Category Archives: What Matters

Purple Dresses, Pitch Forks, Tomatoes, and Boots

BCWOMAN

My friends and family know my obsession with clothes and shoes. I spent 25 years in the prestige fashion and cosmetic business, working for and with famous designers. I started this blog post at the beginning of September but as life on the farm goes; work takes precedent. I wanted to talk about how priorities change as you age. I still love fashion and the colour purple, but catching the news on tv a few nights ago changed my train of thought a bit.

I caught the picture of Amal, the new Mrs. Clooney in her wedding dress. I said immediately it looks like an Oscar de la Renta, and it was. Beautiful, tasteful, a real piece of couture. She is touted as a “style icon”, like Jackie Kennedy or Audrey Hepburn, (some of my favourites). She will change the face of fashion. I had to watch the whole piece and I loved everything she wore. Not only is she a talented, smart woman, she has her own “style”. She is free to be herself.

I like to think I have my own “style”, it’s what makes me comfortable in my skin. How I look and how I dress says something about me. Unless you are naked, what you wear is an extension of you and what you want to say about yourself.

mel-33 mel-50

Thirty years ago I had my style as well. It said: I am my mother’s daughter. As my daughter has quoted “she was a farm girl who wanted to get to the city”. She loved fashion but couldn’t afford to buy the beautiful things she loved. She was very resourceful and creative. An amazing seamstress, tailor, knitter and designer, if she saw something she loved,she created it for herself. She created beautiful things for her five daughters and all their dolls as well. Grandchildren were the best dressed ever. Even her son-in-laws got her creations.

My career in the fashion world thrilled her. One of her most loved creations was the dress she made me for a very formal affair with Oscar de la Renta. She recreated one of his couture dresses. His highest compliment was on her detail at the shoulders and how she did it. I think even he learned something. It was a beautiful dress.

The funny thing is even though I am my mother’s daughter I was born a city girl dying to move to the country. I remember saying in grade 12 that I wanted to live a pastoral life, raising cows in the country. It was the early ’70’s and put down to that “hippie influence”. My desire to backpack through Europe was poo pooed and off I went to university. I have always said it was my road less travelled.

I never lost my desire for the pastoral life and now here I am. Mimi Doolittle as my son-in-law calls me.

Today,  the colour purple in my life means:

purple tomatoes

my heirloom tomatoes (delicious),

IMG_6816

my new pitch fork (perfect for the barn)

and my new bog boots, perfect for poop kickin’!

IMG_6610

A path is what you walk, and you have to walk it to make it a path. Today I don’t regret a step I have taken. Hey, it got me here to the country and I still have style!

IMG_3441

Duck For Hire

aflacWho would have thought that Aflac was famous before she came to our house? What a great picture and what a great memory for this family.

Aflac was left…abandoned…inadvertently misplaced  in a large park in town. As any well socialized duck, left to her own devices, she waddled in to join the party; placing herself in the picture. This was a family professional photo shoot. Lasting memories for a little boy.

A note to whoever lost Aflac. I don’t know your reasons. It could be that your neighbors disliked her quacking  at meal times, or the duck poop or maybe she just outgrew her cuteness.

Backyard Chickens says this about Pekin Ducks

Pros:
“Friendly, forage well, stay close to house, easy to tame”
“Grows fast for meat, extremely efficient layers, adorable, entertaining, friendly, Good watch ducks”
Cons:
“Eat a lot, poop a lot”
“Can be overly noisy, very messy, poop machines”

Yes, she is all of those things. Now that we know she is so photogenic I am going to hire her out to professional photographers to add to those really cute baby and toddler photoshoots. At least she can pay for all the food she eats!
pekin duck

Time and Tattoos

“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,”

W. Shakespeare

daisies-1My daughter’s blog post on time, made me reminisce on my own days as a busy mother.

We were four families with  kids roughly the same age and all in the same school. As mother’s we were known as Mrs. E F G & H. Mrs. H and I were very close; both of us busy with family, careers and aspirations. The school was a Catholic independent school where parents had to participate in all aspects of school and church life. We spent a lot of time together.

