When the past slaps you in the face

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It is a very rare occurrence when my emotions take me by surprise.  I am usually fairly in tune with them and I can feel them bubbling gently below the surface.  But last night on my way home from work while driving past my mother’s old house, the same house I drive by every day on my way to work and again on my way home, the emotion stored within my walls hit me like a ton of bricks.   Last night I glanced at the house, as I do every time I follow that familiar road, and I burst into tears.

I don’t know where the tidal pool of emotion came from but suddenly I was flooded with images of moments that had become important memories in my life.  Christmases, birthdays, family gatherings and quiet nights spent as a family were at the forefront of my brain.  Lingering snapshots of magical kisses witnessed by only the walls upstairs slowly transformed themselves into moving pictures to replay those scenes.  That house, the building others would only see as walls and a roof, was my home.  It was the vessel that helped create and store some of the most precious moments of my life.

And I do the same with my childhood home.  Every so often I feel the pull to drive by and just look at the house that began our journey to becoming locals in this town.  It was home to my family and a welcoming second home to many of our friends.  It witnessed great happiness and great sorrow, but it was always filled with love.

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Although there were many happy times in our second home, there were also moments of great sorrow.  Those walls echoed my overwhelming grief in May of 2003 as I told my parents through hysterical sobs that my best friend had passed away unexpectedly.  That roof sheltered both my parents as they battled their illness and those walls protected them for as long as they could.  That structure, that old building that is seemingly unnoticeable to passers-by, will forever have a large part of my history carved into its frame.

That architecture will always be a part of me.   And each time I drive by and take the time to trace the outlines of those walls I will always have an affinity to its design and purpose.  It is said that we need to let things go to be happier but I feel the need to embrace those things to stay connected.

 

Spaces

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Strangled spaces,

deprived of the oxygen

needed to thrive.

You thought I wanted something,

the thing you weren’t prepared to give.

And I only wanted something

you couldn’t find the time to give.

Two paths,

winding consecutively absent of each other

but somehow still intertwined.

Altered spaces,

lives that have moved on

in opposite directions.

Memories hold tight

and I pause to reflect

the path that I enjoyed discovering,

the many twists that taught me about life,

the cliffs that gave me fear,

and the arms that made me feel safe.

Forever spaces,

those glimpses of life we hold on to,

those moments we grasp so tightly

because we know how important they were

and how meaningful they will always be.

The Church of the Fish

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Times have certainly changed.   When I began my career in the hospitality industry, food allergies were not even a blip on the culinary radar.  The kitchen was, for a Chef, a playground with no rules.   But all of that has changed.

These days, I make a point of asking each person making a reservation at the lodge if anyone in the family has any food allergies or food restrictions that we should be made aware of before their arrival.  The answers always weigh more heavily on the ‘yes’ than the ‘no’.  And although some of the guidelines we are made to adhere to are more preference than necessity, the kitchen now has to deal with a list of these instructions for each week of our summer season.

Now, while I completely comprehend the severity of an ingested or inhaled allergic reaction to a food, it does not negate the fact that I am more than moderately amused by the inability of our Sous Chef to pronounce one of the more prevalent choices in the current realm of dietary options.  A Pescatarian is a person who does not eat meat but will eat fish.  And each time I have the opportunity to add that choice to our “allergy” list for the week, my smile cannot be missed.   As I walk into the kitchen with that list, I calmly await the moment that she will read the list aloud and say the word “Pescabyterian”.

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According to Karina, somewhere there is a church for vegetarians who occasionally eat fish.  And that latest hotel guest, that new addition to our list of dietary anomalies, is a member of its congregation.  Each time she reads the list aloud, the words Pescatarian and Presbyterian become intertwined and I am reduced to a public school version of myself, unintentionally (not really) laughing at the combination of the two expressions.

Pescabyterian – a member of the religion of vegetarians who consciously choose to eat fish.

It may be juvenile, but this marriage of words helps alleviate some of the stress in our summer.  It gives us the freedom to laugh at the increased amount of tension in an already volatile environment.  And it allows a break for laughter in a scene that is meant more for drama, creating an oasis of calm in a sea of chaos.

One simple word, whether Webster chooses to recognize it or not, has the power to change the trajectory of our day.   Let’s hear it for the Pescabyterians!

Get lost

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“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”  ~ Mahatma Gandhi

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There have been many quotes I have used to begin posts on this blog but none have had as much of an impact on me as this very powerful string of words.

I lead a very fortunate life.  I may not be rich in terms of dollars and cents but I am wealthy.  I have roof over my head, a job that I love and I am surrounded by a wonderful network of friends and family who are nurturing, loving and supportive.  Perhaps that energy is the fuel that brought me to this moment in my life, the moment when I realized I wanted to give more of my time to people who could use a hand and in a way I felt I was best able to help.

There is no set of standards for helping others.  There is no rule book, no guideline and no complex set of algorithms.  It is a simple equation.  Time + Effort = Results.   And for some, the results of our time and effort can make more of a difference than we will ever potentially realize.

