated in an intricate design. Mina is the feminine form of Minoo in Persian, meaning heaven. Mina refers to the Azure colour of heaven.” (https://surfiran.com/iranian-minakari-art-heaven/)

Fatima also sent me a beautiful scarf. It is so soft and, as I shared with her, “whenever I wear the scarf, it will be as though I am wrapped in a hug from you”.

There were also a number of other things that she thoughtfully included in her gifts to me. As I shared with her …

“The rosary beads. They feel so beautiful to the fingers. I shall count amongst my blessings … the heartfelt union of our souls. And, I shall display it in my new office, as a fond reminder of the deep connections we have with each other and the spirit of the divine that bridges any geographical distance between our souls.

And … the rose blossoms! They are so delicate and fragile and remind me that we must pay attention to the little blessings and blossoms of tender love and natural beauty that surround us. And, I shall sprinkle them on my shelf in my office as well.

And, the tiny figurine of mother and child … is such a beautiful depiction of how each and every one of us needs to feel the warm embrace of someone who cares deeply about us. “

Although there were a number of other things, I offer up this smattering of the gifts she sent so you might get a sense of her culture and herself. She has gifted me with so much and not just in the package that arrived via Canada Post.  As I shared in an email to Fatima:

“I can so very much feel your loving presence in these gifts Fatima. And, I don’t know how to thank you enough for the blessings of your loving spirit that speaks to me in such meaningful ways. Your thoughtfulness is so very deeply appreciated. My life is so much better because of your presence in it!

And so … as I sit surrounded by the gifts of your spirit … I am basking in the joy of connection and love and all the divine energy that moves between us. You are treasured. Thank you again. I am so honored to have you in my life.”

And, as much as our relationship is unique and special … it is but an example of what can happen all over the world … if/when we accept an opportunity to connect at the heart level with each other.  As you can see … Fatemeh/Fatima is a very exceptional soul. And … her message of love and unity is deeply needed as we collectively attempt to bridge the gap that often exists between our souls based on cultural or religious differences.  If we dare to look beneath these perceived differences, we will find as Hafiz as contended … that all our hearts are, indeed, very old friends.

And … that said … I am honored to use this “Better Because of You” blog space to introduce you all to this exceptional woman.  Please join me in celebrating this wonderful soul and all the loving energy that she brings to our world! And, please, may we heed her wise words:

“Love is a global language and its alphabet comes from all diversities and cultures and acting beyond ourselves.”

Fatima … I remain blessed to have come to know you and remain humbled by your loving presence.  You do, in fact, make the whole world a better place!

With deepest reverence for your heartfelt being, ❤ Karen ❤

 

 

 

Better Because … at 60 … I FELT it!!

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”.

Source Unknown

“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

 

 

Better Because of Our Mornings Together …

And my heart SUNK … as the reality of the situation landed in my awareness.  Something must have happened, out of obvious sight, in the dark of the process. I clearly underestimated the potential hazards inherent within the ‘normal wash’ cycle of my built-in Whirlpool.

Well okay … that’s not entirely true.  I must admit to losing the odd wine glass, but I’ve always known full well that I was taking a calculated risk when placing my stemware into that unsupervised environment!  However, I had absolutely no ‘fragility’ concerns in this particular case. Not. Even. One.


I’m scratching my head to comprehend how it even happened. Was it a relentless barrage … or … was it simply one nasty, defining moment? I’ll never know, but what is done is done. And most unfortunately, our mornings together are now reduced to memories.

That said, I don’t even specifically recall the last occasion we greeted the day together.  I might have lingered over it just a little longer if I knew it would be our last.  But, then again, our early A.M. trysts were always good. Yes. Over the years, we’ve shared countless hours of quiet, reflective, nourishing mornings together … sip to sip to sip to sip.

grams-mug-2

I know. I know. I know ….

It does not escape me that it was “just a mug.”  BUT… that mug was one of my favorites.  Not only because of the heartwarming messages handwritten upon it, but because I am a very pragmatic individual and that mug was so darn functional.  It eliminated any confusion about whose mug was whose on the mornings when Papa was home.  In addition to that, it was also the perfect size. There was no fiddle farting around to get the ratio just right: one good slosh of 18% cream + two packets of Splenda = the perfect proportions to please my palate!  Yes. Pure deliciousness! Every. Single. Time. My anxiously oriented mind just loves that kind of certainty … 🙂

As well, I always appreciated how that mug’s smooth, white, glossy handle slid so comfortably into my grip. I have quite a small hand and many mugs tend to tip over when I try to hold them with one hand.  But, not this one! It was a perfect fit. Good job that“Santa” tucked this gem into my Christmas stocking in 2011 …

And, this unfortunate occurrence means that Papa’s mug will now be relegated to the ranks of mismatched and alone in our cupboard. And, I am left to warily wonder whether his mug should now be handled with more care … i.e. washed by hand.

Well, all I tell you in that regard is this: Papa’s mug remained at risk for quite some time because although some extra TLC was entirely possible, it was not particularly probable in our house.  May I remind you of my lack of effort with the wine glasses … 

grams-mug-3

I expect, however, that as I attempt to temper my regret by stealing moments using Papa’s mug instead … my heart will be re-filled with fondest recollections of it’s mate. No doubt about it: Our sorrows are so inextricably entwined with our joys. As Kahlil Gibran so sagely suggests:

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”

Absolutely.  And so, of course, I seriously considered glue. My hubby assured me it would do the trick.  And I was briefly enthused by his solid conviction, but then my highly kindled amygdala promptly derailed those hopes by emphatically declaring that it would be far too precarious. When comes to scalding hot coffee … it’s better to err on the side of caution !!  And so, there would be no gluing.

And with that decision, my rational mind reminded me that there is no point arguing with reality.  There comes a time when there is nothing left to do but accept an unfavorable and ugly outcome … just as graciously as humanly possible. Yes. One of life’s hardest lessons is learning how to make peace with our losses.  And so, in my effort to do that, I just needed to jot down these words  … to overtly honor that many of my mornings were made better because I got to greet them with that mug.  And for that I am grateful.

With both a smile and tear for that which has been my delight …  ❤ Karen ❤

P.S. Papa’s mug is much less at risk now. We got a new dishwasher.  It even has slots for wine glasses. Life is good.

 

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Better Because You Moseyed on Over …

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 … !

EEEEEGADS … look how YOUNG you look Hutch!!!

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!!!

Just looking at them makes my mouth water with fond recollection!

Cheers to good friends … and … the artistic aptitude of the bartender/chef!

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!

Cheers!!

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 … ❤

Skruffi – 2000 to 2015

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.

Dharma — 2000 to 2017.

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! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Better Because of You … and … my 20 plus 2 years with FCSS!

Source Unknown but deeply appreciated.

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.

Staff Retreat January 2017

 

Christmas Party …. 2014

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 LethbridgeBryan 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

 

 

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