Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Today is not that day...

Last week, in a post called "Nightmares", I wrote these words ~ "I have to be as honest as I can about who I am.  Spiders and zombies are scary.  False accusations, lies, judgment and rejection are scarier.  But do you know what I think is scarier than all of those things put together?  Losing myself, my voice, my relationship with God and my ability to trust, love, hope and dream in a confused, fearful, miserable people-pleasing cloud of self-protective dust and debris.

Now THAT would be a real nightmare!"

During the week, after I had posted "Nightmares", I had the privilege of spending time with some bright, intelligent young women.   One of the things that we talked about was how difficult it is to be true to our own "voices" when faced with pressure to be silent.  We are all bloggers, and we all have very different voices, beliefs, ideas and thoughts.   We also all face pressure, from outside of ourselves, to be something other than who we are, to please others.  This is a battle that I have been facing for as long as I can remember, and the one thing I wanted these special young ladies to know is that they can choose to "BE" regardless of the pressure not to be.  

Too often, we internalize the outside pressure to conform, until one day we realize that the voice whispering, "Be silent!  Shut up! Disappear!" is our own.  They say, "You're stupid,"  and we tell ourselves, "Be quiet!".  They say, "Stop talking about your religion, freak!"  and we whisper, "I need to shut up."  They say, "You're just too much!" and our inner voice cautions, "Be less..."

We cannot control what they say.  But we have total control over our own inner voices.  

Does this mean that, say we're talking about our blogging voices, that we never need to edit, to be careful, to delete?  No, of course we need to edit, to guard our words, and lots of times, to press the delete button.  But we need to set our own standards.  And then, honor them.

I delete blog drafts all the time.  It is important to me that I respect the privilege of having people read my thoughts.  There is a responsibility to writing publicly.  I have set boundaries for my blog, boundaries that come from my desires for the blog, my faith and beliefs, my standards.  Sometimes, I fail.  For that, there is forgiveness.  Sometimes I bend to outside pressure.  Again, forgiveness is a gift I receive with gratitude.  
Recently, I received news of some disturbing rumors concerning my mental health.  Someone from my past has been calling up members of my family, and trying to convince them that I am deeply disturbed, and that Grace is in danger while she is in my care.  To be honest, my first reaction was fear.  This was bigger than the standard gossip that I am used to.  It is darker.  It crosses a line.  It's purpose is to separate  me from my family, and to prod them into trying to distance my daughter from me.  For this mom, there isn't a hit that could reach much lower. 

Then I was hurt.  Someone that I spent months caring for after a serious health crisis was accusing me of being a malignant narcissist, or a psychopath.  I cared for this person because I wanted to, and I just don't understand the kind of hate that drives one to such a place.  It was disturbing, in so many ways.

It didn't take long, though, for me to realize how completely and utterly safe Grace & I are, surrounded by loving friends and family and a God who is deeply protective of His own.  The accusations are so extreme as to be ridiculous.  

Then, I sat down to write a blog post.  And I heard it.  "Be careful. Maybe it's better not to be so open or vulnerable for a while. A seed of doubt has been planted in peoples' minds. You wouldn't want to unwittingly water it by talking about being weak, or afraid.  People might start to believe that you are what they said you were..."

No.  Just...no.  There is no way I can with any sense of honor, encourage the young women in my life to write and speak with courage, and then not do the same myself.  God has given me a voice. I do my very best to please Him, to represent Him accurately and to speak His love and grace into my world.  

I am reminded of a scene in the movie version of Lord of the Rings, the Return of the King.  Aragorn is speaking to his army, outside the Black Gates of Mordor.  In a time of horror undreamed of by the men who fight with him, his words ring loud, from the movie screen to this page - "Sons of Gondor, of Rohan. My brothers. I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me! A day may come, when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of Fellowship, but it is not this day! An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you, stand, men of the West!"

A day may come, when my heart fails and I cower before my keyboard, and lose the voice that God has given me.  But today is not that day.  And really, if today isn't that day, then tomorrow probably won't be either.  Or the next day.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

More random stuff about me...

I would love, love, love to go cage diving with sharks.  I'm not a thrill seeker, and generally really dislike anything that makes me feel frightened.  I have enough issues with anxiety as it is.  But I love creatures, and if cage diving is the only way I could get near a shark, I'd do it. And don't get me started on whale watching! How awesome would that be?!