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A small group of people, including myself, spent a little over two hours of our time a week ago Sunday and the outcome of our concerted efforts will provide dinners for deserving families in our community.  It was two hours out of our Sunday.  We chatted, we had cocktails and we laughed.  And in that small window of time, we made a huge difference.  We created meals that will allow people to, not just feed their family during a tough time but, feed their family a home-cooked meal made with real food.  And next Sunday, and maybe every Sunday this winter, we will do the same thing again with some familiar and some new faces and, hopefully, take another small amount of weight from the shoulders of the families we are trying to help.

If I can subsequently find myself while losing myself in the service of others, point my compass in that direction any time.  I go to bed with a tired body, but with a full heart. And if my journey has taught me anything, it is that life is not defined by what you have.  Life is defined by what you give.

Stuart Smalley said it best

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Most of us are hyper-critical of ourselves.  I am certainly guilty of that crime.  We are truly our own worst enemy.  We over-analyse the most minute details about ourselves and never give a second thought to the perception that others may have of us – a perception that may be the polar opposite of how we see ourselves but much closer to the truth.

We have become a society of comparison.  We gauge our success, or perceived failure, by how we think we measure up to those around us.  We judge ourselves by their opinion and not by the standards we set for ourselves.  What we fail to take into consideration is the amount of effort we put into each day by just being ourselves and how difficult that journey can be.  It takes a person with a strong moral compass and courage of conviction to follow the direction in which they feel will allow them to be the most comfortable and to genuinely be themselves.

Too often we allow our actions and our decisions to be swayed by outside forces.  We ignore that little voice inside our head and we succumb to the white noise around us that berates us for those actions.  But that initial behavior represents our true self.  Those nuances of our personality are what set us apart from every other person on this planet. Those are the things worth cherishing.  Those subtleties are the little details that friends and family will hold onto long after you have left this Earth for your next journey.

It would be easy to conform into a stereotype that you feel would be welcomed by society, to make decisions that would be accepted by the masses, but you would be doing yourself a disservice if those choices were not right for you.  Hold true to the things that make you who you are and know that the important people in your life appreciate the choices that you make.  We all need a little daily affirmation – because you are good enough, you are smart enough, and, doggone it, people like you!

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Living a thousand lives

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“The man who reads lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen.  The man who never reads lives only one.”

 George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

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There is something divinely quieting about a good book.  It can take all of the external forces in our lives and make them seem non-existent for a few moments. Losing ourselves in a great story line can give us a temporary escape from reality and take us on a journey to a life outside of our own.

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Although authors don’t write with us in mind, their words can give us a momentary reprieve from the demons that stalk us throughout our busy days, those demons who try to dwell in the hours that we would like spend in solitude. When you open a novel or turn on an E-reader, the chaotic minutes that you have survived during your work day cease to exist and the outside world becomes a distant memory.

If you are one of the fortunate few who can switch your work brain to the “off” position, you allow yourself to become fully involved in the plot line that the author has created. You send yourself on a journey far beyond the realm of your existence.  The words on the page seep into your mind and you become lost in the world of fiction.

Those words, the way they are woven into a complex story line, allow us the ability to sink into a place of imagery and intrigue.  Those words have the power to enlighten us, torture us, amuse us, make us cry and keep reality at bay as long as we will let them.

We owe it to ourselves to relish those moments of escape.  We need to permit ourselves to embrace the worlds beyond our own and tune out the brash sounds of our real lives by bathing in the dulcet tones of fictitious adventure. Do yourself a favor…..grab a book, turn off the television and let yourself be transported by the rhythm of words.  You will be surprised at how simple it is to live a thousand lives.

 

Be the change you wish to see in the world

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I never used to be one who could sit and watch the news on television and that habit has not drastically changed over the years.  I have not ignored the reality of what is happening in the world.  I have merely chosen to moderate how much negative energy I will allow inside the walls of my home.  And with the most recent barrage of cynicism and hostility that has been taking centre screen on every news feed across the world, I choose, for the most part, to tune it out.

Don’t misunderstand me….I will still have a modicum of knowledge when it comes to current events, but I cannot subject myself to hearing the same stories told by a select number of news anchors who beat the same dead horse over and over again.  Instead, I choose to take my positive energy and inject it back into my reality.

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There is some debate as to whether or not it was Mahatma Gandhi who quoted the subject line of this post but, regardless of its origin, it holds a strong place in my resolve to make a difference, if not in the world as a whole, at least in my world.  And with so much hate bubbling to the surface in the current political climates, I have resolved to love what matters.

If I think of myself as a fraction of the population of the planet, I am an infinitesimal part of the equation.  But if I simply see myself as a fraction of my community, my significance becomes notably more meaningful.  Perhaps I cannot make a difference on a global scale but I can certainly try to make a difference within the boundaries of my geography and that is what I am trying to do.

The world can only be changed by example, not by opinion.  And now, more than ever, the world really needs us to be the change we wish to see.