The Magic Necklace

Many years ago I discovered the small shop in the water side tourist town of Ste Anne De Bellevue.  Unassumingly off to the side along the edge of the rolling st Laurence river neighboured by eclectic little restaurants and shops that offered a sea side multi-cultural experience to tourists and students alike.

I had spent a great deal of time in this place for many years off and on for different reasons; as a substitute teacher at the local high school, visiting friends or buying honey and cheese at the local farmer’s market on weekends.

When I discovered Shiva, the small Hindu store in Ste Anne’s my life was a maelstrom of conflicting emotions and I was clearly in the tumult of change. On that particular day, I was driving blindly to the Montreal General Hospital to see my mother, who had been suffering from cancer for about two years.  All of the relentless treatments they had given her had led to a depressed immune system, and a reinvigorated cancer that had found its refuge in other places when shunned by the treatments. I was to attend a meeting with her doctors about her end of life care.

Even though she had had “cancer” – an idea I had almost come to be accustomed to – the possibility of her death was a shock to me and it suddenly struck me, as I was driving, how final this was all going to be. I found myself crying nearly unable to move my car forward, so I took a quick turn off for the Ste Anne’s exit for a breath before facing this particular music.

I had never really noticed the small store with the colourful Hindu items in the window before. To tell you the truth, I’m not much of a shopper but I felt myself being drawn inside. I wiped my tears and went in to be greeted by the bright wide smile and shining eyes of Romi, the owner of the shop.  I tried to put on my best face but it instantly dissolved as I saw all the smiling Buddhas around me;

“Hello. My mother is dying”, I proclaimed to him flatly “And I need some help.” I stopped, unsure of what I was saying or doing.  I had meant to say I need to buy something to bring her.

I noticed Romi’s face had not changed. He was not shocked, or put off by my rush of emotion. He remained  undaunted, still leaning on the counter looking at me more serious now, but his eyes still smiled.  After a moment of stillness that allowed the gravity of my emotions to settle like dust in the sunny windows, he stood up straighter and smiled even more brightly;

“I have something for you,” he said, an Indian lilt in his words.

He disappeared behind a colourful mandala curtain, returning a few minutes later. I noticed he was limping – quite badly, like a handicap he had all of his life. I later learned he had polio as a child and somehow this made him even more authentic and brave to me.

He put a necklace on the glass counter for me to see. It was magnificent- a Tibetan necklace with a small oil vial, containing a beautiful bone etched ying and yang in the center. I understood immediately that this was for me and not for my mother, because the best gift I could give her was to focus on staying balanced within myself so I could offer her the best of what I had for all she may need me for.

I’m pretty sure I hugged him then. I felt incredibly relieved,  like the whole universe would always somehow catch me when things became too heavy to bear.

I went to the hospital that day with a renewed vigour, an open heart and an optimistic view of life, death and the absolute love I could have for my mother without being afraid of her leaving.  I was present and fully accepting of everything.  I walked through the hospital on a wave of happy and people all around me smiled. The world looked somehow brighter.

10169198_10152078709586476_5811091101471076124_n.jpgDo you think there was magic in that little vial?

I guess in a way there was. The kind of magic that happens every time two people come to help each other in that random anonymous way that keeps us believing that everything is possible.

 

 

 

 

All You Need Is Love – really.

I was adopted, like allot of people, but my story isn’t like anyone’s.  I was an inter-family adoption taken home at 4 days old to be raised as the youngest of 7 children. My parents were kind and older, and I loved them both.  When I was 13 I was told that one of my sister’s was my birth mother. Luckily, I really adored her in the first place, and the transition to this idea was difficult but not impossible. My adopted mother/grandmother died when I was 15. My bio mom had serious issues with alcohol and prescription drugs, which she successfully battled and our relationship truly began to blossom when I was 25 having my first baby and she was to become Grandma – or Nana as the kids called her.

581933_10151470627203633_1947530459_nShe was my dear friend and soulmate. There aren’t enough words to tell you how grateful I am for her.  She was a great spiritual teacher always assuring me that “this too shall pass”, and hold on “one more day”…when things got rough, she was my 2 o’clock in the morning person. The only person alive that would truly relish my rebellious nature, love when I stepped outside of the box, and cheer when I forged new paths.  She loved my weirdness and all my edges.  She loved everything about me and her love taught me how to love myself. I felt most at ease with her than any other person in my life.  Loosing her physical presence has been very difficult.

I remember the day she called to tell me she had lung cancer,  I ran to her apartment and fell into her hug and only then, only then, realizing that we fit perfectly together . Why had I not noticed this before?  I remember the smell of her, and the warm safe feeling when she was anywhere near. If anyone crossed us or said anything that would cause either of us pain – she tore into them like a pit bull. She was a woman to be reckoned with.  Until she died I didn’t realize how much she had protected me.

Here we are two years later, and the grief still tears at me  – it doesn’t go away – it just changes shape. Each day remembering her and thinking about all the things I should have done or said or been or whatever – all useless thoughts or regret that have no purpose except to torture me.  I hear her words reverberating through my head each day – the ones she said to me through sad chemo sick eyes –981297_499916463412877_1698475491_o

“No guilt OK?”.

OK Mama no guilt.

But I didn’t call her “Mom” – there’s my first issue.  I couldn’t. It just seemed too bizarre – she had been her name to me all my life – and so if I called her mom this would mean I had no brothers or sisters, or that my parents were my grandparents – just unreal.  When I lived in Africa with her and would want her to say yes to one of my unreasonable teenage requests – I would call her “Mom” – “Please mom…” I could feel the word dripping off my tongue like something that didn’t belong there.

images0G56APY3I never thought about my biological father very much – he was like a super hero in my mind. Bad-ass bike riding tough guy from the rough side of town was the story i heard.  He was handsome and leather clad in my minds eye, sitting on his bike waiting to whisk my mother away from our overly conservative family. I was indeed a love-child. And his genetic presence in my body made me understand that although I was a rich kid from boarding sch0ols when I was younger, I was in my heart a bike riding, freedom loving rock and roll rebel chick. The small amount of history I had on him showed me that my proclivities didn’t come from no where – although I couldn’t really see how having a penchant for bikers and bad boys was genetic – all indications seemed to point to the fact that it was.

