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!

Lesley-Anne

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.

Lesley-Anne

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,

Lesley-Anne

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

Lesley-Anne

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…

Lesley-Anne

A LITTLE BACKGROUND

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?


Lesley-Anne
5/4/09

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.

Lesley-Anne

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Time and attention is something I can give















Seems I'm not the only one, not very surprising to me or any of you, I'm sure. The more I become transparently real in a 'Velveteen Rabbit' kind of way, the more I come into contact with others who share similar stories with me.

• Topic… emotional struggle.

• Biggest challenge…
feeling alone, feeling rejected.

• Biggest need…
understanding within a loving community.

And at times these interchanges are helpful for me and the people I meet, at other times overwhelming as we go beneath the superficial. It's heavy stuff.

Again, yesterday, a connection with someone who is burdened by deep emotional pain, struggling to keep it together enough to take care of loved ones, and here I am wondering, "But what can I do"? It always becomes personal for me, and that's the biggest challenge. Because I know I can't be or do it all, for everyone. And it appears that the world, and in particular my world right now, is full of walking wounded.

I see them, these beautiful hurting people, through several sets of eyes. First, I see them through the eyes of my personal understanding and empathy because of similar experiences. Second, I see them through the eyes of recognition that an empathetic interchange is not enough… that relationship is required, and I know I have to take action. Third, I see them through my own wounded, foggy perspective that most always sees what I want to see, and the fixer, encourager, righteously indignant rescuer in me kicks in. Fourth, I see them through the eyes of Jesus, who reminds me that I cannot turn away except at great cost.

And I'm trying hard to not turn away.

So I'm beginning to think that knowing what "to do" isn't really necessary. I'm thinking that it is more about learning to pay attention to my fellow travellers, and spend time listening. I can give that… my time and attention.

Perhaps many of these burdens and problems have no solutions anyway, and who am I to think I can fix anyone (God complex?). But, I can be there. I can make myself available. I can do little things like make a phone-call or an extra batch of spaghetti sauce. I can look into their eyes and linger in conversation rather than running away. It's messy stuff… complicated, painful, dark, messy stuff. I'm trying hard to not be afraid to go there with these fragile creatures.

Because that's what I desire too, this fragile walking wounded creature called Lesley-Anne Evans, simply wants to know she is not alone in this world. I want to know that I have a listening ear or a broad shoulder whenever life just gets too much to bear. Being a Christian doesn't mean I don't struggle… it's just not a band-aid for all the mess, no matter what some people might say. God knows that about me, and many times he has sent skin-on 'angels' to help me when I'm at the end of my rope.

Like the time many years ago, when I was at home with three little kids, and trying desperately to make canned peaches, crying in the kitchen of our little house because I just couldn't figure out how to do the mothering and the canning at the same time. And then the back gate creaked open, and my neighbour May popped in and rolled up her sleeves and stayed until we had finished the job. I believe God sent May over that day, and has sent many more 'angels' to me over the years.

We are not alone. The living, breathing, hurting human beings that we pass every day on the street, in the mall, at the school, in the church lobby… they all matter to God. They should also matter to us. That's not easy for me to say any more than it is for you to hear. I'm a bit of a recluse, low on the need for social interaction. I like my own company best. But I'm learning to push myself outside of this comfortable place… bit by bit. I just can't love my neighbour any other way.

Time and attention…

I believe we are all worth that investment.

Peace,

Lesley-Anne

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Serendipity






photography by Joel Clements








I'm not superstitious, so please don't hear that when I say that something 'serendipitous' happened to me the other day. I say 'serendipitous' because that's what the other person who was involved in this encounter said. Me, I guess I'd call it a divine appointment. And as I wait to see what will come out of this encounter of the providential kind, I'm pretty excited, 'cause I know there's lots of potential for great things to happen.

As you know, a few days ago I told you about the reason why I was feeling low emotionally, and my struggle to be within community when I'm feeling depressed, introverted, anti-social, and want nothing more than to just fade into the woodwork… or cuddle up in my jammies at home with a book. Going out, or the thought of going out, into public places, or worse even into places inhabited by those who know me and look into my eyes and can see something is wrong, just doesn't appeal to me. I want to hide… hide all the ugly truths about who I am and what I'm going through.

So, my post the other day was a bit of a crap shoot… I put myself out there (a bit generally and maybe a bit too vaguely?) to just admit I was having a hard time. I didn't expect much to come of it, but having the friends that I do, several stepped up and reached out and cared enough to get messy with me. And I am so grateful for you, my dear friends. That alone was enough to give me courage to venture a little further out into the community again.

Monday I ventured into the community at large. I went to do some errands, some returns, and a little shopping. My serendipitous moment happened in a store, at the return desk. I had an encounter with someone I've known for years… from a time long ago when our eldest, now 16, was a little baby. So, a long time ago. Lately we've been 'bumping into each other' every few weeks. Prior to that we hadn't seen each other for years.

So this person from my past and I exchanged pleasantries, as we always do… saying things like let's get together this time… do you still have my number etc. etc. and then we headed our separate ways. I headed into the store, and she, well I thought she headed out the door. Nope. As I was shopping I bumped into her again, and that was when she said with a smile, "Of course it's you… serendipity!"

And we talked again, albeit this time our conversation went beneath the surface right away. She shared some life stuff, asked me about my life, and when I opened up about what I was doing she then said, "That's why we keep meeting!" And we talked more about what that meant, and why our paths were meeting this way, and what God intended to do with us. Then she said something that just about knocked me over… and brought tears to my eyes considering how I've been feeling isolated and depressed… she said, "Just the other day I prayed that God would send me someone… and it's YOU. It's been you all along, I just didn't know it."

WOW! I've never had anyone say something like that to me before. Wow.

