Love Your Family in Covid Times

A blessing that has come to me during these strange times is a weekly check-in with my siblings and Dad on Sunday, after I attend my ‘virtual’ Mass with Bishop McGratton.  10:00 am Comox Time, 11:00 Calgary Time, 1:00 Ottawa Time.  These conversations are always so pleasant and I feel so grateful.  While these are not ‘real time’ connections, they are more than we’ve chosen to do over the past many years, through our years of separation from one another.

Today was really fun, mostly because my brother Cliff was sorting his tackle box.  Cliff is a charter operator who has, of course, had business grind to a near halt…first because of last year’s catch and release policy, and this year, due to Covid.  It was fun to have him do a show and tell.  This week we also discussed paper barn owls, bamboo gardening, tomato gardening and reminisced about Mom and Dad’s property in Frankford, Ontario.

I love my family.  I miss them terribly.  But, we are making the best of things.  I hope that my readers will make sure to connect with family as much as is possible through these strange times.  Happy Sunday!

Pandemic Parades in Covid Times

My 65th birthday began as most days do, with time well-spent at the edge of the Bow River.  The vast numbers of Midges at the river meant that Swallows were feeding in droves of thousands, skimming the water over and over again.  The Bald Eagle adults were feeding new youngsters on the nest and this always creates lots of magic at the river.  While the day was turning out to be grey and a little chilly, I still felt that I was able to breath, relax and do a little reflecting about what my life is all about, what I value and what is important to me.

In the afternoon, on the advice of my middle daughter, I watched a couple of episodes of the The Great Canadian Baking Show.  I laugh as I think about this because the last thing I am is a baker.  It was relaxing and mindless television and that was okay.

Colourful gifts were appearing on my dining table.  Thank you, Kathy and Val!

I walked Max…

I captured a quick photograph of our new vent resident…

…before heading over to my daughter’s for a Dragon Pearl take out dinner.  The Dragon Pearl brings up so many memories for our family.  It’s been our favourite family restaurant since the children were in high chairs.  I miss and love all of the people who cook and serve at this beautiful little spot in Inglewood.

While any food in a take-out situation doesn’t taste exactly the same as if you are eating it in the restaurant, it was a generous and loving thing to sit down with one of three children and to eat such delicious food.  After all, my grandson was sitting at the end of the table, entertaining me with his enthusiasm about the cupcakes that were hiding over in the red pan.  I opened his card and he vibrated with excitement and loving smiles.

A little over halfway through the meal, he started pointing and saying, “Auntie Cayley” over and over again.  My son-in-law’s eyes started shifting side to side.  He was just acting weird.  So, finally, I looked over my shoulder to the front yard and saw Pigeon on the yard, pressing mounted balloons into the gardens. I saw her partner, Shawn, waving and signalling. I went to the door and was excited enough about the balloons and the company when all of a sudden cars began to file past, covered in hand made banners and decorations.  The participants bonked their horns enthusiastically!

Oh my gosh!  It was a stream of my friends in cars!  Let me tell my readers something.

On the television feel-good news stories and on social media, we’ve all seen friends and families and teachers creating parades for friends, family members and students.  It looks like a lot of fun.  It also warms your heart when you see it.  But, to have it happen in your own life is beyond exciting.  I broke out into an immediate ugly cry, sobbing uncontrollably. I felt such overwhelming love pour into my life.  It would have been perfect had my son been able to be there to enjoy it, but truthfully, it was an experience I will never forget!

We celebrated with yummy cupcakes, a sip of wine, lawn chairs and more birthday greetings, reminiscing and physical distance.  I loved this experience…a combined effort of love and celebration.  Thank you, friends and dear family!  If you wish to really make someone’s heart swell and to fill them with an affirmation of love, try throwing them a parade.  These are pandemic times, so throw pandemic parades!

Messenger in Covid Times

Another way to communicate with your loved ones through these crazy times is through Messenger.  I used to call this Face Time, but then what do I know?  To enjoy a messenger visit, I have to log on to Facebook.

  1. Go to the messages icon at the top.
  2. In the top white band, you will see the New Group option.  Click on that.
  3. You will see a list of friends and to the right of each of their names, a circle.  Click on the name of each person you want to join a particular chat.
  4. Click the word, Create, that appears in the bottom right.  You have formed your group.
  5. When you wish to chat and see this group, instead of clicking on the telephone icon on the top right, click on the wee movie projector.  A large screen will pop up and people will join as they answer their calls.

