Children

I remember the day each of my three children was born. They came in kicking and screaming and from the moment they arrived their personalities were firmly established. As first time parents we were so sure our children would be different, perfect even! We would teach them how to behave; manners, how and when to speak, who to play with, what to play with, and what they should aspire to when they grow up. (we refused to allow our son to play with guns – only ‘educational’ toys would be allowed, until he figured out how to make one with lego, then proceeded to blow the heads off his sisters Barbie dolls) Oh yeah, we had it all figured out.

Unfortunately, so did they, and we learned quickly that children are born with their own personalities. There’s no way to mold little minds and those well behaved little darlings don’t always behave so well. Makes you wonder who’s raising who!

As the youngest of three I was somewhat anonymous. My brother, the eldest and only boy, was worshipped because he ‘carried the name’. He was given free reign throughout his teen years, and eventually he was given a car because a man needed transportation. My sister, the middle child (and don’t think she doesn’t play that card at every opportunity) was fiercely independent. Strong willed and determined to ‘raise herself’ she challenged my parents, causing enough of a distraction for me to slip under the radar, so I was quite innocent to the antics of kids……until I had my own.

Now that all three of my children are grown and starting families of their own they feel more relaxed about sharing stories of their youth and I’m more than a little surprised to see what I missed.

I recall one wintery day when returning from a walk I noticed footprints in the snow that wound around my house. Concerned some thief might be casing the joint to attempt to rob us I followed the tracks through the snow and eventually stumbled upon a case of beer chilling in a snow pile outside my back porch. It never occurred to me my wholesome, innocent children could be responsible – I just assumed would-be thieves were planning a party under my porch. Little did I know my under aged son was preparing for a party. I later found out that the little darling was also the one who bought beer for his under aged friends because he always looked older and could get away with it. (this kid had hairy legs and a mustache in grade one so by age 10 he could easily pass for ‘age-of-majority’. Needless to say he was a popular kid in high school) I just couldn’t believe my innocent babe would do such a thing.

My younger daughter used to suffer with migraines in her youth. During one supposed bout she was flat out and recovering in our basement rec room, under the diligent care of her older sister and a friend. It was years later I found out it wasn’t a migraine at all.  Apparently she and her friend were drinking at a friends house (under age, of course) the night before, and over indulged. She called her older sister for help getting home, who came to collect her with her boyfriend, in his fathers car. The motion of the car wreaked havoc on her churning stomach and she proceeded to vomit all over the back seat. The kids all pooled their money to have the car professionally cleaned but the smell was so firmly entrenched in the upholstery the parents eventually had to sell the car. How’d I miss that?

The kids laughingly recite these stories (and many others, I’m shocked to discover) now, in their adult years. They said they made a pact in their teens to always bail the other out if it was needed. Apparently it was needed a lot. I just can’t believe I was so naïve to think my kids were different, or worse, that I could be so deceived by them. What a shock to discover they were like everybody else’s kid,,,,, normal!

My only consolation is that everything that goes around really does come around (and if it doesn’t I’ll help it) My eldest daughter is now raising two girls, both ‘spirited’, and she too is discovering the challenges of an independent mind. You think they’re a handful now,,,, wait’ll those teen years sister. (I didn’t drink until I had children) I had a friend who joked that she’d come into a room to break up a fight between her kids and would fling her slipper at them. It didn’t matter who it hit because it didn’t matter who was at fault, she’d say, “ eventually they all do something wrong”.

Now, well past the danger years where children do stupid, reckless things, I have the luxury of simply observing. I was lucky because despite my apparent naiveté, my kids turned out ok. I didn’t have issues with drugs or police, no serious infractions (at least none they’ve confessed to yet) so I’ll watch with interest to see if they do any better. The tables have turned.

Angel vs Devil

 

You get me

My circle is small and I like it that way. It includes a handful of very dear family and friends, and of those I’d hazard to say only one or two really ‘gets me’. They know how I think, why, and how I’m likely to respond, and that is both a comfort and a curse.

On one hand I love that you ‘get me’ because I don’t need to explain anything, and you’re not likely to say or do anything you know will negatively affect me, i.e. you protect me, and it’s easy to be around you because I don’t have to work too hard. (so maybe I’m a little lazy?) On the other hand it unhinges me because when you really ‘get me’, you also ‘see me’ the real me, the inner me, and that makes me feel too vulnerable. Nobody wants their innermost feelings exposed.