You can imagine that I can hardly wait to see what happens next. 'Cause God's in the business of creating all sorts of extraordinary relationships, and I can tell that this is the beginning, no, the rekindling, of one of those.

There's this verse that I found a couple of years ago that says,

"God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us."

So I say, "Yes, God" to whatever it is that you have in mind. I want to live a wild dream… but at the same time gently.

Expecting…

Lesley-Anne

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The reason why

An awful lot of thinking has been going on in my head lately… the neurons buzzing back and forth, and considerations being considered. I've gone from deep despair to a more moderate emotional state, and back again, all without any med's or prolonged use of vitamin supplements. And the process will no doubt continue, as that's just how I live right now. Menopause maybe, or maybe a new life season, or maybe just part of how I was made. It is what it is.

I found a few old journals lately, took them to bed early one evening and started to read them just to confirm that this isn't the first time in my life when I've felt like I've hit a wall. And, indeed, there in ink I read about other times when the circumstances of my life lined up with a case of SADD, or stress, or low energy, or grief, or even with an overabundance of time alone to think on all these things, and the result was the same… reassessment, questioning, wondering, and doubts. And it's always a downward spiral.

I believe a part of why I feel this way is due to my spirituality. There's a very real possibility that a battle is taking place in my mind and spirit because the devil would like to render me ineffective in my life. What I mean to say is, that there's a spiritual world of darkness at work against the Kingdom of Light that I confess to belong to. I'm not here to argue this… just state it as something I believe to be true.

So, having said that, the more time I spend alone, the worse these dark attacks can be. Being an introvert, I often think I don't need to be with people that much, but that's not true for me for long periods of time. Because, when I'm alone, I'm not being bolstered by the community of people that can provide me encouragement, wisdom, comraderie, and affirmation of my life purpose. This community of friends are what sustain me, share accountability with me and help me to refocus when my glasses get foggy… like right about now.

I've already begun the process of reintegration into community in various ways… by opening up this can of worms to you, to my friends, to my husband, and allowing you and them to see that I just don't have it all together… I'm human, I'm struggling, I need them to come alongside me and help me find my way. This can take the form of conversation, prayer, counsel, and plain old cheering from the sidelines as I find my way back into the race again.

I'm on my way back… taking time to write down all the clues that are being sprinkled like bread crumbs upon the path of my life. I bend down and pick up the pieces, nibble on some, and look up for the next clue.

I'm coming back… it's becoming clearer… I'm on my way… watch for me…

Lesley-Anne

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Spitting and spitting and spitting and spitting…













I just realized that I never did get back to my explanation of the Salivary Testing I am doing with the Women's Life Balance Program at iQuest. Sorry about that!

So here's the short of it. On my second visit to iQuest, (the one where I told Dr. Sheehan that I loved her), I was given a little cardboard box, and inside that box were three tiny plastic vials and a page of written instructions.

Marsha, the lovely young lady at the front desk, explained the process to me, and I took my little box and headed home to begin.

Over a series of 7 days I was required to fill the little vials with… spit… yes, spit! But you already know that saliva is spit. What you probably don't know is just how much spit is needed to FILL one of these little vials. Marsha had warned me, with a smile, that "the vials seem to expand when you have to fill them"… but to be honest, I didn't pay much attention to what she was saying at the time. That is, until day 1, when I sat on the edge of my bed (hubby tucked safely away in the shower) and begin to delicately spit into the vial.

The first couple of spits weren't too bad. But then my mouth mysteriously dried up. I mean I had to concentrate really hard to produce any moisture at all. I found this very funny, because when I'm at the Dentist, the exact opposite seems to happen. I can't imagine where all the spit comes from when I don't want it to be there. You know the sucking machine they use to take away spit in the Dentist's chair… well, in hindsight, perhaps this salivary collection process should have been done in conjunction with a visit to the Dentist. But, that's not what happened.

What happened was I kept spitting, I spat and spat and spat until all I was spitting were a very few bubbles. And I prayed that the definition of 'filling the vial' would include the air space that the bubbles took up… because I really didn't have anything else to deposit after about 10 minutes of trying. So, I placed the top on the vial, labeled it neatly, and put it in the freezer. Three mornings later I did it again (maybe it takes that long for the saliva to build up again???) And then, three days after that I 'filled' my last vial, placed it into the freezer with the other two, and planned a trip to iQuest to drop them off.

All fun and games aside, the salivary testing is being done to determine hormone levels in my body, and so will be a very helpful baseline of information to then move forward with recommended treatments. As opposed to blood tests which are a static sample of hormone levels, taking saliva samples over a series of days allows for a much better picture of levels, as hormones fluctuate from day to day. The testing is done by a lab out of town, so I anticipate that the results will be available in another week or so. I'm sort of excited to know, sort of anxious about whether the findings will be really out of whack!

I remember a friend who went through menopause about a year ago had some testing done (blood work, I believe) and when the results came in her Doctor said, "I can't believe you are still walking around!" Now, that's a real vote of confidence that I don't need.

Anyway, that's the process involved, and you can see by my photo that I'm still working on building up the moisture levels in my mouth again… just kidding!

Lesley-Anne

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Fallen


Thoughts inspired by falling leaves, and daughters and their friends,









The leaves fall under the trees in autumn. Maple leaves under maple trees, oak leaves under oak trees, aspen under aspen.

Branches overhead reach over them in their fallen-ness as if in one last attempt to hold onto the past. Branches protecting them, albeit in a limited way, as the leaves themselves were what created shelter and shade just a short time ago.

Branches stretched out, the trees stand as silent sentinels, wetted down by autumn rain, alone in their solitary sadness as they mourn the loss of their magnificence. Maple tree mourning maple leaf.