Sometimes it’s nice to establish, as much as you can, a time that works for all when using any of these methods.  As well as time and day, some within your circle may have to use these technologies throughout their work week, from home, and it may be too much to expect them to use the same technologies in their down time.  Be very amiable to some people opting out when you make the invitation.  It can be really exhausting to always be connecting through technology.  We yearn for real connection, but sometimes we just do the best we can.

I use Messenger as a way of connecting with my siblings and my father on Sunday afternoons.  It has become a short, sweet gathering that I truly enjoy.  We haven’t been the greatest as staying in touch with one another over the years, so this is something very new and I really really love it.  Here are a couple of screen shots from messenger gatherings. We live in Comox, Calgary and Ottawa.

I’ve also used this method for one-on-one chats with my high school friend, Ramona, who lives in Michigan.  With her, I can talk about worries, fears, good books and landscapes…we shared a few sunrises since beginning this connection.

My cousin Margy can always make me laugh.  She can update me about family in southern Alberta.  We can truly relax with one another.

I spend a lot of time alone these days…by making these connections on various systems, I am able to remain close, while far away.  I love you all!

Zoom! in Covid Times

A friend shared a thought last week about writing down some of the events and experiences of living through these times, in the case that her grand children ever wonder about the historical realities of living through a pandemic.  Clearly, it was my experience to suspend writing because I felt some sort of oppressive push against everything that is ‘normal’ or natural in my life and so my writing ground to a halt.  Well, this morning, I am inspired by Mary to archive some of the ways we are remaining connected through this event.

Each one of us is experiencing a birthday or other important anniversary through this pandemic.  For some of us, that means a Zoom meet up…here is one, held for my friend Bee, just last week.  Each of us brought a candle and we sang happy birthday together and as his daughter Christina led us through questions, we shared memories of Bill.

Zoom has provided for some wonderful fun through these strange events.  For those of us privileged enough to have a phone or a desktop computer or a laptop, this experience has helped us to sustain connections.  I add this caveat because I didn’t always have the means to own a VCR or a microwave and I’m pretty sure it took me a long time after it was the norm, to purchase my first desktop computer.  It is important through a pandemic to realize that our neighbours are not all able to access the same resources.  This is one of the struggles during an epidemic.

Easter Dinner was actually my very first Zoom experience.  Grateful to my daughter for always taking the initiative to get us doing something different.  She made the invite.

Another family gathering happened.  Those who could, showed up and I loved every minute.  And yes, even pets show up now and again.  Hi, Nellie!

On the anniversary of my brother’s passing, family members from across the country, connected so that we could feel closer.  It was a difficult time.  To this point, I have not ever initiated a Zoom conference, but I’ve been blessed to be invited to these events.

We raised our glasses!

My father is living in a senior’s community and his social director organized for a trivia contest where Zoom family members would appear on large screen in their gathering area.  It was a funny hat event and so my siblings and I showed up for that, of course!  Given that Dad’s population is under restrictions, it is a blessing that Stirling Park has kept a social program going, alive and well.  I believe that we all need connection at this time.  The next few posts will also be about different ways that you might connect with people you love.

Don’t Give Up…

…without a fight.

Have you ever been put in a situation…or put yourself in a situation…where you lose control, completely.  You find yourself cornered/humiliated/vulnerable/speechless?  You lose your voice?  Loud voices are coming at you.  You see mouths moving and eyes wide open.  But, you really don’t hear a word that the voices are projecting.  You want to catch up on the conversation and what is happening, but you are so shocked that you’re NOT SAFE, that you are deemed useless, defenseless and feel only things in your body?  Oh. I’m sweating.  Oh, my heart is pounding.  Oh. Am I going to throw up?  Am I going to cry?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what is going on in a world where this is allowed to happen.  We become enraged when we remember these collective experiences happening historically, in the unbelievable and horrific impacts of colonization and slavery, of racist and immoral conduct in war.  (Presently watching the Netflix series on Vietnam, with my son.  Watch the entire series, beginning with French colonization…see what atrocities happened there.) We are shocked and freaked out when it happens on the world stage in the forum of politics, religion and foreign policy. (I can’t even name all such horrors.)

The strong prey on others.

The privilege of power; whether that is white or big or strong or conservative or educated or rich…the privilege of power is a demon in the face of building relationship or building community or building trust.

The second clutch of sparrows was attacked on the hottest day of summer.  It might have been a Magpie or a Crow.  I wasn’t home to see the events.  The Crow and the Magpie have youngsters to feed…their aggression is without thought for kindness, but for survival.  That’s the difference between human beings and Crows.  We can choose to communicate kindly, even in the face of conflict.  It is our moral imperative to do so.

Mr.  did not give up without a fight.  How do I know this?  Because his feathers show the scars of the attempt to protect his youngsters.  Mr. and Mrs. have grieved at the empty vent these past two days.

