I haven’t known Erin Miller for very long, a year or so maybe. For some reason, she invited me to be friends on Facebook. We have much in common really, in spite of our 17 year age difference. Life experiences bring people together, commonalities make us close. I guess that’s what happened here.
I lost my son Shane in 2009. Erin lost her son Chad Miller in 2014. Our boys lived completely different life stories. Shane lived his life with a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy and all the fullest, most challenging pieces of what that means. Chad lived life large as a very talented hockey player, and athlete. But what they had in common was mothers who adored them, families that loved and supported every step of their short lives, friends whose lives were forever altered when the unthinkable happened. The devastated Moms they left behind were also a common thread in the fabric of the story of their lives. Women whose lives were forever altered having lost such huge pieces of their hearts.
Although Facebook connected us, we didn’t actually meet until late last fall, after the launch of her foundation #MillerStrong17. Before we escaped the harsh Canadian winter by heading south, I messaged Erin when I was heading into Winnipeg. We met and the connection was instant and deep, as we realized our shared experiences.
A couple of months ago, Erin sent me a page from Chad’s journal. She hadn’t known that he kept one until after his death, but in discovering it, she’s received an ongoing gift of words, wisdom and love from him. The page she sent to me told of his love and admiration for his Mom. How ‘Strong’ she was. About her having had him when she was only fifteen. Of all she did and gave to ensure that he had the amazing life he was living. Of her strength in being able to ‘keep giving love, and giving life’ regardless of the circumstances of their lives or what people might believe. Erin asked if I might be able to write a song reflecting some of what he had shared through his own words. The result was my newest song, simply titled ‘Strong’.
‘Strong’ is in honor of Chad, but is a tribute to every single person who has walked through the fire and come out on the other side. Singed by the flames of life, altered by events and in reality, changed forever…but ‘Strong’ because of it.
There was a time I really hated when people would refer to me as strong. “You are so strong, being able to handle having a child with a disability. You are so strong in the way you supported your loved ones through cancer and their eventual deaths. You are so strong to be able to share your experiences. And the ultimate….what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…or the Big Guy only gives you what your’e strong enough to handle.” There comes a time when you just want to shout ,ENOUGH ALREADY! I really don’t need any more strength!
But in reflection, strength has been the gift that has allowed us to come out the other side of the imaginable. It’s what’s allowed us to offer hope and inspiration to others who just don’t know if they can get through the next hour, day, week. It’s what has supported us to move forward into the new now that is our lives, and offer support to others that may need to borrow from the strength that has gotten us to where we are today.
That is what the hope for ‘Strong’ is. I want those that hear it to know that strength is within them as well, and that there are many of us walking this road alongside them. There are so many people making the best of life’s worst situations, keeping our heads above the waters of grief that threaten do drown us. Scarred people who are changing the world in little ways with the hope of leaving it a better, gentler place for others following in their footsteps. People who have found their own ‘strong’ and are using it as a force of good for others.
#MillerStrong17 is in its infancy, but as the #MillerStrong17 family continues to grow its reach and numbers, the strength of those numbers has the potential to elevate the vibration of this struggling world, one person at a time. Together, there is the potential to make change through finding and using our own strength and utilizing it to its best purpose.
As Rumi said, “we are all just walking each other home.” May we each take whatever it is that makes us ‘Strong’ and resilient and use it to make this journey the best it can be for each person we meet along the way. May we find ways to support each other, lifting each other up and offering a lifeline when we can. May our love enable others to find their own sense of ‘strong’ when they don’t think they have the ability to get through one more day. You can! You will find…you will know…then you will be ‘strong’ and your story may be the one that others will rely upon to know that they can get through life’s worst moments as well.
So, I will be the first to admit that I never expected that part of my journey would include becoming an author of children’s books...but here I am, with four under my belt, and two that I helped publish. Interesting how life unfolds, isn’t it?
It’s another opportunity that I have to attribute to Shane and his teachings. It started with him needing a voice of his own, when life circumstance didn’t allow that for him. So , to assist with that, I started creating books for him when he was a child. Books that he could take to school just to share his story and experiences at a level the other kids at that particular time could understand. It worked beautifully!