Mrs. H and I often spoke about our “busy” disease. Crisis’ would come and go. We always thought we could get on with our aspirations next week or next month; after we got through the hurdles of a parent or husband with depression, a business trip, dental bills, volunteer duties, appointments, holidays, and what seemed like everyone needing our attention “now”!

We would write that book, paint that picture, take that spiritual journey tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. We will have time…………when.

 

In 1986 at age 39 Mrs. H had a heart attack in her living room. Her children came home from school to find her dead. I lost a best friend, they lost a mother. There was no tomorrow.

I would like to say that the lesson of no tomorrow was profound and it immediately changed my life. It still took many years and many more” putting off until tomorrow” to really sink in. I know that’s why they say youth is wasted on the young. It’s only through age that we fully understand the meaning of making time. It is in our control, our lives are lived daily.

When I hit the milestone of 39, so many years ago I wanted to commemorate it and Mrs. H’s death at the same time.  I didn’t want to do something crazy at 40 to celebrate middle age I wanted something long-lasting spectacular, and something I have always wanted. I wanted it to be done now. I wanted a tattoo. My husband thought I was crazy, I didn’t tell my mother. My oldest was at university and my youngest was just starting high school. The perfect time.

I knew exactly what I wanted.

angelI wanted the reminder permanently and indelibly inked on my body and soul.  Create joy today. It will define you.

tattoo

 

Thoughts On Fathers

me&daddyAny man can be a father, it takes a special gift to be a dad.

“On the beach at night,
Stands a child with her their father,
Watching the east, the autumn sky.

Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading,
Lower sullen and fast athwart and down the sky,
Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east,
Ascends large and calm the lord-star Jupiter,
And nigh at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate sisters the Pleiades.

From the beach the child holding the hand of her their father,
Those burial-clouds that lower victorious soon to devour all,
Watching, silently weeps.

Weep not, child,
Weep not, my darling,
With these kisses let me remove your tears,
The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious,
They shall not long possess the sky, they devour the stars only in apparition,
Jupiter shall emerge, be patient, watch again another night, the Pleiades shall emerge,
They are immortal, all those stars both silvery and golden shall shine out again,
The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again, they endure,
The vast immortal suns and the long-enduring pensive moons shall again shine.

Then dearest child mournest thou only for Jupiter?
Considerest thou alone the burial of the stars?

Something there is,
(With my lips soothing thee, adding I whisper,
I give thee the first suggestion, the problem and indirection,)
Something there is more immortal even than the stars,
(Many the burials, many the days and nights, passing away,)
Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter
Longer than sun or any revolving satellite,
Or the radiant sisters the Pleiades.”

Walt Whitman

 

Rites Of Passage And Adventure

IMG_5337

Life never comes to a closure; life is process, even mystery.  Life is
known only by those who have found a way to be comfortable with
change and the unknown.  Given the nature of life, there may be
no security, but only adventure.”    Rachel Naomi Remen

There were two rites of passage this past weekend.  Both marked a passage in my life. They were both ritual events that marked transition from one status to another. Rites of passage are celebrated by all cultures, nations, and religions. It can be a coming of age, a sacrament, a life change. Passages celebrated in community are the best. Our need to be part of or share an emotional connection is overwhelming. It’s where we learn the heart habits of tolerance, charity, and trust. They are life altering on this worldly path.

The first was for my friend Paul who died on April 26th. It was a combination Native American Church/Buddhist ceremony, celebrated with and by those who loved him. Prayers, singing and drumming were offered up for a safe passage, the fire lit at his death was extinguished, the reading of The Bardo finished. A time for reflection on our own lives and to remember Paul’s words to us.  Our adventure continues.

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure “     Joseph Campbell

The second passage was my granddaughter’s First Holy Communion. The sharing in the divine nature given through the grace of Christ bears a certain likeness to the origin, development, and nourishing of natural life. The faithful is born anew by Baptism, strengthened by the sacrament of Confirmation, and receive in the Eucharist the food of eternal life. By means of these sacraments of Christian initiation, they thus receive in increasing measure the treasures of the divine life and advance toward the perfection of charity.”

“Jesus, what made You so small? LOVE!”
St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 – 1153)

It is an act of love and sets her on her adventure to experience and share that love.

As with many rites there are gifts for the participants.

From Paul, a picture with his favourite word, written in his ashes.

