The Art Of Reading Through Tears

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I knew it was a risk. I had been told about a book called The Art Of Racing In The Rain and had all but ignored it…until now. I began reading this book in the waiting room of my Honda dealership while passing time during an oil change and brake pad replacement. It was a fitting scene.

The book is narrated from the perspective of a dog who belongs to a race car driver. Although I am not a race car driver (perhaps only in my mind), the irony of sitting in a car dealership while beginning this book was not lost on me. I devoured the first half of the book in two hours while waiting for my car to be serviced. I sat in a small, sparsely furnished area with three very large men and openly wept while devouring every chapter I could of this novel.

There is an underlying joke between my friend and I that we would be gold medal winners if the Olympics ever created a competition for crying. Sitting in the waiting room of that car dealership while reading this book was certainly my qualifying round. Initially I did my best to conceal my tears, but these three men were on to me from the appearance of the first glistening tear that tracked its way down my cheek and they made every effort to not make eye contact from that moment forward.

I have a dog who recently turned twelve and has health issues, and the narrative in this book hit very close to home. Every well-paced paragraph reminded me that I may be mere moments away from having to realize every truth written in this book about an aging pet. It was eviscerating, but strangely comforting.

This book gave me a gift. I now know that I will have the strength to make that tough decision because it is what is best for her, not for me. Her comfort and her dignity come before my need for having more time with her. And as I cry writing the end of this post, I know it will be one of the most difficult decisions I will ever have to make, but one that has to be made….for her.

 

Hold everyone close

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When you work in hospitality, relationships are naturally created with the people you meet. For the brief time they are in your presence, they become an extended part of your circle. You share stories, you share laughs and you create a bond that continues to grow with every visit.

I have had the good fortune of nurturing a relationship that was created with six women who visit the lodge every May. Their connections run deep and they have spent the majority of their lives weaving themselves into the fabric of each other’s reality. I have had the honor of being a part of their lives for two days every May for the last seven years. They are the personification of friendship. They share a sisterhood that is evident and they spent their time at the lodge basking in old memories and creating new ones.

But all of that has changed. One of the ladies called yesterday to tell me their group would not be returning to the lodge. In the few short months since they bid us farewell, one has been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and one has progressed rapidly into Alzheimer’s Disease. As I sat in stunned silence listening to their friend on the phone, it was all I could do not to burst into tears in my office.

These women were some of the first guests I met when I started my new job at the lodge. They embraced me as if I had been a part of their lives for decades and each one has had an impact on me. I cannot begin to tell you how deeply I feel their pain. I can see all of their faces and can hear the laughter they shared during every visit. I can flash back to taking their group photo on many occasions and cannot begin to express how heavy my heart is as I write this post.

I know the future for these ladies will be forever changed. My sadness drastically pales in comparison to what they will be forced to face and I can only hope they find comfort in their memories. I will always hold on to the times they created some of those memories at the lodge and included me in those moments.

 

A simple hug

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I saw the pain in your eyes,

that is why I couldn’t look away.

And the only thing I could think to do,

is give you a hug.

It won’t fix anything,

It doesn’t make things better.

But it does let you know,

beyond a doubt,

that you matter to me

and I will always be there with open arms,

open ears

and broad shoulders.

Your friendship is a part of me now.

And you know I will always be there

whenever you need me.

(image credit)

 

 

I’m not sure when they started knocking, but they’re back

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The voices in my head, those distant sounds of characters waiting to develop themselves, have returned. They had been quelled by the busy season at work but they have since insinuated themselves back into my daily life and to say I have missed them would be a gross understatement.

Summer is my busiest time and there have not been many days through any period of June through September I have been able to harness that creativity. I got home from work after a busy Saturday changeover and there they were, ready to speak, and I was ready to listen. God, how I have missed this feeling. I have longed for those voices to speak loudly enough that I could not ignore their persistence. And now here they are, summoning me to join them on the journey they want me to document for them as I write my second book.

And, as much as I love them, my fear of them is what makes this journey so invigorating. They are bold, they have depth and sometimes they scare me. But they are speaking for themselves, willing me to open myself enough to understand their passion and apprehension and have me follow them on their pilgrimage.

This is writing. This is giving in to a force bigger than yourself and allowing the voices to tell you what they want to say. It is not creating a story, it is listening to their story and telling it, for them, in the best way you can.

 

 

Did they grow on me, or did I grow on them?