But oh, the brilliance of those leaves as they lie there, aglow with intensity. Adorning the emerald green of summer’s fading grasses, they are more significant now in their new setting than they were in the old. Leaf tips curling up to hold the rain drops, layered upon each other in a riotous celebration of colour, each worthy of becoming a cherished souvenir of a child. Until their colours have slowly faded, and each leaf quietly taken it’s place as a winter blanket for what lies beneath...the tree’s own roots.

And now if you look up into the trees, you will see that their time of mourning has ended. On the once leaf-laden branches you will find tiny indications of life. Their glory fallen, the trees prepare for future splendor. The buds lie dormant, waiting for the day that the flow of sap will swell them into significance, burst them into beauty.

How true it is with us.

How we cling to this life with great tenacity, holding tight to the wonder and delight of all this world has to offer us through the spring and summers of our lives. Then, like the autumn leaves, we shine in all of our splendor, our colours richly displayed. Our accomplishments, our careers, our possessions, our children, our ministry, our lives. Look, we say, look at what we have, look at what we have become, look at what God has done for us. Look at me!

And we are so beautiful then that we dare not let go of the branch. Our significance is in our position on the tree, separate from each other leaf, proudly displayed and distinct. Beautiful yet isolated, we hang on.

And yet God says, let go of the branch. Trust me, trust me in the falling. Yes, my blessings are for you to enjoy, but don’t hold on so tightly to what I have given you. My blessings are given so that you may then be a blessing. Isolation, pride and selfishness are not from me.

Only in the falling do we experience the gathering on the ground. Layers of leaves, intimately joined together in rich community, only on the ground do we recognize our interdependence. We join together there, unique colours fading into insignificance as we become a rich, fertile blanket for what is to come.

The bible says that as humans we cannot conceive nor the mind understand what God has in store for those of us who love him.

Lesley-Anne Evans
Autumn 2006

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Planning ahead, I think.
















Only 76 shopping days until Christmas…

… WHAT!!!

Only 76 shopping days left!!!

Now why would I be thinking about that, with Thanksgiving only 5 days ago, and the leaves still on the trees, and candy for Halloween still stocking the shelves. WHY would I fill my mind with thoughts of Christmas now? And why with only with the materialistic, consumer driven parts of Christmas? I know better than that, don't I? Of course!! I understand and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, but the shopping has become part of the tradition, and it's just not going to go away.

The gift part of Christmas… the necessary buying… is a real stretch for me. I'm not a good shopper, and I struggle with gift ideas on every occasion, especially Christmas when the perceived expectations are higher, the sheer quantity of gifts enormous (I'm including all the little things for stockings too) and the deadline is at least two weeks before Christmas for those out of town gifts that have to be sent off early.

I guess shopping is on my mind because I just got home from THE GREAT CANADIAN SUPERSTORE!!! That's our local long-term version of THE WALMART SUPERCENTRE (which, by the way, just opened here too)… just as mammoth, just as necessary to consider the type of shoes you are wearing when you leave the house, and just as prone to causing sheer exhaustion, irritability, and lack of grace. All in an effort to save a few dollars, and browse the collection of well designed, reasonably priced 'Joe Fresh' clothing that I've come to love.

So, Saturday afternoon, and rainy outside, and Claire and I head to GCS for a little browsing… and two and a half hours later we are home feeling like we just ran the Boston Marathon (not that I know what that feels like… a tad melodramatic, I know). We had a successful trip, and came home with a couple of cute tops for Claire, and a couple of things for Graeme… who hates shopping even more than I do. I anticipate that I might have to return Graeme's items, but at least I saved him from the shopping experience. I even looked for myself, but came home with nothing but a t-shirt.

All this to say, that I am so tired after accomplishing so little, that the thought of Christmas shopping and having to accomplish so much leaves me feeling drained, and certainly not in the best frame of mind (meaning I'm completely lacking in perspective).

Which makes me wonder if I could attack this whole Christmas shopping thing in a different way? A new plan, that's what I need!!!

I have a friend who shops online… and I've tried this before, but it only works for some items. The stocking stuffers still require considerable personal time in retail. And, I've tried the gift card approach, but that always seems a little cold to me… like I couldn't actually make a decision, so I chickened out and bought a 'you choose for yourself' option. And giving cash feels even worse.

So that brings me back to shopping, in person, for hours and hours until I can say, somewhat triumphantly, "I'm finished!!!" Whoopeeeee!!!

The plan this year must start with ideas… because creative ideas are the key to approaching difficult things, I think. So, here are a few off the top of my head;

• Know what you are looking for -- be a focused shopper, rather than aimlessly 'wandering' looking for inspiration.

• Choose the best time of day… first thing in the morning, during the week when others are at work, at school, in bed, or whatever.


• Break it down into manageable pieces. Keep expectations low and exceed them rather than fall short. So, if I can manage to buy one gift, I will celebrate! Thank goodness Starbucks already has some yummy seasonal drinks on their menu.


• Quit early -- head home before feet are blistered, or the attitude begins to slip.

• Shop to a budget, and take the guilt out of spending. This could include having an amount of money set aside already… although this never happens for me.

• Start early in the season with the goal of finishing by a certain date.

• Take a friend with you… this is always more fun than going alone.

• Enlist family members too… from ideas to purchasing, if your family is involved, the task seems less daunting.

• Wear your ipod and listen to your favourite soothing music as you shop. This only works when shopping alone!

OK, I'm feeling better now that I've been reminded of all the things that do and don't work, and even come up with a few new ideas. So, I guess there's no excuse now, other than mustering up the initiative to get started.

Any Christmas shopping tips you'd like to share, I'm all ears.

