“Grace”

Grace cover

Having good people in your life is a treasure, recognizing who they are is a blessing and celebrating them is an honour.

The Good, Version 2: Grace

“But to each one of us grace has been given…”
[Ephesians 4:7]

Grace 1

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he wrote that to each one of us grace has been given and I believe that is true, but I also believe that some people truly personify grace. They accept that gift and comport themselves with its humility, generosity and kindness in every aspect of their lives. I know just such a person.

I am still choosing to focus on the abundant good in my life, and tonight I am writing about another dear friend – I am calling her “Grace” – who constantly impresses me with her calm acquiescence of the hardships in her life, and with the wisdom she has earned along the way.

Grace 2

Grace is the archetypical Earth Mother, always caring for everyone in her life, be they family, friends, neighbours, or strangers in her community. She is a nurturing soul, spreading warmth and caring wherever she goes. At first glance, Grace seems to have everything – a handsome, very intelligent, funny and devoted husband who happens to be wealthy, lovely daughters, a large brood of beautiful grandchildren, a luxurious home in a divine location, clothes (the right clothes, of course) beautiful jewellery, etc., etc., etc.

Despite living on the a-list, my friend has – as long as I’ve known her – fulfilled the role of caregiver; to two family members with chronic and severe mental health issues, helping them see the best in themselves; and to her mum with Alzheimer’s Disease, helping her live her remaining months (years?) with as much dignity and comfort as possible; and to a daughter with incurable cancer, helping her tap into sources of bravery she never knew existed; and now, the toughest blow of all, to a husband who has been forced to enter end-of-life planning, doting on him with loving kindness, tenderness and constant patience despite the demanding nature of his illness. It is a menu of challenges that would defeat most of us, yet she copes – day in and day out – with unfailing good humour, with ease, with love and kindness… In short, with grace.

Grace 3

“Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
[Aeschylus]

Aeschylus, an ancient Greek playwright, is conventionally regarded as the father of Greek tragedy. This incredibly powerful poem, written nearly 2500 years ago, is a mainstay of ancient Greek studies and is often quoted in modern times. Historians believe Aeschylus was telling us that with God’s grace, life’s hardships are the pathway to greater wisdom – perfectly true of our Grace. Regardless the dilemma, she is the first person we all turn to for advice, knowing that no matter how full her life may be at that moment, her time will be generously given and her counsel will be sound.

Grace is a trait that encompasses many qualities, all of which we strive to develop, use and have recognized by those closest to us. For me, the essence of grace is equal parts strength and love which is exactly how I would describe Grace to anyone who did not know her. I am privileged to have this shining example of honour, loving kindness, generosity and caring in my life.

In my world, amongst my friends and associates, Grace is a very special part of my abundance of The Good.

Grace 4

“But to each one of us grace has been given…”
[Ephesians 4:7]

‘Til next time, y’all…

 

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“Faith”

Having good people in your life is a treasure, recognizing who they are is a blessing and celebrating them is an honour.

Faith cover

What an horrific, hate-filled week this has been. I don’t think there have been, publicly at any rate, this many proud, belligerent and angry displays of the Nazi flag and the Heil-Hitler style salute since the fall of the Third Reich. Then there was the nighttime, nightmare parade of angry men, angry white men, carrying tiki-style torches and yelling racial epithets until they were hoarse. Had they been wearing the “glory suit” it might well have been a KKK lynching from back in the 1920’s when the Klan was at its peak of popularity. This, in a town with a population of less than fifty thousand souls, in the United States of America. “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.”

Faith 1

The Good, Version 1: Faith

From Charlottesville to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and from Las Ramblas to Cambrils angry men have displayed their hatred to the world. While not deluding myself about the severity of overt white supremacy, I am choosing tonight to focus on the good, of which there is an abundance in my life. In this blog post, which I hope will be the first in a series, I am writing about a friend – I am calling her “Faith” – who leads by example.

Learning to meditate, I was taught that only when I have clear intention will my practice improve and progress. Intention is a term that I always associate with Faith; everything she does – at home, with her family and friends, when she teaches, with her artwork and on social media – everything is the result of clear and noble intention. I admire this woman, respect her, like her a lot, love her dearly and aspire to be more like her.

❝A noble person does not do good because of willpower. She does it through a combination of, on the one hand, modesty about self, and, on the other hand, faith in a higher purpose, a higher meaning, in powers more potent than self-will.❞
[D. Brazier*]

Although penned by a Buddhist, this quote may well have been written about my dear friend, a Christian, who embodies these virtues and values in her day to day living and whose faith informs all aspects of her life. It is the source, I am sure, of her clear and noble intention and, while not all goodness originates in religion, in Faith’s case the two go hand-in-hand.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
[Hebrews 11:1, KJV]

Faith has mastered the art of social media activism. She has found her voice and uses it effectively. Her posts and shares reflect her commitment to human equality and social justice. From time to time they spark on-line conversation and Faith courageously and respectfully engages rigorously with naysayers spouting racist, misogynistic, xenophobic or homophobic ideas.