After my mother died two years ago, I began to become curious – maybe hopeful – that i still had a parent out there.  My adopted family had stopped “pretending” I was really one of them, and I was left pretty much empty of family, except for one sister who helped to raise me and could see me as none other than her sister – “give me back my sweater – hey did you borrow my make-up??!”…is just not something you yell at your niece.  I think they were all just tired of pretending.

The issue of adoption and being adopted came up during the course of my grieving, and it became suddenly important for me to find out if I had genetic links to anyone else out there. So I registered on a few free web sites what small information I had on my father, never expecting to get a response – especially not the response I got.

I was contacted by a lady named Annie who is a search angel. I don’t know her story, but I assume that many of these ‘search angels’ are people who have been searching for their own parents or children and have become pretty good at spotting links between people and volunteer their time.

Her email to me began tentatively, because she was concerned with her accuracy and didn’t want to cause me undue pain. She says “I’m sorry the news isn’t better. if this is indeed your father, he died when he was 23”.

Stop world. You’re spinning.

below her note a series of lists, with my grandfathers names and notably my grandmother Fanny. No obituary for my dad, only my grandfathers.

I felt it first in my gut – like a punch from deep inside.

The second thing I thought was – oh my god – he was so young…

I thought about my own son, now nearing 23, beautiful handsome and sweet and full of life, joy and potential. My heart ached for the young man who made me in a flurry of passion only to leave me as his only legacy. I am the most enduring thing he did in this life.

Holy shit.

As the news sinks in all I can think of is…

“I’d better not waste a flipping minute! ”

I don’t know about you, but as I get older, now almost 50, I see that there is a plan in the works, and although i am not privy or capable of understanding its intricacies, i am definitely part of the story.

In my research for this book, on adopted people, I have discovered that we all (adopted and non-adopted!) have amazing stories, like great adventures, each life is like a fascinating book. I can see my life and yours like that – and I believe its the only way we can really learn to increase our capacities and purpose here in this life – find out, dig deep and don’t stop asking questions. Be brave.

I have just returned from Australia where I spent some time in the desert with first peoples learning about the long long history of the worlds oldest genetic lineage.  I learned about the connection between living people and their ancestors and how important it was for them to honour the lives of their ancestors. Al of this is driving home to me the need to honour my own in the same way. I wish we had the stories like they do – so I could know them better, and in turn know myself better.  I think the purpose of life is to know yourself as well as possible so you can use everything you have to be of service.

It is a courageous journey to take into the center of yourself, to ask the real questions that are begging for answers…

I will continue work on the book – in the hopes that other people can find their purpose, their center or their story and not feel so unrelatable or different or alone.  We are all connected in some freaky quantum way, and I feel him now, beside me smiling. he is happy with me, and maybe even lives abit of my life with me, connected and guiding me from he inside, through my thoughts and dreams. Parents don’t stop being parents when they die – but its up to us to stay tuned in and be brave enough to hear their messages.

 

As I write this – the only song I hear in my head is

“All you need is love…”

Thanks Dad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time-Line Your Life for An Amazing Perspective Check

Have you ever time lined your life? Wow – what an experience.

Try it.

Start from the last big event…be objective and don’t put little things like ‘Fight with Joe” or details that are not “life upending”. The purpose is for you to see that things come…and go…and come…and go. and you can make it through it all!

I started mine from when we had left the city and moved to our first farm.

2007 July –  moved to farm. Two days later – began started taking in refuge animals.

November 10 – got married after 8 years raising seven kids together – bout time 😉

March 2008 – farm arena falls under snow – devastation. Business is destroyed.

2009 – move to temp house – and finally permanent farm three months later.

3 years of renovations ensue – frenetic trip to Costa Rica alone.

2011 – find out mom has lung cancer – let the devastation begin

2 years of hell…with medical/worries/anger/fear/dealing with terrified angry family who can barely stand being in same room with me.

So ok…Work like hell on music – creation of album, focus focus focus,  gigs, work, gigs, work, write, gigs, work…

2013 – July – Lucy my friend and teacher dies of ALS. She gave me my garden. I am so grateful.

September 6 – my (best) mom dies. I know – most people don’t get a “best” mom – but this one was kinda special.   I was adopted by my grandmother who died when I was 15. – #NotSoSpecial.

2014 – RIP Otis –  my beautiful best-friend horse/ranger and daily companion.

RIP –  Ranger my cat of 20 years ( a twin)

RIP –  Buzz Lightyear the super-goat(another twin)

RIP – Mike’s suicide (didn’t see it coming…)

RIP – Anne suicide (really really didn’t see it coming…) – ouch.

November: KABOOM. Richard my dear friend and producer of my album dies suddenly.
Do you hear the toilet flushing?  Those are my hopes and dreams…

2015 –

RIP Casper – Buzz’s twin – only relief felt at this. He was lonely for his brother and really old.

RIP – Randy – another suicide…why is this happening??

SEGUE…

Feb 2015 – surprise ten-day trip to Australia with John – woohoo. Loved it.

May 2015 – Move to Australia – seems like a good idea.

Really?? This all seems so random to me.

Its like living two or three lives in one…Insane.  I was supposed to be  a lawyer or politician or businessy person or something along those lines. My entire childhood groomed me for this.  But the soul is MUCH louder – really you can’t shut it up and there was a musician inside that just wouldn’t let me stop making music. Thank God.

The musician won.

The lawyer in me left town.

The politician committed suicide.

This time line lets me see a few things:

1- Life has WAVES of stuff…there were years without any death or chaos,…then there were years where it was all condensed. This line reminds me that when the “waves” happen – they will pass and turn into something else.

2- You cannot predict a bloody thing.

I have been a daughter/wife/student/mother/teacher/writer/business person/politician/activist/poet/musician/composer/artist/trainer now…

what?

