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joy and the story of my tattoo

The story of how I came to have a tattoo is also a story about joy.

 

It all happened about 17 years ago.

I am not even over-dramatizing when I say that when my first marriage ended, I  resolutely hauled all of the clothes out of my closet as I sobbed, threw everything in garbage bags, grabbed my beloved basset hound, and drove away from my life as I knew it in the dead of night.

 

I ended up back in my parents’ home and very gradually and gently, began to re-build and create a new life,

 

this life.

 

My break from my first marriage was abrupt and harsh, and though I knew for sure that leaving was for the best, there was much to grieve and much that I still cared about in that little  town that I had so quickly left behind.

Karen, for instance -not me, of course, but my dear friend Karen, the woman who had been my principal through my first few years of teaching elementary. Karen had become my mentor, not just in teaching, but in life: in leadership, in spirituality, in all things good that I aspired to become.

She worried about me after I left, calling me, sending me uplifting gifts, and even driving us both all the way up to Edmonton and back on the day before school started back in September so that we could attend Lilith Fair together.

 

What I remember most about that trip, though,  were the deep conversations during the long car ride –

 

Conversations that still stay with me even though she has been gone 9 years, having died of cancer a little over a year after my mom died.

 

On another car trip that summer, her and I  went to Calgary and each bravely got a tattoo in honour of her 45th birthday.

I had an orange and blue star inked onto my lower back, inspired by the paper lantern that hung in the bedroom of my new apartment.

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The walls of that little bedroom in the top floor suite of the old house that I was renting were painted orange and navy blue and my landlord (who would become my future father-in-law) apologized profusely for this fact. I didn’t care, though,

I loved everything about that apartment, especially the bedroom. 

I would look up from my bed at that beautiful star,

while the bold, strong colours on the walls cocooned me up at night.

Emerging from underneath my feelings of hurt and betrayal was a sense of freedom and renewal that I had never before quite experienced,

an exhilarating sense of possibility that from that day forward I could and would re-write my life. I would choose new words to define my days,

words like integrity, truth, adventure, kindness,

 

Joy.

 

And when I went to bed at night in my little apartment, even though I was alone, I felt

 

happy.

 

I rarely even remember anymore that I have a tattoo. It is mostly hidden, and I can’t see it. For a while I stated that I would, at some point, go back and have the star filled in with a more intricate and detailed design to make the tattoo more artistic and interesting, as it is really just an outline of a star filled in with solid colors.

 

However, even as I said it out loud back them, I doubted I ever would.

My minor act of rebellion was complete and I had no desire to subject myself to more needless pain.

 

The outline is enough.

 

Thank you, Karen, for your big love that summer and for holding my hand through the pain that I needed to then bear,

for generously taking me into the fold of your true self, uncovering to me truths and desires and ideas that I needed to understand then to be who I am now.

 

I am ever amazed by the intricate paths that the stories of our lives lead us down, cleverly and magically winding,

seemingly finding the fullness of circles (and stars)  to complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spring PeaceCard Event

Permission to Blossom

Connection*Play*Mindfulness

When I am disciplined, I complete things. I treat myself well. I don’t gossip or complain. I feel massive surges of creativity. I sleep well. I feel a sense of vibrancy inside my body.      

                                                                                   Carrie-Ann Moss

 

Two-Part Workshop: Wed. April 13 & Wed May 11, 7-9pm

Hosted by Karen Westwood 
Featuring 3 fabulous guest speakers to inspire your own self-nurturing practices-

Participants will also be guided, in a playful and easy way, to create and identify meaningful-to-them daily practices that they wish to prioritize….
then we will all follow-up together a month later-

Guest Speakers:

*Cheryl Dick:

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Cheryl Dick has worked for major multi-national corporations and as a CEO in an economic development organization.
In her search for inner peace and wisdom in a fast-paced world, she turned to exploring different spiritual traditions and has spent the past 25 years practicing mindfulness and meditation.
She has been leading classes and retreats for the past four years with an emphasis on the work of Eckhart Tolle.

*Teresa Yauck

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Theresa’s spiritual and physical yoga training began as two 10-day intensives (totalling 200 hours) at a registered yoga studio in Fernie BC.
This journey of self-awareness enabled her to deepen her understanding of the history of yoga, therapeutic breath and meditation, the practice of asanas and the meaning of Chakras, Bandhas and Mantras.
Upon completion of her 200 hour training, she has been teaching for the last year-and-a-half through the Be Fit For Life program at Lethbridge College and periodically at the Fitness Club.

*Brenda Rue

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Brenda is a talented fabric and thread artist. Her latest passion involves creating gorgeous pieces inspired from colouring book images.
Brenda teaches classes locally and is now at a point where she is beginning to feel ready to compile her works into a show.
Brenda feels deeply inspired to live a creative life.