What it also did was help me to understand that children are the place to start in making change in our world. Being able to plant seeds in the fertile grounds of their open minds is where our greatest possibilities for change can happen I believe. Not to brainwash, but simply to help them know and question those things that the adults around them may not have had the opportunity to know themselves, because, admit it...we grew up in a different time. A time where people with disabilities were hidden away. A time where the Residential School system was never talked about or acknowledged. A time where bullying was accepted, because that’s just what kids do. A different time, but not necessarily a better time by any accounts.
Fast forward twenty years, and I decided to self publish those little books, at least two of them. Shane’s Big Adventure 1 and Shane's Big Adventure 2. I did that so when we talk about them in presentations, they are available to purchase if attendees choose to have them as an example or a tool for promoting acceptance, inclusion, understanding and possibilities for all children who live life differently.
When I finished them, it came to me that Bianca’s experience with Tyson in helping him to understand what Orange Shirt day was all about would make another great story for kids, to help them better understand its meaning. That also has become a great resource to share...basically the same things...acceptance, inclusion, understanding and possibilities, and to help them understand their roles in being part of reconciliation and healing Canada’s past. Tyson’s New Orange Shirt has helped with that I believe.
Most recently, upon gifting a copy of that book to some of my other grand-kids, the discussion came to what could ‘we’ write about if given the chance? Lynden suggested that as we talked about Orange Shirt Day with Tyson, maybe we could talk about Pink Shirt Day with his family. Thus began the next project.
At first, there was a challenge to think about how to address the topic of bullying, but then it came to me that as a writer, talking about what we know can be beneficial for ourselves and our readers. It was then I decided the best approach to this topic was to tell my own story, and the result was ‘You could Be the One’. I only now realize how cathartic and healing sharing my story has been for myself!
‘You Could Be the One’ allows me to tell the story of my own childhood, where I was bullied terribly in Elementary School. I was a new comer to the area, I was chubby, I was alone. All things I didn’t understand or know until the bullying began, and it was incessant for a long, long time. I was so lucky that each night I got to get away from it, go home to a Mom and Dad who worked so hard to rebuild my spirit and keep me moving forward, and for a time...get away from it. There was not the technology available that haunts today's kids when the bullying starts.
Then the day came when the bullying stopped, and it all happened because an older girl saw what was happening to me and said enough is enough. Her name was Sharon Myran. She became my hero, my guardian and my example in life. She saved my beaten little heart and helped to make school fun again, a place I wanted to go...because my friend...my first friend..was there. She changed my world for the better.
‘You Could Be the One’ shares my story of Sharon. It shares how maybe you could be the one to stop bullying when you see it, or if not, be an ally to the child being bullied in whatever way you can. It also offers the hope and insight, that even though bullying was and is awful, it will end. Life does get better, easier, kinder with time. Sadly, so many kids don't live to know that, and take irreversible steps in the midst of the pain they are suffering.
Maybe somewhere, someday, one child will read this book and it will plant that seed of hope in them...to hang on and ride it out. My bigger hope is that it will plant the seed of kindness in others, so that bullying will become a thing of the past. It’s a big dream...but each dream has to start somewhere.
Whether you look at your life as a journey, as a highway, or as any number of other analogies, one thing that is true for each of us is that life is not lived in a straight line.
We set out on this trip, believing in our heart of hearts that we will go from point 'A' to point 'B' by following the master plan that we've created in our minds. That we will get the education, then get the career, the partner, the children, the possessions, the (you fill in the blank) and eventually end up where we saw ourselves being when we first created this plan at age fifteen or sixteen.
But life doesn't go in a straight line, nor does it often follow the plan that we've created. It takes on a momentum of its own, often taking us to places and experiences that in our wildest dreams we would not have included on the map. Some are breathtaking in their beauty. Others are devastating in their heartache. Many times, these unplanned bends in the road ahead stop us in our tracks because we don't have the vision or the courage to see beyond them. In our brokenness, we can't see that no matter how sharp or unexpected the bend ahead of us is, that the road does continue. That beyond our line of sight, there are places and experiences and people that will once again take our breath away. That will allow us to feel joy and passion for life once again.