So why is it some people can seem to see right into our souls? It’s like they can predict our reaction to a situation or anticipate our response in a conversation and all they have to do is make eye contact with you to confirm they’re reading our mind. It makes me feel predictable and I’m sorely tempted to do or respond in way so unlike me just to mess with them.

Now the folks who don’t get me are interesting. They don’t understand how I think and why I do what I do. We are polar opposites in so many ways, yet we are drawn together. Could it be that opposites really do attract? Maybe our appeal is based on our differences and it’s the allure of the unknown that drives the friendship. Or maybe it’s just a way to keep from being bored – who wants to be with someone like themselves?

As I age I strive to change those very traits I see in myself that are predictable. I now want to surprise and entertain those in my company, after all spontaneity is what makes life interesting and I want to be interesting.

I will continue to act responsibly, because that’s too innate to my character to change, but I won’t cave to old habits. (I’ve always been much too conservative in my eyes) I’m gonna shake things up! I will dance all alone, sing my heart out with the windows wide open, (ok, I already do that) and choose play over work. You won’t recognize me (ok, maybe you will cause I can’t keep the pace forever) but if you start to read me again, back off, I need space to twirl!

So while I really do love that you know me so well, maybe once in a while you could pretend to be surprised. Let my spontaneity catch you off guard. Just don’t expose me for the ‘Village crazy lady’ that lives in my soul, cause even I enjoy her company once in a while.

cutting loose

 

Easters past

Easter has become much like Christmas, a widely celebrated event marked with the gathering of family and friends, sumptuous meals, and of course, the much anticipated appearance of the Easter bunny. For most it’s also signaled the arrival of spring and an end to the long dreary days of winter.

I remember as a child waking up Easter Sunday to find a small basket on my bedside table and in it would be a few small chocolates, sometimes a fruit scented lip balm, nothing big of course, Easter is not a gift giving kind of holiday. My mother would roast a turkey and my grandparents would come bearing sweets. It was always the same, always fun, and it made me smile.

When my children were young I too would prepare each a basket of goodies and inspired by the whole idea of an egg hunt, I would make them work for their basket. I’d hide clues all over the house (and sometimes outside) that would have them searching for a good hour (this bought my husband and I another hour of much needed sleep – these kids were up at the crack of dawn!) Their last clue would inevitably lead them to a crossword puzzle I created for each, personalized to their specific interests. My sons focused on hockey, one daughters on soccer, and the other, who was a reader, on books. On each crossword there were select boxes of a different colour. The letters within these boxes then needed to be unscrambled to spell the location of their basket. It took us weeks to get this organized and a good hour for us to hide all the clues the night before but we so enjoyed the anticipation, and it made us smile.

That was many years ago. My children are all grown and gone and there’ve been no Easter hunts for some time. Recently I was going through some old boxes and came across a set of clues from an Easter past. I can’t imagine why I kept it but finding it brought back so many wonderful memories. If I closed my eyes I could hear the squeals of laughter and the sound of little feet running room to room, and I had to smile. Those were magical times and they passed too quickly.

The arrival of my grandchildren brings the hope of rekindling these old traditions, or maybe starting new ones. After a period of ‘no children’ over the holidays I now find myself longing for the childish delight that warms the Easter celebration. My granddaughters are still too young to manage an Easter hunt but they happily enjoy their little basket of treats and it’s only a matter of time before they grow into a more challenging tradition. Time to fashion new memories, I tell myself….and I smile.

Happy Easter

The Addled Mind

When I was growing up my parents were good friends with a family that had two daughters. Both were several years older than my sister and I so we had little in common from a ‘play’ perspective, at least as far as the elder sister was concerned. The younger of the two, Ruta, was older than me in years but because she had Downs Syndrome her mind was very much in tune to mine. In my own childish little world I saw nothing wrong with this child/woman. She wanted to play dolls with me, she thought like I did, and she was fun. That’s all an innocent kid wants.

