An on-going series of informative entries
An on-going series of informative entries
A number of years ago in a different city, miles from here, there was this very cheery member named Fred in an organization I was a part of. Whenever I asked Fred how he was, he’d enthusiastically say fabulous or marvelous or awesome. It could have been a hard work week, but he was still fabulous. One day, when asked how he was, he said, “Great.” Oh dear. I was worried. Nothing to worry about he said, and stuck to his "Great" response. Upon probing his wife, I learned that one of his family members was quite ill and he was very worried. But as he told me at another time, it’s important that they always see you smiling. Are you like that?
Dr. Atholl Malcolm (a friend and colleague who also happens to be a well-known psychologist in this area) shared an article written by the Harvard Medical School that noted that 1/3 of the population in the USA are affected by loneliness. I expect our numbers aren’t much different here in Canada. Some live alone, some have no transportation, some live far away from their families. Some are widowed or are widowers.
We worry. Worrying when we live miles away from our family equates to feeling isolated from the ones we love. I know a number of people who have had family members sick with Covid. I know a number of people whose spouse or child has died from other diseases and accidents. These aren’t easy situations to handle and even when we do it well, we still have on-going effects of missing our loved ones.
There can be serious health consequences that can derive from being lonely. Here are some valuable tips from the Harvard Medical School that can help us to conquer loneliness (even if we don’t admit it to others):
You are right, many people don’t want to hear others moan and vent, so it’s okay and good to be cheerful and even better if its based on fact. My message is that you can take charge of your own mental health. I hope something on this list will make a difference to you and your health.
May 19 , 2021
Why I Write
Sometimes people ask, “Why do you write?”
I write because when I write I feel like I am doing what is the right thing for me to be doing. Even if it’s a rainy, windy, blustery day I feel the sunshine and the bird’s song when I am writing. Even if my topic isn’t a cheery one, when I am writing it, I feel at one with the world. My first husband told me that when he flew over the Rockies for the first time in his small plane just him and the sky, he felt the magic of it all. For him being above the mountains was his mountaintop experience. For me, that happens every time words are flowing from my fingers onto paper or computer screen.
Recently my first column in the Inspired magazine came out. It’s in the paper magazine at stores and other magazine stands around our province of BC. It’s also on-line for the world. I’ve been linking it on several Facebook pages for folks to read and I’ve been getting lots of wonderful feedback. Yesterday, something else happened. My publisher sent me an email. She was pleased with my first column and she told me so. Then she said, “I have some mail here for you, I’ll drop it in your mailbox.” Wow! Mail! For me. To the magazine. I hope it’s good mail and not something hateful or negative. My publisher assured me that it was a card shape and people didn’t usually spend money on a card to send a negative message.
Later when I found the card in my mailbox, the return name and address were on the outside. I could have leapt through the ceiling with joy. I knew that name and I loved that name and I had lost contact with this person a number of years ago. Opening up, I read these words… “What a lovely surprise to find you in Inspired. I often think of you.” At the end of the message, she stated, “I am something of a dinosaur, I don’t use a computer, only the phone or snail mail…”.
I can’t wait to phone her today, it’s too early now, but later I will. What a lovely unintended result of writing my column and writing generally. By the way, the column is called “Living on Purpose” and you can find it by clicking here.
May you find what brings you bliss and practice it regularly.
April 14, 2021
Spring is the time of year when it’s easiest to remember the cycle of life.
Springtime, at least in the climate in which I live, means daffodils, lilies, rhododendrons, azaleas, and tulips, to name only a few, burst forth out of the ground. The flowing cherry and apple trees blossom and send a torrent of pink snow through the air. Seeds of all kinds sprout. The days are warmer. The days are longer. My heart is lighter.
We have just come through the season of winter. For some reason the phrase ‘the season of our discontent’ comes to mind. In the winter when the leaves are off the trees, when no flowers bloom, the birds are brave and puffy to keep warm, and I don’t go outside without heavy coat, scarf and sensible shoes, I find it is easy to feel depressed or simply down.