Lesley-Anne

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thoughts on Sabbath and a balanced life…














After a month of being unwell, I'm happy to report that I'm feeling more like myself and ready to start the process of catch-up on all the things that didn't get done for the past 30 days.

On Friday, I started taking a large dose of antibiotics that seem to be doing the trick. My lethargy has lifted, my cough has lightened, and my sinuses are indistinguishable from the rest of my face and forehead! I feel health coming on, and it feels so good that I want to celebrate!

But I feel like I've been living in a void for a month… with so little energy that I could only take care of the very basics of cooking, cleaning, laundry, family management and walking the dog. My voice was affected, so coffee with friends or chats by phone were out of the question. Meetings I had scheduled, about what I thought to be very important things, were put on hold once my symptoms included a horrific cough. I hardly had the energy to get up and drive to pick up my poor children, who must have wondered whatever happened to their real mother?

I've been out of the loop, on the back burner, for far too long. And now I don't really know where to start.

In hindsight, I'm thankful for the rest. I've learned that the weight of responsibility I put on myself to do so many trivial things, is really not necessary. The weeds in the garden have waited patiently for me to show up, and so far, I can still see the plants that are intended to be there surviving without my tending. The meals have been more simple, yet still tasty. Nobody has suffered from malnutrition so far. And, in those days of lack of contact with people, I enjoyed the peace and the stillness of my home. Only during the days is this possible, as my family of 5 plus a dog is certainly not peaceful and still when they are all at home doing their thing. And nobody has come down with anything nasty due to dusty furniture, or un-mopped floors. Really, we've survived this time relatively unscathed.

And I truly believe NOTHING is wasted, not even the flu, or a cold, or a virus like I had. Because of it I read more, sat more, thought more. I slept more. And the perspective that only comes with time and space came for me, taking the edge off some crazy things I thought I might do this fall, thought I 'should do' this fall, and bringing me back to the essential, important, and first things first.

Which has reminds me of the concept of Sabbath… (what I know of it, that is)… Sabbath… allowing for space in which rest, and a time of thankful introspection and peace and preparing for what is next, is intentionally placed in one's life on a regular basis. Not in a legalistic sense, as in the biblical command to keep the Sabbath holy, but one of honour and recognition that God has hard wired in a need for rest that we must recognize in order to be fully what he intends us to be.

Did I just taste some of that in my sickness? I remember part of a quote that was left on a chalk board at church, which came to mind as I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. It was something like this,

"If we do not honour the Sabbath in our daily lives, our sickness, our disease, our heart ache will become our Sabbath."


So I have to ask myself, even with my deep desire to lead a simple life, do I really understand what it means to lead a balanced life? Am I practicing Sabbath rest to honour God, and his way of balancing the various components of my life? Does my life show a healthy back and forth between work and play, activity and rest, community and solitude, and other areas?

What about food and fasting? Does my mind ever experience Sabbath rest? My emotions? Am I getting enough sleep? Do my relationships suffer from the lack of balance… and lack of Sabbath rest? Like that commercial for 'Go RVing', am I mistaking the things that keep us connected (cell phone, computer, face-book time), for the things that keep us together in relationships (face-to-face time)?

Was this time of illness a time of reckoning… or recognition that my life is not in balance, and needs to be brought into check before something else happens? Perhaps.

Whether professional, mother, teacher, artist, writer, cab driver, secretary, we all have choices in how we spend our time, what we prioritize, and how we balance our lives. We are responsible for these choices, in how they effect us, and others that we love. Some choices will have lasting impact, others minor inconveniences like colds and the flu.

So what better way to undertake a life choices assessment, than taking time apart… a Sabbath… to consider how well I am doing in this area of balance. And perhaps through making some adjustments, I will begin to live better, and be well inside and out. This lines up perfectly with my start in the Women's Life Balance Program at iQuest, doesn't it? All things considered, it's the right thing to do.

Wellness is something I've missed a lot these past four weeks. And I don't want to intentionally cause sickness to happen again, no matter the lessons learned.

Something to consider as I procrastinate over walking the dog today.

Lesley-Anne

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sparrow














You cup your hands as you gently lift the injured sparrow from the swimming pool water and peer down at it. Your young faces are full of concern for the creature that has flown frantically around our backyard, staying just ahead of Buddy our German Pointer - intent on obeying his hard wired birding instincts.

“What should we do mom?” you three ask, and so I say, “Let’s take it inside where it will be safe for a while. Buddy will have to stay outside for now,” the dog still searching the yard for his elusive prey. So, you and your brother and sister take over, preparing a soft, towel-lined cardboard box, and then go online to research the appropriate action to care for an injured bird.

In my heart I think the story will have a sad ending, as many birds die from the fright of being handled. But you are persistent in finding out what to do, and quickly prepare a lid for the box, punching holes in the cardboard sides and adjusting the blinds on the laundry room window to cut out as much light as you can.

We are all speaking in soft voices now, and the timer on the stove is set, just as you instruct us to do -- now we have to wait. Your sister isn’t very patient in her vigil, every few minutes requesting a peek into the box. But you know time is important, so we wait, and I wonder what we will see when we finally remove the lid and look inside?

Time passes, the box is opened, the bird flies free. Life is spared, our hearts are touched, we play a small part in something bigger. And I consider how our small lives reflect those of sparrows, eating from His outstretched hand.

Lesley-Anne Evans

Sunday, October 4, 2009

It keeps on getting better all the time…















Well, it’s not something I’m in the habit of doing. That is, I don’t usually make an appointment with a health professional to deal with something that ails me, and then blurt out ‘I love you’ in response to their suggested treatment. And yet that’s exactly what I did when Dr. Sheehan said she wanted me to start taking apple cider vinegar to supplement the acids in my stomach, and help my ongoing problem with indigestion and acid reflux. The fact that this suggestion lined up with something my very healthy and elderly grandfather had taken most of his adult life, and I was sold out.