As I aged I obviously came to see the situation more clearly and eventually when we’d visit the play would stop, not by Ruta’s choice. I simply outgrew ‘play’. Ruta however, did not, and never would. When we arrived she’d greet us at the door with the same childish enthusiasm, eager to bring me to her room full of toys but I no longer had interest in playing with dolls. I was kind and patient; she was a sweet gentle soul, but I somehow didn’t fit in to her world anymore.

The visits eventually stopped; I married and moved on in life and I never saw Ruta again. I heard recently that she passed away in her early fifties some years ago.  After her mother passed, her older sister took her in and cared for her lovingly. She’d had a good life. Maybe even better than I could’ve imagined.

Ruta’s condition reminded me of others in my life whose minds were somewhat addled, not by the same illness, but the end result was the same. I’ve written at length about my own mothers’ battle with Dementia. Her brain has been so ravaged by the disease, reducing her to a simple minded and fragile being. She is not unlike the child Ruta was all of her life. The only difference is that I remember my mother when she was lucid and of sound adult mind. I suppose that’s what makes dealing with her illness so difficult – it has changed her so much, but only we are aware of that. That’s the beauty of her addled mind – she is completely unaware of all she has lost. She too, plays with dolls, giggles like a toddler with her friends, and gazes with childlike wonder at a bird outside her window. As painful as it is too see, you have to acknowledge that she is not suffering at all. For that matter neither did Ruta. My mother lived a full and accomplished life. That her later years have to be spent in a childs fantasy world is a problem for me, not her. She could be in pain, but she’s not. In fact, physically she’s in excellent health.

I’ve little knowledge of Downs Syndrome and I know it is only one of many brain related illnesses but in my experience it is not debilitating, at least not like tumors or neurological disorders. The children born with Downs can go on to live relatively normal lives within their scope of abilities, and they can live functioning lives. They have ‘jobs’, belong to groups and communities, and they can be happy with their lives. There is a blissful innocence in their world that, on one hand, makes you grateful for their addled state, and on the other almost makes you envious. They are happy because they don’t know anger, or violence, or poverty, or corruption, or stress, or worry.

I spent many years feeling sorry for those who suffer some form of brain deficiency because I didn’t see things from their perspective. Maybe an addled state of mind isn’t so horrible – they certainly don’t seem to think so. They’re happy in their own little world. They appreciate everything and everyone. They don’t judge, they simply accept, and they love unconditionally. Maybe there’s a message here for the rest of us. Life in whatever form it comes to us is precious and any perceived limitations can be overcome with a change of perspective.

Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.

I love stuff!

Is that a crime?  Is that a female thing? I love to shop (it just feels good!) and I always manage to find something new to bring home, whether I need it or not. I wasn’t consciously aware of this habit until the last few years, as I got older, when I felt the need to minimize on the clutter (and yes, I do see the irony here)

If I see a nice throw pillow that inspires me I’m tempted to buy it, then redecorate a room to match it. Now that’s not a bad thing to do every decade or so because every house needs a refresh periodically. My problem is that I could do it every season (I think I need a hobby that doesn’t involve shopping)

Since retiring I have grudgingly started to filter through my clothes to eliminate what is ‘business attire’ because I don’t need it anymore. The problem for me is I have a hard time letting go of my ‘stuff’. I really like it, and the fact that it is no longer useful to me is irrelevant. I like it and I want it, and this wouldn’t be a problem if I had unlimited space in which to store it, but I don’t.  I already forced my husband out of our walk in closet and had another storage closet built in my basement for ‘off season’ clothing, mine. And when my children moved out, I slowly started seeping into their rooms with my stuff until finally I had to buy more hangers because I had none left in the house (is that a bad thing?)

And it doesn’t stop with clothes. I also collect shoes and handbags because I can never have enough. (walking into a shoe store is like returning to my mother ship) I love them, all of them – they are my ‘thing’ and while I will eventually force myself to start to relinquish clothing and household items, I will never give up my shoes and purses. I just can’t.

I have countless placemats, napkins, table cloths and candle holders because I love to set a nice table and merchants keep producing new and interesting things I can’t resist. When I run out of room to store them all I find a dresser or closet (not mine of course) to empty out to accommodate my ‘stuff’.

