Sunday, November 22, 2015

The gift of complexity

Like you, I have seen and heard a bajillion things about ISIS (or whatever we are calling them now), about the attacks in Paris, Mali, Kenya, about the middle east, about the media, media bias, about refugees, about what I should think, what I should care about, who I should support....

It is completely overwhelming.

Each new article posted / emailed / broadcast, each new newsclip both informs and confuses.. infuriates and defeats, offers hope and despair.

Like many of you, I try to read, to make sense, to inform myself, to keep up with trending opinion and breaking news. While trying to live my life, work, parent, buy groceries, do laundry etc.

I was having a gripe session with myself the other day about all this (as one does) when I had a re-frame moment ( a habit I am getting good at!)

I wondered to myself if I could see all this complexity as a gift?

After all there is no chance I have enough time or am smart enough to actually find the "truth" and even if  I did it would still only likely be my truth for 5 minutes before some other information pushed up and caused a reconsideration of it all.

What if I could do what I can to sift through what I can, and be as well informed as I can, and then, instead of feeling overwhelmed, I could just be satisfied?

Even more what if I could see all those articles and posts and opinions as each contributing a pixel to a global image that maybe one day will reveal a picture that is truthful and real?

Then I could leave my rage and my confusion and distress a little and just read / watch / think and know that for as many Governments and groups and people that there are in this beautiful and broken world, there are opinions and stories.

I get to be a pixel in the picture, a line in the story, even without seeing or knowing the whole of it.

So I have decided to see the complexity as a gift.  To be humbly received, examined, used as is useful and at times put away for a while.

SO now to read the 15 articles from my newsfeed this week and see how it goes!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Eye can see clearly now

A long time ago a little boy climbed into a big chair in the Opthalmology Department
at Children's Hospital to get his eyes checked.  His little feet way off the ground.


20/200...only one eye working. 

Yesterday a tall, lanky boy climbed into that same chair which had to be lowered so the Opthalmologist could see into his eyes.


20/50...both eyes working. 

I have said it here before that I am ever SO grateful for the incredible care David has had 
Children's Hospital under Dr. Lyons.  We went through years of patching, surgery and spent hours in that busy waiting room waiting for pupils to dilate.

So it came as quite a shock when Dr. Lyons told us yesterday we have aged out of this program.

I was so surprised I said "You're kicking us out?" to which, in his ever gentle manner, he said "David is graduating".  And so it was over.  We said our thank you's, remembered that small boy together, and were reassured we can return there if we are ever concerned.

I felt a bit adrift.  

I tried to pull myself together and I reflected on why I was feeling so sad.  

realised a few things (all in the space of time it took to walk through the sideways rain and howling wind to the car where I had grossly overpaid for parking never thinking we'd be done so soon)..... I had come to feel safe at this place, a place that has so often cared so well for my children.  I was feeling a little scared to leave.  

I was also feeling scared that it meant my children were not little children anymore - a fact which is visibly obvious, but sometimes it takes a Mama's heart a little time to catch up to reality.  No more children's hospital....GULP.

And last, but certainly not least,  I realised I was going to miss this time with David.  He and I have spent so many hours driving to and from Children's, sitting waiting, sometimes for hours.  When they dilated his pupils we had to wait for them to fully dilate and we developed a tradition of walking through the hospital grounds to the Starbucks where he would have a hot chocolate and I would have a coffee and we would split an Oat Fudge Bar before going back to wait for round two of the appointment.

So as we drove out of Children's after our shortest appointment ever I could have got him to school and me back to work earlier than expected but I decided we needed one last Starbucks moment.  So we found one, he had hot chocolate and I had a coffee.  Sadly no oat fudge bars but banana loaf instead.  We fist bumped and then hugged each other. 

It's been a journey.  An amazing outcome. 


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Reflection on the Break

Well folks the "Break" is all but over.  

It was good.

Each day I managed to do something that was good for my soul.  A drive by the river, a walk, a cuddle with the puppy, watching the sunset, completing a few projects, checking some things off my Christmas shopping lists, cleaning the floors, driving the kids..... normal everyday stuff.

Normal everyday stuff a busy working Mom often misses out on doing.  

And when I do get to be there at school pick up,  plan and make a lovely week night meal, finish 3 loads of laundry in one day, get through the TO DO list that has been languishing for weeks if not months, greet my Honey at the door at then end of his day.....I often wonder about the choices I have made.

I'm not going to second guess the past.  I think I can say I did the best I could have at the time.  Some things I regret. Many I do not and it's all turned out rather well for us all so far.

But one thing really struck me this week.  

I s l o w e d down.  

I felt my heart, mind and body slow down.  

And it feels really good. 

The anxious buzz of my mind quieted and I slept better.  My achy body stretched and worked in different ways and enjoyed being free of my desk chair.  My heart felt whole and content even when the deeply troubling events of Friday unfolded I felt grounded enough take in what I could, to pray as I watched the images unfold, to talk it through with my family and to consider a response rather than a reaction.

Work begins again tomorrow and although I have had to attend to a few things while I was away I had a good break.  