I guess I want to share this in case someone else needs to relate to the “i don’t know where I’m going but I’m pretty sure I am supposed to be going this way” feeling of life…

There was a song I wrote a while back called “Traveling Man” – must be about 16 years now.  I have never played it – but the lyrics seem to be randomly popping into my head as i think of all the people who are so important to me and me to them – my tribe of and loved ones –

TRAVELING MAN

Wish I was a traveling man looking to find my way

I would tell you all my dreams

in love we’d live each day

But I don’t’ know where I’m going,

please help me get there soon,

Lord I don’t know where I’m going!

But you’ll find me waiting by the moon…

Maybe it will be time to launch that one at our final gigs this weekend.

🙂

Peace

GREAT VICTORIOUS SPEAR OF MOTHERHOOD!

images0G56APY3  This thanksgiving was something of a victory for me both as a mother and as a daughter.

As I arrived from work finding my kids having made dinner for us, the house was FULL to overflowing with people – dear friends, seven kids, three grandchildren, cars, basketballs, food, good smells and happy people – coming home felt wonderful.

We sat around the table, and each spoke our traditional words of gratitude – my m,other’s tradition that we love and adhere to.

“I am grateful that my family is always there for me”,

“I’m grateful for this food…can I eat now?”

I am grateful for my hot boyfriend…”

I am grateful for my job and food and you guys – this is the best family eh?”

And finally my youngest daughter at the very end with tears running down her cheeks

“I am so grateful we could find a way to be happy again after nanny…”

After Nanny passing away.

After nanny not here at the table to lead prayers and talk about corn fritters

After Nanny…

there is NO after nanny!

She helped us build this solid tribe – this certain community – this massive group of love.

There is a continuation of Nanny –

in my children’s words, in our food, our traditions and in our deep love for each other.

I am blessed beyond description.

and overflowing with gratitude.

I walked into the kitchen just so I could listen to them laugh – their beautiful voices.  Oh so happy.

I felt loved and surrounded by a solid tribe – my own tribe.

images6TQOHGBJFor 25 years I have been parenting these humans.  I want to make good people. I don’t care what they do for a living. I don’t care if they are “successful” (whatever that means) I don’t care if they are renown and I don’t care if they are respected in their field.

I care that they know how to love themselves, each other and the world around them. Period.

My only hope in all of that effort (and yes HUGE effort) was that at the end of the day three things would happen:

1- my kids would all like each other enough to hold each other up through this life

2- we would enjoy each other as a family because we really like each other – not just because we have to

3- that they can tell my husband and I anything and not be afraid of rejection or pain

OK…we did it.

I feel like Mother Zeus standing victoriously on a gigantic mountain brandishing the great flaming spear of motherhood and I am declaring -YES! IT CAN BE DONE! Behold – the awesome children!! They are AMAZING !

ANd my voice would echo throughout the lands so moms everywhere would know – there is alight at the end of the tunnel and that light is BEAUTIFUL.

imagesTA3DYQAZ

Most Redundant Blog Ever Written…just my opinion.

It’s redundant for me to have an opinion on opinionated people, don’t you think? But I really do and it’s making me a little crazy.

For the last few years I have been struck by how counterproductive strong personal opinions are for me.    Negative or positive – it’s all the same thing as far as I am concerned.  It’s a right and wrong, black and white up and down that really only exists in our faerie tale minds.download (1)

Last night I met a woman I had never met before who had been making quite merry all night. At one point she grabbed at my husband’s cigarettes (he has been struggling to quit for a while now) and starting sneering at him

“what are you gonna do?” she jeered

 

“You gonna be an idiot and smoke this?” She waved the pack at him sitting back arrogantly with her glass of whatever in her other hand.

 

“Um…” I could see he was visibly shaken,  not knowing how to handle this strange aggressive approach.

 

9896d25c60bca36da9eba9145c33233aShe wanted to humiliate him in some way, and frankly I felt bad for him.  Addicted is addicted and for sure I m not going to be the one to throw stones from my glass house.  In all my attempt to be “compassionate” towards all people, I found it a little tough with this one. Soon, I found words spilling out of my unhindered unfiltered mouth. Generally this is not a good thing.

 

“So, does your shoulder hurt?” I asked her pointedly

 

“Hunh?” she looked at me quizzically

 

“Does your SHOULDER hurt?” I said pointing to the portion of my body above my arm below my neck, in case you need instructions like she did

 

“Well, it is a little stiff..”

“Yeah, that’s what happens when you walk around in your life carrying a heavy gavel and judging people. Why don’t you just lay it down.” I stared at her predatorially watching her eyes drop conflicted to her feet.

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“Well mine’s just fine then…” She murmured staring at her feet.

 

“Give it time”…I said smiling sardonically.

 

Oh great. Good old “zen-me” had just reacting to someone being humiliated by humiliating the,  So much for non-violence…

 

Sigh…

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She wanted to go at him about cancer being caused by cigarettes.  Meanwhile my brain wanted to tell her all sorts of things, about being overweight, having a lousy attitude, her bleached blond hair, carcinogenic make up tested on poor little bunnies, her diamonds mined in South Africa, her need to control other people…omg.  My brain wouldn’t shut up – thankfully I had found my filter, and we packed up not wanting to ruin what had been a lovely evening.

 

I remember when I was young I had an opinion about everything. In my family it was a way to be valued. The more opinions you had = the smarter you were.  Generally I wasn’t much into telling others how to run their lives.  But on world issues and grander things, you couldn’t have shut me up.

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But here’s what I know now: if someone does something that annoys me (like to the pint this woman’s attitude annoyed me..) then it is ONLY because that same aspect exists inside of me.  The bright light of imperfection shone directly on my face like a crazy celestial spotlight.  It was me..not her.  I cant change a person or how they behave. I can only choose to accept exactly as they are,  them or not.    I knew this was true because I came away from the judging woman with a sense of annoyance, which I think is a good thing. That feeling is an indication I have to look at something within myself.   Seeing it like that makes the altercation not useless – but useful for my own personal understanding and growth.   Having a perception of conflicting relationships like this can really change the way you feel about interacting with the world.