In summer, I want to play, tend to my flowers and the few veggies I grow in pots on my back deck. I want to lay in the sun and daydream or walk on the beach in bare feet. I remember back to childhood, the daily walks to the beach and swims in the salt water with my cousins. Now I’m content with the salty smell and feel of the grit on the soles of my feet.
Autumn is a time of beauty, of harvest, of reaping the spoils of our labour, of being grateful and for realizing that the easy days of summer are over and that the leaves have again fallen. The thought of ‘how will I ever survive until next spring’ often comes to mind.
And yet, here it is spring again. I have lived through another winter and made it to longer, brighter, birdsong filled days.
Our lives are like this, not just in relation to the seasons but in relation to birth, growth, career peaking, retirement and renewed energy for new projects, declining and dying.
And when we have lost someone, we wonder how we will ever experience a new spring.
We do though. We can though. We must though. Just as a grandparent dies, a baby is born. Just like an old love leaves, a new interest occurs. Just like as the clouds rush off, so too, does the sun become visible again.
This morning, with sunny skies, I drove out to the daffodil farm to take some photos. I got out of my car and felt the glory of all those yellow heads bobbing in the air. And now, 2 hours later, inside my warm and cozy home, I can hear the roar of a rainstorm pounding on our roof and the road outside my window.
I guess I just want to remind you (and myself) that life, in the many forms it takes) never stays the same and will keep changing and evolving. When life seems the darkest the clouds will clear, the globe will revolve and as is happening right now as I type this into my iPad, the rain will stop, a spot of blue will emerge and things will brighten up once again.
March 24 2021
St Patrick’s Day & My Love of the Irish
March 17 is St Patrick’s Day. I love St Patrick’s Day. I love the Irish.
I love wearing green on St Patrick’s Day. I started school in a school called St Patrick’s School. We had green blazers and green bow ties (yes, even the girls). In those days, I went to church on Sunday’s at St Patrick’s Catholic Church.
One of my cousins married an Irish man by the name of Archie, and I was also under his spell (sshh…he’s a friend on Facebook and he might see this!).
When I was 8 and my mom and I went to Europe for the summer, we visited Ireland. Dublin to be exact. We stayed with Archie’s parents. They were wonderfully hospitable. We had taken a train from London through Wales to a ferry that took us to Dublin. This was the summer of 1960 and there was a lot of Irish songs on the radio at home (and that was before the Irish Rovers made it big). “When Irish Eyes are Smiling,” Galway Bay, Danny Boy, The Irish Rover, Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ra, Mother Macree, The Last Rose of Summer, The Rose of Tralee, and others. We took the ferry and when we stepped onto Irish soil, I was expecting everything to be green (some green rolling hills and fields to walk through at the pier perhaps) and that there would be music in the air. We stepped off onto cement and a busy city. I burst into tears. It took some time, as my mother would tell the story later, that she could worm out of me what was wrong. It had perplexed her and worried our host and hostess. So apparently, when I was able to articulate my disappointment, my mother set about to find some Irish music for me. After a bit of a hunt, she found a record store and bought a Bing Crosby album of Irish songs. My mother took it back to our host’s home - the Heaney’s – and discovered that they didn’t own a record player! But Mrs. Heaney went next door and borrowed one from her neighbours. On a chair in her large kitchen, the little record player sat. Laurie got to hear the Irish music recorded by an American!
Bing Crosby, who was born just south of us in Tacoma Washington, had Irish roots as well as Canadian roots. Besides recording a number of Irish Songs, he played roles such as Father O’Malley in the Bells of St Mary’s. I have watched this movie many times and last year I found it on You Tube and watched the black and white show. I had tears in my eyes at the end.
My first husband was of Irish descent and therefore, my children also have Irish blood! I learned early about the Irish and their love of a good time!
This year there will be no St Patrick’s Day parade on the streets of New York. Instead, the organizers are presenting on-line activities to replace their annual real and in-person parade along Fifty Avenue. According to Forbes Magazine, on NBC, there will be composite of past parades as well as interviews and stories about Irish people. I don’t have regular TV so I will be cruising the internet to see if I can find it on-line.