Grief often leaves us stuck and staring ahead at the road that has disappeared from in front of us because it is not how we pictured the road that we would travel to be. We look at our map, and it doesn't show the sharp curve we've encountered. The grief can be caused by the death of a loved one. It might be caused by the end of a career, or the loss of trust you had, or for financial problems that you never projected. In fact, grief can find us through over forty life experiences. Grief can settle into our lives when the unexpected happens and changes how we experience our world. When that does happen, we are often not prepared. Why? Because in general no one is taught how to deal with grief. We are not taught the tools and actions that will lead us through the pain, and along that winding road so that we can finally see that the “bend was not the end.”
Our society does not prepare us for how to handle grief and losses, so when they befall us, we are often left broken and afraid that we can not continue. We can't see the next portion of the road ahead because of the pain that blinds our vision. Let me assure you that there is hope after loss. There is joy after pain. The road does continue, and you can get into the driver's seat of your life once again to travel it. The Grief Recovery Method provides tools and actions that allow you to take responsibility for that which you can control, and it helps you to find a sense of completion for the things that you can not. In being able to do that, you'll once again be able to move forward along this road called life. You'll once again be able to take in the sights and smells and sensations that make each of us feel fully alive while we journey through this precious gift we call life. Are you ready to get back into the driver's seat of your own life?
I don’t even know where to start…because there is no beginning, and no ending to the story that is unfolding ….the story that is my life right now, right here…so how do I explain things.
As I shared with you in earlier posts, decisions were made. BIG decisions, that resulted in my beloved and I moving from our comfort zone in Manitoba, living life as semi-retired farmers…to our new life here in Qualicum Beach, British Columbia.
None of it came easily. In the course of six months we made six trips across the prairies to move what was most important to our hearts here to the Island that promised us we’d find a sense of home and belonging. Six trips!!! At times, I cannot even believe we have traveled that much in an effort to be stable…it becomes an oxymoron of sorts…jumbo shrimp..running to be still. It’s been just a little bit crazy, but crazy we are, so here we are, finally taking a moment to catch our breath now. But in the stillness, the questions continue to abound.
Our Qualicum Beach home is now all but established. Yes, there are nooks, crannies and corners that need just a little ‘something more’ to be right…something that our Kijiji shopping and chasing has not yet provided, but all the essentials of that which we’re content to call ‘home’ has been established. The ‘little things’ that are missing will come with time. Example…a lamp in the living room. Until tonight…4 months post-possession, I have not really found it a problem that we don’t have any lamp/ lights in our home…besides those which are hard wired into the walls and ceilings. But tonight…as my beloved wanted to watch an action movie…my heart’s choice was to just take out my ‘Stress Relieving Coloring Book” and well…Color…but because we hadn’t made that little inconsequential purchase of a lamp I couldn’t. Another reminder of the little things that have a big impact. We will get there.
Four months into our transition, there are still as many questions as there are answers. With that, I have found that I need to live in the questions…because I know the answer will come eventually…and if I strain myself to know it, I may push myself beyond what I’m able to appreciate and understand at this point…so I live in the questions.
Here are a sampling of them….
So…tonight, as I sit here on a lazy Sunday evening , my desire to reflect is as strong as ever. I think about the quote I read about "the comfort zone being a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there." Maybe it was just time to grow again.
This last couple of days have been the first that we’ve been able to just sit back and be without the need to travel east to clean up old business, or explore things here with company and friends. I’ve spent time out on the deck off the dining room that now has the beautiful ‘roof’ that our son Bill built when he came to visit with his family. As I listen to the sounds of the crickets in the distance, I love that I can sit and do that without the challenge of Manitoba Mosquitoes or West Coast rain…because that’s the way we’ve set things up. Intentional Paradise. I can sit for hours listing to the cricket in the distance…and just do that, without having to defend myself from the elements that would dictate …and ruin…my evening hours back on the prairies.
I am learning the benefits of just embracing a ‘Pooh’ day…spending time in the hammock that my beloved has anchored for me out in the trees beyond the yard…listening to the birds…and the insects…and the world go by…recognizing that yes, it’s a very good day…just because it is a very good day.