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Twice a year, we have a bus tour company bring a group of seniors to the lodge. Some of the faces are familiar but many are new to us. One particular couple has been to the lodge several times and, each time they come, they have kept to themselves and not engaged with us in a way many others do….until this trip.

When they arrived on Monday, I greeted them by name and welcomed them back to the lodge. I pointed them in the direction of their room and they ambled off to settle into the place they would reside for the next three nights. They came in for the 4:00 pm welcome coffee and cookies, got comfortable in their seats and made little conversation with the others on their tour.

By breakfast the next morning, something had changed. As she made her way into the lodge, her arm found its place around my waist and she let me walk her to the table with our arms around each other. He steered his walker through the door and followed us. I asked if they would like a pot of tea and, for the first time in their past four visits, he actually smiled at me. The tea was delivered, breakfast was ordered and we found ourselves absorbed in a conversation beyond their breakfast preference.

To say I was astounded would be an understatement. The word curmudgeon always sprung to mind when I thought of him but his smile has since changed my mind. I honestly cannot tell you if they grew on me or I grew on them, but my relationship with this couple has grown. They no longer regard me with contempt but embrace me with their smiles and their gratitude.

Perhaps moments like these can change our first impressions. Two people who struck me as being eternally grumpy now present themselves as two people who have had their share of struggles and still face each day with determination. My wish for them is that they continue to rally and I truly hope to be able to greet them by name if they are able to make it to the lodge for another visit.

 

Holding my breath

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Without even realizing it,

I had been holding my breath for you,

wishing nothing but good things

and feeling like my heart would break if yours was burdened.

looking up

Bearing a weight that was not mine to bear,

I kept my chin up,

looking to the stars for a wish,

relying on the divine breaths of the many who watch over us

to watch over you as you slept.

 It was no surprise when my tears fell,

allowing a small fraction of the weight you must have felt

to lift from my shoulders.

 A burden not my own,

but a burden worth bearing, just the same.

 Your struggle is not mine,

but I keep the pace and walk with you,

there to listen when you need an ear,

and there to be an embrace

in the moments you need a hug.

I will continue to hold my breath

until you feel it is okay for you to exhale.

(image credit)

As if no time has passed

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We met in college. When you register for a program specifically geared towards hospitality, you are bound to meet friends who are outgoing and love people and that is exactly what happened. And, although twenty-nine years have gone by since we shared those hallowed hallways and classrooms, their voices still make me feel like it was only a few years ago.

We connected immediately and, for the two years we spent together within those walls, we shared innumerable laughs, a few tears and a great many games of Euchre. If I were hooked up to a polygraph machine, I would have to admit we spent more time playing cards in the cafeteria than we spent in several of our classes and, yet, we somehow managed to graduate with top marks.

As fate would have it, reality began to seep into the happy bubble we had created in college. Marriages, careers and families pulled us in many different directions but we managed to get together on a few rare occasions to catch up and talk about all the wonderful memories we could recall from our college years. These friends became a part of my family and, after almost three decades, I can still pick up the phone and talk to them like I just saw them last week. That is true friendship.

Very rarely do I miss a birthday and, though now it may only be a message through social media, their faces pop into my head when I realize what day it is. I have never forgotten April thirteenth, June third, October twenty-sixth and November seventeenth. Those dates and those people will always have a special place in my heart.

A twenty-minute phone call today reminded me of how much of an impact these people had on my life, and how much they still do. I may not know their children or how they spend their days, but I do know they were and always will be a big part of my life.

Jeff, Tara, Rob, Marc….2020 may be the perfect time for a long-overdue reunion!

 

 

 

The culture of entitlement

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Dealing with multi-faceted personalities is a full-time job. And when you work in an industry where you are surrounded by people all day, every day, that job becomes compounded by a plethora of drama, negotiation and, on many occasions, very warped senses of entitlement.

I’ll admit there are days when I feel a little bigger than my britches but I am firmly rooted in the reality in which I know I am replaceable. I am very good at my job but I do not hold any sense of a misguided belief the place where I work would not be able to go on without me.

(image credit)

Sadly, many people do not follow my logic. The culture of entitlement is alive and well and thriving like a bacterial colony in a petri dish. And like any bacteria, entitlement grows, spreads and inevitably infects anything or anyone in its path. Those who feels a sense of comfort in their role may want to keep in mind there are many people who can slip into their shoes and potentially wear them better. A sense of entitlement changes people. It makes them act impulsively and show little regard for those around them. It drives a wedge between the entitled person and the people with whom they share the field of battle and, now, smaller wars are created within the bigger battle.