My visit to iQuest Healthcare and Fitness Centre and Dr. Rachel Sheehan, ND, was Part Two of my Women’s Life Balance Program initiation process. Similar to Part One with Dr. Grant Pagdin, MD (that I told you about in a previous post) it far surpassed what I had been expecting. Again no BMI testing with Dr. Sheehan!

Dr. Sheehan had done her homework, reading over the lengthy questionaire I had submitted beforehand. Based upon those facts and other related questions, we sat and talked and laughed and shared and by the end of the visit I felt like I was a friend rather than a client. Why, you might ask? Well, this lady made it her business to ask very detailed questions, and listened rather than interrupted when I gave lengthy answers, and empathized with me when we ventured into areas that were personal, emotional, even psychological. It wasn’t just about figuring out how to help me in my current menopausal state, rather it was about getting to know me as a whole person, and beginning to look at ways to treat that whole.

So, for me, that meant looking at my detailed health record, of course. It included talking about my concerns surrounding a family history of breast cancer and diabetes. It involved taking a look at my predisposition toward depression and SAD. And, it allowed us to take a detailed look at my menopausal symptoms and my personal philosophy regarding bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and homeopathy.

In other words, we covered a lot of territory in that hour, and my outburst of ‘I love you’ near the end of our time together was genuine. I truly felt warm feelings towards this woman who offered me, not only an ear, not only her professional expertise, not only the beginning of a customized approach toward my whole health, but most importantly, she offered me new hope.

So, another step further along, and I’m home again with my share of Dr. Sheehan's 'tricks up my sleeve’ to better deal with the distressing symptoms of broken sleep and hot flashes that come along with my version of the ‘pause’. And I have to report that to date I have had three nights of good solid sleep, and several days with no noticeable hot flashes. You can imagine that my frame of mind is also improving, and I’m excited to discuss this with Dr. Sheehan on our next visit.

Oh, did I mention that I had to go and see another iQuest specialist after my visit with Dr. Sheehan? Well, I did. I met with Jordelle Dupre, iQuest's Exercise Physiology Expert, who led me through a ‘Strength and Agility’ testing process. Jordelle was kind enough not to laugh when I couldn’t quite figure out how to do a vertical jump without kicking up my heels, and she patiently waited while the spasm in my shoulder died down enough to continue to do a very limited number of sit-ups. Oh, and she also graciously calculated my BMI, without calipers. All this to gain a deeper understanding of my capacity and abilities, and to assess the current status of my whole health.

All in all, it was a good morning. And, you can imagine my excitement when Jordelle took a measurement of my waist circumference and announced that I was well within healthy heart measurements for women my age. Wow, now that felt really good. Another healthy dose of hope!

I was going to tell you more about my saliva, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.

Lesley-Anne

Friday, October 2, 2009

October Valentine - the real story

Yesterday's posting was written as if it were a tale that could have happened to anyone, anywhere. The truth is, it happened to me. Why it happened, I don't know. But I do know it was as real to me as the leaf I held in my hand. You will just have to decide for yourself if you believe it.

This then, is my personal account of what took place two years ago, as I walked with my dog Buddy along a tree-lined pathway in Kelowna, British Columbia.






photography by Jeanine Friesen of J9 Photography.







Come and listen to what God has done in my life.

It was a bright October day, and after dropping our children at school, I decided to take my dog for a walk along the Mission Creek Greenway. It was wonderful on the path that day; the creek sparkling and gurgling beside me, and the poplar trees at the height of fall colour, illuminated in the sunshine.

As I walked, I felt a growing sense of well-being, and I thought to myself, "You are here God." I began to hum and then sing right out loud because no-one else was there but me. I worshiped God, feeling a closeness to him that I hadn't in a long time.

I looked up at the colourful trees, and wanting to somehow save this beauty, I stopped to pick up some leaves from the ground. And that is when I noticed... the leaf in my hand was heart-shaped, like a yellow valentine. And, at that very moment, I heard God say in my own heart,

"I am here, and I love you, I love you!"

So, I stood there, surrounded by the glowing heart shaped leaves, and I felt the touch of God.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October Valentine

Sharing this story has become a tradition in my life for the past couple of Autumns. In celebration of October and the tangible, personal love that God has for each of us, I'd like to share it again.






photography by Jeanine Friesen of J9 Photography







October Valentine

by LA. Evans

She walked briskly along the pathway, the dog ahead of her pulling on the leash. The sun shone brightly, illuminating the fall leaves on the trees and enveloping her in colour.

She hummed as she walked, and then began singing. With the sun warming her face and fresh air filling her lungs, she felt a deep contentment. And she thought to herself, “You are here God”.

Taking in the details of the trees around her, she admired the contrasting colours of the leaves more closely. She reached down to pick a yellow leaf from the ground, then another and another. There were so many leaves to choose from that soon she had a brilliant bouquet in her gloved hand.

It was then that she noticed the shape of the yellow leaves -- heart shaped. And, at that very moment, God spoke into her heart;

“I love you. I love you. I am here and I love you.”

She stood still, looking at all the leaves. The heart-shaped leaves surrounded her, some hanging from the trees above, while others created a beautiful carpet under her feet. She smiled. It was simple and profound and personal, and she wanted to share it with her friends.

She collected more leaves, then continued to walk and consider the depth of God’s love for her. The heart shaped leaves were from poplar trees -- fast growing, weedy trees that were not highly valued. And God chose those particular trees to display his love to her. Not the mighty oak nor the stately maple, but the humble, overlooked and often disposable poplar.

Invigorated by her walk and God’s message of love, she and her dog made their way along the pathway toward home.