I am embracing the fact that I moved to this place because of its proximity to Spider Lake and all that that offered…and as I drove myself here on our initial move…Bob Seger was definitely singing ‘Let’s all Go to Spider Lake’…even though musical intellect says he was singing ‘Fire Lake’…that is not what my heart heard. So with that, I have finally given myself permission to just spend time at Spider Lake…with my man…with my camera…with my dog...in a kayak…and most important…with Spirit…make cruising those waters a priority. For no other reason than that the water is there…and so am I. What an incredible concept. What a gift, what a treasure of being.
So I will end things there for now…. living in the questions, and knowing there are no definite answers…. embracing the reality that that is okay. What I know for sure is that the answer will unfold when the time comes. For now, I know in my heart I have made the decisions to be here because this is where I am meant to be. The bigger reason for that is not for me to understand right now… but that’s okay. I know I am where I need to be, with who I need to be, loving all I am meant to be for now…..and that makes all of this perfect.
What questions do you find yourself living in at this time? What changes have you made that are leaving you a little afraid...a little nervous as to whether you're moving in the right direction in your life? What tools would help you to sort through those questions? Maybe I can help!
The #Future starts today, not tomorrow. How often do we forget that?
How many times to we put off doing the things that we most love, spending time with the people we most love, pursuing the passions that we most love believing that we don't have time today. Thinking that tomorrow the time needed will magically appear and we'll get at things then.
But the old saying goes, tomorrow never comes, and it's true isn't it. Tomorrow turns into another busy today, where the same reasons and excuses hold us back from doing what calls to our spirits.
With that in mind then, what are you going to do today, that will take you a step closer to the dream that lights the fire in your heart? What will move you in the direction of living a more full and passionate life? What you've always imagined your best self to be? You owe it to yourself to do something today...don't put it off until tomorrow.
It struck me this morning, in fact about ten minutes ago, that my own self talk and demands were causing my heart rate to rise and a certain level of anxiety to peak. I was rushing around the house (well, my version of rushing anyways :) ) having loaded the washer and the dryer, gone through the mental list of supper options, brushed my teeth and washed my face, and prepared my home office through my own series of rituals to get ready for my days start. As I reminded myself I had to settle down at my desk and tackle the next item on this week's to-do list, another part of my brain was complaining that I so wanted to write! In fact I realized I was beginning to feel angry that I had words in my head and thoughts on my mind that I needed to take time to get onto the written page, but by the time I finished going through the bills and emails and expectations of those on the other side of that computer screen, the energy and most likely the desire would be gone. Those ideas would be silenced for another day....and would likely moved on...because I didn't take the time needed to honour them and get them onto the written page.
Then it hit me, in the midst of the frustration of what wasn't going to happen, as i realized that there is not one soul here that is telling me that those are the things I must do first....except me! I am the one putting the pressure on myself about what needs to be done when and for who. I am the one that is prioritizing the needs and once again putting my own at the bottom of that list of priorities. I am the one that is saying what this day's accomplishments needs to entail for it to be successful. I am the one who is creating the frustration and the raised heart rate and the agenda of what needs to be done when. And with that sudden realization I stopped, turned around and left my office, grabbed my laptop and moved to my writing corner.
So here I am. And as I sit here, I have to keep asking myself why it is that I continue to do that to myself? Why do all of us continue to put those pressures of what is most important on our allotted time, when the reality is that feeding our spirits and our souls is the truly important work. Exploring what it is that is making us tick and feel joy and provide contentment and peace is the truly important work. What things will allow us to be our best selves and fulfill our highest purpose in this world as we continue on this journey is the truly important work. But it's not the work we do is it? It's not the work that we put first on our daily schedules or at the beginning of any list.
The truly important work is the work that we leave at the bottom of the pile, for when everything else is finished and we can tell the world outside we accomplished something that they can see as a 'result', while inside the work that calls to us lays dormant and unexpressed because all of our best energy and effort was put into the other stuff. Our creativity and our heart's desires are twisted into something else that allows us to do that which is expected by the outside world. Then, at the end of the day, when we finally do allow ourselves to move into the things we want to do, the time and effort needed to put that creativity back into its original form, the form that will allow us to grow and thrive, is too much work to be accomplished on this day. We are tired, and spent so we put it off until tomorrow, and instead zone out for the remaining hours of the days through getting lost in the television, or the surfing or whatever mundane actions quiet the frustrated spirit inside of us that is asking why it was hushed and put on hold yet again.