Paul Dimitoff

 

For Giorgia, an ornament as a gift for our sharing in her passage and remembrance of our LOVE!

IMG_5380IMG_5381

 

 

 

Celebrating “Mighty Girls”

I blogged on my art project with the Grade Six girls at a local school in March. I called it mentoring. My involvement started with the school through my Rotary Club and our goal of literacy in our community. We sponsored the school with a $10,000 matching grant and offered the opportunity to club members to volunteer at the school on a regular basis, with any project.

mighty-girls

We finished my project last week,amazed at not only how the girls paintings evolved but their insightful words on what made them a Mighty Girl. Each participant came to the project with their own talents. Some had never painted before. Some had no doubt about themselves or how mighty they were, others had never experienced  looking at all their good qualities, strengths and beauty. Some knew love,some hoped for love. Each brought their uniqueness every week. There was laughter, tears, start overs and some never finishes. We all learned more about each other and how our struggles are all the same. Watching them encourage each other and grow made my heart beat a little happier.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I was not there as a teacher or instructor, I was only there as a caring adult to give them the opportunity to grow through this introspective project. It wasn’t about painting or learning a new skill. I grew and they grew. That’s it.

We celebrated with a party of pizza, pop and cupcakes.

Thank you to Rotary for your commitment to “literacy” and  Mighty Girl for their inspiration, and to the girls of Grade Six.

IMG_5252

Well done “Mighty Girls”!! Thank You!

 

Puffins

puffin-3Keeping with the poetry theme, I tried to think of poems I knew by heart. One of my favourites is There Once Was a Puffin. As a single mom one of my careers was selling World Book Encyclopedia door to door. Part of the training introduced me to how important it was to read to children, even babies.

I bought Chidcraft when my daughter was still a toddler. One of the best investments I ever made. It was here that she gained her love for language, creativity and learning.The first one we read was Poems & Stories. We read this one a lot. I googled it to make sure I still knew it word for word. My google search took me to Puffinpalooza. Who knew there was a whole blog about puffins. Check it out, very cool.  Under this poem was a comment from a reader of the blog.

and I quote:

“I love it! My 93-year-old mother who has dementia also is able to recite the entire poem from memory. She has had a passion for both poetry and puffins her whole life.”

I guess if I make it to 93 and can still remember this poem, I will be just fine.

There Once Was a Puffin

Oh, there once was a Puffin
Just the shape of a muffin,
And he lived on an island
In the

     bright

                      blue sea!

He ate little fishes,
That were most delicious,
And he had them for supper
And he

     had them

          for tea.

But this poor little Puffin,
He couldn’t play nothin’,
For he hadn’t anybody
To play

     with

          at all.

So he sat on his island,
And he cried for a while, and
He felt very lonely,
And he

     felt

                       very small.

Then along came the fishes,
And they said, “If you wishes,
You can have us for playmates,
Instead

     of

                   for tea!”

So they now play together,
In all sorts of weather,
And the Puffin eats pancakes,
Like you

           and

                     like me.

by Florence Page Jaques

Puffin2

A Child’s Awareness

stella-beach-14-b+w

“As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unselfconsciously to the soughing of the trees.” Valerie Andrews

stella-grommet-bw

 

“I would not send a poor girl into the world, ignorant of the snares that beset her path; nor would I watch and guard her, till, deprived of self-respect and self-reliance, she lost the power or the will to watch and guard herself .”Anne Bronte

“Only as a child’s awareness and reverence for the wholeness of life are developed can his humanity to his own kind reach its full development.”               Rachel Carson

gigi-bw

Blowin’ In The Wind

The teacher comes when the student is ready…..

Someone wise once said this, I’m sure. Sometimes it is difficult to know who the teacher is. Lessons learned this week. Living with your 88 year old mother-in-law, who tells you she doesn’t understand the word “happy” in any language is a lesson. Unable to live alone because of health and age issues she pines for her former unhappy life. There, she was in control by locking the world away. She was asking for her beautiful curtains that were in her house that was sold. “Sold with the house” I said. I might as well have ripped out her  heart. “All my beautiful things, gone. Everything is blowing in the wind”

Everyday is the same conversation. Only her things will give her back her life. Her control.