What it came down to was I think we all have that “inner critic”. And, there is a distinct difference between a critic and being discerning.  We were all given the power to discern what works for us and what doesn’t. I can observe a person’s behaviour or choices, and in view of how I am moving forward in my life, I can discern whether or not it is a good relationship for me or a counter-productive one, for now.

 

So, I realize how redundant it is for me to blog about my opinion about people’s opinions, but I am seeing a trend which is kind of black and white, and probably attributable to social networking.  Daily posts from people that are like personal opinion vomit – all day long. They just go on and on and how one person is bad, or a country is bad, or an institution is bad…oy.  This isn’t productive and it gets tedious reading and seeing such of negative comments.

 

I say – shut up and go DO something a bout it. If you complain about a problem more than once without taking action – you are officially whining.

 

 

I’m grateful for my annoyance as it has made me aware enough to back off of my own strong opinions – but it doesn’t mean I will lose my sense of discernment.  If I am stuck to what I think about a person place or situation, then I am not accepting that person place and situation and I guarantee you that the only one who will be miserable from that kind of unconscious bull-in-a-china-shop thinking – is ME.

 

So, in my efforts to be more gentle and compassionate with my own self (yes…a huge challenge), I am going to take a dose of my own medicine and remind myself that even the judging woman needs to be accepted. We are ALL perfectly imperfect, as my mom used to like to remind me when I would beat myself up.

 

Accepting people and not always having a false belief that I can change the unchangeable is a very powerful tool in keeping emotional balance and avoiding depression.  It’s all just one more thing to add to your toolbox, if that works for you.

Have a great weekend.

Peace.

Jo

 

 

 

All About Our BIG BIG Mac…

10400774_10154231481905230_3168287367305301677_n10371922_10154156160555230_526702342723462853_nThis is a story about our horse Big Mac.

The first you need to know if you haven’t met him is that Mac is HUGE.

The second thing is that the reason is that he was made so big is because no other body would have been big enough for his heart – he is comprised entirely of love.

He is nearly as big as the biggest horses in the world who I think beats him by a little under 7 inches.

He is a Belgian Draft horse brought to us to foster and remained here as a permanent adoption as of four years ago.  When he got here he had been left in a field abandoned suffering from malnutrition.  That’s why we didn’t really understand the infections in his eyes when they began. Cancer is very often activated by a compromised immune system which is a natural result of malnutrition.  and the fact that Mac was a pure Belgian didn’t help with their fair skin and proclivity to ocular melanomas.

 

Mac’s first eye surgery for cancer happened back in 2011 in his right eye.  A tumour that looked like a cyst had grown on the bottom eye lid of his eye.  We had a small fundraiser but the costs were enormous and the first surgery nearly cost us a years worth of hay for our entire herd.  10380886_10154232134705230_8153907542623386918_n

Two and a half years later the cancer returned to Mac’s left eye this time with an ugly aggressivity that made it obvious that it was causing Mac a serious amount of distress especially after the warmer weather began to arrive and his tissues became swollen.  AT first I thought it was just an eye infection but nothing I did seemed to make any positive difference. His eye was bleeding and he couldn’t stay outside in warm weather.  Something had to be urgently done and we were in no financial position to do any of it.  Many sleepless nights ensued.

A friend suggested that our band had done so many successful fundraisers for other beneficial organizations, that maybe we could put some of that music behind our very own Big Mac. That’s when the miracles began. 10300516_10154154843540230_1917414507954571037_n

In only four short days a fundraiser was organized to raise money to send mac off to the hospital for his surgery.  Our band played one evening and a local restaurant donated their time and staff to help us out.  Friends came and helped us have an open house at our farm WillowCreek Stables where everyone could come and meet mac themselves. The community and our friends really stepped forward and helped us the create something amazing for Mac.  Soon we had enough to send him in and just four days later I was making arrangements to have the surgery done. I love that horses seem to have that effect on bringing together communities and folks that work together to make it all a little better.  Mac became everyone’s horse that weekend.

And to tell you the truth, without all of generosity and all of the amazing synchronicity that the universe offered us Mac’s ultimate outcome would have to have been euthanasia because the amount of pain he was enduring would have been catastrophic.  We are so eternally grateful.

 

10322760_10154154844940230_1654912656934628871_nMAC THE PIRATE…

The procedure that Mac had is called ENUCLEATION – it involves full removal of the eye.

Just so you know, we didn’t take that decision lightly at all…I had trouble with the idea of this so an equine ophthalmologist specialist was called in to consult.  Dr. Ollivier was very gentle in handling me (and Mac) especially as the first thing I suggested to him is that he not tell me he is going to take out my horse’s eye based on a photograph(good thing I’m studying Non-Violent Communication?) 980673_10152865275580313_1084612641_o

“You know Doc…This isn’t just ANY refuge horse”, I glowered at him, still holding his hand from our initial handshake.”This is MY refuge horse”, saying it with some contrived authority.  Like who I was should somehow mattered to him.

He was smart. He knew how to defuse me immediately…

“I only put the horse first. I don’t even care what it is YOU want”, smiling sardonically. Ballsy and brave. OK. Good. I could see this man would champion the highest and best choice for my horse and my death grip relaxed.

10408109_10154231785725230_2591927709080191288_nWe began an exam with a whole gang of doctors and students. Smart questions, suggestions and treatment options were flying around the room.  They students and doctors  were all so kind and careful to cover any  questions I had.  No quesuiotn was left unexamined and definitely there were no such thing as stupid questions. I felt so comfortable asking as did John.

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My husband and I stayed with Mac for his surgery.  We felt it important that we have our energy there with him to support him – and it felt like one of my kids was on that table.

The surgeon doing the procedure was amazing. Smiling great energy with a room full of curious students.  It was much less difficult to see the procedure when you are watching a bunch of fresh faced curious kids.