So, raise a glass of Irish Whiskey (or green beer if you prefer) and toast the fun and good times the Irish have brought to the world!
March 16, 2021
Unfinished Plans - A Guest Blog by Mame McCrea
January 26, 2021. A normal day, a regular moment in time, nothing unusual or out of the ordinary.
I woke up at my usual time, had coffee, checked my emails, and decided on clothing options…nothing exciting, tights and a sweater. All very ordinary.
My daily plans included many of the usual things. Make the bed, decide on dinner so I could take something out of the freezer, a bit of paperwork. At noon, I was heading out to pick up Vivien and Louise, two of my dearest friends, for lunch. Something we do once a month (at least) and have for several years.
All of us are retired (although it seems I couldn’t manage that so I took a part time job at the hospital doing Covid screening, my contribution to pandemic relief), active (Vivien is an avid tennis player, goes to the gym twice a week, and goes non stop; Louise keeps all her neighbors in shape with walks and bowling in her complex, and chases her darling grandson Ryan around regularly.) and lead busy and productive lives. We all think we are still much, much younger than we are.
I was gathering my keys, my jacket, and letting the dogs out for a short run before I left when the phone rang. Caller ID said it was Kent, Vivien’s son.
When Kent shows up on the caller ID I immediately worry. Vivien’s husband is nearly 90 and not in good health. I was sure Kent had some disturbing news for me.
“I know you and mom are really close, and I just want to let you know that she passed away last night.”
What! No. That can’t be true. I’m on my way to pick her up. We are planning a week in Vegas (a trip we’ve done yearly for 12 years until the pandemic messed us up). We have been invited to join a mutual friend to go to Viet Nam next year. We have stuff to do!
Last week we went shopping for a new bed, and this week it was mani/pedis and a trip to Winners.
I’m in shock. I mumble something unintelligible into the phone as I collapse on the sofa. Deep sobs come from my chest. I feel my heart break.
Vivien and I have been best friends for over 20 years. We have solved the world’s problems together in the hot tub a hundred times. We have cried together, and laughed together, and have always been there for each other. When wild fires threatened our homes, when our children suffered loss, when illness struck our loved ones, we were the first to show up, and the first to offer help, and the first to take it.
I gave Kent my love, offered whatever he needed to get through this time, and sent him a copy of Laurie’s book. I told him how much I loved his mom, and how much I would miss her. I promised him I would always be there for the family, because I know that is exactly what Vivien would do too.
I called Louise (who by now must have been wondering why we are late), and shared the news with her. Now there are two of us crying on the phone.
“Put your coat on, hon, I’m on my way” I said. “What? We are still doing lunch?” “Yes we are, and we are going to honor Vivien, and drink a glass of wine to her, because that is what she would want us to do.”
So we did. We went to our favorite place, ordered three glasses of wine, and put one in the empty space at the table. And we remembered, and cried a little, and laughed a lot, and toasted our dear friend, who left us suddenly, without warning.
And that day I learned (or re-learned) that tomorrow is never promised. We only have this day, this hour, this minute.
God Speed my friend, you will always be in my heart.
Ten things I have learned (or re-learned) in the first two months of 2021:
1. That having cataract surgery is amazing and freeing and …. Omg! Is that a cobweb city on my ceiling in the room I am always in and I’ve never noticed it before????
2. That this year, 2021, - or at least this winter – is the year we re-learn patience.
3. That losing a friend is a very sad situation indeed.
4. I thought I was writing my book for people who had just found out that someone they loved died and were desperate to figure out what to do. Instead, I found out that the people who are buying my book are the older generation who want their family members to be prepared for their passing.
5. That buying a new-to-us car (even if it is 13 years old) can boost our spirits.
6. That its ok if everything we plan doesn’t work out – it’s just another building block to getting the result we want at a later date.
7. That having an on-going texting group with family (or friends) can be a loving way to feel connected no matter how far away from each other we are.