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I ask myself if I had stayed home from book club, would things have turned out differently.  Maybe not.

 

Thoughts on Social Media Shouting Fests

I was thinking about something today.  Why am I learning  (most times) to keep my fingers off of the key board when I feel very passionate about some of the issues regularly posted on Social Media?  My track record is that I’ve slid into ‘confrontation’ very easily in life (since being in high school) because I felt that confronting an issue was profoundly important to give voice to my thoughts on issues.  I thought that by vocalizing, and usually emotionally, I had the ability to change the perception of the other or convince them that the way that they were viewing an issue was ‘wrong’ or just plain weird.

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It’s taken many years…sixty one of them…to figure out that it is not necessary to vocalize, in order to make an impact or to solve a problem.  There are just some things that one is powerless to change.  It is healthy, instead, to empower oneself through action that is productive and meaningful.

It is possible to create change in the world by more consistently being an exemplar for others around issues and doing so with some humility and grace.

Recently, I found an all-encompassing article about what can sometimes happen in marriages that are strained or not working because of communication styles.  When two people, who see an issue differently, have a shouting brawl, are they able to solve the problem at hand?  When a couple is in a perpetual state of silence, are matters being resolved?  If it interests you, please click on the link below because I think that meekness is a fundamental quality that would be effective in dealing with the huge heap of problems that seem to be facing human beings today.

Regarding our view of history and decisions that are made for us, rather than with us, we will always find people with strong beliefs, taking polar opposite positions.  It is human nature.  Democracy is built on the belief that all people have the freedom to express these points of view.  What, I suppose, we might want to work on is how we express these.

Social media has created another layer of communication in our lives.  Its access and simplicity provides the opportunity for us to speak, without thoughtfulness and to send words that do not represent our most productive, kind or professional selves.  There, our words represent ourselves for all time.  No pulling them back.  We need to weigh and measure what that might mean.  An intellectual, Marshall McLuhan, once surmised, it is at these times that, the medium becomes the message.  I think that we are daily, in the sad position of falling into this trap.

Discussions about Donald Trump as President, the visit of celebrities to profess their views on Environmental Issues, whether or not Global Warming is a scientific fact, the responsibilities that fall on Canadians to take account of past mistakes where our Indigenous peoples are concerned, Rachel Notley and the NDP Government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the treatment of women in modern society, Rape, Foreign Policy and military intervention, Syria and Rwanda before, fossil fuels, exploration of the North, the status of wildlife the world over, to name but a few…listen folks…there is much to talk about, but without having productive conversations about the issues, how can we possibly be the creative productive problem solvers that this planet requires?

While Kevin Thomas’s points in the following segment of his essay may address a style of communication in marriage, a person can really apply this to any matter where human beings are concerned in an engaging and helpful conversation.

From Kevin A. Thomas’s personal blog, the Warning: Rocky Times Ahead

The end to apathy is not aggression; it’s meekness.

Meekness communicates that one still cares about the marriage. It announces “I’m still here.” It shows concern for the other person. It reveals a vulnerability and welcomes the other person to reciprocate.

Meekness reigns in the aggressive and it provokes the apathetic.

For some, meekness would say “stop yelling.”

For many, meekness would say, “start talking.”

Wonder if you operate with meekness? Consider the following questions:

 

Deafening by Frances Itani

On the recommendation of a friend back here in Calgary, one of the books I read while visiting my father in Belleville, Ontario was Deafening by Frances Itani.  With a regional setting of Deseronto, Belleville, the railway and the surrounding area, upon completing the book, of course, I had to go and visit the places.  Itani’s novel, placed during World War I, is exquisite.  A Winner of a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, I was captivated and motored through this one at warp speed.

Grania, the protagonist, emerges from a bout of scarlet fever as a child, deaf.  The novel evokes a real sense of what language means.  As stated in the Goodread’s summary,

“A magnificent tale of love and war, Deafening is finally an ode to language-how it can console, imprison, and liberate, and how it alone can bridge vast chasms of geography and experience.”

In published reviews, it appears that a lot of readers lost interest as Grania becomes involved with Jim. I think the author is successful in steering clear of sentimentality and introduces Jim as a device to talk to the reader about war, its impact on the small community and how the concepts of lost communication express a similarity with loss of hearing.

At the conclusion of this book, I thought this was my favourite book of all time…but, you know and I know, this is just until the next one!

My father humoured me and visited the grounds of Belleville’s Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf with me and I went, on another day, to Deseronto in order to document some of the places mentioned in the book. Why?  Just because I could.

The school for the deaf has a beautiful campus including several stately brick buildings and wonderfully groomed grounds.

