Category Archives: Living life to the fullest

A splatter in time

In my earlier post I wrote about a weekend when time slowed down. I relaxed at a friend’s cottage, and the leisurely dawdle in time allowed me to notice images of wings that came to me.

Immediately after that weekend, time accelerated from dawdle to flash and I rushed from activity to activity: social events, my daughter’s graduation from university, travel to the Canadian Writers’ Summit in Toronto and the launch of an anthology that includes one of my short stories. Whoosh.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, close-up and outdoor

Smart, talented and determined, my daughter graduates.

I did my best to stay in the moment for all those fun and meaningful moments, but I had little time to luxuriate in noticing. Except once. 

During a writers’ summit poetry session held in a marquis tent at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, one of the leaders asked us to notice something in our immediate surroundings: one unusual or interesting aspect of the setting. I looked up, around and then down. On the paving stones beneath my feet I noticed something that would have escaped me otherwise: bright platters of colourful paint. The stones beneath my feet were the setting for poetry at that moment, but in the not-too-distant past children had played and created with paint there. I imagined their laughter and playful shouts.

 

The workshop leader gave me the gift of time to notice.

I’ll pay it forward. Take some time to notice. What gift is there for you that you might not have appreciated otherwise?


The Blood Is Thicker anthology, published by Iguana Books, includes my short story, “Beating the Odds.” Available here: Blood Is Thicker

 

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Kids know: Sharing and including is way more fun

A surprising lesson from a kids game:

I played musical chairs with my Sunday school kids in two ways. First the traditional version with chairs numbering one less than the players participating arranged, music played, and when the music stopped the children scrambled to claim a chair. One sad-faced child did not find a seat and skulked away, excluded to watch forlornly while the other children played. One more chair removed, and so on.

For the second version, we started out with one less chair at the beginning, same as always, and we removed one chair on each round, same as always. The difference was no child was ever eliminated or excluded. When the music stopped, the children found chairs BUT everyone had to have a place, even if it meant sharing.

What warmed my heart more than anything? The kids shared their chairs even when they didn’t have to.

They didn’t evenly distribute themselves to claim space and only share when there were no more empty chairs. We removed one chair per round and when the music stopped there would be two or three left over. Kids reached out to take other kids by the hand to say, “Sit with me.” They were smiling and laughing and hugging. It was wonderful.

Including everyone was happier than excluding and rejecting. Sharing was more satisfying than staking out space alone.

The first time the kids played they did as they were told and followed the rules of the game. They didn’t question the dog-eat-dog nature of the game. The second time they also followed rules, but they were better thought-out rules, and it was way more fun. Inclusion is important in our affirming church. The kids lived that intuitively when playing a game.

How often do we follow dog-eat-dog rules without question when we could easily change the rules to a much more fun, satisfying option?

We must be careful and mindful of the rules we teach our children. What an awesome responsibility.

Time . . . because will you see the next sunset?

We have an art gallery in our church. A recent display featured the work of Leonard Minni, an artist who lived in Rwanda before during and after the 1994 genocide.

He visited our congregation to tell us about the theme for his exhibition: Time.

The crowd listened in awed silence as he told us that many of his pieces involve sunsets, because when he watched the sun set during the trauma in 1994 he wondered if he would live to see the sun rise, and would he live to see another sunset?

The art of Leonard Minni

One never knows what life holds.

Savour moments as precious. Soak up those sunsets. Be mindful with your Time. 

My family in an Anna Maria Island FL sunset

 

 

 

Phases of our lives that happen to someone else

Our car pulled up at the end of the long rural driveway that leads to the farm I lived on for the first sixteen years of my life. As I looked over the property, the nooks and crannies of the place felt both intimately familiar to the marrow of my bones and foreign at the same time. I can’t believe I used to live there. That feels like it happened to someone else, I thought. As those unspoken thoughts ran through my head, my mother said out loud, “I can’t believe I lived there for 24 years.”

With my dad on the farm.

That was on Easter weekend when we drove the hour up Highway 417 to visit my mother. On our way back from our lunch together, we did what people used to do as a form of entertainment: We went “for a drive.”

We drove by my old high school. Memories, fresh and distant at the same time, popped around my head. In high school I was a shy girl who followed every rule and never challenged authority. That girl is so different from me now she feels like a different person. (The one time I got kicked out of class was when I rolled my eyes at a history teacher for showing yet another film instead of actually teaching us something.)