8. That laughter is still the best medicine.
9. That having a mentor with the same belief system (regardless of our ages) is a great inspiration.
10. That I want to find a writing support group to feel inspired by and in which I can share ideas with confidence. (Apply within if you are a writer or other type of creative and would like to join).
11. THIS IS THE BONUS ONE – and one I re-learn every day and never ever take for granted…that having Helmuth as my husband, lover, confidant, partner in the pandemic, is the best choice that could have been made. I am continually grateful for having him in my life (but don’t tell him, he might get a big head!!!)
Feb 21, 2021
A Book in the Hand is Worth Two on the Shelf
My recently published book is not about how to grieve, it is about the practical aspects of what needs to be done and how to do it when a loved one dies and we are the people who have to do that work. And ironically, both Mame and I are at this very moment going through the death of a close friend as we work to get this book re-formatted for paperback publishing on Amazon.
Silly thoughts enter our heads:
But regardless, whether we published this book or not, friends and family do pass away.
It is opportune that we have such information at our fingertips that we could share with those who most need it. And that is what we did. Both Mame’s friend’s son and my friend’s daughter received a manuscript copy of the book “The Ultimate Guide to What to Do When Someone You Love Dies” in their inbox. With love from us.
And this is what I want to share with you. Having a resource like this is something that you can gift to someone you care about when they need it most. When their heart is breaking and yet, there are things that they need to take care of.
Recently I met a representative for one of the local cemeteries at a trade show I attended. When I contacted her and asked her for an appointment, I said, you must get a lot of business from trade shows, her response was, “No. People swerve around us, look the other way, and move faster by our booth.”
People, even though they may not want to admit it, can be superstitious and feel nervous about this subject, but nonetheless, life, and death, happen. So I’m encouraging you to have this valuable resource at your fingertips in the event you need to share this knowledge and support with someone.
I didn’t write this book to make money; I wrote it to help people. We want you to help us help others. The book is now available on Amazon in both e-book and paperback format. The direct links are below:
Saturday Afternoon Visitor
This afternoon the doorbell rang. I thought it must be an Amazon delivery but as I hadn’t bought anything recently, I knew it couldn’t be. I approached the door cautiously, and opened the inside door to a grey curly haired covid-masked woman with a black Labrador dog and nice smile.
Tentatively I said, “Yes?”
She was getting signatures on a petition to have traffic calming measures put in place on our road.
“I’ve already written a letter.” I said. She asked me, “When?” And I told her, “When the young man was ….”. And didn’t finish the sentence that would have said ‘killed because a fast driver hit and killed him on the corner just a few houses down the hill from where I live.’
She shook her head and in a calm voice, she replied “that was my son.”
We continued the conversation, my heart bleeding for her and her family. We spoke about drivers who use this road as a shortcut on their commute to work, about possible options to slow those drivers down, about scenarios that might or might not work. I signed her petition.
We don’t know when some random act by ourselves or someone else will take a life. We don’t know when someone we love will be in a fatal accident. Not something I like to think about. Not something most people like to think about.
But having this woman standing on my front doorstep, asking me to sign a petition that may or may not bring about change and is definitely too late to save her son, I was reminded that our life here on earth is tenuous.
Knowing that I have written a book that can help people in that tragic time gives me a bit of comfort knowing I can be of help. Realizing that getting the message out to people that I have this guide is much harder than researching, writing and publishing on Amazon!
I can’t bring back anyone’s loved one, but I can help them work through the practical details.
I first published the book in 2009 on my own website at the time, and marketed it over the internet. It was bought by those who found my site. One young woman from California, wrote me to thank me for giving her the courage to give the eulogy for a loved one. She took my advice, she said, and had her brother stand beside her while she delivered her words. I know that the book was also bought in England. The purchaser simply sent me a “thank you” for helping him get through the time immediately following his wife’s death. Of course, every chance I get, I share my book with friends in need. Sometimes with friends of friends.