This isn't Sir Loin, but it looks just like him. I found this @
On the critter note, a few years ago, I had a summer friendship with a two year old jersey bull that I named Sir Loin.  A neighboring farmer summered him at our place. He was adorable, and very friendly.  And a bit possessive.  He chased me a few times, when I tried to leave him after a visit. He was on a huge chain, and as I walked away from him, I heard him coming.  I took off, running, and as I got just out of range I turned to see him reach the end of his chain and whip around at the end of it.  After that, I tried to meet him at the end of the chain.  Still, I ended up with summer-long bruises on the outside of my thighs, from when he would lower his head to be rubbed and press up against my legs, rubbing his short but rock solid horns on my thighs.  Once, he pinned me to a wagon tire with his horns.  And when his chain allowed it, he used to meet me on the lane when I was in the van, and lick the bugs off of my headlights before allowing me to pass.  He was awesome.

Last winter, I made a sourdough starter and named it George.  Because a sourdough starter is simply a medium that houses lots and lots of living things.  Yeasts. Which makes it alive. And worthy of a name.  And Grace has banned all Lord of the Ring names. Although I'm pretty sure I used up all the LOTR names when we had chickens. But I digress.

George died a slow, lonely death in the darkest recesses of my fridge over the summer.  I threw him out recently, and made another one this week.  This one's name is Mortimer.  The whole "making Mortimer" thing makes me feel a bit evil-scientisty, kind of like Frankenstein.  But if making bread and bagels that taste this good is evil, I don't want to be good!


I'm not a clean freak.  Those of you who know me are most likely rolling your eyes and gasping.  "Quelle surprise!"  But seriously, I like things neat, but I also like having piles of books around, and I want my home to be somewhere that people can feel relaxed in.  Including myself and my family.  My bedroom is a refuge for me, and I like it to be warm and comfortable, and fairly tidy, but I do confess to the odd dust ball escapee. Okay, maybe more than that. I like the cat litters to be clean. I clean the main one probably a few times a day. And I like to wake up to a clean kitchen, because I am not a morning person and making tea in the midst of clutter is not my idea of fun.  Other than that, I'm pretty relaxed.

 The thing is, there are so many other things I'd rather be doing.  And although I've gotten better as I've gotten older, I also now have limited energy and strength due to some of the health issues.  So I do what I can, and if I have to leave stuff until later, I'm okay with that.

The upside is that I never notice anyone else's clutter, either.  I've had people get all anal and judgy about my housekeeping skills, and really, it's so ugly.  Who wants to be like that?  I want people to feel relaxed and welcome, loved and enjoyed in my home.  And when I visit people, I want them to know that I am there for them, because I care for them, and I really don't notice much else.  If my energy is limited, I'd rather use it cooking for you, listening to you, and sharing myself with you.  And if the dust bunnies are an issue to you, I can show you where the Swiffer is...

I enjoy candles. Scented candles. Dinner candles. Birthday candles. Of course, it may be fire that I like. I also love fireplaces.  The smell, the warmth, the crackling sound of wood burning.  There is something very calming and beautiful about sitting in front of a fireplace.

Every winter for the past several years, I have tried to get a rosemary plant through to Spring alive.  And I have always failed.  There is a large rosemary bush in a pot at school (HAECC - Huntingdon Adult Ed and Community Centre), outside one of the classrooms, that inspires me. The thing is gorgeous.  I haven't been able to walk by it once without running my hand through it's branches and breathing in the rich, woodsy smell.  I love, love, love it.  I have one here at home, but it's looking a bit dry and droopy, even though I water it faithfully.  Still, maybe this will be the year of rosemary success.  One can always hope, right?

Later, gators!

Monday, January 21, 2013


Last night, I had two nightmares that are leaving me feeling a little...well, unnerved this morning.

Both dreams were quite long and involved, as my dreams tend to be.  I dream very vividly and with lots of detail.  The first one, involved a zombie.  I woke up from that one completely weirded out, feeling around in the dark to make sure I was in my own bed.  I actually got up and turned on the hall night light, for reassurance.  Then after Schmitty had purred me back to sleep, I dreamed about huge black furry spiders that came out of pizza boxes and chased me around, jumping at me.  *shudder*

I wrote on Facebook that I never have nightmares. Mostly, if I have a bad dream, they will be more sad or painful, and sometimes I wake up crying.  A friend reminding me that a dream that leaves me crying is also a nightmare.  When I read her comment, I remembered that in last nights' dreams, both of which involved long, complicated (and, because they were dreams, fairly nonsensical) story lines, the thing that woke me up wasn't the zombie or the spiders.  I coped with the zombie and spiders, in the dreams (quite heroically, by the way, but that's another blog post). The thing that startled me awake, in both dreams, were painful interactions with people.