When my vacuum needed more bags I bought another vacuum cleaner that didn’t need bags citing we’d never need to buy bags again. (practical, yes?) Then I realized, this bagless vacuum is upright and doesn’t easily do stairs so I still needed my old vacuum after all….oh, and some new bags…..until…..I found a handheld portable vacuum perfect for stairs AND it can do the car, so I bought it. (Surely three vacuums is enough?)  It turns out the portable vacuum runs on a charge that doesn’t last long enough to get the stairs done. (buyer beware) It’s in a closet somewhere.

I have countless throws and ornamental pillows stored in my basement closet because over the years I’ve redecorated and they no longer match but they’re too good to throw out. I have rice makers and ricers, blenders, mulchers, juicers, two mix masters, and a variety of food processors but I still cook rice in a pot, mash potatoes by hand, and dice my vegetables with a knife. You’d think then I could part with my gadgets, but no. I rearrange them every so often, test to make sure they work, and make countless resolutions to put them to good use. Then I put them back on the shelf and ignore them for another season.

I realize all these things could be of use to someone and would be better served elsewhere, yet I can’t bring myself to let go. Everything I have was acquired for a reason, and it wasn’t just ‘want’. The shoes I wore at my sons’ wedding. I’ll likely never wear them again, but how can I give them away? (isn’t there a museum they should be in?) I guess as long as we deem something to be useful or sentimental we are reluctant to release it, until we’re forced to because we have placed a value on it that renders it priceless.

I know that one of these days we are going to move from this old house and that will prompt a major purging (one I’m not looking forward to!) Or, I could just stay here until I die and let my kids deal with it? (this brings about visions of a trail of dumpsters filled with my treasures parading down the street) Somehow I don’t think they’ll be as attached as I, to my ‘stuff’.

Now as I scan my overflowing cupboards and closets I feel overwhelmed at the task before me. Where do I begin, and how do I steel myself to do the unthinkable? I need a plan, I determine. I need to think this through, strategically,,,,, and nothing clears my head like a little retail therapy…so I call my friends (rally the troops) and arrange a shopping day because I need to buy some hangers, or pillows, or something……

cluttered room

We are family

I was reading an article recently about a mother who decided to ‘return’ her 7 year old adopted daughter because she was unable to cope with her behaviour. This surprised me for two reasons; 1) because I wasn’t aware that one could ‘return’ a person, and 2) I could never imagine why one would want to. The process of getting an adopted child is so expensive and so cumbersome, and not everyone looking to adopt gets a child. You’d think then, that those who were lucky enough to get one would be so grateful they’d never consider ‘returning’ them. And yet it happens, I would later read, for a number of reasons.

The circumstances that bring a child into foster care or an orphanage are often unpleasant. There may have been abuse, neglect, or simply no family able to care for them. In many cases the young minds are permanently scarred from early childhood trauma. Suffice it to say that many adoptive children have a lot of baggage – what a rough and unjust way to start life.

I knew of a couple who adopted siblings, a boy and a girl. They were approximately 10 and 13 years old (the exact numbers escape me) and they didn’t want two children but were pressured by the adoption agency to keep the siblings together. Not long after moving them in to their home the trouble began, lying, stealing, verbal abuse, issues at school – none of these issues had been disclosed by the agency. The couple went to therapy with the children to try to sort through things and discovered the siblings had endured much in the hands of foster care, where they’d spent a good five years of their lives. After two years of effort and intensive therapy the couple simply couldn’t cope. Their once happy home had become a battle ground and their marriage was now at risk. At the end of their rope, they petitioned to return both children to foster care. It was a difficult decision for them, one for which they were heavily criticized by friends and family, but for them there was simply no other choice.

I’d like to think that this was an unusual situation but it isn’t unique. People seek to adopt for all the right reasons. They want to share their lives with a child – they have the means and the desire. And I’d bet most children want nothing more than a happy loving home in which to thrive. This should be a match made in heaven but too often the children are so scarred by the experiences that brought them into an orphaned situation that they cannot trust. Many suffer from low self-worth and they feel they are not deserving of familial happiness. In some cases it’s simply a lack of bonding.

You would think that adopting an infant is probably the best way to avoid the past life scarring many older orphans suffer but there are no guarantees because you don’t always know the circumstances of the pregnancy or their genetics, and the availability of newborn babies for adoption is not as high as those for older children. Nothing is easy.