So this morning, instead of listening to the side of my brain that was pushing me towards that to-do list, I chose instead to listen to that little voice that was calling for me to pay attention to my heart instead. I am so glad I did. I feel my breathing beginning to slow again and my deeper self saying thank you, as these words pour forth onto the page.
Don't get me wrong. I know as well as anyone what needs to be done in a day. I know those bills need to get paid, that the chores need to be done, that the work that makes this life possible and affordable has to be taken care of. I know that family needs to be supported and loved and acknowledged. I know that. But what I have to remind myself of, and maybe you do as well, is that we have a choice and the control over how it is that we get those things done. I know I do...but I forget that, even with all my education, and experience and even my teaching others....I know that, and from time to time I forget. We all forget that the only one in control of us, our activities and our decisions is... well...us!
My scenario was that I told myself I have to do these things and do them now. After all, we had the time away embracing our desire to spend time on the coast, feeding our souls, so now that I'm home I need to put all that behind, buckle down, do the catch up work. Forget about what it is that I need to do to feel that same sense of peace and joy I feel when I can travel until what's sitting on my desk is done.
But that's crazy! I haven't spent the last years of my life making all I do portable only to be on lock-down when I return home! I haven't followed my passions for travel and writing and photography only to push it onto the back burner when I return to the 'real world' that is my life! This real world is my life, and it should be just as vibrant, and nourishing and spirit nurturing as time away is! So why do I not make it so? Why do I let it become mundane and routine and lost in a creative void instead of embracing the knowledge that this is it? This is the work of my life...sharing my experience, and my passions and my dreams from where ever I am at any given moment.
I know that maybe, because of the way I've worked to design my days, I have a different flexibility than another who has a more typical job that requires a daily trip to the office or another structure that provides the income that makes one's world go round. In that way it may be easier for me to go from my 'working' space to my 'writing' space with a simple spin on the heel. I'm 'lucky' I know, I've worked so hard to be this 'lucky' and I embrace it wholeheartedly. But you have choice too! Yes, you may have to be in that building from nine to five, and once you're home your energy for what feeds your soul is sapped... but what if you were to wake up a half hour earlier in the day and feed it then? What if instead of the radio on the commute to that place you listened to books or podcasts that fed that desire for deeper knowledge or learning? What if your lunch hours were spent taking care of your body and spirit in ways other than just feeding it...but maybe meditating, walking, yoga? Couldn't that be a possibility?
There are countless ways that we can work what's important into our days, but we have to do that. No one is going to do that for us. No one else is going to suggest that you put 'their' stuff on hold while you take care of your own. That isn't how this world of ours works I'm afraid. But that's okay, because we have choice and control and the ability to use it...but only if we decide to.
I feel so much better already! Now, when I head back to the 'other' room, I head back feeling content that I took time for me. I've had my moment, I can blow out the candle and let the incense burn itself out (some of my own writing rituals), reopen the blind and head into what also needs to get done, knowing that the voice inside me is content and happy that it was listened to. I can also remind myself that tomorrow I have the same choice. Tomorrow I can start my day with spending an hour on the guitar... or going through some of the thousands of photos I want to work on...or writing another chapter in a book thats living inside me. I can choose to make these things a priority. I can choose!
And so can you. Believe it or not, in this moment in time, so can you. It doesn't have to be a big, cumbersome all day event. It can be one little thing that lets that little voice of longing be heard.
What can you do today that will make your spirit feel listened to and supported on this journey? Maybe you should go and do that.
When we are being who we truly are, our days flow, our time is spent doing things that call to our hearts. We're allowed to use our gifts in ways that are meaningful to us, and hopefully helpful to others. There is joy in what we're working on and creating, and I saw a great quote on facebook the other day that said when we are working hard on something that we don't care about, it's called stress. When we are working hard on something that we do care about it's called passion. Loved that explanation!
So I have been working harder of late, but it's all be on what I am passionate about. My most recent project was to finish a song I'd been working on to hopefully continue to play a role in raising the awareness of our missing and murdered women, men and children. I think when you find something that calls to your heart, you can find ways to make a little difference from wherever you are. I am hoping that this will do that.