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Deseronto…

The places of Canada…driving driving driving…remind me of the blessings of our common narratives.  Everywhere, windows are boarded up, mostly in small towns and names are written, as are profanities on the baked painted surfaces of what used to be animated corner stores and bakeries and churches…places where people gathered, all working to get through hard winters and humid summers.

Deseronto captures all of it.  The tea rooms and antiques, the post office, the docks…

I am grateful to have seemed to step into a book.

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Post Office Deseronto

Post Office Deseronto

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St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church Deseronto

St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church Deseronto

I strongly recommend Deafening by Frances Itani.

 

I Drove Up to Didsbury…Laughed with a Friend, Drank Some Wine and Painted on a Drum

I enjoyed overlooking a beautiful garden and listening to my friend speak about magical things while I painted on a drum.  That time of year when canola fields and dramatic skies feed my soul!  I feel grateful.

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Three Readers & the Art of Blogging

I haven’t written much for a while.

Some people need to stop worrying about me when I DO write a lot because I derive a lot of joy from putting my ideas out there.  Let it be known that I have this thing that I do, under control.  I don’t spend a lot of time baking great cakes.  I also stepped into a mall for the first time in five years (no lie) over the holidays because I was to meet my son-in-law in the Shopper’s at South Center.  I don’t shop.

So, instead of listing the other 200 things that other people do while I am writing, I’ll just say that I am pretty dang happy at this time of my life.  There were two dark moments in 2013…the moment my beautiful mother had to let go of her life in May and that instant when my friend of over 25 years, Elma Flaherty, died.  I continue to deal with these losses on a daily basis, but, truly…my life is one of blessing.

I wanted to enter into the dance of the New Year with an acknowledgement of three of my readers.  I’m not very well connected to the ‘blogging community’ because that WOULD end up eating up a lot of time…but, these same readers are three amazing writers and I need to say just how wonderful it has been, sharing their writing journey, so I’m going to do that now.

John Clinock lives on the west coast, in Vancouver, hosts a blog titled Art Rat Cafe.  He is a talented writer and also has a fondness for art that incorporates text, as well as a love for good music.  I’ve been reading and admiring his work for a good long time and I think I originally connected with one of his posts when I went searching for blogs that focused on the artist’s journey.  Generally, his life on this techno-high wire is an optimistic one.  Some would wonder if optimists are presenting a facade in all forms of social media, but John writes about ideas, music, the seasons, human celebration and pain, with a particular beauty and authenticity.  I want to thank you for your writing, John, because it consistently inspires.  I’m posting one of your images here, likely mixed media, and will ask your permission AFTERWARDS!

Tarot: John Clinock

Tarot: John Clinock

Dear Shimon lives in Jerusalem., Israel.  He writes beautiful narratives that convey the simplicity and beauty of life, but from a far off land.  I gather from his beautiful photography and his writing that he treasures observing his world and taking the time for those things that really count.  Deeply connected to his cat, Charlie, his family and traditions, I have learned very much about his customs through his posts and through my inquiries.  I consider him a dear friend although we have only shared the common elements and differences in our stories along the way.  A huge reader and appreciator of music, I hope to take on his reading list along the path of my life.  I strongly encourage my readers to visit The Human Picture and to have your eyes opened to Jerusalem in a very new way.  Something very interesting this past year was that Shimon experienced such a huge snow storm that temporarily transformed his home land in a dramatic way.

And finally, on her blog titled, Year-Struck,  I have been enjoying reading everything by a woman I know only as Year Stricken.  Her humour and her intelligence are the two reasons I return again and again to her writing.  Well-crafted, her words bring me to tears through the power of a moment or cause me to laugh hysterically in the next.  I have appreciated her vignettes that cause me to think about teaching, mothering, loss, serendipity.  Through her writing, I enter into a new way of seeing this thing that is common to all of us…life.

I don’t know the art of blogging.  I know that I enjoy the immediacy of this world at my finger tips.  My children will surely not suffer for lack of ‘getting into my head’ ever!  There are a couple of other blogs that I really treasure for their personal connections with me and my life.  I love reimer writes!  I have learned so much from Nikki.  Through her honesty about loss and grief and how to write your way through it.  I’ve learned about matters of the heart. Through her blog, I connect with someone who shares in my outrage at the treatment of  countless animals.  We share in our desire to respect and honour life.  Thanks, Nikki.

Finally, one of my dear friends has been making an exceptional effort in her vision to bring the arts to the marginalized in our city and to constantly open up the narratives that we share through her Love Art in Calgary tours.  Wendy, you are so important to me.  I wish you the best for this coming year.

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