She. Is. Fearless.

At times like this, everyone needs to be emphatically clear about their beliefs; as as for Faith, her social media postings show unequivocally where she stands and invite – no, urge – readers to stand along side her. Faith is the human substance of things hoped for

Too many have objectively dismissed the revolting racism seen this week in Charlottesville as merely an American problem. Sadly, racism is alive and well here in Canada. Evidence, should it be necessary, is in the “WCAI Canada/CAP rally” organized in Vancouver and – in various provinces – the survival of The Ku Klux Klan, the Heritage Front and the Canadian Nationalist Party .

“We know Canada isn’t immune to racist violence & hate. We condemn it in all its forms & send support to the victims in Charlottesville.”
[Justin Trudeau, @justintrudeau]

Morally, every single one of us is responsible to identify, expose and condemn white supremacy wherever it is found no matter how uneasy a task this is for us, even if the offenders are friends, co-workers, neighbours and especially if they are family members.

My role model is Faith and when I feel uncomfortable taking a stand, I will think to myself, “what would Faith do” and hope I will have the courage to follow her lead.

In my world, amongst my friends and associates, Faith dominates my abundance of The Good.

Faith 2

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
[Hebrews 11:1, KJV]

’Til next time, y’all

*David Brazier is a British author and psychotherapist known for his writings on Zen Buddhism and psychotherapy.

Capsule

“…smaller closet, intentional purchases, less shopping, and more joy.
If you find yourself with a shopping habit you want to kick or a closet full of clothes you don’t love, I’d love to invite you to try a capsule.”

[Caroline Rector]

Do you know about “The Capsule Wardrobe Experiment”? I read an article about it back in the spring, thought it was a simple but effective idea, and promptly forgot all about it. Until laundry day this week, that is… In the afternoon, with everything dry and back on hangars, I attempted to put it all away and realized I was struggling to fit it all into the cupboard. I was basically ramming it all in; a shoehorn wouldn’t have come amiss.

Small homes mean small closets. Keeping my wardrobe under control is essential because our house is very small and so, perforce, is our closet – which we share. Fifty, fifty. Top rack belongs to Cam. Bottom rack is mine. And that bottom rack was bulging! Time to restore order.

Back to that article, written by Caroline, a blogger from Texas (thank goodness I’d saved the mag). In an attempt to wrestle her own closet into order, Ms. Rector conducted a personal experiment: Living with a reduced, mini-wardrobe (and no shopping for additional items) for three months – a season. She called the new concept a ‘Capsule Wardrobe’.

Her Capsule was limited to 37 Items: 15 tops, 9 bottoms, 9 pairs of shoes/boots, 4 dresses and/or jackets. Turns out this mini-wardrobe not only worked for her, but she actually embraced the concept, writing “the idea of having only clothes I absolutely love has changed the way I shop and live”. Hmmm…

I re-read the article and immediately recognized advice I ought to follow, but I always hate paring down my wardrobe because you never know when you might need ______. Still if, like me, you have trouble putting clothes back in your closet on laundry day, if your closet is overcrowded and messy and if you can’t list everything hanging in your wardrobe from memory (do you too have some UFOs squeezed in at the end of the rack?) then perhaps the Capsule experiment is right for you. It is definitely right for me!

Creating my Capsule Wardrobe

The Basics:

  1. Draw a pie chart to represent the activities in your life.
  2. Remove everything from your closet and lay it on your bed.
  3. Referencing your pie chart, sort everything into four piles: Yes, Maybe, No, Seasonal.
  4. Analyze which clothing items made the cut and which didn’t.
  5. Finish your capsule.

Right, then! Everything onto the bed! That was the easy bit but looking at the huge heap before me was overwhelming.

“And this mess is so big
And so deep and so tall,
We cannot pick it up.
There is no way at all!”

[Dr. Seuss]

Trying to keep the target of 37 pieces in mind, I began my analysis. First part was dead-easy; everything with stains (my bleach habit has disastrous side-effects), holes or anything badly worn went into the rag bag in Cam’s workshop. Then I had a try-on session and anything that didn’t fit well at this very moment went into a bag for Petticoat Lane. There were tops in colours I never wear (why on earth did I keep those and worse, why did I even buy them???); they joined the donation bag. There were also some items to which I had a sentimental attachment. I removed those from my closet, carefully folded and packed them away in a tote box with my wedding dress.  Tally time: 10 bottoms, 5 pairs shoes, 2 dresses, 24 tops (eeek) and 12 cardis/jackets/hoodies. Result: 53 items – epic fail. I was so disappointed because I felt sure I’d satisfied the criteria so I resorted to the love test: Were there items remaining on the bed that I didn’t really love and – yes – there were, so those also found their way into the bag.  After all this mental wrestling, there were still 43 items in my closet, six more than the goal, but I am satisfied with that number and resolved to wear these and only these items for the remainder of the summer/early fall.  I will not buy anything new for this season.