I know of any number of families where the natural children and parents do not get along and never have, so adoptive families aren’t the only ones with issues. In fact all families have issues (and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying) The big difference here is that the natural families had no choice of what child they get nor did they expect to have a choice. They were blessed with the ease of having a child naturally, lucky them.  In some cases it was an unwanted child (teen pregnancy) later put up for adoption to a home where a childless couple benefited, lucky them.

That there’s so many children without a loving home is heartbreaking – the hardest part to fathom here is that this doesn’t just apply to those without a ‘natural’ family. The children who are adopted are lucky because they were ‘chosen’ to a home which implies they were wanted. Not all children ‘born’ into a home are necessarily wanted and therein lies the injustice. Shouldn’t early life be easier for all children? Heaven knows they’ll have to face enough challenges throughout their adult lives.

Every child deserves a safe and loving environment in which to start life. God bless those generous souls who open up their hearts and their home to help a young life start out, and heaven protect those not chosen because the path is longer and more difficult for them. I can’t imagine that we could ever regret sharing our life with a child, after all, we are all family.

Family

Don’t spit in the wind

My mother always used the expression, “Don’t spit in the wind, it might change direction”, or “Don’t dirty the water, you might find yourself needing a drink” and aside from the mess you’d encounter on your face, or the polluting of your own waters, the general message is one of warning, and the basic gist is what you do will come back to you.

Now that’s not a bad thing if you do a good turn,,,who wouldn’t want a little of that back? Unfortunately this is a two way street so the rules apply to any action you might take. In fact, it’s interesting to note the events and/or people who seem to come full circle in our lives because there are many,,,,, and they do.

My husband grew up literally within yards of his cousins but aside from family occasions rarely saw them. Over the next twenty plus years all married and moved to various parts of the world never giving the other any thought, after all, they had little contact when living just down the street from each other all of their young lives. Interestingly enough the eldest of his cousins moved to eastern Canada and three years later we were relocated to the same place reacquainting a kinship long forgotten and launching a long term friendship. This isn’t coincidence; these cousins were meant to reconnect. It just wasn’t time until then, and it’s a good thing they never quarreled as kids cause that would’ve made it akward.

I have a friend from high school (many years ago) from whom I drifted. There was no reason, we simply went in different directions in life, losing our common ground, which at the time was high school. We both married, had children and lived in separate parts of the country, and in the thirty years we’ve been apart we’ve only seen each other once but we correspond every year over the holidays to catch the other up and when we do it’s like we’ve never been apart. We have little in common so it seems an unlikely friendship and yet it endures. It’s hard to know why some people are in our lives or for how long they’ll stay. It only matters that they are there when they are there, because that is the right time and it is of mutual benefit.

That childhood playmate who reappears in your adult life in an unlikely place or situation, rekindling an old friendship, or that old sweetheart you bump surprisingly into after you’d both gone separate ways. Maybe you find you are both again available and the relationship makes more sense at this point in your life. These chance encounters aren’t chance at all. People come and go in your life, some returning repeatedly, and too often you find yourself forging meaningful relationships with the unlikeliest of friends because you’ve evolved and changed, as have they. This is the point when you’re grateful you didn’t ‘burn any bridges’ in your impetuous youth! (especially if one of these people from your past returns as your boss!) 

I suppose you could spin this warning any way but the end result is the same; you reap what you sow, good or bad. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated and accept that those who come into your life are there for a reason. Don’t try to rationalize it, just glean what you can from the encounter and be grateful for the lesson.

Dont spit in the wind

The Colonoscopy

My husbands family history includes numerous colon issues so as a precaution each family member is required to undergo testing every five years as a preventive measure via a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a procedure in which a flexible fiber-optic instrument is inserted through the anus in order to examine the colon. (aka, they shove a hose up your arse and blast your innards with air)

In preparation for this procedure the patient must scale back their food intake for several days before to ensure the bowel and colon are cleared for testing. Three weeks ago my husband received a letter advising of his testing scheduled for this week and he took it like a man. (actually he sobbed all the way back from the mailbox)

Four days ago the fasting started, no fruit or vegetables, no nuts or seeds. Three days ago he had to cut out alcohol and any foods with a red pigment. Two days ago he had to revert to a ‘light’ diet’ i.e., no beef, no dairy. The day before the procedure he had to fast completely. He took to his bed, weak from hunger. At one point a friend called and I heard my husband decline their lunch invitation because he was afraid he might be anorexic.

