Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Family Gatherings

I grew up in a relatively large family of 5 children. Special occasions were usually spent with my paternal grandparents and my widowed aunt and two cousins. Needless to say it seemed to be a huge crowd and my mother basked in the festivities since she had been an only child and grew up very lonely.
As an adult, we spent as many holidays together as possible, bringing our 9 children home to get to know each other and be together. The larger the celebration, the better as far as I was concerned.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving and a time to be thankful. My daughters, their husbands and 3 1/2 grandchildren were all here. My sister-in-law came with my brother, having just escaped her brush with death and spending the last 4 months in recovery. My youngest sister and her husband arrived safely in Colorado to be with their son after a horrific accident on Saturday in which their vehicle rolled several times and was totalled. My other sister came in from Alma with her husband who has had his own health issues to deal with. My oldest sister and her husband couldn't come but were in our thoughts as we were in theirs.
It was quite cool for October so we stayed cozy and warm in the house. Each of us had plenty to eat and went to bed happy and with full tummies.
As I reflect on the day I cannot help but think how blessed we have been. God has been so good to us, as a family and as Canadians.
My daughters fill me to bursting with love and pride, my sons-in-law could not be more perfect if I had picked them myself and, of course, my grandchildren are perfect and fill me to overflowing with love.
Thank you, Lord for your unspeakable gifts!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Prison of Failure
I slowly passed the Prison of Failure and stared up at the high stone walls topped with barbed wire. I wondered what kind of people were imprisoned there but I was in too big of a hurry to spend much time thinking about it. after all, I was on my was to a great opportunity. I had an idea and had been given the privilege of sharing it with others whom I was sure would applaud and be anxious to be part of my venture. It was revolutionary, this idea of mine. I knew it would work and that people would begin to recognize my talents and gifts, something I wasn't too confident in myself.
I arrived at the designated location, the Prison forgotten in my zeal to share.
I stood poised but nervous and began to unravel my plans and ideas before the group of listeners. As I spoke, the listeners began to quietly slip away and by the time I was finished, there were only a few loyal friends left.
I remained, in stunned silence, staring at my failure. Self-loathing and Disappointment escorted me to the car and I found myself on the way to the Prison of Failure. It was humiliating. I had poured my heart and soul into my presentation and no one had accepted it. Worse yet they had rejected me by their very action of leaving me .....standing alone.
I entered the prison, stripped of my pride. I felt alone and embarrassed. Surely no one would fill my emptiness here. As I wandered out into the yard, which I had previously viewed from the other side, I was curious to see who else was there. What did I find!!! Discouraged workers who looked just like me! They were humiliated, self-loathing and hopeless. I looked around for the guards - they were there. I saw Self-Incrimination on one wall, Low Self-Esteem on another, Low Self-Confidence on the third and Other's Opinions on the fourth. Self-Criticism was circulating within the walls and seemed to be connecting with those who were most defenseless.
My eyes searched for an escape and to my surprise, I saw that the door to the outside stood ajar, with no one guarding it to stop my passage.
I started to slowly make my way toward the open door, but Other People's Opinions blocked my way. He challenged me, but I remained resolute in my desire to escape. Then Self-Criticism loomed aheadf of me. I took notice and was momentarily discouraged but managed to bypass him before he could stop my progress. Low Self-esteem rushed in to block me and I hesitated, knowing that this guard was very powerful and not likely to grant me any leeway. We stood nose-to-nose, staring each other down. I began to weaken, but out of the corner of my eye, I couold see the open door of my escape route.
My heart was taking me through the door but my spirit was broken. The door was just beyond my reach, but Low Self-esteem was the guard I could not overcome.
At that moment I saw the Saviour standing at the door. He beckoned me to keep striving but my strength was gone. I staggered and was about to fall when I felt strong arms lifting me to my feet. I looked up to see Him stand above me, warding off the guards who were rushing in to inhibit my escape. He whispered, "Lean on me. My stremgth is made perfect in your weakness. I rose uncertainly, keeping my eyes fixed on His face. He inspired confidence and strength. I no longer saw my guards. All I saw was His love and perfect peace and encouragement. I stood to my feet. I walked confidently through the doors of the Prison of Failure and determined that I would not return.
Since that time, I have experienced other failures. They no longer relegate me to the prison from which I have been rescued. Now I seek the face of the One who helped me escape and I draw my strength from Him. Failure is still a possibility, but it will not defeat me. I have my Rescuer to remind me that I am human. I have so much to offer. I have talents and gifts that He can use and through His strength, I will not let failure, discouragement, self-incrimination or low self-esteem keep me from fulfilling my destiny.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Barn