At the end of the zombie dream, I was being accused of something that I had not done.  In the spider dream, I was desperately trying to clean up a house to avoid criticism and a verbal attack by someone who was coming to the house.  In both scenarios, I was emotionally devastated.

To be honest, these situations in my dreams accurately indicate deeply painful and traumatic experiences that I have gone through.  And I'm not talking about the zombie or the spiders.

Being rejected, lied about, falsely accused, judged and condemned is scary business.  I know that I am not the only one who has experienced these things.  While intellectually, we may know that the love of God trumps all human rejection, and that we are more than the sum of the ugly words thrown at us, the truth is that emotional healing takes time. We need to be gentle with ourselves.  And we can trust God with our healing if we've asked Him for help.  One of the ways I show my faith in God's healing is by choosing to be open about my weaknesses and fears here on this blog, knowing full well that some may read what I am thinking and feeling and walk away from me because of it.  I may not always feel brave about it, but I know that God is bigger than my fear. That means everything to me.

I have to be as honest as I can about who I am.  Spiders and zombies are scary.  False accusations, lies, judgment and rejection are scarier.  But do you know what I think is scarier than all of those things put together?  Losing myself, my voice, my relationship with God and my ability to trust, love, hope and dream in a confused, fearful, miserable people-pleasing cloud of self-protective dust and debris.

Now THAT would be a real nightmare!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Yoga with Cats - or how cats are just little furry show-offs...

Last semester, one of the courses that Grace & I took was Yoga 101.  I had known that I was going to have to take a Phys-Ed class, and was grateful that I wouldn't be charging up and down a basketball court with a bunch of 18 year olds.  Yoga seemed...manageable.  I thought it might even be beneficial.  All that stretching, lying on mats and calm, meditative music...maybe it would take the edge off of macroeconomics?

What we ended up with can only be described as aerobic yoga.  Or, as our teacher, Lynn, called it, fitness yoga.  The Sun Salutation had always seemed to me like a gentle, friendly way to say, "Hello, sun!" with your body.  I greet the sun each morning slowly.  One eye opening at a time.  Lots of stretching and yawning and tea drinking and sitting dumbly on the couch petting a cat and waiting for the "wake up" hormones to reach my brain.  My idea of a Sun Salutation wasn't much different.

Lynn's sun salutations matched her personality.  Eyes popped open, together and alert, a leap out of bed, feet hitting the floor already running.  Up and stretch and arms down and relax (for a briefest second) and plank and downward dog and upward dog and jump to your feet and do it all again and again and again and don't forget to breath and "woohoo! Doesn't that feel good!?"

It was lovely to watch.  And challenging to do.  Still, I enjoyed the class.  There were meditative moments, lots of stretching, more than a few aerobics but nothing that was too hard.  The class was on Mondays. Tuesday revealed exactly which muscles I had used on Monday.  They were the ones that screamed when I tried to use them on Tuesday.  Wednesday, they were still grumbling, but resigned.  Thursday, all was well again.

Lately, I have started doing yoga again, in my living room.  I've been having a lot of back and hip pain, especially at night. There are particular yoga poses and stretches that help with these problems.  The cats find it all very interesting.

A few nights ago, I was lying on my back on the living room floor.  My arms were stretched out to the sides, my right leg was on the ground, straight, and my left leg was bent, with my left foot on my right thigh, and my hip twisted so that my left knee touched the floor to the right of me.  It's a stretch for the hips and lower back, and actually feels good, in a stretchy, pulling kind of way. It's not easy, though.

Mycroft, our free-range cat, had come in from his wanderings earlier in the evening.  Having visited the food bowl and had a bit of a cleaning session, he wandered over to see what I was doing.  He stood over my head and looked down into my face.  He's got a bit of a sinus thing going on, and all I could think is, "If you sneeze in my face..." but he didn't. Instead, he laid down on the floor beside me, stretched out onto his back and effortlessly twisted himself into a reasonable facsimile of the pose that I was doing.

Then, he licked his paw, yawned, and fell asleep.

