Friday, January 8, 2010

An invitation to something new…

It's just become evident to me that I can't do everything! Wow, what a revelation! I can't believe I've spent so many years of my life (partially) believing that I can. Sorry, I'll try to stop doing that!

Since my last post here a lot of things have been happening… and I'm going to try to give you a window into that part of my life by inviting you to my new blog, BUDDY BREATHING.

Buddy Breathing… a blog about hope, is where I will be spending my blogging energies for now.

Please come and join me there, and thank you for following this blog and commenting and for encouraging me. Your words speak life into me!

Peace, out.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The view from here

photography by Lynda Norman

It happened this morning as I was caught up in my 'to do list', driving from one place to another, father-in-law Bud in tow, that I chose to take the slightly longer, more scenic drive home. And, as I headed from suburban strip mall and convenience food surroundings around the first traffic circle, then over the bridge and around the second traffic circle, the buildings became rural in their setting and character, the snow dusted mountains suddenly visible on the horizon and I breathed into my empty lungs… space, vista, and a bit of perspective.

Bud said to me, "This is a good way to go home… less traffic." and I agreed. Inspired by his words, I launched into a little sermon on the value of views, and how little they seem to be considered in planning terms these days. How the fish in the ditch are considered, the density of the buildings are planned, the curve of the road designed to fit the speed of the vehicles travelling on it for both safety and traffic flow reasons, yet the experience of the traveller seems a byproduct rather than a proactive, planned thing.

Back in University when I was studying to become a Landscape Architect, 'Visual Analysis' was an important part of the planning process. View corridors, positive and negative views, procession, scenic byways, parkways, and various other design considerations involving roadways and the experience of travelling on them, were taken into account. Any proposed development considered visual impacts as well, and while that is still true to some extent today, I wonder what happened to the planning of roads and highways?

This fall I excitedly awaited the completion of a 'Recreational Corridor' along a roadway near where we live. I anticipated the addition of trees, benches, grass, planting… things that would encourage pedestrians and cyclists to experience added value to the adjacent land uses… some rural, some recreational, some residential. My shock came when the corridor was finally complete… with black chain link fence along it's entirety, and asphalt paving from road curb to chain link fence… and not one living thing in a swath about 3 m wide and 5 km long! The experience will now be, for everyone including those travelling in vehicles, a wasteland along what used to be a picturesque section of roadway. And I have to wonder how this could have happened?

Perhaps my writing today is more of a rant than anything else, but I'm just concerned that the less tangible, less weighty things like beauty of form, open space, perspective, vernacular landscape, are the very things that are often overlooked or obliterated for reasons of function, monetary return, or politics. And it will hurt all of us in the end. If we don't stand for something, something will be lost. Somehow public policy must be changed, and the value of 'sense of place' must be held up as something to cherish, something worth saving, something worthy.

Or, we can continue to grow and change by focusing only on efficiency, productivity, function, and forget about the soul taming, grounding pursuit and choice of slowing down to smell the flowers, or enjoy the view.

Peace, out!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Harvest… eventually

I just got in from doing a little drive-by delivery of Christmas cards… probably could have saved myself some time if I had, 1. figured out how to email graphics and text from home, or 2. used snail mail and planned far enough ahead to ensure delivery was on time.

Anyway, with our annual Christmas Caroling Party under two weeks away, I though I'd better drive the invites and cards to our friends and give them enough advance warning. Hubby says I'm too late already, and should call everyone… but that's just not the same as receiving a paper invite, I think.

As I was driving one direction along Lakeshore Road past the Cedar Creek Winery, I noticed bins in the vineyard, and it wasn't until I was returning that I noticed that there were people in the vines, bundled up in winter garb… and then I knew why. Last night the sky was clear, temperatures dove to -20 C, and that made it the perfect time to harvest the ice wine grapes! I'm sure those workers were out in the dark… maybe even all night, and what I saw was the remaining few rows of grapes still being harvested. It was a quintessential winter Okanagan scene, and it got me thinking.

Not being an expert in ice wine production, I only know a limited amount about the process. But, it's clear to me that the ice wine grapes are left on the vine long after all other wine grapes are harvested. And I'm sure as those grapes hang there through fall and into winter, they are nibbled on by birds, and the leaves fall off exposing them to the elements, and the vines get a little brittle, and the grapes themselves begin to shrivel up and become less than appealing looking. Still they hang there waiting…

And suddenly, without much warning at all, the weather changes and the temperature drops, and it's a perfect combination of time and circumstances for harvest. The call goes out to the workers… get ready… come… it's harvest time!!! And so they come.

Maybe it's this middle aged part of my life that causes me to reflect on things that would normally just pass me by… or maybe God really does speak to me through grapes and birds and flowers and my children and relationships and circumstances? But I can see in those grapes a reflection of my life.