Coming up later this month – same process for my winter wardrobe – yikesabee!!!

If you’re looking to pare down your clothing collection and like the notion of creating a Capsule wardrobe for yourself, this is Caroline’s website, UNFANCY: http://www.un-fancy.com

‘Til next time, y’all…

Hello Harold!

Today was a gorgeous day to be outdoors and we did just that, packing up a picnic and heading to Presqu’ile. Driving into the park it was so nice to see Beaches 1 and 2 and the Marsh Boardwalk open again. Our picnic was a hastily eaten one because it was chilly bordering on cold by the lake. We continued our way around the park and – squeeeeeeeeee – Atkins Lane leading to the lagoon is open again!!! Of course we drove down. Of course we got out to look around, and look who I found:

Harold

Harold the Frog

One summer in the mid ‘70s my cousins visited from the UK with their two young sons. They brought a cassette player and a collection of tapes with them (my cousin’s attempt at keeping them amused and quiet on car trips) and the tape of choice, for both wee lads – always – was “Captain Beaky and his Band”. The songs on the album are based upon sublimely whimsical poems about woodland creatures written by Jeremy Lloyd, OBE. If you watched any BritComs from that era (‘Allo ‘Allo or Are You Being Served) or even earlier, the American variety show Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, you are undoubtedly familiar with Jeremy. During that three-week visit, having listened to the music more times than you can possibly imagine, I became hooked and had them all memorized. To my utter delight, tucked inside the Christmas parcel that year for me was a copy of both tapes, and the book of poems. Many UK stars voiced the characters in the recordings, including Peter Sellers, Twiggy and Petula Clark, but my favourites were Harold the Frog,  Desmond the Duck and Herbert the Hedgehog; all voiced by the Welsh amazingness Harry Secombe, CBE. Ohmigosh, that voice! I hadn’t thought of Captain Beaky in ages and then today, sizing up this fellow in the lagoon, the Harold song popped into my head. I cannot find an on-line recording to link for you, but at the bottom are the lyrics and, if you use your imagination, I’m sure you can hear Mr. Seacomb’s distinctive voice.

Back to my beloved lagoon – it is the spot where canoes and kayaks are launched in the park and, it having been closed all summer thus far, my yak has remained high and dry (literally – in the loft of our garage) all year. But…

Rocky & Bullwinkle

Rocky and Bullwinkle ride again!

Tomorrow, come hell or high water, Rocky and I will be floating around the marsh again. Huzzah!

‘Til next time, y’all…

Harold The Frog

Harold, a rather lonely frog
With spotted manly chest,
Lived in a wet and squelchy bog
And always looked depressed.

He couldn’t get a froggy date
Although he’d try each night
But when he’d squelch behind a girl,
She’d just leap off in fright.

A wallflower at the local hop,
He’d dance ’til dawn alone
(two three four)
Quick quick slow quick
Plop plop plop
Then squelch his way back home.

Reflecting in his private pool
On his unhappy fate,
He wondered why on earth it was
He couldn’t get a date…

His friends all knew the reason why
But friends don’t like to tell
A frog who’s got and doesn’t know
A wet and boggy smell
A frog who’s got a wet and boggy smell.
[Jeremy Lloyd, OBE]

Love…

Feeling love for others and loved by others is a little like being caught in a spider’s web  in the nicest possible way, because radiating outward are all those beautiful proteinaceous silks inextricably connecting us to each other.

web silk

As a tweenie and teenager I adored Prime Minister Trudeau – The Right Honourable Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Still do. I bought into Trudeaumania lock, stock and barrel, even delivered a speech and wrote a paper on the topic. He was an international playboy. He was unique, smart, sexy, French, handsome and – be still my beating heart – openly used the f-word in the house of commons (although he famously claimed to have only said “fuddle-duddle”). He seemed larger than life and I was truly smitten.

Taking advantage of his majority government in the latter half of his first term as Prime Minister and displaying his sui generis intellect, Trudeau announced Canada’s new policy of multiculturalism. Subsequently Canada was the first nation to enact a law that would not only protect but celebrate ethnic diversity. The law provided financial aid so that all racial groups could maintain their cultural distinctiveness, thus thwarting any pressure for social assimilation. Multiculturalism addressed a desire, a need even, of many immigrants; something that was, perhaps, beyond their wildest hopes and dreams, that was unknown to most Canadians, and largely unvoiced prior to October of 1971. Since then, embraced by Canadians from coast to coast to coast, multiculturalism has matured into a mutual state of mind. It is the quintessential Canadian value, and our collective joy in its success is tangible proof of our best humanity.