I am resolved to try and hold the pace to a steady, measured one when I get back.  To be clear and prioritise and to walk away at the end of the days assured I did my best and not fretting about the next day and the next day and the next day.  

Advent is not far off and I hope to enter into it with a ready and reflective heart that has hopefully learned a new, more balanced, peaceful way to be in the world.

Saturday, November 7, 2015


It is so interesting how one word has so many connotations (thank you English language!).

This one....Break....has both positive and negative ones.

And, as is so often the case, as I pondered this I recently experienced both sides of the coin.

I won't belabor the point that the last many months have been tough on many fronts.  But also many good and wonderful moments and people have been scattered about in the messiness and are likely the only reason I/we keep on keeping on.  

But this last couple of weeks. Well, I guess they were the cherry on the top of a much less than satisfying sundae?  A couple of weeks that sought to break even my resolve to keep my chin up and keep getting out of bed.

But just in the nick (yes yes I know) of time I have a break.  

A good kind of break. 

Not a snapping of bones or glass kind or a snapping of my spirit kind but an actual b r e a k from work.

I have taken a week off.  

And I am ever grateful that my fraying rope held on until just this moment.  Amen! 

And now I am doing my level best to embrace the break. 

To embrace being a wife and mom and daughter and giving my peeps some of my time and energy.  I've already made one round of pancakes and (possibly carcinogenic) bacon which the kids and I enjoyed in our warm kitchen on a miserable, cold and rainy morning (sadly Allan is being Teacher-Robot Coach all day).  I have coached my homework averse 16 year old to get a far too long list of assignments and projects going when he'd rather curl up and watch endless YouTube.  I have done laundry and cleaned the kitchen and made lists and plans.  And blogged.

I am conscious that they need me to have this break but I also need to reconnect with myself.  To re calibrate my heart.  It has been to easy to let work and the actions of others define me. To let the many times I miss the mark I set for myself pull me down.  To let the unchecked off TO DO list defeat me. To let the fatigue fueled voices in my head loop on negative and anxious thoughts.


This week I am catching up with me.  Being gentle with me.  Doing things that will bring me back and build me up.  Coffee with a friend, a walk in the rain, cooking meals, planning the holidays, taking photos....and yes....maybe...just maybe...taking a nap or curling up on the couch with a warm puppy and a good book.

A break.  A good break. Yes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Change...It's possible

I often frustrate myself (and maybe others ;) by reacting to things in the same way over and over again when every time I vow that next time I will react differently. When I WANT to react differently.

I resolve not to scream at the kids and then I find myself screaming again.  And regretting again. 

I have done enough therapy and read enough Brene Brown to know how to connect rather than isolate when I am angry with my spouse.  And yet we go to bed angry and lonely after a fight.

I vow I will be more organised, start Christmas shopping earlier, be more present with friends.....and weeks pass and I allow myself to be caught up in the busyness over and over again.

The gap between the ideal, mature me I imagine and the regular, fallible, me that most often shows up is often a yawning chasm.  Frustratingly so.

This week I was gifted a really messy, nasty situation.  A lot of accusations and anger was hurled my way.  Delivered with a threatening tone.

I read the email on my phone while I was out of the office.  Later listened to the angry voicemail.

The familiar feelings of shock came quickly, the shaky bones feeling, the lagging brain trying to keep up with what I was reading (that blessed fog that gives you a few minutes to gather yourself before the reality sinks in), the pounding of my heartbeat in my ears.

I walked out of the restaurant to my car somewhat numb and something interesting happened.

My usual default reactions are A) Defensive anger leading to impulsive action (possibly vindictive if I am going to be honest) or B) allowing the gremlin voices of shame and doubt and unworthiness take over leading to shutdown and inaction and hit to my self esteem.

But in THIS moment I was able to hold myself from going in either direction.  

Three things happened: 

1) I prayed for myself and for the attackers  - for grace for all involved.  2) I recalled a segment from Elizabeth Gilbert's new book that I am reading (Big Magic) that asserts that my job is to DO the work, whatever it may be, and that I should not base my self worth on the reaction of anyone to that work.  That the work is worthy in and of itself and to allow others to determine your worth based on their reaction or perception of your work is, at best, unhelpful and at worst destructive. 3) I held on to the perspective that those who launch such attacks reveal more about themselves than they do about the person they are attacking.

And in those moments I let the anger and the self doubt come in, to visit for a while and then I showed them the door - the door out of my head and my heart - in quite a conscious way.  My heart stopped pounding and I felt the dispassionate calmness that allowed me to carry on.

After a brief cry because some things don't change it seems. Tears are tricky things - they sneak over the barriers we erect. Maybe that's ok too. I wiped the tears.

So despite a pretty jagged day I am comforted, if not downright delighted, that I didn't sink into 
old patterns.  I found a new way to react to a trigger.  It felt SO good.  I gave myself time to react.  
I carefully considered the person/s I was reacting to while checking in with my own values about people and communication and in this case my work - I wasn't about to let them drag me back to old reactions, even towards them.  Even if it would have felt justified.  Even if I had a LOT I could have said.