Perhaps you too can relate to this? The days pass by, the years pass by, and many grapes are harvested, made into different varieties of award winning wine, enjoyed, and still I cling to the vine wondering when I will be useful, when I will be harvested. Protective layers of leaves fall off, and I begin to see signs of aging, withering, even shriveling, and still I wait, questioning my circumstances and purpose and worth. I cling, sometimes tentatively, to the vine… and wait.

Then, suddenly one night the temperature drops, and the vineyard owner sends out his message… come… it's harvest time… and then I finally know what it's all been about… this waiting and wondering and questioning and aging… and finally this freezing… it's about the transformation of a quite ordinary grape into something tempered and unique and sweet and wonderful!

That day, harvest day, may not be on this earth, although I hope in part that it is. For me, it might be when something is revealed that I must take a stand on because of my faith in God. Or, it could be watching what God does with my children's lives, because of seeds of faith and passion. Or, it might just be hanging onto the vine no matter what circumstances I'm faced with. Or, harvest might be when I finally get to see Jesus face to face. But I have to hope in the harvest, believe enough to keep hanging onto the true vine long enough to see the day.

Just a few thoughts as I consider the taste of ice wine… cool, smooth, sweet, lingering, and full of the flavour of eternity.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Reacting vs. responding

In a nutshell, relating to people is very very hard. There are so many dynamics involved. Words can be taken one way or another. Facial and/or body expressions can be misinterpreted. Tone of voice can evoke positive or negative reactions. Even the ability to 'understand' one another is complex.

So, what's a girl to do with all of this? Hormones aside (is that even possible) I desire to communicate well, and to convey my messages clearly. Why does it have to be so hard! Sometimes I think I'd be happier if I just stayed here, behind my computer screen, rather than trying to make my way in the real world. What a silly thing to consider. Of course I have to get 'out there', but I need a healthy dose of courage to do so.

If you are anything like me, then you too might have some of these same inter-relational challenges. Whether it's communicating with your spouse, your children, your friends, or the various people you come in contact with each day, there's an overabundance of lessons to be potentially learned about relating to one another. And I'm pretty dense sometimes when it comes to lessons. But once in a blue moon I get it right. And maybe with age and 'wisdom' I'm getting it right more often than wrong… maybe??? I can't say for sure.

Take this morning for example. We've been anticipating the arrival of our carpet for weeks. Selecting the right colour, texture, price point was a process in itself (oh, fyi, we are finally finishing our basement after 10 years of raw drywall and concrete). So, when the order was placed and the installation date set, there was much excitement in our home. The kids can hardly wait to have a little spreading out space… not just for them, but certainly a place to hang out with friends that's somewhat separate from the adult spaces upstairs. The basement (I've tried to come up with a better name than that… any suggestions?) will have that kid space plus a guest room that has been pre-booked for the entire Christmas Season.

The carpet arrived two weeks ago… the first carpet, that is. It was damaged by a forklift in transit, and sent back to the factory. We re-ordered and waited. The second carpet arrived this morning, and I knew something was wrong when John, the installer, called me downstairs to "take a look at something". The fibers were 'bent' and 'puddled' (according to John) and the result was a huge 8 foot circle of dis-coloured carpet. My heart sank.

We are making plans based upon that carpet being installed… Christmas parties, family coming to stay in the new guest room, friends coming to hang out and enjoy the new space.

All the while John and I talked about the carpet problem I focused on him and the other people involved and my relationship with them (however superficial). I could have ranted, I could have raved. But, the words of my dear friend and mentor kept coming to mind, "Are you going to react, or respond?" Well, Lesley-Anne, what's it going to be? Act like a spoiled entitled home owner who deserves a better rug than this, who paid so much money and got this, who can't believe they 'still' haven't got it right? NO! Not this time anyway. We'll wait for the third carpet… we'll treat John like a human being and wait.

My point, well… I guess it's that at the end of the day the carpet doesn't really matter. It does, but it doesn't, if you know what I mean. We survived before we had one, and we'll survive without one… for a few more days, a couple more weeks… or whatever. What matters is the people who cross my path and how I treat them. And, for today, I'm choosing to treat them like human beings who make mistakes. Just like I make mistakes… all the time!

Now if I could just translate what happened in the discourse over the carpet to the relationships closer to me, then I would be happy. This morning I had a conversation with my daughter that was definitely more about reacting than responding. And I still feel badly about that.

Falling on God's grace and the grace of those around me,


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Silent Night

photography by Donncha O Caoimh

I'm waiting.

As I post this, with a heavy feeling that I really should be doing other things on my lengthy to do list, I remember last December when the snow came early… and how it changed things for me then. So, I'm waiting for the snow, and hoping for change.