In the midst of it all, I'm continuing to learn, and grow and expand my own knowledge, and that is such a marvelous feeling. To know that at whatever stage of life we're at we can continue to grow and develop skills that allow us to be more effective at whatever it is we're hoping to achieve on this journey. Live. Love. Learn. Laugh. That's this weeks message to myself, and anyone who takes the time to read this. Never stop doing any of them, and if in doing so you have the chance to make a small difference in the world. Then do it..we're all in this together, it's time we remembered that
So to close, here's the video I worked on and put out into the world this week. Quality is home grown, and hopefully down the road there will be a better version, but for now, it's the message I want to share. It's not about perfection. It's about just doing our best as it currently is. Thanks for letting me share.
It's been a sad several weeks around our house. While we were away in Boston in early November, our 2 year old Golden retriever, Duke, took off from our daughter's house with her dog. We haven't seen either of them since, and there's something missing when you step outside and he's not there to bounce all over the place in greeting. Nothing makes you feel more loved and appreciated than a dog I don't think...even though there are lots of times that love and appreciation can drive you a little crazy. You still know, that while you're in their view at least, there is nothing in their world more important than you. In this highly technical, digitally connected world, you often don't get that sense of absolute presence from the people in your life. With your dog you always, absolutely do.
I don't think we could have done much more to look from him, short of catching a plane home the day he disappeared, and that didn't make much sense. We've advertised in papers, facebook, on the radio. We've put countless posters up over a span of 40 miles, and followed several leads in all afternoon drive-a-thons that didn't result in finding him. The worst part is the not knowing. The wondering if he wandered into the wrong yard and was shot by someone who doesn't approve of strays. Was he caught in a trap somewhere, as there are reports that there are several laid in the area, with people trying to bring down the coyote population. Was he hit? Was he stolen? Or our favorite, did he just find himself in the yard of someone who saw his beautiful, joyous spirit bounding through those fluid eyes of his. It's the questions that drive you craziest, and hurt the most.
But as much as I love my pets, and I know how we all love our pets, one thing really put it all into perspective for me. While driving around putting up signs in the area near where he went missing, I went into the store at Dakota Tipi, just south of Portage la Prairie. They were good enough to listen to my sad tale, and let me post a picture of Duke. Those inside said they'd keep an eye open and spread the word...but as I left the store I looked directly at the giant billboard outside, asking for information on the missing Jennifer Catcheway.
Needless to say it stopped me in my tracks, and put my heartache into perspective. I had met Jennifer's Mom Bernice just a few weeks earlier, when she'd pulled into my daughter's yard to ask permission to search along the river bank of her property, as that had never yet been checked. Five and a half years after her daughter's disappearance, her parents still continue to look for signs and traces of what may have happened to their daughter.
A few short months after Jennifer, Amber McFarland also went missing from Portage. To date, the mysteries of both of their disappearances remain unsolved.
I've lost a child myself. I know that pain, that hole that remains in your heart no matter what you try to fill it with. The void in your family that can never be filled by another. Part of the circle is broken, and cannot fully be repaired. But with my loss, I had the opportunity to say good-bye and honor the life of the one we loved. I was there at his passing, and although there remain questions as to what happened, there is also peace. However, even with that experience of loss, I can not fathom what their families continue to live with. All the unanswered questions. The inability so lay their child to rest, to say a proper good-bye. The never knowing. I can't imagine, and my heart breaks for them.
It's been a lingering thought for me over the past several weeks. Amidst that has been the disappearance of Colten Pratt in Winnipeg, the Grandson of a friend of mine. Another missing person, among so many missing people both in Manitoba and across Canada. And there are so many more questions than answers.
Something that I've found rather alarming over the discoveries of the past several weeks also sits in my heart, asking to be answered. Social media is such and incredibly powerful tool, and we know the good it can do when used for so many projects and purposes. One of the pages I have followed for some time, and have used a lot more lately while looking for Duke, is the Winnipeg Lost Dog Alert. It has been an incredible network of people across the province, posting, forwarding and assisting me and countless others to find our lost pets. There are currently over 25,000 people on the network, and I appreciate them all so much.