Details:

Cost: $80 for both sessions / $40 for one session
Past Participant price: $70 for both sessions / $35 for one session
Venue: TBA

Comment or message me for more info or to register

 

 

 

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5 People I Admire

After hearing Chris Hadfield speak at a Leadership Conference in our community last week, I found myself thinking about well-known people that have inspired me. I am not always particularly in touch with pop culture, and I am certainly forgetting about people in all sorts of fields that I have looked up to, but here are 5 people that have been on my mind lately.

1.This man is so wise. Certainly, Chris Hadfield is technically and scientifically brilliant, but he is also funny and grounded and kind. What I admire most, though, is his clarity and perspective. This is a man that can hoist up a little girl on one hip and explain how chicken soup is made in space, but he can also remind us all in such a clear and unarguable way that we are all the same, we are in this together, and that we need to take care of the earth and each other. These simple truths coming from a man who has looked at our world, at us,  from a perspective that only a few have experienced.

2.  Ok. You might be tired of me bringing up Harry Potter. But. We at our house (well, mostly George and I) are still in the  throes of a re-visiting of the Harry Potter books, for me, largely inspired by this FB post about Alan Rickman that describes another wise man who displayed such joyful integrity to his art, and also knew how to listen.

3. How I have always loved Jane Goodall. Always. And here she is at 80, more beautiful than ever. Someone said to me once that gentle strength is the best kind of strength. Jane Goodall emanates a gentle strength and a sweetness of spirit that sees and fights for good, for nature, and for our collective positive evolution.

4. And Meryl Streep, oh Meryl Streep, another fierce woman that I have loved forever. To me she is unapologetically herself and I adore that authenticity that she has continually exuded and brought to her craft. She is unapologetic about aging, too, and seems willing to own all of the complex aspects of herself.  She’s also always struck me as particularly playful.

5. OK. One last Harry Potter reference. JK Rowling~ her interview with Oprah in 2010  affected me deeply:

Forever changed by her mother’s death. Edinburgh. Magic and depth and soulfulness. Celebration of imagination and creative inspiration. Did I say this interview may have changed my life? I actually just watched it again to be sure. More on this to come…….

Love is the most powerful thing of all.           JK Rowling

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Origami Unicorn made by George

When I saw Chris Hadfield speak last week, he also talked about how he has learned to really listen, and in so doing has realized that pretty much everyone has a story, has been heroic, has their own reasons to be admired. I agree. I could easily list so many of you, all of you really, and describe at length your particular qualities that amaze me.

So, to us!

Go forth, love, and be the very best you! In this crazy world, it seems that this is the very best and magical defense we have.

 

 

 

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That Purse Project

One of the many things that I have been thinking about as I consider Joy is the idea of  celebrating and really paying attention to the spaces around me. Being married to an architect, I have come to recognize and consider aspects of space all the time, but much of our conversation tends to be focused on bigger spaces – such as the feel of a building or a room.

I am feeling drawn, though, to honour the very little spaces too – the drawers, the closets, the shelves, handbags.

Years ago, I read about the idea of having a ‘sick-day drawer’ which would be dedicated to such days and filled with nurturing items such as puzzle books, a beautiful journal, chocolate, a brain-candy novel,

whatever makes you feel happy and comforted.

Though I haven’t yet created such a drawer and my sick days are few and far between, after my heart surgery I did have a whole 6 weeks in which I was quite forced to nestle in.

I had not personally designated space for myself to convalesce but my family  created for me a whole loving space completely devoted to my recovery. I think that I will always remember how comforting it felt to be in that big chair by the window as Spring awakened,

on one side a basket of magazines, books, and cards and on the other my treasured little antique table that had belonged to my Scottish grandmother.

Fresh flowers and cups of tea,

friends arriving with treats and treasures.

The days passed and for perhaps the first time in my adult life other than right after my babies were born, the world came to me while I just stayed put in my perfect little nest.

 

Recovery has its challenges, as does fully committing to it,

but the idea of creating a nurturing space is an unarguably loving and healing thing to do for yourself, even when you are not sick.

 

For Christmas this year from Dan, I received a beautiful new brown leather handbag.

It’s a big bag, which can be a tricky business because before long it is inevitably filled with old grocery lists, more lists (I might possibly make more lists than anyone I have ever known), 14 pens, my kids’ garbage, and you get the idea.

Well, my kids are old enough now to throw out their own garbage and carry their own stuff,

so I am reclaiming this particular space.

 

Presently in my purse is some wonderful hand lotion that I will often and generously apply on my dry and cracking prairie skin (and share with you if you are sitting next to me), 1-2 good quality pens (have I mentioned my complete adoration for pens), a lovely little journal, ginger candies (my kids hate them which helps), my wallet, and whatever else is presently inspiring me and making me happy.

 

It’s a small thing but it’s me nurturing myself while I am out and about in the world.