Have you noticed how much quieter things are after a fresh snowfall. My husband commented to me that everything seems to slow down a little when it snows, almost a subconscious response to the forgiving blanket that wraps its way around our lives.

The panic of the pre-Christmas rush is pre-empted by the need to clear the driveway. Conversations break out with the neighbours as they choose to do the same. Plans are made for future conversations, eggnog dates are set, and people reconnect. Priorities are revised, and humanity wins over consumerism for a time.

The children get caught up in it as well. The X-box 360 and iPod is left untouched as they rush outside to create snow forts, speed bumps in the street, and havoc with well aimed balls of packing snow! I watch them from the window, full of memories. When the time comes, they reluctantly leave their winter playground and come inside for dinner, rosy-cheeked, energised and full of conversation.

Here in Kelowna with its moderate climate, the city seldom shuts down, but back in Toronto where I lived my childhood, things sometimes ground to a halt until the snow stopped falling and roads were cleared. Schools closed, people went home from work early, and streets were strangely hushed as people left their vehicles parked and walked instead.

The very things that happen because of a snowfall, are, to me, the things that are most needful in my life. I need to slow down more often, and be fully engaged in the moment. I need to take time for people, to dig out from under the To Do List, and have a good old conversation with my neighbour, with my kids. I need to step back from the consumer-based version of Christmas and consider what this season is really about.

That is why I love the snow and it’s ability to get our attention. Love it or hate it, it has an impact on us. We can’t ignore it. We can’t control it. And it’s silence speaks.

So I'm waiting… for the first snow fall… for another first silent night.

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sometimes suicidal… really???

As you know, I just returned from a trip to Ontario to visit my folks. It was great… lots packed into a very short time… and I left wanting more in many ways. I miss my family.

While I was there, I showed my parents how to find my blogs, both Sometimes Suicidal Mama and My Grace Notes, as well as the main page to Pink Ink Workshop. I wanted them to see where I was putting my writing energies these days, and I wanted them to, in a small way, affirm that part of me. I know, I know, still trying to get my parents approval!

After showing them my blogs, we got up from the computer and were walking out of the room when my Dad said, 'You know, that name you chose really upset me when I first saw it'… and I knew he meant the name of this blog… and I knew he was upset because he wasn't comfortable or happy to know that his baby girl was 'sometimes suicidal'. The mama part was fine, I guess. And I remember having a conversation with my brother about it a couple of weeks ago, where we discussed what the name meant, and how he might help me illustrate this when I redesigned the look of my blog with him (talented graphic designer brother).

And maybe that's also the case with you? You read this blog, you look at the title, and you think, what on earth is she talking about. Maybe you think I'm making light of the subject of suicide, or maybe you think I'm being melodramatic. It's something I think about… what your reaction is to the title. So it's time for me to come clean on this.

Emotional imbalance and mental illness are not to be mocked, nor discounted or made light of. I am not suggesting that I understand anything but my own experience, and that is what this blog is, a written account of my own experience. As such, I have chosen to be open about what my life is like, and I've written a little about anxiety, depression, hopelessness, doubt, mixed in with faith, hope, inspiration and wonder in my life.

And I have to openly admit that, at times, especially times in the past, I contemplated ending my life. The times came and went, and thanks to God I didn't follow through on those thoughts. But, they were real.

For me, menopause has resulted in emotional struggles too, so when I chose to write my life down at this fork in the road, I knew a part of what I wrote would be about depression.

If I'm going to be real, then I have to admit that my struggles are real. I have to admit that I am less than perfect, do not have all the answers, am a wounded yet hopeful God seeking woman who has been and may again be a 'Sometimes Suicidal Mama'. I hope and trust and pray that this transparency and knowledge encourages you, because I'm not alone in this… am I?

That said, here is an early posting that will help to bring you up to date on where I've come from and what has inspired me to write down my life, openly sharing my humanity with you.

Tell me what you think… I'm hoping for a two way conversation… maybe…



I'm thinking it might help to know a little bit of my history at this point… nothing too detailed, but just a general idea of who I am and where I'm at.
About 18 months ago my menstrual cycle stopped. I was 45, and not expecting to be cold turkey into menopause.

But, I was. I began to experience all of the symptoms that you have no doubt heard about, or even experienced yourself if you are with me in this phase of life… hot flashes (a tingling feeling in my head followed by blood rushing through my body and face - like being embarrassed all over), night sweats and sleeplessness, weight gain (not a lot but enough to be frustrating), moodiness, lack of focus, lack of desire, irritability (yes, even more than usual!), and I went to my Doctor to investigate what next steps there might be for me as I walked through this change of life.

The Doctor said it was just a matter of managing things, and making adjustments as necessary.
OK, I thought, and I did a little bit of research (talked to my Mom and various friends) to find out their insights, what worked, what didn't, and proceeded to make some adjustments to my life, including walking more and eating less, wearing cotton and in layers that I could easily remove when necesary, and lowering the expectations I had for my productivity in lots of areas.