It's amazing how far we have come in my lifetime. There are so many things taken for granted today that I could never have dreamed of as a child.
I remember so many events that really indicate my age. I remember the ice man coming to deliver ice to my grandmother for her ice box. All the kids would gather around the truck and snatch up the broken pieces while the delivery man was in the house.
Then there was the milk man ( made famous by the TD/Canada Trust commercial). He would have arrived before any of us got up in the morning and left the day's supply on the doorstep. The cream always rose to the top and in the winter it would freeze and pop the cardboard cap about 2 inches above the bottle.
The bread man came at noon when we were home for lunch. My mother made wonderful butter tarts but we begged her on a daily basis to buy the run-of-the-mill pastries offered on the tray. On very special occasions she would buy raisin bread... oh, my, what a treat!
Galt Dairy was about three blocks from our house and the barn where the horses were kept was just down the street. It was on Mr. Moffatt's property, a large house (compared to ours) and a huge barn in the back yard. Around three in the afternoon the horses were walked down to the barn from the dairy. The lucky kids who noticed them first often got to ride them. I couldn't wait until I was old enough but by the time I was, the dairy had gone to trucks.
My brother and two sisters and I had a magnetic attraction to the barn. Along with the other kids in the neighbourhood, we would sneak in, with a lookout watching for |Mr. Moffatt, and play hide and seek in the hay loft. More times than not, we were caught by MR. MOFFATT and sent packing with a stern scolding. We always went back. One of my mother's pat phrases was , "...and don't go to the barn!"
One Thanksgiving we had invited friends from Toronto to join us for dinner. Mom had us all spit and polished and sent us outside to play while she finished the dinner preparations. She gave us the usual warning and we all headed straight for the barn. The hay was in for the winter and we had such fun rearranging the bales to create little bunkers where we could hide if Mr. Moffatt showed up ...which he did. The lookout whispered here he comes and we all scrambled for the bunker. I ran like mad from the far side of the hayloft, right into the tension bar that stretched from the one side of the roof to the other. I saw a million stars and the goose egg immediately emerged on my forehead. We were caught. Mean old Mr. Moffatt escorted us out of the barn and we headed home. There was no use trying to create a story for Mom. I'm sure she could smell where we had been. I had the goose egg to remind me of my indiscretions. I don't remember being disciplined. Mom was sort of like that. If we were alive, she overlooked a lot.
Since then I've realized that mean old Mr. Moffatt was really quite a tolerant fellow. He certainly allowed a lot of activity in his barn and I'm convinced he knew we were there many more times than he acknowledged.
That's the way it was then. Kids made their own fun and adults didn't make a big deal of everything. You didn't have to worry about where your kids were or if they were safe. Everyone on the street looked out for us. It was a happy time.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Isn't it funny how life is full of curious coincidences! You know how you'll be talking to someone about another person who should be a stranger and that person will say, "You don't mean so-and-so. I went to school with him/her or I used to work with him/her...or I'm his/her cousin, etc.
When I started teaching at a Cambridge school, I taught with a new teacher to whom I became a mentor. He was inexperienced and somewhat disorganized but enthusiastic, creative and loved by the students. I would relate stories of his "escapades" to my brother, also a teacher, in Windsor. One day, this teacher shared that he had grown up in Windsor and that his sister was a teacher there. Upon further discussion, we discovered that she was a close colleague of my brother as well as a good friend. Who knew!!!
My third child was about to be born and we headed to Cambridge Memorial Hospital. It was not an easy birth and I recall one of the nurses who encouraged me. She was pregnant as well and I remember how stunningly beautiful I thought she was. Her name was Bev. Years later, that same daughter of mine came home from school with a new friend. She said that her mother was a maternity ward nurse. You guessed it...her name was Bev. This girl and my daughter are friends to this day and it all started in the delivery room where both were present.
When my girls were young, I went back to supply teaching to earn a bit of money and talk to adults again. I took a Grade 4, 6 week maternity coverage at a small country school. I will always remember two students in particular, Graeme and Nicola. One day in particular I found Nicola hiding from me under her desk and almost marked her absent. The two of them had more mischief in their heads than the rest of the class combined. Several years later, my oldest became friends with a Nicola and they are friends to this day. We didn't make the connection right away, but over time little facts were put together and added up to ... coincidence.
My first niece, over whom I doted for years before having children of my own, grew up and became a teacher. While she was in training we thought it would be neat if she could be my student teacher, so we had it arranged and she joined my class for a full month. Being that our last names were different, we felt it wise to keep our connection to ourselves until the last day when I told that class that we had a secret to share. I said that our student teacher was my sister's daughter so that made me her Aunt. They were stunned and then one naive little guy raised his hand. He wanted to know exactly when it was that we realized we were related!
Well so much for coincidence.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Trailers are meant for people who can leave their residence and take up residence somewhere else for a period of time. I thought I was one of those people.