I can’t always easily get to transforming the big spaces but I can take tiny steps every day to making my life a little more beautiful.

Happy Valentine’s All – Wishing you all beautiful small and big spaces.

 

Be your own best friend. xo

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carrying around some love and nurturing

what used to be in my purse

what is in my purse now

it’s the big things, and sometimes it’s the little things

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what is joy

So the first few weeks of this joy plan proved themselves rather trying.

A friend of ours has experienced an unimaginable and tragic loss, repercussions of a struggling economy are all around us, I sustained a very minor but uncomfortable injury after Christmas that is taking time to resolve, and on it goes.

So much pain, heartache, and uncertainty in the world. Every. day.

 

All of this during my first weeks of publicized joy finding.

 

I never said it would be easy. And calling upon joy does not guarantee her arrival, or does it?

Because when I really think about it, there were moments of pure happiness.

For example,     this.

My gardener/writer friend invited me over to his greenhouse one morning. It was chilly. I kept my big coat on and we sat amidst his heartier winter-tolerating plants and drank hot pumpkin tea and chatted. It was overcast at first, but towards the end of our visit we found ourselves and the plants bathed in cheerful sunlight. He entertained me with his stories and told me about some of the plants in our company.

And this. Reading Harry Potter again, inspired by the news of the recent death of the lovely and deeply talented Alan Rickman.  George and I deciding to take on the 4th and 5th books, immersing ourselves in a world of such magic and beauty-first reading together but then him reading on, eagerly jumping ahead of me. Alex, excitedly chiming in at supper one night as we talked about Harry Potter, reflecting on how her entire childhood was  somewhat defined by J.K. Rowling’s books.

A homemade pizza crust one Saturday night eaten in front of the fire that turned out better than any I have ever attempted. ever. Pure heaven.

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And then just a few days ago we attended the dance show put on by Olivia’s middle school and it was a pure spectacle of joy – a  triumph of creativity, energy, synergy, commitment. Loads of people working together to create something positive and wondrous. My girl swept away by her love for performing.

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Pumpkin tea in a greenhouse, Harry Potter, pizza,  and a dance show.

And then just one more deliciously lovely moment. Cuddled up with George watching a documentary on pelicans that he had been asking us to watch with him for weeks. At first, of course, it was all quite gentle and interesting -pelican behaviours and development, habitat, rehabilitation practices etc.

but then it quickly got depressing as these nature documentaries always do.

Heart-breaking scenes showing helpless pelicans drowning in oil spills, stuck and struggling in fishing nets or with hooks lodged in their throats, their webbed feet deformed by frost bite due to changing weather patterns affecting migratory behaviours. ugh.

It begs one to ask what is even the point of rehabilitation for these birds. What are these poor pelicans even being sent back out into?

 

But even as I ask the question I know the answer.

 

They are being sent back out into life, in all of its beauty and wretchedness.

They are being sent back out into the wild to be with other pelicans, to soar above the ocean waters, and to do that perfectly executed long and straight arrow dive in that particular pelican way. Keeping pelicans in even a beautiful sanctuary is not an answer at all. In fact, if that is the only alternative they are often euthanized.

Life is tricky and dangerous and filled with all sorts of things that could go wrong, events that could very well break our hearts and leave us marred,

but, life, in every form, is also our very greatest privilege and gift.

And to truly experience it and honour it we must be courageous enough to open ourselves up to the fullness of it all, fish hooks, oil spills and all.

For, as the wise women discussed at my last workshop, when we are courageous enough to open our hearts to joy, when we are strong enough to feel, than we are also making ourselves quite vulnerable to sorrow,

all of  it existing within one same spectrum.

We may suddenly find ourselves weeping for all sorts of reasons,

so easily  touched by beauty, kindness, creative acts, pain, despair;

 

The plight of pelicans, a friend’s grief, or a perfectly choreographed dance. All of these experiences  – treasures for the open-hearted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Purse Project and chronicling a year of finding Joy

 

After having coffee with a dear friend last week, I spent an hour or so perusing Chapters and had a bit of a brainwave.

I first need to say, though, that I almost didn’t peruse Chapters – because it wasn’t a ‘productive’ activity.

 

Seriously.

 

I have spent my entire life being caught up with the idea of spending my time doing  ‘important’ and ‘productive’ tasks. I could spend all sorts of time analyzing where this rigid mindset comes from ~ Generally, though, we are a culture obsessed with results and ‘success’.

Perhaps I partly inherited this strong-hold of an ethic from my accomplished head-nurse grandmother, whom I was very close to. Grandma was passionate, loving and had a great sense of fun, but was also extremely efficient, productive, and task-oriented. She was constantly at battle with herself over the hours that weren’t productive, the tasks that weren’t completed.