Soon we (Mame has been helping me with the details of getting the manuscript updated and onto the Amazon platform) will have both the e-book and the paperback available. I hope you won’t need it, but perhaps it would be a good reference book in your library that you could share with others if the need arose.
January 30, 2021
When Tragedy Strikes
The day the phone call came was my daughter’s choir day. I had a car full of little girls on their way to their weekly practice. I was about to set off when I remembered an item I was to send to the choir director. I ran back in the house just as the phone rang. Should I answer it? I did.
“Oh, hi Diana. I can’t talk right now can I phone you back tonight?”
And then as she replied, haltingly in the positive, the sound of her response stopped me.
Heart stops beating.
“Can you come in and stay with me?”
Diana lived 120 miles south of me. Her husband, along with another friend, were on a week-long hunting trip, in a remote region farther north.
“He’s with Peter and they were due to fly home yesterday. They still aren’t here.”
My mind was racing. Doug was a helicopter pilot. Extremely expert in all things aviation-wise. He was with his friend who owned a little 2-seater plane. They were hunting moose. It was unlike either of them to not be where they said they would be.
Diana was a close friend, I needed to do two things. I needed to get my little group of girls to choir practice and I needed to get to Diana as quickly as possible and do whatever she needed me to do. I also needed to contact my husband and let him know he was “in charge of the children and house, and, oh, by the way, one of your best friends’ is missing!”
“Diana,” I said aloud, “I will be there in 3 hours.”
Somehow I got the children to choir, arranged for another mother to bring them home, contacted my husband at work, packed a bag and was on the road and to Diana’s in record time.
The search had started; the radio broadcast the same news each half hour; in time we stopped watching TV and listening to the news. I answered the phone and took care of whatever arose. Diana’s relatives who lived out of town as well, came and went. It was a full 10 days before we had results.
Diana would say to me “I know my husband. If he was still alive, I would know. He’s not.”
I would beseech her not to give up hope. After all, it had been the previous summer, I had called Diana and said, “Gordon’s missing, will you look after my children, I’m going down to the search command and sit by the radio.”
Gordon had been found, clinging to a log in the middle of a lake after his boat sunk. I couldn’t imagine that the same outcome wouldn’t happen for my friend.
This was not to be. After ten long tortured days, Peter’s plane was found. There were no survivors.
That was approximately forty years ago now, before we used computers, before we had cell phones, when we were dependent on the nightly news and the radio updates every half hour.
The worry and the ‘fog’ of those days is something I still remember and in remembering that time, I realize, this time of pandemic feels the same. Caught in a time of waiting, of not knowing the outcomes, being as brave as we can be while being hopeful, we are also preparing for what may be.
This has now been nearly a year of fear, anxiety, loses, and endurance. We balance the pandemic with all the other circumstances that take place. A friend’s husband just died last week from a lingering illness, another friend’s father died on Wednesday, and another is mourning the death of his wife and life-long partner who passed last winter. I just learned my close friend has found out she now has cancer invading her lungs. This morning I received another message asking for prayers for an old friend as he faces a severe illness. Several others are coping with their partners dementia.
And that, my friends, is why I have updated and have published my book, The Ultimate Guide on What To Do When Someone You Love Dies, on Amazon. It’s a practical guide on all those important tasks one needs to take care of when faced with the ultimate tragedy.
Currently available in e-book (can be read on devices such as Kindle), but coming soon the paperback version will be available. Please tell your friends and relatives there is help when they need it. Or better yet, purchase them a copy.
You can order directly from Amazon by following this link:
January 15, 2021
Struggling Right Now? You're Not Alone...
I know how hard life is for many people right now. I may not know you personally, but I know that you may have anxiety, or fear, or pain and you may or may not share that with anyone. I know that you may be worried about family and friends who may be working the front lines, who may not be willing to accept the world the way it has become and are railing against the precautions, who may be or have been sick. I know you feel helpless in many cases. Listening across the cell beams or on zoom just isn’t the same as being close and holding a hand, making soup, hugging.