The eye removal wasn’t as horrible as I thought. I was actually surprised at how much effort it seemed to take the small female surgeon, her arms wiry and strong looking, to really complete that part of the procedure. I always had the impression an eye would come out easily. It doesn.t We can leave it at that.

Then they cut the skin and tumour off from around his eye.  It was WAY more enormous than I knew.  When I saw the sheer daunting size of the tumour, there was absolutely no question in my mind we were doing the right thing. Then a cryogenics treatment was performed within the eye so that the cancer cells would either die or be unable to grow.

 

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The Observation Room for Mac’s surgery
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The surgery room at ST Hyacinth VeterinaryTeaching hospital

 

Mac will come home tomorrow now THE GREAT PIRATE MAC – ARGH MATEY!!

He will:

* Have no pain whatsoever . I know this is amazing – but removal of the eye for horses causes them to have a great relief.

* He will live much longer and totally pain-free from cancer.

* He will gain weight (he has lost about 300 pounds again and trust me …not for lack of food ugh…:(

* We will be able to ride and play with him again

 

Very exciting!

 

We are very grateful for our Mac and for all the love that ahs been demonstrated here.

Horses are truly awesome creatures…bringing out the best in us all!

mac art
WE LOVE OUR MAC !!

 

Online Living: Are We More Concerned With Selfies or Self?

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Do you blog?

For some people blogging is a central theme to their day. Blogging as a sub-culture has emerged from the depths of online living.  I read a few blogs here and there but not many. In fact,  I wouldn’t actually consider myself a “blogger” like some I have seen; you know the ones who take selfies with their French toast actually have the ability to write 750 words on why it relates the second coming of the messiah or something deeply philosophical. That’s a talent I just don’t have.  Not that I couldn’t see myself becoming an obsessive overly-committed blogger if I don’t stay conscious; I have my addictive tendencies just like everyone else.

OK…I will admit to you that when something fun happens I no longer just think simply to myself;

“Oh…that was fun”.

No no… now fun involves a follow-up –

Take a picture…write a blog – a poem, a song…?? hunh?

“Oh..I have to post this!” God. I wonder what my grandmother would have thought about all this?

Sometimes we get so busy writing about our lives that we arent actually living them.  When I grew up, life was lived in real-time.  Oh brother…now I sound like my parents.

Back in my day….imagesCAMLIZPK

…when you had “issues”, big or small, they stayed at home! You didn’t post them or share them or even discusss them with someone who lived two blocks away, never mind the djembe player you met online three months ago who lives in Mali.   Back in “the day” neighbours on either side of you were only privy to what they could hear from the yelling through slightly cracked open windows. But now, with the online culture we exist in, people clear across three continents know when you had a fight with your husband even before it has ended! Not so long ago, there was a sense of “minding our own business” and there were rules!  The rules were expressly told to us and if we folowed them – everythign would be ok. I suppose this kind of living was comforting in one way but more likely it was incredibly isolating, lonely and inherently dishonest.

Online living is causing us to get all mixed up like a gigantic cultural soup.  We are living and learning and exchanging some pretty intimate details about our lives and how we deal events of living like death, divorce, children, parents ,relationships, emotions, understanding. These issues cross al cultural boundaries and even history and bind us all together in commonality.

 

But are we so focused on giving the world that perfect image of us – that idyllic selfie – that we forget to tell the truth about who we are or how we are feeling?

funny-selfie-dogs-smilingAnyways…who tells the truth anymore? Are we busy trying to give the world our best face? And why should we even bother to blog? Isn’t constantly writing about yourself some weird form of narcissistic self-obsession?

Sherwin Nuland would disagree. He was a brilliant professor from Harvard that said “The more personally you write, the more universal your writing becomes”. That coupled with what I read by the Dalai lama yesterday that said something like there should be no difference between your personal life and your private life. That would be dishonest. Not that I believe that we should all be sharing our deepest inner craziness all day – but there is something very helpful in the honest relating of how we deal with life.  Sometimes its just nice to hear that you’re not the only one going through the crazy shit we all go through.

Personally, I find it exceptionally difficult to come to the page when I am in the deepest depths of human misery.   I have been pretty silent since my mother died especially once I realized that the people reading my blog weren’t just anonymous readers from lands far away, but  more likely to be my family and friends. Grief is just not pretty. And all of that is so much easier to see in hindsight.

 

two-faced

My conclusion – its better to keep talking out loud and sharing our stories- even if its only to yourself…a one woman blog? Whatever – share what you are experiencing.  Life is hard enough – making what is hard useful which  kind of takes the edge off it all.

Namaste

 

The Secret You Already Knew

My phone was DINGING off the hook from Facebook messages of people asking me what my Secret was to quitting smoking. Quitting smoking for me is like the opposite of committing suicide…and that’s abit heavy to explain.

It began when I had put in a status update about how grateful I felt for the unbelievable positive changes in my life resulting from stopping smoking. I quit publically using Facebook and since so many people had been so encouraging to me I was brimming with gratitude and wanted to let them know I was still moving forward.

So now everyone wanted to know how I did it. How was I going to explain this?

They say cigarette smoke is a harder addiction to drop than heroine and just like everyone else I was incredibly addicted. I could smoke through anything and nothing was enough to get me to quit. I would “try”, but never for long and never totally honestly. I was with my mother while she suffered through treatments for lung cancer and I smoked.  I felt like a true asshole standing outside the hospital having a cigarette while she was inside hooked up to chemotherapy machines.

Sometime in mid winter I had developed a bronchial cough that was so chronic that I had begun spitting up blood.  But still I smoked.Finally I was absolutely forced to go to the doctor. My cough had gotten so bad that my lungs would seize up and seemingly just refuse to take in air which was pretty scary and secretly I was pretty sure I already had lung cancer.  I think this kind of thinking stops allot of people from quitting but no one wants to admit it.

On the way to the doctor I fished around for my cigarettes and realized I had forgotten them at home.  I noticed that strangely,  was a huge RELIEF. My reaction is what surprised me. Normally forgetting cigarettes would cause either anxiety if none were within a reasonable distance, or annoyance because I would have to detour and find a store. Relief.  I didn’t want to smoke.