It makes sense,

I don’t blame her and in actuality completely adored her. Our society was built upon the tasks of hard-working immigrants such as Grandma who had no choice but to be productive and build new lives against all odds.

 

And they did.

 

However, it’s now a very different world; the rules and needs have changed.

It feels right for me to announce that this focus enslaves me more than it serves me.  It makes me distracted,  cranky with the ones I love the most, and often quite negative. Yet, sadly and truthfully, it’s most often how I measure the worth of my days.

I am going to try serving another master: Joy

and see where that takes me.

 

So that’s it. That’s my New Year’s plan and my new practice.          Joy.

I am going to investigate, explore and give full reign to things that bring me

joy.

If this sounds hoaky, simplistic, or idealistic,      I really don’t care.   I am blessed enough to be surrounded by lots of intelligent, successful, and highly artistic people and for too long  I believed that everything I wrote or did needed to be academic or clever and original. I am done with that line of thinking because not only is it paralyzing, but I am a true believer in the deep and abiding worth of simple concepts.

Also, a very wise friend once said to me,

‘Everything’s been done before. Don’t kid yourself. But it hasn’t been done by you.’

 

Also, because I know that every practice is fortified by writing about it and tracking  developments (my friend and I actually discussed this over said coffee),

I am going to write about Joy this year and the places where I find it.

When I wake up in the morning I am going to consider what will fill me up rather than what needs be to accomplished.

 

Last post I talked about being open to receiving beautiful moments.

Let’s just see if setting forth an intent widens the scope and potential of my receptivity.

So, there will be far less ado about what I have done and far more about surrendering to a new way of looking at things. I have been given so many precious gifts in this life, it seems nothing less than a betrayal to not find ways to celebrate their sweet presence. We all know too well that life is short.

 

Plus there’s nothing like publicly announcing something to make it happen.

See.

I said I was going to re-think my blog a bit this year. Plus as soon as I use the word project or theme I get all tingly and excited and inspired and dare I say…Joyful.

So there it is. I gave myself permission to be unproductive and peruse Chapters for an hour with no agenda and an agenda found me.

At any rate, I am pretty sure that it’s a non-debatable fact that the world could use more       Joy.

And,  I suspect that Joy is a direct highway to      Peace.

 

Here, I got you all interested in my Purse Project and I didn’t even tell you about it. No worries, I will in a few days. It’s idea #1 and I just need to flesh it out a bit.

In the meantime, I hope you all feel a little inspired to figure out what it is your lives need more of.

Joy, however, is anything but saccharine or false. It is delight; a fully embodied form of contentment. It’s the smile that finds its own stretch and doesn’t need to be tugged into place. It’s what the morning glory does when it feels the first rays of sunlight on its petals. It’s the splash that sends a feeding fish slaphappy out of the water, and it’s the flick of its tail on its return. Joy is the impulse in the morning that sends you into the kitchen for tea and toast before the alarm has had a chance to ring.                                       Tzivia Gover, ‘Joy in Every Moment’

 

The beautiful image heading this piece is from from Robin Mead! Check out her other inspiring and joyful designs at https://www.facebook.com/RobinMeadDesigns

 

 

 

 

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A ray of light.

I took this photo on Boxing Day.

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In opposition to a world that seems to revel in an endless stream of photos, George is generally resistant to pictures being taken, especially of himself.

Yet, I still took it. I liked that moment. It was peaceful, simple, tech-free.

 

I can appreciate George’s perspective though. During a time when we attempt to document everything, sometimes the refreshing and rebellious thing is to simply not snap the shot, to courageously experience the moment without any need for a stamp of validation.

 

During the Christmas break, we watched the movie ‘Boyhood‘. Have you seen it? The entire movie is a chronicling of moments, random yet telling, of one boy’s life over the course of 12 years.

Snippets. Some of them even lovely rays of light.

 

Let this photo, this gift of a moment that I was thankfully present enough to notice, be preserved as part of the string of moments that will make up George’s boyhood.

Rays of light that find us. Happiness that we are willing to receive. 

 

2016 has wrapped her arms firmly around us already, hasn’t she?

It is a tentative and uncertain relationship that we have at first with the New Year. We don’t know her yet,

but yet we tend to want to believe that we can mold her and control her.

We forget that her events, her adventures, her surprises, her lessons, her inspirations, her happy and her dark times,

are not yet for us to know.

 

The best we can do is relax into her arms, trusting in her love and wisdom.

 

‘Boyhood’ ends with a poignant line,

A girl that Mason, the main character, has just met says to him,

‘You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment? I don’t know, I’m kinda thinking it’s the other way around. You know, like the moment seizes us.’

 

May you be seized by innumerable moments and rays of light in 2016. Happy New Year friends!

A reminder that the next PeaceCard workshop will be held on Thursday, Jan. 21 from 7-9pm. It promises to be another lovely evening of connection, play and stillness. Message me for the details if you are interested.