“There is no such thing as a model or ideal Canadian. A society which emphasizes uniformity is one which creates intolerance and hate. What the world should be seeking, and what in Canada we must continue to cherish, are not concepts of uniformity but human values: Compassion, love and understanding.”
[P.E. Trudeau]

Love versus hate. Prophetic.

Canada and the United States have long maintained opposing policies and values regarding immigration. The Americans strongly established and have steadfastly preserved a melting pot philosophy and never has the difference between our two nations been more pronounced than with the current administrations.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is an American Homeland Security program that granted asylum to about 58,000 Haitians following the massive earthquake of 2010. This status expired 31st July 2017. A temporary extension was granted, through January 2018, but as the Boston Globe reports:

“Internal communications reveal a malicious and unprecedented effort by the federal government that seems designed to find disingenuous reasons to cancel the program. Top immigration officials have put out requests for derogatory information about those Haitians, including how many have been convicted of “crimes of any kind,” and how many have been taking advantage of public benefits (which they are not even eligible to receive in the first place). The administration appears to hope it can find a few horror stories to justify disrupting the lives of thousands.”
[uncredited editorial, Boston Globe]

The threat of impending deportation, of being homeless and abandoned has, naturally, frightened many if not all of the Haitians living in the USA under TPS, a fear born of finding one’s self without a home, potentially without a country and ultimately, being alone and unprotected in the world. This fear, this yearning for belonging, being welcomed, being accepted became the catalyst for the 3,300+ refugees crossing into Quebec from the US. Being arrested for entering Canada illegally is preferable to any alternative currently on the table; the TPS extension has done little to assuage their concerns, not after hearing statements like this one:

“This six-month extension should allow Haitian TPS recipients living in the United States time to attain travel documents and make other necessary arrangements for their ultimate departure from the United States,”
[John Kelly, Homeland Security Secretary]

“With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;”
[Ephesians 4:2 KJV]

Four simple traits: Be humble, be gentle; be patient, love one another.

In times like these, I feel privileged and joyous to be a Canadian. I also feel enormous pride for our Quebec brothers and sisters who, by example, are leading with these four traits. Quebec authorities have set up Welcome Centres to host these refugees until their screening and documentation is complete (not Processing Centres as they are known elsewhere). Recognizing the need for a venue that could accommodate many more people, a request was made to the Montreal olympic stadium and, in only 24 hours, the food concourse was converted into a welcome centre complete with 150 cots, showers and a cooking area. It is here the asylum seekers will reside and receive help to obtain permanent housing and, eventually, employment.

The law dictates that, upon crossing the border illegally, people be arrested. The RCMP officers have no choice in this matter, but it is their kindness, patience and gentleness that is noteworthy. Their deportment, prominently featured in the international media, is drawing attention, awe and respect from the rest of the world.

Roxham Road is the entry point being used. Originally it was a gravel road with a ditch that marked the Canada/US border. The municipal government has since improved the road and ditch – solely for the refugees – adding a sidewalk to make their crossing easier and safer; for anyone with disabilities, for anyone pushing strollers, for the elderly and for pregnant women.

Determination of the future status and rights of the Haitian diaspora will, I am quite sure, prove to be a gauge – both of the welcome, inclusion and and acceptance offered by Canadians and of the xenophobia, hatred and values of – sadly – a few Americans.

Now a senior, I am again captivated by Prime Minister Trudeau – The Right Honourable Justin Pierre James Trudeau. With one succinct statement he was able to assure Canadians that their safety was not at risk while at the same time making it clear that everyone seeking asylum will be welcomed in Canada. I was charmed by his choice of words:

“The core strength of Canada is that it’s not governments that are open to immigration, it’s Canadians themselves who are open to immigration. One of the reasons Canadians are open to immigration is because we know it has contributed to the growth of this country. Protecting Canadians’ confidence in the integrity of our system allows us to continue to be open, and that’s exactly what I plan to continue to do.”
[J.P.J. Trudeau]

Really and truly, the rest of the western world needs to sit up and pay attention to Canada. Racism and xenophobia are omnipresent throughout Europe. Nationalistic and isolationistic attitudes in the UK led to Brexit. Exclusionary policies, bordering on white supremacism, are the hallmark of the Trump administration as is his uncharitable America First rhetoric. Proof positive that Canadians must honour and protect multiculturalism; it is the uniquely Canadian virtue and morality that will protect us and isolate us from that fear-mongering and hatred.

Four simple traits: Be humble, be gentle; be patient, love one another.

’Til next time, y’all…