There is a very narcissistic quality to entitlement and those individuals feel they are more important than others. Their end goal is to feel like they have won and to feel superior to those around them. But all they have done is create a toxic work environment and lose the respect of their coworkers.

I have seen what a sense of entitlement can do to working relationships and to friendships. The pathogen of privilege is destructive and ugly, and it can forever change the relationship you have with those you work with. Be cognizant of others. Realize you are all on the same team. And, no matter how long you have maintained your job, work hard every day to prove you are part of that team and be humbled by the realization that you can be replaced.

 

Spring is sprung, the grass is riz

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Most people have a favorite time of year and there are meaningful arguments for each of the seasons we are fortunate enough to witness. While I can pinpoint many things I love about each of the seasons we have in Canada, I can not only choose my favorite one but I can narrow it down to a more specific time. While it may be fraught with predictable end-of-winter perils, mid-April to early May is, by far, my favorite time of the year.

I got home from work yesterday, slightly after 5:00 pm, and the sun still held the world in its warm embrace. I sat on my deck, glass of wine in hand, and soaked in everything around me. The new blades of grass were pushing aside the oak leaves that I had purposely left for the small eco-systems that help to create a healthier lawn (good information for someone like me who isn’t particularly fond of raking), those pesky Day Lilies I had attempted to vanquish were winning me over with their fresh green sprouts and the world around me was saturated with newness. The trees were proud to show off the promise of new leaves with their bright red buds, highlighted by the crisp hue of the blue sky in the background, and the Spring Peepers were singing their greeting after a very long winter. For those of you who have never heard Peepers, these small amphibians are the truest sign that Spring has finally arrived. This sound is the best way to welcome the new season and a sure way to be lured into a peaceful slumber.

Casting aside the fact that the bugs are still comfortably ensconced in their winter phase called diapause, this time of year could not be more perfect. The air is not weighed down by humidity, the sun’s warmth and strength are just as effective as a mid-July day and the streets are free from the overwhelming increase in population from the summer residents. It’s a win, win, win.

Spring is the beginning of a new chapter. Spring allows me to enjoy all the parts of summer I miss because I work in the service industry. And Spring affords me the time to bask in all of the sights and sounds of a new life waiting to be discovered. It is hope. It is growth. It is a promise of what is to come.

When old houses make new noises

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I consider myself very lucky to live where I live. Not only is my neck of the woods considered to be one of the most desirable and most beautiful vacation spots in Canada, I won the house lottery when I was looking for an affordable rental back in 2000.

I had just moved back from having lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia for a year and April is not the nicest month to be trekking through Central Ontario looking for a place to live. It was an unseasonably harsh winter that year and I received a tip from a friend about a little house that would be advertised for rent in the near future. My parents and I drove two minutes out of town and ventured down the snow-covered driveway to get a closer look.

The snow was piled high in front of the house but I trudged my way through the banks and climbed a mountain of snow to a window that looked into the kitchen. I was smitten. After making my way around the house to peer in the rest of the windows, I had surmised the kitchen was the biggest room in the tiny house and I knew I was meant to live here. I rented the house for four years before I finally convinced my landlady to sell me the property. She loved having me as a tenant so she agreed to deduct the rent I had paid from what was deemed a fair price for the property and I became a homeowner in 2004.

Fast forward to today. Although this six-hundred square foot gem has been my refuge and the place that has allowed my greatest amount of creativity, it is beginning to show its age. This tiny building, nestled into almost three acres of property, was crafted in 1940 and designed to be an out-building of a long-forgotten farm property. It has given yeoman service as a principal residence but lately it has begun to make noises I have not heard in my almost twenty years as a resident.

There are now creaks in places where once there had been silence. The clicks from the baseboard heaters have become much more pronounced and, when the mercury slips down below minus 30 degrees Celsius, the argumentative pops and bangs from the house are much louder than I remember.

Through no fault of its own, my house has aged. If I consider how much I have changed since I have lived here, I should not be taken aback by the deep wrinkles and age lines of the place I have called my home for almost two decades. Although it is tiny in square footage, it is a giant in its presence on my property. I can only hope its perseverance is as strong as mine and we can tackle a few more years together on this land we call home.