If you are like me with grown children and grown grandchildren and worry has become your middle name, I know your angst. We won’t all feel it in the same way, but boy oh boy, do we feel it.
Zoom is pretty good. Put on some makeup, put on a smile, sit back a bit, heck you can even sit in front of bright lights and no one will see your pain.
I’m not a counsellor any more (yes I was for a time) but I am a person who cares deeply and who wants to help others ease their pain.
That’s why I listened to what a number of people said to me. “If you teach a course, I want to take it.”
So I have reformulated two courses. One, “Beyond Memoir, Using Spiritual Practices to Design a Heartfelt and Creative Legacy” is for older folks like me, retired and mostly not tired (but maybe a nap every so often) that allows you to spend time spiritually and creatively thinking and designing a legacy that one day you will leave behind for your next generations. It’s a chance to work in community with others, feel their support, listen to their ideas and to develop a heartfelt and creative legacy that is uniquely your own. We will use some time-proven spiritual practices to get in touch with those pieces of ourselves that come from elsewhere. We will do some reminiscing, some research, some challenging of past learnings.
It’s one way to make the pain do some work for us so that we can find fulfilment and that means feeling good about what we are doing. Oh sure, you can get that from making cookies, but sitting down with those cookies only means you have to do more exercise. Do you really want that? Sitting down with this project doesn’t add pounds.
The second course I am offering, “Live on Purpose: Who am I really? What can I do? Why am I here?” will suit a broader range of people. It’s something I have taught for years, and that I have watched participants bloom once they understand the basics of their own true nature and how to live their life in alignment with their true purpose.
Click here to register for the free preview on January 7, 2021.
I want to help ease the pain and help you find some joy in your lives even in this time of disruptions and change.
December 23, 2020
Things I have learned in the last week that make me go hmmm....
1) You can add bunny ears to your image when on zoom.
2) You can also have your lips painted on your image on zoom, and when you drink your coffee, the lips show on your coffee cup!
3) That having two little Boston terriers living in your basement suite can bring you great joy.
4) That introverts are quite happy being locked down but it drives extroverts crazy (ok, I knew this but was musing on it again this week).
5) That sometimes you just need to go shopping and there are lots of ways to do that on-line.
6.) That working online means your colleagues can live anywhere in the world and you can still share great ideas.
7.) That having frozen meals available can make up for not
going out to a restaurant.
8.) This one is my biggest learning: just do the thing, and even if you don’t think it’s perfect, get it out there, onto paper or wherever. You can always have iteration #2, #3, or #4 to update or increase the quality. In other words, being a perfectionist can stifle your ability to produce.
9.) Go for a walk when it’s not raining (or storming), because in half an hour, it probably will be.
10.) It’s ok to walk in the rain. Just dress appropriately.
November 25 2020
THAT FIRST PAGE
Did you ever buy, or receive as a present, a beautiful journal that seems too pretty to write in? As a matter of fact, you have so many ideas, so many things to say, and yet, you just don’t know which thoughts to put down on the first page. That first page you think must be perfect. The perfect story needs to be beautifully calligraphed on that front page of this beautiful journal. And yet, you can’t decide, you don’t feel equal to the task, you are sure whatever you chose to write just won’t be good enough.
That’s how I feel with this first blog post that will be read through my website. Just what is the best message? What can possibly be good enough for my readers to start with?
Recently I have been working with a mentor. No, we are never too old to work with someone who will inspire us and walk the journey with us. My mentor reminded me that the important thing is to get started. You don’t need to get an “A” or an “A+” on your first page, in your first attempt or your first draft. To start with, all you have to get is a “C”. Just get the work started. There is always time to go back and edit or refine.
And so tonight, I want to challenge you to take up the pen or the brush or the plan as I have on this page. Be like Nike says “Just Do It” and worry about getting it better on the next swing through. No one starts off as the best. They need to train, and practice…or in plain language, they need to do something over and over and over again until one day it feels right, and it shines.
What is it that you want to accomplish?
Don’t be afraid of the first page. Don’t be afraid of the start. just get it down and get a “C”.
November 5 2020