Nobody "gets" yoga like a cat.

Just a thought....

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

And a new semester begins...without me.

There are some really neat things happening in my life, these days.  I didn't register for any classes this semester, even though I was offered three.  Money was an issue, and I wanted to focus on building up my work clients/hours.  I feel really comfortable with not being in school, which is odd for me because I enjoyed it so much.  I do miss the people, but I will be in the school as a volunteer so I will get to see the other students and staff that made being there so enjoyable.

I feel like I kind of lost control of life there for a bit, before the holidays.  There was so much to do, and I became focused on just getting work done and trying to take care of myself so that I wouldn't get sick.  It wasn't easy. Things are more relaxed now.  I can breathe.

Last week, I received an email from someone named Mohsen, in Iran, who was checking out this blog and noticed that I am interested in volunteering.  He is working in Iran, teaching English to people who speak Persian.  He asked me if I would be interested in helping him.  Of course I was.  I mean, seriously, how cool is that?

So, he has sent me a list of hundreds of English phrases to go through, for accuracy, etc.  Mohsen is getting this list ready in preparation for a film festival that will be held in Iran. There are some American actors who will be attending.  It's a brilliant list, I can't imagine how much work went into putting it together!  I'm enjoying the process of going through all the phrases, and it is making me think of my mother tongue in a completely different light.

One of the things that Mohsen has expressed to me is that he wants to help to open the pathways of communication between his people and culture, and mine. He shared this with me in an email - I think with teaching English language and culture to Persian people and vice versa  we can decrease misunderstandings between these countries and increase peace in the world. God willing. 

 It made me think of a post that I wrote after our last provincial election, when Pauline Marois was elected Premier of Quebec.  In it, I said that I am a small picture thinker, and so the topic of politics is a difficult one for me.  I don't automatically think long-term or big-picture.  I don't naturally have ideas that can help bring peace to a community, a province, a country.

So, what can I do?  I can do the same thing that most of us can do. I can promote peace in my life.  I can refuse to stoop to humiliating stereotypes.  I can see each person as an individual.  I can choose love, patience, kindness, grace.  My God has shown these things to me in abundance, even when I have not deserved them.  Especially when I have not deserved them.  I can follow the Prince of Peace, allowing Him to love others with His powerful love, through me.  And I can edit a list of English phrases and do other things to help bridge the gap.

Every little bit helps, right?

Friday, January 11, 2013

A little bit about me...

Interesting (or not) facts about me...

Hiccups irritate me.  I don't mean after a few minutes. Immediately.  One hiccup and I want to punch a wall. When they go on and on...I'm like a crazy person.  And I try all sorts of things, mostly holding my breath which isn't a good idea for a heart patient but neither is exploding in frustration, so I do it anyway.  And I drink water. From the wrong side of the glass. And eat spoons of peanut butter. Or sugar.  And eventually the hiccups go away and I never know exactly why. But really, who cares? As long as they are gone.  Because I hate them.

I once nursed a chicken with a broken back to health again.  The chicken with the sinus infection died.  Go figure.

One of my favorite parts of French cooking is the sauces.  Bearnaise, hollandaise, bechamels, veloute...the thing is, you can do everything right and at the very last minute, kaboom.  Your lovely hollandaise has abandoned you, separating into a curdled gloop.  It is literally extreme cooking.  For adrenaline rushes, sauces are second only to souffles.  But don't get me started on souffles...

I personally do not believe that confusion about lyrics should ever slow a person down when one has an overwhelming...or even kinda-whelming...urge to sing.  Grace can attest to this.  Happens to me a lot.

One spring when we did not have any pets, I made friends with a couple of grass snakes that used to come out in the morning in front of the garage to warm up in the sun.  At least, I thought we were friends.  I think they might have thought I was "alien abducting" them.  I need to have animals in my life.  Seriously.

I watched several seasons of Gene Simmons Family Jewels because I saw one clip of him in a Cpap mask with his son egging him on to do a Darth Vader impression, because when I got my Cpap mask (for sleep apnea) I had a ball freaking Grace out..."Graaaaaaace...I am your faaaaaaaather...gasp...wheeze...."