12 years ago I bought an antiquated trailer at our church camp. It was 22 feet long and not in the best of shape but I was not discouraged. I made new curtains and new seat cushions. i transformed the 2 single beds into one queen size in the hopes that my husband would embrace the idea and we'd spend "quality" time there every summer. Besides my friend from childhood, Ruth, had a trailer just down the road and it was exciting to think of leaving the monotony of home and feeling the freedom of just being on my own.

We had wonderful times when I was there. Ruth would come down and kill all my spiders, making it a safe environment. We took trips into town to Mary Maxim and the little quaint shops or, on occasion, would head out to Port Dover for fish and chips or to the Demolition Derby at the Paris Fall Fair.

It was hard to do what I thought I could do. I had 3 daughters and 2 cats and I didn't feel good leaving any of them so I would head home, sometimes every day, just to make sure everyone was all right.

One Christmas Terry surprised me with an enclosed sunroom to enlarge the space and give us freedom from bugs. It was great.

As time went on I realized no one was sharing my love for the trailer. I could sit there all day, crochet, go for a walk, have a nap or read and be quite happy. But the energy that attracted me to Terry made it impossible for him to settle. He'd sleep there but always wanted to go somewhere through the day.

Then, 2 years ago he became ill in the summer and we missed a whole season. He relapsed the next summer and we missed another. Then this year I was determined to make a go of it. I cleaned it and decided on times that I thought we should go, but we didn't.

Two weeks ago Ruth moved out of the campground to a cottage up north. After much consideration I agreed it was time to let go and we put it up for sale. It hasn't sold yet but I hope it does. Someone should enjoy it. I still like the idea but the realities are very different.

Perhaps someday I'll have a place on the water, one of my other dreams, but until then we'll just plan a week here and a week there. There are lots of possibilities when you accept that plan.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

It's Thursday and the house is now quiet. Tori, Sue and Geoff have gone home and my husband, Terry, is watching Wheel of Fortune. Sugar, my cat, sits beside my laptop waiting for an opportunity to climb onto the keyboard, so I'll notice him.

It's summer but the evenings are getting cooler so I know Fall is on the way. Did I miss Summer? Is this a trick? Only the neighbour's lawn mower is answering.

School starts in another 11 days, without me. I don't know how I feel about that. It's been my routine for 40 years and now I have all this time to myself. I like retirement, don't misunderstand. It's the sense of loss of identity that's the issue. I had great plans for retirement, assuming that the money and energy would continue but that was a mean trick too. Now I spend my days sewing (for Christmas no less), crocheting, making "healthy" meals, painting and keeping up with the mundane tasks of a house. The trips have never materialized, as much my fault as anyone's, and the lunches out with friends... well that hasn't happened either.

But September approaches and I'm determined to be more active, make more trips to Barrie to see my daughters, son-in-law and my gorgeous grandbabies. I've even thought about taking swimming lessons.

Whatever the Fall brings, I'm ready for it. Maybe the cooler weather will inspire me .... or maybe not.