What is troubling to me is that I also follow another page called Missing Manitoba Women that connects with the local RCMP and police services to post and publish when people in Manitoba go missing and to report when they are found. They continue to be a voice for the over 100 people in the province that remain missing. It has a following of just slightly over 13,000.
The question that arises in my heart is why do we have almost twice as many people in the province watching out for our missing pets as we do watching out and sharing information about our missing persons? Then I suppose the next question that I've had to ask myself is...what am I going to do about it, and is there anything I can to to initiate more action in my circle of influence, in my community and in my province? And is there hope that that circle of influence can spread beyond our provincial border and across our country where over 1,000 remain missing or have unsolved murders?
I really hope so, and I hope I can convince my friends and family to join me. Somebody out there somewhere knows something. It takes so little time to click a share button on facebook so that a few more eyes are watching for those we love. The voices of those that are missing can not be heard...but each of ours can so that some of these families can find closure with the heartbreak that they live with. So that they can have their questions answered, and begin to heal. That is my hope for the season of love and giving of ourselves, and my intention for the upcoming New Year, and I hope you'll consider joining me. If you will, then please click here for the Missing Manitoba Women page. Like their page, share when someone is missing, and together lets work towards being part of the change.
I found this video just at the perfect time, and it resonates to deeply with the things I'm feeling these days. My husband will tell you and confirm, that I am as guilty as anyone of multi-tasking...especially when it's just he and I. Why do we do that, why do we work so hard to keep connected with people and groups and causes around the world, at the neglect of the one who is sitting here right within reach. I know I'm not the only one, but I am the only one I can make change this habit.
We all find it so easy to get distracted. To keep checking for texts and facebook notices and instagram pictures...that we miss out on the connection that is right in front of us. To be Truly Me, I have to get better at that. This video was a great reminder to me to be more present especially here at home, where at the end of the day, it's where your presence is most valued, most appreciated and most remembered.
Take a moment to watch the video, then tell me it doesn't strike a chord! This season I hope more of us can commit to #GivePresence in our homes, our communities and in all places where we have an opportunity to make an impact!
WARNING: It does manage to drop an f-bomb, that I'd prefer they hadn't, because I think we can get messages across to people without resorting to that , but I do like the underlying message.
It started in December of 2012. I was on my way home from my training as a Passion Test facilitator, and had been doing much deep thinking about what was truly meaningful in life, or more specifically, my life. That can be a dangerous thing for me to do.
We were a matter of weeks away from Christmas, and I had yet to do my shopping, but I tend to put it off because I really just don't like it. It wasn't just that Christmas had become so hard with all the losses over the past few years...my parents, mother-in-law...most deeply my son. But as I reflected, it had been a long time since I'd enjoyed it. I remembered back to my days as a child, and in my twenties, and Christmas was so special. We would wait all year, knowing that then might be the time we received those things we wanted so badly. And that would be if 'Santa' was able to afford it, as it wasn't always the case. That was when we'd receive the new clothes, the toys, the crafts...and you played with and cherished them until the next Christmas came around.
But the world is different now. We've become so disposable, and so unwilling to wait for anything. What we want, we get, so that come the holidays there is very little left on the wish-list. Add to that how incredibly commercial it is with the push by advertisers that the wish-list has become so big, so expensive or so technical, that it becomes a financial burden for families for months to follow, and in some cases years.
I thought about our large, combined family. For years we'd get each of the grandchildren something useful, or smaller, clothes or a toy. Then because we don't see them as often, or don't know what their individual tastes are, we'd give each of them a card with $50 in it so they could go and buy themselves something. But as I thought about this habit on the trip home from San Diego, I became very sad, realizing that the habit was only widening the distance between them and us, as we never followed up on what it was that they chose to purchase, who they were becoming, if they even appreciated the money that was received. My heart told me it was time for change, to bring a different meaning to these large family gatherings, and a stronger connection to those we love.
There was another catalyst to my wanting to make change as well. Whenever I am away from home, I worry, as I'm sure many others do, that in our absence someone will break in. It's not that we don't have insurance to cover everything we have...stuff is replaceable. But what I always tended to worry about more was my 'treasures', those things I've held on to as the family historian, or the pack-rat who attaches so much memory to items, knowing that if someone came in and vandalized our home, those 'treasures' would likely be destroyed and they were not things that I could replace.