I believe that accepting  mediocrity in some areas of our lives is a life skill that many of us need to learn.  I mean, sure, striving for excellence is important.  But in no way do I believe that I (or anyone else) can excel in something just because we want to.  For example, I am never going to be a ballet dancer.  Nor is it likely that I will ever excel at bowling.  But I dance.  And I bowl.  Accepting mediocrity means that I can have lots of fun doing these things, even though I suck at them.  I am good at the things that I am good at, and I work  hard to improve my abilities in many areas.  Still, I like doing things that I am not so good at, just because they're fun to do.

I am in introvert, with extrovert tendencies. This means I need my alone time.  I am very comfortable being alone.  I do love being around people, and don't mind being in the spotlight at all. In fact, I enjoy it, which is part of what makes me a good blogger.  I just really need my own space, as well.  Social situations can feel awkward to me, and talking about the weather just doesn't feel natural, but I have trained myself in the ways of social interaction and have been improving.  I thoroughly enjoy watching extroverts in a crowd, or being social.  I love seeing people do what they do well, and what they enjoy.  It has taken me longer to actually appreciate my own tendencies to want to curl up alone with a book, or sit quietly with a loved one, or spend car rides staring out the window and daydreaming.

I am an amateur gardener, with the emphasis on amateur.  My absolutely very favorite thing to grow is herbs.  I love, love, love my little herb garden.  Last summer, I grew a lovely large bunch of parsley, a thyme plant that made it through the winter along with the tarragon, the dill and (oddly) basil had reseeded itself from the year before, rosemary and sage plants that I had gotten from a church camp I attended in July, and lots and lots of lavender.  It was really all quite glorious.

Well, that's enough of me for now.

Peace out, friends.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

My 2012 Gratitude List, part 4

2. I am grateful for the lessons in letting go that God has been sharing with me.  I wrote this in a blog post in June - "There is no magic in the letting go.  The freedom comes in knowing that by letting go, my concerns are then able to be picked up and cared for by One who is faithful and trustworthy, who loves me and those I love, who carries my treasures with the utmost wisdom and care. 

I don't always get the results that I want.  Still, I have a feeling that someday, somewhere, I will look back on this life and my walk through it, and I will see that I have received what I needed. "  

The freedom to let go is a gift of grace and mercy, and I am so thankful for it. It is a daily lesson for me, and I need continual reminders.  Part of the difficulty is learning  how to let things, issues or people go without throwing them away.  I am learning to continue to pray, to care, to love even as I let go, release and live freely.  I can love someone without needing them to be or do what I want them to.  I can let go of a problem while still doing what is needed to solve the problem.  There are things that are within my control, and things that aren't.  I can set appropriate boundaries, share my feelings openly, speak the truth and make my needs and expectations known, but I cannot make anyone listen, or care, or honor what I give them.

Letting go of that desire to make others respond to me in a way that pleases me leaves me free to love them, and to love them as I walk away, if that is what they wish or what is needed.  Similarly, I can do the things I know to do in response to any problem, but I cannot always control the outcome.  That belongs to God.  So I can trust Him, do my part and let the rest go.  I cannot describe the freedom that comes with this.

and...drum roll please...

1. The One who receives all of my gratitude for 2012 is God.  Oh, come now.  You were expecting that, weren't you?   God is the common denominator in all other things to be grateful for.  He is the Source of all good things in my life, the Root of all growth and change, the Light that guides my every step when I follow Him closely, the Love that flows to me, and through me, the Hope that each day will be filled with Him and therefore, good.  He has been my provider in ways that have left me in awe.

 Just recently I had a disconcerting moment, when I remembered that I was going to have to pay for Grace's Cegep registration this week. I had been so focused on buying the books, I completely forgot about the registration.  I didn't have the money, and had no idea how I was going to pay it. Immediately and out-loud, I said, "God, this one is Yours."  I gave the problem to Him.  I let it go. The anxiety dissipated, and I was at peace.  Just a few moments before this, my pastor had handed me a late Christmas card from someone in her other church. I had tucked in my purse to open later.  It was from someone that I have just been getting to know over the past year, an older woman who attends a Bible study that I also attend.

Later, when I  opened the card, a cheque fell out.  It was for twice what I needed.  I laughed out-loud.  Even before I was aware of the need, God had seen to it.  Not only had He met the need through this wonderful woman of God, but He gave more, so that purchasing Grace's school books wouldn't be such a difficulty.