The symptoms came and went, and things were going well for the most part, except for the difficulty in focusing on tasks, or completing them in a timely fashion. And, the overall feelings of anxiety and depression were sometimes quite strong.
And, all this 'mental' stuff was and is going on in someone who is supposed to be filled with hope and joy and all the other trappings of being a 'woman of God'.

It wasn't the first time I've found that depression and faith are polarized, but here I was again… feeling ashamed, on the outside looking in, embarrassed to share the truth of what I was going through for fear of being 'too much' for those around me. So, I began to withdraw from relationships, and spend more time alone. (YIKES - not the best choice really)

Again I sought 'medical' help, and ended up finding some great nutritional supplements that are still helping me to regain some of my energy and vitality again (Macaroot). Some days are better than others, and there are even stretches of good days where I'm not even aware that there is this new reality for me… I feel like the old me those days. But, most days are different and I'm still trying to figure out what my new reality is.

All this to say that I'm tired of pretending that all is well all the time, that I've got it all together, and that being a Christian is the answer to everything.
I need you to also know that God is my foundation in life -- he really is. I believe that God is close by and understands and provides, but that is not a bandage solution for me. I don't think it's fair to the rest of you for me to say one thing and then experience another. How much worse things would be for me without God in my life is hard to say (probably a lot worse)… but to say that all is well all the time would be a lie.

So, my passion being writing, and my purpose being to let my life be an open book, I decided to write my way through this time of my life… sharing the ups and downs and realities of these days with you. If you catch me preaching, forgive me for that, and if you catch me being a wet blanket, I hope you can forgive that too. What I simply want to be is real. I'm tired of pretending, hiding, and making excuses for who I am.

This is me. A sometimes suicidal mama.

This is me with God. A sometimes suicidal mama with God.

Maybe, somehow, my life experience will help you?


Monday, November 23, 2009

Family values

I see by the date of my last post that I've haven't prioritized blogging much for the past two weeks. In the past I would have made excuses, explained myself, and looked for your understanding, and your forgiveness. But this time I'm simply going to say I haven't prioritized it and move on. Because that's the truth no matter my reasons why.

Several topics come to mind for today, but the one I choose to focus on is Family Values… perhaps because I just returned from a lovely visit with my parents and brothers and their families in Ontario.

Inspired by a gut feeling that I needed to prioritize my aging parents and spend some quality time with them, and this feeling confirmed by a program we are currently doing at church called 'One Life, No Regrets', I jumped on an airplane last Wednesday and headed East… to my childhood home. I spent a wonderful three days with family… eating, talking, walking, hot-tubbing, and eating again… and it fulfilled my heart's desire to love them all as best I could in the time I had. Bob and the kids stayed here and managed incredibly well without me. Thanks, Babe!

And it seems that no matter the experience these days, there is this part of me that finds something to be learned from it. Sometimes that can be a little over-analytical. Sometimes I find myself to be a tad tiresome, because of this need to take something other than the pure experience, and learn something from it, or apply a deeper meaning to it.

My visit with my parents was a bit like that, only I recognized it within myself and was able to take a chill pill and enjoy the moments, rather than pursuing my own agenda for deep meaning and deep impact. Thank God I just enjoyed the moments with them.

Another case in point.

A couple of years ago… we were enjoying a bowl of ice cream for dessert after dinner, and one of the kids said to Bob and I, 'Ice cream should be a family value'. Yes, we all agreed. It is something that we all enjoy, and even if it's not entirely healthy to have too much of this good thing, we can enjoy it in moderation as an entire family. What a cool family value, we all thought.

The very next day I got on my computer and made a lovely little poster with the word 'Ice Cream' as an acronym for all the important yet slightly hidden values of our family… values of character and action, values that we aspire to. Suddenly the family value of 'Ice Cream' had taken on a much deeper meaning for me, and I saw the opportunity to engage the family in a life lesson or a launching pad for deeper things.

So, I posted my meaningful bit of writing on the fridge, and showed it to the family and experienced… a very lukewarm response.

But wait, wasn't the point simply to enjoy a bowl of ice cream together, to make sure that ice cream made it onto my grocery list? Was our son's thought of making ice cream a family value really about the deeper meaning at all, or was I making something out of something for the purposes of what? What I needed and what they needed were two entirely different things!

I remembered this experience the other day with a smile, because that piece I wrote about the 'Ice Cream Family Values' is not on our fridge anymore. Yet, there is still ice cream inside the freezer, and we still enjoy a bowl together as a family quite often.

And, we still consider ice cream to be a family value… plain old often vanilla ice cream… no fancy toppings or deeper meanings required.

And that's OK with me. Just like visiting my parents can be just that… a lovely visit with my family.



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