That evening he had to drink a prescribed liquid that would further ‘clear out any solids’ in his system (it would, as we discovered, blow the crap out of him, literally!) His procedure was scheduled for early the next morning but we both spent a sleepless night; I, afraid we’d miss our alarm, and he having to dash to the washroom every 5 minutes.

Finally the big day came. I had a lovely breakfast of bacon, eggs, coffee and a fresh fruit salad (not my arse they’re blasting, why should I starve?) My husband dressed grudgingly, his mood morose. We got in to the car for the half hour drive to the hospital and more than once I could swear I heard whimpering. (that’s my he-man, I proudly thought!) Now I’m not completely without sympathy….such internal ‘exploration’ is humbling, and I did feel for his nervousness. On the other hand last week when I asked him to vacuum he didn’t do it, so maybe this is God’s way of evening things up for me. Either way, I’m ok with it!

We checked in at the hospital and were escorted to a small waiting room where a few other patients sat all looking as uncomfortable as my husband, except of course those of us who were their drivers. It was easy to spot us, we were smiling. I noted the patients kept shifting uncomfortably in their seats, as though anticipating what was to come. (I couldn’t help but smile) After a brief wait (and several more trips to the washroom) my husband was taken in for the procedure. He was as pale as a ghost and turned pleadingly to me as the nurse ushered him away. Poor guy….anyway,  I got myself a coffee, pulled out a good book and settled in for a nice relaxing break.

Two hours later a nurse called me in. The procedure was complete and they were happy to advise they found little of consequence. He would not need another colonoscopy for five years. They sent us off with a list of instructions; he was to ‘take it easy’ for the next few days. (are you kidding? that’s his whole life) They also advised that his system would need to ‘expel’ the excess air in order to return to normal function. (makes sense, what goes in must come out) We headed to the parking lot, my husband with a notable spring in his step, serenading me with a symphony of ‘sounds’.

By the time we got home he was ravenous. He had two grilled cheese sandwiches, a pile of french fries, a cup of coffee and two cookies (apparently this particular form of ‘anorexia’ was fleeting) He then went up to lay down because the hospital did advise he should ‘take it easy’ for a few days. (ok, are we pushing it here?)

I had a number of household chores to complete (I had fallen behind when I had to care for my convalescing spouse just in his anticipation of illness) and a little help would be nice. It was a lovely spring like day and I suggested he wash the car. It was heavily soiled from the winter weather and the task was light enough to avoid strain while giving him much needed fresh air. He grumbled and moaned a little and as he mustered up his speech of refusal I said, “Hey, I just realized, we don’t need to go to the hospital for this procedure next time. I think I can figure out how to do it right in the comfort of our home”, as I lovingly unraveled the garden hose.

Boy, did he clean that car!

man with toilet paper

 

I’m still standing

I attended a party last night for a golfing buddy of my husbands. It was a birthday party and his chosen theme for the party was “I’m still standing”, (Elton John’s popular hit song) but this was by no means a typical birthday party. In fact, the celebration really was about his ‘still standing’.

This fellow is in his mid-fifties. He has a successful business, is happily married to a lovely woman and has no children. He has a gregarious personality and a natural warmth that invites a broad circle of friends. By all accounts he has it all.

Three years ago he was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, a glioblastoma, the very same that took the life of popular musician Gord Downey. He has endured several surgical attempts to thwart the progression of this aggressive cancer but to no avail. It is quite simply, terminal.

Now a terminal diagnosis such as this is devastating news to anyone and we could accept any reaction, anger, fear, depression. What is so remarkable in this case is the stoic and dignified way this fellow has chosen to deal with it. He is nothing short of inspirational.

His birthday party was exactly what it should be, a celebration of life. He happily held court in a circle of friends, laughing and telling jokes. If you didn’t know how seriously ill he was you’d never guess – he was animated and quite literally living in the moment and you had to keep reminding yourself that this may well be the last birthday celebration. A sobering thought for anyone, and yet he was smiling. Hard to fathom.