I told the doctor honestly what I thought, and asked for patches.

Here’s what I did…got_choice

1- I think using every smoking cessation help tool available to you is AWESOME. Screw cold turkey if you can’t do that.  The hard part about quitting was changing my behaviours.  The physical part is not so bad – its ll the things I would associate with smoking. Like – finishing ANYTHING…requires a cigarette. Dinner, work, a set, a chapter, grocery shopping – you smoke after these things.  Being aware and “one step ahead ” of my cravings was important for me., BE a wimp – take the drugs. I have never heard of anyone say they just couldn’t get away from PATCHES…

2- Don’t let people tell you quitting smoking is HARD.  That’s bullshit. Dying of cancer is HARD.

3- Don’t ignore your cravings – they will really suck for three days – address them. tell them to fuck off. relly this worked for me…maybe a bit Unhippie and aggressive of me but…hey – DO WHAT WORKS!! Those stupid cravings had been bossing me around for over 30 years…and I was annoyed!

I am stronger then my body today…and this feels GREAT.  It is possible for everyone to develop a mentality that your body is allowed to have a craving – but you don’t need to listen to it.  Working with animals can help with the development of this mentality.

4- Be really healthy. It feels good to be nice to yourself for once.

5- Tell the entire planet. LOUDLY. Accept their help.

6- Pray and meditate. Pray for help. Meditate for answers. Seriously. Try it.

7- Be loud about your GRATITUDE  – tell everyone each new amazing things you discover about not smoking. Your lungs feel good, you have energy, body hurts less, clothes smell good, random hot guys are smelling you – wait..no that can’t apply to everyone. 🙂 But having fun with it is important!  THIS is the mental ticket to staying quit for me SO FAR.  When it gets hard, I use Facebook to SCREAM what I AM grateful for and I always get such encouraging words and thoughts – it sure doesn’t hurt and it encourages others to look at getting healthy too.

So when you ask me this “secret” and I think in whatever way you come to it, the “secret” to quitting smoking is wanting to be kinder to yourself. It sounds simple, but it’s not necessarily so for most people.  I can only tell you what worked for me, and this was simply that one day I began to see that what I did to myself flowed outwards and it was important to me to live more kindly towards myself. But no one can tell you what will work for you. No book, no guru, no laser hypno-drug therapy. You have to WANT TO LIVE – for you. For yourself – because you love he people in your life.

That’s it.stop-smoking-start-repairing

The Secret – you already knew.

Please share your stories with us if you’d care to.

 

Butterflies For Ranger

ImageI could see my husband cringe when I dashed out of the barn with my old cat drooping in my arms.

“We’re going to the vet”, I breathed without missing a stride heading to the house.

His light little body hung limply in my arms, his nose covered in blood.

He smells like death. I thought to myself.  I know the smell of death and I am not so happy to be reacquainted with it so soon after my mother’s death.  She was a twin, he is a twin – this is too much.

I walk to the back window in the kitchen and stand in a ray of strong sunlight letting it warm us both. It’s quiet now…the panic of my mind slowed to a dull hum of just watching. I look down at him and hear his purr begin – his strong reliable purr. I could feel his breath and slowing and his heart tentative, but the purr was reliable as ever.

A rushing of keys boots, stomping, jackets rustle. The truck with half missing tail pipe begins and my husband shows up behind me;

“Ok let’s go”, He says.

I don’t want to.

I think somewhere my mind is still working it out.

He was fine yesterday. Should I be seeking treatment?

I lift the towel I have him wrapped in and look at the motionless old body. Apparently at nearly 20 Ranger has outlived us at with over 95 people years under his belt.

I climb into the truck and focus on his purr – the same one I have been listening to since I was in my 20’s. I see a flash memory of my son, small and chubby legged. He learned how to walk very young – maybe at 9 months old. It was Ranger the cat that kept him busy and chasing. As he grew, Ranger was his cat, claimed by him, loved and cherished.

He came with us when I divorced my first husband. He was there when I bought my first house, met my second husband, raised my seven kids and then finally, he was my most reliable barn cat – ensuring that no mouse ever got a taste of grain.

We are rushing to the vet, but I tell him to slow down.  I hold the cat and feel his life leaving.

“He’s going to die before we even get there”, I said softly.

Slow down.

John looks at me quizzically. Maybe I see death differently, but gauging by my experience with my mother, which has still not allowed me a full night’s reprieve from nightmares and sadness, this somehow feels gentle and calm and good.

We arrive; he goes in to check with the desk, yes there is room.

We come in and begin doing the registration process. I am ushered into an examination room. The Vet tech with the sunny smile and the bright hopeful eyes indicates to me to put him on the scale.

No”, I say simply and shortly. “He is 20. There will be no poking prodding weighing opening of the mouth or stretching of his limbs.  His body is finished.”  I smile at her hoping she doesn’t think I am cruel.

“Let’s go into another room then”, she says with an understanding smile.

We go down a white hallway to the last door to the left to the room meant for euthanasia.

“It’s just like the palliative care place for people”, I gasp as we walk in.  I wasn’t ready for that. Luckily I don’t think she understands that I am nearly angry about how adorably furnished this “euthanasia room” is.   I feel my heart tighten. I have been here or at least in a place like this much too recently to be in a place like this again this soon. It is small and cozy with two beautiful chairs, a couple of nice credenza’s and a sweet looking little table on which to do the job that room is meant for.  Why do all rooms for comforting people who are about to experience death look like this? Why the nice chairs? I almost feel a sense of anger at the chairs…stupid chairs.

She leaves me alone to consider whether or not I want a vet to poke at him or not. I hold him in my arms, he feels like one of my children when they were just newborn.  I begin to panic – second thoughts. What am I doing?  Shouldn’t we try and hydrate him, put him on special food. Maybe we can save him.

The tech returns covering the table in a comfy green cloth.