May this story remind you of the One who loves you uniquely, personally, beyond comprehension.

Lesley-Anne

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Body Mass Index and other scary tests

It was much better than I expected. No poking or prodding or weighing was involved this time around, and no BMI (body mass index) measurements were taken, thank goodness! I am so relieved.

Earlier this morning, you'd think I was preparing for a first date or something! I was nervous, sweaty (or, was that a hot flash?) and completely absorbed by my wardrobe's lack of choices."What should I wear", is a question that goes through my mind every day, but this morning, it was "What sporty thing should I wear", which limits things considerably because I'm not a sporty kind of girl.

I settled on a pair of running shorts (never been worn for running before, only for walking) a yoga top (you guessed it, never been worn for yoga but nice and cool for working in the garden) followed by a colourful hoodie, just in case it was cold in the office and my yoga top felt too bare, and then I topped that off with my bright turquoise cycling jacket which looks like I probably just did something athletic, or at least have a mind to do something healthy soon. And my runners were fairly new and presentable. I think I'll fit in now, I thought.

Next came the makeup… and I needed to be careful there too… not too much and not too little. I settled for a dash of eye shadow, and a light lip gloss, hoping that the overall effect was well tended and again, sporty!

Then, armed with my completed health questionaire, I went to drop off the kids at school, and on to my 9 am appointment at the iQuest Healthcare and Fitness Centre.

Why all this drama for me today? Because today was the day that I officially enrolled in the newly launched iQuest Women's Life Balance Program. My friend Lorne Friesen, Director of iQuest Kelowna, recently presented me with a great opportunity that allows me to focus purposefully on my health, while exercising my love of writing. I am to be honoured with being one of the first clients to participate in the Women's Life Balance Program, and I will write about my experiences, and I will share my stories with you.

So all of my preparation this morning was leading up to my first physician assessment at iQuest, and I didn't quite know what to expect, how I would fit in, what the outcomes would be, and most of all, how embarrassed I would be to learn how unhealthy and unfit I really am. As it turned out, my experience was completely comfortable, because iQuest is a comfortable place, whether you are 'sporty' or not. The people who work there make it that way.

Dr. Grant Pagdin's assessment was more of a conversation really. We spent our hour talking about the various aspects of living a balanced and healthy lifestyle, how this relates to life in menopause, and the new possibilities offered now with Bioidentical Hormone Therapy (BHT). I felt at ease talking about myself and where I was at, asking him lots of questions, and he patiently answered every one. I came away feeling more educated, listened to, and entertaining the possibility that there were new options for me and other women who are struggling with the sometimes overwhelming symptoms of the 'pause' (see this previous post).

So, next steps for me are 'salivary testing' to determine hormone levels in my body, an appointment with iQuest's Naturopathic Doctor to discuss holistic treatment options for menopause, and then some strength and agility testing. Nobody mentioned the BMI yet, so maybe that's not going to happen. I really don't need a test to tell me that my middle is wider than it was before… just someone to help me manouver through these waters of menopause with grace and a sense of being in control of my own healthy lifestyle choices.

Salivary testing is done at home… and it involves spitting… hummm…

Lesley-Anne

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

the good, the bad, the ugly

The good;

• sun is shining outside yet again… these autumn days are warm, yellow, wonderful.

• kids are all back in school again.

• my throat doesn't hurt today.

• my email is back online.

• God loves me and has given me a good life.

• I have friends.

• Chicken noodle soup is good for the soul… not the books, the soup!

• there are groceries in the fridge and dinner plans in my head.

• there is a sleeping dog on my couch because he and I had a good long walk.

The bad;

• someone hacked into Bob's business account and took his money.

• the days go by too quickly with too little to show for it… unless writing is considered by non-writers to be productive? Does it really matter?

• poetry is not considered to be writing, by some people.

• some people don't read.

• I can't remember what I read this morning… and I'll have to read it over again!

The ugly;

• my car is in dire need of a wash and vac.

• there are hampers full of dirty clothes upstairs.

• I still care too much about what other people do, say and think.

• even after I re-read what I forgot, I will still struggle to put it into action, and will most likely forget it again.

• I don't want to do the laundry.

• I don't want to wash and vac. the car.


Well, that's about it for now… and at the end of it all, the good outweighs the bad and the ugly. So, I guess that's good. Unless I add the bad and ugly together and then it's… more heavily weighted on the negative side of things… but who's counting!

I prefer to keep looking up!

LA

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ranting and reckoning

A short rant on a (the) virtual enemy…

What the? So my email suddenly goes AWOL, and once I dig into the problem I discover, with the assistance of my husband's amazing technical wiz Wayne at his office, that my email has been 'harvested'! What on earth is that? Harvested by online 'bots' whose job is to find email addresses with unprotected something-or-others and then somehow hack into personal information, including passwords, and hijack everything.

Why would anyone do this? "You don't know the criminal mind, Mom." my 13 year old says. But why would any criminal want anything of mine? Especially the email of a 40 something suburbanite wife and mother, who writes poetry? I just don't get it… and I guess that's just the thing… it's not to be gotten! It just is. And people like me… naive, honest, trusting people like me who strive to learn to navigate the virtual world in an attempt to impact the real world, do so without really knowing or understanding some of the potential dangers that come along with this territory.