He could’ve shut himself away from the world and awaited the inevitable but instead he has taken control of his remaining time and made the most of it. He made a sizeable donation to a local hospital and has rallied for public awareness in relation to brain tumor research. He has traveled with his wife, maintains an active social life and still plays a respectable game of golf. In short he is still living. He recently sold his business and is now planning his funeral – he wants to leave no burden for his loved ones.

There’s something very special about this man. The humble acceptance of his diagnosis fueled his determination to fight the illness until it was obvious he was losing the battle, and then he simply channeled that same energy into making the most of his remaining time. You can’t help but admire that kind of courage and this gathering has served to remind us all that life is truly fleeting. We’ve no idea how long we’ll be here so it’s important to make every moment count. This man certainly has, most admirably.

Happy birthday dear friend, and thank you for reminding us of how to live with grace and die with dignity. We will only ever see you as ‘still standing’.

Tree of life

Those I admire

Maybe it’s just age but I find myself ‘seeing’ people more clearly these days and with that ‘seeing’ comes a new appreciation for the traits they possess. The traits I admire. The traits I took for granted in my youth. The very traits that now invite me,,,no compel me to want to spend more time with them.

The woman who tirelessly cared for her children and aging parents, all while holding down full time employment and acting as matriarch because she had the strength to do so. People naturally trust her advice, seek her opinion and take comfort in her guidance because she is level headed and sees both sides of every situation. She must be weary, yet she never turns away a friend in need even when it takes away another piece of her. From you I learned commitment and endurance and generosity of spirit.

The man who adores his family, all of them. He sees no flaws, reveling in the joy each brings into his life. He is of simple means and humble desires, satisfied with whatever life gives him. There’s no greed, no jealousy; he is just grateful for all that he has and considers himself among the ‘rich’ in life. I have never heard this man say an unkind word about another and that’s what I find most remarkable because I’ve never known anyone so forgiving, so accepting. Few of us in society bite our tongue when we probably should – this man actually does and it’s likely why so many gravitate to him because in his company they know they will never be judged. From you I learned acceptance and tolerance and gratitude.

The woman who leans heavily on her faith oblivious to the reactions of others. She is steadfast in her beliefs and incorporates them in every aspect of her life without imposing her mantra on others. She is the victim of gentle ribbing, even criticism, as a result, but she manages to deflect any negativity gently and with love. Her motto is not ‘do as I say’ rather it’s, ‘this is what I think and I respect your right to your beliefs’. From you I learned courage and what it is to follow our hearts.

The young woman who keenly feels the pain or suffering of others. She cries too easily, yet manages to muster up courage in the face of adversity. She loves wholly and unselfishly, wearing her heart on her sleeve. She bears a wisdom that can only come from a loving and generous heart and yet her obvious naiveté makes her vulnerable to the unkindness of others. She has a gift for working with children and animals, on any level, and they in turn, adore her. Her soul is pure and gentle and kind and your first instinct is to offer her protection from the harshness of life. She is nothing short of an angel in earth and she has taught me unconditional love and innocence, in its’ truest form.

If any of these descriptions ring true, perhaps you are seeing snippets of yourself because it is my circle of friends and family I based this on. (if you do not see anything familiar here you’re likely one of those negative types I try to avoid – life is too short) These people, you and many others, have taught me some very valuable life lessons; lessons I should’ve learned long ago but I was not open to their message. I was not receptive to this type of learning, not then. Maturity has given me focus and an understanding of what really matters in life.

Interestingly enough these individuals are also those I consider the most fun. They have fresh and spontaneous personalities and they are among the few who can still make me laugh out loud. Who wouldn’t want to be around someone like that? They are my inspiration and not a day goes by that I don’t give thanks that they are in my life.

So I guess I admire you for all the wonderful qualities I want to emulate because those are the traits the world needs more of; commitment, endurance, generosity of spirit, acceptance, tolerance, gratitude, courage, unconditional love, and innocence. Throw in a boisterous sense of humour and you have the stuff life long relationships are made of….what a gift!

Man, I really am turning into a mushy old lady!

the people in my life    old lady with hanky