The final thing that had me thinking was that I'd spent the previous two years in the clean up of my parents estate spending days on end going through the boxes and shelves of a home that held our family history for four generations. With that came the sadness that so much of this 'stuff' meant something to someone. Of course there were things that were clearly valued that you could tell why, but there were more things that were kept for reasons we can't know, and there was a certain sadness of getting rid of someone elses 'treasures'. I learned much from that process, and several things came out of it. One being our new Christmas tradition.
I decided that year that from now on we all have enough 'stuff', and in so many cases we have way too much. I want to pass along things to our kids that have meaning, at least for me, and I hope that in doing that I can provide a deeper meaning for them in terms of what I value, but also what is now their history, as they are now part of my family. So I started that year, looking around the house at all of those things that I have my heart attached to, and began picking out one thing for each person in the family, our children and grandchildren. My husband Cecil did the same.
When we had picked out something for everyone, I then wrote each of them a letter to go with the item. I explained to them why this item was so close to my heart, who it had come from, how I'd ended up with it...any story attached to it that I wanted to share.
It was such an amazing experience, because as I wrote those letters and shared those memories, all of my lost loved ones gathered around me and became part of the celebration of all the wonderful memories I've had the privilege of collecting on this journey. In sharing the stories I was able to share them with my own grandchildren and they could begin to see the people that were so instrumental in laying the foundation of who I have become. My own grandparents, my parents, my son as well as Cecil's parents.
The second part of that Christmas's gift was creating a certificate for each of the grand-kids to fill out telling us what they would like to do in the next year with either their Grandpa, myself or both of us, that we could do together to create a memory. This part made me very nervous, I will admit, because we could have had 12 kids all say they wanted to go to Disney world, and we'd have had to find a way to make it happen, as we'd opened the door. But they didn't, instead we had wishes like going to a movie together, going put-put glow golfing, a camping trip in the summer, having manicures together, me teaching one to play guitar and a day of baking together.
I had been very nervous that they would look at this decision at our Christmas gathering and wonder what in the heck I had in my mind, passing along all this old 'stuff' and not receiving the expected $50 (which note to self, would have worked out a lot cheaper in the end, but we wouldn't be where we are now as a family). Instead, everyone felt it was our best Christmas ever, and the best part was it lasted so long into the New Year as we arranged dates to follow through on all that we'd promised we'd do together. That time spent together has created an entirely different connection, and I'm loving it.
One of my greatest memories is from after the day Haley and I had our baking day, making cupcakes for Grandpa's birthday at a campground in Kenora. The family knows I'm not a baker, but we did it, even though some of the cupcakes turned out a little dark you might say. She said not to worry, she's just put more icing on those ones. When we were done she asked me if we were going to do certificates again the upcoming Christmas, so I asked her if she thought we should. She said yes, that was the best Christmas ever. That coming from a nine year old was a compliment that warmed my heart so much, and so we did.
I love so many things about that decision. I love that we are challenged to keep that list in mind, and arrange our lives around making sure it gets fulfilled and the time we promised is spent. I love that when the kids come to my house now, they are looking at everything differently and asking the story behind things, engaging in a completely different way. I love that we are creating memories, because from where I stand now, looking back, I remember so little of the things that people gave me, but so much of the memories we made together. That is what I want for them.
Last year, to make sure everyone had something to unwrap, we got each of the kids a gingerbread house kit..the one year old right through to the eighteen year olds. I made sure that we had lots of extra decoration and had everything set up, so that after the tobogganing, eating, snowmobiling and unwrapping was done, everyone headed down to the tables in the garage and we spent the next two hours putting together those little works of art. The kids loved it, the adults had no choice but to help, and we as a family had fun...together. To me, that is what the spirit of Christmas is about.
Thanks for letting me share.
It takes time and energy to become who we truly are! In life, so many things can get in the way of our figuring that out..but the time comes in each of our lives where we need to be able to do that if we're going to live happy fulfilling lives that are authentic reflections of our best selves. These are just things I've learned along the way. I hope that they might help you in your own journey into being Truly You!