So you are probably saying to yourself… it was only your email address, not your bank account and not true identitly theft… right? But, this person (whose email was actually programmed as a forwarding address with my internet provider - sick!) didn't just steal my personal email (remember that mail theft is a federal offense in the United States… and maybe Canada too), but they took my information and that of many others from a huge online community called 'Faithwriters', and posted them on a website… with dark intent… they placed me and those others on a list… an anti-christian, gay bashing 'watch list'… and THAT makes me really PO'd. That makes my skin crawl. That makes me want to reach along the vast miles of internet highways and bi-ways and… what? And what? (take a deep breath…)

And here I'll have to park… 'cause it shouldn't surprise me, and it shouldn't shock me, and it certainly shouldn't cause me to hesitate for one moment to continue what I'm doing here… writing things down… writing poetry… speaking my heart out… speaking my mind… sharing God stuff. 'Cause when I do that, then somebody is certainly bound to get PO'd… and try to stop me… even if it's just by making me feel a little foolish, or perhaps a little fearful, or maybe by stealing my email.

Well, I call your bluff!!!

Lesley-Anne

Monday, September 14, 2009

Flu season already?


It's been a few days since I've written… went quickly from summer holidays, to back to school prep., to FLU (or some un-named virus with flu-like symptoms)! How frustrating for my poor sick kids… to just get into their new classes with their new teachers and new classmates, then have to stay at home with sore throats, headaches, fever, cough, stomach aches, and no energy to do anything other than press the remote button from time to time, and whine a little bit.

I feel badly for them because I know there will be catch up to do, new concepts to learn outside of regular class time, and the added stress of having missed school life for a few days. I wonder if they caught it at school, or exactly how we could have moved from the happy, healthy days of summer to this, so quickly?

And now, just as we are coming close to the end of the sickness for them, I catch it. Last night I couldn't sleep due to a throat so sore that I had trouble swallowing. I tried a couple of home remedies… one you probably know about, the other is, well, a little suspect. But, I was desperate last night.

The first was to swallow a teaspoon full of liquid honey. Ummm, that felt rather good going down, smooth, sweet, covering the throat with a calming coating… which only lasted for a few minutes before the pain kicked in again.

The second involved dill pickles. First, I swallowed a tablespoon of the liquid from the pickle jar… now this has to be garlic dill pickles apparently, because the combination of garlic and dill is a disinfectant/antiseptic in some way. Then, as a chaser, you eat a pickle. Ta da… done! And again, the result was rather calming for a few more minutes… and then, the pain came back. At least my hunger pangs were satiated at 12:30 am. But my throat, not happy at all.

So, I headed back to bed with lozenges, a glass of water, and a large portion of self pity for company. And I tried to sleep as best I could.

This morning things are a bit brighter… always better in the day light, isn't it? Today I'm more able to care for my son who has taken up residence on the couch again. Poor boy has pink eye, nose bleeds, and a sore throat too. I need to check in on him now, so I'll leave you with a helpful list of things you might want to have on hand for this winter's flu season. I might have been better prepared if I'd had this list last week. Oh well, it's not winter yet, is it?

This too will pass.

Tenderly,

Lesley-Anne

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Virtual awards

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I've never received a virtual award before… and maybe a real one only a couple of times. Once in middle school I received a Citizenship Award for being a good and caring student, and another time a Participation Award for completing the Canada Fitness Challenge without giving up. So, you can imagine my amazement at receiving an award for being 'Neighbourly'!

My online friend Pastor Sharon at Dances with God gave me this award in thanks for my support of a not so popular blog she posted some time ago. And I thank her for her kindness to me, and for the honour and the cool badge that I can post in various places. Thanks Sharon!

It feels wonderful to get recognition of any kind, yet I feel something slightly different about being recognized for my character rather than my achievement. There's this small pang of disappointment that my blog (and I) weren't chosen for great writing, or incredible impact, or excellent research, or hilarious content… rather than being recognized for being a loving neighbour to my internet friend.

It reminds me of a verse that goes something like this, 'beauty fades and charm is fleeting, but a woman of the Lord is to be praised'. Do I want to be a woman of the Lord - oh yes, please let that be true. But, do I want to also be beautiful and charming as well - yes I admit I do, maybe even more so on some days.

It's that constant vying of flesh and spirit inside me that causes my angst. And I know I'm maybe disclosing too much reality here for some, but the physical world gets it's claws in sometimes, and those deadly things that God hates raise their ugly heads in my life, my mind, my actions. I wish I could say it wasn't so, but it is.

So here I am, with my very first 'award', and I feel disappointed. So pathetic. So true. And I can see that I need to do some damage control. So, I'm going to keep this short, and go hang out on my porch with a coffee, my dog and the good book. Yep, that's where my attitude will get readjusted, where forgiveness can be requested and received. And that's where my focus can change from earthly to eternal rewards.

Forgive me this today,

Lesley-Anne

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Community doesn't just happen… it takes time.















The more time I spend trying to figure out the internet and all of it's nuances, the more I see that it is so much about marketing and networking. And I also recognize that both of these take a lot of time. Occasionally I can't help but wonder what the end result will be to all of my little efforts. And mostly I just keep working away, discovering treasures in people and their words, actively writing, and posting my work. Social networking is a big part of my life now.

This is what I've been learning about social networking so far. If I want to get word out about something I just tell my friends about it on Facebook, and then my announcement will instantly be 'seen' by my friends friends and so on. I can join special interest groups on Facebook and make new 'friends', expanding my network and my ability to spread the word about anything… an event, a book launch, a birthday! If I want to become more involved in the virtual writing world, I can visit writer's blogs, websites, and networks (like Pink Ink Workshop) and dig in a little, posting comments (only after reading their posts, of course) that link back to my own blog or website. And I can blog myself to build a platform for future projects, and I can Twitter… or Tweet… although I haven't gone there and I'm not sure if I will. Then there are also podcasts, and other things that I'm probably not even aware of (yet).

I've learned that I can follow or subscribe to blogs that inspire me and widen my perspective. I've learned how to join networks that again expand my circles and introduce me to the world of writing in new ways. Google Alerts allow me to monitor who else is writing on certain topics, and find other networks for writing women and so on. I can find a niche, discover a new idea, or make a new friend because of the amazing world of the internet.