He lays in my arms, purring, not moving. Not arguing, not meowing- just happy. My questions melt away and I am filled with sureness about what the most loving action is.

I tell them to get the vet and go ahead.  Some more time passes to just be with him.  I think about all the things I didn’t do, all the time I should have spent with him. All the normal pre-death regrets I am becoming too familiar with.  I feel the shade of calm numb fall over me and we rise to complete the task that lay before us.

We are doing “the next right thing”.

She fails to find a vein in his back leg. He makes a small protesting noise, but not much. He is happy, purring drooling like old cats do.

She finds the vein and says something about going to a place with butterflies.  I could tell she used this line often and with good intention to console the humans letting their animals friends go.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that he would be enjoying any poor butterflies that entered his purview as this was his favourite snack food.

There is a stillness that is distinctly a feeling of death. It is like a leaving of life energy. You don’t have to be psychic or believe in anything to feel the difference of when something is alive and when its aliveness has left the body. As his body became still I took a moment to feel the difference between the aliveness and the emptiness that accompanies death and then I took a breath.

A deep alive breath filled with gratitude and deep sadness.  I missed all of my dead loved ones at once. My dogs, cats, horses, parents, grandparents. Mostly I missed my mother because she would be on the receiving end to help him, but selfishly I could have really used her here with me today, and yesterday…and the day before.

I say a prayer in the hopes that everyone I love is somehow together somewhere just waiting for me laughing and happy around a giant picnic table a red and white checkered print table cloth and delicious food in a field with apple trees and delicious green grass.  All our animals since forever in the field grazing, running,  playing –  happy and free…with one funny little grey cat busy eating up all of heaven’s butterflies.

The Quit Journey

got_choiceI have quit smoking again. This is day 2 1/2…I quit at 11:00 Monday morning – February 17.  I’d like to remember that day as the day I finally quit once and for all, so I am making sure to take note of it.

Two and a half (now two and three quarters, but who’s counting?) may not be a big deal to you but lately, I havent been able to go two bours without a cigarette. It’s basically all I think about for the past three years – since my mother’s diagnosis with lung cancer.  Terror is immobilizing.

In my dreams last night, I found myself with cigarettes in my hands all the time.  I kept walking entering each new situation and inadvertently finding myself smoking when I didn’t want to be.  It was incredibly frustrating and I kept throwing them out, only to find a new one growing back between my reluctant fingers.  When I would tell others in my dream

“But I’m trying to quit!”

They would just shrug and say,

“Yeah right…”-  an obvious reflection of the doubt I have in myself.

So – fake it till ya make it…

I for one am not very good self focused care – but recent events are teaching me that I can’t give away what I don’t have and so, I am on a mission to fill my own cup…a strange newish behaviour that has serious benefits.  Mostly,   it just feels good to do something healthy for myself and it is having an immediate positive effect on the world around me. I wasn’t ready to admit how much influence I have on the people I love most in the world.   The house is basically smoke free right now. Although I didn’t ask anyone not to smoke because I knew if I waited for all of the conditions of th world and the people around me to meet my fickle requirements for quitting, I would smoke the rest of my incredibly shortened life. I had to just go ahead and do it.  And here we are…unbelievable.

I guess if you’re lucky like me you hit a bottom before something tragic happens. For me it was the day I was going to the doctor for a check up for yet another winter lung infection, and I forgot my cigarettes at home  which actually caused me to feel relieved.  I decided that moment seemed like a good enough time then to stop and I would talk to the doctor.   I had been considering setting a quit date now for three years…but kept putting the actual “event” of quitting off for very possible reason under the stars.  The irony is that my greatest “stress” which was causing me to smoke, was my mother dying of lung cancer in front of my eyes.  Yet, even until I came to a point of wanting to truly be more kind and loving towards myself, even the worst of all scenarios would not move me away from this stark addiction.

I’d like to tell you it feels “hard” or “easy” – but it’s neither of these on this my third day. It just feels like a process…up and down…intense and reflective even. Once and a while I have a horrendous craving that makes me want to smoke gross dead looking things out our of ashtrays (which I have emptied because I dont trust myself).

I became tired of something other than me (a tiny chemical filled highly toxic stick on fire…really?) governing my body and telling my mind what I wanted.  I have spent my whole life trying to be independent of the direction and opinion of others, and yet here I was allowing a substancenot even a human ! – to direct my choices.  And the choice wasn’t even a choice at the end anymore – it was more like a zombie-like mindless self-imploding action.

1- Extend arm

2- Retrieve cigarette

3- Apply fire

3- Ingest poison…

4- Inhale deeply

Hunh?

I was singing at a bar a couple of weeks ago, and someone that I don’t know very well but who knew my variety of activities made some annoying passing remark as I was going out for a cigarette in -40 degree weather with death defying winds in a cold deserted parking lot.

He said

“Well that doesn’t seem like it suits you very well. It’s bad for your voice and not very zen eh?” He smirked like he knew something I didn’t.

My first thought was

“Who the hell does he think he is?” the voice of my habitual hippie that rejects authority in a regularly knee jerk fashion.

A minute later I was standing outside in the “smoker’s area”  feeling an ice cream headache explode over my entire face. As the wind came barelling at me at 90km an hour, I felt pain tear into my uncovered ears and in an final indignity, my nostrils stuck together in a  very unsexy way when I was throw into a spasm of coughing from lungs shocked and turgid with inhumane cold.  At that very moment, I peered into the big windows of the bar, my sad little orphan nostril stuck face peeting sadly into the warm bar where that same nosey man was sitting quite happily, warm, contented and snug as a bug in a rug as he listened to music and drank his beer. I thought to myself;

“I am an idiot”.