I was miffed at the beginning of the week. A drive into town, only 26 km. away and this is the sign I saw.

street cleaning signNot fair! Why was it spring there and not on my street?IMG_1607

 

Everywhere on social media people are talking about spring. Yes, officially it was the first day of spring last week. Posts have shown beautiful pictures of flowers popping up: happiness everywhere. Spring is like that. We come out of hibernation, shake off the dust, the closeness of hibernating for the last 3 months. We are like the grumpy bears, woken up from our slumber. Ready for action with an insatiable appetite. I wanted spring!

It only took a bit of contemplation and another unhappy conversation with Oma for the whack from the cosmic baseball bat to realize spring was blowin’ in the wind.

I planted seeds, cleaned my greenhouse, bought more seeds.

I was so glad that the weather was still cold. I would have time to seed some more perennials outside in milk jugs.They would need some freezing nights to split the seeds and help them germinate, and be  transplanted to bloom in the spring and summer.

IMG_5077

 

 

 

 

Outside they went. I still needed more winter time.

I needed to remember my favourite bible passage, and my favourite Pete Seeger song Turn Turn Turn

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;”

I also needed to remember another favourite quote and song.

“The answer , my friend is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

 

Really….world peace?

lara-16

It sounds like a very bad Miss America joke. “my greatest wish is for world peace”. Why would I have said that?
My daughter writes a very interesting blog. http://martinistyle.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/making-peace/ Not one for social media or putting herself and her family out there; she was inspired at an education conference. She writes every night now. I always like to stay up and read her blog before I go to bed. It usually gives me a warm feeling. This post gave me lots to think about.

I really had to stop and think why I would have said that my greatest wish was for “world peace”. So pie in the sky. Was I just being facetious? Was I just saying anything to placate her? Did I really think that is what I was wishing for? Or did I just want peace and quiet from her constant questioning?

I have taken a few days to really ponder it. Is my wish today for world peace?

I think every parent, in their heart wants to keep their children safe. They want them to grow up without conflict in the world, without fear of war, hunger, scarcity, even death. They want more for their children than they had themselves. I wanted to save them from my suffering and fears; the death of my friend at 10. Killed along with her whole family by the hands of her father. The long-suffering of my dad who died from bleeding ulcers. Something  cured today by antibiotics. He got very sick when I was eight and died my first year of university. Right after that my niece died from pneumonia at age 13. We were only five years apart and very close. This smack down with suffering started me on my own personal journey for answers.

Not growing up with a familial spirituality I was constantly searching. Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s there were many new and emerging ideas and thoughts. At 17 I learned about transcendental mediation, Zen and Tibetan Buddhism. I was the consummate “hippie chick” Protesting the war in Vietnam was the norm, even for Canadians. World peace was a mantra. Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell were my constant companions.

Yet time passes and decisions get made. I became a wife and mother and then a single mother. Responsibility for another life was mine. Somehow the success on my child became my success. Somewhat narcissistic I would say. I didn’t want world peace, I wanted them not to have to experience suffering, dying or death. I already knew that everything was not okay. Bad things did happen to good people.

In my journey to keep them safe I encountered many wonderful mentors and teachers. My own mother and our new sisterhood as mothers, not daughter and mother was enlightening. My desire to give my children a spiritual foundation led me to St. Francis of Assisi, the Poor Clares and Father Tim Elliot, OFM of Papua New Guinea and his lifelong ministry to the lepers there, to people who through their actions really did work for world peace.

pastoral

Poor-Clares
Did I keep my children safe? Did I save them from heartbreak, hard lessons learned, growing up and older, suffering? No. That’s not the way it works.

What I have learned is that I could only set them on the path. Planes disappear, wars start, friends die, life is suffering and despair but through it we can know happiness and that their pain and suffering and along with that, their happiness is the result of their own actions and not my dreams for them. Just as I used to “now I lay me, down to sleep” prayer every night as a child with a “god bless” for everyone I knew, I now pray every night, the prayer of  loving kindness. May they and all be free from suffering and the cause of suffering.

lara-11

Did I give them what they needed to wish for world peace and the ability to work for it? I can’t, nor ever could stand between them and heartache.

lara-20

They will find peace for themselves.