I called my friend and told her what a tremendous blessing her gift had been.  It was important to me that she understand that the gift was more than just the money.  My friend had allowed God to show me, through her, that He really, really, really was talking care of me, anticipating my needs even before I was aware of them and meeting them, purely out of love for me.  He knows my heart.  He knows how much I want to trust Him, and He honors that desire within His children.  The most important thing that God wants to give me is Himself.  He is the gift.  I know I have said it before, but as long as I live, I will never get over the wonder and joy of being loved by the God of creation, the Lord of the Universe, the Master of all that is.  Any strength I have lies in this truth.  Every bit of life that is in me, is rooted in God's love.  Every hope that I have for the future lies in Him.

And for that, I am utterly, astoundingly, wonderfully, thrillingly grateful

Peace out.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My 2012 Gratitude List, part 3

5. I am grateful for Nathan Johnson and Brother Lawrence's The Practice of the Presence of God.  At Burke camp, a family church camp that we went to in July, Nathan was the youth pastor.  Nathan is, himself, a tremendous gift and  one of my very favorite people in the world.  When he was preaching during the evening services, he repeatedly emphasized how Jesus is all that we need, and he referred often to the book, The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence. I wrote about it here.   The hope of a constant awareness of God's presence, of His love and guidance has been a joy to me this year, and at times, has kept me sane and moving forward.  

4. One of the things I am most grateful for, especially lately, is how much better I am feeling.  I still have IC flares, and the odd bit of angina, but the flares are much less intense than they used to be, and between flares, the pain is again much less than usual.  I am actually doing better than I have since I was diagnosed with IC, 13 years ago. Even when I got crazy busy just before Christmas, with several research papers due, final exams happening and work, I still managed to make it through most if it without a major flare. At the very end, it happened, but then Christmas was quiet and I had time to rest until it passed.  This is huge, and I am wildly grateful for it.  

3.  One of the biggest highlights of the past year was receiving a job offer from Repit Le Zephyr in September.  The job, as a respite caregiver for families and caregivers of people with disabilities, has been a perfect fit for me.  I've been working part-time and hope to start working with more clients now that I am not so busy with school.  One of my biggest concerns was how I was going to find a job that would accommodate my physical issues.  This job fits me perfectly.  Even if I am flaring, I can keep my time with my clients low key, I have access to a washroom as much as I need (important for my IC bladder - check here to find out what that is), I have flexibility in scheduling my hours so if I need more rest, it is available to me, and I make enough money - or will when I have more hours - to work less than full-time if I need to.

More importantly, this job fits my skills and passions perfectly.  I get to work with amazing people, and the agency I work for has been wonderful at acknowledging my abilities and encouraging me. While I have a lot of experience in this area, it is all "unofficial", either volunteer work or just because I love the people I am caring for.  This can make for an underwhelming CV.  I am grateful that the people from the agency were willing to look closer, and recognize what I am able to do, and to value it even more because it was done for love.  One of the ladies who interviewed me told me that she believed that even if I didn't know what specific issues a child was dealing with, I would instinctively know how to treat the child in a way that would benefit him or her.  I almost cried.  I had no idea how much I needed someone to recognize and affirm my skills and abilities until someone did and I felt the wonder of it.  Absolutely something I am grateful for!

Stay tuned for # 1 and 2...

Friday, January 4, 2013

My 2012 Gratitude List, part 2

Normally, I would wait until tomorrow to post part two of the gratitude list, but I'm feeling really down tonight, and I need to write this now.  I need to know how much I have to be grateful for, because my mind keeps pulling me towards the things that I long for, but am missing.

So, without further ado...

8.   I am grateful for the opportunity to write about bullying, and the effects of bullying on its victims and on the bullies themselves.  I am also grateful for the positive feedback from readers who have struggled with this issue, from both sides of it. I am even grateful for the negative feedback, as it continued the conversation.  I have said this before and I mean it, the conversation about bullying doesn't stop until the bullying stops.  I am grateful for the freedom to be a part of this important conversation.

7.  I am grateful for Mycroft, our free-range cat, and Schmitty, the adorable little kitten that we were NOT going to keep - like anyone believed that.  Both Mycroft and Schmitty just kind of showed up, Mycroft as an adult who lurked in the backyard for a week watching us before deciding to adopt us. Schmitty came as a tiny, sick kitten who was literally black with fleas.  He just lay in my hands, purring, as I bathed him repeatedly and picked fleas out of his fur for over 2 hours.  Now, Mycroft is a hulking tom and Schmitty is a silky little boy.  They are both so affectionate, and Jean-Luc has adapted to them well.  Which was a relief.  Having animals in my life is a luxury that I treasure.  I don't know that I could do life without them, and I am grateful to be able to rescue these little wonders.