1980s hair

We stopped at the corner of that rural road  beside the former one-room schoolhouse where my mother used to teach. I missed attending that school by one year. It was still open when I was five, but there was no kindergarten in our area at the time. That school closed and I started Grade 1 “in town.” I remember the building as a school and my own start at education, but it’s so long ago and far away and different that it feels like it happened to someone else.

The old one-room schoolhouse where my mother came to teach. That’s how she met my father.

The trip triggered memories of other phases of my life: university years, when the things I did had to have been done by a different person; the early working years, when I managed to have a lot of fun with no money; and the thrilling exhaustion of new motherhood, a time that turned me into a different person more than anything else could have ever do.

Statistically I have thirty or forty years ahead of me.That’s a lot of room for new phases for me (the one that I am in any given moment) to live to the fullest, and for me (the future me) to look back on someday.

What will those phases will be? I can’t wait to find out. 

 

Put a happy face on it

On Tuesdays when I work in downtown Ottawa, Canada, I get out of my office at noon and go for a walk.

Ottawa is a beautiful city for a walk. I pass the tremendous Parliament Buildings that never fail to awe me with the power of their structures and the peace and freedom they represent.

Centre Block, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

I stroll down by the Rideau Canal locks and along the Ottawa River.

The locks on the Rideau Canal.

I walk by green parks and look up at rugged rock cliffs.

The cliffs behind Parliament Hill

No matter what’s happening in life, the sights of my noon-hour walk lighten my spirits, re-place events into proper perspective and bring me joy.

Everything in life might not be perfect, but I can smile regardless.

The bicycle path where I walk along the Ottawa River flooded last year in the mighty spring flood. The concrete developed potholes that repair crews later patched. Someone who enjoys a touch of whimsy added a smiley face to one of those potholes.

Even though we occasionally get flooded, even though we need to get patched up from time to time, we can smile and know that all shall be well for moving forward again.

All is well.

The weight and clutter of beliefs we carry

“When we carry a belief, it has a certain mental weight attached to it . . . The heavier the investment—such as religious loyalty, abortion, politics, patriotism, good versus evil—the heavier the weight of belief.”  —Neil Kramer in The Unfoldment

In my work at a local library hundreds of books pass through my hands every shift. Most times I don’t pay too much attention, except to note where to place the book correctly. Sometimes a book stops me and says, “Made ya look!”

This week it was The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter, by Margareta Magnusson. I have not read the book yet (if only I could read every book) but I gather the principle is this: clear out your crap before you die and make someone else clean up your mess.

I’m sure Margareta is more polite about it.

Speaking as someone who has had to clear up some such clutter, I endorse the idea. And I think we can go a step farther and clear out some of our mental and emotional clutter too.

In his book, The Unfoldment, Neil Kramer talks about the cluttery weight of beliefs we carry around with us. Some beliefs weigh more than others depending on how invested we are in them. Casual or lighthearted beliefs, like believing a four-leaf clover might bring us good fortune, are light and don’t bother us much to tote around. If we add on a lot more of those little beliefs (knock three times, don’t turn the calendar page until the new month starts, don’t step on a crack, don’t shave during playoffs, don’t wash your lucky socks . . .) the pack gets lumpy and awkward.

Big problems arise when we lug around sandbag-heavy beliefs. Those become a real burden because, even though carrying the weight is hard work, we don’t want to set those burdens down.

“Strangely, the heftier the belief, the more proudly people will sometimes bear its weight. If someone has carried a belief-anvil for 40 years, she is not going to react too kindly to someone telling her that it’s been totally unnecessary. All that effort and martyrdom would have been for nothing. So people hold fast to their own obstinacy, mentally staggering around under this peculiar encumbrance.  —Neil Kramer in The Unfoldment

And a disbelief can be just as heavy. “Disbeliefs require the same maintenance, egoic investment, and channeled consciousness as their positive counterparts,” Kramer writes. (So that’s why so many atheists look like they are a day past a good bowel movement.)

I think we need to think about death-cleaning our minds, clearing out the clutter of beliefs we shouldn’t pass along for someone else have to deal with.

Lately I have found myself avoiding conversations with certain people on particular topics if I know they carry a heavy belief, or if I know I do: Politics is a mine field, the #metoo movement has pitfalls galore, and even Easter has potential for controversy. I’ve started to think, “I need to lighten up.” The weight is getting heavy.

The benefit of death cleaning, I suspect, is keeping only that which serves life, for the benefit of health and happiness and the good of others. Sounds good to me.

four-leaf-clover

It was fun when my daughter found this four-leaf clover, but I don’t REALLY believe it brings us good fortune.

 

 

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