So as if often the case when adversity comes, I learned a lot.  I learned I can change. I learned I am not hostage to old, unhelpful patterns of behaviour.   Maturity is not a mirage, it is attainable .(THANK goodness for that right? Phew!)

And that my friends is BIG Magic! 

PS - I also learned that my FB peeps are always there for me - you guys are an army - you make me feel strong and loved!! THANK YOU! xoxo

Sunday, October 18, 2015

To plan or not to plan

There is a theory in manufacturing and production called "JIT" or "just in time".  Inventory arrives "Just in time" so no need to hold a lot of inventory or store much etc.

It has always made me uneasy.  "Just in time" leaves too much room for "out of stock" or "sorry no product available", not to mention things like power outages or zombie apocalypse...

However I assume minds much brighter than my own had looked through all the contingencies and logistics and economics and who was I "woman of plan B, C, D, E and F" to argue?

In my own life planning is my thing.

I not only plan for the actual event or thing but I also plan for (not just think about but actually plan for) a range of eventualities like variables in weather, attendees, souffle collapses, nose bleeds, zombie apocalypse etc.

And yet lately an odd thing has started to happen.

I have been very busy and my planning ahead has suffered.  Of course scaling back on the number of things I had to plan didn't occur to me.

As my planning time became constrained I ended up doing things rather last minute or "just in time".

It has been amazing to me that on several occasions I had the exact bright idea or found the thing I needed with only 24 hours or less until I had to deliver/show up.

And shockingly the result was pretty much as good as if I had planned it for weeks, at least to those on the receiving end!


Last night was my annual Art Auction Fundraiser for work.  An event that requires me to be Executive Director-ish in behaviour and appearance.  I usually get a dress.
I did try on 5000 (I wish I was joking) dresses with a few days to spare and nothing worked.
So with a little over 24 hours to go and despite the recent lessons of "Just in Time" I had little expectation I could actually pull this off - I had a back up outfit picked out.  But I found myself with 20 minutes to spare, within shooting distance of a dress shop, which had not other customers.  So I  walked in and declared to the two delightful ladies working "Hello!  I need a dress for a smart work event. Tomorrow.  It needs to fit perfectly and cost no more than $xx and I have to like it. GO". 20 minutes later I walked out with 2 /TWO/ DEUX dresses and some serious underwear to suck and lift in all the right places!

Just in time.

So here I am left with a dilemma.

Can I trust this "Just in time" method of living life or shall I revert to my old (over) planning ways.

I suppose there is a middle ground in there somewhere?

Maybe I will find it, just in time?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Thankful I am

This weekend was long anticipated when we waved Lindsay goodbye at UVic and she said - "See you at Thanksgiving". 

It seemed a long way away and thankfully she made it home unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago for a flying visit.

But this time 4 night as a family of 4 again!  

After a challenging journey of buses and ferries she made it home Friday night and catches the ferry back early tomorrow.

We've had a typical busy long weekend.

David had 4 soccer matches in a tournament that was frustrating as they played two teams "below" them and won handily and then play two teams in the division "above" them and lost very physical and hard games. One played in sideways driving rain.  His body was unsurprisingly tired and a little sore last night!

Allan had Masters class all day Saturday so Lindsay and I and our buddy Emily headed downtown Van on a variety of errands and explorations. Once the rain started we sought shelter at Burdock and Co for a delicious brunch.  We did a little more shopping but decided a cozy afternoon at home seemed in order.

Once all the Byres were home from school and soccer and shopping we decided to reprise our 15 year tradition of "Family Feast Night" ...a meal of several small plates and a movie. It was a lovely cozy evening that filled up my heart,

Sunday started early with waffles to fuel a full day of meal prep, more soccer and Lindsay's first participation in a Federal election.  She voted in an advanced poll.  

By 5 o'clock the kitchen was full of family and friends and the smells from the oven tantalizing.  We convinced my Dad to give up on turkey this year in favour of prime rib!  I am seldom happier than when my kitchen is full.  3 generations,  wonderful friends, good food, good drinks, music and the chatter of various conversations filling the air... spontaneous hugs, lots of laughter. 

THIS is my happy place!

We enjoyed a beautiful meal at our newly (if hastily) expanded dining table.  Lindsay topped the meal with this beauty!

We all have so much to be thankful for...our friends placed cards on our seats with greetings as well as the information that they had made a gift to Union Gospel Mission on our behalf...a timely reminder that to whom much is given much is expected.  On my own heart is the plight of so many refugees in Europe and what I, we, might do in response to those with so much less, in so much suffering.

The holiday monday heralded a very very rare day that no alarm was needed.  Hallelujah!  And a lazy morning was had by all as the rain fell. 

Lindsay and I made a brief foray to the Mall in search of an outfit for me to wear to our upcoming Art Auction next weekend but alas we struck out.  Allan took David for a driving lesson and as I type Lindsay is making gnocci for a casual dinner.

Ahhh....democracy, friends, family, home, food, conversation, connection...and SO much more!