Social networking creates a sense that I am 'out there', and there's this opportunity to build into and receive support from writers around the world. It's pretty amazing when you think about it. Pink Ink Workshop is an example to me of how a group of writing women can connect, care, and draw out the very best in each other. So many good things have occurred already in just a few months with this network, because of our growing relationships with one other.

The things I have yet to figure out are well defined boundaries… to ensure that I'm not spending too much time in the virtual world, but also engaging in relationships with flesh and blood people. I have to figure out a good writing schedule to allow me to blog regularly without sitting for hours in front of my computer. I have to discover when enough is enough when it comes to online research. But, with all those things in mind, I will forge on because I believe it's a worthwhile endeavor and a way to meet incredible people, learn new things, stay relevant, grow my gifts.

So, I encourage you to make time to get involved in online networks… it's up to you how much or how little you put into this, and it's really just one way to connect. But I believe it's a healthy thing to belong to communities of like interested people, who are actively making a place for themselves, and making friends along the way.

Out there, but still here,

Lesley-Anne

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Basement dweller

A week of days without kids sent me to the depths of… the house! (You thought I was going to say despair, didn't you?) But no, as much as I miss them all, this week has been about seizing the opportunity to reduce, reuse, and recycle… or plain old 'clean' the basement. My husband and I were initially going to spend this week away… then decided to say home… and then came up with the crazy idea of cleaning the square footage in our home that holds almost 10 years of accumulated #%*&@!!!

Now tackling this isn't as easy as it might sound… I'm a pack rat… inspired by thoughts of reusing things at some time in the future and by sentimental attachments to things that are firsts… first picture, first word, first finger painting, first spelling test, first book, first paper mache face mask, first pencil, first macaroni photo frame… you get the picture. Only this collection of sentimental firsts is multiplied by 3 kids and has gotten completely out of hand.

And the sentimentality includes a lot of things belonging to me as well… like files from my old life as a Landscape Architect, letters from everyone you could imagine including old boyfriends (yikes), decor that went out of style in the 80's, my Barbie and Ken that have joined my 11 year old daughters' Barbies and Kellys in a large plastic container awaiting the day that her daughter might possibly find them fun to play with. And on and on…

It's a mess downstairs, but with my husband's help and patience and strong personality at work, we have made some great headway. And it's actually had moments of fun as we've been alone with our task and had time to reminisce and talk about all sorts of stuff… like how we're going to stop buying so much stuff without carefully considering where it's going to go and where it's going to end up!

We're done for the day, with plans to visit the dump and the local thrift shop tomorrow morning. Doesn't sound romantic, I know, but we are feeling somehow lighter for our hard work, and are going to celebrate by going out tonight to a new restaurant in town.

And just think how excited the kids will be when they get home to find all that open space downstairs!

Feeling cleaner,

Lesley-Anne

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Truth or Dare

Perhaps a quirky theme of words here, but the terms 'truth' and 'dare' keep popping up over and over again. Like in the Love Dare book my husband and I are reading, which then inspired my posts I dare you and I double dare you . And now twice again over the past few days. Peculiar… I wonder…

My daughter Claire (11) just attended a birthday sleepover. Not my favourite in the long list of social activities that our kids participate in. And I prefer to RSVP to these parties with a negative… especially if the event is not celebrating a birthday. This one was a birthday sleepover, so after some careful consideration, I/we said yes.

So, with our kids all safely tucked into their prospective social lives, Bob and I headed out for an adult evening. We went to see the 'Hip' (Tragically Hip) and had a fun evening in the company of a crowd of about 2500 people who enthusiastically participated in the awesome musical event by dancing, screaming, drinking beer, and smoking pot. No, not us, but the people around us did. As a matter of fact, there was so much toking going on that, by the time the doors to the Performance Center were thrown open at the end of the concert, the smoke poured out with the people! I loved the music, but found the 'Sodomesque' environment a tad distracting at times.

When we arrived home, there were two messages on the answering machine. One was hard to understand… many young girl voices laughing and yelling and talking at once… and the second was our daughter explaining the first message to us. "Hey Mom and Dad", she said, "We are just playing Truth or Dare, and that was just a joke phone call to Malcolm (her 13 year old brother), so don't worry." OK, I won't worry, I thought… of course immediately worrying about what a bunch of 11 year old girls were doing making late night 'crank' phone calls and playing Truth or Dare in the first place.

After picking up my daughter and her friends the following day, I asked questions to try to determine what type of dares and truths were dealt with, how the game happened (apparently it was actually a board game given as a birthday present) and whether there might be any consequences to what had been done or shared as a result. And then I had to decide whether or not I needed to have a follow up 'teaching moment' with my daughter later… and yep, it's going to have to happen.

So, fast forward to about 10 minutes ago when I read today's blog at 'Dances with God', only to find a version of adult Truth or Dare that rocked me. Well, more truth than dare… but my point is that no matter when, if we are willing to speak truth, there will be consequences both for ourselves and often rippling out to others in our lives.

The truth disclosed by the author of Dances with God is in response to 'The Honest Scrap', in which you tell 10 true things about yourself that nobody else knows, and post them on your blog. Various other rules apply which I won't get into here.

Now I'm not saying that I'm ready or willing to disclose the type of truth that was bravely disclosed in 'Dances with God', but I have to say that I respect Pastor Sharon for doing so, and I'm thinking I'd better park here for a while to consider exactly what my heart is saying in response, and how I will apply that in my own life. Truth is often like that… it convicts… creates change… growth.

I've said that my life is an open book… but are some pages still stuck together? Am I daring enough to pry them (painfully) open?

I wonder how truthful I can really be… with you, with myself?

Lesley-Anne

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