O.K. –  Maybe this is not the most gentle or spiritual thought to begin a journey with, trying to be on a more loving and compassionate journey with myself, but it is what it is. It was a real moment of clarity for me…

In retrospect I think maybe my bad habit have been destroyed by becoming more involved with meditation and yoga I my life.  Over the past few months and since my mother’s death I have become especially interested in Tibettan Buddhism.  Such a gentle culture, entirely focused on increasing the level of compassion on the planet. After reading the Dalai Lama’s Book “My Spiritual Journey”, I became convinced that the only way to being happy as an individual in this life was the adopt some form of practice which required self-discipline – but smoking was an obvious sign that I was lacking both mindfulness and self discipline. And this is where I got stuck – utterly convinced that I would never be able to really meditate or really focus on these principles because they all focus on BREATH…and I smoked.  I also felt like there could never be a day when I wouldn’t smoke – even subconsciously, I couldn’t envision a “me” not smoking.  I admitted defeat. I believe they call this a moment of surrender, but I only can see this clearly in retrospect.

Over time, this defeat didn’t sit well with me.  I began loosing my voice when I sang.  A combination of smoking, and heating in a very cold winter with electric and fire, as well as alot of indoor time because of the incredibly cold weather, my voice was shot and I had very little chance of being able to sing powerfully two nights in a row.  This felt like death approaching for me.

Not to mention that I saw my mother die of cancer in a really terrible and painful way quite recently.  This was a terrifying episode fraught with grief and loss which each cigarette only made worse, chiselling away at my guilt. Although intellectually I KNEW that cancer in her lungs was the ultimate cause of her death (second only to the chemotherapy that was the actual cause), and I also knew that this same cancer had caused me to have this exact experience with my biological grandmother when she died when I was 15 – and yet I was smoking. Each cigarette gave me a vivid flashback to times best forgotten – it was like torture.

I think it’s important for me to write my story – it makes me more solid in my determination. I think if I was still smoking, I would not read an article like this one though- it would make me feel too guilty and really highlight my feelings of powerlessness.  I hope if you smoke you got this far.  It’s worth it just to fill your mind with all the possibilities…and then one day you’ll be ready.

Here’s what I have realized…

    1. Today is “one day”      – You’re ready.
    2. Don’t wait for the      circumstances in your life to change like other smokers to quit or even      life in general to get easier.       That’s just not reasonable and it’s not going to happen. If you      wait for this you will smoke you’re entire life…which will be shorter      because you are smoking.
    3. Focus on loving      yourself.  People who smoke have an      obvious absence of love for themselves. You may want to argue with this,      but you really can’t do that AND be honest at the same time.  Maybe it works backwards.  I began by trying to eat better, and      this seemed to snowball into doing many things more gently and healthfully      for myself.  I don’t know how it      will work for you – only you know that.
    4. Quitting smoking is not hard.      Everyone tells us it’s hard – the media, the tobacco companies (yeah no      kidding), psychologists, teachers, friends, family – Jeez!  If you say something is DIFFICULT enough      well then yes,..it will be DIFFICULT. This is what we call self-fulfilling      prophecy. Quitting smoking has moments of discomfort – of needing to be      present and aware.  Quitting smoking      requires being really gentle with yourself       taking everything literally one breath at a time.  Hard is dying of lung cancer.  That’s hard.
    5. When you have a craving –    tell it to fuck off. I know…not very zen of me again, but it seems to be      working.  I know that discipline is      very important now – maybe that took all of my 47 years, but the kind of      discipline I am talking about is not what they taught in school which      should actually have been called “conformity” more      appropriately.  Discipline is a      practice that brings about self love.       Quitting smoking is a great act of self love.  |sometimes the ACTION has to come      before the change of opinion, but who cares?  As long as the result is more happiness      and peacefulness in life,. Keep your eyes on the prize, and remind      yourself WHO is in charge?  Is your      body in charge of your mind?  Do you      enjoy being told what to do?  Do you      like taking direction – especially when it involves you inhaling 200      deadly chemicals 30 times a day? Hell no.       Who does?   Yes you’re      addicted – but that’s not the end of the world – and IT’S NOT BIGGER THAN      YOU.

Who’s in charge here – me or my body?

    1. Pray. I’m not concerned with      the religious aspects of the way you pray, but be grateful.  Prayer is a conscious moment of the      expression of gratitude.  Let’s face      it,  quitting an addiction like      cigarettes will have many effects on your life.  Staying willing to not smoke is the      challenge.  I get cocky – way too      fast. It’s how I have failed in the past.       I start feeling better and decide to have “just one”,      maybe a puff or sneak a whole cigarette. There is a kind of victorious      feeling in this because for the first little while I feel like I am      smoking without addiction – like I have somehow regained control of this      derailed train. I can “just choose” to have one, or not – like      three times.  Quickly this unravels      and I soon find that I am smoking more than before I quit.  Then I feel terrible about myself, and I      resign myself to a lifetime of smoking and eventual gasping horrific death      by lung cancer.  No wonder I woke up      every day in a bad mood. This is a terrible attitude! 🙂 and snapping me      out of it I believe happened only by an act of grace – in other words,      something bigger than me thinks that me staying alive longer is a good      idea, and the minute I became willing enough to work with this      “something bigger”, things became clearer.   The ticket is in keeping up this      willingness.

7- DO NOT QUIT SMOKING!!

I don’t think quitting ANYTHING works because the minute you quit – you are focusing on the negative aspect. So, instead just have an positive intention to treat yourself with more love and compassion – loving-kindness.  Smoking falls away naturally this way.  You don’t need to fight anything or really put much effort into it.  You only need to have a willingness to have an intention for self-care and love.  Let go of what happens once you make that choice, making each choice in your best interest with your knowledge of self in mind.  Be ready to do some work – letting go doesn’t nmean effortless, it means diligence.

8- TELL YOUR STORY

tell others  and keep the people in your world up to date on your progress.  people want to help and function as a community. I’d say that helping someone to live longer is a great community building incentive.  Keep your “tribe” up to date! Telling your story also reinforces to you what you re doing, the direction you are heading in and can make certain instances that have helped shape your direction more clear and useful.  Moreover, you can end up helping someone else in the process. Telling your story is way more effective than becoming a nagging and annoying “reformed smoker”. You can’t change anyone – but you can certainly inspire them.

My day three diatribe from my wobbly soapbox…let’s see how this goes…:)

Peace