6.  I am grateful for all of the really special and interesting people that I got to spend time with this past year. At school, at work, in my community, while volunteering...as I sift through the blog posts of the last year, the one thing that stands out to me is the people.  Friends and family who have encouraged me, lifted me up in prayer, helped us financially, emotionally, spiritually, people who have taught me so much, who have let me teach them, who have made my life richer and much more interesting, who have loved me, and welcomed my love for them.  I met up with an old family friend this past autumn, and at Christmas I sent him a card with a note on behalf of my sisters and I, telling him how we all remembered what a blessing he was to us when we were children.  Just thinking about him opened the door to an entire host of wonderful people in my life, who have been in my life as long as I can remember, and who I am privileged to still be able to know today.

 I don't generally do New Year's Resolutions, but one thing I do hope to do this year is take time to let the people in my life know how special they are to me, especially the people on the fringes, those who may have had an important impact on my life in the past.  One thing I have learned is that our days are numbered, and I don't want to lose the chance to tell others that I care.  I know that at times, it means taking the chance at appearing weird, or feeling uncomfortable, but I think it would be worth it, to let someone know how important they are to me.  Every July I mourn the loss of a childhood friend, and I also mourn the fact that I never got the chance to tell him how special he was to me when we were kids, how valuable his friendship was. It's a loss that I will never forget. I don't want to lose any more chances.  Being with my Mum, getting to tell her everything I wanted to, getting to love her completely and without any barriers before she died was  an unbelievable gift to me.  It made me miss her more, but it filled my heart to overflowing, and I know that she felt my love and returned it fully.  Life is short, and my life is full of incredible people - my sisters, my dad & step mom, my best friend, my beautiful daughter, the families I work with, the people I went to school with, my goodness, the list is endless!  And I am grateful.

More later..

My 2012 Gratitude list - part 1

I have a friend on Facebook who has had a really rough year.  She's lost some very important people in her life, including her beloved father.  Still, for the past few days she has been posting a countdown list of her happiest moments of 2012.  I find her spirit and optimism inspiring, and thought it would be neat to post a gratitude list of 2012.  It has been a year of growth and renewal for me, but also of sorrow and pain.  Still, there is so much to be grateful for.  I'm going to spread this out over a few days, as one post with the entire list is just too long.  Yes, in looking back, it has been a year that requires that much gratitude!!

So, let the countdown begin...

10. In February, I went to a teleconferenced laughter seminar at our local community centre, led by Albert Nerenburg, a Montreal Gazette columnist, film-maker and Laughologist.  After the seminar, which I enjoyed immensely, I wrote a blog post about a moment in the weeks before my mother's death when laughter literally kept me going.  The blog post was called Laughter in the Dark . I sent a thank you email to Albert, with a link to the blog post, and the result was one of the most nerve-wracking, interesting, enjoyable (in the way bungee-jumping might be enjoyable!) experiences of my life.  I was asked to join Albert and host Jacquie Czernin in an interview about the seminar on Breakaway, a CBC 1 radio show that highlights English events and people in Quebec.  It was an incredible experience. Jacquie actually called me the next day to let me know that she had enjoyed the interview, and that if I ever needed anything promoted, I should let her know.  She also told me that everyone in the office was oohing and awing over the pic of Jean-Luc (who was really the star of my story) in the the blog.  I cannot tell you what a confidence-builder this was for me!  Or how much fun it was!

9.  This may seem an odd one, but I am grateful for the French class that I took last Winter.  I actually wasn't registered for it, but I asked the teacher, Guillaume, if I could sit in the class, and he welcomed me.  He was awesome, correcting my work and helping me even though he didn't have to.  He was a good teacher, and I learned a lot, and again, having the chance to work on my French and practice it with Guillaume's help was a great confidence booster.  And speaking of school, I am also wildly grateful for an amazing fall semester, for surviving macroeconomics and for a history hat-trick - 100% on all three exams, and a final mark of 99%!  And more than that, I am grateful for a new friend I have made in our history teacher, Danijel.  One of the recurring themes in this gratitude list is the amazing people that I have had in my life.  People who are passionate about what they do, funny, interesting, accepting, and full of life.  I have been truly blessed with the people that God has put in my path this year!

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